Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On a happier note

I have recently finished a number of good books that I wanted to share, with some of my reviews and some professional websites:

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai
I loved the illustrations in this easy to read picture book about a young rabbit's snow day out of school. He is out of school because the bus has been unable to get through the snow and is at home with his mom, waiting for his dad to come home from the airport. I love it that he makes snow dumplings!

Miss Brooks Loves Books by Barbara Bottner
I love this book about a girl who isn't enthusiastic about reading and doesn't think she will find a book she likes, as well as a very energetic children's librarian named Miss Brooks, who is not only excited about reading but also has a penchant for dressing in costumes to express it. No book works for her until she discovers William Steig's "Shrek" which she thinks is the greatest book in the world.

I love the illustrations as well and as the book blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast says in her review of the book about the fist pump that the librarian Miss Brooks does in the illustration at the end of the book: "And that’s because Miss Brooks has scored. She has landed an epic win in the way we librarians want to with child readers: She found that book that won her heart. And, in this day and age of reading programs and reading for trinket-type incentives (translated: pencils and McDonald’s coupons), it’s extra fabulous to see an adult like that who simply models a love of reading and makes reading itself—and the kickin’ stories that come from these books—the reward. I think to call this a librarian’s picture book might limit it too much, though it certainly will win the heart of teachers and librarians alike. I think it’s got something for everyone. ("

A Platypus, Probably by Sneed B. Collard (yes this is a real person)

Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters
This book was a really well done and cute mix of photographs and digital art to create wonderful illustrations. Frankie is a cat who takes care of business after dark, including chasing a mouse through the house while its owners sleep, but during the day he just sleeps.

Pantaloon by Kathryn Jackson
Adorable book with bright pictures about a poodle in pants who likes to wear hats and eat the pastries in the bakery. One day the baker has an accident b/c of Pantaloon's bicycle and he takes over, decorating and delivering the baked goods all over town. He leaves the baker but everyone wonders where he has gone so the baker bakes an enormous cake to get him back and they live happily ever after.

The Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman (audiobook)
I discovered this audiobook by accident while looking for other Philip Pullman books to read. I absolutely loved the zany randomness of it. It reminded me of Don Quixote meets L. Frank Baum meets silly British humor. The story is that a scarecrow in a field comes along and gains a servant out of a young boy called Jack. They end up going on crazy adventures beating up bandits, joining the army, getting shipwrecked on a deserted island and making friends with the birds. It was a short quick book that I would be proud to own along with Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (audiobook)
The first time I tried to read this book, I got bored about 20 pages in. So I decided to tackle it again after hearing how good it was from other children's librarians. The audiobook did the trick and I absolutely loved it and couldn't wait to hear what happened next to Edward. The book is about a rabbit made of porcelain named Edward Tulane who goes on a quite literally a "miraculous journey" in order to open his heart and find out about love and the joy/pain that it brings. Overall it was a very sad book and the ending made me cry, but it was such a good message that I recommend it to everyone. It was kind of like The Velveteen Rabbit, a story that I loved as a child.

Young Adult

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Ok first off I must say that yes, it did have elements of The Mortal Instruments series (the Nephilim and demons) and Twilight (girl likes mysterious boy who saves her when she goes galavanting off to the big city). That being said, I still liked the book. I was telling my husband that they didn't make romances like this when I was growing up, I was stuck with Harlequin bodice rippers. I think this kind is much more interesting. Even by the end of the book, you don't get all the secrets you would want from the main male character Patch. The story is that Nora is a descendent of the Nephilim, and she's got this mysterious guy named Patch who pops into her life during her junior year of high school. She keeps getting followed by mystery people, but you're never 100% sure until the end of the book who is hunting her. Is it Patch or someone else? I am very curious to see where the author goes with this series.

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
I really enjoyed this book, despite the perspective switching back and forth (at least each chapter has a name, so you can keep track). I realized towards the end of reading this book that it was like a twist on Beauty and the Beast, though instead of being cursed by a witch, the main male character Sam is cursed to be a werewolf and only be human part of the year (but it's out of his control as when exactly that will be). The other main character Grace is interesting because she was carried off by the werewolves and bitten, but she never changed into one. Grace and Sam love each other from afar for 6 years before finally being able to be with each in person. It was a very romantic book, but not gushy like some teen romances can be. The ending was good and surprising in some senses. I'm curious to see what else the author does for the series.

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer (audiobook)
Another fantastic story about Artemis Fowl and his adventures, especially funny in the parts with Mulch Diggums and Juliet. In this one, he is trying to scam American entrepreneur John Spiro with a supercomputer called the Cube, but his plan backfires when Spiro and his goons steal the Cube and kill Butler. Can Artemis get to the fairies in time to save his friend? Does he get the Cube back and save the fairies from discovery? You must read it to find out!

The Confessions of Catherine De Medici by C.W. Gortner
I really liked this novelized version of the story of Catherine De Medici. It helped me see how human she was, how she was trying to protect herself and her family, vs. the demonized version (master poisoner/schemer/killer) I've heard before reading the book. It is so fascinating to learn about her life: how she started out fleeing from the Florentine gov't in the convent of the crazy Savonarola, then to Rome where her marriage to Francois II was arranged by her uncle Pope Clement VII, and then she goes to France where nobody knows her and her husband doesn't even both showing up for their wedding. Not to mention heading off attempts to control her and her children by her husband's mistress, that would've set me off, but she finally comes into her own right before her husband's death.

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