Monday, December 14, 2009

Social Security by Robert Karpie

Social Security by Robert Karpie

Havent you ever wondered what would happen if old people led a rebellion?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

I'm almost done with the whole "supernatural going against the herd" thing. But I'll give it one last shot.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

2008 Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

Let's be honest. Sometimes the book trailer is much better than the book. A lot better. This is one of those times. Its disappointing. The book trailer, look a good movie trailer,leads you to believe in the book, to believe in the promise of the book. It makes you look forward to sitting in your favorite chair with your cup of tea and devouring page after page. But that isn't what happens. Instead, you force yourself to finish each sentence, promising yourself that you are closer and closer to the end. ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES was a disappointment that completely failed to fall anywhere near where the trailer took the viewer.

To be fair to myself I did not go into this book blind. I had the book trailer, which was beautiful and reputable book reviews. The book jacket reads:

When Dr. Leo Liebenstein’s wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her—or almost exactly like her—and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the original Rema is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love.

With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey—who believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weather—Leo attempts to unravel the mystery of the spousal switch. His investigation leads him to the enigmatic guidance of the meteorologist Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, the secret workings of the Royal Academy of Meteorology in their cosmic conflict with the 49 Quantum Fathers, and the unwelcome conviction that somehow he—or maybe his wife, or maybe even Harvey—lies at the center of all these unfathomables. From the streets of New
York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo’s erratic quest becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the seemingly uncontestable truth he knows in his heart to be false.

Atmospheric Disturbances is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind. With tremendous compassion and dazzling literary sophistication, Rivka Galchen investigates the moment of crisis when you suddenly realize that the reality you insist upon is no longer one you can accept, and the person you love has become merely the
person you live with. This highly inventive debut explores the mysterious nature of human relationships, and how we spend our lives trying to weather the storms of our own making.

Doesn't that sound exciting and new? I thought so. and this book was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Top Ten Book of the Year, a Plain Dealer (Cleveland) Best Book of the Year and a Slate Best Book of the Year.


I don't know. This book is completely unimpressive.

I cant narrow down one thing I dislike most about ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES. I don't know if it is the characters. The neurotic, almost psychotic husband was not a good choice for a narrator. The wife or simulcrum seems like a caricature of a woman. She behaves in ways that seem comical rather than loving and concerned. There is the dead/ not dead mentor who adds little to the story other than to add to the confusion. AND the Royal Academy of Meteorology. I don't know what to say about them. Were they necessary? Not to me.

The absolute worst part of the book were the meteorological papers that the narrator (Leo) and Harvey (Leo's psych patient) use to get messages from Dr. Gal-Chen. They were weighty, lengthy and added nothing to the furtherment of the story. I understand that they were supposed to demonstrate the mental lengths that Leo was willing to go to to find his wife and demonstrate the deterioration of his mind but they seemed out of place in the action that the novel tried to portray.

What I really did enjoy about ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES was the love story. Galchen has beautiful language and portrays Leo and Rema's love realistically and with the proper amount of emotion. Leo running from the 'imposter' wife is sad but beautiful at the same time. He loves his wife so much he is willing to travel around the world to find her but has lost so much of the love he had for her that he doesn't realize when she is standing before him. This book captured well what happens when love fades or changes and the lovers do not change with it.

I would not recommend this book to anyone. There was nothing about it i enjoyed. However, based on the reviews that I found plenty of others did so enjoy it at your own peril.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

2009 Crown Publishers

Historical Romances can go one of two ways for me.I had a burnout moment for a while (OD'd on Phillippa Gregory) but I felt that I was ready for a comeback. I was right and CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER was a good 'welcome back'.

Almost everyone knows the story of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. One of the greatest love stories of all time, killed herself so that she wouldn't have to live without him, yadda, yadda, yadda. I dont think too many people stop to ask themselves what happened afterward. I never did. I never even knew Cleopatra had children. But she did. And they had their own interesting and complicated lives.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a delightful mixture of history, love story and real life situations without being lecture-hallish (i love when I get to make up my own words) or long winded. The author was able to create scenes that sometimes allowed the reader to forget they weren't reading contemporary literature and really just enjoy the characters. And Moran managed to avoid the part of historical romance that I dread, when the writer gets caught up in authentic language. Sometimes that can be so distracting. But the language in CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER was not overly Latin, Greek or anything else.

By the way, the authors website ( is amazing. There is this really great interactive map that shows Rome in the Selene's day.

From the book jacket:

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s vengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome, but only two—the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander—survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters:

Octavia: the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra
Livia: Octavian’s bitter and jealous wife
Marcellus: Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir-apparent
Tiberius: Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power
Juba: Octavian’s ever-watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place —the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the time. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of Imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of history, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh. My. Gods. : Goddess Bootcamp Tera Lynn Childs

Oh. My. Gods. : Goddess Bootcamp by Tera Lynn Childs

Lately, there seem to be an abundancy of young adult books with mythology themes. Maybe, I am just paying more attntion. But I'm not complaining. I love ancient Greek lore and I wish it was taught more in schools.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We are the ship : the story of Negro League baseball by Kadir Nelson

We are the Ship : the Story of Negro League Baseball
by Kadir Nelson

I got this trailer from a teaching website. (Can you tell?) An important and little discussed period in American history.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Emily the Strange: Seeing is Believing by Rob Reger

Emily the Strange: Seeing is Believing by Rob Reger

2006 Cosmic Debris


That's my review.

I didn't get EMILY THE STRANGE. I did some research. I still don't get it. There's a girl named Emily who sees the world in a very unique way. That's it. It's a graphic novel.

From the book trailer for EMILY THE STRANGE: THE LOST DAYS I expected something more. What exactly? I don't know. The book wasn't bad. It wasn't good. It didn't teach me anything or make me laugh. The illustrations were amazing. That's it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austin and Ben H. Winters

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
2009 Quirk Productions Inc.

Apparently I missed a new genre in the last couple of years when I didn't read anything new. There's a new book in town in case you missed it: pairing a classic book with zombies and other monsters. Some titles I missed Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, Vampire Darcy's Desire, The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, etc. I could go on and on but I wont. The point is; I am mad I missed these books. Based on SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS I would have enjoyed this entire genre and unfortunately, now I just don't have the time to fit them all in .

On August 31st I put the book trailer for SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS on this site. In regards to the other book trailers and book reviews that I have posted this is by far the most entertaining trailer that accurately captures the book. This book is Sense and Sensibility as read ad nauseum in high school and college lit classes but it is also the story of the Dashwood sisters and their love lives amid man-eating sea creatures. It takes a book that haunted me throughout college's and made the Dashwoods pleasurable again. I didn't think this could be done. All the original SENSE AND SENSIBILITY characters are there; Margaret, Elinor, Col. Brandon, Marianne, Edward Ferrars, etc. etc. However, there is a twist (and a pretty good one). Man is at war with all sea creatures. This is not FINDING NEMO.

Due to man's war with the sea creatures there is a sea witch that figures prominently in the story, poor Colonel Brandon suffers from an affliction that makes him even more undesirable than his age, and there are a great number of murderous octopus. (I LOVE WHEN THINGS GET DEAD! )

The problem with a lot of these Darcy revisited books is that the language is all wrong or the characters are too modern for their time. Mr. Winters does not seem to suffer from that problem. The Misses Dashwood are properly 19th century marraige market brides but with the edge that one would expect from those fighting for each day. Margaret is made much more interesting with her own storyline, which makes her seem like something more than a pre-teen brat. Marianne is still hopelessly romantic and foolish but it seems much more realistic when paired with the threat of immediate death via angry whale of cross-eyed puffer fish. The following is a sample of the properly Victorian language with a modern twist.
Elinor's office was a painful one. She was going to remove what she believed to be her sisters chief consolation, to give such particulars of Edward as she feared would ruin him forever in her good opinion, and to make Marianne, by a seeming resemblance in their situations, which to her fancy would seem strong, feel all her disappointment over again. But unwelcome as such a task must be, like the scraping of barnacles off a long-neglected hull, it was necessary to be done.

What beautiful and authentic language.

I wholeheartedly endorse this book. I wish I had more time to devote to reading more in this emerging genre and will try to cover more titles as they come across my desk. If any of you read any good new monster literature please send me the title so I can pick it up.

Other Reviews:
Entertainment Weekly - Lisa Schwarzbaum
Lisa Schwarzbaum is a film critic for EW
Had Jane Austen observed waterborne horrors like giant octopi and monstrous jellyfish — not to mention the Devonshire Fang-Beast — there's no doubt she would have written prettily about them. As it is, the land-based 19th-century lady stuck to what she knew when writing Sense and Sensibility, leaving Brooklyn-based 21st-century wordsmith Ben H. Winters to provide the fish-tailed portion of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
And here we have a whale of a problem. It may be a truth universally acknowledged that a publisher in possession of a hit with the hipster mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies must be in want of a follow-up, pronto. But that doesn't mean the great Jane's novels can be grafted to any high-low premise, or her wry elegance improved by naughty-rude adjustments. Can it be that in the rush to turn a charming book novelty into a renewable resource, the whole Austen-and-monsters series has already jumped the shark? The second project strays much further from the original text than the first did. It's made goofier by the intrusion of a Jules Verne-inspired plot detour during which the Dashwood sisters descend to Sub-Marine Station Beta on the ocean floor. For no real payoff, courteous Colonel Brandon is now a gentleman with squishy tentacles dangling from his face. And suave Willoughby is now accompanied by a defecating pet orangutan.
There are plenty of menaces — androids, bugs, people who text while driving — still available for book packagers to mingle with other Austen masterpieces, but I'll second Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice when he says, ''You have delighted us long enough.''

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague Year by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
2001 Penguin Books

I have been watching a lot of reality TV lately; some good, a lot bad. I have found myself drawn to the tales of everyday heroism. Mothers who, in times of crisis, find themselves able to lift trucks off their trapped child or people who perform at-home surgery on family members when the doctor is unavailable. I have found myself wondering could I be such a hero? Its nice to think that if my child was trapped in a burning building I would find the power to kick down the door and rescue him. But would I do the same for my next door neighbor, who is like a second mother to me? What about the neighbor down the street that I am on waving status with?
The YEAR OF WONDERS is the story of a true heroine, who put aside her personal reticence to comfort her neighbors during an outbreak of the plague. Based on a true account of a town that secluded itself from its neighbors when the plague arrives YEAR OF WONDERS details the activities of said town over the course of a year as it deals with the consequences of its voluntary seclusion and the plague.There is more death than I expected, some graphic, most not. There is a surprising amount of romance and 20th century ideals.
I enjoyed this book immensely. In fact, I put it on the "Do NOT Lend" shelf of my personal library. The main character/ narrator Anna Frith is a refreshing heroine. She is not too brash or too subservient. She adapts, as we all do, to the circumstances she is in. Anna develops throughout the story and in the end, is quite a different creature than at the beginning of the book. I appreciated how all of the characters are flawed but within reason. Too many times over the course of the past year I have read bad characters how are bad for no reason or syrupy sweet characters who continue to be naive and trusting though the world shows them different. The characters in YEAR OF WONDERS are real people. Their emotions and reactions change with the situation and the environments and within reason. There was plenty of room in this novel for the author to let the characters become caricatures of real people but she manages to stay within the boundary of real life.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the "Plague Village," tucked in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, when an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to the isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes the reader follows the story of the plague year, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice: convinced by a visionary young minister they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of illicit love.

Other Reviews:

From Publishers Weekly
Discriminating readers who view the term historical novel with disdain will find that this debut by praised journalist Brooks (Foreign Correspondence) is to conventional work in the genre as a diamond is to a rhinestone. With an intensely observant eye, a rigorous regard for period detail, and assured, elegant prose, Brooks re-creates a year in the life of a remote British village decimated by the bubonic plague. Inspired by the actual town commemorated as Plague Village because of the events that transpired there in 1665-1666, Brooks tells her harrowing story from the perspective of 18-year-old Anna Frith, a widow with two young sons. Anna works as a maid for vicar Michael Mompellion and his gentle, selfless wife, Elinor, who has taught her to read. When bubonic plague arrives in the community, the vicar announces it as a scourge sent by God; obeying his command, the villagers voluntarily seal themselves off from the rest of the world. The vicar behaves nobly as he succors his dwindling flock, and his wife, aided by Anna, uses herbs to alleviate their pain. As deaths mount, however, grief and superstition evoke mob violence against "witches," and cults of self-flagellation and devil worship. With the facility of a prose artist, Brooks unflinchingly describes barbaric 17th-century customs and depicts the fabric of life in a poor rural area. If Anna's existential questions about the role of religion and ethical behavior in a world governed by nature seem a bit too sophisticated for her time, Brooks keeps readers glued through starkly dramatic episodes and a haunting story of flawed, despairing human beings. This poignant and powerful account carries the pulsing beat of a sensitive imagination and the challenge of moral complexity. (Aug. 6)Forecast: Brooks should be a natural on talk shows as she tells of discovering the town of Eyam, in Derbyshire, in 1990, and her research to unearth its remarkable history. With astute marketing, Viking will have a winner here. BOMC, Literary Guild and QPB featured alternates; 8-city author tour; rights sold in England, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge

Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge

2009 W.W. Norton & Company

Usually I know in the first thirty pages if a book is worth reading. I always finish a book that I have started even if it physically pains me. That said, GRACE HAMMER and I got off to a rough start. The prose is more lyrical than readable, the story goes in circles and throws in background information at the most distracting times. However, the characters are interesting, the pace is fast and the final resolutions are not easy to figure out. In the end I liked this book when I dreaded having to finish what I had started.

GRACE HAMMER is the story of Grace Hammer, her four children and their lives in the underbelly of London. Grace is a professional thief and is training her three sons to be thieves as well. However, the victim of a theft she committed long before she had a family has shown up in her part of London bent on revenge.
One of the things that grew on me as the book progressed is the authors style. She has a way of talking in circles and describing things so that they are not easily recognizable. Her writing is riddle-like and in the first chapters, discouraging. I had to read the first three chapters twice to make sure that I was keeping the characters and the burgeoning plot straight. There were far too many minor characters that popped in and out of the story at will. This book would have been better served by keeping the minor characters low (just a suggestion).
The best thing about the book is how true the characters stayed to themselves. There was no bogus change of heart moment where all the prostitutes found nice housemaid jobs or Grace gave up hers. The bad guys were the bad guys, most of the rest of the characters were just trying to live their lives. Also, I really appreciated that this is not a 'feel good' book. The situations are what they were. Life is bleak and hardscrabble, with people self-medicating just to make it to the next day. There are prostitutes, drug addicts, loan sharks and murderers but there are also good-hearted people, caring foster parents and kind neighbors.
I would recommend this book with reservations. It is not the type of book to read if you want your characters to live fairytale lives, that just isn't going to happen. Also, this book does have a slow start so there will be moments of perseverance. Otherwise, GRACE HAMMER was an enjoyable read.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Secret Society by Tom Dolby

Secret Society by Tom Dolby

At least this one has vocals.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austin Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austin Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

I found this trailer after I read the book and in its own way this trailer was the perfect finishing touch.

You may have guessed by now that I am completely over the rework Jane Austen books that are flooding the stacks lately. I do not want to read anymore about some crazy modern girl who wants to live the easy life of a 19th century manor woman only to find out it is as intriguing as the modern world. As of this date I have read, short listed for your convenience, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues, An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman (Fitzwilliam Darcy Gentleman) , Mr. Darcy's Daughters : A Novel , North by Northanger, Pemberly Manor, etc., etc. I am sick and tired of these Regency themes where the men are silent but passionate and the women half crazed. So, to be honest I began reading RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT with a great deal of prejudice.
I feel bad.
RUDE AWAKENINGS was a pleasure to read once I got pas the first 40 pages, and ignored the scenes with the fortune teller. The plot goes something like this; Jane Austen wakes up in modern day L.A. with no recollection of the person she is now, no memory of her job, apartment, ex-fiance or current beau. She has to learn to forgive the men in her life and create the meaningful life she always wanted in Regency England. Did you get it? Forty pages of that nonsense in the beginning was 39 pages too much but after Jane gets her bearings and stops marveling over modern technology she is fun to be around. Modern Jane puts up with no BS.
I will be honest. There were several times that I skipped a few pages in the book. The ramblings of the fortune teller were annoying and unnecessary and too philosophical. The ex-boyfriend was disturbing. Other than that I enjoyed RUDE AWAKENINGS.
Jane is the perfect embodiment of a woman of her time but none of the skills she learned in her time serve her in the modern world. She is appalled by all the things that we modern women take for granted; blind dates, public displays of affections, bare arms and legs. But the fundamental things that all women want (a family and career) do not change no matter the era. Jane wants a man that is faithful and loves only her, as well as money of her own. Sounds familiar. The delightful part of the book is watching Jane shed her Regency beliefs and embrace the modern ones that suit her more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Another vampire series...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Last Word by Kathy Herman

The Last Word by Kathy Herman

As far as trailers go this one could be better. The music is great but there is no conversation. To be honest the trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters was fantastic and maybe my tastes have evolved. This trailer gets the basic information across but it doesnt excite. Hopefully, the book will be better.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus

Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus
2008 Penguin Young Readers Group
Brief Synopsis:
Rory Hennessey and his sister Bridget discover that Rory is the last Light in New York City. That is, Rory is the last person able to help save Mannahatta, the spirit city that co-exists with Manhattan, from civil war. Of course it wont be easy. But Rory has help. A paper mache boy, Indian Sachems, warrior cockroaches and the children of the immortal gods of New York all help Rory in his quest to help right a wrong.
GODS OF MANHATTAN was a quick read. It was an enjoyable read. However, it did have one drawback. This is another serial! I am so sick of serial books. I understand that writers have to make sure that they have money coming in on a regular basis and work continuously to build their fan base. I get it. But I'm over it. That said I am this one for the long haul. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was fast and action packed, with enough gross things to engage the 13 year old boy in me. (Talking cockroaches, anyone?) There was a great deal of history without being preachy. There was a lot of history that I didn't know and I love history. I would recommend this book to any reader over the age of 10.

Other Review:
An inventive fantasy-adventure by a first-time author. Rory, 13, and his sister Bridget, 9, live in present-day New York City unaware of the spirits from Manhattan’s or “Mannahatta’s” past that coexist alongside them. Rory has a gift for seeing this other world but has repressed this ability until the day he notices a cockroach riding a rat, an ancient Indian warrior, a papier-mâché boy, and other oddities. He’s able to see such historical figures as Peter Stuyvesant, Walt Whitman, John Jacob Astor, Alexander Hamilton, and Babe Ruth–all immortal gods in this parallel world–and he learns that it’s up to him to thwart an evil assassin who has been killing the gods, and free the Munsee Indians who are imprisoned in Central Park. He’s joined by other immortal teens, including Nicholas Stuyvesant, Peter’s son, and Lincoln Douglass, Frederick’s son. The use of real historical figures and events lends authenticity to this compulsively readable and fast-paced fantasy. Rory may be the one destined to save Mannahatta, but Bridget, spunky and determined, also does her part. This book will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series.-School Library Journal
No sooner does 13-year-old Rory become aware of “Mannahatta,” the world of ghosts, monsters and spirits that twines through the familiar streets of New York City, than he is swept up in a tide of deadly intrigue in this uncommonly entertaining crossover debut. Though someone has found a way to kill the supposedly immortal gods of the title—all figures from New York’s past—that subplot takes a back seat to the machinations of Hex, a magician who enlists Rory in the seemingly worthy effort to break the magical barrier that has imprisoned the spirits of the island’s native Munsees in Central Park. Largely clueless but brave and subject to occasional fits of canniness, Rory gets help along the way from a rousing supporting cast led by his kick-ass little sister Bridget, who has an alternate persona she dubs “Malibu Death Barbie,” and a diminutive but intrepid Battle Roach named Fritz. Along with plenty of action, Mebus stuffs his pages with references to New York’s history, draws most of the threads together in a suspenseful climax and provides a satisfying sense of resolution at the end while leaving plenty of issues for future episodes.-Kirkus Reviews

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Busy People's Fast and Frugal Cookbook by Dawn Hall

2009 Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Most of my friends are used to my hectic lifestyle. I have to cram 48 hours of labor into a 16 day. I have two jobs, a foster child, a small business, an active writing career and more activities than I can shake a stick at plus the normal home duties. I barely get enough time to sleep never mind spend quality time with my family. Thus I am a big fan of anything that can give me more time with my kid. Personally I love the 30 minute or less cookbooks. There are always really great recipes that are healthy (trying to get a waistline back) and easy.

This cookbook was not so much a book designed to save working people time in the kitchen but a newlywed cookbook. Most of the edible recipes in this book are common sense recipes among my friends. This book would be a great gift for a newlywed who has never been in the kitchen before but needs to feed her husband, not for a mom trying to find new ways to feed her family in less than an hour. And some of these recipes are downright ridiculous. But there are some gems in this book, recipes that my family loved and devoured and some really helpful features.
I tried a total of 15 recipes from this book, some of them successful, some of them not. Among the unsuccessful was the "Ham and Onion Cheese Rollups". No one would touch them. They tasted okay, nothing special, but the idea of eating ham and cream cheese was not delectable to either of the two vacuums living in my house. The really easy chicken soup fared much better. The "Creamy Chicken and Noodle Soup" took only 30 minutes as promised, used ingredients from my kitchen (always a plus) and was delicious. Another favorite were the crepes. I had never made crepes before but they are surprisingly easy.
This book was not much help to me. Aside from the nutritional information (check out page 2 to find out how many calories in a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich) the book is a list of recipes that most moms can cook without even thinking about . This book is not for experienced cooks.
Here is the best recipe in the book *and it only takes 15 minutes*.
1/2 cup Heart Smart Bisquick reduced - fat baking mix
3/4 cup fat free skim milk
2 egg whites
  • Preheat a 6- or 8- inch nonstick skillet over high heat.
  • Ina 4-cup measuring cup or mixing bowl, whisk together the baking mix, milk and egg whites.
  • When the skillet is hot, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the crepe batter to the skillet. Lift and tilt the skillet to spread the batter. Brown on one side. The top of the crepe will be full of bubbles. Lift the crepe from the pan with a fork and place on a plate with paper towel. Watch closely, because it only takes about a minute for the crepes to cook. Place a paper towel between crepes to keep them from sticking together.
Really simple, but when paired with the filling recipes in the book, this is a really decadent and quick dessert.

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
2006 Ballantine Books

After reading all the Philippa Gregory books I was burned out on the whole "poor, mistreated queen with a side of crazy" genre. Honestly, every queen or almost queen or thought about being queen in history must have had a misogynistic twist in their DNA. On the whole I wasn't really excited to read THE LAST QUEEN but I had posted its book trailer so I was obligated. Long story short this was a really good book.

THE LAST QUEEN is a fictionalized biography about Juana of Castile, the last Spanish queen of Spain. She is a true individual, and for a brief time, romantic that knows what she wants and plays the right political games to obtain them. However, she has a tendency to be too trusting and allows herself to be tricked by the one person she thought she could trust; her father. To summarize: Juana marries a man , Philip of Flanders, she falls in love with and who has more political aspirations than he is entitled to. Juana becomes heir to the Spanish throne due to a series of tragedies and finds herself and her children embroiled in her husbands schemes. Now disillusioned to her husband's machinations Juana fights to preserve her throne for herself. She keeps her throne briefly and shares it with her father who decides that he wants it for himself. You can imagine the end.

I was on vacation when I started this book and surprisingly I finished it in one day. I even skipped dinner with my friend to finis the last 30 pages. This book was captivating and tragic. I knew how it was going to end and I couldn't force myself to look away from Juana's train wreck of a life. Told in the first person the reader quickly feels for Juana, wanting her to find a way to be independent in a world where that is not encouraged. I recommend this book with a caution: This is NOT the book to read if you are depressed or about to be. This book has very few feel good moments. It WILL make you cry. You have been warned.

Other Reviews: Product Description:

One of history's most enigmatic women tells the haunting, passionate story of her tumultuous life. Juana of Castile is just thirteen when she witnesses the fall of Moorish Granada and uniting of the fractured kingdoms of Spain under her warrior parents, Isabel and Fernando. Intelligent and beautiful, proud of her heritage, Juana rebels against her fate when she is chosen as a bride for the Hapsburg heir - until she arrives in Flanders and comes face-to-face with the prince known as Philip the Fair, a man who will bring her the greatest of passions, and the darkest despair. One by one, tragedy decimates Juana's family in Spain. Suddenly, she finds herself heiress to Castile - a realm on the verge of chaos, prey to avaracious nobles and scheming lords bent on thwarting her rule. Juana vows to win her throne, until the betrayal of those she loves plunges her into a ruthless battle of wills - a struggle of corruption, perfidy, and heart-shattering deceit that could cost her the crown, her freedom, and her very life. From the somber majesty of Renaissance Spain to the glittering courts of Flanders, France and Tudor England, Juana of Castile reveals her life and secrets in this captivating historical novel of romance, grandeur, power and treachery by the acclaimed author of "The Secret Lion." "An exquisite evocation of a dangerous era, and of a forgotten queen." - Holly Payne, author of THE VIRGIN'S KNOT

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff

2008 Penguin Group

War books always make me ask myself what I would do in certain situations. What would I do to make sure I lived to see the next day? Would I become a prostitute if others were starving to death all around me? Would I betray my friends in order to have a few peaceful moments? It is nice to believe that I would always take the high road, that I would always follow my moral compass and do what is right. But I am resolved to not lie anymore and must admit that I will do anything to survive. I would sacrifice all my beliefs to live an extra day. Lev Beniov, the main character in CITY OF THIEVES, must deal with this same issue day after day.

CITY OF THIEVES is the story of two young men trying to survive the Nazi siege of Leningrad. Lev Beniov finds himself thrown into jail with Kolya, an army deserter, and tasked with finding a dozen eggs for a Soviet colonel's daughter's wedding cake. Lev and Kolya live in a city without the most basic food supplies and trying to stave off hunger with "library candy".

"The boy sold what people called library candy, mad from tearing the covers off
books, peeling off the binding glue, boiling it down, and reforming it into bars
you could wrap in paper.The stuff tasted like wax, but there was protein in the
glue, protein kept you alive, and the city's books were disappearing like the

Lev and Kolya are prisoners and have to do whatever it takes to survive to see the next day.

I picked up a copy of CITY OF THIEVES because it is the book discussion choice for the state this year. We are reading it in my library book discussion group, my nephew had to read it for his summer reading assignment and there will be staged readings of some scenes at city parks this fall. Based on the blurb on the back of the book I would not have read this book. I would have put it back on the shelf and kept on moving. And I would have missed a great book. CITY OF THIEVES is one of the best books I have read and one I know I will be returning to time and again.. It is one of those books that sneak up on you, making you cry when you least expect it and finding joy in situations that in any other book would be ridiculous. This book took me the full gamut of emotions and left me emotionally drained but satisfied.

CITY OF THIEVES is a decidedly adult novel. It is not for young adults or immature adults. There is some heavy material in here that requires a lot of life experiences to fully make sense. When reading this with my nephew, who has just turned 15, I realized that the only parts he and his friends understood were the death scenes. They were not understanding the sacrifice that the characters go through because they, for the most part have not had to sacrifice anything in their lives. They condemned certain characters without understanding the situations involved. For example, there is a scene where Lev and Kolya find themselves in a Nazi run Russian brothel. Lev finds himself attracted to the healthiness of the girls, seduced by the fat elbows of a prostitue, while Kolya is repulsed and without sympathy. It is easy to hate the young girls, to be disgusted by thier new profession. It is harder, however, to put oneself in their shoes, to be a young unprotected female in a world where the people with power are the enemies and you have to follow their orders or die. Who can say which is the bet choice; a noble death or a tarnished life.

Other Reviews:
Entertainment Weekly - Screenwriter David Benioff's splendid new novel, City of Thieves, opens as a screenwriter named David, curious about his grandparents' experiences in Russia during World War II, visits the retired couple in Florida and records cassette after cassette of his grandfather's tales. Finally, wearily, the old man ends the conversation. ''A couple of things still don't make sense to me — '' Benioff persists.
''You're a writer,'' answers his grandfather. ''Make it up.''
And so, apparently, he has. Exactly how much of this novel is true, and how much imagined, matters not a whit. The surreal wartime journey of 17-year-old Lev Beniov unfolds like a crazy and vivid dream (and, at times, a nightmare), but it has the rich texture of lived experience.
The story opens in the winter of 1942 during the crushing Nazi siege of Leningrad. ''You have never been so hungry; you have never been so cold'' are Lev's first words to us. A nervous virgin with a gift for chess and a bashful crush on his cello-playing neighbor, Lev watches the corpse of a German parachutist float down from the sky, ''his silk canopy a white tulip bulb above him.'' Lev drinks the dead man's cognac, steals his knife, and is promptly nabbed by the police for looting.
Lev hasn't yet learned how to make his way in the world. But while in jail, he meets the consummate operator: Kolya, a handsome, irrepressible, Zorba-like soldier who was arrested for going AWOL from his regiment. You can tell Benioff is a screenwriter, because Lev and Kolya are a comic odd couple from a long Hollywood tradition. You're ''a bit moody, in the Jewish way, but I like you,'' Kolya announces, and thereafter treats Lev as his soul mate. For Kolya, Lev feels a combination of envy, fascination, and suspicion. The colonel holding them prisoner offers them a deal: He'll set them free if they can track down a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake.
This ragtag pair hits the road, telling each other ribald stories, bantering about literature, and getting on each other's nerves. In ravaged Leningrad, they discover willing young women and charnel-house horrors, but no eggs. They venture out of the city and into the frozen countryside, where they spend the night with a cabin full of courtesans, briefly join a band of partisans, and are captured by the German army. Guns are fired, throats slashed, a love affair launched, and eventually, at a staggering price, eggs acquired. By listening carefully — and making the rest up — Benioff has produced a funny, sad, and thrilling novel. A-

City of Thieves Trailer

City of Thieves by David Benioff

I found this on YouTube and found it amusing. While I dont think the writer really understood or enjoyed the book it is not a bad review.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Read a Book -Clean Version

This is the funniest thing I have seen in a while. One of my students forwarded this to me (didn't know they had email in the third grade) and I had to post it. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

B is for Beer by Tom Collins

B is for Beer by Tom Robbins

2009 HarperCollins

It is no secret that I love "The History of..." books. So far I have read the histories of salt, penicillin and cotton this year. I found B IS FOR BEER completely by accident. I was wondering arond the library, randomly picking up and putting down books, probably driving some poor librarian crazy and somehow I came home with this book.
B IS FOR BEER is hilarious. The front cover is correct this book can be either a children's book for adults or a grown-up bookl for children. Either group could read it and be amused. As an adult I found this book fun to read.
B IS FOR BEER is the history and semi how-to manual for beermaking as told to 5 year old Gracie by the Beer Fairy.(Apparently, the Beer Fairy only comes to you when you've been drinking. I think she and I dated when I was in college.)Besides telling young Gracie the fundamentals of a great beer the beer fairy also gives great advice. My favorite: But there are times, I think you'll agree, when false courage is better than no courage at all.How true that is. There are days when I run on nothing but false courage. But I digress.
I would not recommend that this book be read by children under the age of 15. There is a lot of innuendo and vague references that only adults would understand and appreciate. However, if one were beginning a research paper on the istory of beer I would start here.
FYI: Did you know that beer really originated in Egypt?

Other Reviews:

From Publishers WeeklyIn his children's book for grown-ups/grown-up book for children, Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) takes readers on a whimsical tour of all things beer, written in the language of a bedtime story. Factoids about everything from how beer is made to the number of gallons of beer sold globally each year (36 billion) are woven into this story about six-year-old Gracie Perkel, who craves time with her beer-guzzling Uncle Moe. When Moe disappoints Gracie, she reaches for a drink and is visited by the Beer Fairy, who flies her through the Seam and offers an education about life and, of course, beer. The drive to inform the reader about malt and hops is sometimes relentless, and the language can be frustratingly dumbed-down (If you're unfamiliar with the word podiatrist, you're not alone. Fortunately for Gracie [and now for you], Uncle Moe was quick to define podiatrist as a doctor who investigates and treats disorders of the feet. A foot specialist). Still, the premise and execution of this unique book lends itself to moments of real humor. (Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

2000 Aladdin Paperbacks

STOWAWAY was an interesting read. Initially I picked this book up because I planned to read all the New York Times Bestsellers I could stand. This book is another reason that the NYTB list annoys me to no end. I cannot figure out what it is about this book that would make thousands of people read it. It was an ok book, nothing special and yet thousands of people spent $6.99 on it.

I found that STOWAWAY didn't hold my attention. It is the story of Nicholas Young, a stowaway on the H.M.S Endeavor that sails from England to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. The plot sounds like it should be interesting; a young boy accompanying an expedition to discover the unknown world. Yet the writer mishandles which should be an easy sell.

STOWAWAY is surprisingly slow. It spends quite a bit of time on needless information and sometimes glosses over the scenes that could be entertaining. The author assumes that the reader has a lot of historical and geographical knowledge. There were times in the book that I could identify the location of the ship because I had just read about it in the National Geographic. It seems that the author does not know who their audience is. Is it adult history buffs or thirteen year old boys? It is never quite clear. Overall, the book was a 3 out of 5 if I had to rank it. It was not terrible but it wasn't great, or even moderately good.

Other Reviews: Review:

To 11-year-old Nicholas Young, the tall masts of the exploratory ship Endeavour look like an answer to his fervent prayers. On the run from his demanding father and the cruel butcher who employed him, Nick finds adventure beyond his wildest imaginings when he stows away on the ship of legendary Captain James Cook. Once he is discovered and put to work, Nick becomes party to some amazing sights. He meets indigenous natives of Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia, wonders at the sight of kangaroos, and shudders with horror when confronted with cannibalism. Nick survives a hurricane, a near shipwreck on the Great Barrier Reef, and a deadly bout with typhoid to become one of the few original crew members to successfully circumnavigate the globe with Cook and arrive safely back in England. He notes in his worn journal shortly before sighting his homeland's shore: "We have truly led the way, charting the path for all who come after. I don't know I shall ever feel so again as I feel now. That any of us shall."
Newbery Medal-winning Karen Hesse's story is based on actual Endeavour stowaway Nicholas Young, about whom little is known. Using the real 1768 diaries of Captain Cook and shipboard naturalist Joseph Banks, Hesse has changed Young from a forgotten footnote into a living, breathing person with red hair and a penchant for pork chops. So authentic you can feel the sea spray, this fine fictionalized diary is a nautical treasure for landlubbers young and old. (Ages 10 and older) --Jennifer Hubert

From Publishers Weekly:

Sparkling with humor, poignancy and adventure, Newbery Medal-winner Hesse's (Out of the Dust) historical novel, told in diary form, was inspired by a real boy who stowed away aboard Captain James Cook's ship Endeavour on its 1768 voyage. The author bases the story on what little is known about 11-year-old Nicholas Young (he could read and write, for instance, and was made an official crew member in April 1769 when the ship reached Tahiti) and spins an imaginative tale firmly anchored in fact. The brief diary entries adhere to the ship's actual itinerary and detail Nick's adventures (and misadventures), among them his ongoing run-ins with a vindictive midshipman (also documented), the excitement and danger of rounding Cape Horn and the captain's disappointment in the view of Venus's transit across the sun (one of the main reasons for the voyage). Nick grows into young manhood irrevocably shaped by the three-year voyage, teaching an illiterate shipmate to read, befriending a Tahitian boy and witnessing cannibalism as well as a share of tragedy while helping to nurse a crew ravaged by accident and disease. His lively observations (on seasickness: "I can say now that Gentlemen heave the contents of their stomach same as eleven-year-old stowaways") keep the action sailing smoothly forward, while Hesse's impeccable research buttresses the narrative with a wealth of detail. A sprinkling of Parker's pen-and-ink illustrations adds an additional layer of texture, while an author's note and extensive glossary round out this compelling volume. Ages 10-14. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

I curse my book budget every time I find a new trailer. This, also, is on my library wish list. Review: Imagine what it might be like to realize that the person you love is, in fact, not the person you love but a doppelgänger: or, what Leo Liebenstein coolly terms a "simulacrum" of his wife Rema at the outset of Atmospheric Disturbances. David Byrne's infamous cry that "this is not my beautiful wife" seems the most likely response, but Leo's reaction to this sea change takes unpredictable and dazzlingly plotted turns in the story that follows. Leo's journey to recover the "real" Rema is nothing short of byzantine; among its many mysteries is the delightfully inscrutable Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, a master meteorologist who in cleverly constructed flashback sequences takes up residence in the daily rhythms of Leo and Rema's marriage and becomes as much a focus of Leo's obsession as his wife's whereabouts. (Think Vertigo but directed by Charlie Kaufman.) Make no mistake: this is dizzying debut fiction, bursting at the spine with beautifully articulated ideas about love, yes, but also--and with maddening resonance--about the private wars love forces us to wage with ourselves. Be sure to keep a pen or pencil handy: it's impossible to resist underlining prose this good. --Anne Bartholomew--

From Publishers: In this enthralling debut, psychiatrist Dr. Leo Liebenstein sets off to find his wife, Rema, who he believes has been replaced by a simulacrum. Also missing is one of Leo's patients, Harvey, who is convinced he receives coded messages (via Page Six in the New York Post) from the Royal Academy of Meteorology to control the weather. At Rema's urging, Leo pretends during his sessions with Harvey to be a Royal Academy agent (she thinks the fib could help break through to Harvey), and once Re- ma and Leo disappear, Leo turns to actual Royal Academy member Tzvi Gal-Chen's meteorological work to guide him in his search for his wife. Leo's quest takes him through Buenos Aires and Patagonia, and as he becomes increasingly delusional and erratic, Galchen adeptly reveals the actual situation to readers, including Rema's anguish and anger at her husband. Leo's devotion to the real Rema is heartbreaking and maddening; he cannot see that the woman he seeks has been with him all along. Don't be surprised if this gives you a Crying of Lot 49 nostalgia hit. (June) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargent

Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargent

2008 McBooks Press

Lately I have found myself displeased with the quality of book I am finding in the library or, when funds allow, in the bookstore. There don't seem to be anymore books that touch my heart, that make me feel as if I have found a kindred spirit. There don't seem to be very many books that I would read and reread over and over until I have almost every line memorized.I was wrong. MUSEUM OF HUMAN BEINGS touched me in the same way that Atlas Shrugged or The Handmaid's Tale has. I read this book everywhere. I read it in the doctor's office, at football practice, even in the car while stuck in traffic. I carried this book in my purse for almost two weeks because I liked to read certain passages over and over.

MUSEUM OF HUMAN BEINGS is the fictionalized biography of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the child of Sacagawea and interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau, and raised in the home of William Clark. The book follows Baptiste as he is raised in the home of Clark, thinking he is no different than the white children but quickly learning that his heritage will always separate him from his "father" and from his native people. He goes to Europe as an example of the New World's native people, returns home to confront the family that rejected him, the family he rejected and to try and make a place for himself. The book ends with his death as an old man who seems to have discovered who he really is. The most moving part of this book is that Baptiste always acknowledges that he does not know himself, even when he thinks that he has learned something new he really is discovering things he already knew.

This book is really a discussion about the definition of a person. It asks: Who determines who we are? Is one defined by their heritage? By their skin tone? By their cultural upbringing? Baptiste is a renaissance man. He speaks several languages fluently, a few more passably, plays the piano and violin professionally, has traveled the world and yet he is consistently treated as a 'savage' and not as a real human being. It is only when he begins to discard the self-loathing he learned at the hands of his adopted family and those he was raised around that Baptiste is able to become his own person and learn to be comfortable as he is.

As a person of color I can relate to Baptiste. It is easier sometimes to allow people to define you and to fall into those definitions rather than being whoever it is you want to be. As I have aged I have learned that only I can define myself and limit myself but it is a difficult lesson to learn. More books should be as honest as MUSEUM OF HUMAN BEINGS and explore the prejudices and attitudes that lead to hatred and self-loathing.

Other Reviews:

From Publishers WeeklyPlaywright Sargent's debut novel is a stylish look at the fate of Sacagawea's baby son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the first Native American to tour Europe—as a curiosity and entertainment, of course. Twenty-four-year-old Sacagawea, though married, becomes William Clark's lover while helping guide the Lewis and Clark Expedition; after she dies on the trail, Clark adopts her son, Baptiste. Soon, Clark establishes his home in St. Louis, as well as a garish museum dedicated to his expedition, and sets to educating his new son. Soon, Baptiste is traveling Europe under the protection of Duke Paul, a cruel man who, when he isn't exhibiting the boy to royal courts, repeatedly rapes young Baptiste. Six years later, Baptiste returns to America (astonishingly, still accompanied by Paul), where he confronts Clark over his mother's mysterious death; unsatisfied and restless, Baptiste heads west and finds work as a fur trapper, an Army scout and gold prospector. Increasingly haunted by his mother, Baptiste revisits her in memories and visions that lend themselves nicely to Sargent's lyrical prose. With historical cameos (Beethoven, Kit Carson, Washington Irving) and an impressively rounded portrait of the laid-back, introspective, nomadic Baptiste, this novel will satisfy fans of American history. (Nov.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gone by Michael Grant

Lord of the Flies: Urban Edition?

These are two reviews that I have read. Unfortunately I can't get my hands on this book yet but as soon as I do I will let you know what I think.

From School Library Journal: One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone." Just vanished—along with everyone else over the age of 13 in a 20-mile radius around Perdido Beach, CA. The children left behind find themselves battling hunger, fear, and one another in a novel strongly reminiscent of William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Things go from bad to worse when some of the children begin exhibiting strange powers, animals show signs of freakish mutations, and people disappear as soon as they turn 14. Though an excellent premise for a novel, Gone suffers from a couple of problems. First, it is just too long. After opening with a bang, the initial 200 or so pages limp along before the action begins to really pick up. Secondly, based on the themes of violence, death, and implied sexual intimidation, this is clearly written for an older teen audience who may not appreciate the fact that no one in the book is older than 13. In spite of its faults, Gone is a gripping and gritty read with enough creepy gruesomeness to satisfy readers who have a taste for the macabre. Give this one to the readers who aren't quite ready for Stephen King or Dean Koontz.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist: It’s a scenario that every kid has dreamed about: adults suddenly disappear, and kids have free reign. In this case, though, it’s everyone 14 and older who disappears, and the harsh reality of such unreal circumstances isn’t a joyride after all. A girl driving with her grandfather plunges into a horrific car wreck; gas burners left on ignite a home with a young child trapped inside; food and medical supplies dwindle; and malicious youths take over as the remaining children attempt to set up some form of workable society. Even stranger than the disappearance of much of humanity, though, are the bizarre, sometimes terrifying powers that some of the kids are developing, not to mention the rapidly mutating animals or the impenetrable wall 20 miles in diameter that encircles them. This intense, marvelously plotted, paced, and characterized story will immediately garner comparisons to Lord of the Flies, or even the long-playing world shifts of Stephen King, with just a dash of X-Men for good measure. A potent mix of action and thoughtfulness—centered around good and evil, courage and cowardice—renders this a tour-de-force that will leave readers dazed, disturbed, and utterly breathless. Grant’s novel is presumably the first in a series, and while many will want to scream when they find out the end is not the end, they’ll be glad there’s more in store. Grades 6-9. --Ian Chipman

Friday, September 4, 2009

Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow

2005 Aladdin Paperbacks

I am so mad that I have not read this book before. HERE BE MONSTERS is one of the best children's books that I have ever read. The illustrations were well done and could have easily told the story without any words. I read this book in less than a day. It is a fast and enjoyable read that is funny without being vulgar.Granted there are a lot of characters and a lot of silly names that feel as if you are in the middle of a "Say this 3 times fast" contest. But once you get a handle on the names, the creature/ characters and the villain then the book goes really fast.

HERE BE MONSTERS is a thick book, 529 pages, but the book is filled with illustrations so the reading really comes down to at least half of the book. FYI: Teachers would find this a great book to read aloud and act out.

The story is fairly simple. A boy goes out in search of food for himself and his ailing grandfather, gets himself in trouble while being nosy, has to rely on strangers for help and eventually solve the mystery that exonerates his falsely accused grandfather. Sounds simple so far. This plot sounds like at least 10 different books I could name right now. Now add in a boxtroll, some cabbageheads, the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry, and sheep-like cheese. Doesn't it sound like fun already? HERE BE MONSTERS reminds me of Roald Dahl and the way that he made language adventuresome and humor droll.

Other peoples opinions:

From School Library Journal: Ratbridge is populated by a variety of odd creatures and equally unusual humans. Underlings, including boxtrolls (shy trolls that wear boxes) and cabbageheads (they worship cabbage and wear them tied to their heads), live in tunnels and caves beneath the city. A boy named Arthur emerges from his subterraneous home and discovers an evil plot. The shady members of the Cheese Guild, led by an unpleasant fellow called Snatcher, are kidnapping underlings and plotting to take over the town. Arthur's allies against the Guild include underlings, a man in iron socks, and the pirates and rats who run the Nautical Laundry. There's a great deal of inspired silliness throughout, which may appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. Although the characters are not particularly well developed through words, numerous high-quality, black-and-white illustrations bring Ratbridge and its citizens to life, accentuating the comical tone and helping to pace the tale. The action is clearly played for laughs rather than suspense, as when the heroes repulse an attack on their ship by firing balls of bilge-pump gunk using catapults made of knickers. Some readers might lose interest in the sometimes-rambling series of events, but the short chapters, intriguing creatures, quirky humor, and engaging art make this book a good choice for youngsters who enjoy lengthy and lighthearted fantasy.–Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -

From Booklist: Wearing a flying contraption that consists of leathery wings and a box with a crank, Arthur quietly flutters across the night sky above the town of Ratbridge. He liberates a bunch of bananas from the greenhouse of "a very large lady with a very long stick" and escapes, only to spot an illegal cheese hunt, give chase, and land in a peck of trouble. Soon the plucky lad allies himself with boxtrolls, cabbageheads, pirates, rats, a retired lawyer, and the sadly imprisoned Man in the Iron Socks in a mighty struggle against a pack of scurrilous villains. Snow, who has written and illustrated droll picture books such as How Santa Really Works (2004), provides small, detailed, crosshatched drawings on nearly every page of the novel. Helpful in creating the settings and bringing the more fantastic characters to life, the illustrations, which are often amusing, also make the book accessible to younger children who like lengthy books. Snow's inventive fantasy, somewhat reminiscent of Roald Dahl's work, combines stout hearts, terrible troubles, and inspired lunacy. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Monday, August 31, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ghost Letters by Stephen Alter

2008 Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books

I cant figure out if I am going crazy and can no longer comprehend things the way I used to or children's books are becoming much more complicated than I remember. Over the course of this woefully short, and woefully cold, summer I have read a number of books which took a dictionary and multiple readings to understand. Either the characters are too quirky to be relateable or the situations are so implausible that it just makes me want to put the book in the incinerator.
GHOST LETTERS started out extremely difficult to read. The book is about a boy named Gil who gets sent to his grandfathers house for a few weeks. He meets a girl named Nargis and together they find have to deliver undelivered letters to people in times past so that unfortunate happenings don't occur. Sound good, right? Sounds like fun. It is fun, if you can get past the first 30 pages. The story jumps around too much and throws characters around so that it is hard to keep track of what is going on and who is doing what.And there are some characters and events that are completely extraneous and could be removed totally from the book without making any difference to the story's flow. But once you get past the introductory pages the book develops a fast and entertaining pace.
I really did enjoy this book. The characters were realistic and relateable. The plot was good science fiction, with the right blend of real history and a little bit of magic. The book had a few spooky moments that will give you a few chills but not enough to give anyone a nightmare.
PS. I absolutely adore children's books that glorify the ancient art of letter writing. I wish more people took the time to write letters and feel the joy of receiving one in the mail. I think that this book will spark an interest in letter writing for some fortunate reader.

Other Reviews:

From School Library Journal: Grade 4–7—Gil, 14, has been expelled from school and sent to the Massachusetts coast to reside with his poetry-loving, eccentric grandfather. The old man doesn't own a television, uses a typewriter, drives a beat-up Volkswagen, and can only offer his grandson a 30-year-old bicycle as transportation. While walking his grandfather's dog, Gil decides to explore Rattle Beach. A curious-looking bottle floating in the water attracts his attention. For a joke, he pens a distress call, places it inside the empty container, and throws it back into the water. Returning later, he finds the bottle again and discovers an urgent message inside it. It is from Sikander, a boy from India who is living 100 years in the past, when a war is brewing. As the two boys continue to correspond, Sikander's family gets into a deadly situation and he begs Gil for help. Other paranormal events include a ghostly mailman, a skeletal hand, a djinn (or genie), and a love affair that spans the centuries. It appears that the events are interrelated, but the teen is not sure how. Readers will empathize with the plight of the characters, but a favorite of many kids, the genie, is not well developed. Also, a few of the plot threads are not fleshed out, but even so, readers will find the book scary enough to thrill and clever enough to challenge their deductive reasoning.—Robyn Gioia, Bolles School, Ponte Vedra, FL Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist: Alter’s multi stranded tale offers something for almost every fan of non heroic fantasy—from magic and time travel to a ghost, buried treasure, and a grisly severed hand with an agenda. Staying temporarily with his grandfather in a Massachusetts coastal town, Gil and new friend Nargis, a local age-mate of Indian descent, find an antique bottle that carries messages back and forth through time. Soon they are corresponding with a nineteenth-century calligrapher’s apprentice in India, whose own friend has been nabbed by deserters from a threatening British force. Enter a ghostly Massachusetts postman, wearily carrying never-delivered letters that can save the kidnapped lad, avert the battle, and rekindle a century-old romance on Gil’s side of the world. So much is going on here that when a bureaucratic British genie wheels in toward the end to deliver the old letters at Gil’s command, it’s hardly surprising. Nonetheless, Alter juggles the elements (and more besides!) with reasonable expertise, and readers who can readily suspend their disbelief will enjoy the show. Grades 5-8. --John Peters

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Watchmen by Alan Moore, Illustrated by Dave Gibbons

Watchmen by Alan Moore, Illustrated by Dave Gibbons

1986 DC Comics

This is the first time in a long time where I honestly can say that I do not know how I feel about a book. There was so much to like about the Watchmen that I almost forget about the things that I didn't like. Watchmen had the best illustrations. There was absolutely no ambiguity about the characters emotions and actions based on the artwork. That said, the story read like a soap opera and not the best. The story went around in circles and gathered characters like kids at a carnival.There were times I had to read and re-read the same pages to try to keep straight who was doing what and who was who.

WATCHMEN was really interesting to read. It is one of those books that is relevant to any time period but especially resonates with the political and social climate of right now. Who doesn't want to be a superhero and save people? It is an admirable profession. But who will monitor the superheros and who will keep them honest? The superheros in WATCHMEN, for the most part are real people who decided to be an aide to mankind. With the exception of Dr. Manhattan the Watchmen are ordinary humans who purposely develop into superheros. But they are still human with the same issues that ordinary human have to deal with, and some, in the case of Rorschach, with a few more issues than necessary. The question that WATCHMAN asks is what makes a person a superhero?

I think everyone wants to be a superhero as a child. We read about Superman and Spiderman and wish we had their powers. Would we still want to be a superhero if we had to spend hours in the gym, if we had to be a part of the humanity that we were charged with protecting? Based on the issues that rise in WATCHMEN I don't think that there would be so many children willing to put on a mask. How do you protect the world if you cannot even protect yourself? What do you do in the face of ever increasing violence?

WATCHMEN is not a feel good book. It does not leave you wanting "to be all you can be". If anything it left me a little wary. One person cannot save the world. A group of persons can try to make a change but in the end it does not really matter. Mankind is a violent race and superheros only seem to slow down our inevitable violent climax. But this book does make you think. It makes you contemplate the frailty of human life, the need for those that have peace as their goal and the power that power and responsibility have on our leaders.


It all begins with the paranoid delusions of a half-insane hero called Rorschach. But is Rorschach really insane or has he in fact uncovered a plot to murder super-heroes and, even worse, millions of innocent civilians? On the run from the law, Rorschach reunites with his former teammates in a desperate attempt to save the world and their lives, but what they uncover will shock them to their very core and change the face of the planet! Following two generations of masked superheroes from the close of World War II to the icy shadow of the Cold War comes this groundbreaking comic story -- the story of The Watchmen.

From Barnes & Noble
Alan Moore, the master storyteller behind V for Vendetta, and Dave Gibbons, a brilliant draftsman, have long been revered by comic book fans as the creators of Watchmen, a groundbreaking graphic novel that subverts the superhero genre as easily as a toddler upends a house of cards. Rather than focusing on superhuman abilities, Moore instead zeroes in on the humanity of his characters and leavens what is essentially a murder mystery with enough social commentary and political intrigue to fill a shelf of graphic novels several times over. Gibbons, too, in his detailed yet understated style, conveys a wealth of emotions that easily rival any Oscar-winning performance. Factoring in added treats like excerpts from Moore’s original working script (complete with highlighted notes), character studies, page thumbnails, and cover sketches taken directly from Gibbons’s sketchbook, this deluxe 20th anniversary edition is simply a must-have.
From the Publisher
It all begins with the paranoid delusions of a half-insane hero called Rorschach. But is Rorschach really insane or has he in fact uncovered a plot to murder super-heroes and, even worse, millions of innocent civilians? On the run from the law, Rorschach reunites with his former teammates in a desperate attempt to save the world and their lives, but what they uncover will shock them to their very core and change the face of the planet! Following two generations of masked superheroes from the close of World War II to the icy shadow of the Cold War comes this groundbreaking comic story -- the story of The Watchmen.