Monday, April 30, 2012

Working Vacation: Unfamiliar Fishes

Unfamiliar FishesI stumbled across Sarah Vowell through Nick Hornby's reading journal, as he complained about her stylish prose and witty writing. And so far I've been enjoying her books, especially as she writes nonfiction in a energetic, opinionated and interesting manner that amuses me even as it deepens my knowledge about some event.

In Unfamiliar Fishes, she combines chances to visit the lovely Hawaiian islands with the excuse of researching its modern history. She tells about the people she spoke with and the places she went as she learned about the people and events in Hawaii from its unification through its annexation as an American territory. I knew the general outlines of this story (probably mostly from Michiner's Hawaii, which I read a few decades ago), but Vowell's account shows the good and bad intentions of the players in memorable detail. She's willing to accept the self-professed motives of people from Hawaiian kings to ambitious plantation owners, but she also skewers their greed and duplicity.

I found the meandering path of the narrative a bit confusing, as she skips back and forth among several generations of Hawaiian royalty, following various stories as they interest her rather than chronologically, and I admit that I didn't need quite so much of her nephew Owen's opinions, but overall it was a worthwhile few hours. I've been to Hawaii once, and her descriptions remind me that I'd really like to go back again.

The State of the Shelves

Every week Sheila at Book Journey invites people to report on what they read, what they are reading, and what they will read. I'm not very good at knowing what I'll read next, but I usually keep track of what I read and what I'm reading.

Also, at Teach Mentor Texts they do another roundup that concentrates on children's books, which this week includes almost everything. I wonder at what age I'll outgrow picture books?

I finished a few books:
  • The Naked Viscount (not a kids book)
  • The Ogre of Oglefort (kidlit)
  • Warriors: Omen of the Stars #4: Sign of the Moon (kidlit)
  • Vampire Academy (YA)
  • Child of Dandelions (YA, or older kidlit)
  • Stardust (could be a YA)
  • Earwig and the Witch (kidlit)
  • Dragonbreath #6: Revenge of the Horned Bunnies (kidlit)
  • Fish You Were Here (Pet Shop Private Eye) (kidlit)
  • The Ferret's a Foot (Pet Shop Private Eye) (kidlit)
  • And Then There Were Gnomes (Pet Shop Private Eye) (kidlit)
  • Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Vol 1 & 2 (could be YA)
  • Scarlet, Book 1 (I wouldn't call this YA, but the ALA does)
  • Wandering Son, Book 1 (YA)
  • Bigger Than a Breadbox (kidlit)
  • Zahra's Paradise (Again, I wouldn't call this YA, but it's on their list)
I reread some picture books this week, with a budding reader:
  • Mr Putter and Tabby Run the Race, by Cynthia Rylant. I share-read this with N, me taking one side and him taking the other, just as I used to do with P back in the day. He worked hard and determinedly, refusing to quit until he finished. Awesome N!
  • Mr Putter and Tabby Clear the Decks, by Cynthia Rylant. I read this to N afterward, and I'll share-read it with him in upcoming days. This is such an exciting thing to watch, a child becoming a reader! I showed N how the library labels these books as READERs on the spine, proof to him that he's joining that elite group.
I'm had an honesty fit about my currently reading list and included the audio books from the car as well as things I'm sneaking on the side. Three different kids have three different stories going in the car, requiring delicate judging on instances when I'm accompanied by more than one passenger. Of course, all audio books are re-reads for me, so it's easier to keep them straight in my head.
  • Misfit, Jon Skovron. (Cybils). The Big Bad is closing in on them.
  • Bunheads, Sophie Flack. (Cybils). This isn't due yet, so I put it back on the shelf.
  • The Galacteran Legacy: Galaxy Watch, Michelle Izmaylov. (RML) X stole this, but has returned it with a recommendation.
  • The Know-It-All, A.J. Jacobs. I've been meaning to read his books for a while -- a man who bases his life around various lists? Perfect.
  • The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, Elna Baker. Next up on my to-read list. This is a memoir, not a novel.
  • The Wives of Henry Oades, Johanna Moran. From the TBR list.  First wife has been kidnapped by Maoris.
  • Where Things Come Back, John Corey Whaley. I think this is also a Best of the Best, so bonus!
  • Angelfall, Susan Ee. NOOK. (Cybils) Escape from the human resistance fighters! I keep reading the due-soon library books instead of this, since I own it.
  • Hexed. NOOK. I got it for the Ilona Andrews story.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  Where to start to fix things.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. More death. Angel never gets a break.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen.  Safe haven, for a few days.
  • Knight of a Trillion Stars, Dara Joy. He has kidnapped her. I guess that's romantic?
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. The Pope's reluctance to accept the separation of church and state causes problems.
  • Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Annie Proulx. From the classics shelf of my to-read bookcase.
  • The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, Jeanne Birdsall. (Audio) Actually I snuck ahead and finished this a few weeks ago, but I'm enjoying it again with A.
  • Escape From Witch Mountain, Alexander Key. (Audio) X is the last to finish this, as he rarely misses the bus and so gets less car time. 
  • Ghetto Cowboy, G. Neri. (Audio) P is listening along with me. The city just took the horses.
What will I read next? I've made a pile of Best of the Best books next to a comfortable chair. The new Sookie Stackhouse comes out next week. But who knows?

Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 51/73.  Finished the last poetry book. 
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 12/21. Still need 5 American books.
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6. Land formations are hard. I'm looking for a mountain book.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  16/50. Need to review Massachusetts (I've read three), Montana and Hawaii books. And finish the Vermont and Wyoming books. Current for March, but I'd better get those 4 reviews up for the end of April.
  5. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159. Not much science happening around here.
  6. Reading My Library:  Almost caught up!
  7. Eclectic Challenge: 6/10. Well, 7, but I need to review one. Need a horror book now.
  8. Best of the Best: 5/25. I'm pretty much doomed. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good Guys Win: Ogre of Oglefort

The Ogre of OglefortEva Ibbotson writes several different kinds of books, and I'm a fan of most of them. I like her bulky and serious children's stories, I like her romantic comedies for older readers, and I like her frothy magic stories for junior readers. Seeing an unread book on the "I" shelf made my Reading My Library quest even happier.  The Ogre of Oglefort is one of the juvenile comedies, light, almost frothy books with downtrodden British kids who find magic and also a better life. That's the pattern of this book, with the lonely orphan and the misunderstood princess who have the luck to stumble onto the almost obsolete magical world.


There weren't a lot of surprises for me in this book, but it doesn't really need them. The innovation comes in the details and the brightly painted scenes that makes sense from both sides even when deception or misunderstanding creates very different versions. There are good guys in conflict with good guys, but goodness finds a way through, and then the satisfying good guys against bad guys, with victory going the right way. And yes, there are happy endings for everyone who matters, whether its a cushy retirement or the severing of unhappy family bonds. I'll leave this one out for the kids.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Diana Wynne Jones: Earwig and the Witch

Earwig and the Witch
When I go into a library for the first time, I use a standard method for evaluating its awesomeness. First, I walk into the children's section and check the N shelves for E. Nesbit; this tells me how deep the library is in ancient treasures. Then I amble over to the J shelf and count the Diana Wynne Jones books. Now I know its strength in modern day wonders. Yet now that it's been a year since her death, I suppose I need a newer author, but who can stand up to the greatness of DWJ?

I read Archer's Goon, and didn't really get it. Was I supposed to have to pay this much attention? There was some kind of mistake; the author seemed to be giving the reader a lot of credit, which couldn't be right. Then I found Howl's Moving Castle and fell in love, and went back to get everything.  Which led me to Crestomanci, and Cat, and Polly of Fire and Hemlock, which I still reread and understand more fully each time. She was willing to have her characters (kids!) pay actual prices for their actions -- I love Homeward Bounders because no one comes back and says that the hero doesn't have to make a sacrifice, his bravery was enough. Because part of that courage was knowing that it was necessary, and knowing he's still out there is comforting. Some hope is OK; maybe Sirius will find a way back after Dogsbody.

My Renton library does very well on these tests, incidentally, and in fact when I got to the J shelf I found a new book by her, which was a miracle and a delight and a sign that I haven't been stalking her closely enough on the Internet. Earwig and the Witch is a short book, rich with characteristic descriptions and a strong willed girl who could be Gwendolyn on a darker day. And knowing that this is probably the last time I will be delighted by finding an unread DWJ book makes me more than a little sad.

Except that I have children, some of whom have not met all of her books. I think I know who the author of my next pick for the Family Book Club will be. It might be my fifth grader's first introduction -- any suggestions as to which book I should pick?

P.S. Actually, I had Earwig and the Witch on my to-read list from last March. I guess I didn't rush out to find it because now I have read all the books, and there won't be any more.

Library Explosion

Renton Library
Wow, is the King County Library System efficient. Remember how I put a bunch of book on hold last week to jump start my Best of the Best reading? I expected books to come dribbling in over the next few weeks, but instead I got a huge jump this week. Oops. I'd better start reading.

I went on my own to get the enormous pile, hoping to come back with the kids, but life interfered. Actually, they are old enough to get used to a more normal library pattern, going every few weeks during school. Or something.

On the hold shelf I found a stack of Best books, as well as the next Dragonbreath, all the missing Hamster Detective books, another pick from my to-read list, and a book/CD combo that looked intriguing:
How They Croaked: The Awful...Dragonbreath: Revenge of th...Fish You Were HereWillie Mays: The Life, the LegendThe Worst Band in the UniverseThor The Mighty Avenger - V...The Ferret's a Foot



The Scorpio RacesJaneZahra's ParadiseBeauty QueensYoung FredleSugar Changed the World: A ...Wandering Son: Volume One
  • Dragonbreath 6: Revenge of the Horned Bunnies, Ursula Vernon. I proudly showed this to my sons, also fans, and they smugly said they had read it in New York, with their dad. Humph.
  • And Then There Were Gnomes
  • The Ferret's a Foot
  • Fish You Were Here, all by Colleen AF Venable, showing the further adventures of Sasspants, Pet Shop Private Eye. 
  • The Worst Band in the Universe, Graeme Base, a picture book/audio CD combo.
  • Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend, James Hirsh. Biography from my TBR list.
  • Thor: The Mighty Avenger 2.  Here starts the Best Books avalanche.
  • How They Croaked (Audio). This is also a Cybils book, which I read last year and didn't review, so bonus!
  • Wandering Son, Shimura Takako. Manga, so I hope it reads fast. I need help here.
  • The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater. I've been wanting to read this for ages.
  • Sugar Changed the World, another Best Book from my to-read list.
  • Zahra's Paradise. I took the advice for slow readers and got a lot of graphic books.
  • Jane, April Lindner. Retelling of Jane Eyre, without zombies.
  • Beauty Queens, Libby Bray. Unfortunately, this doesn't count -- it was the audio book that won.
  • Young Fredle, Cynthia Voigt. Ditto. This is why I made my own list. Although I'll read them and try to get the audios; I rarely enjoy an audio if I haven't read the book first. Something about being a control freak, I think.
And the Seattle Library stepped up with a book my by to-read list that King County didn't have:

  • Shattered Bonds: The Color Of Child WelfareShattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, Dorothy Roberts. You may notice that my to-read books are rather intellectual. That is because the cheesy ones get read first and don't have time to float to the bottom of the list, where I explicitly summon them from the library. You won't find me picking up a Charlaine Harris book because it was on my TBR list, for example.
This brings me to a total of 56, wait, 57 items out on my card, plus a lot of ebooks that I'm in denial about. That's actually even more than the age the 5K organizers a few weeks ago thought I was, so I need to take action. I have made a bargain with myself that if my library exposure is less than my age, I can buy a book that week. And there's a book I want to get next week, so I have to return a dozen or so things. A baker's dozen. Plus one. Clearly it's time to review everything and also read a lot of the graphic novels, comic books, and picture books.  I'll go share my Library Loot at the event co-hosted by Claire from the Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader, where all the library addicts compare their treasures.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lost In the Middle: SIgn of the Moon

Erin Hunter's cat based Warriors series gets an entire shelf to itself in my library, so obviously I grabbed one as part of my Reading My Library quest. As I have since learned, the books are grouped into various series, and then numbered within those series. I brought home Sign of the Moon, Book 4 of Omen of the Stars, which my son informs me is, like, the third series. His literary soul shudders at the idea of entering a series in the middle; he'd rather show up halfway through a funeral and tromp on down to the front row.

The book seems a happy enough middle grade book, with diverse characters whose names I can't remember but which I never got mixed up. There was a lot of references to prophecies that I don't know about and conflicts that I didn't fully appreciate and many of the characters clearly had a Past, but the current events were marked clearly and I like the feeling of backstory between characters that looms larger than my knowledge.

I'd put these books in the same library as Ranger's Apprentice -- good clean fun that doesn't leave much aftertaste. I didn't feel that I had a broader understanding of the human (or feline) soul after finishing it, but it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and the idea that these are cats wrestling with clan boundaries and ancient propecies and mystical sleep journeys gave extra spice to the time. I won't chase down all these books for myself, but I'd be delighted to see elementary age kids chewing their way through a few dozen of them.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Twenty Palaces

Twenty Palaces CoverHarry Connolly writes smart, suspenseful, character-driven action stories about a guy who has to save the world. Twenty Palaces is the first book, written before the three published novels, which takes us back to see how Ray got swept up into the world of the Twenty Palaces. He has to start putting things together from small hints, sometimes guessing wrong, but always moving quickly.

I highly recommend all of this series. Although this first book isn't quite as tightly plotted as his later works (Connolly keeps getting better, so reading his first book last means stepping back a little), it still provides a good read while showing how Ray moved into his current line of work. All of the Twenty Palace books thrive on action, with Ray getting into various fights but also into various traps that he thinks his way out of -- here he climbs walls, he fights in a baseball field, he grabs a police car as a weapon, he's just an active guy.


What is especially good here is Ray's ambition for power; it's mostly shown through action in the later books, but here he gets his first taste at magic, and he likes it. He understands why people are willing to do awful things for it -- he feels the same temptation, and he's never sure which way he'll fall. Annelise is also good here -- nobody knows anything about her, she's shadowy and possibly evil and incredibly terrifying.

I'll keep chasing down anything else Connolly gives us; I'm on the Kickstarter plan for the anthology he's in.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Clocks Must Roll: Timeless

The fifth book in the Parasol Protectorate finishes the series with a satisfying mix of changes and agreements. Gail Carriger's title, Timeless, refers to the ancient civilization of Egypt and not to any maintenance of the status quo. Yet the characters themselves remain steady, adhering to the core of the character despite the balloons and mummies of changing fate.

So Alexia remains stubborn, hungry, and practical, whether she's learning to walk between balloons or struggling to regain her husband's trust. Ivy wears bad hats no matter the occasion, from performing in avente-guarde plays to rescuing her kidnapped daughter. Biffy's first concern is his appearance, because that affects his relationships, his business, and his place in the pack.

Carriger also manages to create a fun two year old character in Prudence; at first she seemed one of the annoying cute-machines that never really exist, but actually her character is a realistically drawn portrayal of a toddler, from the language roller coaster to the attention span. Steam punk fans will be glad about the new machines the characters play with along the Nile, but I mostly enjoy the adventure and the characters, both of which shine brightly without cloying.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Riddles and Revenge: The Eyeball Collector

The Eyeball Collector
The next book on my library journey is The Eyeball Collector by F.E. Higgins. I chose it because of the title -- eyeballs are always cool, and the red cover has a gruesomely prominent eyeball in the center. If I had opened the cover I would have seen that the eyeballs collected were actually fake ones, but that's still cool enough for me. (I can't find my cover online anyway -- it's much more garish and sinister in a fun way.)

Hector, the main character, spends the book seeking vengeance on the eyeball collector, whose evil ways caused Hector's father's demise. Meanwhile, Hector supports himself as a carnival riddle-master, answering riddles for a penny. This career was one of the best parts of the book, and had my son eagerly waiting for me to look up from the page with the next riddle. Some were new to me, some old, and some had us figuring out the problems together. It was a pity when Hector abandoned this job to more vigorously pursue the revenge business, which ended up sinking in a morass of morality anyway.

The villains were delightfully colorful, the good guys earnestly good, but the framing devices weakened the strength of the book, wrapping the tension in a cool cloth. Some of the stories are narrated in letters, which in turn are read by some other person who I pretty much forgot about by the end of the story. Somehow this book links up with others by Higgins, which might explain the purpose of these exterior figures, but the end result is that I'm not all that tempted to go hunt them down.

I'll leave this around for my fifth grader, although I suspect that since I already read him all the riddles he'll consider it spoiled. He'd be more likely to track down the other books. Hey, I just looked this book up in the library catalog, and nine branches shelf this in Teen Fiction (Y), while my library has it in Children's Fiction (J). The characters are definitely older, but I agree with my librarians that the single toned moral vision makes more sense to pre-adolescents. Teens nowadays want more gray in their books.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Creepy Dolls: The Many Faces of George Washington



The next Cybils nonfiction finalist I read is The Many Faces of George Washington, by Carla McClafferty. This oversized book looks at the study follows two stories -- the history of George Washington and the attempt by modern historians to make him more relevant for today's Americans. When focus groups were asked to describe George, terms like "frumpy" and "boring" kept repeating, which shocked and horrified true Washington groupies.  To counter this perception, Mount Vernan researchers commission new dioramas that would feature astonishingly lifelike manikins portraying The Father of Our County as a sexy youth, a powerful general, and a dignified president.

Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGMcClafferty then starts trading off between a traditional biography of Washington and following the creation of the figures matching each period of his life. The illustration show both scenes and souvenirs from his life and the processes used to replicate the clothes, hair, horses, and bone structure of his person at each stage. I found it easy reading, although sometimes the lifelike images seemed rather creepy. I couldn't interest either of the boys in the book though, not even the one forced to write a report on Washington. They couldn't get interested in how a frumpy green guy like Washington was replicated, which seemed like a chicken & egg problem -- the book was about how these dolls make Washington seem more vibrant and interesting, but their preconceptions held them back from finding out that they were wrong.  Also, they are lazy about reading nonfiction.

What Are You Reading?

Every week Sheila at Book Journey invites people to report on what they read, what they are reading, and what they will read. I don't read more than most of the people responding, but I seem to have one of the longest lists of in-progress books.

Also, at Teach Mentor Texts they do another roundup that concentrates on children's books.  This week I tried to track my picture book consumption as well.

I finished six books, one on my NOOK, two books memoir-ish books, and three kidlit books:
  • Heaven Is Here, Stephanie Nielson
  • The Eyeball Collector, F.E. Higgins
  • Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell
  • Northward to the Moon, Polly Horvath
  • A Wizard of Mars, Diane Duane
  • Timeless, Gail Carriger
I read some picture books this week, with my defenceless fifth grader:
  • Mr Putter and Tabby Run the Race, by Cynthia Rylant.  Both my kids loved these as they emerged as readers, but somehow Rylant kept writing them after we moved on to thicker books. This one was very timely as we just ran a  completed a 5K race as a family, and I strongly identified with Mr Putter.
  • Mr Putter and Tabby Clear the Decks, by Cynthia Rylant. P and I enjoyed share-reading this book, him taking the left-side page and me the right, just like we did those many years ago. X just grabbed them all for some gentle bedtime reading. We noted two other new titles in the back, so I shall investigate the library shelves.
  • Swirl By Swirl, by Joyce Sidman. P and I have finished several of Sidman's scientific poetry books which I've enjoyed and he hasn't hated, which is high praise from someone as poetry adverse as him. I thought this was another, but it's a more a picture book with beautiful language as it explores various natural spirals. A perfect low-impact book for us, since P was in a fragile state and not really up for more text.
  • Book Speak! by Laura Purdie Salas. Poems about books and reading, good enough that P read them all with me. I should see if this is eligible for the Cybils, so I can nominate a poetry book.
I'm showing thirteen books on my currently reading list, which seems about right. It's mostly kids books, but that's fine with me. I hope I finish some of the Reading My Library picks that have dragged here for weeks.
  • Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead. These girls are walking on the bad guy side. Also, they are annoying.
  • The Naked Viscount, Sally MacKenzie. NOOK. Very frothy and happily silly regency romance.
  • Child of Dandelions, Shenaaz Nanji. TBR. Girl in Uganda in the 1970s.
  • Misfit, Jon Skovron. (Cybils). She's finally meeting people from her mom's side of the family.
  • Warriors: Sign of the Moon, Erin Hunter (RML). These RML seem to be piling up.
  • Angelfall, Susan Ee. NOOK. (Cybils) Captured by human resistance fighters!
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  How to monitor progress on a goal.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Fathers are problematic.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen.  Safe haven, for a few days.
  • Knight of a Trillion Stars, Dara Joy. The hero is frighteningly stalker-y. I hope she dumps him.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Napoleon was not good for the Church.
What will I read next? I've got more RML books piling up. And the library is sending me a heap of Best of the Best books, which have a tight deadline. But who knows?

Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 50/73.  No change; I didn't finish anything.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 11/21. I'm reading a Ugandan book now.
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6. Still need a land formation.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  16/50. Need to review Massachusetts (I've read three), Georgia and Hawaii books. And finish the Montana and Vermont books. Current for March.
  5. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159. I read a history book, but that's not science.
  6. Reading My Library:  Finished a few, but I'm falling behind.
  7. Eclectic Challenge: 4/10. Well, 5, but I need to review them.
  8. Best of the Best: 1/25. I'm pretty much doomed.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Unhappy Families: Northward to the Moon

NorthwardAlthough I know I've read My One Hundred Adventures, Polly Horvath's previous book about Jane and her family, I only remember scattered bits and a feeling of gentle quirkyness. When I browsed the HOR shelf for my Reading My Library quest, I naturally gravitated towards a familiar name. Yet Northward to the Moon left me feeling deeply sad, and I'm not sure that was Horvath's intention in writing the book.

Jane's poet mother, her three siblings, and her newish step-dad Ned have spent the past year far from their Massachusetts beach house. Ned's job in Saskatchewan has the two younger boys imprinting on vast prairies instead of constant waves, leaving Jane to wonder whether this will be a permanent dividing line in her family -- she and Maya imprinted on the ocean while their brothers belong to the land. This early musing indicates a theme of this book, that families break apart and love cannot hold.

The family wanders dazedly from one town to another, following Ned's hatred of the known and secure. Along the way they fail to make connections with his old mentor, then his brother, and then his entire family. His family stages a mini-reunion when his appearance at his mother's ranch triggers a life-long injury, so his sisters can rally around and again fail to connect. Jane slows down the plot for a paint-by-the-numbers unrequited crush on a cute adult, complete with the humiliating realization that her painfully obvious crush has indeed been noticed by everyone over the age of eight. Meanwhile Maya's discomfort at all these disruptions pushes her farther and farther into despair, but no one has time to care. Finally everyone returns to Massachusetts to complete the splintering of the family.

It's told in Jane's authentic and usually vivid descriptions and thoughts (the exception is during the dreary crush), and the beautiful language almost conceals the heartbreak and tragedy piling up on every side. I will not be leaving this book anywhere near my already sad fifth grader, and my seventh grader would refuse it anyway since it's a sequel.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Library Doubletap

Renton Library
I used the excuse of the Best of the Best challenge to load up my holds list again, so it was time for another library run. This time we went on the way to dinner, but most of the kids stayed in the car to propel us faster towards the eating part of the night. So I went in with only N and his mom; they picked up his two DVDs on hold that he picked out last week and I grabbed my six books from my hold shelf and then we dashed out to support education by eating at Wendy's. Again. (Two schools had their events on subsequent days. I am officially tired of Spicy Chicken now.)

N also grabbed three music CD's for me, mostly to keep me from wandering about and looking at books. He was showing off to his mom how much managing I need. I put them in the car without looking at them, so I'll be surprised by my playlist.

On the hold shelf I had the next two books in my TBR list, one fast-moving Best of the Best option, and a choose-your-adventure type history book which I saw at The Children's War. Oh, and two books my seventh grader asked requested that somehow ended up on my queue instead of his:
  • Child of Dandelions, Shenaaz Nanji
  • The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, Elna Baker
  • Scarlet, Bendis & Maleev
  • World War II On the Home Front, Martin Gitlin
  • The Secret King, Violet Haberdasher
  • The Boy From Ilysius, Pearl North
The next day (Friday), I left P at the library to do some research while I ran some errands. And when picking him up, I sorta accidentally checked out a few more books, mostly from the children's section:
  • Mr Putter and Tabby See the Stars, Cynthia Rylant
  • Mr Putter and Tabby Spill the Beans, Cynthia Rylant
  • A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns. I want confirmation that these are real.
  • Seriously, Norman!. I've liked his picture books.
  • Thor, The Mighty Avenger Vol 1. X already stole this from me, as expected.
  • Within The Fames. Marjorie M. Liu's latest paranormal, about Eddy. I expect extra plot with my plot!
This brings me to a total of 41, wait, 47 items out on my card, plus a horde of ebooks. It's less than the age the 5K organizers a few weeks ago recored me as, so I'll be happy with that.  My plan is to keep putting up a review a day until I defeat the review-real-soon-now pile on my bedside table.  I'll go share my Library Loot at the event co-hosted by Claire from the Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader, where all the library addicts compare their treasures.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hard Times: Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray Book
Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBG
Memories of The Endless Steppe haunted my reading of Cybils Young Adult Fiction finalist Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys's story of a Lithuanian teenager arrested with her family by the Russian police just as World War II swept across the European continent.  Torn from a rather privileged childhood, Lina and her brother have only their mother to protect them as they are herded into cattle cars and shipped across Russia to a succession of labor camps, each grimmer than the one before.

Sepetys gives Lina a believable voice, from her naive and reckless dedication to her art through her understanding of the dangers they face, both from the bullets and blows of their captors to the slow draining of their souls and selves from the unremitting brutality and deceit. Lina tries various schemes in attempts to reconnect with her father, but the realism in the story prevents any of them from succeeding. The cruelty and sadism of the Russian guards are sadly convincing, as are the appalling conditions at the Arctic camp they end up in. Although there is an epilogue providing a hint that some characters survive, overall the story is as tragic as the time period suggests.

I'll see if my son will try this; he's not much for historical fiction. It would be interesting to see if he understand the context; for example, why some people hope Hitler will save them, or the importance of the Jewish man's concealment of his religion, or what happened to the country of Lithuania at this time. (The library wanted it back before I could talk him into trying it.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Swords and Magic: Magic Slays



The Kate Daniels series of urban fantasy by Ilona Andrews features a ferociously competent woman with her special werewolf boyfriend, but it's a fun and deft version of that rather overworked genre. OK, he's a were-lion, and he's king of all the Beasts. She's extra-special in her own way, and she spends most books defending the weak and trouncing the wicked, sometimes solving a mystery along the way.

Magic Slays, the fifth book, delivers the usual action with some bonus character growth. Kate has always relaxed into her back story, and this time the authors shine more light into that and stir things up. It's a book about the secrets and truths that bind family together. Behind the story it's about strengthening an existing marriage, as Kate and Curran figure out what it means that they are together.  She faces the truth instead of her myths about her mother and foster father's relationship, confronts fears about her ability to protect and parent her ward, and lets a little subplot about an attempted rebellion inside the were-camp lead her to truths about her agency in her past with Curran. All with lots of sword play and nifty magic and a big bomb and an over-confident youth, so fun and games with a tasty thematic filling.  I give it a perfect Spring Break score, especially as I read it on my NOOK.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Father's Quest: Anna Dressed in Blood

Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBG
If your father dies doing something desperate and dangerous, it's unfortunate for your mother if you instantly dedicate your life to following in his footsteps. Luckily for Cas his mom is accommodating enough to accept his passion, to the extent of moving them around the country so he can find his next ghost hunting gig.  But this one is different, which is why Kendare Blake's Cybils YA Fantasy finalist Anna Dressed in Blood starts here.

The first person narrative gave me some of the same problems I had with Witch Eyes; I suspect most teen-aged boys will seem, um, stupid to me during their high school interactions and I prefer the distance of third person so I can give them more benefit of the doubt. But the gradual increase in the stakes -- how is Anna different from other ghosts? Why does Cas feel so strongly for her? And what has he really been doing all these years? These questions raise the book above the teen angst that threatened to trip me up. The end of the book sets up for sequels, but I have to set that this one didn't really grab me. The ended was powerful, but characters other than Cas (and maybe Anna) felt like characters sliding into slots on his team, not people in their own right.

I'll leave this out for my seventh grader, although I suspect the cover will be a hard sell to him. (Weeks have passed, and he's not nibbling. Darn.)

Best of the Best Full List:

Well, in the Best of the Best Challenge, you can pick from 80 books, but some are audio books which you have to listen to instead of read. Some kind person assembled a complete list on Goodreads but I could see how it specified which are audiobooks, which matters.  So here is a one stop list of lists. The formatting is currently awful, but I want it up for my reference. Oh, and there aren't really 80 books, because some appear on multiple lists.

I will somehow mark the ones I've read, whether they count or not:

Alex Awards (adult books that are good for teens). 10 books:
    • Big Girl Small, by Rachel DeWoskin, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux  (ISBN 9780374112578 )
    • In Zanesville, by Jo Ann Beard, published by Little, Brown & Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. (ISBN: 9780316084475)
    • The Lover’s Dictionary, by David Levithan, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (ISBN: 9780374193683)
    • The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens, by Brooke Hauser, published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (ISBN: 9781439163283)
    • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. (ISBN: 9780385534635)
    • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. (ISBN: 9780307887436)
    • Robopocalypse: A Novel, by Daniel H. Wilson, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. (ISBN: 978038553850)
    • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, published by Bloomsbury USA (ISBN: 9781608195220)
    • The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures, by Caroline Preston, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (ISBN: 9780061966903)
    • The Talk-Funny Girl, by Roland Merullo, published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. (ISBN: 9780307452924)
Margaret A. Edwards Award (author with group of work). 5 books:
  • Susan Cooper -- Dark is Rising books
    • Over Sea, Under Stone
    • The Dark Is Rising
    • Greenwitch
    • The Grey King
    • Silver on the Tree
William C. Morris Award. Debut author for teens:  I've read 2 of 5, one inside the challenge time:
    • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.  ISBN 978-0-4424-1333-7.
    • Paper Covers Rock written by Jenny Hubbard, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. ISBN 978-0-385-74055
    • The Girl of Fire and Thorns written by Rae Carson, published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.  ISBN 978-0-06-202648-4. [I read this earlier]
    • Under the Mesquite written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, published by Lee and Low Books.  ISBN 978-1-60060-429-4.
    • Between Shades of Gray written by Ruta Sepetys, published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group USA.  ISBN 978-0-399-25412-3. 
Nonfiction Award. Best nonfiction for teens. 5 books.  I have one in my pile already:
    • The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery written by Steve Sheinkin, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. ISBN: 978-1-59643-4686-8
    • Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Sciencwritten by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 978-0-61857492-6
    • Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition written by Karen Blumenthal, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. ISBN: 978-1-59643-449-3
    • Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) written by Sue Macy, published by National Geographic Children’s Books. ISBN: 978-1-42630-761-4
    • Music Was IT: Young Leonard Bernstein written by Susan Goldman Rubin, published by Charlesbridge. ISBN: 978-1-58089-344-2
Odyssey Award. Best audio book. THESE DON'T COUNT IN PRINT. 5 books:
    • Rotters
    • Ghetto Cowboy
    • Okay For Now
    • The Scorpio Races (shows up in print elsewhere)
    • Young Fredle
Michael L. Printz Award. Excellence in YA books. 5 books. I've read one already.
    • Where Things Come Back (Duplicate)
    • Why We Broke Up
    • The Returning
    • Jasper Jones [read last year]
    • The Scorpio Races
Top Ten Audio Books for Teens. THESE DON'T COUNT IN PRINT. 10 books:
    • Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison, read by Stina Nielson. Recorded Books, 2010.
    • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, read by Libba Bray. Scholastic Audio, 2011.
    • Carter’s Big Break by Brent Crawford, read by Nick Podehl. Brilliance Audio, 2011.
    • Chime by Franny Billingsley, read by Susan Duerden. Listening Library, 2011.
    • Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey, read by Steven Boyer. Recorded Books, 2010.
    • Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve, read by Philip Reeve. Scholastic Audio, 2011.
    • How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg, read by L.J. Ganser. Recorded Books, 2011.
    • Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith, read by Mark Boyett. Brilliance Audio, 2010.
    • Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud, read by Simon Jones. Listening Library, 2010.
    • Wake of the Lorelei Lee by L.A. Meyer, read by Katherine Kellgren. Listen and Live Audio, 2010.
Top Ten Best Fiction. I read two of these too early. Ten books, but some are duplicates:
  • Carson, Rae. The Girl of Fire and Thorns. HarperCollins Publishers/Greenwillow Books, 2011. (Duplicate)
  • Cohen, Joshua C. Leverage. Penguin Group USA/Dutton Juvenile, 2011.
  • King, A.S. Everybody Sees the Ants. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011.
  • McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. Under the Mesquite. Lee & Low Books, 2011. (Duplicate)
  • Myracle, Lauren. Shine. Abrams/Amulet Books, 2011.
  • Ness, Patrick. A Monster Calls. Illus by Jim Kay.  Candlewick Press, 2011.
  • Sepetys, Ruta. Between Shades of Gray. Penguin Group/Philomel Books, 2011. (Duplicate)
  • Stiefvater, Maggie. The Scorpio Races. Scholastic Incorporated/Scholastic Press, 2011. (Duplicate)
  • Taylor, Laini. Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011.
  • Zarr, Sara. How to Save a Life. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011.
 10 Great Graphic Novels. 11 books. Heh. I've read one, but too early.

  • Amir and Khalil. “Zahra’s Paradise.” First Second, 2011
  • Bendis, Brian Michael and Alex Maleev. “Scarlet.” Marvel/Icon Comics, 2011.
  • Brosgal, Vera. “Anya’s Ghost.” First Second, 2011.
  • Gladstone, Brooke, Josh Neufeld, and others. “The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media.” W. W. Norton and Company, 2011.
  • Langridge, Roger, Chris Samnee, and others.
    “Thor: The Mighty Avenger V. 1.” Marvel, 2010.
    “Thor: The Mighty Avenger V. 2.” Marvel, 2011.
  • McLeod, Kagan. “Infinite Kung Fu.” Top Shelf, 2011.
  • Mori, Kaoru. “A Bride’s Story V. 1.” Yen Press, 2011.
  • Nicolle, Malachai and Ethan Nicolle. “Axe Cop V. 1.” Dark Horse, 2011.
  • Ralph, Brian. “Daybreak.” Drawn and Quarterly, 2011.
  • Shimura, Takako.  “Wandering Son V. 1.” Fantagraphics Books, 2011.
Top Ten Paperbacks. OK, if I read these in the hardback versions, does that count? I've read one, but too early.
  • Black, Holly and Cecil Castellucci (ed.) Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2010.
  • Carroll, MichaelSuper Human. Speak. 2010.
  • Falkner, Brian. Brain Jack. Ember. 2011.
  • Giles, Gail. Shattering Glass. Simon Pulse. 2003.
  • Harbison, Paige. Here Lies Bridget. Harlequin Teen. 2011
  • Lindner, AprilJane. Poppy. 2011
  • Loux,MatthewSidescrollers. Oni Press. 2006.
  • Moore, Perry. Hero. Hyperion. 2009.
  • Tsang, Evonne. My Boyfriend is a Monster #1. Lerner/Graphic Universe. 2011.
  • Waldorf, Heather. Tripping. Red Deer Press. 2009.
QuickPicks For Reluctant Readers. I read one, but too early.
  • Aguirre, Ann. Enclave. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends,  2011. 
  • Almerico, Kendall and Tess Hottenroth. Whoogles: Can a Dog Make a Woman Pregnant?...and Hundreds of Other Searches That Make You Ask 'Who Would Google That? F + W Media/Adams Media,  2010. 
  • Beever, Julian. Pavement Chalk Artist:  The Three-Dimensional Drawings of Julian Beever.  Firefly Books, 2010.
  • Booth, Coe. Bronxwood. Scholastic, Inc./Push,2011.
  • Dugard, Jaycee. A Stolen Life:  A Memoir.  Simon & Schuster,  2011.
  • Elkeles, Simone. Chain Reaction. Walker and Company, 2011. 
  • Haugen, Brenda. The Zodiac Killer:  Terror and Mystery. Capstone/Compass Point Books, 2010.
  • Patterson, James. Middle School:  The Worst Years of My Life. Illus. by Lara Park and Chris Tebbets. Little, Brown and Company, 2011.
  • Snider, Brandon. D.C. Comics:  The Ultimate Character Guide.  DK, 2011. 
  • TenNapel, Doug. Ghostopolis. Scholastic Inc./Graphix, 2011.


Best of the Best Challenge!

I'm about to try something new. I'm entering a challenge without worrying about whether I'll succeed! Unlike, say, the TBR Dare, which I meant to do but failed at the last gate, for this one I'm just along for the ride.

The Best of the Best Reading Challenge calls for participants to read at least 25 of the 80 titles in the winners and honor books of the many awards given by YALSA -- Alex, Edwards, Morris, Nonfiction, Odyssey and Printz awards, and they throw in the Top Ten lists and some other ribbons and stars.

They only allow 13 weeks -- it started April 1st and ends June 30th, and anything you read before doesn't count. I really don't think I'll make the minimum 25 books by the deadline, but I'll see how much longer it takes me. And it will be fun to see how far I do get, as well as give me an excuse to read some books I've been wanting to read anyway. And I believe there is some overlap with other challenges (Cybils, and maybe I'll get some more states out of this!).

Some very kind person make a list of the titles at Goodreads, so I don't have to click all over to see what qualifies. And then I just copied all the titles to my own list here because I didn't see how to differentiate audio titles with the other one.

Anyway, here's what I've got so far:
  1. Between Shades of Gray (Morris, Top Ten Best Fiction) (so it should count twice!)
  2. Scarlet (10 Great Graphic Novels)
  3. Thor: The Mighty Avenger, V. 1 & 2 (10 Great Graphic Novels) (does this count as 2 books?)
  4. Wandering Son (10 Great Graphic Novels)
  5. Zahra's Paradise  (10 Great Graphic Novels)
  6. Ghetto Cowboy (Odyssey Award)
  7. Bride's Story 1 (10 Great Graphic Novels)
  8. Sugar Changed the World (Nonfiction Award)
  9. How They Croaked (Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks)
  10. Geektastic (Top Ten Paperbacks)
  11. Chain Reaction (Quickpick for Reluctant Readers)
  12. My Boyfriend is a Zombie (Top Ten Paperbacks)
  13. Where Things Come Back ( Morris, Printz) (hey, does this count twice?)
  14. Daybreak (10 Great Graphic Novels)
  15. Pavement Chalk Artist (Quickpick for Reluctant Readers)
  16. Infinite Kung Fu (10 Great Graphic Novels)
  17. The Influencing Machine (10 Great Graphic Novels)
  18. Beauty Queens (Top Ten Audio for Teens)
  19. Axe Cop Vol. 1 (Top Ten Great Graphic Novels)
  20. Young Fredle (Odyssey Award)
  21. The Notorious Benedict Arnold (Nonfiction Award -- I think it's the winner)
  22. Wheels of Change (Nonfiction Award)
  23. The Zodiac Killer (Quickpick for Reluctant Readers)
  24. The Returning (Printz)
  25. The Scorpio Races (Printz, Top Ten Best Fiction)
  26. Paper Covers Rock (Morris)
  27. Jane (Top Ten Paperbacks)
  28. Ring of Solomon (Top Ten Audio for Teens)
  29. Bootleg (Nonfiction Award)
  30. Okay For Now (Odyssey Award)
  31. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Top Ten Best Fiction)
  32. Super Human (Top Ten Paperbacks)
  33. Everybody Sees the Ants (Top Ten Best Fiction)
  34. Fever Crumb (Top Ten Audiobooks for Teens)
  35. Leverage (Top Ten Best Fiction)
  36. Curse of the Wendigo (Top Ten Audiobooks for Teens)
  37. Under the Mesquite (Morris, Top Ten Best Fiction)
  38. Scorpio Races (Odyssey Award)
  39. Why We Broke Up (Printz)
  40. Music Was It! (Nonfiction award)
  41. How To Save a Life (Top Ten Best Fiction)
  42. Wake of the Lorelei Lee (Top Ten Audiobooks for Teens)
  43. Shine (Top Ten Best Fiction)
  44. Enclave (Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers)
  45. Chime (Top Ten Audiobooks for Teens)
  46. Big Girl Small (Alex Award)
  47. Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me (Top Ten Audiobooks for Teens)
  48. In Zanesville, Jo Ann Beard (Alex Award)
  49. The Lover's Dictionary, David Levithan (Alex Award)
  50. The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens, by Brooke Hauser (Alex Award)
  51. Rotters, Daniel Krause (Odyssey Award)
  52. Night Circus, Erin Morgenstein (Alex Award)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cybils 2011 Early Chapter Book Finalists


Cybils2011-Web-ButtonBGHere are the five Cybils 2011 Early Chapter Book Finalists. What do I think should have won? My favorite was Clementine and the Family Meeting, but it's the most mature of the bunch. My second choice was Just Grace and the Double Surprise. I will have to come back after I poll the kids, but none of them read many of these books, so their votes aren't worth much.  Humph. (Hear the whine of the frustrated book-pusher.) What actually won? Have Fun Anna Hibiscus, which must have charmed readers other than my kids.


Clementine and the Family Meeting, Sara Pennypacker.  Slightly more sophisticated than the others in this category, the Clementine books bridge the gap between early chapter books and elementary school fiction. I adore Clementine and her brash approach to life, and I had read this one as soon as it came out last year.  It's not quite up to The Talented Clementine, but it's a fun read.

Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!, Atinuke. Anna travels from Africa to Canada to visit her maternal grandmother, meets a dog, makes some friends, and travels back home. My boys found it acceptable but rather dull, and I found myself worrying about Anna's mother, who seems to be rather overwhelmed by her husband's boisterous family, so much that Anna doesn't know any stories from her side of the family.  I doubt any kids would worry about the protagonist's mother's interior life, however.

Just Grace and the Double Surprise, Charise Harper. I've seen spines of the Just Grace books as I shelve in my kids' elementary library, but this is the first one I've tried.  It's a fun book with a strong voice from the narrator, and she tackles her various problems with aplomb and humor.

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Julie Sternberg. Losing a babysitter is a hard thing, especially for a slightly spoiled eight year old who has never lost anyone important before.  This quiet book follows the sadness, the new babysitter, and a few chances for new friends. Eleanor isn't as lively as the other narrators in this category, but she feels authentic as she faces her challenges.

The Trouble With Chickens, Doreen Cronin. As I grow unforgiving in my old age, I have less tolerance for casual betrayals among friends. I think I lost track of the times the ethics-free chickens betrayed the bumbling retired rescue dog in this story, sometimes at the orders of his nemesis, sometimes to save each other, and sometimes for pure personal gain.  I know J.J. Tully didn't bear a grudge at the end; he tries to save all the small people regardless of their actions, but I did. Fun to read once, but I won't look for more.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Pesky Kids: Beekeeper's Apprentice

cover-beekeeperMy book club just read the first Mary Russell book, the beginning of Laurie King's Sherlock Holmes pastiche.  In Beekeeper's Apprentice young Mary meets old geezer Holmes (who is probably close to fifty years old) and astounds him with her brilliance so that he starts training her up to be a super detective like him.  He enjoys this because he so rarely meets anyone as smart (or maybe smarter!) than he is, as she smugly notices.  Of course, it helps to be the author's darling as well; if Mary ever disagrees with Holmes, we know the world will bend to make her right, and if she decides she doesn't need to worry about something, then by golly it was quite safe to disregard whatever that was.


I confess that I found Mary quite irritating this time around.  I like the stories King tells (I think I'm current on whatever upteenth one she's on), but I do prefer the times we aren't in Mary's head. The books do a great job of invoking the period, as England suffers through the horrors of World War I and then the changes forced upon society afterward, but having to see this through a bright but utterly conceited adolescent is a bit trying.

I listened to most of it in my car, which is probably the root of my disgruntlement -- the voice for Mary sounded so smug and condescending to me. Then the library delivered me a hard copy, which I vastly prefer.  Snarking back at Mary was getting a bit old; she's more tolerable inside my head, where her voice can sound a little self-mocking when she delivers foolishness.  For example, in one paragraph she brags about eluding the guard the police set upon her, because she's sure that she'd be much better at guarding herself, and on the next page she admits that although she's sure she's being watched, she's spent so much of the past few days obliviously reading while walking places that she doesn't know for how long. In an earlier section, she wins a little girl's trust by promising not to lie to her like other rotten adults do, and then she fibs away for the rest of the conversation. And I don't really buy the final ending -- I'm not sure what their elaborate ruse had to do with anything; the timing was completely set by the sudden illness of their nemesis.

It's funny how much I've forgotten -- almost every bit of the plot, and even the existence of the final villain at the end, but I remembered clearly Mary's youthful assurance and the author's careful nurturing of that.  Actually, that isn't strange at all, since I think it's reinforced in every book afterward.  Reading it and looking for the hints of romance was interesting; I know that the first time I was desperately praying that they wouldn't get romantically involved; that was probably close to the original publication date (1994), and in my twenties I found the age gap between fifteen and fifty extremely creepy. Now in my forties I'm not so sure that decay has irrevocably set in by that point. Our group enjoyed this book, and many of us are going on to read more.


Tax Time Avoidance

Here is my weekly check-in, using the meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  Also, at Teach Mentor Texts they do another roundup that concentrates on children's books, which comprise most of my reading this week.

This week I finished three books on my NOOK, two books from my TBR list, and one of the slow books I poke at for months. The kids spent most of the week with their dad, so no picture books.
  • School of Fear, Gitty Daneshvari
  • Angels of Darkness, anthology (NOOK)
  • The First Men in the Moon, H.G. Wells
  • Slob, Ellen Potter
  • Fate's Edge, Ilona Andrews (NOOK)
  • Kris Longknife: Daring, Mike Shepherd (NOOK)
I'm showing thirteen books on my currently reading list, which seems about right. It's mostly kids books, but that's fine with me. I hope I finish some of the Reading My Library picks that have dragged here for weeks.
  • Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead. These girls are walking on the bad guy side. Also, they are annoying.
  • Heaven Is Here, Stephanie Nielson. Mother of four comes back from devastating burns.
  • Misfit, Jon Skovron. (Cybils). Highly recommended by my seventh grader.
  • Warriors: Sign of the Moon, Erin Hunter (RML). These RML seem to be piling up.
  • The Eyeball Collector, F.E. Higgins. (RML). Is vengeance the right policy?
  • Northward to the Moon, Polly Horvath (RML). Dull and predictable crush on cowboy.
  • Angelfall, Susan Ee. NOOK. (Cybils) She has allied with an angel, and lost a sister.
  • A Wizard of Mars, Diane Duane. I haven't read one of these in ages.
  • Smart But Scattered, Peg Dawson & Richard Guare.  How to monitor progress on a goal.
  • The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson. Fathers are problematic.
  • Honored Enemy, Raymond Feist & William R Forstchen.  Safe haven, for a few days.
  • Knight of a Trillion Stars, Dara Joy. The hero is frighteningly stalker-y. I hope she dumps him.
  • The Catholic Church in the Modern World, E.E.Y. Hales. Napoleon was not good for the Church.
What will I read next? Well, I'd like to finish all those RML books I've been dragging my feet on, and I need to get back to work on the Cybils. I'm also starting to fall behind on my 50 states, so I'll be looking for some books to round those off. But I'll probably grab the last Parasol Protectorate and read Timeless.

Challenges:
  1. Cybils: 50/73.  I'm reading two more right now.
  2. Global Reading Challenge: 11/21.  I need to read more stuff south of the equator.
  3. What's In a Name?: 5/6. Still need a land formation.
  4. Where Am I Reading?:  14/50. Need to review Massachusetts (I've read three), Georgia and Hawaii books. And finish the Montana, Utah, and Vermont books. Then I'll be caught up.
  5. Science Book Challenge: 1.141/3.14159. Nothing new.
  6. Reading My Library:  Son has stolen the Ibbotson and Diane Wynne Jones books.
  7. Eclectic Challenge: 4/10. Well, 5, but I need to review them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Boarding School For Boys: Knightley Academy

Image of itemI chose Knightley Academy for my Reading My Library Quest because the author's name is so wonderful -- Violet Haberdasher.  She must have known from childhood that she was destined for greatness. (OK, fine. It's a pseudonym. But it's still a great name.) The book itself was a fast read, putting our hero as the first commoner boy sent to a boarding school that turns out knights in an alternative England-ish place where knights provide most of the government payroll (police knights, medic knights, etc.).


The other commoners enrolled in this trial scheme are an adopted son of an aristocrat and a rich Jewish boy trying to avoid a banking career. The other boys all sneer at our band of heroes, but the greater danger comes from adults happy to weave the children into their dastardly schemes for the kingdom. So we have a Harry-Potter-ish book with fun and new school scenes, bullying fellow students, and adults who are not always what they seem. I'll definitely leave this out for my seventh grader, who will probably hunt down any sequels.

(He found it, and has demanded the sequel.)