Saturday, December 17, 2011

Michael Bedard and Nancy Farmer

I've been rather busy with the onset of Christmas in less than 10 days, and so have not been able to read as much as I would like. I did finally finish these two books tonight, which is excellent given that I finally got my copy of Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick's new book, from the library. Ooh and I was given my mother's Kindle so I've been downloading free books like crazy onto it! I think I managed to get nearly all of L. Frank Baum's Oz books, as well as many other fantasy/steampunk titles, and I saved some of the classics that were left on there from when my mom had it. After seeing the new Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows film that was released yesterday in the theaters, I am interested again in reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's series. 

Young Adult
The Green Man by Michael Bedard
This was an ARC from Netgalley.
I did not know much about the Green Man mythology, although I had seen his image before in art. However, the story sounded interesting, so I figured I would give it a try. The book did not disappoint. It had a very intriguing storyline that grabbed my interest early on and did not let it go until the book's conclusion.

The story is about O, a teenage girl who goes to spend the summer with her reclusive Aunt Emily. Her aunt is a poet who owns the Green Man bookstore, which has seen better days. It is through O's presence that the story is revitalized and to an extent her aunt as well. However, a dark figure haunts Emily in a re-occuring dream and seems to spell out danger for the both of them. Who is the mysterious new boy who has come to town? Does he mean them harm or good?

I liked that the store was occupied by dead poets and the author's use of poetry throughout the book to better describe situations. While this wasn't a scary book, there was a touch of horror in it, just enough to make it interesting. Recommended for ages 10+, 4 stars.

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Ok I must admit that I read this book because I had seen it before in the library and also because it was a 3-time award winner. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that it will be good, as the Caldecott-winning book "The Hello,Goodbye Window" can attest to. Anyways, I enjoyed the story although I will say that I think they should've ended it after the funeral. I also am very glad that they had a family tree and introduction to the characters in the front of the book because there are so many early on, it is hard to keep track of everyone.

Matt lives in a small shack with Celia, a cook at the Alacran's main house. He lives a simple life and is content. That is until one day, he discovers some children playing outside his house and his world is turned upside down. He learns that he is a clone of El Patron, the 140+ yr old drug warlord of Opium, a small empire in Aztlan (formerly known as Mexico). The Alacran family members and all of the staff shun him once his existence is known. El Patron gives him a bodyguard named Tam Lin, who eventually becomes his family figure. What will happen to Matt? Will he survive past 14, an age when most clones die? What will happen to the Alacran family? Will they ever be punished for their evil ways? Recommended for ages 12+, 3 1/2 stars.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dan Jolley and Rick Riordan

Only two books to report today. Found a Teach Yourself Visually Crochet book to help me learn new styles of stitches as I have a hard time understanding the written abbreviated instructions. Hoping to get a scarf or two done for friends. 

Children and Young Adult
The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan
I have been waiting for months to get my hands on this book, and I finally got this past weekend. I had no idea it was a book about Percy Jackson, though the title should've given me a clue. It was a very quick read, as the story was so interesting, I couldn't wait to see what happened next. 

In this second book in the Heroes of Olympus series, Percy wakes up after being asleep for 8 months and has amnesia. He is discovered by the wolf-goddess Lupus and sent along to the Roman demigod camp, Camp Jupiter. It is here that we meet our other two heroes, Hazel and Frank. I liked that these two were multicultural, African-American and Asian respectively. Percy, Hazel and Frank all end up going on a quest to free Death (called Thanatos, 2nd in charge of the Underworld after Pluto) from the clutches of an evil giant resurrected by his mother Gaea. Will Percy remember who he is and what he has done? Will he be able to save Hazel and Frank? Will they be able to free Death in time to save Camp Jupiter? To find out, check out this action packed adventure by Rick Riordan. Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars. 

The Girl Who Owned a City: The Graphic Novel by Dan Jolley
This book was originally written by O.T. Nelson in 1975, and this version was retold by Dan Jolley. This is an ARC from Netgalley. I would've given it more stars, but I didn't like the ending. 

A virus has wiped out the entire population over the age of 12, and the story is about Lisa and her younger brother Todd surviving with the help of the neighborhood kids. Everyone bands together by moving into the local school and creating their own self-sufficient city named Glenbard, where they can protect everyone with a militia. That is, until one day, the Chidester Gang manages to break through their defenses. Will Lisa and the kids of Glenbard be able to take back the city? To find out, read this graphic novel. Recommended for ages 10+, 3 stars. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Brenda Novak

I have been keeping pretty busy reading Netgalley, but needed to take a break after I finished this latest book as I had read about 600 something pages in 3 days on the computer, which was killing my eyes. I'm currently reading this random book I picked up called Jamrach's Menagerie, but haven't quite decided if I like it yet or not. Might go straight to the book I've had on hold forever and finally got, Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2)

The Bastard by Brenda Novak 
Ok I must admit that I haven't read a romance novel since I was in middle school, but I saw this on Netgalley as an ARC and decided to give it a chance. It was better than I thought it would be, though a bit predictable at times. I liked that the heroine was feisty and could take care of herself, despite being an aristocrat, and that hero was not the bastard (literally and figuratively) that I thought he was.  

Jeannette, a young French girl, and her family have escaped the French Revolution and traveled to England where she is about to marry Lord St. Ives, a rich old man. She doesn't love him, but is trying to protect her family and provide for them. On her wedding night, she discovers that her husband is impotent and willing to use his friends to impregnate her, so she escapes and ends up on a Navy ship. It is there that she meets 2nd Lt. Treynor, who she ends up falling in love with. Will they get together in the end? Read the book to find out. 4 star. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

George O'Connor, Ashley Koff, Laurent de Brunhoff, Mercer Mayer and Christina Tosi

I've been reading quite a bit lately, and totally forgot to write this post after I finished watching my new show tonight, Whitechapel, a cop show on BBC America. So I popped back on to post these reviews before bed. 

Babar's Mystery by Laurent de Brunhoff
This book was a cute story about Babar and his family going to the sea, the Old Lady wanting to write a novel and a mystery about a stolen piano, Babar's car and statue. I got it for Liam, but will save it for him when he gets a bit older. Recommended for ages 5+, 3 stars. 

Just Me and My Mom by Mercer Mayer
I loved Mercer Mayer books when I was a kid and I love being able to share them with my son. This book was a cute story about Little Critter going to town with his mom and having some crazy adventures, but ultimately having a great time together. Recommended for kids ages 0-5, 4 stars. 

Children and Young Adult
Athena: Grey Eyed Goddess (Olympians #2) by George O'Connor
Once again, another brilliant graphic novel by author/illustrator George O'Connor. This second volume in the series focuses on Athena, goddess of Wisdom, War, Strategy, Crafts and Cities. She was always my favorite Greek diety, and I even named a stuffed owl I got Buboe after her owl in the movie "Clash of the Titans". 

I'm glad he included a genealogy in the front of the book as it gets very confusing at times to remember which child is from which mother. I knew how Athena had been born (sprung out the head of Zeus fully formed and grown up), but I never knew that Zeus had eaten her mother Metis to avoid a prophecy, and she had been born/grew up inside his head. I found the story of how she got the name Pallas interesting as well as how she got the Aegis and added to it. As with his "Hades" graphic novel, the "Greek Notes" in the back of the book are so fascinating and give more depth to the story (ex. how Hephaestus came to be born). Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars. 

Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory (Olympians #3) by George O'Connor
I really enjoyed this version of Hera's story as it showed her not like she is traditionally portrayed, as the jealous and vengeful woman, but as a loving wife who knows what she wants and goes and gets it. I liked how the author described her as "the one person that Zeus well and truly fears (pg 68)." I didn't know until I read the previous volume on Athena that Hera was Zeus's second wife, but I find it interesting that knowing Zeus's wondering eye, she demanded he properly marry her and make her his wife and equal. Yes, she caught her husband cheating many times and punished his mistresses and their offspring, the best example being Heracles, whose name coincidentally means "The Glory of Hera". The story of the creation of the Milky Way was probably one of the most interesting ones in the graphic novel, as was the women's tale of Hera's renewal ceremony at the end of the book. Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars. 

Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged by Ashley Koff R.D. and Kathy Kaehler
This was an advanced copy I got from Netgalley. 
Overall, I enjoyed this book, especially the Reorganizing and Rehabilitation sections. The purpose of this book is to give busy moms more energy with a three-step strategy: Reorganizing your priorities and eating habits, Rehabilitating your body by taking better care of your digestive system, detoxing and supplementing it with vitamins, and Recharge your body by exercising, getting enough sleep and remembering to fit in some playtime. It discusses how energy is related to metabolism, lack of a balanced diet/sleep, hormones, and health conditions. There is a quiz to judge your current energy levels (3 groups of scores) and one to tell you what is stealing your energy and how to tailor your energy makeover (5 profiles). The back of the book features exercises you can do at home. 3 stars. 

Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi
This was an ARC from Netgalley. 
I loved the Momofuku (which means "lucky peach") cookbook and the story of how chef David Chang created and developed the Momofuku Restaurant Group, which included the Noodle and Ssam Bars, Ko, and Ma Peche. I even loved the website ( where two fans created recipes out of the cookbook and blogged about it. I've never been to these restaurants but I know I would love the Noodle & Milk Bars. So I was very excited to see this cookbook. I like the way they make the cookbook personal by telling the chef's story at the beginning before they start in on the recipes, then like all good cookbooks, they follow with ingredient, equipment and techniques lists. Each recipe had serving suggestions, i.e. other recipes in the book that either used the recipe in it or with it. Most the of the recipes I wasn't a particular fan of because of their long format and multiple-parts, like restaurant cookbooks tend to have. I was fascinated with some of the recipes for their crazy combinations, like the Candy Bar Pie (I mean who wouldn't like a pie with pretzels, salted caramel, peanut butter nougat, and chocolate), the Cinnamon Roll with the liquid Cheesecake instead of Cream Cheese frosting and the Thai Tea Parfait with Lemon Marscapone and Thai Tea Crunch. 3 1/2 stars.