Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: 100 Masterpieces in Colour ed. by Christopher Wood

Synopsis: Wood takes the reader through 100 masterpieces of arts, starting with the cave painting of pre-history and ending in the late 20th century. Each is carefully chosen and comes with a brief synopsis of the author, his work and influence, the painting's important and technique.

Review: I can't remember if this book is one I picked up for $1 at a book sale or one that sat on my parent's shelf for years. Either way, it's one I would have keep forever and never read if not for my need reading plan (Alpha by Title). This was a quick read, being mostly pictures, but by no means shallow or simple. Wood does an excellent job of describing each work and giving the reason behind it's significance. He speaks with authority and knowledge and the usual artsy jargon. My qualm is with the works he chose. No female artists. I understand for much of history, female artist weren't prominent or influential enough to be considered. But I refuse to believe out of 100 masterpieces, there was no female artist who's work reviled that of her male peers. Vigee-Lebrun? Morisot? O'Keefe? For this reason, I am not please with Wood's book. I feel he chose works deemed masterpieces by the general public and not works that were actually masterpieces. Shame on him. Just because everyone like a painting doesn't make it great. Everyone like Twilight and that sucks.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-600-31277-1
Date Finished: 2-27-2014
Pages: 124

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: 100 Malicious Little Mysteries sel. by Isaac Asimov, Martin Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander

Synopsis: Charmingly insidious and satisfyingly devious, these 100 baffling little mysteries—selected by such prominent authors as Isaac Asimov—are just the thing to suit your most malevolent mood. These tales come from the pen of many well-known writers in the field, including Michael Gilbert, Edward Wellen, Edward D. Hack, Bill Bronzini, Lawrence Treat, and Francis Nevins, Jr. Whether it’s “The Unfriendly Neighbor,” or a “Class Reunion,” “A Recipe for Revenge,” or “An Exercise in Insurance,” these stories are sure to keep you up all night, puzzling over their possible solutions. Each one has its own particular and irresistible appeal: an unexpected twist, a delectable puzzle, a devastating revelation, or perhaps even a refreshing display of pernicious spit. (From the online description)

Review: This is a deliciously thrilling collection. Each story is unique enough so they don't blend together. There are some murder mysteries, horrors, well-known faces and people with no names. Past and Future and Present all appear and no one is who they say they are. My favorites, of the 100, were Trick or Treat by Judith Garner, "Wide O-" by Elsin Ann Graffam and "The Witches in the Closet" by Anne Chamberlain. But their wasn't a story in the bunch I didn't enjoy. Highly recommend for a quick taste of mystery and macabre.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-88029-169-7
Date Finished: 2-26-2014
Pages: 432

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: Books: A Living History by Martyn Lyons

Synopsis: From the first scribbling on papyrus to the emergence of the e-book, this wide-ranging overview of the history of the book provides a fascinating look at one of the most efficient, versatile, and enduring technologies ever developed. The author traces the evolution of the book from the rarefied world of the hand-copied and illuminated volume in ancient and medieval times, through the revolutionary impact of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, to the rise of a publishing culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the subsequent impact of new technologies on this culture.
Many of the great individual titles of the past two millennia are discussed as well as the range of book types and formats that have emerged in the last few hundred years, from serial and dime novels to paperbacks, children’s books, and Japanese manga. The volume ends with a discussion of the digital revolution in book production and distribution and the ramifications for book lovers, who can’t help but wonder whether the book will thrive—or even survive—in a form they recognize. (from the online description)
Review: Marvelous, marvelous book! With deft prose and well-chosen pictures, Lyons goes through the history of the printed word. Starting with wedge marks on clay and going up to the digital Kindle, he sweeps the reader through the torrid history of books and reading. Divided into 5 sections, with smaller subheadings, this is a easy, fast, interesting read. It's on overview, not a comprehensive work, so it will leave you with the urge to go find out more about lots of people, places, event and ideas. Just my sort of book. Anyone who is a bibliophile will enjoy this wonderful volume.
Bookmarks: 8 of 10
Awards: None
ISBN: 78-1-60606-083-4
Date Finished: 2-22-2014
Pages: 224

Review: Early Christian Thinkers: The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures ed. by Paul Foster

Synopsis: In an era of dynamic change and danger, a path was forged by the early church in its first three centuries toward a lasting identity. Written by an international team of leading scholars, Early Christian Thinkers introduces the lives and works of twelve key Christians from the second and third centuries, a formative period for the church. Each chapter includes a biographical and historical overview of the thinker, a survey of the figure's major writings and ideas, a discussion of individual's influence on the formation of Christian tradition, and a consideration of the thinker's lasting significance. (from the back for the book)

Review:  I'm not sure how to rate this book. I bought it thinking it was an introduction of these great thinkers to the layperson. I was wrong. It's highly academic, using terminology form theological and , philosophical study, literary analysis and historical ideology. I didn't understand half of what they were saying. This doesn't mean it was a bad book. The authors did an excellent job of introducing the thinker and giving a fair overview of their life, works and controversies. If I was a scholar of the higher order, this would be an desired book for my studies. As I am a lay person with a singular difficulty in understanding theology and philosophy, I found it hard to muddle through.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8308-3937-7
Date Finished: 2-22-2014
Pages: 202

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Review: The Buccaneers of America by John Esquemeling

Synopsis: Esquemeling served the Buccaneers as a barber-surgeon, and was present for all their exploits. Little did he suspect that his first hand observations would some day be cherished as the only authentic and true history of the Buccaneers and Marooners of the Spanish Main. A true account of the most remarkable assaults committed upon the coasts of the West Indies by the Buccaneers of Jamaica and Tortuga. (from the online description)

Review: This is a thick, hefty book. Full of the dastardly exploits of famous pirates, including Captain Morgan and L'Ollonais, it's marvelous history of those sea-dogs. It's a bit lengthy at points and can sometime get bogged down in minute details, but that doesn't detract from the overall story. Esquemeling probably sensationalize the details a bit, but the general story rings truth. This is considered the best historical accounts of pirates during the late 1600s, and one of the only ones told from an eye-witness. If you are a pirate affecinado, this is a must read.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 1967 (Dover Edition)
Date Finished: 2-19-2014
Pages: 506

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: The Baron's Gloves by Louisa May Alcott

Synopsis: A Story of Adventure and Romance! Two rather young woman, Amy and Helen, are traveling with an older Uncle and doing the "tour" of Europe. They are supposedly soaking up education but secretly yearning for adventures and romance. At this wish for adventure, a pair of gloves suddenly drops beside them from the balcony above their hotel room in Coblentz. Ah, whose gloves? The two young men who enter the lives of these ladies are rich and eligible adventurers traveling through Europe and agree to play a prank on the young women by becoming aides to their uncle. (from the back of the book)

Review: This book. This book! Oh, where to start. First, Alcott is a fantastic writer  - as long as she sticks to certain genre (Thrillers and whatever genre Little Women gets stuffed into). The adventure and romance genre - no. The romance is sappy and saccharine, full of woeful glances and tender sighs (bleck) and the adventure is gentle and sweet and always turns out well (lame). Second, The characters are one-dimensional, either sweet or manly or old or jolly or prudent or romantic - you only get to pick one. As for the story itself, it's not bad if you can get past the syrupy lovey-dovey nonsense. I enjoyed it, as far as a light read goes - and I do mean light. There is nothing here to tax the brain cells. at. all. Third, the blurb on the back is the worst I've ever read for a story. It reads like something from an uneducated 7 year old book report. Sigh. If you like Alcott, read this, but be prepared to vomit from the sentimentality of the whole thing.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-4041-8616-6
Date Finished: 2-17-2014
Pages: 128

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ramble: Booky News

I'm currently bidding for several large lots of book on an estate sale website. Normally, I would just toss money at them until ALL the books were mine.

But I find myself reacting differently this time. After carefully considering all the books in the lot, I have let several boxes go, deciding not to bid on them.

How unlike me. I wonder if I'm growing up.....

In other news, I have discovered I enjoy the sappy romantic books popular in from the late 1800s into the 1930s. If you have any suggestions about books from this era I would enjoy, let me know. I'm always looking for more fine authors to explore!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Review: The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Synopsis: Part I, the original Marchioness, is in the Cinderella (and Miss Pettigrew) tradition, while Part II, called The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, is an absorbing melodrama; most novels end 'and they lived happily ever after' but this one develops into a realistic commentary on late-Victorian marriage. 'Delightful... A sparky sense of humour combined with lively social commentary make this a joy to read' wrote the Bookseller. Kate Saunders told Open Book listeners that she was up until two in the morning finishing this 'wildly romantic tale whose 'hero and heroine are totally unromantic' (Daily Telegraph); the Guardian referred to 'a touch of Edith Wharton's stern unsentimentality'; the Spectator wrote about the novel's 'singular charm'; and the Daily Mail stressed the 'sharp observations in this charming tale.' (from the Persephone Books description)

Review: This is a queer, strange little book. I was eager to read this because, like many people, I adore Burnett's Children's book. This book, of course, was to be more serious and adult. However, I was neither a sentimental romance or a melodrama commenting on marriage - but a strange mix of the two. At time I enjoyed it, and then, I would hate it. I'm still not certain how I feel about it. The ending was abrupt and odd and startling. It felt like it should have come on, but it didn't. I'm not sure I would recommend this book.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-903155-141
Date Finished: 2-15-2014
Pages: 308

Review: Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson

Synopsis: Who Knew One Book Could Cause So Much Chaos? Barbara Bunde is in a bind. Times are harsh, and Barbara's bank account has seen better days. Maybe she could sell a novel ... if she knew any stories. Stumped for ideas, Barbara draws inspiration from her fellow residents of Silverstream, the little English village she knows inside and out. To her surprise, the novel is a smash. It's a good thing she wrote under a pseudonym, because the folks of Silverstream are in an uproar. But what really turns Miss Bunde's world around is this: what happens to the characters in her book starts happening to their real-life counterparts. Does life really imitate art? (from the back of the book)

Review: What a clever, darling, lovely, little novel. I enjoyed this immensely. The characters have a lively depth and wit, and I laughed many times at their antics. The romance is sweet but not cheesy and I enjoyed seeing the good people find their way. There is no wild action or danger - just people, doing what people do. But Stevenson infused something normal with a magic that delights. I highly recommend this work and I'm eager to read the sequel!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7082-6
Date Finished: 2-14-2014
Pages: 299

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Review: A Season of Advent Herbal Symbolism, Projects, Garden Designs and Recipes by Don Haynie

Synopsis: This is a how-to book on the Herbs of Advent. Haynie takes the reader through each herb, it's meaning and lore, and how to grow it. Then, he gives instructions for creating Advent wreaths for the herbs, how to create an Advent herb garden and then traditional bake good recipes of Advent.

Review: This is a clever little book, odd, but in a good way. It's clearly self-published but that doesn't detract from the prose. Using clear instructions and with an obvious enthusiasm, Haynie gives the reader everything they need to create meaningful herb decorations of Advent, either for home or church. I'm not sure what the recipes in the back had to do with the herbs, but it's was nice to having a collection of the traditional recipes for Advent from across the globe. And it did make me want to bake a few!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 2000
Date Finished: 2-13-2014
Pages: 135

Review: Skippyjon Jones by Judith B. Schachner

Synopsis: Skippyjon Jones is no ordinary kitten. Oh, no. . . .He's actually El Skippito, a great sword-fighter ready to battle banditos the world over! With a little imagination and a whole lot of fun, this frisky cat dons a mask and cape and takes on a bad bumble-beeto to save the day. And along the way, he'll be sure to steal young reader's hearts, yes indeed-o! (from the back of the book)

Review: Oh, heavens, what an adorable book! I loved it! So clever, so fun, so hilarious. Skippyjon Jones is so a quirky, cute, crazy little cat. Kids will love this book and adults won't mind reading it to them. The book leads itself nicely to crazy voices, fun little sayings and the chance to talk about imagination and who we are. I highly recommend.

Note: There is some controversy surrounding this because Jones is a Siamese cat who pretends he is a Chihuahua - and he uses some mangled Spanish in his adventures. There are people who feel this is racist and disrespectful to Mexican culture. I can see how some might feel this way, and I would caution the reader to be aware of this.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0142404034
Date Finished: 2-13-2014
Pages: 32

Review: The Living Rain Forest: An Animal Alphabet by Paul Kratter

Synopsis: The Living Rain Forest helps teach about the rare, diverse, and beautiful animal life of the rain forest. This book features just a few of the millions of species of animals found only in tropical rain forests. Some of the animals, like the jaguar and macaw, are familiar sights. Others, like the uakari and the zorro, are so rare that little is known about them. The fantastic illustrations are done in acrylic and watercolors. Included with the A to Z animals are a description of the layers of the rain forest and a world map of rain forest locations. Each animal is given a brief description, including physical attributes and behaviors. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a clever little alphabet book. It's a strange book, really. Usually alphabet books are simple, most pictures with a few small words. In this book, the pictures are detailed and gorgeous and the prose is complex. Big words, like aquatic, nocturnal, and predator, fill the sentences (and then are defined just below the main paragraph). This is an excellent book for a parent to read to a child. And the information is interesting and well-presented. My only qualm is the child who needs to learn the alphabet wouldn't be able to read ANY of the prose. Still, it's a good book and I'm glad I bought it.

Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0439906938
Date Finished: 2-13-2014
Pages: 34

Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: Fluffy and Baron by Laura Rankin

Synopsis: Baron is a German Shepherd and Fluffy, a duck. This unlikely pair form a beautiful friendship - but what will Baron do when Fluffy leaves to spend time with her own kind?

Review: This is an adorable book about a friendship between a dog and a duck. Based on a true story from the author's childhood, this story is sweet and fun and heartwarming. Simple prose combined with cheery illustrations are sure to be a favorite of any child.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0545238331
Date Finished: 2-13-2014
Pages: 32

Aquisitions: First Trip to a Local Church's Book Sale

There is a moderate sized church near us that has a book sale every year. Last year was the first time I learned about it, but I wasn't able to attend. This year, I made a point of going as early as I could.

I was rather worried about what sort of books I would find, being that it's a church. I expected piles of old hymnals and past-their-prime cheesy theology books. Instead, the entire fellowship hall was full of bright, modern, shiny volumes!

I spent $11 and this is what I got:
A Season of Advent Herbal Symbolism, Projects, Garden Designs and Recipes by Don Haynie
Fluffy and Baron by Laura Rankin
The Living Rain Forest: An Animal Alphabet by Paul Kratter
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
Black Livingstone: A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth-Century Congo by Pagan Kennedy
Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Age by Arthur Pierce Middleton
Oh, Ranger! True Stories from Our National Parks by Mark J. Saferstein
Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt   
First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis
To Be a Slave by Julius Lester
Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds
World of Jesus, The: Making Sense of the People and Places of Jesus' Day by Dr. William H. Marty
The Portable Enlightenment Reader by Isaac Kramnick
I also purchase two books to turn in for credit, and a book called American Rifle, for a friend. Oh, and one about maps and cartography I haven't decided if I'm going to keep.

My favorite is Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner - I've been wanting this book for a while and I'm so excited to have found it for 50 cents!


Review: The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint

Synopsis: A young woman locked in rage yet seeking magic, Ash is drawn into a wondrous Otherworld of totems and dryads, living tarots and mystic charms. At the same time, Ash's cousin Nina is stalked by an Otherworld demon-a manitou who can force her mind and soul into the bodies of beasts. Ash must find the strength to overcome her own anger, learn the full power of magic, and save Nina before she becomes the manitou's weapon, turning the faerie realm into an arctic wasteland. (from the back of the book)

Review: I've heard many things about Charles de Lint, but this was the first of his books I've read. I think I started with the wrong one. It's a YA novel, and it's cultural reference date it (Deb Gibbson, Sassy, Walkman) and make it hard to read. The story itself is decent, but nothing to recommend itself. The characters have little depth, but do manage to stay away from sterotypes (except for the whole Native America magic thing). In the end. I wouldn't recommend this book, but I won't dissuade someone from reading it either. And I intend to seek out more Charles de Lint. One book can't tell me everything about an author.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-14-230218-x
Date Finished: 2-12-2014
Pages: 134

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Nine Witch Tales ed by Abby Kedabra

Synopsis: A collection of nine short fairy tales, all centering on witches. Also included is the Witches Cauldron Poem from Shakespeare's Macbeth. The book was published in 1968, although many of the stories are from long before that.

Review: I purchased this book after reading about it on LibraryThing, in my Fairy Tale group. I enjoyed it, but reading it made me aware of something I hadn't realized before. I'm a modern fairy tale girl. All these stories had a similar theme; the witch was bad. This bothered me, and it took me a minute to realize why. Modern fairy tales often cast the witch as good or neutral (Think Wicked). It seemed strange to me to read stories where the witch was always evil. Another thing that was clear was the lack of strong female characters. More accurately, the strong female character (the witch) was evil and could only be vanquished by the male (the prince) who was there to rescue to helpless maiden. Not all the stories featured helpless maidens. One had a helpless old woman and one had a plucky young girl. But on the whole, strong women were deemed evil, curious women had bad things happen to them, but obedient, sweet, docile women were rescued by the prince and lived happily ever after. This reminded me again why I favor retold fairy tales. However, I don't think it's the books fault. It a product of it's time. If you enjoy older, classic tales about witches, this is an excellent collection.

Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: None
Date Published: 1968
Date Finished: 2-21-2014
Pages: 112

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ramble: Three Threads

I've given more thoughts to how I will pick my next reads. I really like the Rule of Three because it prevents me from getting washed in fiction and neglecting my stacks of non-fiction.

But, this new idea, of reading my To Be Read book in alpha order of title - regardless of genre? I don't know, but there is something quite enticing about that system.

But, I don't want to neglect my spiritual reading either....

And then there are the series I promised myself I would read this year.

So, here is the new proposed plan.

Thread One: Continue to read Christian books, 3 at time, using the Facebook Method to choose the order

Thread Two: Read the To Be Read Pile in order, excluding the occasional book with particular requirements (i.e. the Daily devotional books or the series that too closely match Thread Three)

Thread Three: Start reading the series, switching between general fiction, fantasy and science fiction, as my tastes and Thread Two dictate.

What say you? Does this sound plausible?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reveiw: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

Synopsis: Miss Pettigrew, a dowdy governess, is sent by an employment agency to the glamorous home of Delysia LaFosse. There, Miss Pettigrew is swept up into the high-society whirlwind life of the young aspiring actress. The entire book takes place over the course of one day, a day with a mad mix of screwball comedy, beauty, romance, adventure and love.

Review: I adored this book! The characters, the story, the crazy action and romance - all of it. This book made me smile, a warm deep feeling. Pettigrew is a every-woman characters and yet, unique. To see her grow made me happy. Miss LaFosse is that woman we would hate except she so kind and effervescent, we love her instead. Each of the characters are well-drawn, complete, with depth and meaning. The story progresses just as it should, with the right things happening at the right time. I can't recommend this book enough.

Note: This book would be out-of-print if not for the brilliant efforts of Persephone Books. With their ever true discerning eye, they published this gem, including giving it one of their trademark interiors. For more about this book, go to their website here.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 9781903155103
Date Finished: 2-10-2014
Pages: 256

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ramble: Pick Me!

How do you pick the next book you are going to read? I ask because I've come across a new method that intrigues me.

I learned it from EmScape on LibraryThing. The idea is you sort the books you haven't read alphabetically, by title. Then, you read the first one, and then the second and so on and so forth.

If I were to chose this route, here are the next ten books I would read:

100 Malicious Little Mysteries ed. by Martin H. Greenberg
100 Masterpieces in Colour ed by Christopher Wood
100 Vicious Little Vampire Stories ed. by Martin H. Greenberg
100% Pure Florida Fiction ed. by Susan Hubbard
13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke
2061: Odyssey Three by Arthur C. Clarke
30 Days Muslim Prayer Focus: An Annual "10/40 Window" Project pub. By World Christian News & Books
You can see a pattern, right? Or lack there of? This method holds a strong appeal to me. I am not certain why. Perhaps because it mirror two of my three favorite methods:

1. The Random Number Generator Method: It only worked when my book were logged into an excel program. I would assign each book a number then use an online number generator to pick 5 books. I had to choose one of them to read.

2. Picking 3-5 books, assigning numbers, then posting the numbers on facebook and letting my assorted friends and acquaintances vote by number. Whichever number gets the most votes, that's the book I read, with the remainder in descending order of number of vote.

I've been diligent about sticking to my Rule of Three. But I wonder - is there a way to integrate EmScape's system into my Rule of Three?

What about you? What method do you use for picking your next read?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review: The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book by Albert Stevens Crockett

Synopsis: From pre Civil War bartending to the night clubs of the 1940s, these bar books document the trends and mores of their respective eras. Beginning with the first known recipe book compiled for those seeking to serve sophisticated beverages, through the birth of many of the 21st century's drink standards and the tales of those who consumed them, these drink guides provide an insider's glimpse into the excess and splendor of the pre- and post-Prohibition eras.
Based on the actual bar book used by the Waldorf-Astoria prior to Prohibition, this collection of cocktails serves up more than 350 recipes. In addition to documenting the origin of many cocktails and mixed drinks still commonplace today, the book chronicles the background of their creation and the antics of some of the cronies Buffalo Bill Cody and Bat Masterson, among others who were regulars at the bar. (from the online description)

Review: I picked this up at vintage shop, along with a marvelous hat (see picture below). This is a faithful reprint of the infamous bar book that survived Prohibition. It's a fascinating read - at times. It clearly wasn't meet to be read and used by modern cocktail drinkers. The prose has too many reference to people long dead and forgotten. As for the recipes, there are amusing and interesting to read, but might be hard to copy. Several time, there are no measurements or instructions. It also must be stated, this book, while printed in 2003, was written in 1935. There are no recipes for Tequila or Vodka, and certainly none for the modern flavored alcohols or schnapps. Almost all the recipes are for Gin, Vermouth, Rum or Brandy. Which, if you like that, then this is perfect for you. Bitters also features heavily, which in my research, I discovered, are actually hard to procure as they have fallen out of popularly.
Having said that, I found several recipes I wish to try - the Jack Rose, Ruby, Roosevelt, and the Strawberry. As my best friend has a lovely collection of quality old-time alcohol, I think I can persuade her to have a vintage cocktail night!
In the end, if you are a Prohibition enthusiast or just enjoy reading about cocktail days gone by, you will enjoy this book. If you are looking for fun new party drinks, this is not the book for you.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-9743259-0-2
Date Finished: 2-8-2014
Pages: 177

Me, in the vintage hat, reading this book.

Review: Voices of Chaos by A.C. Crispin and Ru Emerson (Starbridge, Book 7)

Synopsis: A newly discovered planet - peopled by elegant feline beings called Arrekhi - has requested admission into the interplanetary Cooperative League of Systems. Just out of Starbridge Academy, Magdalena Perez is thrilled to part of the liaison team that will be the first CLS representative to the planet. but there's more to this sophisticated culture than meets the eye. The Arrekhi are rumored to be skillful at dialogue - and deception. And Magdalena's empathic powers can sense a cruel secret that is being concealed. A secret that would instantly disqualify the Arrekhi from membership. A secret that has created seething pockets of underground rebellion. A secret that could plunge the entire planet into a bloodbath. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is my least favorite of all the Starbridge novels. It's boring. The only reason I finished it is because I was determined to read the entire series. The characters are meh, the action is flat and predictable and I was glad to be done. As with Ancestor's World, you spend a lot of time on a alien planet but learn very little about the aliens. I recommend the series as a whole, but this book you might skip and be none the less for.

Bookmarks: 5.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-00516-0
Date Finished: 2-8-2014
Pages: 316

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ramble: Favorite Place to Read

Here, tucked into bed, with my husband beside me and the dogs on my legs - or lap. The one in the picture is Macey and this is her favorite reading position.
This here is the good life.

Review: Ancestor's World by A.C. Crispin and T. Jackson King (Starbridge, Book 6)

Synopsis: On the planet Na-Dina, the tombs in the Ancestor’s Valley have lain undisturbed for six thousand years. A fully intact royal chamber promises treasures beyond reckoning, but no one expected ancient Mizari artifacts. When a member of the team is brutally murdered, Ambassador-at-Large Mahree Burroughs arrives, determined to find the killer…no matter the cost. What she discovers will change her life, the lives of the Na-Dina, and the lives of everyone in the Cooperative League of Systems. (from the back of the book)

Review: So far, this is my least favorite of the Starbridge novels. It starts slow and never really picks up. The romance is contrived and improbable and there is way too much technically jargon about land faults and earthquakes and tectonic plates. I was also disappointed there wasn't more about the Na-Dina culture. There was some and I enjoyed, but for being on the Na-Dina homeworld, you didn't see much of their daily life. I was pleased with the bits you did see - in particular the gender discussions between the Na-Dina and human characters. The who-dunnit part was well done, if a bit obvious. Overall, this is a decent story - just not as good as the other novels in the series.

Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-00351-6
Date Finished: 2-7-2014
Pages: 304

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Honk the Moose by Phil Strong and Kurt Wiese

Synopsis: Based on a true story from Biwabik, Minnesota, it tells to story of Honk the Moose and how he came to live in the town. One very cold winter, a hungry Moose wanders in the livery owned by Ivar's family. It's up to Ivar and his friend Waino to convince the town to let Honk the Moose stay - but will the town agree or will they shoot him? Woven into the story is also the description of the lives of Finnish immigrants during the 1930s.

Review: This is a pleasant, amusing book. I enjoyed it. I liked how Strong gave us both Ivar's perspective and Honk's perspective - and the hilarious and crazy way the townsfolk responded to a moose in their midst! It enjoyed the cultural thread too - explaining how Ivar is a second generation Finnish immigrant and I liked how Strong showed the integration of American and Finnish ways. The story is light and funny and full of adventure. The illustrations by Kurt Wiese suit the story perfectly and made me chuckle on more than one occasion. I highly recommend this book. It would be excellent to read out loud to children - in particular because the Moose got his name from the sounds he makes!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor, 1936. Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1970

ISBN: 978-1930650367
Date Finished: 2-6-2014
Pages: 80

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review: Scratch Beginnings: Me, $35 and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard

Synopsis: What can you get with $25 and a dream? Adam Shepard graduated from college feeling disillusioned by the apathy around him and was then incensed after reading Barbara Ehrenreich's famous work Nickel and Dimed—a book that gave him a feeling of hopelessness about the working class in America. He set out to disprove Ehrenreich's theory—the notion that those who start at the bottom stay at the bottom—by making something out of nothing to achieve the American Dream.
Shepard's plan was simple. With a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back, and $25 in cash, and restricted from using his contacts or college education, he headed out for Charleston, South Carolina, a randomly selected city with one objective: to work his way out of homelessness and into a life that would give him the opportunity for success. His goal was to have, after one year, $2,500, a working automobile, and a furnished apartment. Scratch Beginnings is the earnest and passionate account of Shepard's struggle to overcome the pressures placed on the homeless. His story will not only inspire readers but will also remind them that success can come to anyone who is willing to work hard—and that America is still one of the most hopeful countries in the world. (from the back of the book)

Review:  I found this when researching Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. Shepard wrote this as a rebuttal to her conclusion that it is impossible to climb out of poverty. Shepard said it was and set out to prove it. I wasn't much impressed with Ehrenreich's writing, feeling that her conclusion was based on half-ass'd attempts and prissy attitude. While Shepard's work was considerable less prissy, it is impossible to compare. For starters, he's a young, white male. The jobs open to him would not be open to a middle-aged woman - meaning Ehrenreich couldn't get the $10 per hour job that Shepard scored. On the other hand, Shepard started with almost nothing - literally. Not even an extra pair of skivvies! And using disciple and smart choices, he ended his year with a furnished house and nearly $5K in the bank!
Honestly, in the end, I don't feel Shepard's conclusion was any better than Ehrenreich's. Both contain true - it's hard to make it, but you can - but it seems that Shepard gave no room for messing up and Ehrenreich felt that no matter what poor choices one makes, things should be easy. I'd like to see Shepard's experiment repeated with a female lead, or someone with kids. I'd also like to see Ehrenreich's experiment repeated with someone less prissy.
Both works are interesting to read, but I feel both are heavily flawed and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-171427-6
Date Finished: 2-2-2014
Pages: 221

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review: Three Treatises by Martin Luther

Synopsis: Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg in 1517. In the three years that followed, Luther clarified and defended his position in numerous writings. Chief among these are the three treatises written in 1520. In these writings Luther tried to frame his ideas in terms that would be comprehensible not only to the clergy but to people from a wide range of backgrounds. To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation is an attack on the corruption of the church and the abuses of its authority, bringing to light many of the underlying reasons for the Reformation. The second treatise, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, contains Luther's sharp criticism of the sacramental system of the Catholic church. The Freedom of a Christian gives a concise presentation of Luther's position on the doctrine of justification by faith. The translations of these treatises are all taken from the American edition of Luther's Works. This new edition of Three Treatises will continue to be a popular resource for individual study, church school classes, and college and seminary courses. (from the back of the book)

Review: I've heard about Martin Luther my entire life, but this is the first chance I've had to read his work. I thoroughly enjoyed his prose. I expect them to be verbose and obscure, full of flowery language. Instead, his writing is clear, concise, direct and easy to understand. He did not shy away from his point or from calling out those he felt were responsible for the grievous errors he saw in the church. His work is cogent and logical and well written. I highly recommend this version of his work for anyone who wished to better understand Luther and his influence and ideas.

Bookmarks: 7.5 of 10

Awards: None

Published: English 1960 (Based on the German/Latin work published in 1520)
Date Finished: 2-2-2014
Pages: 316

Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Shoes: Their History in Words and Pictures by Charlotte and David Yue

Synopsis: The Yues join forces in their fifth nonfiction book for children to provide an absorbing overview of a familiar subject- shoes. In this comprehensive volume on the history of shoes, Charlotte and David Yue walk us through such subjects as the earliest shoe, the social and political significance of shoes in history, ancient and modern shoe design, shoe manufacturing, shoes in legend and literature, and what shoes reveal about their wearers. A complete resource on a subject with which children already are familiar. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a kid's book about shoes. Therefore, the sentence structure and general vocabulary are simple. Yet, the authors did not shy away from using the proper names for the different kids of shoes, using the correct Latin, Greek, French or Spanish. Well-organized, with drawn pictures of each shoe, this is a fine starting resource for costuming and history reports. The bibliography in the back is excellent and an excellent resource for further study. My qualm is that book would highly benefit from color pictures, in particular of actual historical artifacts from museums. I would also like to read an updated version, as this was published in 1997. Overall, it's an informative read about an interesting subject.

Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-395-72667-0
Date Finished: 2-1-2014
Pages: 91

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Review: Myth and Magic: The Art of John Howe by John Howe

Synopsis: For the first time ever, a portfolio of illustrated work from the award-winning artist, John Howe, which reveals the breathtaking vision of one of the foremost fantasy artists in the world. Myth and Magic is arranged into six sections, which looks at the books by J.R.R. Tolkien that have inspired John, as well as a fascinating tour through the paintings that he has produced for some of the finest fantasy authors working today. From the beloved painting of Smaug which decorates The Hobbit, his numerous and bestselling calendar illustrations, the world famous "Gandalf" picture, which is synonymous with the HarperCollins one-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings, this large-format hardback will delight fans of Tolkien, and anyone who has been captured by the imagination of the artist who so brilliantly brings to life the literary vision of J.R.R. Tolkien. (from the back of the book)

Review: This pick this up without even looking at the inside because it was about LotR and it as $2 at B&N. First, I didn't know much about John Howe, but I recognized his work and was glad to read more about him. Second, his art is gorgeous - full of mystery and fire and life and death and emotion. Third, this book is horrible arranged, disjointed prose dumbed in between pictures that have confusing tags and no clear connection. It's a shame such marvelous art is hampered by a simple-to-solve problem as lack of organization.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7607-8686-4
Date Finished: 1-31-2014
Pages: 139

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Aquisitions: Birthday Booty

As usual, my dear husband took me on a shopping spree to Barnes and Noble for my Birthday. There is no limit other than what my good sense set (and it sets usually sets the limit at about $30).

I lucked out and B&N was having an after-Christmas sale - stacks of books for $2 each! Woohoo!

For $2 each, I bought:

Myth and Magic: The Art of John Howe by John Howe

Eyewitness to History: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era by National Geographic

The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip

The only non-$2 book I bought was Andromeda's Fall by William Dietz.

Oh, and they had lots of non-book items for $2, so I got U.S. History Study Cards.

In addition to my birthday spree, I also used birthday gift money to buy several books I've wants.

Nancy Drew, books 5, 7 and 17 (I'm filling in my collection)

The Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony by Alice Turner Curtis (a new collection of vintage books about girls during the Revolutionary War that I'm collecting)

Zenoscope's Grimm Fairy Tales Present, Volumes 8-14

And a half-dozen Newbery Books I couldn't find anywhere else!

All and all, I scored rather well this birthday!