Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review: Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game by Shelly Mazzanoble

Synopsis: Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress is a smart, humorous examination of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game from a female gamer's point of view. The book delves into the myths and realities of gamer stereotypes. It explains how to build a character for a D&D game, how to shop for gear, how to play, and how to find the perfect gaming group, all the while exploring the things that make the D&D game a rewarding and recurring social experience for both men and women (from the online description)

Review: As my husband and I are jumping into the D&D games (accompanied by my best friend and her boyfriend), I figured this would be an excellent intro for me to the game. Mostly, it was. Mazzanoble does a fine job of explaining D&D vernacular and slang, giving advice on weapons, class, fighting and interactions with team members. The writing was humorous at points, even earning an out-loud chuckle a few times. My qualm with the book is two fold, however. 1. The endless pop-culture reference got old. fast. The constant barrage of girly-girl nonsense (Prada-this, Oprah-that, Pedicure-this, High Heels-that) was funny the first few times, but by the second and third chapter, I was done. I wanted more information about the game and less omg-my-magic-boots-are-jimmy-choos! 2. While she breaks the stereotypes for D&D players, she simultaneously builds them for girls! Not every girl is going to interrupt the DM to ask about shopping or bring low-fat granola or whatever. I felt this book had a very narrow target audience, and wasn't for all girls or ever most girls, but a small sliver of girls - the ones who were Jimmy Choo shoes. For my part, I will recommend it to new girl D&D players, but I will give it a disclaimer due to this 2 facts.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7869-4726-3
Date Finished: 3-23-2014
Pages: 177

Review: Maybe a Bear Ate It! by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley

Synopsis: What happens when you can't find you FAVORITE book? When the book you LOVE is missing? Climb into the imagination of a young child in this hilarious picture book romp! (From the back of the book)

Review: This is a cute, clever picture book. The main character (who I think is a cat?) can't find her favorite book! So, she imagines all sorts of terrible things - a dinosaur stomping it or a bear eating it. When she finds it again, her rejoicing is hilarious. This is a perfect book to read young kids (5 and below). A few pages with no words give a perfect opportunity for young imaginations to narrate. The illustrations are well-done, simple and yet, sophisticated. I got a few chuckles from this book and will hold it ready should I have kids. Highly recommend!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-545-09918-9
Date Finished: 3-22-2014
Pages: 40

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ramble: Slow and Steady

For a while there, I was really blazing through my books. I'm not sure, but I seemed to have more time to read.

But then, I've been obliged to give up reading at night, since I don't get home from school until after 10pm and I'm up at 6am. Sigh.

At least I've learned to read while peddling an exercise bike! And there is still my normal reading during the boring parts of class. So, it's not all bad.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review: Ace-in-the-Hole Haggarty by R. M. Hankins

Synopsis: Bennett's ranch is the biggest in New Mexico - but he's had to step on a lot of toes to get there. Now, trouble crowds him on ever side - homesteaders take his water, rustlers take his cows and his enemies look to take his life. His only recourse is to hire Haggarty, a lean, tough killer with a shady past. But Haggarty's quick draw and quicker wits might not be enough to beat a gang of rustlers with an ace up their own sleeve!

Review: I purchased this book in a estate sale lot, along with about a dozen other western novels from the 1940-1950s. These are great. It's like a novelization of a John Wayne movie. Lots of swearing and quick shooting and gambling and name-calling. So-n-so's a yellow-belly this or a son-a-gun that. So delightfully cheesy. It's a light and easy read, perfect for a summer day on the deck with a snort of something stiff!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Published: 1945
Date Finished: 3-19-2014
Pages: 223

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: The Confessions of St. Augustine trans. by Rex Warner

Synopsis: In every age and every nation of the Western World since Augustine's death some fifteen hundred years ago, The Confessions have been acknowledge as one of mankind's great literary treasures. Into this tapestry of a great soul are woven the strands of all men's great concerns: the psychic impulses that snare us in selfishness, the ethical conflicts between good and evil, the religious quest for God's radiant love. (from the back of the book)

Review: I know this is a "great" work of Christianity because I was told it was. But it did nothing for me. It seemed jumbled and erratic and hard to understand, despite the use of simple, easy language. It was more stream-of-consciousness that I excepted. I didn't enjoy reading about Augustine's life and struggles with sin. He was honest and that's rare from someone who because famous for their faith. I think this book can make a huge difference in many people's hearts - but for me, it was just not what I prefer to read. It was a bit too sentimental and full of angst for my rational tastes.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-451-62474-2
Date Finished: 3-15-2014
Pages: 350

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: 100% Pure Florida Fiction: An Anthology ed. by Susan Hubbard and Robley Wilson

Synopsis: This anthology of modern Florida fiction showcases the work of 21 writers, including such literary lights as Frederick Barthelme, Alison Lurie, Jill McCorkle, Peter Meinke, and Joy Williams, as well as that of new and emerging writers. Sifting through over 600 stories in books, magazines, literary journals, and the internet, the editors selected the best Florida fiction of the century’s last decades. What these stories have in common, of course, is a Florida setting--but a Florida so strongly evoked that it is more character than place. In these stories Florida is sinister, full of alligators, creeping plants, heavy clouds, noir cops and con artists; it is the surreal spread of theme parks, condominiums, and strip malls; and it is a paradise--lost, regained, and remembered--of sea, sun, hammock, forest, and glade. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a standard collection of fiction centered around a theme. This theme happens to be Florida, but it doesn't feel particularly different from any other collection of literery works. Most of the stories were average, but three stood out for me. "The Gossamer Girl" by Aracelis Gonzalez Asendorf, "The Pool People" by Alison Lurie and "The Blind Gambler" by Jeffrey Greene.
I like Asendorf's work for exploring the connection between family, sexual abuse, parents and survival. I like the Blind Gambler because it takes place during the same hurricane that happened in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston. And I liked Lurie's work because it gave me the most delicious shivers up my spine. The rest, I could take or leave. If you enjoy Florida fiction, you will enjoy this, but it's nothing spectacular.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8130-1753-X
Date Finished: 3-13-2014
Pages: 203

Review: Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

Synopsis: "It does a man no good to be free until he learns how to live." These were the words of Amos Fortune, born the son of a king in the At-mun-shi tribe in Africa. When Amos was only fifteen years old, he was captured by slave traders and brought to Masachusetts, where he was sold at auction. Although his freedom has been taken, Amos never lost his dignity and courage. He dreamed of being free, and of buying the freedom of his closest friends. By the time he was sixty years old, Amos Fortune began to see those dreams come true. (from the back of the book)

Review: While I understand the important subject matter of this book, I found it a bit naïve. Amos never suffered under his masters - in fact, most of his training and livelihood came from the benevolence of those who owned him. It's no great feat to maintain your dignity and courage when you are treated that way your entire life. I would like to see if he would have keep those if he's been shipped down south to work the tobacco and cotton fields. Yes, he was a good man who did what he could for those around him. He was someone to be admired.
As for the story, if was a bit jumbled in the beginning, jumping back and forth between time-frames. But the end shaped up nicely, less jumbly and easier to read. I would recommend this book to kids, as it's a non-traumatic introduction to slavery. But it's a light read about a serious subject and should no means be taken as the end work.

Note: Amos Fortune was a real man. You can visit his original house in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. The money he left to the Schoolhouse because the Amos Fortune Fund, and is still being used today.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Newbery Medal, 1951

ISBN: 0-14-034158-7
Date Finished: 3-12-2014
Pages: 181

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Millie Cooper Series by Charlotte Herman

Synopsis: This series is comprised of three books, set in 1946-1947 Chicago. The first, Millie Cooper, 3B, introduces us to Millie Cooper, a shy, intelligent third-grader. Facing the task of writing an essay titled, "Why I am Special", she thinks a new Reynolds Rocket pen will help her write the essay - because she doesn't know why she is special. It take a few trials for her to learn how special she really is. In the next, Millie Cooper, Take a Chance, Millie must face her fears if she's going to get what she wants. In the last, Millie Cooper and Friends, a new girl changes Millie's friendship with her best friend - and Millie learns about life and friendships and growing up.

Review: I read Millie Cooper, Take a Chance in elementary school and it stuck with me for the rest of my life. Being a shy girl myself, with the exact same anxieties and fears as Millie, it was the first time I realized I wasn't the only one who had these fears. I cannot articulate what relief it brought me or how it helped heal old wounds. But, while I remembered the story, I'd forgotten the title and despite 10+ years of trying to find it, was unable. But thanks to some remarkable people in LibraryThing's Name That Book, I was able to find the book again - and buy it and other 2 I didn't know existed. Reading them again had the same impact on me as when I was a child. To remember, I am not the only one who thinks and feels this way - it is to be a little less anxious, I think. And even as an adult, I must remember to Take a Chance on things....
Some may find these books trite and old-fashioned, but to me, these books impacted me like few others have, something time has not diminished.

Bookmarks: 10 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-14-032072-5 / 0-14-034119-6 / 0-670-86043-3
Date Finished: 3-8-2014
Pages: 73 / 101 / 85

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

Synopsis: An American frigate, tracking down a ship-sinking monster, faces not a living creature but an incredible invention - a fantastic submarine commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo. Suddenly, a devastating explosion leaves just three survivors, who find themselves prisoners inside Nemo's death ship on an underwater odyssey around the world. From the pearl-laden waters of Ceylon to the icy dangers of the South Pole, Captain Neo, once of the greatest villains ever created, takes his revenge on all society! (From the back of the Bantam Classic Edition, 1981)

Review: This book intrigued me more than I expect, given the profoundly boring first few pages. Once the narrator finally was aboard the Nautilus, Verne's ability as a science fiction adventure write bloomed. He described dazzling underwater worlds, strange men and animals, and mysteries of the depth with excellent prose. I can see why this is a classic science fiction novel. Recommend for the ocean lover and the nerd alike.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-553-21252-4-275
Date Finished: 3-8-2014
Pages: 371

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: 100 Vicious Little Vampire Stories ed. by Robert Weinberg, Stefan Dziemianowicz, & Martin H Greenberg

Synopsis: 100 short stories, none for than 5 pages long, center on the theme of Vampire. Tasty bite-sized morsels of prose, each devilish and chilling. But beware, not all vampires are shaped like bats and suck your blood!

Review: This is a clever little collection, although I admit, after a while, I was rather tired to the theme and ready to set the book down. That's what I get, I suppose, for trying to read all 100 in a weekend. Some stories where hum-drum, some clever, one was even funny. Only one, however, left a chill in my spine and a dread in my heart - The Witness by Mike Ashley. Creeping-ass story, if ever there was one.
Overall, this is a good collection of vampire tales, with a wide range of proses, style, story-lines and lore. I recommend to anyone interested in Vampires or the like. But don't try to read them all at once - it's gets a little tedious.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-5661-9558-6
Date Finished: 3-4-2014
Pages: 588

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: Catwings Return by Ursula K. LeGuin

Synopsis: James and Harriett, two of the four Catwings, make an arduous trek back to the city, to find their mother. They face danger and exhaustion, but succeed in the end, and even met a new friend!

Review: Just as cute and clever as the first, I enjoyed the further adventures of the intrepid flying cats. They are smart and kind, a fine example. I enjoyed meeting the newest cat and seeing how things turned out. Again, I would recommend this to an early readers who enjoys stories about animals.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-590-42832-2
Date Finished: 3-3-2014
Pages: 48

Review: Catwings by Ursula K. LeGuin

Synopsis: Mrs. Jane Tabby can't explain why her four precious kittens were born with wings, but she's grateful that they are able to use their flying skills to soar away from the dangerous city slums where they were born. However, once the kittens escape the big city, they learn that country life can be just as difficult! (from the online description)

Review: Cute and clever, I enjoyed this pleasing little tale. The cats are fun and brave, even when things are scary. They face real trouble, but find peace in the end. I recommend for the early reader, in particular, any child who enjoys reading about animals.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-439-5518-2
Date Finished: 3-3-2014
Pages: 44

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: Carmilla by J. Sheridan LeFanu

Synopsis: Seemingly by happenstance, the mysterious and beautiful Carmilla comes to stay with the young and virtuous Laura. Laura, who has been living a lonely existence with her father in an isolated castle, finds herself enchanted with her exotic visitor. As the two become close friends, however, Laura dreams of nocturnal visitations and begins to lose her physical strength. Through much investigation, the gruesome truth about Carmilla and her family is revealed.  (From the online description)

Review: Published in 1872, this is considered one of the first vampire tales, predating Stoker's Dracula. The simple, short story is deceptive - it's a chilling tale, suspenseful and well-written. The characters are well-told, in particular the beautiful Carmilla. Haunting! A perfect read of the gothic tale enthusiastic or the vampire lover.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4775-49650
Date Finished: 3-3-2014
Pages: 76

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Synopsis: Initially written for a Jewish friend, Life of the Beloved has become Henri Nouwen’s greatest legacy to Christians around the world. This sincere testimony of the power and invitation of Christ is indeed a great guide to a truly uplifting spiritual life in today’s world (from the online description)

Review: I picked this up at a book sale because it's written by Nouwen and he's an author I always grab if I can. I read it because it was chosen by The Facebook Method. I hated it. It's fluffy, saccharine and weak. I get that he is writing for secular Jews. I get that it's not for Christians. But seriously, it's so fru-fru. There is nothing about WHY we need Christ. I agree that it is nice to hear God loves us, and how much He loves us. But this sort of nonsense is what let's people think they can be Christian without facing sin and repentance. This isn't to say there weren't some good points and quotes. But not enough to redeem this work. I would not recommend this unless someone specifically told me this is what they struggled with. I'm sure there are people who would find this book to say just want they need to hear about God. But for me, I think there are better works out there.

Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8245-1986-8
Date Finished: 2-27-2014
Pages: 156