Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: Pleasing the Ghost by Sharon Creech

Synopsis: Newbery Medal winner and master storyteller Sharon Creech spins a wonderfully funny and tender tale, now with fresh and gorgeous new cover art! As nine-year-old Dennis confronts the ghost of his uncle Arvie, Arvie's eccentric antics and wonderful wordplay keep the reader laughing. But at its tender heart, the story reveals the holes left in our lives when we lose the ones we love. Ever since nine-year-old Dennis's dad died, a veritable parade of ghosts has been passing through his bedroom. When the ghost of his uncle Arvie blows into his room on a warm breeze, Dennis isn't surprised, but Uncle Arvie is the first ghost who wants something from Dennis. Dennis would love to help Uncle Arvie, but he can't quite understand what Uncle Arvie is asking for. What, for example, is "Fraggle pin Heartfoot a wig pasta"? Dennis has to find out, because this is one ghost who isn't going to leave until he gets what he came for. Uncle Arvie's antics and Dennis's attempts to please his ghost form the heart of this touching story. (from the online description)

Review: This is a strange, funny little story. Dennis can see ghosts - but never the ghost he most wants to see - his father. Instead, he gets his Uncle Arvie, a stroke victim who has Aphasia. Dennis must complete three "pleases" before Arvie will leave - and along the way, Dennis learns about friendship, family, love - and ghosts. While it does deal with the death of a loved one, it's subtle and not dark or sappy. In the end, the story was a bit odd, but I think kids will enjoy it. I did!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-439-69738-7
Date Finished: 8-16-2015
Pages: 89

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Grimm's Fairy Tales, Unleashed Volume #0 (Cover A) by Zenescope, et al (Graphic Novel)

Synopsis: A realm where a legion of monsters have been trapped for centuries...until now! Now our heroes will have to join forces with four, time-lost monster hunters against a threat whose power may be too powerful to defeat. Lucky for them they are about to get some help in the form of a powerful ally. The highborn Belinda! A shadow has fallen over the Grimm Universe and nothing will ever be the same as the terror of the Being is UNLEASHED on the Zenescope universe! (from the online description)

Review: This was okay. Not great. It brings together characters from multiple stories in the Grimm's Fairy Tale universe. As I have only read the base story, not the side ones, I should have found it confusing. But I didn't. It was just a mish-mash of people that didn't seem to stand out. I did enjoy the villain as he actually seemed to be able to live up his pompous bragging. But to be honest, I doubt I'll buy the second volume unless I find it for a very good price.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-939683-01-4
Date Finished: 8-15-2015
Pages: 168

Review: The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico

Synopsis: They tell the story of the Snow Goose today in London, in Dover, in the Channel ports - wherever there are men gathered who say the mighty bird soar calm and unafraid through the leaden death and blanketing smoke of Dunkirk, and who owe their safety to the dark twisted man and the small boat that those great black-tipped wings convoyed. They tell of the Snow Goose, all they know of her; but what they tell is only a little of the story. The truth lies far from blazing Dunkirk, the terrible Stukas, the offshore transports, and the huddled men on the beaches. The truth lies in the distance Channel marsh , up a winding estuary away from the sea; and it involved not alone the Canada-bred wanderer of the airways, but Philip Rhaydar and the blonde Frith as well. Theirs is a curious story, wild and simple and strangely moving in its simplicity; and Paul Gallico tells it with his superb narrative  skill and with a remarkable tenderness of vision. (from the inside of the book)

Review: This is a sparse book composed of lyrical language and haunting descriptions. The story is dark and yet, light, at the same time. In few words, Gallico presents a story of love, hope, death, courage, and healing. Set during in England during World War II, the story centers on the hermit Rhayder, the young girl Frithe, and the snow white goose that binds them. When the call goes out for boats to help in the rescue at Dunkirk, Rhayader answers - and the life of the snow white goose and woman-child Frithe are never the same. Worth reading.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Year Published: 1953
Date Finished: 8-14-2015
Pages: 58

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review: Cybernetic Samurai by Victor Milan

Synopsis: Deep in the fortress-like headquarters of Yoshimitsu TeleCommuncations, American scientist Elizabeth O'Neil; had molded circuitry of a mammoth computer into a living, thinking, feeling being - a human soul trapped in the confines of a cybernetics body. She named her creation Tokugawa, hero of Japanese samurai lore, and educated him with all the values of a feudal Japanese shogun. Yet Tokugawa's powers were far greater than Elizabeth had imagined. With access to every computer in post-World War III's fully-automated society, he had the potential to become the ultimate spy, the perfect assassin, an invincible dictator. Only loyalty to samurai virtues kept his ambition in check - until the day Elizabeth was taken away from him, and Tokugawa began his quest for revenge. (from the back of the book)

Review: This was a dated, but still relevant story. Tokugawa is a child, then an adolescent, then an adult who becomes a warrior, a lover, and in turn, much wiser than the humans around him. Each person he meets, even the ones who love him, end up using him for their own gain. And in the end, Tokugawa lives up to the values he was taught. This is a darker book than I realized, dark and more graphic - there are several sex scenes and some rather violent deaths. Set after some fictional World War, the authors view of what would happened (war in Europe, America broken in several countries) was amusing and deeply rooted in current events at the time of publication (1985). While technology drives the story, it's really the people and their flaws that make the story. This is a hard-core classic science fiction and worth reading for anyone who enjoys more philosophical stories.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-13234-0
Date Finished: 8-13-2015
Pages: 337

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Review: The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman

Synopsis: A breakthrough bread book by the unchallenged expert in gluten-free and wheat-free cooking. In Bette Hagman's three earlier cookbooks, she worked with gluten-free flours that are safe for celiacs (those who are intolerant to gluten) and for those with wheat allergies to create recipes for great- tasting food. Knowing from her own hard-earned experience that bread is the greatest loss for those who can't eat wheat, oats, rye, or barley, she has experimented with exciting new bean-based flours and has devoted an entire book to breads. Here are yeast breads, yeast-free breads, muffins, rolls, buns, breakfast breads, and crackers-a vast array of recipes for the oven or the bread machine-for people who cannot buy breads at a bakery or supermarket but must rely on their own kitchens to provide the staff of life. Along with dozens of great recipes are: a beginner's guide to understanding and cooking with gluten-free flours; answers to commonly asked questions about baking with these flours; and a source list of where to buy gluten-free baking supplies. (from the online description)

Review: This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to bake and eat gluten-free bread. Hagman not only offers breads, but breakfast baked goods, muffins, cornbread, biscuits, scones, cinnamon rolls, and crackers. The recipes are easy to follow, and clearly written. The beginning is dedicated to creating the flour mixes - and clearly, Hagman put timeand effort into making these mixes. Another nice feature is that most of recipes can be made in a bread machine or by hand. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to get started making good gluten-free bread.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8050-6078-2
Date Finished: 8-12-2015
Pages: 284

Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: Mad about Madeline: The Complete Tales by Ludwin Bemelmans

Synopsis: For over sixty years, Madeline's adventures have enthralled her ever-growing audience. This collection brings together all six of the Madeline books in one volume. Every well-loved word and picture is here, plus an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anna Quindlen, an essay by Ludwig Bemelmans on how he created Madeline, and working sketches of Madeline, as well as photos of the Bemelmans family. This landmark volume will be treasured by the entire family. (from the online description)

Review: I know Madeline is a classic childhood story, and that years of children have enjoyed these books. But, I don't like them. They seem trite and odd and nonsensical - but not in a whimsical childlike way but in a author-on-drugs sort of way. Even the bright and colorful illustration didn't help! The first book was not too bad, but they went downhill fast. Boring, weird, and strange - not my cup of tea. I'm sure others will continue to enjoy these stories, but as for me - I don't think I'll introduce them to my future kids less I be forced into reading them repeatedly.

Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: Caldecott Honor Book (Madeline) /  Caldecott Medal (Madeline's Rescue)

ISBN: 0-670-85187-6
Date Finished: 8-11-2015
Pages: 316

Review: The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey (The Five Hundred Kingdoms Series, Book 1)

Synopsis: In the land of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, if you can't carry out your legendary role, life is no fairy tale. Elena Klovis was supposed to be her kingdom's Cinderella—until fate left her with a completely inappropriate prince! So she set out to make a new life for herself. But breaking with "The Tradition" was no easy matter—until she got a little help from her own fairy godmother. Who promptly offered Elena a most unexpected job. Now, instead of sleeping in the chimney, she has to deal with arrogant, stuffed-shirt princes who keep trying to rise above their place in the tale. And there's one in particular who needs to be dealt with - Sometimes a fairy godmother's work is never done…. (from the back of the book)

Review: As I enjoy retold Fairy Tales, particular those with a twist, this seemed like just my sort of story. And for the most part, it was. I enjoyed Lackey's world building, the idea of The Tradition, and the way it shapes the 500 Kingdoms. Elena is a pleasing main character - strong, smart, and feminine without being whiny or bitchy. She was clever and wise in how she handled the issues she confronted. I very much enjoyed the progress of the Prince, and what she did to him. And the love story was well-done, the magic seemed to make sense, and the secondary characters had depth and humor. It did have some flaws - some events were drawn out too long while other things were just glossed over. It left the story feeling slightly lopsided. And the sex scenes took me by surprise - way more graphic that I was anticipating and they added very little to the story. Despite these minor things, over all, this was a fun read and an excellent addition to my fairy tale collection.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-373-80245-5
Date Finished: 8-10-2015
Pages: 479

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ramble: Update on Goals for the Year

As my August mini-challenge is going well, I thought it time to update on my Goals for the Year.

Evolution (5+): I completed On the Origin of the Species. It was painful. Next, Bates' The Darwin Reader. After, most likely something by Richard Dawkins. I'm finding this the hardest of the goals to accomplish. The books are dense and required study to do them justice. Not just because they are scientific in nature but because I don't agree with everything and I must sort out what I think is true and not true. Perhaps I should not have set the goal at 5, but I did and I will persevere! 

Economics and Finance (2+): Done! 

Memoir and Essay (2+): I started Beryl Markham's West with the Night. I haven't decided on the second book - probably the sequel to A Year in Provence. If the second is as enjoyable as the first, it should be a lovely read. 

Mystery and Horror (3+): I have two more to compete this challenge but I am waiting for October. October is the best month for scary stories!

Science Fiction (10+): Done! As of my last report, I only had 3 more to read. I read the Silence Leigh Trilogy, and the two Jade D'Arcy books. I also read Cybernetic Samurai by Victor Milan and The Martian by Andy Weir. Of course, I plan to read more. I have several recently acquired volumes, and a two trilogies I've want to complete. But this part of the goal is finished!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch: Skull-Crushing True Stories of the Most Hardcore Duels, Showdowns, Fistfights, Last Stands, Suicide Charges, and Military Engagements of All Time by Ben Thompson

Synopsis: From the Ben Thompson, author of Badass: The Birth of a Legend, comes a collection of history’s most awe-inspiring duels and showdowns, brutal crusades and epic brawls, and profiles of the fascinating people who fought in them. From Caliphs to Green Berets, some of civilization’s toughest warriors are profiled in Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch, including Cyrus the Great, St. Moses the Black, and The Rani of Jhansi, as well as in-depth analyses of how they battled their way to victory. Featuring original artworks by top graphic artists and comic book illustrators, and Ben Thompson’s signature wry, side-splitting commentary, Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch is the history of badasses, the only way it should be written: covered in blood! (from the online description)

Review: Hilarious and historical! This is fantastic! With well researched historical facts, told with humorous prose and clear prose, this is an excellent way to learn about world events. Thompson clearly has a knack for conveying this sort of information in a way that the layman and amateur historian can understand - and indeed, makes reading this enjoyable. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a hilarious and educational prose.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-211234-7
Date Finished: 8-9-2015
Pages: 490

Review: Manners for Women by Mrs. Humphry

Synopsis: Written by the same Mrs. Humphry that wrote Manners for Men in 1897, this is a short, little list of proper behaviors for proper young women.

Review: While this is interesting from the viewpoint of what was considered proper behavior in 1897, it only gives vague instructions. I enjoyed reading the menus (except most were in French). But other than learning how to leave a visiting card and that I would fail miserably if ever presented to the Queen, there wasn't much else in the book. I rather prefer Emily Post for instructions on the manners.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-946014-17-5
Date Finished: 8-8-215
Pages: 154

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: The Winter at Valley Forge: Survival and Victory by James E. Knight (Adventures in Colonial America Series)

Synopsis: A soldier chronicles the harsh winter colonial soldiers, led by General George Washington, spend at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. (from the online description)

Review: With clear prose, this story, as told from the viewpoint of a solider, is an excellent introduction to the hardships faced by the American army during the winter at Valley Forge. Although not graphic, it doesn't gloss over how things really wear. The solider talks of starvation, of frozen feet and blood in the snow, of losing friends and fellow soldiers, of despair and desperation. Excellent for use in introducing kids to this important historical event in American history.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-89375-739-X
Date Finished: 8-7-2015
Pages: 32

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Synopsis: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him? (from the back of the book)

Review: Few books move me emotionally the way this one did. Chills crawled my arm when they discovered him alive. Watney's humor made me laugh out loud often. And the end - I cried. It's been a long time since a book caught me so close to the heart and made me cry. I cannot recommend this story enough and can guarantee that I will babble incessantly about it to whomever has the misfortune of mentioning this story around me.

Bookmarks: 9 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-553-41802-6
Date Finished: 8-6-2015
Pages: 385

Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck

Synopsis: Hailed as the "patron saint of farmers' markets" by the Guardian and called one of the "great food activists" by Vanity Fair's David Kamp, Nina Planck is single-handedly changing the way we view "real food." A vital and original contribution to the hot debate about what to eat and why, Real Food is a thoroughly researched rebuttal to dietary fads and a clarion call for the return to old-fashioned foods. In lively, personal chapters on produce, dairy, meat, fish, chocolate, and other real foods, Nina explains how ancient foods like beef and butter have been falsely accused, while industrial foods like corn syrup and soybean oil have created a triple epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The New York Times said that Real Food "poses a convincing alternative to the prevailing dietary guidelines, even those treated as gospel," and that "radical" as Nina's ideas may be, the case she makes for them is "eminently sensible." (from the back of the book)

Review: If you've read anything like this book, then there is no need to read this one also. It will simply be a tiresome repeat of what you've already researched. However, if you are new to the Real Food ideology, then this is a fine starting place. Planck goes through each food group - dairy, plants, proteins - and explains their importance to the body, the nutrients they provide, and what source provides the most. Planck's writing style if cheerful and clear, and she's obviously done her research. Information about nutrition is sprinkled with personal anecdotes and stories. The list of resources in the back is helpful and extensive. But despite all this, I have some issues with this book.
First, she commits my greatest pet-peeve when it comes to diet books - extolling foods that are expensive and hard to find. Not everyone has access to the places and shops and vendors that supply these foods. Nor can we afford pasture-raised organic meats or grass-fed fresh raw milk or just picked heirloom tomatoes. This sort of grocery list is only for someone who makes significantly more than your average person. And yes, one might argue that spending on good food prevents spending on medicine and medical bills later. But a weekly budget of this sort of food for a family of four might run you $250 easy - which is ridiculous! This is even assuming one lives near real-round farmer's markets or vendor's selling raw milk - which I don't. In the end, for someone on a budget, her ideology, while sound and wise, isn't feasible for most people.
Second, there are no recipes or meal plans or anything practical to assist the reader. It merely tells you what to eat, but doesn't help you take practical steps. Any no, I don't count telling you to "drink raw milk" as a how-do.
In the end, this is a good book for a concise, clear explanation for how to make better choices for food. But it's not anything different that what you might find in many other books on the same thing.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-59691-342-4
Date Finished: 8-5-2015
Pages: 343

Review: The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin

Synopsis: From Algonquin Indian folklore comes one of the most haunting, powerful versions of the Cinderella tale ever told. In a village by the shores of Lake Ontario lived an invisible being. All the young women wanted to marry him because he was rich, powerful, and supposedly very handsom. But to marry the invisible being the women had to prove to his sister that they had seen him. And none had been able to get past the sister's stern, all-knowing gaze. Then came the Rough-Face girl, scarred from working by the fire. Could she succeed where her beautiful, cruel sisters had failed? (from the online description)

Review: This is a lovely version of Cinderella. Coupled with the gorgeous pictures, the story is told in simple, eloquent prose. Rough Face's cruel sisters make her tend the fire. The sparks scorch her face and hands, and leave her hair burnt and ugly. When her haughty sisters fail to impress the sister of the Invisible Man with their prefect closes and beautiful faces, everyone laughs when Rough Face tries, in her homemade clothes and ugly looks. But it's a fairy tale - and everyone knows, it's the heart that matters.
I found this story delightful and enjoyable - perfect for the lover of Fairy Tales and Folklore, and an excellent addition to any child's library.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0698116269
Date Finished: 8-4-2015
Pages: 32

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review: A Williamsburg Household by Joan Anderson and George Ancona

Synopsis: The front room/back room qualities of colonial life and slavery are well captured in both the story and the photographs, taken in Williamsburg, Virginia. From early morning until late in the evening Rippon, a young black slave, toils at the Wetherburn Tavern. His father is a field hand, his mother a house slave for Mr. Moody, who once also owned Rippon. Mixed in with his daily duties are some worries that Rippon has for his friend Aberdeen, who angrily rejects his slave existence. (from the online description)

Review: This was a clever book although a bit white-washed. Instead of illustrations, the story was acted out in a series of vignette photographs, with real people and places. I didn't realize when I picked it up that the story was told mostly from the viewpoint of the house slaves. This was good. While lacking in some of the more sordid details and violence of slave life, it was a good introduction to life back them. There was a little to much "blacks like their life as a slave" for me, but that was mostly balanced by the clear depiction of the family being separated and the boy Rippon who balked at being a slave - and was punished for it. A good addition to any child's reading list, but as I said, only as an introduction. It should be followed-up with books with more accurate descriptions, or better yet, biographies of Harriet Tubman or George Washington Carver.
Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0395547915
Date Finished: 8-3-2015
Pages: 48

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review: With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray

Synopsis: Similar to his work in Abide in Christ, Pastor Andrew Murray uses 31 chapters in With Christ in the School of Prayer to help readers learn how to change their lives and their relationships with Jesus Christ through the power of prayer. Ideal for readers whose patience or faith has been tried, this guidebook teaches Christians not only how to connect with their Lord, but the true reasons it’s important to do so. Because of its assertion that prayer is a way of communing with God, rather than a chore or a trick to win favor, With Christ in the School of Prayer remains a valued classic for all Christian bookshelves.(from the online description)

Review: As far as books on prayer go, this is one of the most excellent. I read it slowly, trying to absorb the lessons. I found his sentence structure a bit odd at times, and often had to read the words to grasp his meaning. At the same time, this isn't a vague, fluffy book. Murray is clear, concise, direct, and not given to niceties. He tells it straight.
He covers many aspects of prayer - how to pray correctly, what to pray for, why prayer does or doesn't work, and the purpose of prayer in our life.
In particular, I found the chapter "The Boldness of God's Friends" to be the most interesting. To equate the story to the idea that we are to be bold before God in asking for the needs of our friends - that has helped me when praying for my friends and family.
My favorite quote; Obedience and Faith are two parts of the same Act: Surrender to God and His Will (p171)
This is a classic book on a subject much spoken off but not often practiced by modern Christians. This is worth the time to read for anyone who wants to know God more.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-88368-106-4
Date Finished: 8-2-2015
Pages: 238

Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers

Synopsis: "A bluebear has twenty-seven lives. I shall recount thirteen and a half of them in this book but keep quiet about the rest..." says the narrator of Walter Moers's epic adventure. "I should be lying if I claimed that my firs thirteen and a half lives uneventful. What about the Minipirates? What about the Hobgoblins, the Spiderwitch, the Babbling Billows, the Troglotroll, the Mountain Maggot...What about the Venomous Vampires, the Gelatine Price from the 236th Dimension...Mine is a tale of mortal danger and eternal love, of hair's breath, last-minute escapes..." (from the back of the book)

Review: I bought this because I enjoyed Moers' The City of Dreaming Books. But this just wasn't my cup of tea. One review called this, "equal parts J.K. Rowling, Douglas Adams, and Shel Silverstein." Well, this is no Rowling, I can tell you that. But it does feel as if Douglas Adams wrote a book using Shel Silverstein's vocabulary and syntax. And that just isn't me. It's far to nonsensical for my tastes. One compliment I give is that this would be an excellent read-aloud book for kids (although the section where Bluebear becomes the King of Lies might need explaining). With silly words and sillier situations, I can see kids very much enjoying it. And its complex enough that the adult reader might enjoy it also - but not me.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-5856-844-0
Date Finished: 8-1-2015

Pages: 703

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ramble: 31 Books in 31 Days

I've set for myself a challenge, a test, not for anything other than to see if I can.

Read a book a day for the entire month of August.

I got the idea from Teddy Roosevelt. He read a book a day, even when President. Where he found the time is beyond me. You can actually see a list of all the books in his Library. It's impressive.

Here are my rules:

1. I must finished one book a day. No reading ahead.

2. No more than 10 children's books.

3. No more than 3 graphic novels.

4. Must read at least 5 non-fiction

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan (The Brothers Sinister, Book 3)

Synopsis: Sebastian Malheur is the most dangerous sort of rake: an educated one. When he’s not scandalizing ladies in the bedchamber, he’s outraging proper society with his scientific theories. He’s desired, reviled, acclaimed, and despised—and he laughs through it all. Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury, on the other hand, is entirely respectable, and she’d like to stay that way. But Violet has a secret that is beyond ruinous, one that ties her irrevocably to England’s most infamous scoundrel: Sebastian’s theories aren’t his. They’re hers. So when Sebastian threatens to dissolve their years-long conspiracy, she’ll do anything to save their partnership...even if it means opening her vulnerable heart to the rake who could destroy it for good. (from the online description)

Review: Violet and Sebastian seem an unlikely pair and sometimes I felt that Milan was forcing the romance. But Violet's objection had depth and felt real and I appreciated that. I enjoyed the unfolding exploration of her relationship with her mother and her sister, and her own unfolding exploration of her heart. Milan did excellent research as to the scientific principles and procedures of the day - and defitly explored how female scientist where treated in those days (something that didn't change for 100 years, but that's a speech for another soapbox). It was nice to see characters from the previous books in this series and to see them as active parts in Violet's life and growth. In the end, I enjoyed this book. It was a well-done story with some minor flaws.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1937248307
Date Finished: 7-28-2015

Pages: 248

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan (The Brothers Sinister, Book 2)

Synopsis: Miss Jane Fairfield has made a career of social disaster. She wears outrageous gowns and says even more outrageous things. The only reason she's invited anywhere is because of her immense dowry--which is all part of her plan to avoid marriage and keep the fortune-hunters at bay. Mr. Oliver Marshall is the illegitimate son of a duke. His acceptance in society is tenuous as it is. If he wants any kind of career at all, he must do everything right. He doesn't need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn't need to fall in love with her. But there's something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can't resist...even though it could mean the ruin of them both. (from the online description)

Review: Reading about Jane's outrageous antics made me laugh out loud more than once. And I found Oliver to be a character with depth and complexity. And their interactions felt real and natural. The secondary love story was most intriguing and Milan research and imagination about what it would be like to be a man for India studying in England during the late 1800s. Some of it felt contrived - the author, the evil uncle, the kidnapping (my least favorite romance cliche) - but overall, a fine story.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1490994710
Date Finished: 7-27-2015

Pages: 280

Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan (Novella, The Brothers Sinister, Side-story to Book 1)

Synopsis: Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can't forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him...or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way. Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He's been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he's determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss. (from the online description)

Review: This is satisfactory, but only just. I enjoyed the character of Jonas Grantham - anyone who lacks tack the way he does is endearing. And I thought Lydia's growth as a person was well-done. I also enjoyed the clear research Milan put into Victorian medicine. My qualm is the interaction between them. It seemed forced and awkward. Given that it is a novella, I grant there isn't enough time to develop their relationships - but still, it's a bit jarring.

Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1481912754
Date Finished: 7-26-2015

Pages: 94

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: ...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold

Synopsis: He wanted to be treated like a man, not a child. Every summer the men of the Chavez family go on a long and difficult sheep drive to the mountains. All the men, that is, except for Miguel. All year long, twelve-year-old Miguel tries to prove that he, too, is up to the challenge'that he, too, is up to the challenge'that he, too is ready to take the sheep into his beloved Sangre de Cristo Mountains. When his deeds go unnoticed, he prays to San Ysidro, the saint for farmers everywhere. And his prayer is answered . . . but with devastating consequences. When you act like and adult but get treated like a child, what else can you do but keep your wishes secret and pray that they'll come true. (from the online description)

Review: Miguel is caught were most boys get caught - feeling like he's a man, but treated like a child. Having never been a young boy myself, I can't speak to the veracity of this, but my husband assured me this is normal. Honestly, this was a good book with a good message but it was slow-paced. Krumgold did an excellent job of showing Miguel's culture (New Mexican culture in the 1950s) and explaining sheep-farming and Mexican-American traditions. But over all, it just felt slow. And the end - the idea that the Miguel's prayer actually mattered, and his guilt over what getting his wish meant? Seemed a bit forced. However, I understand what Krumgold was trying to say and I think his point is important to know, particular for young boys who wish to be treated as men. It was also nice to have a non-white protagonist in a non-white setting. The enter cast of characters is Mexican-American, and this is important to me. I would recommend this to anyone with boys from age 7-12, but with the warning that it might be a bit slow for today's kids.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: Newbery Medal, 1954

ISBN: 978-0064401432
Date Finished: 7-26-2015
Pages: 256

Monday, August 3, 2015

Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan (Novella, The Brothers Sinister, Prequel to Book 1)

Synopsis: Hugo Marshall earned the nickname "the Wolf of Clermont" for his ruthless ambition--a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner's son to the right hand man of a duke. When he's ordered to get rid of a pestering governess by fair means or foul, it's just another day at work. But after everything Miss Serena Barton has been through at the hands of his employer, she is determined to make him pay. She won't let anyone stop her--not even the man that all of London fears. They might call Hugo Marshall the Wolf of Clermont, but even wolves can be brought to heel... (from the online description)

Review: This is the prequel to Milan's The Brothers Sinister series and explored the romance of one of the main male protagonist's parents. It was okay. I thought the characters were given depth, which is hard in a short story, but the idea that the heroine would go from being raped to volunteering to have sex with someone so quickly didn't seem plausible. Still, I suppose, it's a story, and it's worth reading if you liked the series. Still, their romance seemed a bit rushed for my taste - and I never got the true idea that the main hero was so scary.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1937248277
Date Finished: 7-26-2015
Pages: 96