Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Picture Book Month

There are so many great picture books out there, it is great that they've finally have devoted an entire month to celebrating them. A friend of mine from the State Library posted this link from author/illustrator Yuyi Morales, on why picture books are important. This author created two of my of my favorite Bilingual Children's books Just a Minute and Just in Case, which feature Senor Calavera! Here is a list of activities relating to picture books. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Alison Behnke and Art Donovan

Since I have started reading books for Netgalley, I've decided to post reviews more often. These are two that I have finished in the last five days. 

The Little Black Dress and Zoot Suits: Depression and Wartime Fashions from the 1930s to 1950s by Alison Behnke

I got an advanced copy from Netgalley. 
This was a well-done and well-researched book on the fashion and hairstyles of men and women from the 1930s - 1950s. It is really amazing how much of the fashion from these eras influenced how we dress today. Things such as blue jeans, khakis, crew cuts, the "preppy" look, leather jackets and tshirts, bikinis, and fedoras are still used today. The author has a detailed bibliography at the end of the book, as well as suggested reading and websites, and films. 

I enjoyed the book for the random facts that were in it, such as: zippers appeared on women's fashion in the 1930s, although they had been on men's fashion starting in the late 1800s; the famous Rosie the Riveter poster was created by Westinghouse; bikinis were invented due to post WWII cutbacks on fabric, even though it was considered improper for women to expose their navels in public; and Elsa Schiaperelli's Lobster Dress had a lobster painted by surrealist artist Salvador Dali. I loved that the author mentioned lesser known designers like Edith Head (famous for Hollywood movie costumes) and Emilio Pucci, acknowledged the impact that Hollywood and the military had on daily fashions and hairstyles, and even talked about famous photographers that photographed during that time period. Recommended for ages 9+, five stars.   

Young Adult & Adult
The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement by Art Donovan

I got the book as an advanced copy from Netgalley. 
This book is the result of a Steampunk exhibition at Oxford University's Museum of the History of Science, which ran from October 2009 - Feb 2010, and was curated by the author (who also designs Steampunk light fixtures). While the exhibit focused on the Steampunk art and the artists that created them, it also featured "original Victorian and Edwardian instruments and machines that exemplified the roots of Steampunk art" (pg 19). Despite the popularity of Steampunk literature and fashion etc, this museum exhibit was the first of its kind. I found it interesting that there weren't only Steampunk clothes and jewelry, but also car motors and engines. 

The book featured "Steampunk 101," which breaks down the term, what it is, where it comes from and how sci-fi fits in with the term. This section explains the purpose of gears and goggles, and the appeal of Steampunk. While I did not know any of the artists, I found their work fascinating and their creator names amusing.  

I loved the Shiva Mandala on page 14 & 15, the Beholder Robot Sculpture on pg 50, Lunar Period on pg 66, The Lady Raygun on pg 72, Datamancer Ergo Keyboard on pg 104, Datamancer Steampunk Laptop on pg 108, and the Flying Civil Servant on pg 115. Recommended for ages 12 +, five stars. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Neil Gaiman, Holly Thompson, George O'Connor and Faith Erin Hicks

I know it hasn't been that long since I last did a book review, but I've decided that I will post them more frequently. Since I started with Netgalley, I've read/reviewed three books. So far they've been pretty good, so I am very excited about getting to read more books. As always, the books are rated on a scale of 1-5 stars. 

Instructions: Everything You Need to Know on Your Journey by Neil Gaiman
This book features instructions (in poetry form), and some good advice, about having adventures in a fairy tale. Absolutely loved the illustrations, and the storyline and I would love to own a copy! Here is aYouTube video of the book by the author.  Recommended for ages 5+, 5 stars. 

Children & YA
Hades by George O'Connor
This was an advanced copy that I got from Netgalley. I thought it was a well-done and well-researched graphic novel on the underworld, Hades, Persephone, and Demeter.  The story shows what happens to a person when they die, according to Greek mythology, and then continues with the myth about Persephone (originally called Kore) and how she ended up as Queen of the Underworld after she was abducted by Hades. I liked that the author used multiple viewpoints of all three characters (especially Persephone) and not just that of the men in the story, as myths have a tendency to do. I liked that it would appeal to both boys and girls.

For me, it was the little things in this graphic novel that made it great. It was the way the author describes the punishments of certain Greeks in Tartaros, the fact that he includes Hercules mortal half of his soul is in the underworld while his immortal part is in Olympus, the way Kore and her mother Demeter argue like they would nowadays (which makes the myth more modern and easier for kids/teens to understand), how Hades created violets especially for Kore, and how Kore decided that being the Queen of the Underworld isn't such a bad gig and changes her name and reinvents herself. I had no idea that Zeus had sanctioned Hades to take Kore. I enjoyed the interaction between Hermes and Hekate, and didn't know that in some stories, they were married. I liked the profiles of the gods and goddesses, and the Greek notes at the end of the book, as well as the recommended reading lists.

Now I can't wait to read the other graphic novels in the author's Olympian series! Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.

Young Adult
Orchards by Holly Thompson
One of the reasons I like free-verse is that it gives the opportunity for the reader/writer to discuss topics that would otherwise be difficult to put across in a normal fiction novel, like the Holocaust and teenage suicide. Orchards is about an eighth grade girl named Kana (half Jewish/half Japanese)and her friends who unwittingly caused the suicide of a classmate by being mean. Kana is sent away to Japan, to her mother's family to work in their orchard for the summer. Kana learns that working at the farm isn't really so bad and that she actually enjoys it, even though her grandmother still doesn't approve of her because of her mother's decision to move to New York and marry her father, a Russian Jew. While adapting to life with her extended family, she tells the story to Ruth, the girl who killed herself, and tries to figure out what caused Ruth to do what she did. Her world is turned upside down again, when another classmate commits suicide at the end of the summer. Kana decides create a monument to them both by expanding on a Japanese idea to honor the dead. Recommended for ages 13+, 4 stars.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

I received this advanced copy from Netgalley. I really loved this coming-of-age story about a girl entering high school, and more importantly public school, for the very first time. She has three gregarious brothers and her dad has just become the chief of police. Maggie spends most of the book trying to find her place in the family and in the greater world, after her mom's disappearance a little bit before the story begins. Maggie gets her first female friend and learns that people aren't always as they seem. A 19th century ghost follows her everywhere, but she can't figure out what it wants.

There were some really hilarious moments in the graphic novel, that I could identify with and I think teenage girls would like as well. For example on page 75, where Lucy is talking about never being able to be homeschooled by her mother because they are always having these "Raarg, You are my daughter, Obey! fights. Someone would die eventually." Later, on page 91, Maggie is hanging out again with Lucy and Al and they have just seen the movie "Alien" and Al makes a comment about enjoying the sight of Sigourney Weaver in her underwear. Then when the girls give him the death look, he says "I retract the previous statement. I did not look lustfully upon the kickass lady in her underoos." There is also the extreme but cute nerd factor on page 185 where one of Maggie's brothers mentions that he's seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark three hundred and fourteen times."

My only gripe with the book was that the images from pages 111-112 were missing entirely. You could follow the storyline as the speech bubbles were there, but I would've liked to see the illustrations as they were in the middle of the story. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars.

Mighty Spice Cookbook: Fast, Fresh and Vibrant Dishes Using No More Than 5 Spices For Each Recipe by John Gregory Smith

I received an advanced copy from Netgalley.

In the introduction to the cookbook, the author gives us a very vivid description about how he came about his love of cooking and the trip around the world he made, which awakened his love for spices. This sets the stage for his lovely cookbook, which thankfully has color pictures with each dish. The recipes are easy to understand, and most include a paragraph before the recipe itself which explains what the dish is like and what to serve it with (I only wish he had done this for every recipe as I was curious to know more about them). I appreciated the Spice Directory, a nice reference section for those who may not know about all the spices they mention throughout the book.

I would personally love to try the Mango Orange Nutmeg Cheesecake, Gobi Masala, Stir-Fried Squid with Chili and Coriander, Al Pastor Pork and Pineapple Salad, and the Indian Chicken, Pomegranate and Herb Salad, just to name a few.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jobs, Books, Clubs and Netgalley

So I've been striking out left and right with jobs. All four of my recent job interview have ended with rejections, and then I've 3 other rejections aside from the interviews. So I'm pretty frustrated again. At least my hubby has a job so we're finally able to pay some of our bills on our own. I'm still finding library jobs to apply to though, so I will keep trying. 

The only things that have been keeping me sane have been the books I pick up from the library and joining a few local Meetup groups. The best two lately have been Scott Westerfeld's Goliath (Leviathan #3), which was awesome and even though it was over 500 pages, I managed to finish in a couple days and Alia Yunis's The Night Counter, which was a surprisingly excellent book. Last month I reread Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle for a Banned Books Book Club that I joined. Despite being a librarian, I've never been to a book club meeting ever. This one was a lot of fun. The book we are reading this month is Upton Sinclair's commentary on immigration and the meat packing industry, The Jungle. I have also joined a mom's group, where mom's with young kids get together for play dates. I also joined a crocheting group and have started another scarf. I'm not talented when it comes to crocheting, and can only do basic stitches (single, double and triple crochet) but the repetitive action is relaxing for me. I went to my first meeting on Sunday and had a lot of fun talking to the ladies in the group! I'm hoping maybe I can learn some new stitches and maybe get to work with some new fabric. 

I also joined Netgalley, which I had heard snippets about before, but never thought to join. It is basically where book reviewers and librarians can get advanced digital copies of books and do reviews on them. It looks pretty awesome so far, when I was browsing some of the books I could get, which were so far mostly graphic novels. But I only signed up today, so we'll see what happens.