Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (Ruby Oliver Quartet, Book 1)

Synopsis: Ruby Oliver is 15 and has a shrink. She knows it’s unusual, but give her a break—she’s had a rough 10 days. In the past 10 days she: lost her boyfriend (#13 on the list), lost her best friend (Kim), lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket), did something suspicious with a boy (#10), did something advanced with a boy (#15), had an argument with a boy (#14), drank her first beer (someone handed it to her), got caught by her mom (ag!), had a panic attack (scary), lost a lacrosse game (she’s the goalie), failed a math test (she’ll make it up), hurt Meghan’s feelings (even though they aren’t really friends), became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch) and had graffiti written about her in the girls’ bathroom (who knows what was in the boys’!?!). But don’t worry—Ruby lives to tell the tale. And make more lists. (from the inside cover)

Review: I actually didn't read this. I listened to the audiobook. It was a good read. Ruby felt mostly real. Lockhart nailed the strange mix of confusion and confidence you have as a teenager. Ruby had an extensive vocabulary and she used it well. I enjoyed that. She also did a fine job of giving the characters one view and the reader another - meaning, the reader knows Jackson is a two-face cheater, but Ruby doesn't - she has the naivety of someone who hasn't learned that sort of thing yet. The secondary characters differing personality and even some depth. But in the end, the book just had too much drama for me to be believable. So while I was entertained by the story, and even found some humorous parts, in the end, there was just too much nonsense. It reminded me of some those angsty CW TV shows - which I hate. I probably won't read the rest in the series.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-385-73206-6
Date Finished: 8-4-2015
Pages: 229

Monday, September 7, 2015

Review: The Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim

Synopsis: This daily digest of intellectual challenge and learning will arouse curiosity, refresh knowledge, expand horizons, and keep the mind sharp. Millions of Americans keep bedside books of prayer and meditative reflection--collections of daily passages to stimulate spiritual thought and advancement. The Intellectual Devotional is a secular version of the same--a collection of 365 short lessons that will inspire and invigorate the reader every day of the year. Each daily digest of wisdom is drawn from one of seven fields of knowledge: history, literature, philosophy, mathematics and science, religion, fine arts, and music. (from the online descriptions)

Review: This was a fabulous book! I kept it in my purse as my "line book" - the book I read while waiting for things. I enjoyed the subjects chosen - opera, science, philosophy, history, paintings. For anyone how enjoys knowledge, fact, or Jeopardy - this is the book for you. It's perfect for a short reads, for livening the mind, or for learning fun facts to dazzle (or bore) your friends. The only thing I'd changed is more modern music history - jazz or big band, or even rock and roll! I ended up buy the the American History edition to read now that I'm finished with this one. I anticipate it being just as good!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Award: None

ISBN: 978-1-60961-205-4
Date Finished: 8-31-2015
Pages: 377

Review: Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners by Lucille Recht Penner

Synopsis: When the Pilgrims came to America, there were no supermarkets or stores. Hunting, gathering, growing, and preparing food was a full-time job. And the Pilgrims didn't even like much of what food there was - fruit, vegetables, bread made from bean flour. But they had to eat it. Anything to keep from starving. Why did Pilgrims prefer to eat in the dark aboard the Mayflower? Why did they plant fish in their cornfields? How often did they wash their table linens? Did they actually sleep on the dinner table? And did they really eat turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving? In answering these and many other questions, Eating the Plates reminds us that the Pilgrims are more than Thanksgiving table decorations. They lived long ago, but they were real people, just like us. This fascinating account of their eating habits, customs, and manners - and a special section of Pilgrim recipes - will bring the Pilgrims to life for readers of all ages, all year round. (from the inside flap)

Review: With clear, simple prose, Penner brings the reader into the world of the Pilgrims. She starts with their history, explaining why they left England, their time in Holland, their hard trip across the Atlantic, and the hardships they faced in the New World. She centers on their diet, manner, and methods of cooking. Penner adds details that kids will enjoy - bugs in the food, sleeping on the dining room table, dirty napkins, and gross recipes! This is an excellent addition to any child's library!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-02-770901-9
Date Finished: 8-28-2015
Pages: 117

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Review: The Westmark Trilogy by Lloyd Alexander

Synopsis: Set in the fictional kingdom of Westmark, the triology follows Theo, a printer's boy and Mickle, a beggar girl, as they become central figures in the upheavel and revolution of their country. Told over three books.
Book One: When Theo agrees to print a traveling showman's pamphlet, he only thinks of the money it will bring in. Instead, it sets off a chain reaction that results in the smashing of the press and the murder of his master. Caught on the wrong side of the law, Theo must flee the city. Soon, he has teamed up with the traveling showman Count Las Bombas (who is actually a con artist) and his servant. The trio is soon joined by Mickle, a clever, strong-willed girl with a mysterious past. Performing feats that astound and amaze, the motley crew falls into a trap set by Chief Minister Cabbarus, who is determined to wrest power from the grief-stricken king. Now they must not only save themselves-they must save the kingdom...
Book Two:  Theo is traveling Westmark, learning about the country of which he will soon be Prince Consort. He is not surprised to find great poverty-Mickle (now known as Princess Augusta) could have told him that from her years on the street. His friend Florian could have told him about the aristocracy's graft and corruption. But neither could have foreseen a loaded pistol in the practiced hand of the assassin Skeit. The echoes of that shot ring from the muskets and cannons of a Westmark suddenly at war-a war that turns simple, honest men into cold-blooded killers, Mickle into a military commander, and Theo himself into a stranger. . . .

Book Three: Mickle, once a common street urchin, is now the queen of Westmark. The kingdom is thriving-yet, at the same time, it is strangely restless. Ghosts of the past lurk everywhere. And the evil minister Cabbarus, banished from Westmark, is plotting to seize the throne. Theo remembers a time when he was the famed Kestrel, fighting battles that threatened to kill his soul. Now he once again must join in the struggle. Who will at last command the fate of Westmark?

Review: While written in three books, this is really one story. The story to a country's rebellions and the people on both sides who sacrificed for their beliefs. It's a dark tale. The course of events have many similarities to the French Revolution, and people die - most of the main characters, actually. The author doesn't shy away from the horrors of war, the choices people are forced to make, that not all rebellions are clean and clear, the both sides might be right, that people often choose power and safety over honor and truth, that some sacrifice and some do not. It's a powerful story, one worth reading. But I caution the reader - it's not a happy tale. It doesn't end happy, or how you want it to. It ends how it should, though. It ends real.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-440-99737-3 / 0-440-94393-0 / 0-440-90548-6
Date Finished: 8-27-2015 / 8-29-2015 / 8-30-2015
Pages: 190 / 244 / 237

Review: Can't You Make Them Behave, King George by Jean Fritz

Synopsis: This entertaining volume sheds light on the life of England's King George III. It begins when he was a bashful boy who blushed easily, goes on to his early days as king, and finally examines his role in the American Revolution - when Americans ceased to think of him as good King George. (from the online description)

Review: This is a simplified biography of King George, stretching from his boyhood to shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War. Told in simple, clear prose, with stylized illustrations, this is a marvelous look at the War for King George's point of view. The book paints him neither as saint nor villain, but simple a man who was king during a turbulent time. This is an excellent addition to any young reader's library, particular if said reader is interested in American history.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-698-20315-1
Date Finished: 8-26-2015
Pages: 51

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird

Synopsis: Angelina is a small mouse who wants to dance more than anything - but her desire causes all sorts of trouble for those around her. Will she ever figure it out?

Review: This, apparently, is a current classic children's book. Well, I should say, it was. Now it's a popular children's empire, considering all the non-book Angelina Ballerina paraphernalia out there. It's a cute book, with lively illustrations and sweet plot. Not sure why it's so popular with children, but I also haven't figured why Teletubbies was popular, so there you go. If you have a child who enjoys dance or wants to dance, this is a fine book. However, if you want to keep your home and TV free from the shrill dancing mouse, avoid this book. Your child will love it and you will get sucked into the Angelina Vortex and only be free when your small child grow up and discovered the adolescent romance.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-58485-135-X
Date Finished: 8-25-2015
Pages: 24

Review: West with the Night by Beryl Markham

Synopsis: The partial autobiography of Beryl Markham, regarding her life as an African bush pilot, race horse trainer, and famous socialite.

Review: We probably have Hemingway to thank for this book. Markham wrote it, but it soon lapsed into obscurity until some researcher found a letter from Hemingway to Maxwell Perkins, remarking on how her work made him feel "completely ashamed of myself as a writer." Markham does have a particular talent for the turn of phrase, for evoking emotion and imagery, for taking the reader across the wilds of African and into the deep blue sky with her. From those that enjoy reflective, esoteric writing, this book will delight and enthrall. Markham lived a strange life, partly of her upbringing and partly by her own making. I think this book is worth reading, although, there will be some who find it speaks to their souls, and others, like myself, who merely regard it as a worthwhile book to read and nothing more.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN:  0-86547-118-5
Date Finished: 8-24-2015
Pages: 294

Friday, September 4, 2015

RevIew: Sugarin-Off in the Bullpasture Valley by Lisa Vance

Synopsis: Lisa Vance and her husband make maple syrup and maple sugar on their farm each year. In this book, she documents the process.

Review: I enjoyed this. Every since reading about the Sugar-Off in Little House in the Big Wood by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I've wanted to participate in this event. This book was a good start. With clear, easy language, Vance goes through tapping the trees, which trees to tap, how to make the spigots, boiling, and refining the syrup and sugar. There are even a few black and white photos. In the last part of the book, she includes several excellent maple sugar and syrup recipes - candies, breads, cookies, meats. It's a lovely assortment. I recommend this if you are interested in this slice of American life.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 8-23-2015
Pages: 36

Review: Amy, Ben, and Catalpa the Cat: A Fanciful Story of This and That by Alma S. Coon

Synopsis: Amy, Ben, and Catalpa the Cat take children on a fun-filled adventure in this colorful alphabet storybook in verse. The young heroes meet George Washington, who gives Ben his cocked hat. But the hat is too big! Can Amy make it fit? (from the online description)

Review: Set in the colonial era, this book is a ABC adventure. Each page is dedicated to a letter, with many words that start with that letter. The pictures are lively and colorful. The story is a bit vague and loosely woven, but it's enjoyable. Kids from age 4-7 will most likely enjoy this fun story.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-87935-079-2
Date Finished: 8-22-2015
Pages: 27

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Review: The Good-Bye Book by Judith Viorst

Synopsis: This little boy will do anything to avoid an evening with the baby-sitter. He pleads with his parents. He begs. He bargains. Maybe he has a fever of a hundred and ten. Maybe he'll run away. Maybe he won't say good-bye! (from the online description)

Review: This is a cute, clever, little book. The little boy doesn't want his parents to leave him for a night out - so he threatens and fights and is generally - a little boy. Hilarious. The crack about McDonald's made me giggle. The pictures are soft, energetic, and entertaining. Any small child will enjoy this, and even the parents might!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-689-31308-X
Date Finished: 
Pages: 21

Review: The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno

Synopsis: With The Eat-Clean Diet, the diet that fitness professionals rely on, readers will transform themselves from sluggish, exhausted and overweight to energetic, lean and fabulous! Just like the author and cover girl Tosca Reno did when she was sixty pounds overweight, readers will discover how to make their bodies burn fat while eating tons of food. We've all seen the fitness professionals on the covers of magazines and wished we could look like them. The truth is, they are real people. Just like you, they had to figure out how to get their bodies to look like that. And they all came to the same conclusion: Eat Clean! So who better to write a book on the subject than formerly overweight fitness diva and mother of three, Tosca Reno? Tosca shows you how to lose over sixty pounds, like she did, or just that last ten. When you read The Eat-Clean Diet you will: Rev up your metabolism to burn more fat -faster!; Lose weight quickly and easily; Never go hungry; Eat all food groups: protein and carbs and fat; Eat five to seven meals a day; Receive Eat-Clean recipes with color photos; Have more energy than you ever dreamed possible; Stay lean forever never worry about dieting again! (from the online description)

Review: This book is ludicrous. While I agree with her basic premise - that eating more natural-state foods and less processed foods is a wise choice - the book itself is nothing more than another fad-diet full of gimmicks and I'm-so-awesome-you-can-be-too. It's low-fat, so no wonder you have to eat 5-7 times a day - you will ALWAYS be hungry! She credits this diet with losing the weight, but I think it was probably running "so hard and so long" (pg 12). The book is easy to read, despite copious repetition (which happens when you have so little worth saying), but the advice is generic at best. Drink water (duh), eat veggies, not cake (duh), men can eat health too (duh) - it's nothing you can't find on any basic nutrition website. She's also jumped on the "superfood" band-wagon. There is an entire chapter devoted to supplements, which, if your food is as nutritional awesome as she cleans, why do you need supplements? And clearly, you can't do this diet with oatmeal and bee pollen because she spends a ridiculous amount of time extolling the virtues of these items. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, but again, nothing you can't find on the Internet. Over all, this is a waste of time and money. Don't bother with her nonsense. You can get the same information from googling "eat clean" as you can from this book.

Bookmarks: 3 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-55210-038-7
Date Finished: 8-20-2015
Pages: 271

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Review: What Was Cooking in Martha Washington's Presidential Mansions? by Tanya Larkin (Cooking Through American History)

Synopsis: Describes Martha Washington, wife of the first president of the United States, her activities during the Revolutionary Was and as first lady, and some of the foods she served at various stages in her life. Includes recipes (from the online description)

Review: With clear, simple, language, this book explores the dining and dishes of the Washingtons during George Washington's Presidency. The book moves historically through each house they lived in, describing their dining style, guests, and meals. Included are many of Martha's recipes, including Cherry Bread Pudding and Baked Apples. The recipes are simple enough for children (with some adult supervision) to make and enjoy. I recommend this book for kids who want to explore history in a tangible way.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8239-5606-7
Date Finished: 8-19-2015
Pages: 23

Review: Anastasia's Chosen Career by Lois Lowry

Synopsis: Anastasia Krupnik has exactly one week to work on her school assignment called "My Chosen Career". Determined to be a bookstore owner, she must first develop poise and self-confidence. So Anastasia takes the plunge and spends her life savings on a modeling course at Studio Charmante. She has one week to interview a bookstore owner, write a report, and complete the modeling course. Luckily her new friend Henry is with her most of the way. Is Anastasia destined to be a successful bookstore owner or a glamorous model? Only Anastasia has the answers! (from the back of the book)

Review: I adore Anastasia - hilarious, real, and intelligent. Her adventures feel real - what girl didn't feel gawky and ugly in 7th grade. How many of us had confusion about our future or want to feel beautiful and glamorous. I love her solutions, her spunky, her forthrightness, and her viewpoints. As for the story, it was both hilarious and poignant. It got a more serious at the end then I anticipated - but something I've come to expect for Lowry. Her stories mirror life and often life is both humorous and serious in odd mixtures. I recommend all of the Anastasia books - I know I will read any I can get my hands on!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 009-012-0-440-80199-0
Date Finished: 8-18-2015
Pages: 142

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review: The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig

Synopsis: Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s critically-acclaimed Whole30 program has helped hundreds of thousands of people transform how they think about their food, bodies, and lives. Their approach leads to effortless weight loss and better health—along with stunning improvements in sleep quality, energy levels, mood, and self-esteem. Their first book, the New York Times best-selling It Starts With Food, explained the science behind their life-changing program. Now they bring you The Whole30, a stand-alone, step-by-step plan to break unhealthy habits, reduce cravings, improve digestion, and strengthen your immune system. The Whole30 features more than 100 chef-developed recipes, like Chimichurri Beef Kabobs and Halibut with Citrus Ginger Glaze, designed to build your confidence in the kitchen and inspire your taste buds. The book also includes real-life success stories, community resources, and an extensive FAQ to give you the support you need on your journey to “food freedom.” (from the online description)

Review: After a colleague tried this and had great results, I thought maybe I would try this. It's not the first time I've heard about this system and it seems to be something good. At the moment of this writing, I'm 1 week into my first attempt. So far, so good. Written in down-to-earth language, with precise instructions and clear how-tos, the book is easy to follow. The Hartwig included some recipes for actually dishes, but more of the recipes are for basic - the perfect boiled egg, grilled steak, baked fritatta. In addition, there are recipes for sauces, like pesto, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings and sauces for meats. Between the sauces and the basic recipes, the book gives you the tools to build 1,000 or more different meals. They also avoid my pet peeve with diet books, and all the ingredients are cheap and easy to acquire, instead of expensive and obscure. The book is also honest about how this diet can be hard and gives an accurate (and hilarious) day-by-day chart of how you might feel. It's not all pretty or easy or happy. In the end, whether this works out or not, I find this to be a diet book worth emulating.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0544609716
Date Finished: 8-17-2015
Pages: 432