Thursday, March 31, 2011

Misrepresent: The Global Warming Deception

I hated this book.  Part of it wasn't the book's fault; I saw it on LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's list and thought it would be interesting to read a book challenging the accepted thoughts on global warming.  The book described itself as non-fiction, and I read it as a popular science book.  But Grant R. Jeffrey's The Global-Warming Deception: How a Secret Elite Plans to Bankrupt America and Steal Your Freedomrelies heavily on editorials and the Christian bible for its evidence, which makes it really quite a different kind of book.

I kept struggling to be fair -- just because an argument is bad doesn't mean that what it is arguing is false.  If biblical prophecies agree with science, that doesn't make the science wrong.  But it was very hard.  Jeffrey keeps referring to the global conspiracy that is pushing global warming as a way of enforcing a world government, but he never identifies who or what is behind this conspiracy.  Maybe really rich people.  Maybe those liberal establishment types who regretted the fall of the USSR.  Maybe Al Gore, or the Roman Catholic Pope, or the third world dictator types who rule the UN.  He constantly refers to magazine or newspaper editorials or blog essays to back up his science.  I was particularly unimpressed with his horror over the Economist endorsing the total elimination of humanity in an editorial (a goal of the conspiracy), since it was apparent even from his selective quote that irony was involved but completely missed by Jeffrey.

The book works only to preach to the converted; if you also believe that global warming is nothing to worry about because God says men cannot destroy the earth, then this book will warm your heart.  But if you prefer science to revelations, this book doesn't have much to say.  F

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Words or Deeds: Eli the Good

How do you say "I love you"?  Just by talking or by cherishing someone with your actions? I'm a strong believer in actions -- filling my kids' bureaus with clean laundry, coming up with (cooked) food for them, dragging them from Plants vs Zombies and forcing them to read with me, that's how I tell them I love them. Oh, I'll throw words at them fairly often; all the parenting books tell me to.  But I don't think words mean much compared to actions, as I tell my youngest when he whispers sweet nothings to the cat complaining about an empty food bowl.

But I acknowledge that some people need words.  Silas House's Eli the Good has a character who only believes in words, who needs words so much that he sneaks about eavesdropping at every opportunity and plots to steal his parents letters so he can see words they sent to each other before he was born. The book covers Eli's tenth summer, the summer of the bicentennial, and the people he loves most are changing about him in ways he doesn't always comprehend.  He wants to be good, which is often harder than being great, but finds himself often coming up shorter than his dreams yet still managing to keep his connections to his family and therefore to himself.

The book keeps its distance from me, even when describing family traumas such as the bitter fights between his sister and his mother, or his father and his aunt, because the story is filtered through the adult Eli's memories of that summer.  But the intensity of the feelings shine through, from the horror of the Vietnam war memories to the moment when Eli truly believes in his mother's love for him (because she tells him; words always speak louder than actions for Eli).  B

Thanks to Random House and LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me this book.

Discord at the Library

Once again all five us set out for the library, but it was not a peaceful trip.  N hated that X kept breathing the air, and looking at things, and generally existing.  When his violent screaming was curbed, he was astonished at the cruel conspiracy against him and never really recovered.  He have a few brief spots of cheerfulness, but in that case some other kid would leap forward to prevent a lack of unpleasantness in the universe.  

Despite all obstacles I helped N get his next video from the hold shelf and let him take home my copy of Shark vs Train.  On my way to the hold shelves I saw two books from my TBR lists, so I grabbed them:
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  • Blackout, by Rob Thurman.  The middle of a paranormal series, but it starts with amnesia so should be a good entry point.
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson.  I think BookNAround suggested this to me.
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Making it to my hold shelf, I pulled down:
  • River Marked, by Patricia Briggs.  Perfect timing -- I just reread the previous book!
  • Life At the Edge and Beyond, by Jan Greenman.  About living with Asperger Syndrome and ADHD, but my kid won't notice it because there are adults on the cover.
  • The Commoner, by John Burnham Schwartz.  About the first common Japanese princess.
  • You Don't Look Like Anyone I know, by Heather Sellers. This is for the Michigan challenge.
  • Betti On the High Wire, by Lisa Railsback.  A Cybils book.
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead. Cybils picture book, completing that category!
  • Mirror, Mirror, by Marilyn Singer.  Cybils poetry book.
  • Tales of the Vampires.  Buffy book.
  •  Kidz Bop 11. My musical journey continues.
I also got five other CDs, grabbing at random.  CDs don't make it home for a week, since they get played in the car first.  Last week's titles were: Kate Bush's Aerial, The Flaming Lips and Stardeath  and the White Dwarfs' Dark Side of the Moon, Devendra Banhart's Cripple Crow, and Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche.

That brings me to 79 items out on my card, from 82 last week.  I seem to be hovering.  I'm off to Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and Clare from The Captive Reader (she's this week's host) take turns with the linky for Library Loot. That's where all us library lovers go to compare our hauls for the week.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making Choices: Guardian of the Dead

After reviewing another Buffy book I tend to look at YA fantasy books with an eye towards symbolism, although typically I read them naively, just for the story.  (What, Narnia has Christian over tones? is my typical level of understanding.)   In the Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult) finalist Guardian of the Dead, by Karen Healey, Ellie Spencer has to look up from her teen-aged angst over her looks and her boy friends to confront mythical creatures with deadly intentions, her own developing magical powers, and the temptation to use a mask as powerful tool to control the people around her.

Nothing like coming to realize that everyone around you has their own motives and needs, ones that may not be friendly or accommodating to you.  Or that you do indeed have strengths and abilities that can affect the world in real ways.  Or that as a woman, you can use your image and body to control people's reactions in ways that have nothing to do with your real self.  No, nothing about that at all.

This was an interesting book that felt richer and more layered than the action-packed Brain Jack.  So far it heads this list for me; I'll offer it to my sixth grader but it may be older than his interest level.  A-

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bee's Knees: The Hive Detectives

Hive Detectives CoverLoree Griffen Burns (author) and Ellen Harasimowisc (photographer) did a great job presenting the mystery of the colony collapse disorder facing bees and their keepers in Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe, a Cybils Nonfiction (Middle Grade and Young Adult) finalist.  Cara Llewellyn gets credit for joining the text and pictures, and she almost deserves a mention on the front cover -- each page draws you into the world of bees, their keepers, and the scientists who study them.   We get an up-close and personal look at exactly how beekeeping works, with details into Mary's backyard hives and kitchen honey factory, and we also meet professional, truck-driving beekeepers who bring the bees to pollinate crops from California to Maine to Florida.

And as the worry over the disappearance of millions of bees grows, we also meet the scientists investigating the problem, with the focus on parasites, pesticides, and viruses.  I found the book fascinating, and was left with a hunger for local honey.  My current front-runner for this category.  Surprisingly, both kids had already read it.  I forget they have reading lives that I don't even see, sometimes.  A

Status Report:

On Monday Sheila at Book Journey asks about how the reading week went -- what people read, what they are reading, what they will read.  It's a good chance to see if any trends are developing.

What did I read?
  • Bird, by Angela Johnson.  
  • Icebound Land (Ranger's Apprentice #3), John Flanagan.  Reading along with my sixth grader.
  • The Dead Boys, Royce Buckingham.  A Cybils middle grade finalist.
  • Mercury, Hope Larson.  A Cybils YA graphic novel.
  • The Widow and the King, John Dickinson.  Rather grim middle grade medieval fantasy book.
  • Don't Say a Word, by Gehrts.  Historical fiction about WWII.
  • The Global-Warming Deception, by Grant R. Jeffrey.  A religious text that claimed to be science.
  • Silver Borne, by Patricia Briggs.  Re-read, because the next one is out soon.
What trends do I see? I don't read many books shelved on the right (adult) side of the library.  This is not even counting the picture books I read for the Cybils challenge:
  • Dinosaur Mountain, by Deborah Kogan Ray.  Nonfiction book about the Utah fossil field.
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, by Joyce Sidman.  Nature poems.
  • Shark Vs Train, by Chris Baron.  The battle of the ages!
Right now I'm reading: 
  •  In the Dark of Dreams, by Marjorie M. Liu.  Because she writes crazy fun books.
  • The House on the Strand, by Dapne Du Maurier, recommended by a friend
  • Thendara House, Marion Zimmer Bradley, from my TBR piles
  • Territory, Emma Bull (vacation book)
  • Hammered, Elizabeth Bear (vacation book)
  • Bad Prince Charlie, John Moore (vacation book)
  • Interior Life, Katherine Blake (vacation book)
  • Glass Harmonica, Louise Marley (vacation book)
  • The Rogue's Return, Jo Beverly (vacation book)
  • The Hob's Bargain, Patricia Briggs (vacation book)
  • Flying Solo Ralph Fletcher (borrowed by a kid, now returned)
  • The Privilege of the Sword Ellen Kusher. (I'm scared about what will happen, so I'm reading very slowly)
In my challenge shelf I have some books pulled from the bibliography of Borrowed Names up next.  My library pile has Scarlet Pimpernel on top, and then probably the next Ranger Apprentice book. I'll probably grab some kidlit from my TBR piles, since it goes quickly and I need some shelf space back in that bookcase.

What are the statuses of my challenges? Great, I tell you, just great. Quick stats:
A-Z: 20/52
Cybils: 28/76.  I finished all the Early Readers!
Michigan: 1/2
Read World: 3/20.  My Canadian author turned out to be an expatriate American, curse the luck.
Stream: 2/3
Take Chance: .5  I've started the book recommended by a loved one.  Hi Birgit!
20/11: 5/20.  But some of the books I haven't reviewed yet should fit in.
What Name: 3/6
Where Am I Reading: 11  I've added Alabama and Kentucky.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Big Sisters For the Win: Flora's Very Windy Day

Flora's Very Windy DayJeanne Birdsall, author of the adult-pleasing Penderwick books, also wrote the Cybils Fiction Picture Book Finalist, Flora's Very Windy Day.  Flora, a gently misunderstood older sister, is banished with her messy little brother to the outdoors, despite the danger from the strong wind.  Flora is safe, but as she predicted and her mother dismissed, her younger brother is blown away.  Flora goes after him, because that's what big sisters do.

The pictures and the text complement each other delicately, with the comforting love between the siblings evident even as Flora finds very uncomplimentary reasons to save her brother.  The sparrow can't have him for an egg-sitter, because he's so clumsy he'd break all the eggs.  Both boys rocketed this to the top of their picture books choices, but I'm still holding onto Chalk.  A-

I think the Amazon link benefits the Cybils committee.  If I did it right.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Warm Fuzzies: Cork & Fuzz: The Babysitters

I interrupt my regularly schedule book post to mourn Diana Wynne Jones.  I have loved her books since Howl's Moving Castle, since Charmed Life, since Tale of Time City, which I read before I looked at the author's name so I didn't even know it was hers.  I picked up English editions of her books, I searched used book stores for her name, some of my first hardback purchases had her name on the spine.  I knew she was sick, but it's a shock to know she is gone.


Cork is a muskrat, whatever that is, and Fuzz is a possum, which I'm vaguely familiar with from appearances in corpse form on the side of roads.  But in Dori Chaconas's Cybils Easy Reader Finalist The Babysitters (Cork and Fuzz), they are lively and furry friends dealing with Cork's helpful desire to babysit a young porcupine.  Fuzz is a bit too busy with his bear trap to help much, but he's willing to supply useless advice.

I found the book friendly and cosy, perfect for a shared read or a bedtime story.  I see from the back that there are a handful of other books about these friends, but I was happy coming in with this one.  My fourth grader also liked it, although my sixth grader is nowhere to be found for his opinion.  This one has just moved to first place in my list.  A

I'm hoping the Amazon link benefits the Cybils committee, but I doubt it will ever get tested.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Aspergers Explained, Finally

I'm continuing my quest to understand more about Aspergers and autism in general, and this time I picked out a nonfiction title from the kids section. Kathy Hoopman wrote All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome, and with a title like that I figured I'd like it.

It's basically a picture book, with fun pictures of kittens illustrating a line of text describing common attributes of people with Aspergers. Of course, cats make everything look good, so it's a very positive portrayal. This is the first book on this topic I've gotten that X enjoyed as well; he considers it the best description so far of how he feels sometimes. I just have to remember that X is basically a cat, and then his reactions and misunderstandings make a lot more sense.  A

Defensive Challenge: Read Around the World Challenge

readaroundtheworldchallenge Reading Challenge: Read Around the WorldEver since I started the challenge to read a book in each state, I have been amazed at how many of my books take place in other countries.  Or in fantasy worlds, of course, but there's not much I can do about that.  To force more books back into the USA, I shall start BookDad's Read Around the World Challenge.

This challenge is for books I'm sharing with my kids, so picture books through YA counts, and the AUTHOR has to be from a different country, which makes it a bit harder.  I'm not sure if I can count the books that I read that I try unsuccessfully to share with my kids, though.  We'll see how desperate I get.

I think I'll go back to the beginning of March and count from there. After all, that's when I began paying attention to how many far-flung books I was reading.  I'm going medium -- Savvy Traveler: 20 or more books from 3 different continents.  I'd do the large one, but the author rule intimidates me a bit.  I can't always tell.

I'll start with what I've already got.  I can see I'll have to come back when I'm all techy and put in maps and such.

  1. Candle Man, by Glenn Dakin (England)
  2. Don't Say a Word, by Barbara Gerhts (Germany) (translated)
  3. The Widow and the King, by John Dickinson (England) 
  4. Harmony: A Vision For Our Future, by The Prince of Wales
  5. Princess Grace, Mary Hoffman. 
  6. The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon, David Almond (UK)
  7. Littlest Pirate King, David B. (France)
  8. Toby Alone, Timothee de Fombelle (France).  Translated, even!
  9. Australia and Pacific Islands

  10. The Burning Bridge, by John Flanagan (Australia)
  11. All Cats Have Aspergers, by Kathy Hoopman (Australia)
  12. Guardian of the Dead, by Karen Healey (New Zealand)
  13. Raven Hill Mysteries, by Emily Rodda (Australia)
  14. Icebound Land, by John Flanagan (Australia)
  15. Battle for Skandia, by John Flanagan (Australia)
  16. The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan (Australia)
  17. The Siege of Macindaw by John Flanagan (Australia)
  18. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (New Zealand)
  19. Asia

  20. Allison, by Allen Say (Japan)
  21. The Duel, by David Grossman (Israel)
  22. North America

  23. I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother by Selina Alko (Canada).  This is an interesting picture book about a biracial family that compares almost everything to food; we were very hungry after we read it.
  24. Ready for Takeoff (Martin Bridge), by Jessica Kerrin (Canada)
  25. Africa

  26. Jafta: The Homecoming, by Hugh Lewin (South Africa)
  27. Once Upon a Time, Niki Daly (South Africa).  This was a book about reading, which was a delightful surprise.
  28. Lake of the Big Snake, Isaac Olaleye (Nigeria).  Two naughty boys have to outwit the snake to get back home.  The word order switched around a bit, and it was interesting to see the different onomatopoeia used.
  29. Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke (Nigeria)
And that's it.  A few more books set in other countries, but it turns out the authors are American.  Good golly, this is going to be harder than I thought.  I've got a Canadian book on my bedside table right now, so I've got the three continents, but 20 books may not be such a doddle after all.  A challenge that's challenging -- jinkies!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Misconceptions: Trust Me On This

Jennifer Crusie
 writes swift moving, taut romances about smart women meeting smart men and finding ways to come together, and she usually puts in enough twists and turns to keep me laughing while it happens.  In the caper comedy Trust Me on This (Loveswept), everyone comes in with an agenda, and the confusions and misconceptions keep the plot turning without further intervention from the author.

I liked that the side romance was for an older couple, and that no one thought that love conquers all, or that really good sex meant that they were fated to come together.  I liked that I kept smiling while I read the book, and only occasionally grimaced at the horrible mistakes about to happen, and at least those mistakes weren't because of gross stupidity.  It's fairly obvious that this is an earlier book, but it's still a fun one.  A great choice for reading on lines at Disneyland.  B

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Insecurity: Clementine, Friend of the Week

Sara Pennypacker's sure tone for early elementary kids holds true in Clementine, Friend of the Week, the fourth book about the artistic third grader.  Teachers play only a small role in this story, which focuses on friendships between Clementine and her peers, from Margaret upstairs through her classmates and pet.

Clementine worries about what her friends will write in her booklet, despite all evidence (seen clearly by these adult eyes) that she's a popular, well-liked kid in her class.  All week she tries to boost her standing, offering forced compliments, free marker tattoos, and extra decorations for bikes.  None of this is mischievous (well, the tattoos are a bit frowned upon by authority, but none of the kids or I can see why), but conflict comes when friend Margaret forces a fight over the whole idea of friend week booklets.

Both kids get a chance to show real friendship, but it's not a didactic tone, more of a real look at kids and the real problems they feel.  And it has that exotic urban kids flavor that I remember so nostalgically.  I have no idea why I thought apartments with elevators were so interesting, but there it is, I'm still hooked by kids who live in them. B+

Five Go to the Library

The library pilgrimage was made with all four kids this week; even X came along to pick up his latest Ranger's Apprentice book.  A and P spent the time surfing the web (no Facebook access from juvenile computers! The horror!).  The library delighted N by producing the next Yu-Gi-Oh DVD, which was a pleasant surprise; the morning computer check had him fifth in line.  I pointed out Diary of a Fly and Diary of a Spider since he had enjoyed Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Worm so much.  X found a Star Wars book and a Spiderman book. I like it when kids check out books, although I can see why P feels I check out enough for all of us.

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There has been a massive upgrade in the online system, but it still waits patiently for N while he proudly checks his own stuff out.  I managed to skip eight items but luckily caught the mistake and went back to check them out.  From the hold shelf I grabbed:

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  • Shark Vs. Train, by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld.  Cybils Picture Book.
  • Among Others, by Jo Walton.  I forgot that I bought my own copy because I couldn't wait for my hold.  Oops.  I guess this means it's time to reread it.
  • Candle Man Book Two: The Society of Dread, by Glenn Dakin.  Next in the series
  • Tortall and Other Lands, by Tamara Pierce.  Short stories by a known author.
  • Plain Kate, by Erin Bow.  Cybils finalist.
  • Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000, by Eric Wight.  Another Cybils book.
  • Tall, Dark, and Fearless, by Suzanne Brockman.  Well, it wasn't on hold but only because I noticed the library had it when I went to reserve it.  I've seen several good reviews of her.
  • Kidz Bop 10 CD, from my continued musical quest.
I also got five other CDs, grabbing at random, and then in the car found that one had two discs in it, so it overflowed the CD player.  I'll sneak one back tomorrow, along with Walton's book.

That brings me to 82 items out on my card, from 80 last week.  I seem to be hovering.  I'm off to Marg's The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (she's this week's host) to sign up for Library Loot. That's where all us library lovers go to compare our hauls for the week.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Magical Fantasy: The House of the Stag

Kage Baker's second fantasy book, The House of the Stag, goes back a few years to show how the Saint and the Man on the Mountain actually grew up and met.  I love her goofy world building and the broad strokes and fine detail she uses for the different cultures (the Yendri, the Children of the Sun, the demons).  Innocent wisdom and faltering self-deceit both appear in true characters, with a firm understanding of human nature and the strengths and weaknesses people are prone to.  Gard was my favorite, mostly because he got to go places and see things, but the Saint surprised me by not being boring at all.

Now, of course, I want to go back and reread the first with a new understanding of the characters, but I think I'll go on and read the third first.  And then maybe try her science fiction again.  A

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thinking With Buffy: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy coverI liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer shows because they are fun, goofy, and play with words and ideas without usually taking themselves too seriously.  And that's how I like my literary analysis of Buffy as well.  James B South edited the Buffy book in the Modern Culture and Philosophy series, calling it Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale (Popular Culture and Philosophy, Vol. 4).  I suspect Buffy would tremble more about the philosophy part than the vampire part.

Most of the essays followed my preferred route -- have something to say about philosophy, whether it's a look at Plato's ethics, feminism and violence, or rationalizations for punishment, and then examine it through a specific lens.  In this book, that lens is the Buffy series.  Add in fun quotes for each section (section 4, Religion and Politics in the Buffyverse, is titled "That's the kind of wooly-headed thinking that leads to being eaten") and I had a pleasant trip through real concerns.  I think I'll look for the other books in this series.  B+

Monday Status Check

On Monday Sheila at Book Journey asks people to check in on what they read that week, what they are reading right now, and what they plan to read in the upcoming week. I like taking a step back to see what I've been wasting my time on lately.  I mean, instead of reading.

Books I completed:
  • Spymaster's Lady, by Joanna Bourne.  Recommended by a friend.
  • Meanwhile: Pick Any Path, by Jason Shiga. Cybils finalist.
  • Belly Up, by Stuart Gibbs.  Cybils finalist.
  • Guardian of the Dead, by Karen Healey.  Cybils finalist.
  • Buffy the Vampire Omnibus I.  Comic anthology.
  • Hamster and Cheese: Guinea Pig Pet Private Eye,  by Colleen Venerable.  Cybils Finalist. 
  • Raven Hill Mysteries: Ghost of Raven Hill/Sorcerer's Apprentice, by Emily Rodda.
I'll also include the picture books I read for various challenges:
  • Interrupting Chicken, David Ezra Stein.  Cybils Finalist.
  • We Are In a Book, by Mo Willems.  Cybils Finalist.
Some reviews of last week's books showed up, and a few of this week's may show up eventually.  Maybe.   I hope.

Right now I'm reading: 
  • The Global Warming Deception, by Grant Jeffrey.  An bad book that has really slowed down my reading since I'm stuck with it.  I thought it would be a science book, but it's religious.
  • Silver Borne, by Patricia Briggs.  Reread because the next one will be out soon.
  • The Widow and the King, John Dickinson, sequel to a book I read because he's Robin McKinley's stepson.  Edging along, although eventually I'll just gulp it down.
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, Joyce Sidman.  Cybils poetry finalist; P and I read one poem a night.  He has a low tolerance for poems, but the pictures are good enough that he puts up with it. 
  • Territory, Emma Bull (vacation book)
  • Hammered, Elizabeth Bear (vacation book)
  • Bad Prince Charlie, John Moore (vacation book)
  • Interior Life, Katherine Blake (vacation book)
  • Glass Harmonica, Louise Marley (vacation book)
  • The Rogue's Return, Jo Beverly (vacation book)
  • The Hob's Bargain, Patricia Briggs (vacation book)
  • Flying Solo Ralph Fletcher (borrowed by a kid, now returned)
  • The Privilege of the Sword Ellen Kusher. (I'm scared about what will happen, so I'm reading very slowly)
I actually have bookmarks in a few other books, but I'm not actively reading them.  The top three are my main reads.  Next up are more books recommended by friends and family (there was a challenge about that).  Some library books also get top priority, since so many of them are due, although fewer than last week.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Creepy Powers: Candleman

Candle Man UK CoverFor Christmas this year my son gave me Glenn Dakin's Candle Man, Book One: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance.  He gave everyone books, because he's a nice kid.  It's a middle grade steam punk book about a boy who is a Chosen One, but interestingly the boy spends most of the book being a bit of a milk sop.  The Bad Guys captured him at his birth and help him in complete isolation, telling him that his health demanded the restrictions, and he doesn't question this until he meets up with the Good Guys.  Even then he finds many things a bit shocking -- instead of hot water, people drink TEA, to give only one example.

I was very primed to like this book (see present from my son, above), but I did quibble with the length of time Theo spent being timid and cautious.  Yes, it was realistic, but when I read steam punk I want ACTION.  I want killer umbrellas.  I want goggles with poison spray.  Theo spends a lot of time looking for nonviolent solutions, and also being frankly appalled at his nasty superpower.  It's as creepy as his hand on the cover makes it seem.  By the way, the cover shown above is the UK one, which is also extremely creepy but in a different way. My copy is just called Candleman, by later editions give that name to the series and call the first book Society of Unrelenting Vigilance. B

Friday, March 18, 2011

Been Working on the Auto Line: Working Words

I've lived in Washington for about five years now, but I don't really feel like a Washingtonian.  I'm not sure how that is supposed to feel.  I don't even know the state flower, or song, or motto.  I'm not even sure we have them, although surely the state senate got bored some time and elected them all.  I'm a bit dubious of most forms of state pride, in fact, not just for Washington but in general.  But anything that leads people to make book lists can't be all bad.  I'm doing a challenge based on Michigan's list right now.  Why Michigan? Because I stumbled across their challenge.  I wonder if other states have Notable Book lists too? Hmm.

The first book I picked was Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams, which celebrates the words and deeds of laborers in America, drawing as much as possible from their own words, poems, and stories.  M. L. Liebler groups the poems, fiction, and essays alphabetically, which leads to some whipsawing between coal mining and assembly line working, between agitating for the right to organize to watching the jobs move overseas.  I wonder what it would have felt like chronologically, but that would be hard since some works move between eras.  As a whole, the book gives a strong impression of the power of work, sometimes the power to grind down a soul, sometimes the power to expand it.

I pulled a few poems for my poetry notebook, which is a good sign in a poetry book, and I'm glad Jumping the Candlestick held her Michigan challenge to inspire me to read it.  And I'll post this on a Friday so I can do a Poetry Friday thing like all the cool people. B

Feeling the Experience: Wrap-up of Sci-Fi Experience

The Sci-Fi experience officially ended on February 28th, but since I was behind on my reviews I waited until most of my reactions appeared.  I didn't really change my reading habits at all, but I did pay a bit more attention to what genre I was reading.  Usually I lump fantasy and science fiction together (speculative fiction, if you insist on an acronym), but for those two months I enjoyed noting which of my books were properly science fiction, especially contrasting them with fantasy.

Sometimes the differences aren't fuzzy.  Urban fantasy is rooted in reality, happening within this world.  The Call is magic, so fantasy, although they use credit cards to book air travel.  Alien Tango is science fiction, because the aliens come from space.  Magic users teleport, science types use portals, but the result is the same.  The science is often just magical hand-waving.

Is the difference philosophical? A matter of tone? If so, is it something the author puts in or that I inject because I know what I'm reading...  It's not hard at all for me to put most SF books in one camp or the other (science fiction or fantasy), but a lot of times the best books are the ones that keep a foot in both camps.  My favorite book of the experience was a fantasy book that was partly about the love of science fiction, Jo Walton's Among Others.

In other challenge news, I've got 18/52 books for the A-Z challenge, 22/76 Cybils books, half of the Michigan books (well, one), I've started a book for Take a Chance, have 3/6 for What's in a Name,  and 9/50 states.  I keep repeating states, or reading books where the silly characters trek about without settling anywhere. (I'm looking at you, High King of Montival!)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

With My Little Eye: The Dark Game, True Spy Stories

Paul B. Janeczko made the Cybils Nonfiction Books (Middle Grade and Young Adult) shortlist with his book The Dark Game, so I brought it home for us to read.  Organized in chapters for each war the US made spy strides in, it covers personalities, techniques, and risks as they changed over time.  I relished the all-female Civil War chapter, although the book doesn't make a big deal about girl vs boy spies.  And instead of the Navaho/WWII incident he brings up an earlier, more spontaneous use of Choctaw Code Talkers in World War I;  a captain overheard Corporal Solomon Lewis talking with a friend, and soon Lewis was preventing German interception by organizing radio communication in Choctaw.

I learned a lot and had fun doing it. The sixth grader enjoyed it very much; the fourth grader hasn't nibbled yet.  He's a tough nut to crack.  B+

I think the link to Amazon would benefit the Cybils committee if you bought the book. If I did it right, I mean.

Dragging My Feet: Shapechanger's Wife

Anyone who knows me knows I sometimes take forever to finish a book. I'll be reading ten or eleven books, and a few just hang out in the reading pile while the bookmark occasionally quivers forward. Sometimes it's a question of time, sometimes I'm bored and don't really care, but many times it's that I like the characters and I don't want to see what mean thing the author is going to visit upon them next.

In Sharon Shinn's The Shape-Changer's Wife, the situation was a bit different. I loved the characters, and I thought a happy ending would ruin the book. Yet it's a YA book, so I worried it was doomed to have a happy ending. I loved the relationship between the geeky Aubrey and the aloof Lilith but I couldn't see how they could get together without being false to themselves. The suspense built by the growing menace of her twisted husband Glyrenden was heightened by my foot-dragging pace. But I'm glad I finally gathered up my courage to finish it, because not only did I get a grand fight scene, but the ended suited me perfectly. Oh sure, there's an epilogue, but it's clearly wistful thinking and not part of the story. A

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Magic Makes Things Less Magical: The High King of Montival

The High King of MontivalWhat happens to people and civilizations if we lose all our technology? S.M. Stirling likes that question, and has several series of books based around answering it. In the longest series, The Change, stuff just stops working and no one knows why, and his characters spend six books setting up new ways of living. At first things are very hard, with mass starvation and death, but as the books go on people learn new ways of coping and after twenty five years many people can't even remember what it was like "before."

Religion becomes much more important to people, who draw together and build myths and structures to bond their societies. So people pray to Odin and the Earth Mother and Raven and the Virgin Mary. Earlier books left open whether or not the prayers were answered, but in this book we know that Rudi, son of major characters of the first books, is super-magical. He's got the nifty magic sword to beat all swords, and everyone who glimpses it recognizes the power. So he can tell who is lying, and hack open just about anything, and seal off minds from the evil workings of the Evil Powers, and gosh, probably slice bread.

When his magic sword is off-stage, there are still interesting bits with people fighting and rushing about and doing stuff on their own, but things are much duller now that it isn't ingenuity and courage vs the world. I'll probably keep reading these, but not in any hurry when they come out, because a lot of the magic is gone now that the magic is there.  C-

Hey, it works for the What's In a Name Challenge -- "high" is a size!  OK, I don't regret the time spent reading this one.

Library Loot With Trusty Kid

Only N and I went to the library this week, which was fun because we were both excited about books.  Well, N had to pick up his latest Yu-Gi-Oh movie, but then he was completely amenable to looking for books about snails and worms.  He denies the worm interest now, but I was there.  He carefully looks through each page of the books before choosing each one.  I have a reputation as a genius because I always lead him straight to the section he wants; it helps that he only wants books on fish, mollusks or bugs, which are all located within shelves of each other.  It turns out that our library has an embarrassing dearth of juvenile NF about worms, but their snail collection is quite extensive.  I padded out his pile with Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Worm and we were good to go.  

Our new online check-out is excruciatingly slow, but that is perfect for N who likes to do it all himself.  Apparently the thing is timed for him.  Meanwhile I was kicking my heels with my own eight reserved books:
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa (from BookNAround's recommendation)
  • The Bird of the River, by Kage Baker, the last of her fantasy books
  • In the Dark of Dreams, by Marjorie M. Liu, in the Dirk & Steele series
  • Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalie de Saint-George, by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome.  Picture book recommended somewhere, argh!
  • We Are In a Book!, by Mo Willems, Cybils Early Reader Finalist
  • Interrupting Chicken, David Ezra Stein, Cybils Fiction Picture Book Finalist
  • Kakapo Rescue, by Sy Montgomery, Cybils Nonfiction Finalist
  • Book! Book! Book!, a picture book based on the joke that inspired my blog's name.
That brings me to 80 items out on my card, from 81 last week.  Clearly the trend is in the right direction, although sanity is still a wee bit off in the distance.  I'm off to Marg's The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (she's this week's host) to sign up for Library Loot. That's where all us library lovers go to compare our hauls for the week.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

February Family Read: The Magnificent 12: The Call

The Magnificent 12I brought home Michael Grant's The Call, book one of The Magnificent 12 because it was a Cybils Finalist for Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade).  I'm not actually all that clear on what Middle Grade means; I know the definition but it's hard for me to pick the books out of a line-up.  I suspect that's because my oldest is just at the top of the middle grade years, and he has taken his own path through the literary jungle, which skews this a bit.  And my fourth grader doesn't read much.  Maybe 30 minutes or an hour before bed, but sometimes he just falls asleep without reading anything.  I'm not sure where we went wrong with that one.

Anyway, Grant went right somewhere with this book, because both boys loved it.  The sixth grader gobbled it up and then sat on the fourth grader to make him read it.  Then he made it our Family Book for February to force me to read it as well, which I did on our trip to Disneyland.  While my enthusiasm didn't overrun the channels and flood my soul, I liked it.  The peeks into ancient history (before hummus, before horse riding was mastered), the mathematical jokes (biggest number ever, or 3000, take your pick) tickled my fancy as they did the boys, and the letters from the golem provided a light counterpart to the scary adventures down under.  I think the boys and I had different reactions to the character's use of the credit card issued to our hero, but I'm stuck being a mom sometimes.  I would say this books leans more heavily towards the kid appeal side rather than literary merit, but it was a fun read.  Of course, by the time our official book club dinner came about we didn't have much to say, but we did talk about publishing schedules and whether Grant really would write 12 more books in the series.  B+

(If I did it right, the Amazon link benefits the Cybils committee.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kissing the Clueless: The Half-Life of Planets

I'm reading books on or about Aspergers Syndrome, since someone I love has been diagnosed.  He and I were getting tired of the books about dealing with the problem, which he doesn't even consider a problem, so I gave us a break by switching to fiction for a while.  Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin's The Half-life of Planets mentions Hank's Aspergers syndrome on the jacket flap, and in his alternating chapters he's very clear on lack of social awareness, but it's interesting to see Liana's view of him before and after she learns of his condition. How much of the confidence and willingness to go his own way is an innate part of him, and how much is just a symptom of a disorder?

Although I thought Hank was mostly realistically portrayed (I had a few problems with the last few plot twists, since they seemed rather uncharacteristic of a boy whose main problems earlier in the book had been withholding information), he didn't feel like a poster boy for Aspergers, which was good for the book although it made my ostensible reason for reading it rather moot. But reading a book is its own justification, especially when I also really enjoyed Liana's story. Although not sexually promiscuous, she has been enjoying the lips of quite a few boys in town, especially those of musically interesting boys. She spends the summer deciding how much this defines her and how much control she has over her own body, while Hank spends the summer in awe that he is talking to a girl rather than watching her run away.

I have a few tiny quibbles. Both character's final plot twists seemed unlikely, although I found Liana's more plausible.  Looking at the book, I see two authors and two separate voices, and I wonder whether they worked together on the whole thing or just wrote their own people. And I'm putting the book down as New Jersey (I emailed Franklin and she said that was reasonable) but it doesn't actually say.

I doubt my son would be interested, as he doesn't find romance or rock music at all interesting, but I'll offer it to him. And I just realized that this is my second YA book this year to focus on music so heavily, so I seem to have a bit of a theme going here.   B+

PS. I made a real effort here to use single spaces after a sentence, and I think it's really ugly. The typographical purists who bemoan the double space are clearly insane.

Monday Plans

This meme is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.  It's a chance to look at what people have, are, and will real.

Books I completed:
  • Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
  • The High King of Montival by S.M. Stirling
  • Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams edited by M.L. Liebler
  • Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
  • The House of the Stag by Kage Baker
  • Eli the Good  by Silas House
I'll also include the picture books I read for various challenges:
  • The Hive Detectives by Loree Griffin Burns (Cybils)
  • All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman
  • The Babysitters (Cork and Fuzz) by Dori Chaconas (Cybils)
  • Flora's Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall (Cybils)
My reviews are coming out a week or so after the books get read because of the large buffer I built up for vacation, which didn't get used since I couldn't get online enough to tell them to post.  So now I can kick back for months more.  Most of these books have reviews in line to get posted.  Probably.  Yes, I know you just can't wait, adoring public.  And what am I reading now?
  • Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey (for Cybils challenge, now back in its rightful spot)
  • Raven Hill Mysteries 1 and 2, Emily Rodda, which I bought at a book fair because I like the author
  • The Widow and the King, John Dickinson, sequel to a book I read because he's Robin McKinley's stepson
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, which is a collection of comics
  • Territory, Emma Bull (vacation book)
  • Hammered, Elizabeth Bear (vacation book)
  • Bad Prince Charlie, John Moore (vacation book)
  • Interior Life, Katherine Blake (vacation book)
  • Glass Harmonica, Louise Marley (vacation book)
  • The Rogue's Return, Jo Beverly (vacation book)
  • The Hob's Bargain, Patricia Briggs (vacation book)
  • Flying Solo Ralph Fletcher (borrowed by a kid, now returned)
  • The Privilege of the Sword Ellen Kusher. (I'm scared about what will happen, so I'm reading very slowly)
I actually have bookmarks in a few other books, but I'm not actively reading them.  Mainly I'm reading the top four with occasional pushes into a vacation book.  I have more Cybils books up next, as well as an Librarything EarlyReader arc about what a fraud global warming is.   The library books get top priority, since so many of them are due.  The avalanche is moving to crush me.
    In other challenge news, I've read 16/52 A-Z books, 17 Cybils books, finished my first Michigan book,  identified two books that work for the 20/11 Challenge, and checked off a total of nine states for Where Am I Reading.   I've read three books from Arizona -- what are the odds of that?  

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Boys and Terrorism: Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher

    Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher by Wendelin Van DraanenEighth grade starts out predictably bumpy for Wendelin Van Drannen's Sammy Keyes, since her best friends are in none of her classes and her worst enemies are. Also, the friendly principal has moved to another school, and the replacement is deeply suspicious of Sammy and her outspoken ways. When a teacher starts receiving death threats, he's all too willing to believe that Sammy and her friend are responsible. Meanwhile her friend Casey has dropped out her life with a thud. Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher brings another complicated mess to a climax that had me chuckling out loud.

    The plot gets nicely convoluted, with people from Sammy's life mixed in with new characters and situations. I really like reading these books in order so I can watch the changes in these relationships, although by now (this is the thirteenth book) the cast has gotten rather large. But I love Sammy's precocious independence and resourcefulness, and the zany concatenation of all the pieces of her life. I would like to say that I really hate the hardback covers, though.  B