Monday, January 27, 2014

Ramble: On Not Buying Books

I decided that if I stopped by books, I shall never get to my goal of having a library of 10,000 volumes.

I could take a year off from collecting, but I can't afford that kind of delay. With 3,327 volumes, I'm only 1/3 the way there.

I need to stay strong and stay the course. A library 10,000 strong will be mine!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review: The Jazz Man by Mary Hays Weik

Synopsis:  When the Jazz Man played, Zeke thought about nothing else but the wonderful music that drifted from the bright yellow room scross the courtyard. He did not think about how his mother crept up and down five long flights of stairs every day to go to work. He did not think about the jobs he knew his father must work. He thought about just of the dreamy blues adding color to his drab world. How long will Zeke's dreams last when the Jazz Man leaves? (from the back of the book)

Review: I had no idea what to expect when I read this. It was like poetry. It was a story, but the emotions invoked, the words used, they wrapped around you like the Jazz Man's song. Brilliant and beautiful. I highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 7.5 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor, 1967

ISBN: 0-689-71767-9
Date Finished: 1-24-2014
Pages: 42

Review: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Synopsis: Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you want to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again. (from the back of the book)

Review: I read this about 10 years ago, and then saw the play based on her work. At the time, I thought her work was brilliant. Of course, I was fresh out of college, full to the brim with ideas about life, none of which had any touch with reality. Now, with ten years of real world experience in my brain, I realize Ehrenreich's work is highly flawed and lopsided. The main thing that bothered me, was while congratulating herself on "living like the poor" she refused to live like them! She had to have a car and bought herself wine and $30 khaki pants. She refused jobs because she was "tired" or didn't want to do them. She constantly complained about not having TV or AC or books. She also seemed to think all supervisors were evil, as if they sat around calculating ways to dehumanize their workers. It never occurred to her the supervisors were in a similar position or to offer any kindness to them. She also complained ALL the time about drug tests. This shows a complete naivety when it comes to human nature.
In the end, I think Ehrenreich's idea was a good one, but she executed it all wrong and spent to much time complaining about her lack of comforts and how hard things were, instead of trying to actually understand what poverty is.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8050-6388-9
Date Finished: 1-22-2014
Pages: 221

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: The Corn Grows Ripe by Dorothy Rhoades

Synopsis: When his father is badly injured in an accident, a young Mayan boy called Tigre wonders who will plant and harvest the corn that they need to survive--and to please the Mayan gods. Twelve-year-old Tigre has never done a man's work before. Now he will have to take his father's place. (from the back of the book)

Review: This was a pleasant little book. The author does a fine job of bringing the traditions of modern Mayan people (well, modern for 1957, when the book was written) to life. It was fascinating to read about the mix of Mayan and Christian religions and the traditions and culture of these people. The main character, Tigre, was interesting and the author did a good job of showing his growth.
Despite all this, I found this book a bit lack-luster. It's a good book and I would recommend it, in particular to someone looking for books for young boys, but for me, this just wasn't my cup of tea.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor, 1957

ISBN: 0-14-036313-0
Date Finished: 1-22-2014
Pages: 88

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Review: Crumbling Castle by Sarah Haynes

Synopsis: Follow the hilarious antics of a wizard names Zeb and his castle full of oddball occupants - a ghost who can't seem to scare anyone, an annoying white owl, a baby dragon, and a crow who insists he's a raven - in this action-packed story for adventuresome readers! (from the back of the book)

Review: I picked this up at a used bookstore because it look clever and cute. It was cute, but no so much on the cleverness. The story is divided into 3 vignettes. The first deals with the relationship between the wizard Zeb and his talking "raven" Jason. The second introduces the non-scary ghost and the white owl. The third is about the volcano that was really a baby dragon. Each is cute, with amusing dialogue and nice action. But, the story is somewhat lacking in a spark. It seems that Jason is the main character, not Zeb. And I never really liked Zeb. He seemed a bit - mean and selfish - nothing to inspire the loyalty the other characters seem to give him. It in the end, I felt this was neither a good book nor a bad book. It was a "meh" book.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-56402-274-9
Date Finished: 1-18-2014
Pages: 76

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ramble: Next Year

Remember how I contemplated not buying any books in 2014?

Yea, I've already failed. In all fairness, I've only spent about $10 total, and acquired 20 or so books, so I'm still holding true to the not spending a lot of money idea.

And some of those book where for school, so.....

I really am trying to stop, I promise! But those bookstores - they are just so damn tempting!

Oh well. There is always next year....

Review: Silent Songs by A.C.Crispin and Kathleen O'Malley (Starbridge, Book 5)

Synopsis: The men and women of StarBridge found intelligent life -- and new friends -- across the galaxy... In the skies of Trinity, the birdlike Grus welcomed the deaf human ambassador, Tesa.
In the seas of Trinity, the aquatic Singers communicated with the young telepath, Jib. But on the surface of Trinity, a different kind of life form has landed. They are amphibious beings from a distant world. And they are definitely not friendly... (from the back of the book)

Review: This is the most intense Starbridge novel yet. While the other books had tension and mystery, the interactions between the different species always came out right and peaceful in the end. This was the first species written that there was no peace in sight, where as I reader I wasn't sure how things would turn out. I held my breath and read at a frantic pace to find out. Each character's life hung by a thread, each movement and plot twist took my emotions from elation to heartbreak.
And once again, I was impressed by the culture creation. Crispin and O'Malley have an astonishing knack for creating distinct cultures, with their own value systems, social customs, ranks and interactions. Each is believable, with depth and nuance and richness. It's amazing.
Over all, this book has an intense pace, with romance, danger, mystery, suspense, growth and realism. I highly recommend this book, although I would start at the beginning of the series - or, at least, read Silent Dances (Starbridge, Book 3) first. This is somewhat of a sequel to that story.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0441000616
Date Finished: 1-12-2014
Pages: 295

Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gaget Battle by "Science Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Synopsis: This third installment of the series, 11-year-old whiz-kids Nick and Tesla discover that someone in the quiet town of Half Moon Bay has placed their beloved Uncle Newt under electronic surveillance—but who is spying on him, and why? To expose the secret agent, Nick and Tesla build all kinds of outrageous contraptions. Throughout the book, the narrative is interrupted by blueprints and instructions so that budding young inventors can follow along. Science and electronics have never been so much fun! (from the back of the book)

Review: I was excited the receive this third installment of the Nick and Tesla series. I enjoyed the second book and was eager to read more!
I had a hard moment getting into the first chapter, mostly because I forgot the cliff-hanger at the end of the second book. Once I remember (which the author reminded us about within a few pages), it was smooth sailing for there. The story is a bit more serious this time around, as Nick and Tesla aren't dealing with an outside villain, like the robot army, but with a villain intent on harming them. The danger is much closer to home. But like the second book, the gadgets are intriguing and exciting, the story moves at a brisk pace, with ups and downs and mystery and plot twists and crazy antics and outlandish characters. I love that there is bit a silliness in with the serious. The author has an ingenious talent for mixing hard science with the importance of family and the real fears that might beset tweens. I highly recommend this book and this series!

I received an free ARC through LibraryThings Early Reviewer Program in exchange for my honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 7.5 of 10

Awards: Kids' Indie Next List Pick Series Winner

ISBN: 978-1-59474-676-5
Date Finished: 1-11-2014
Pages: 256

Review: The Paintings in the Louvre by Lawrence Gowing

Synopsis: Lawrence Gowing, the most vivid writer on art to have lived in this century, selected more than 800 European masterpieces for inclusion in this, the most lavish and comprehensive volume ever published on the greatest collection of paintings in the world - the Louvre (from the back of the book)

Review: I picked this up for a $1 at a book sale many moons ago. I wanted it because it's unlikely I will ever get to Paris to see this monumental museum. Perhaps, I should have taken a better look at the book before picking it for that purpose. I wanted a book that would take me through the museum, exploring painted art from antiquity to the present day. This was not that book.
The book starts with a brief history of the Louvre buildings, how they came to be and why they were build. It then gives a concise history of the collections, how it was acquired etc. Then, it starts in the 1300s, and moves throught the 1850s, with exquisite photographs of the paintings and detailed explanations of the artist, style, history and acquisition.
The reason I am disappointed in this book was because the author only included paitings and artists from France, Italy and occasionaly, the Netherlands. Nothing from the Far East, the Americas, or Russia. I know there aren't that many from these places, but there ae some and they should have been included. Also, why did he stop at 1850? He missed several important artistic movements!
My other issue is his complete lack of female artist. Other than one painting by Marie-Guillemine_Benoist and  scant mention of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (considered by many to be the most important female painter in the 1700s), he has NO women artist. I know there aren't many, but several (i.e. Vigée Le Brun) are rather important - too important to be left out!
If you are looking for a book on the paintings in the Louvre from European painters from 1300-1850, this is the perfect book for you. Gowing did an excellent job of presenting the works he chose, albeit with a verbose flourish of words. I just think he did a crap job of choosing works. With the entire Louvre to chose from, he should have spread out more, including less works from France and Italy, and more from other parts of the world.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-55670-007-5
Date Finished: 1-10-2014
Pages: 687

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review: An American Tail: The Storybook by Steven Spielberg and Don Bluth

Synopsis: The storybook version of the original movie.

Review: I had a certain nostalgia for this movie. When I found the book at a $1-per-bag book sale, I added it to my pile. The book was a faithful adaption of the movie, although the format meant the songs and voices and hilarious quips and nonsense were missing. Because the story was first told in movie format, it doesn't translate well into book. However, for my childhood's sack, I will keep this book with a certain fondness.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-448-48612-1
Date Finished: 1-9-2014
Pages: 75

Review: Word Worth by Ward S. Miller

Synopsis: This is a vocabulary textbook. Each chapter has a list of words with definiation and usage, and then ends with practice tests and helpful hints.

Review: I picked up this book at the local thrift store's book sale - a bag for $1. I like words. So, naturally, this book intrigued me. I didn't realize until I was a few pages in that it was a textbook. I liked it. First, to read a textbook from over 50 years ago has a certain appeal to me. Compared to our modern English textbooks, it's bare and straight forward and plain. And impressive. It's sad kids today wouldn't learn these words like this. Second, while I knew most of these words, some of the meanings have changed in the last 50 years. This amused me. Third, there were four or five words I'd never heard of. I eagerly learned these! I recommend this book to anyone looking to home-school children, Language teachers looking for ideas and word-lovers like me.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Published: 1958
Date Finished: 1-8-2014
Pages: 438

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Review: Incredible Pirate Tales: Fourteen Classic Stories of the Outlaws of the High Seas ed. by Tom McCarthy

Synopsis: “Avast there, me hearty!” From Long John Silver to Captain Hook, from Blackbeard to Captain Kidd, pirates have made off with our imaginations for centuries with their charisma and adventurous living. Truth be told, these capricious cutthroats are not only figures of horror but also of vicarious delight. Incredible Pirate Tales captures the most incredible stories of actual and fictional characters who took up the “black flag” and a life on the high seas. In these pages meet L’Olonnois the Cruel, the most notorious and wicked pirate of his day, whose ardent cravings for plunder sailed him down a path of treachery and brutality. Witness the rise of a pirate named Peter, who successfully manages his career and settles in France, where he retires as a gentleman. Learn about the exploits, arrests, and executions of infamous sea wolves such as Jean Lafitte, Captain Charles Vane, and the Joassammee Pirates of the Persian Gulf. From the women who married them to their hostages and slaves, from the sailors defending their ships against attack to the legendary pirates themselves, everyone has an astonishing tale to tell. There are even accounts of ghost pirates seeking revenge on their enemies and reclaiming stolen treasure. This bloody band of buccaneers sailed together, caroused together, pillaged and plundered together, and, like most outlaws, died together. From the top of the hawk’s nest to the depths of the galleys, this rousing collection of stories
vividly captures the pirates’ most savage and glorious existence (from the back of the book)

Review: I read this while on a cruise in the Caribbean. While my reading location made it all the more exciting, this collection would be just as enjoyable sitting in a chair at home. McCarthy did an excellent job of gathering these stories. Some dark, some funny, some historic, some cheesy-action, each was perfect in it's turn. My only qualm was at least two were chapters from larger works and left one at a cliff hanger! Luckily, both were easy to download on my kindle or I should be in rather dire straights. I highly recommend this collection for any pirate enthusiasts!

Bookmarks: 7.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-59228-284-5
Date Finished: 1-6-2013
Pages: 219

Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: The Journal of John Wesley ed. by Nehemiah Curnock

Synopsis: The annotated journal of John Wesley, covering nearly 50 years of traveling and preaching.

Review: First, I wasn't fond of the annotation. I felt there was much I was missing. However, this did give me an overview of Wesley's life, focusing on his traveling and preaching. Second, I know Wesley was a great man and highly used of God - but I have a feeling, from his journal, that I would NOT like him in person. He struck me as pompous and holier-than-thou. I download on my kindle a collection of his sermons. I also intend to find another edition of his journal, with the hope my first impression of his is wrong.

Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

Published: 1963
Date Finished: 1-2-2014
Pages: 433

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ramble: A Year Behind and A Year Ahead

Once again, I reflect on the past year of reading and look ahead to the coming year. 


Total: 103.

This is 3 more than my goal of 100 and I'm pleased. In particular, I'm happy I was able to improve over 2012's dismal showing of barely 80 books.

I jumped head first into Graphic Novels. I discovered that I highly enjoy this story format.

My favorite reads from 2013:

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents (Entire Series)

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Necromancer Chronicles by Amanda Downum

Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki

The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation by Nancy Rubin Stuart

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

A Treasury of A.W. Tozer: A Collection of Tozer Favorites by A.W. Tozer


This year, I have several book resolutions:

One, I'm going to try not to buy so many books. Seriously. Oh, I'll buy some. But no more estate sales or book sales or Amazon binges. I have so many I need to read....

Two, I'm going to adhere more strictly to the Rule of Three.

Three, I'm going to explore Manga.

What about you? How did your 2013 reading go? Any 2014 goals or plans?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ramble: SantaThing

I participated in LibraryThing's SantaThing this year, for the first time. You pay a certain amount and another LibraryThing member is assigned to pick out books for you.

Here is what my person picked out for me:

Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson

The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity by Jill LaPore

Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe by Bette Greene

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

There was a glitch in the system and I didn't get to pick out books for someone else. But, there is always next year!

I'm excited to dive into these books!

Review: Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Reciped from Asheville's New South Kitchen by Elizabeth Sims with Chef Biran Sonoskus

Synopsis: As an early pioneer in the farm-to-fork movement, chef Brian Sonoskus has been creating delicious dishes at the Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, since it first opened in 2000. And from then on, Tupelo's food has been consistently fresh, made from scratch, sassy, and scrumptious. Heralding in its own unique style of cuisine representative of the New South, the Tupelo Honey Cafe salutes the love of Southern traditions at the table, but like the people of Asheville, marches to its own drum. The result is a cookbook collection of more than 125 innovative riffs on Southern favorites, illustrated with four-color photographs of the food, restaurant, locals, farmers' markets, and farms, in addition to black-and-white archival photography of Asheville. At Tupelo, grits become Goat Cheese Grits, fried chicken becomes Nutty Fried Chicken with Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and poached eggs become Eggs with Homemade Crab Cakes and Lemon Hollandaise Sauce. Capturing the independent and creative spirit of Asheville, Tupelo has garnered praise from the New York Times, Southern Living, and the Food Network, just to name a few. (from the back of the book)

Review: I received this as a Christmas gift from a dear friend's parents. They regularly travel to Asheville and always stop at the Tupelo Honey Café. I was delighted to receive this. The recipes sound marvelous and made my mouth water. I didn't grow up with southern cooking, but my husband did. This book has many of the classic recipes, like Red-Eye Gravy, Corn and Crab Chowder, and Shrimp and Grits. I'm eager to get cooking!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-4494-0064-4
Date Finished: 12-25-2013
Pages: 222

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: A Book of Books by Abelardo Morell

Synopsis: A collection of photos of books, highlighting their beauty and mystery.

Review: I received this book as a Christmas gift. It's not something I would have picked for myself, although I enjoyed it. It's a bit artsy for my taste, actually. However, the photographs are gorgeous and I enjoyed the book quotes spaced throughout.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8212-5814-9
Date Finished: 12-25-2013
Pages: 107

Monday, January 6, 2014

Review: Virginias at Home: Family Life in the Eighteenth Century by Edmind S. Morgan

Synopsis: A brief academic book on family life in 18th century Virginia, starting with early childhood and progressing through marriage and older life. Topics include social intracaies, gathering, economics and the like.

Review: This is a slender volume, book 2 in a series published by Colonial Williamsburg entitled "Williamsburg in America". This volume details home life in Virginia during the 18th century. The author clearly knows this topic. His prose was clear and easy to absorb, but not simplistic or patronizing. Many times I wished he would go deeper into a subject, only to remind myself this book was intended as an overview. I was able to download on my kindle several of Morgan's sources. I recommend this book as an excellent starting point for this topic. I think it would particularly serve young adults as a good source.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Published: 1952
Date Finished: 12-24-2013
Pages: 99