Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Black Ships

I got Black Ships in the mail today, which is going to take the place of Good Omens for a little while. I had just barely started Good Omens, so I'm not going to have a problem setting it aside. Black Ships is a really nice ARC - very nice binding. I'm really looking forward to starting it!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

When I was deciding which book on the Name that Book list to listen to next a while back, I was reluctant to listen to Life As We Knew It. This book is the diary of Miranda, which she writes leading up to and in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Everyone is very excited to watch an asteroid hit the moon, sort of like people getting excited about watching Halley's comet. But the night of the event, it is obvious that something has not gone as expected when the moon suddenly appears much closer than before. The asteroid was much bigger than originally thought, and it has knocked the moon out of orbit. This has a massive effect on the gravitational pull on the earth, causing tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquakes worldwide.

This is a book about family and survival. Miranda is a typical 16-year-old with 16-year-old concerns, such as the crush she has on a local ice skating star. As is the case with all teenage girls, she has good days and bad, and the diary reflects these ups and downs.

This was overall a good listening experience. The narrator's voice wasn't annoying, and it kept my attention. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes apocalyptic stories or movies, and who isn't annoyed by journal-type books.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell

I was so pleased when I was chosen to receive one of the LibraryThing Early Review copies of Dreamers of the Day. I haven't read any of Mary Doria Russell's other books, but I have friends who have raved over them. I wasn't disappointed!

The book is set right after World War I has ended. Agnes Shanklin is the only survivor in her family of the 1918 flu, and has thus inherited quite a bit of money. She uses a portion of this money to travel to Egypt (and Palestine), a trip she has always longed to take, especially after her sister lived in the Holy Land as a missionary's wife. Right at the beginning of her visit, she happens to meet T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), who had been friends with her sister before he became so well-known. Through Lawrence, Agnes rubs elbows with the likes of Winston Churchill, among others.

I learned a lot about the politics of the time while reading this book, and I would like to read more. Russell mentions several books in her Acknowledgments that she used while writing the book, and some of these sound like they would be very interesting reads.

The book will be released on March 11, and I would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

LibraryThing x 2

I'm so jazzed! I'm getting one of the LibraryThing bonus batch of Early Reviewers, too! I'm getting The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur, which looks fascinating.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Yay! I'm getting another Early Review book from LibraryThing! I'm getting Black Ships by Jo Graham.

Here's the Amazon description:

""Haunting and bittersweet, lush and vivid, this extraordinary story has lived with me since I first read it." --Naomi Novik, author of His Majesty's Dragon. The world is ending. One by one the mighty cities are falling, to earthquakes, to flood, to raiders on both land and sea. In a time of war and doubt, Gull is an oracle. Daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, chosen at the age of seven to be the voice of the Lady of the Dead, it is her destiny to counsel kings. When nine black ships appear, captained by an exiled Trojan prince, Gull must decide between the life she has been destined for and the most perilous adventure -- to join the remnant of her mother's people in their desperate flight. From the doomed bastions of the City of Pirates to the temples of Byblos, from the intrigues of the Egyptian court to the haunted caves beneath Mount Vesuvius, only Gull can guide Prince Aeneas on his quest, and only she can dare the gates of the Underworld itself to lead him to his destiny. In the last shadowed days of the Age of Bronze, one woman dreams of the world beginning anew. This is her story."

Doesn't that sound great?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

King Dork by Frank Portman

I honestly don't know what to make of this book.

Tom is at the absolute bottom of the social ladder at his high school, which is full of vapid bullies who torture him relentlessly. A near second is his fellow wanna-be band member, Sam Hellerman.

Throw in lots of make believe bands, The Catcher in the Rye, the mystery of Tom's father's death, a make-out session at a party and the subsequent obsession with mysterious Fiona, and an unpleasant associate principal, and you've got yourself one interesting novel.

I had a hard time getting into this book, but at the same time I really wanted to know what was going to happen, so I plugged on, and I am glad I finished it. I think the audience that would enjoy this book the most is nerdy, loner teenage boys, but anyone who has experienced a treacherous high school life will sympathize with Tom.

Chicken Boy by Frances O'Roark Dowell

I first started this book before Christmas, but I couldn't get into it. I returned it to the library when one of my holds came in. It was the only Bluebonnet nominee on the shelf that I hadn't read this week, though, so I picked it up again. I read the entire (well, remaining) book yesterday.

Tobin doesn't start the 7th grade on a good note - his grandmother is arrested for wreckless driving when she drops him off at school. This is par for the course for Tobin, the youngest in a set of siblings known throughout the school system for their disorderly behavior. But Tobin is different, if a bit rough around the edges.

Tobin unexpectedly makes friends with Henry, when Henry comes to his rescue during a fight, and is suddenly knee deep in chickens. This a story of family and friends and trying to please everyone and hurt no one, and you will find yourself really rooting for Tobin and his dysfunctional family.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chunkster Challenge

Thanks to the A-Z Challenge, I think I can participate in the Chunkster Challenge, hosted by Dana at So Many Books, So Little Time.

Here's my list:

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Texas by James Michener
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George

A-Z Challenge

Joy over at Thoughts of Joy is hosting the A-Z Challenge. I've been tempted by this one for a few weeks but thought I would be crazy to join. Well, I'm giving in to temptation. The one caveat is that as many as possible of the books have to come from my TBR mountain or be ones I already planned to read. (That's pretty much my tactic for all challenges.) Anything else, when possible, came from my Amazon wishlist. So, here's my list of what I plan to read, subject to change, of course.
* means this an exception to my rule


A: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (completed 5/19/08)
B: Black Ships by Jo Graham (completed 2/29/08)
C: Chicken Boy by Frances O'Roark Dowell (completed 1/19/08)
D: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (completed 1/24/08)
E: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin*
F: Firegirl by Tony Abbott (completed 1/16/08)
G: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (completed 10/08)
H: Hubert Invents the Wheel by Claire Montgomery, Monte Montgomery, and Jeff Shelly (completed 3/17/08)
I: The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi (completed 7/11/08)
J: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell (completed in 7/08)
K: King Dork by Frank Portman (completed 1/20/08)
L: Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye (completed 2/6/08)
M: Masterpiece by Elise Broach (completed 6/16/08)
N: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
O: One Good Punch by Rich Wallace (completed 6/9/08)
P: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (completed 5/2/08)
Q: Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
R: The Road by Cormac McCarthy (completed 6/7/08)
S: Stardust by Neil Gaiman (completed 4/26/08)
T: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (completed 8/23/08)
U: Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill*
V: The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory*
W: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (completed 3/27/08)
X: Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
Y: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Z: Zeke and Ned by Larry McMurtry*


A: Alexie, Sherman - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (completed 6/8/08)
B: Bray, Libba -The Sweet Far Thing (completed 4/13/08)
C: Connolly, John - The Book of Lost Things (completed 6/1/08)
D: Domingue, Ronlyn - The Mercy of Thin Air
E: Erian, Alicia - Towelhead
F: Frost, Helen - The Braid (completed 7/5/08)
G: Ganeshananthan, V.V. - Love Marriage (completed 5/24/08)
H: Halpern, Jake - Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America's Favorite Addiction (completed 2/3/08)
I: Irving, John - A Prayer for Owen Meaney*
J: Jenkins, Emily - Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic
K: Klasky, Mindy - Girl's Guide to Witchcraft
L: Leavitt, Martine - Keturah and Lord Death
M: McDaniel, Lurlene - Prey (completed 6/7/08)
N: Na, An - Wait for Me (completed in 7/08)
O: Osborne, Mary Pope - Pompeii: Lost and Found (completed 2/10/08)
P: Pratchett, Terry - Truckers (completed 11/1/08)
Q: Quindlen, Anna - Blessings*
R: Roach, Mary - Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
S: Satrapi, Marjane - Persepolis
T: Tingle, Tim - Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom
U: Unsworth, Barry - Pascali's Island*
V: Valdes-Rodriguez, Alisa - Haters
W: Wizner, Jake - Spanking Shakespeare
X: Xinran - Sky Burial
Y: Yep, Lawrence - The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
Z: Zusak, Markus - I Am the Messenger*

Picture book reviews

Bobbie Dazzler by Margaret Wild and Janine Dawson is a fun little book about what you can accomplish if you just practice, practice, practice. Bobbie is a red-necked wallaby who can do lots of things, like jump, bounce, and skip. But what Bobbie really wants to be able to do is the splits. Her friends reassure her that it's ok that she can't do the splits, but that isn't enough for Bobbie. Finally, with lots of practice, Bobbie teaches herself to do the splits and then all her friends, too. The illustrations in this book are simple pen and ink drawings with watercolor and are just as cute as the story.

Punk Farm on Tour by Jarrett J Krosoczka would be a great storytime book! While Farmer Joe is away at the National Tractor Society Conference, the barnyard animals form a band and go on tour. Cow, Sheep, Pig, Goat, and Hen perform a rousing version of "The Wheels on the Bus" (in this case, the wheels on the tour van), each verse reflecting the most recent mishap along the way. My favorite character, by far, is Goat with his "Chill, homie" type commentary. Pig is a runner up with his groupies. Terribly cute!

Previously by Allan Ahlberg takes us backward through several classic tales, such as Jack & the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and The Gingerbread Boy. Each tale is connected to the following by some common thread; for example, did you realize Jack from the beanstalk story is the same Jack that falls down the hill, thanks to his annoying sister Jill? Bright illustrations are a perfect complement to this fun book.

M 11-year-old daughter requested I read this to her for bedtime last night, and she thought it was terribly cute! It was neat to see that she still appreciates a good picture book!

Weekend update and a review

My son has the flu, poor thing. While I feel bad for him (luckily Tamiflu really seems to have eased the symptoms), I'm grateful for the forced downtime. I actually have time to post! (Though my cat has other ideas - he's laying across my arms and threatening to drool on the keyboard.)

I found Firegirl by Tony Abbott all in all to be a very sad book. Tom's 7th grade class is like any normal classroom until a new girl joins the class. Jessica is placed in the class while she is receiving treatments at a nearby hospital for burns that have horribly disfigured her. As is often the case when children are faced with such a student, no one in Tom's class (including Tom) knows how to react to Jessica and basically just ignore her (or shun her). Tom is the only kid to in any way accept Jessica.

This is a great book for helping kids learn how to treat a fellow student with disabilities, but it is not at all a light read.

Friday, January 18, 2008

8 Random Things Meme

I wasn't tagged, per se, but raidergirl3 over at an adventure in reading asked if anyone wanted to play, and I do!

8 random things about me:

1) I am so not a night owl. I fall asleep on the couch almost every night while reading. My husband knows better than to start a movie with me after 8:00, because I'll never make it through more than half of it.

2) I have a real social anxiety when it comes to the phone. I will make phone calls when I don't have a choice, and I will answer the phone when I don't have a choice. But if I can get out of it, I don't use the phone. This is ironic, since I had a phone permanently attached to my head for most of high school...

3) I have an embarrassingly good memory for random details, like dates and names, often of things that didn't even really involve me (like my husband's students' names). The radiology residents that use my library are often amazed when I remember their names (in some cases when they've only come in a couple of times) and, often, what books they've borrowed.

4) Surprisingly, my short term memory stinks. I'd write more about this, but I don't remember what I was going to say. ;-)

5) I grew up in Kosciusko, Mississippi, home of Oprah Winfrey. My grandmother claimed to have made her layette when she was a baby and my uncle claims she ate his Easter chicken (you know, those dyed ones you used to be able to get at Easter?).

6) I really don't like thunderstorms, especially at night. This stems from growing up in tornado alley. During the day I can tell if it gets abnormally dark, but at night, I don't have any visual means of judging how bad a storm is. One of the things I hate about having satellite TV now instead of cable is that we don't get a local Weather Channel feed, so I can't turn the weather on when it storms to check things out. If it's really stormy, I have to turn the computer on so I can check the satellite. Yeah, I'm a little crazy.

7) I played the alto clarinet for part of 7th and 8th grades, until my band director decided she didn't want alto clarinets anymore and switched me to bass clarinet, which I hated. I loved alto, because it wasn't very common. Apparently they're hard to play in tune, though, which is why few bands have them, as I learned from my high school band director when I asked if I could play it again. I ended up playing percussion instead...but I've been playing plain-old clarinet again for a little over a year with my church orchestra.

8) I'm a terrible housekeeper. Luckily I'm married to a man who doesn't expect me to do it all, and in all fairness, does considerably more than I do.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Unread Authors Challenge

Even though these aren't all the choices I started out with, I am counting the Unread Authors Challenge as complete!

Here's my list of what I read:

1. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett - can't wait to read more of the Discworld books!
2. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore - I have now added all of Moore's books to my Amazon wishlist - brilliant!
3. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory - need to review this one still. Another new favorite author, I think.
4. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
5. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
6. Every Past Thing by Pamela Thompson - LibraryThing review copy

Becky by Lenore Hart

I got an early review copy of Becky by Lenore Hart from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, and what a catch! I absolutely LOVED this book!

Imagine Becky Thatcher from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as an adult. Got it? Now, completely discard that image! Becky is not the prissy girl Mark Twain would have us believe her to be. She is now a mother of 2, married to Tom's cousin, Sid Hopkins, who is soon off to fight in the Civil War, which is nearing its end. The book takes us along with Becky to the battlefield, the Nevada territory, San Francisco, and even Panama. Life is nowhere near easy for Becky and her family, but she is strong throughout her trials.

You do not need to be terribly familiar with the story of Tom Sawyer in order to enjoy this book. My only real experience with Tom Sawyer was a cursory reading in 7th grade, and a similar experience with Huck Finn in 11th grade. Becky is a very solid character, and by no means perfect. Even now, she still carries the love for Tom that began when she was just a schoolgirl.

Read this! You won't regret it!

Picture Books

I'm going to start reviewing picture books on a regular basis. Reading picture books is one of the things I miss most about being a children's librarian. Who needs an excuse???

So, with no further ado, here are my first two reviews.

Featuring such names as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo & Diane Dillon is a great introduction to jazz music for little ones. You can feel the excitement of going to a jazz club to hear these musicians, tapping and clapping all night long.

The illustrations are simple and muted, but they complement the text well. After all, it's the music that's important. The book comes with a CD of samples of music by the musicians featured in the book, but the library copy had the CD removed. I feel that was an unfortunate omission, since hearing the music would have added so much. The book also includes a short biography of each musician at the end.

Overall, this book was enjoyable, but it isn't one that I could see kids asking to hear over and over, which to me is the best sign of a winning picture book.

Now, this was a delightful picture book! Based on the traditional children's song, "Over in the Meadow," Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme by Marianne Berkes will have kids bopping in their seats, along with the parrots, boas, honey bears, and leaf cutter ants. This book is more than just a rhyming book. Kids are encouraged to count the rainforest animals, and Ms. Berkes provides her ideas for motions for the kids to do to the rhyme. Also included is information about the animals featured in the book, and a link to more information about the rainforest. The illustrations by Jeanette Canyon, photographs of relief art created with polymer clay, are vibrant and detailed enough to keep kids occupied for long periods of time. I loved this book and wish I had the opportunity to share it with kids in a storytime!

Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley

I started out really enjoying this take on the Cinderella story. Bella is the daughter of a nobleman who doesn't want anything to do with her after her mother dies in childbirth. She is sent to a wet nurse, who happens to also have been the wet nurse for Prince Julian. Bella and Julian grow up the closest of friends until circumstances separate them. You can sort of guess the outcome, since this is, after all, a Cinderella story.

I liked how the story is told from the perspective of different characters. What turned me off near the end were the repeated religious references. It just got to be a little much. I give this one 3.5 stars out of 5, but would have given it 4 if it hadn't started to feel a little preachy.

This book is a 2007-2008 Texas Bluebonnet Nominee, which I'm trying to complete. I'm not sure I'm going to finish it before the new list comes into effect, though. It also completes requirement #3 (book with a first name in the title) for Annie's What's In a Name Challenge.

What's In a Name Challenge

Here's my official list for Annie's What's in a Name Challenge.

1. A book with a color in its title: White Oleander by Janet Fitch
2. A book with an animal in its title: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
3. A book with a first name in its title: Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley
4. A book with a place in its title: Pompeii: Lost and Found by Mary Pope Osborne
5. A book with a weather event in its title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
6. A book with a plant in its title: Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

I originally had Blackthorn Winter by Kathryn Reiss for #1 and Cyrano by Geraldine McCaughrean for #3, but I ended up reading those in December when my holds came in at the library. Since I had specifically requested my library purchase those 2 books, I sort of felt obligated to read them right away!

I finished Bella at Midnight on Thursday, so I'll post that review soon.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Jane Austen on Masterpiece Theater

I just received this link over e-mail:


PBS will air adaptations of all 6 Austen novels, plus a feature of Austen, herself.

I have to admit, the only Austen I have read so far is Emma, but I have plans to read more. I'm looking forward to this series!

Soon, soon

I have a list of about 7 separate posts I want to make. Not having my power cable over the holidays was a killer! I noticed that, for some unknown reason, Blogger is no longer blocked at work (although the layouts for the actual blogs at blogspot don't show up correctly), so I might be able to shoot off a few posts from work here and there without dragging out the trusty laptop.