Thursday, May 31, 2012

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks by C. Alexander London-OPTIONAL

London, C. Alexander, We Are Not Eaten by Yaks. Pgs. 384. Philomel Books, 2011. Language: G, Violence: PG, Sexual Content: G
Celia and Oliver live in a house of adventurers, but they hate adventure. Adventures get in the way of watching their favorite tv shows. When a Tibetan mountain climber brings to their father a note from their mother, last seen look for the lost city of Shangri-La, that nasty “a” word happens again. This time, their father bets Sir Edmund, the family’s archnemesis and this book’s arch-villain, that all 3 of them will find the lost cit. If they fail, they will not only get kicked out of their father’s adventure club (yeah!), but also be forced to work for Sir Edmund every school vacation until they turn 18. Sir Edmund, however, doesn’t want to stop there. He won’t stop until they’re dead. Will Celia and Oliver ever find their mother? Will they ever get to watch tv again. Will they survive?

 The book was slow to get started and hard to get into. The characters aren’t that well-developed and only semi-believable and likable. The humor, however, is good and the story is unique. Readers who like heavy humor with a little bit of adventure might like this book. EL(4-6), MS. OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Kira M, Youth Services Librarian, WHI Public Library.

Rebel Fire by Andrew Lane-ADVISABLE

Lane, Andrew, Rebel Fire. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. pgs. 343. Language: G, Sexual Content: G, Violence: PG-13

In 1868, a young Sherlock Holmes-along with his Amercian tutor-track  notorious killer a group of war-hungry fiends. Young Holmes finds himself in one dangerous situation after another.

Lots of action mixed with historical fiction. We also see the beginning of things that bring us to the Sherlock Holmes we know and love. Readers who enjoy historical fiction and mystery will enjoy reading thi book. MS, HS. ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Jessica Moody, Library Media Specialist, Olympus Jr. High.

The Spinster Book - Myrtle Reed

Image source, and online text
There has been a bit of a theme on SiaB this year, hasn't there?  Lots of books for, and about, unmarried women - because of the research I've been doing.  You'll be hearing more about metamorphosis and talking animals later in the year, so get ready for that... Anyway, The Spinster Book by Myrtle Reed is the earliest of the books I've read this year - published, as it was, in 1901.  Myrtle Reed was only my age (26) which is perhaps too young to be penning anything with 'spinster' in the title - and, indeed, she never became an old spinster, or an old anything, as she committed suicide when she was 36.  I learnt all this after reading the book; it would, perhaps, have coloured my view of what is a witty and exuberant examination of men, women, and marriage.

Quite why it is called The Spinster Book I'm not sure, unless it is intended to act as a guide for the uninitiated.  It certainly doesn't linger on the single state for long - instead, leaping headfirst into a discussion about men.  This was perhaps the most openly satirical chapter - if I had read some of the others first, I might have thought Reed serious (if misguided) for 1901 is a long time ago, and her 'advice' might well have been current.  I couldn't tell whether the beautiful lay-out of the book, with bordered margins and notes at the side to tell you the main topic of the page (none of which, I note, is available in the free ebook edition - just sayin') was itself part of the satire, or simply a throwback to design which was not, in 1901, particularly distant.  But nobody could read this and imagine Reed's tongue to be anywhere but in her cheek:
How shall a girl acquire her knowledge of the phenomena of affection, if men are not willing to be questioned on the subject?  What is more natural than to seek wisdom from the man a girl has just refused to marry?  Why should she not ask if he has ever loved before, how long he has loved her, if he were not surprised when he found it out, and how he feels in her presence? 
Yet a sensitive spinster is repeatedly astonished at finding her lover transformed into a friend, without other provocation than this.  He accuses her of being "a heartless coquette," of having "led him on," - whatever that may mean, - and he does not care to have her for his sister, or even for his friend.
The Spinster Book is something akin to a satirical exploration of men, women, and love - not really in the style of an advisory guide, but closer to natural history.  Reed writes of men and women as though she were neither, and merely watching them at an amused, or concerned, distance.  She is full of sage, simple advice:
In order to be happy, a woman needs only a good digestion, a satisfatory complexion, and a lover.  The first requirement being met, the second is not hard to obtain, and the third follows as a matter of course.
And who can blame her if the contemplation of mankind in the throes of romance makes her somewhat cynical?
The average love letter is sufficient to make a sensitive spinster weep, unless she herself is in love and the letter be addressed to her.  The first stage of the tender passion renders a man careless as to his punctuation, the second seriously affects his spelling, and in the last period of the malady, his grammar develops locomotor ataxia.  The single blessedness of school-teachers is largely to be attributed to this cause.
Although Reed is being tongue-in-cheek throughout, The Spinster Book is still interesting as a window on society in the early 1900s.  True, affections and engagements were probably not bestowed and withdrawn quite in the manner Reed suggests, but it is taken as read that a man will barely know a woman before he proposes, and that a woman ought to turn down a few men before she settles upon one (in contrast to the post-WW1 supposed mentality of grabbing any man one can.)  Cynicism about marriage is a trope of comic writing which has been around since Chaucer's Wife of Bath, and doubtless before, but through this cynicism one can always discern a portrait of contemporaneous marriage and relationships - through a glass darkly, but it's there.  Failing that, The Spinster Book - though not satire at its most sophisticated or thorough - is still good for a giggle.

(As usual, clicking on the sketch will give you a larger, more readable, image... enjoy!)

The Spinster Book
Lesson No.1: Get lots of cats.
Lesson No.2: errr...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hearing Marilynne Robinson

I mentioned on Twitter a while ago that I'd attended a talk by Marilynne Robinson at Blackwell's (in Oxford) and promised to write about it.  And now, finally, I am!  I've waited for too long to write this, so I'm having to rely on my dodgy memory...

Last year I did hear Marilynne Robinson give a lecture, and wrote about how star-struck I was then (and you also told me all the exciting authors you'd met).  Back then she spoke about philosophy and politics, and I didn't understand the title of the lecture let alone anything that followed.  So it was lovely to hear her give readings from her latest collection of essays, When I Was A Child I Read Books, as well as my beloved Gilead, and then answer questions from the floor.

Oh, but it was wonderful!

She reads undramatically - calmly, sensibly, perhaps.  If I call hers a flat voice, then please don't read that as a criticism - somehow it works, and there is a slight rise and fall at the end of each sentence, which prevents it from becoming monotonous.  It is exactly right for the unsensational, intelligent prose which Marilynne Robinson writes, and Gilead would have been ruined in an overly-expressive reading.

Afterwards there were questions.  When she is talking spontaneously, rather than from a prepared lecture (a different category, of course, from a reading), she is warm and witty and so very interesting.  There were a few questions at the previous talk, and I remember wishing that she'd done more of that - so the event last week was perfect for me.  Even though Robinson was still talking about theology and philosophy, alongside her own experience as a novelist, I found it easier to understand.  I didn't make notes, but I'll try to remember some of it... She spoke eloquently and passionately about the false divide set up between science and religion, and the very reductive models of both which are used in media debates: she is almost as passionate about the wonderful discoveries of science as she is about theology.  And in philosophical discussions, she said something I thought very wise, in response to a question about sorrow.  (I was a bit confused for a moment, misremembering that a baby in Gilead had been called Sorrow, pace Tess of the D'Ubervilles.)  Robinson inveighed against the misdiagnosis and over-diagnosis by doctors, arguing that sorrow is a valid part of human, and just not medical, experience.  (Sorrow, of course, is far from being the same thing as depression.)

But this is a book blog, and I shouldn't be getting too out of my depth.  Hearing Robinson speak about writing Gilead was overwhelmingly wonderful - although she spoke about Home and Housekeeping too, it was Gilead which got by far the most attention (thankfully for me, since it is still the only one I've read.)

What most interested me was the development of the character John Ames - or, rather, the lack of development.  Robinson said that one day his voice simply came into her head, more or less fully-formed.  Her comment was that, though she wasn't surprised that the character was a Christian in Iowa, it was rather more surprising that he was a man who loved baseball...

Incidentally, I know nothing about American geography, nor the stereotypes of these regions.  I didn't know where Iowa was (indeed, the only state I know the location of is New Jersey, and that's only because a friend at school almost moved there.)  In her reading from When I Was A Child I Read Books, Robinson said ‘I find that the hardest work is to convince the world – in fact it may be impossible – is to persuade Easterners that growing up in the West is not intellectually crippling.’  A student newspaper (linked below) mentioned that 'turning the "middle West" into great literature may seem like an impossible task', which strikes me as strange.  I can't imagine any location in Britain being considered ill-fitting for great literature - surely the location a book is set has absolutely nothing to do with its literary merit?  I'd love to hear what Americans think of this debate...

My memory is terrible.  I don't seem able to recall anything else she said about Gilead, even though I know it was substantial.  Apparently Semi-Fictional was also there, so you can read her report, or you can read what the Cherwell student newspaper had to say.  (I was once a section editor on the rival student newspaper, OxStu, but they don't seem to have written about it.)

I'll finish with one of the funniest moments of what was often a funny evening:
"This girl is wondering why I haven't published any poetry.  That's because she hasn't read my poetry!  I would if I could."

Friend Me: 600 Years of Social Networking in America by Francesca Davis DiPiazza -ADVISABLE

DiPiazza, Francesca Davis Friend Me: 600 Years of Social Networking in America 112 pgs. Lerner Publishing Group, 2012. $29.93.  (Rating: PG)
This book sets out to prove that Social Networking has been with us in America before we were even a country. It offers numerous examples such as from Native American history, Puritan Society, and Slavery. The book addresses how social networking benefited those groups, in the same ways it does today. It also delves into how technology and social networking eventually intertwined –such as through telegraphs.  Today’s social networking language was used throughout to describe historical social networks, successfully illustrating the true nature of social networks.
I love the descriptions of the shorthand used on the telegraphs –I never realized how close it is to the shorthand used in text messaging today! I think students will love this engaging look at history, and find out that social networking today, while faster, has always been an effective tool of communication and connection.
MS, HS– ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Waiting on Wednesday # 101 - Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston is the only survivor of the category five tornado that killed his parents. Every night since the storm, a beautiful, dark-haired girl has swept through his dreams. She's the only clue to his past, and he clings to the hope that she's real.

Audra is real, but she's also a sylph. An air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even twist it into a weapon. She's also a guardian--Vane's guardian--and has sworn an oath to protect him at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra must help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim--the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock a memory Audra wishes could be erased. And as the storm bears down on them she starts to realize the greatest danger might not be the warriors coming to destroy them, but the forbidden romance that's grown between them.

Set amongst the desert airstreams of Coachella Valley in California, and alive with wonderful wind-swept prose, LET THE SKY FALL is about two teenagers broken by their pasts, divided by their futures, and bound by love.
March 2013 by Simon Pulse

I just found this cover at Shannon Messenger blog, and I really like it. The synopsis sounds good too! Nature powers? Cool :P

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Five From The Archive (no.1)

Whilst I was away from blogging, I came up with a fun idea (which you're welcome to borrow, if you like it)...  One of the anomalies I've noticed about blogging is that we all put a lot of time and effort into reviews - creating really great, extensive resources about incredible books - and yet these reviews are only likely to be read for a week or so, and then disappear into the hazy mists of the blog archive.  I thought it would be fun, and maybe useful, to highlight and group past books.

Since I've now celebrated my fifth blogging anniversary, I'm going to start an ongoing series Five From The Archive, where I post excerpts and links to five reviews from my past five years, grouped in some way.  That might be something obvious -  like 'books in translation' - or something a bit wackier.  And then I'll ask you to contribute your own suggestions.  I'm even hoping to post a (new) relevant sketch with each one - but you know how slack I get at that - kicking off with one of me and Colin.

They'll be appearing on Wednesdays, but probably not every week.

I'll start with a very Stuck-in-a-Book topic...  

Five Books Featuring Twins or Doubles

1.) Christopher and Columbus (1919) by Elizabeth von Arnim

In short: Half-German/half-American twins are exiled to America during the war.  They meet a friendly young American man on the boat, and the three embark on rather mad travels.  Somehow both wickedly cynical and totally heart-warming.

From the review: "The most delicious thing about this novel (and it is a very delicious novel) is undoubtedly the twins' dialogue.  It's such a delight to read.  [...] They both have such a captivatingly unusual outlook on life.  Their logic swirls in circles which dizzy the listener; their conversations would feel at home at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party - and yet they are lovely, kind, fundamentally good people - and without being remotely irritating."

2.) The Icarus Girl (2005) by Helen Oyeyemi

In short: Introverted eight-year-old Jessamy meets TillyTilly, seemingly her double, whilst in her mother's native Nigeria.  Their friendship grows gradually more unsettling...

From the review: "What starts as a novel about loneliness and isolation becomes infused with issues of obsession, possession, power and, most sophisticatedly, doubleness."

3.) Alva & Irva (2003) by Edward Carey

In short: One twin helps battle the other's agoraphobia, even as their bond is challenged, by building a scale replica of their town through plasticine - and it's all presented as a travel guide.  Surreally brilliant, and surprisingly moving.

From the review: "It is a novel filled with grotesque characters (in the sense of exaggerated and strange) - the father who is obsessed with stamps, for example. The novel is actually, in many ways, about obsession - whether with objects or people or tasks."

4.) A Lifetime Burning (2006) by Linda Gillard

In short: A compelling, involving novel about the dramas and conflicts within a tempestuous family - including twins whose relationship is far from normal.  Sadly my review was far too brief - I must re-read!

From the review: "Though the novel jumps all over the place, I never found it confusing - rather a path towards illumination and comprehension of the characters, understanding (rather than sanctioning) the way they act. Linda Gillard writes with lyrical intensity."

5.) Identical Strangers (2007) by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

In short: An autobiographical account of twin sisters only meeting at age 35 - and how they cope with this shift in their lives, and their different needs and responses.

From the review: "We follow Paula and Elyse through a couple of years - the joy, the excitement, the bickering, the discovering of their extraordinary relationship. [...] A fascinating topic, well told by engaging, honest people experiencing a rollercoaster of events."

Over to you!

Which title (or titles) would you add for this category?  Let me know!

Book Review: The Rent-A-Groom by Jennifer Blake

Author: Jennifer Blake
Release Date: February 5th 2012
Publisher: Steel Magnolia Press
Age: Adult
Even though Gina cancels her wedding mere days before the ceremony, she’s determined to keep her reservation for a famous honeymoon suite in Dallas.

Enter Race, a Texas cowboy who cleans up rather well, and who declares himself her substitute groom for the week.

Thinking her best friend hired Race, Gina goes along with the fun – at first. But is Race really who he seems? Why is Gina’s ex-fiance staying at the same hotel? And just how far is Gina prepared to go with Race and that model-worthy face of his on their "honeymoon"?
Gina cancels her wedding but she's still keeping her reservation for the honeymoon suite. When her ex-fiance calls her to ask for the reservation to use it with his new bride, Gina needs a groom, and fast!

The Rent-A-Groom is a short novel by Jennifer Blake. It's a quick story, sweet and with a happy ending. Gina thinks her best friend hired the groom, but this man, Race, is a mystery. He's hot but sweet and knows about Gina's ex fiance. They have chemistry and I enjoyed their story.

It's too short, but it's fun and cute, with some suspense but not too much surprises, perfect for when you need a light and sweet romance.

More about this book www.jenniferblake.comGoodreads, Amazon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hunted by Cheryl Rainsfield - ADVISABLE

Rainfield, Cheryl Hunted, pgs. 370. WestSide Books, 2011. $16.95 Language- PG-13 (8 swears, 0 “f” words) Mature Content- PG-13  

       The paranormals are on the run from ParaTroopers and the government. Caitlyn and her mom are constantly on the move. They are the only ones left in their family after Caitlyn's dad was killed when he spoke out for paranormal rights. Her brother was kidnapped by a woman while his dad was being killed. Her mom has since lost her paranormal powers. Caitlyn has now enrolled in high school, and she wants to try to live undetected in this city. She begins to become attached to Alex, a para-pro but a normal. While at school, she finds her brother, Daniel, but he is different.. and working for the government. Caitlyn had to find out who she can trust and fight for para rights without being captured and tortured by the government.                  

I found that this book brought out a strong message about segregation. It tells the story of someone who is judged by something that they cannot control. It shows that you have to fight for causes that are judged unfairly. I feel that this book would bring strength to anyone that feels like an outcast or judged against. This book also brings out the fantasy of supernatural powers. It is a powerful book, fun and is a joy to read. 

ADVISABLE - MS, HS Student Reviewer: CG

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace - OPTIONAL

Grace, Amanda But I Love Him, pgs. 253. Flux, 2011. $9.95 Language- R (25 swears, 19 “f” words) Mature Content- PG-13  

          Anne loves Connor. They have had their ups and downs, but nothing can outweigh how much she cares about him. Connor has issues, anger issue. And he promises he won't hurt her, but promises are broken. She has to figure out who she loves more: him or herself?                 

I really liked this book. It brought you into the story and, personally, I can relate to the feeling in the book. I really enjoyed the layout of the book because it wasn't in the usual chronological order. Language is rated R for the extensive use of the “f” word. 

OPTIONAL - HS Student Reviewer: CG

Wildefire by Karsten Knight - OPTIONAL

Knight, Karsten Wildefire, pgs.393. Simon & Schuster, 2011. $16.99 Language- PG-13 (67 swears, 0 “f” words) Mature Content- PG-13   

Ashline Wilde’s sophomore year isn’t going quite as planned. It is hard for her to fit in as the only Polynesian girl in school, he boyfriend cheated on her, and her sister, Eve, returned after running away but only making trouble for Ashline. After Eve starts a fight, and a tragedy happens, Ashline transfers to a remote boarding school in the redwoods of California. But her fresh start isn’t going quite as planned. There is a group of gods and goddesses that are being summoned and she one of them. Then Eve returns to haunt her, bearing powers of her own. Now Ash must try to prevent the clash of the gods that is threatening to happen, but she must go up against her sister.              

I really enjoyed this book! It had just the right balance between romance and action, making it fun to read. I would recommend this book to my friends that enjoy adventurous and action type books, but also have a soft spot for romance. 

OPTIONAL - MS, HS Student Reviewer: CG

The Boy Project by Kami Kinard - ESSENTIAL

Kinard, Kami The Boy Project (Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister), 256 pgs. Scholastic Press, 2012. $12.99. Language G (0 swears), Sexual Content G; Violence G; 

Kara is determined to get a boyfriend, and soon. Once she realized that like practically everyone has had a boyfriend and she hasn't, she starts the boy project and uses her science project to do it. Kara takes notes on all of the boys she can. She finds however, love happens where and when it wants and science can't do anything about it. 

A super funny story that any middle schooler or even any one who's never been in a relationship can relate to. I especially liked all the visual aids put in the book. The idea of this story seems to be far from fact but in reality it lays not far from it, showing just how crazy love can make us. A super cute and funny story that I am looking forward to reading again. 

MS - ESSENTIAL. Student Reviewer: KU

Spinster of this Parish - W.B. Maxwell

I'm back!  Did you miss me?  I suspect a lot of people barely noticed, since I wasn't away for all that long - but I usually try to post at least five times a week, so it felt like a lengthy holiday for me.  Sometimes a break is needed to keep blogging fresh for me - and my week-and-a-bit was enough to get me raring for more.  Let's kick things off with a review to fill the 1922 slot on A Century of Books, eh?

It was in this article by Sarah Waters (an introduction to Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willowes) that I first heard about Spinster of this Parish by W.B. Maxwell.  (A William, it turns out, but not that William Maxwell.)  It was only mentioned in passing, alongside F.M. Mayor's The Rector's Daughter (which sadly underwhelmed me) but it was enough to pique my interest.  Luckily Oxford library has a copy in its store, and eventually I got around to reading it.  It's rather extraordinary.

The action kicks off in 1920, with Mildred Parker (age 25) visiting 'old maid' Miss Emmeline Verinder (age 50) in the hopes of receiving some advice.  Mildred is 'that mixture of shrewdness and innocence which makes the typical modern girl seem at once so shallow and so baffling.'  She has fallen in love with a man of whom her parents do not approve - and is bewailing this state to Miss Verinder when she stops suddenly, and suggests that Mildred might not be able to help her, as she has never experienced 'the passions'...

Rewind to 1895, and Emmeline's youth.  We're still in the third person, so it's not entirely Emmeline Verinder's perspective, but she is certainly taking centre stage.  She is engaging in the late-Victorian social whirl, when she happens to meet celebrated explorer Anthony Dyke... and yes, dear reader, Emmeline is smitten.
How had he captivated her?  She did not know.  Was it only because he was the incarnate antithesis of Kensington; because he was individual, unlike the things on either side of him, not arranged on any pattern, not dull, monotonous, or flat; a thing alive in a place where all else was sleeping or dead?  Neither then nor at any future time did she attempt mentally to differentiate between the impression he had made upon her as himself all complete, with the dark hair, the penetrating but impenetrable eyes, the record, the fame, and the impression she might have received if any of these attributes had been taken away from him.  Say, if he had been an unknown Mr. Tomkins instead of a known Mr. Dyke.  Absurd.  The man and the name were one. [...] He was Anthony Dyke.  He was her lord, her prince, her lover.
In other words, he is about equal measures Tarzan and Mr. Rochester.  Indeed, he borrows more than a penetrating stare from the world's most beloved bigamist - for Dyke [er, SPOILERS!], like Rochester, has a madwoman in the attic.  Like poor Rochester (for we can't our brooding heroes being too cruel, can we?) Dyke was tricked into marrying a madwoman (variety of mental illness not mentioned) who is now not, actually, in an attic but in an asylum.

This is where things start to get a bit daring.  Dyke is rather more honest than Rochester, and tells Emmeline about his wife.  She, in turn, decides that their love is more important than society's morals and her parents' approval - and becomes, as it were, his mistress.  This was pretty daring for the time, wasn't it?  Shunned by her parents (although, to do Maxwell justice, Mr. Verinder 'was not in any respects the conventional old-fashioned father that lingered in the comic literature of the period') Emmeline takes her maid Louisa and lives elsewhere.

Being an explorer, Dyke must explore - and he's high-tailing it off to South America.  They have rather a rushed emotional goodbye and he sets sail... only... wait... Emmeline has sneakily crept onboard!

This, blog-readers, is where everything goes mad.

The next section of the novel takes place in South America - and I highly doubt that Maxwell had ever gone nearer to it than Land's End.  They go emerald-hunting, get lost in caves, involved in duels... it's insane, and entirely different from the novel I was expecting.  Had I seen the cover (below) then I might have been better prepared for the excesses of Spinster of this Parish, which were in no way betrayed by the novel's title.

The Sheik by Ethel M. Hull was published in 1919, and was wildly popular into the 1920s - although Spinster of this Parish involves none of the disturbing rape fantasies of The Sheik, it's clear that Maxwell (and many others) were influenced by the popularity for exoticism.  I, however, found this section rather tedious, and flicked through it...

Finally we are back in English society - Emmeline grows gradually less shunned, and Dyke's adventures continue abroad without her.  He is determined to succeed in his quest to get to the South Pole... will he survive or not?  Maxwell has rather calmed down by now, and Dyke's activities take place off stage, thankfully - instead, we see the changing views of upper-class society, and Emmeline's unwavering loyalty to her absent lover.

Picture source
Ah, yes, their love.  I got a bit tired of that.  He is physically perfect and unimaginably manly; she is womanfully patient and devotedly passionate.  Hmm.  Not the most original of pairings.  A lot made sense to me when I found out that W.B. Maxwell is the son of none other than Mary Elizabeth Braddon - of Lady Audley's Secret fame.  He certainly inherited her love of sensation romance literature (did I mention the blackmail plot that's thrown in?)

And yet - I enjoyed an awful lot of it.  Maxwell's writing is, if not exceptional, consistently good.  He is quite witty throughout, and certainly writes better than most of the authors who would warrant a similar dustjacket image.  When we were in England, looking at the workings of society, it was very much my cup of tea - even if the characters were a little too good to be true.  At one point I even thought of suggesting it to Persephone Books.  But... I couldn't get past the insane section in the middle.  The bizarre trip through South America, duels-n-all, is what will make Spinster of this Parish so memorable - but also that which lets down the overall writing, and makes it feel rather silly.

So, a strange book with which to make me blog return!  If nothing else, it has taught be that one must not only forswear to judge a book by its cover - similar caution must be taken as regards a book's title.

Duck Sock Hop by Jane Kohuth -ESSENTIAL

Kohuth, Jane and illustrated by Porter, Jane Duck Sock Hop 32 pgs, Dial, 2012. $13.40.  (Rating: G)
This bright, silly, and creative rhythmical story is all about ducks getting ready for a sock hop. Once they get there they wear out the socks from so much dancing. Then it’s time to plan for the next party!
I loved this story. It would be an incredibly fun story time, where children wear their silly socks and learns about the fun times ducks can have when they are dancing in their socks!
Pre-K, EL -ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Going, KL and Illustrated by Santat, Dan Dog in Charge 40 pgs, Dial, 2012. $10.97.  (Rating: G)
Dog is good at obeying commands, and when he is told to watch the cats, Dog takes his duty very seriously. But the cats have their own ideas about what they want to do while their owners are away. Dog does his best and when it comes down to it, the cats prove that they are true friends to Dog.
This fun book is bright and wonderfully illustrated. The story is simple and has a sweet message. Would make for a fun storytime!
Pre-K -ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Heroes of the Surf by Elisa Carbone and Nancy Carpenter -OPTIONAL

Carbone, Elisa and Carpenter, Nancy Heroes of the Surf 40 pgs, Viking Juvenile, 2012. $10.97.  (Rating: G)
Based on a true story of a steamship crash, this picture book shows what two boys on the ship might have experienced. The boys are enjoying the journey, until the boat hits a storm. The lifeboats are lost and the ship has lost its engine. Will the Heroes of the Surf be able to save them?
This story illustrates the early history of the United States Coast Guard, while providing the early reader with a good example of simple historical fiction. The art style was a bit dated for my taste.  I think this book would function best as a tie-in, such as having a guest speaker from the Coast Guard, for those schools near coastlines.
EL -OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Ollie and Moon: Fuhgeddaboudit! by Diane Kredensor -ADVISABLE

Kredensor, Diane Ollie and Moon: Fuhgeddaboudit!32 pgs, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. $11.98.  (Rating: G)
For the first time Moon can’t make Ollie laugh, so she sets out to make it happen. Moon takes Ollie all over New York City –trying everything from mimes, to acting super silly, to taming lions!
I loved the combination of vivid bright photographs with cartoon illustrations. The story was silly but still had a plot and some fun adventures.
EL -ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Emily and Carlo by Mary Rhodes Figley –NOT RECOMMENDED

Figley, Mary Rhodes and Illustrated by Stock, Catherine Emily and Carlo 32 pgs, Charlesbridge Publishing 2012. $11.96.  (Rating: G)
This picture book shows the interactions of poet Emily Dickinson and her much loved dog Carlo. They spent all their time together and Emily mentions him frequently in her writing and poetry. Then he dies.
A picture book for students too young to read the poetry of Emily Dickinson, it makes no sense to me. The story was stilted and boring. Then the dog dies, and it’s the end of the story. Did I mention the art was dated and drab?  I wouldn’t add this book to my collection.
EL –NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

La Luna by Enrico Casarosa –OPTIONAL

Casarosa, Enrico La Luna 40 pgs, Disney Press, 2012. $10.08.  (Rating: G)
Based on a short Disney Pixar film, this picture book features a young boy going to work with his Papa and Grandpa. He find out they have an important job, involving the moon and the stars.
I think children will love the top notch illustrations, but the story is kind of confusing and I don’t think would make a great story time.
PRE-K, EL –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

American Blessings: A Celebration of Our Country's Spirit 80 pgs. Courage Books, 2002. $Price Unknown.  (Rating: G)
This book combines quotes from famous Americans with classic folk art. It is large, colorful, and features a variety of fonts to keep things interesting.
Although  a great example of classic American, from art to quotes, this book will be of little use to students due to its lack of details and focus on presentation.
ALL AGES –NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth -ADVISABLE

Wadsworth, Ginger First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low  224 pgs. Clarion Books, 2012. $12.23.  (Rating: Language: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G)
A detailed biography of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Law, the founder of the Girl Scouts. The book goes through every little thing from her childhood, her family, her education, and her marriage. It follows how she became interested and involved with helping girls to become a part of the something special –an education in the great outdoors, homemaking, and even careers.
This is was an incredibly detailed and long biography. I don’t think it’s quite right for elementary students because of this, it’s just too much to wade through (Also because it goes into the concept of extramarital affairs). But older students will find it an interesting read, with tons of pictures and historical detail, that is never dry or boring.
MS, HS– ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Knuckle & Potty Destroy Happy World by James Proimos -NOT RECOMMENDED

Proimos, James Knuckle & Potty Destroy Happy World80 pgs. Henry Holt and Co., 2012. $8.76.  (Rating: Language: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G)
When two cute characters, Knuckles and Potty decide they are tired of being cute, they create a plan to look more tough. They contact the author and the illustrator who created them. When that doesn’t work they try to destroy their new setting, Happy World. But Happy World fights back.
This silly and strange story that was almost so nonsensical that it was annoying. I didn’t enjoy the artwork or the plot. Some younger students may find some fun here, some librarian might use it to show the difference between author and illustrator, but I wouldn’t add it to my collection.
EL – NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Squish by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm -NOT RECOMMENDED

Holm, Jennifer L and Holm, Matthew Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite 96 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. $6.99.  (Rating: Language: G, Violence: G, Sexual Content: G)
This graphic novel is the continuing adventures of Squish. He is supposed to be learning how to swim. His new friend is causing more trouble than fun. He will have to face his fears.
The convoluted story and hijinks makes this story feel like it should be for younger students, but the dialogue (science content) is for older elementary kids. The art is reminiscent of the Sponge Bob cartoons. I thought the story and the art was messy and confusing. If this series is much requested, it can’t hurt to add this one to your collection, but that’s the only way I would purchase. Go for graphic novels with better stories and better art.
Elementary – NOT RECOMMENDED Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Outlaw by Stephen Davies -ADVISABLE

Davies, Stephen Outlaw 304 pgs. Clarion Books, 2011. $12.40.  (Rating: Language: G, Violence: PG, Sexual Content: G)
Jake spends his days at boarding school getting into mischief. Once he  joins his family in Africa, the stakes are much higher. When Jake and his sister are kidnapped, his technology skills and ingenuity are put to the test. Is Yakuuba Sor, the outlaw that captured them, as bad as he seems?
This incredibly fast paced book is full of adventure and some interesting lessons about corruption, politics, and of course, technology. Both books I have reviewed by this author (See Hacking Timbuktu) have featured main characters that really intelligent and brave. I think students will really enjoy this book and be inspired to learn more technology tools along the way.
MS, HS – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate & Author.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker-ADVISABLE

Walker, Sally M., Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax of 1917. Henry Holt and Company, 2011. Pgs. 145. INFORMATION.

In 1917, during World War One, two ships collide in Hallifax Harbor. One was carrying ammunition. The resulting disaster was the largest man-made explosion known to man. It flattened large area of Hallifax and killed nearly two thousand people. This book covers their stories.

Full of primary sources and photo. It has a good layout and index. Readers in eighth grade or higher who need to book about one of the World Wars or like military history will enjoy reading this book. MS, HS. ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Jessica Moody, Library Media Specialist, Olympus Jr. High.