Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Jethro Creighton lives in Southern Illinois with his parents and older siblings. When the Civil War begins, Jethro's world because darker, heavier and he is forced to grow up faster than he should. He struggles to understand the changes in the world and himself.

Review: This book is far deeper, far more intense, far...more...than I anticipated. Because the stories come from the author's grandfather, this story has an authenticity that makes it stick into your mind and conscious. This book will stay with me for a long time. Highly Recommend.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor 1965

ISBN: 0-425-10241-6
Date Finished: 9-21-2014
Pages: 189

Friday, September 26, 2014

Review: Afghan Food and Cookery by Helen Saberi

Synopsis: Situated at the crossroads of four major regions-the Middle East, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Far East-Afghanistan has survived centuries of invasions, whether military, cultural or culinary. Its hearty cuisine includes a tempting variety of offerings: lamb, pasta, chickpeas, rice pilafs, flat breads, kebabs, spinach, okra, lentils, yogurt, pastries and delicious teas, all flavored with delicate spices, are staple ingredients. This cookbook includes over 100 recipes, all adapted for the North American kitchen, for favorites like "Mantu" (Pasta filled with Meat and Onion), "Shinwari Kebab" (Lamb Chops Kebab), and "Qabili Pilau" (Yellow Rice with Carrots and Raisins). The author's informative introduction describes traditional Afghan holidays, festivals and celebrations. Also included is a section entitled "The Afghan Kitchen," which provides essentials about cooking utensils, spices, ingredients and methods. Complete with maps and illustrations. (from the online description)

Review: This is an excellent cookbook. The recipes are easy to read, the author give adequate substitutes for ingredients hard to find in western stores and the blurbs on culture and hospitality make the food sound even better. I'm eager to try many of these recipes. I highly recommend!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7818-0807-1
Date Finished: 9-21-2014
Pages: 292

Review: Fanny by Stephen Cosgrove

Synopsis: Fanny, the cat, has only three legs on which she manages just fine. She is normal as normal can be. Sadly, the other animals on the Serendipity Farm won't befriend her because they are afraid she will feel uncomfortable since after all she has but three legs. A little dog named Ruby learns that handicap is just a state of mind. (from the online description)

Review: This is a Serendipity Book. I adore Serendipity Books! They are a mite sappy, but excellent stories about overcoming obstacles, external and internal. This one centers on Fanny, a handicapped cat. What I liked about it was, it wasn't Fanny that needed to change. It was the animals around her. I highly recommend this, and every, Serendipity Book.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8431-1460-6
Date Finished: 9-15-2014
Pages: 19

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: Let's Learn Japanese Picture Dictionary by the Editors of Passport Books

Synopsis: Created by leading educators, these colorful, large-size dictionaries introduce beginning language learners to more than 1,550 commonly taught basic words. Each Let's Learn Language Picture Dictionary in the series boasts 30 delightful two-page spreads that vividly illustrate the meanings of words. Fun-filled panoramas focus on scenes familiar to children aged three through eight, such as home life, the classroom, city life, sports, the zoo, and even outer space! Learners will love to revisit these detailed depictions of people, places, actions, and objects, each time improving their recall. Featured words are set off with individual illustrations and definitions to help learners at various levels build vocabulary. Includes an index and glossary of all the individually illustrated words. An ideal selection of first word books for parents and teachers who want to encourage second language acquisition. (from the online description)

Review: This is JUST like those Richard Scary book, with all the words, except has both English and Japanese. The Japanese is written in English Alphabet Letters and Japanese Symbols. It's easy to read, easy to learn and easy to understand. I highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-07-140827-4
Date Finished: 9-13-2014
Pages: 30

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: You are Special by Max Lucado

Synopsis: Every day the small wooden people called Wemmicks do the same thing: stick either gold stars or gray dots on one another. The pretty ones--those with smooth wood and fine paint--always get stars. The talented ones do, too. Others, though, who can do little or who have chipped paint, get ugly gray dots. Like Punchinello. In this heartwarming children's tale from the best-selling pen of author Max Lucado, Eli the woodcarver helps Punchinello understand how special he is--no matter what other Wemmicks may think. It's a vital message for children everywhere: that regardless of how the world evaluates them, God cherishes each of them, just as they are. (from the online description)

Review: Despite being a bit on the sappy side, this is a good book with a good message. Only God can define our worth, no matter what the world tells us. Although sold as a children's book, the message is most certainly for all of us. A worthy read.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-89107-931-9
Date Finished: 9-13-2014
Pages: 25

Review: Eli by Bill Peet

Synopsis: Eli is a grouchy, crusty, bad-tempered old lion who has no friends and doesn't need them either. He's long since lost his strength and roar and will to fight. But when he saves a vulture from a hyena, his reward is a group of vultures who insist on being his friends - whether he wants it or not!

Review: This is a cute, clever little book. I enjoyed watching Eli open up and the adventures he has with the vultures. I think any child will enjoy reading about this crusty old lion and his vulture friends!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-395-36611-9
Date Finished: 9-13-2014
Pages: 38

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: Saint George and the Dragon retold by Margaret Hodges

Synopsis: In this book, Margaret Hodges adaptes the famous Legend of Saint Geoge from Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene. Saint George sets out to rid a kingdom of the terrible dragon threatening to devour everything. Along with his, is the lovely Princess from that kingdon, his trusty horse and a small dwarf. 

Review: The prose in this book is easy to read, but not simply - meaning it's as full and rich as a retold legend should be. But it is the illustrations that make this work so exquisite. I knew of this legend, but had never actually heard or read it before this, and I'm glad I chose this work as my entrance to this tale. I'm interested to read other retellings, although it is hard to imagine they will come close to this one. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Caldecott Medal for Illustration in 1985

ISBN: 0-316-36789-3
Date Finished: 9-13-2014
Pages: 31

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Corduroy by Don Freeman

Synopsis: Corduroy is a bear that lives in a large department store. One night, he goes searching for his missing button - but will he ever find his button, and a home?

Review: This is a classic - I read it as a kid and rather loved it. I loved how Lisa wanted Corduroy, even without his button and I loved how Corduroy was courageous enough to go find it. It's a good story and worth reading to kids!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-590-30907-3
Date Finished: 9-13-2014
Pages: 32

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reveiw: Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk

Synopsis: Sam is a mouse that lives in the library. Every night, when all the people are gone, he sneaks out and read all the books. One night, he gets the idea to write his own - and amazing things start to happen!

Review: This is a clever little book and would a particularly good read for a child learning to write. Sam teaches kids that anyone can write a book - even a mouse! With pleasing illustrations and simply prose, this is an excellent read for kids.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-545-15436-9
Date Finished: 9-13-2014
Pages: 13

Review: Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Synopsis: Madeline lives in an old house in Paris, covered in vines... - so begins this classic tale. Madeline is a bit precious and bravest of them all - but will her courage see her through a terrible sickness?

Review: I confess I'd never read this book until I found it in a thrift store a week ago. I've heard of it, and I know the basics. It is every bit at charming as it was professed to be. I enjoyed the prose - written in verse - and the story of these special girls and Miss Clavel.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-590-08907-2
Date Finished: 9-13-2014
Pages: 21

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review: Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, Illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Synopsis: Frances loves Bread and Jam. She even has a song. But, when she gets to eat it every day, she begins to question - can one eat bread and jam forever?

Review: The Frances Books are some of my favorite. I enjoy her songs, her family and watching her learn. This is a clever, enjoyable read that teach that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I most certainly recommend this, and the other Frances books, for any young reader.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-590-75824-1
Date Finished: 9-13-2014
Pages: 17

Ramble: Children's Books

I collect Children's Books. Meaning, books for readers from Birth to 6 or so. Not just any books, however. I picky. I want classics, like Madeline or Seuss or the Berenstain Bears. I enjoy modern classics, like Fancy Nancy or Skippy John Jones. Some, like the Sweet Pickles or Serendipity books, are from my childhood. And other, like Eli or Maybe a Bear Ate It or Rascal, simply appeal to me.

Someone once asked me why I collected books for young readers when I have no children. I suppose I could answer, for the kids who come to my house, my nephew or godson. Or, maybe because I feel any good library should have these volumes.

But the answer is much more raw than that.

I want children. But my husband and I have been told by medical specialist we are not able. But I know that God works miracle every day and He can work one in me. So, I collect books to read to my kids.

If I ever give up collecting Children's Books, you will know I have lost faith and hope that Nick and I will be given a child.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Afghan Cuisine: Cooking for Life by Nafisa Sekandari

Synopsis: Afghan Cuisine: Cooking for Life is a collection of traditional Afghan family recipes that have been gathered and translated to English for the novice Afghan and non-Afghan cook. The intention of the book is to help Afghans and non-Afghan learn to cook delicious Afghan food in easy to follow steps. The book is written from the Western perspective and directions are provided to easily locate the needed ingredients and short cuts included for the person that is on the go. This book is the result of many years of collecting, research, observation, and practice in regards to cooking Afghan cuisine. It is very different than traditional Afghan cookbooks in that it includes traditional Afghan recipes that are easy to follow as well as non-Afghan recipes. A portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the women and children living in Afghanistan. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a pleasing collection of Afghan (and some non-Afghan) recipes. While the author admits she is a novice at cooking and at publishing a cookbook, I still feel there were some obvious deficiencies. Several of the recipes seem to skip steps or confuse terms. There are grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors a plenty. The layout is often awkward, splitting lists over two pages, or breaking apart instructions.
I am eager to try many of these dishes, but not sure I will be able to follow these instructions, sadly. I'm glad it's part of my collection of works about Afghanistan, but this isn't the best book on Afghan cuisine out there. Still it was worth the money to buy and the time to read.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-4033-8590-4
Date Finished: 9-11-2014
Pages: 142

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: 101 Common Mistakes in Etiquette and How to Avoid Them by Emily Post

Synopsis: Emily Post, famous for her dictates on tasteful living, write in this book primarily about how to give a proper dinner party and how to furnished a home.

Review: This is an amusing and useful little book. Written in 1939, it still has many relevant ideas for today. In particular, it's not money that creates an inviting home or memorable dinner - party, but the comfort, kindness and hospitality of the host and hostess. I found the portion about the living room to be amusing, because it is so different from today. No TV, and the room must be arranged for games, reading and socializing - things we almost never do today. Today's living spaces are arranged around TVs. But I prefer the idea of a living space designed to foster human interaction instead of television viewing. Her dinner party ideas were amusing for the same reason. The advice on what sort of silver, china and glass, and how to pick a proper table cloth? I have never thrown a party where that sort of thing was my consideration. Mostly, it's just, do I have enough booze. Times have changed, for certain, but I'm not sure for the better. It seems our society might benefit from Mrs. Post's advice....

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 1939
Date Finished: 9-11-2014
Pages: 94

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review: Across a Billion Years by Robert Silverberg

Synopsis: Scattered throughout the globe of human-occupied scope is evidence of a civilization that bestrode the galaxy before humanity was born. Now, a strange device has been discovered that shows the details of that great civilization. The details include a star map and hints that the High Ones are not extinct after all. The map beckons, and humans, being what they are, will follow. To the next great step in human destiny - or ultimate disaster. (from the back of the book)

Review: Written in from the first-person view of Tom Rice, this story follows a group of archeologist as they dash across the galaxy, hoping to discover the greatest archeological find in human history. What they get - is so much more! The book starts a little slow, but picks up quickly. The characters are amusing and different and I enjoyed the narrator’s description of each.
This book was written in 1969. As I read more sci-fi books from that time period, I have noticed a common particularity about them. There is less violence and more thought. The characters spend time ruminating about the nature of the cosmos and human society, etc. This seems to show up less and less in books as you approach the current age. I don't know what it means, but it's got me thinking....
Anyhoo, this is a good solid sci-fi novel, and I enjoyed reading it.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-812-55450-7
Date Finished: 9-10-2014
Pages: 249

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: 1776 by David McCullough

Synopsis:In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper. Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known. (from the online description)

Review: I read this as part of my regular July reading - which is always about the Revolutionary War. Yes, it took me a while to finish. But that's because this is a dense book, packed with details. The research that went into this work is staggering. With all the minutia, it could have easily been a dull, dry book. But McCullough wove the details into a riveting narrative about the first year of the War of Independence. It was as if I was there with them, Washington and Knox and Howe and Greene and Cornwallis. McCullough tells the story of fierce, flawed, amazing men, doing incredible things.  A well-written work, worthy of all its accolades.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-7432-2672-1
Date Finished: 9-6-2014
Pages: 386

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

Synopsis: Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service. (from the back of the book)

Review: This book. What to say? As a child, I watched the movie - part of it, anyway - at a slumber part. It scared the *$&% out of me. I refused to have anything to do with it again. But then, I grew up and started my quest to read all the Newbery books and realized - I was going to have to read this one. So I did. This book is NOTHING like the movie. And I'm glad. This book is superb. Each character is so distinct, the story riveting. I almost cried when - well, I won't spoil it for you. But this story is one that will stick with me for a long while. I highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Newbery Medal (1972)  / William Allen White Children's Book Award (1974) / Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1972)

ISBN: 0-689-71068-2
Date Finished: 9-2-2014
Pages: 233

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Robyn Hood, Wanted by Shand, Watts, & Filardi (Zenescope Graphic Novel)

Synopsis: As a mysterious villain calling himself, "The Sheriff" terrorizes the city of Nottingham, the people that Robyn once liberated again need her help. But back on Earth, with the police searching for her, Robyn contends with problems of her own. Can Robyn harness the strength inside of her to rise up and be the hero that Nottingham needs, or will her demons get the best of her as she faces the consequences of her past actions. (from the back of the book

Review: I was eager to pick up this work because of the unanswered questions from the first volume. While many of them were answered, many more where brought up. And the way it ends - ack! A freaking huge cliffhanger! Again, I enjoyed watching Robyn confront villains, expect and not, her response to love and death. 
Thankfully, the next installment comes out in a few days. I'm not sure how long I can wait to find out what happens!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-939683-04-5
Date Finished: 9-1-2014
Pages: 139

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Robyn Hood by Shand, Watts, & Metcalfe (Zenescope Graphic Novel)

Synopsis: The brand new Grimm Fairy Tales series that reinvents a classic tale of action, fantasy and adventure is here! Inside the realm of Myst, a tyrant rules the city of Bree with an iron fist, leaving its citizens living in fear and terry. But all hope is not lost as an orphaned teen from our world discovers her true destiny and becomes the legend she was meant to be. (from the back of the book)

Review: I enjoy most of the Zenescope stories, and this is no exception. The story is gritty, raw, and not for the feint of heart. The main character, Robyn, is no angel. She breaks the law, steals and kills - but through it all, she maintains her own morality and sense of justice. As for the secondary characters, I enjoyed the twist of the traditional names - Will Scarlett and Little John - and the villains have substance and depth. Spectacular art complements the story nicely.
My only qualm is how many questions were left unanswered. But considering there is a second, called Robyn Hunt: Wanted, I hope the next answers at least some of the mysteries.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-937068-79-0
Date Finished: 9-1-2014
Pages: 146

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Synopsis: In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for reeducation during China's infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined. (from the back of the book)

Review: I watched Gilmore Girls for a long time, and anyone that has knows Rory Gilmore is always reading. Someone compiled a list of all the books shown or read by Rory. When I read the list, I was pleased to see I'd heard of most of them, and read a fair number. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was one that I had never heard of, but it intrigued me. I jetted over to the local used bookstore and picked up a copy. I'm so glad I did.
This is a mesmerizing story. With deft, eloquent prose, Sijie weaves a tale about individualism, romance, friendship and the power of books to change us - for better or worse. I highly recommend this book.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Five French Literary Awards

ISBN: 0-385-72220-6
Date Finished: 8-31-2014
Pages: 184

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review: The Goddaughter, The Goddaughter's Revenge, The Artful Goddaugther by Melodie Campbell

Synopsis: In the first book, The Goddaughter, we are introduced to Gina Gallo, the goddaughter of the local crime boss. Despite her determination to stay out of the family business, she gets pulled by in when a cousin gets whacked on her watch. As she tries to right the situation, everything
goes from bad to worse. Good thing she has handsome Pete along for the ride. In the Goddaughter's Revenge, Gina discovered some - and by someone she means a sleezy cousin from New York - switch the gems in her client's rings for fakes. Now she has to change them back, without getting caught or starting a mob war. Oh, and there is the teensy fact that Pete is trying to propose! In the Artful Goddaughter, Gina's great-uncle Seb leaves her a fortune - with a catch. She's got to replace a fake painitng with the real one! With a hilarious cast of characters, and Pete, Gina sets out to pull the greatest backwards heist anyone has ever seen! Each book is short, more of a novella, and all three can be read in one sitting, as one large novel.

Review: I received the third book, the Artful Goddaughter, free as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. When I heard that, I bought the previous two so I could read the whole story. While each does a nice job of being a stand along story, having read the previous two made the third that much better. All were funny, faced-paced, easy stories that would make a great beach read. Campbell is has an excellent eye for the quirks of families and she created some memorable ones. Stories like these three could easily disolve into a mess of sterotypes, but Campbell avoids that with a deft hand. I enjoyed these works immensely. I look forward to reading the next ones!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0125-7 / 978-1-4598-0487-6 / 978-1-4598-0820-1
Date Finished: 8-30-2014
Pages: 134 / 124 / 127

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton by Gregory N. Flemming

Synopsis: Based on a rare manuscript from 1725, At the Point of a Cutlassuncovers the amazing voyage of Philip Ashton -- a nineteen-year old fisherman who was captured by pirates, escaped on an uninhabited Caribbean island, and then miraculously arrived back home three years later to tell his incredible story. Taken in a surprise attack near Nova Scotia in June 1722, Ashton was forced to sail across the Atlantic and back with a crew under the command of Edward Low, a man so vicious he tortured victims by slicing off an ear or nose and roasting them over a fire. "A greater monster," one colonial official wrote, "never infested the seas." Ashton barely survived the nine months he sailed with Low's crew -- he was nearly shot in the head at gunpoint, came close to drowning when a ship sank near the coast of Brazil, and was almost hanged for secretly plotting a revolt against the pirates. Like many forced men, Ashton thought constantly about escaping. In March of 1723, he saw his chance when Low's crew anchored at the secluded island of Roatan, at the western edge of the Caribbean. Ashton fled into the thick, overgrown woods and, for more than a year, had to claw out a living on the remote strip of land, completely alone and with practically nothing to sustain him. The opportunity to escape came so unexpectedly that Ashton ran off without a gun, a knife, or even a pair of shoes on his feet. Yet the resilient young castaway -- who has been called America's real-life Robinson Crusoe -- was able to find food, build a crude shelter, and even survive a debilitating fever brought on by the cool winter rains before he was rescued by a band of men sailing near the island. Based on Ashton's own first-hand account, as well trial records, logbooks, and a wealth of other archival evidence, At the Point of a Cutlass pieces together the unforgettable story of a man thrust into the violent world of a pirate ship and his daring survival and escape. (from the online description)

Review: I signed up to receive this book because it's a book about pirates, real pirates. The book was about pirates - but so much more. The author doesn't just relay Ashton's story, but includes the story of those Ashton interacted with - famous pirates, English Naval captains, preachers and other - each bound by the central thread of Ashton's life. Flemming also takes time to explain simple sailing words and techniques from the time period, cultural and political history, geography of islands and the types of ships. In all, this work is about not just pirates, but the world during the early 1700s, the world pirates live during. I highly recommend. This is a must have for anyone who enjoys the history of sailing, piracy and the sea.

I received this book free through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program in exchange for my far and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-61168-515-2
Finished: 8-30-2014
Pages: 241

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Oceanology: The True Account of the Voyage of the Nautilus pub. by Candlewick Press

Synopsis: Written as if the real account of the story of the Nautilus, made famous by the Jules Verne book, this work explores the sea and sea-travel, exploring the life and times of the Ocean

Review: Having recently finished 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I was excited to receive this book as gift. Full of color and information, history and pictures and science, it's the perfect companion to Verne's classic. Perfect for kids and adults. Highly recommend.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4290-7
Date Finished: 8-15-2014
Pages: 32