Friday, September 30, 2011

Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen

I grew up with tales of the Green River Killer. My family lived in Western Washington until the mid-80s when we moved to Eastern Washington. We still remember the women who lost their lives to this man, especially since my brother bought a place off the Green River (further south than where the bodies were found). Green River stills gives me chills. Growing up with this tale, it's hard not to be affected by it. When I had the opportunity to select this graphic novel for review, I took it. I knew about the Green River Killer but I didn't really know the case.
I looked at this work as a chance to learn more about the case that deeply infected Washington for over 20 years.
I didn't know until I reached end of the story that Jeff Jensen is the son of the man who led the Green River task force for that time. Tom Jensen was not only the lead detective but returned to the task force as a consultant after his retirement.
This is not a gruesome tale about a serial killer. This is a touching story about the men and women who dedicated their lives to finding a killer long after he stopped killing. This is how the case touched their lives and the lives of those around them. It's a tale of courage and belief that right will prevail.
It's deeply moving. A testiment of our justice system and a reminder that no victim is undeserving of closure.
Jeff Jensen ends the book with this "The Green River Killer's victims were prostitutes, but to their families they were daughters, sisters and mothers." It's this compassion that made his father a great detective.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Say Cheese Medusa by Kate McMullan

This third book in the Myth-O-Manic series from Capstone Kids is phenomenal. The "true" story of Medusa and Perseus as told by Hades. It's not accurate to the original myth but a great introduction to Greek Myths for young children.
The story starts with Hades spending a night with his brothers Zeus and Posiden. "Po" wants to picnic with some moon goddesses at Athena's new temple. When Athena finds out, she curses the moon goddesses turning them into gorgons.
Later that night, Hades discovers Danae and Perseus. This starts off a legend in the making.
Hades promises to keep Perseus safe only to find he's grown up to be like his father Zeus - arrogant and lazy. Fun and frolics occur when Perseus sets of to hunt Medusa and bring back her head.
It's a violent concept but the book is violence free. It's witty and amusing with lots of cheese and pop culture references. Perfect for middle grade readers. There are some tough words but the book comes equipped with a glossery of names and another for more difficult words.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Magdalena Vol 1 by Ron Marz

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one. I like the action but not so keen on the characters.
The Magdalena has served as the Catholic Church's weapon for 2000 years. Patience is the most recent in the line and doesn't care for how the church is ran. Called back to stop the son of Satan, Patience finds that there's more to the battle than meets the eye.
I'm interested in more of her story but probably not enough to seek it out. The art is well constructed and the plot is engaging. As I said I just couldn't connect to the characters. I liked Patience but her wishy washy feelings about her calling was less than desirable. I don't think she needed to be fully invested in the church and she could question the church's role but I don't think it came across well.
Her companion Kristoff had a lot of potential but it just feel flat.
I know we're supposed to hate Innocence but I really didn't like him. Not even as a villian. He just came across as mealy. I, also, didn't care for his name. Cardinal Innocence just sounded cartoony especially with her name, Patience. At least they had enough sense to give Kristoff a more human sounding name.
The rumor is there's a Magdalena movie - I'm interested but will have to see how it plays out.

Simply Great Breads by Daniel Leader

So many bread books are filled with the same recipe repeated over and over with a few alterations. They make the reader feel cheated out of new and exciting recipes. That is not the case with this bread book.
The variation of recipes is nice, a sampling of bread recipes from pancakes to challah to flatbread to doughnuts to monkey bread. There are great stories with the recipes and cultural explanations as needed. I loved the bounce from sweet to savory but more so I liked the small sections after each recipe that explained different ways you could make the bread.
I loved the addition of non-bread recipes such as the three jam recipes after the Jelly-filled Berliners (a stuffed doughnut).
This is definitely one book for my shelves. I can't wait to get elbow deep in flour and try the recipes. I have been wanting to make crumpets and bagels so I know what I am doing this weekend.

The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm by Peg Schafer

Peg Schafer's book is for anyone interested in Chinese natural medicine, gardening, and farming. She takes the time to break down the growing of Chinese herbs from soil preparation to use of the herb.
The first part is a broad overview of Chinese herb farming. Topics range from preserving the plants through farming to quality of herbs grown to growing and harvesting the herbs.
The second part is a detailed description of each herb. She gives detailed information on growing the herb followed by preserving and using the herb. I was amazed at how much information she offered in a short space. It was slightly overwhelming to read but a great resource when read one herb at a time.
I tried to come up with questions I was sure would not be answered to find that the information was easy to find and gave me a complete picture.
There's pest control information along with soil composition.
I really recommend this and am sorry it's fall right now because I can't wait to add some Chinese herbs to my garden.

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen

This graphic novel made me want to sigh, heavily. I can't explain the beauty of this work. Jane Yolen is a master at weaving a story.
Generations after the great Dragon Wars, a new dragon is born. The villagers are no longer able to defeat a dragon. A hero must come save them. What they get is a man pretending to be a hero. Tansy, the healer, has a plan to save the village and make Lancot a hero.
The story is simple but Jane Yolen manages to give it so much depth and life. Rebecca Guay's art compliments it perfectly, giving the reader a full on fairy tale reminiscant of days gone by.
I want to fill this post up with all sorts of descriptions and words but I find they can't express the wonder of this book - you need to go out and get it yourself.
The story will appeal to adult, child, boy or girl. The language is delicate and uncomplicated.

The Bare Facts by Josh McDowell

In college, I studied to teach sex education. As a parent of a teen male, I am constantly looking for good resources for him to learn to make healthy choices. The Bare Facts toted 39 questions your parents hope you never ask about sex. This book was right up my alley.
However, that was not the case. This was not a bad book but the title does not prepare the reader for the Christian feel of the book.
I was thoroughly impressed with Josh McDowell's view of the bible, saying that he believe God wants us to have sex but wait until we are married. There's a lot to be said for taking that viewpoint.
The book did fall flat for me, though. There was a lot of discussion of STD's, especially HPV. I understand the transmission rates have increased but over half of the book focused on why sex out of marriage leads to STDs. I think that's a naive approach and one that will turn readers away. But then again, reading the book in bits and pieces might be how the author intended it to be used. I sat and read it cover to cover and in the end, I no longer cared that the premise was awesome.
I did like the start of the book and the argument for waiting to have sex. I prefer that concept to "just say no". There was some great stuff at the end as well when Josh McDowell starts talking about peer pressure and how it's never too late to live God's original design.
As someone who's not a Christian, I was torn. There may be Christian reviewers out there who love the message in this book. I was left uninspired even though I felt that way early in the book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Sodas by Andy Schloss

In this day and age of endless chemical laden sodas, one begins to dream of a simpler time. A time when soda was made with real sugar. A time when flavors of soda actually tasted like something nature made. I remember my parents had purchased a home soda maker from Schwan's when I was a child. I loved the idea of making my own soda. Even today, I collect recipes for all natural homebrewed sodas but brewing my own is intimidating. I could make it, it's not that hard but I always feel like I need someone to hold my hand through the process.
Enter Andy Schloss and his new book Homemade Sodas. The book starts out with clear instructions for making and brewing your own sodas. He talks about the history of soda and how ingredients have changed. The pictures call to the reader to remember the better times. Times when drinking coke was a treat not a necessity.
Andy Schloss then moves into the drinks, slowly, starting with sparkling waters. Easy to create mixes that combine with sparkling water to make a refreshing spa-like drink. He moves onto fruit based drinks some mixed with seltzer, others carbonated with a soda siphon and eventually to brewing.
What I loved about this book is he gives you all three options most of the time. You can make the soda with seltzer, through a soda siphon or brew it. For me, that gives me the chance to work my way up to brewing. If we like the flavor with the seltzer then we know we'll like the brewed variety. And it gives me the chance to chicken out if I still can't talk myself into homebrewing.
Some of the soda concoctions sound highbrow - like honey cardamon or fizzy honeydew. They can be off putting for your average soda drinker but those with a sense of adventure can only see the beginning of possibilities.
Don't worry Andy Schloss has offered a few "normal" recipes from Orange Crush to Cola to Very Cherry Cola to several types of root beer.
This book has recipes for everyone from the soda drinker to the organic concoction drinker. I will definitely be making some cola extract and see if I can wean my boys off the canned stuff and to the homemade varieties. Now all I need is a recipe for Mellow Yellow and we just may give up store-bought soda all together.

Cutie Pies by Dani Cone

Dani Cone owns and operates High 5 Pie in Seattle Washington. Cutie Pies is a culmination of her work as a pie expert.
Her pies come in six "varieties" - cutie pies, petit 5's, pie jars, flipsides, pie pops and full-sized pies. Cutie pies are baked in standard muffin tin. Petit 5's in mini-muffin pans. Pie jars are pies baked in half pint canning jars. Flipsides are similar to turnovers. But Pie Pops are what caused me to really want to share this book. They're little pies served on sticks like lollipops(so cute!!!!).
Her recipe collection bounced from sweet to savory making this the most inclusive pie cookbook I have seen.
Dani offers such a selection that not only makes me want to go home and bake but find my way across the state to Seattle just to try High 5 Pies (anyone want to send me one, my birthday is in two weeks).
What I like best about Cutie Pies is that this book touches on all the pie needs one could have. The crust recipes vary from an ordinary crust to a graham cracker to a vegan to a gluten free. For those not on special diets this might not seem that important but for someone who might make a pie for someone with a gluten allergy or is vegan - it's nice to have the options. I love that I can make the gluten free crust and stuff it in a sterilized canning jar for the cutest treat out there.
This book makes me wish my son was still in elementary school so I can send pie pops to a class party.
I feel like I should share some recipes here but my tastes run more to the four cheese and onion pie variety. Who ever thought of a mac and cheese pie? Yum! Wait- Mac and Cheese on a stick. Hmm I've got some free time coming up this weekend so pies might be in my future.

Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste By Steve Spangler

When I requested this book from Netgalley, I hadn't realize I had picked up this book before. I saw Steve Spangler on tv and had to pick up his book for my son. We got it from the library and it was a hit.
Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste is the ultimate science book for kids who like science messy.
The book starts off with a must-read safety lesson. Steve Spangler has created multiple science experiments that can get out of hand if not properly respected. That's not to say that your children are in danger but accidents happen.
Each experiment is followed with an explanation of the science and it's real world application. Great for homeschooling or those involved with educational programs like Boy Scouts.
Dotted here and there is information on Steve Spangler and how he used the science, such as how he used the first experiment, the windbag, to break a Guinness World Record.
Most of the experiments use common articles such as plastic bottles and are a great way to add a recycling component to the lesson.
So far, our favorite - the skewer through the balloon. Definitely one for the birthday party.

Echoes by Joshua Hale Fialkov

I just don't know where to begin with this graphic novel. It's wonderful and frightening.
Echoes is the story of a man who goes crazy and the disappearance of a little girl. It's possible he did it or that he knows who did it. Filled with hallucinations and odd memories, we follow his path, never knowing what the truth is.
It's such a simple story but I think it's one that will stay with me a long time. You root for the main character and yet are horrified that you might be rooting for a monster.
It's confusing and wonderful. I have a bit of a hard time with black and white art just because my eyes have some problems but this one wasn't as difficult as others have been. The art is soft and disturbing.
I, almost, want to see it as a movie because it could be a great one but then I hate to ruin the integrity of what Joshua Hale Fialkov has done.
If you like horror, pick this one up. If you like a good thriller. It's not violent or graphic but it is frightening.

Dante's Divine Comedy adt by Seymour Chwast

Dante's Divine Comedy is one of those classics I've been curious about but not enough to actually read the original. Seymour Chwast's graphic novel adaptation was a perfect introduction to the story. And one I am grateful for.
I can't say this will be a book I will seek out because it was rather confusing and in the end not as interesting as I hoped.
However, it was interesting enough to carry me through the end of this book which seemed long enough.
Dante wrote his Divine Comedy around 1302 - 1321. He was not a happy man, having been banished from his home and forced to wander Italy. He had been political and outspoken which led to his banishment. This shows up in his work.
It's very political and religious in nature.
The plot is simple, Dante is invited to see what it is like to die and visit Hell, Purgatory and Heaven so that he may tell others about it. This was interesting because much of what he wrote shows up in pop culture these days.
Dante designed the seven circles of hell and came up with the seven deadly sins (which are actually the levels of purgatory).
He met many people on his journies but most of the names have been lost in history. I am certain that those he met were political figures of his day. I was shocked by all the accusations of corruption. Not because they were corrupt but that the themes are still heard today. The problems Dante spoke of are problems of our current government.
I do recommend this version of Dante's famous work. It may encourage to read the whole tome or just feel grateful you didn't.

My Dead Girlfriend Vol 1 by Eric Wight

I picked this graphic novel from the new book selection at the library. I am so glad I did. This is a light, funny story that touches on real teen angst.
Finney Bleak comes from a long line of cursed individuals. His entire family has been fated to die in weird and horrific ways (some so funny I had to stop and breath after reading them). He just knows his time is coming.
Finney doesn't live in the same world as we do. His classmates include witches, werewolves, vampires and other assorted creatures. Finney comes across as the only "normal" one in the bunch except that his dead relatives refuse to stay dead. The ghosts of his family irritate him.
The only shining moment he had was at the carnival months previous when he met Jenny, his true love or so he thought. His heart is broken when she disappears from his life.
Stuck in high school hell, Finney is just trying to survive. He's bullied and friendless but when he learns what happened to Jenny he discovers he can find something worthwhile.
It doesn't feel like one of "those" books but underneath the charm of Finney's plight is a real emotional story about growing up, falling in love and facing the world.
The only thing that disappointed me was when I discovered that this was Volume 1 (of course at the end of the story) and I would have to wait to find out what happens next.

In The Flesh by Koren Shadmi

Every now and again I think I should upgrade my reading and read something more adult oriented. Koren Shadmi's In The Flesh seemed to be something of interest and the themes of the graphic novel were more adult in nature. I have to admit that many adult oriented books disappoint me. I'm not talking erotic here, I'm talking about books that cater to those over the age of 18. You will note that I read a fair amount of YA and juvenile literature. It's not because I am incapable of reading at an adult level but there's something less complicated about a book geared towards younger readers.
Sex or not doesn't really matter to me but I hate when sex becomes the plot. Koren Shadmi's book centered more around sex than I would have believed. I can get over a good smutty book but this was not it. The series of short stories left me puzzled. I feel like there's a joke that I missed the punchline. The saddest part is if someone cared to explain it to me - it still wouldn't be funny.
This book is quite artsy and I don't mind artsy but I like to be able to follow a plot. I can't even explain what this was about which just goes to show you that it was just weird.
I do have to say there were things I liked about this work. One story centered around a young woman who was hit by a pastry truck which left her with a craving for all things baked. At the end, her best friend (a boy) didn't want to be her friend anymore but decided to have sex with her. While he was kissing her neck, she bit a chunk out of his shoulder. I felt he deserved it because he was a jerk.
I'm sure someone thinks Koren Shadmi is brilliant but not me. His art is well created - I just didn't get his stories.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Avatar:The Last Airbender The Lost Adventures

I picked this selection because my son is huge Avatar fan. I've watched some of the cartoon episodes and the movie with him but I can't say I have followed it well. I can't think of anytime I have read an Avatar book either.
Knowing that, I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. This is a collection of stories that have not been previously published. They touch on parts of the Avatar story but do not tell it.
I will say it helps to have some background knowledge of the characters and the world of the last airbender but you do not have to be familiar with the plot to enjoy this collection.
The tales are short and humorous. They would entertain any reader but young readers may find some of the wording too advanced (mostly the Asian names). However, the story lines are simple and enjoyable.
Though the series revolves around Aang, a male character, there are a couple of strong female characters that would entice any adventurous girl. I think my favorite tale had to do with the two girls having a girl's day out. One doesn't want to go to do girly stuff so the other goes overboard with being tough. In the end, they learn that girl stuff can be fun and tough.
This is a must have for any Avatar fan and a great selection for those who like Nickelodeon's action and comedy mixes.

BPRD Being Human by Mike Mignola

After watching Hellboy and Hellboy 2, I was ready to take on BPRD. I love the Hellboy stories. The difference with BPRD novels is that Hellboy does not take center stage. It's nice to get more story on the other characters.
Being Human starts with a story starring Liz as a teenager. This gives some back story for Liz and shows the start of her growth into a strong confident woman.
The next two stories come and go rather quickly - a short with Abe and Liz. Their dialogue is touching when they discuss how they didn't choose the life they are living.
Followed by Johan Krauss's backstory. Johan's backstory wasn't even hinted at in the movies so this was a real delight for me.
Finally, the book is wrapped up with a case for Hellboy and Roger. Roger was not in the movies nor has he appeared in the Hellboy graphics I have read so he was an interesting character to me. There was backstory included with this tale of VooDoo.
My only complaint is the same one I have for most graphic novels - it wasn't long enough. I love the simplicity and design of graphic novels but they are never long enough for me to feel like I got completely emmersed in the world. It's not a bad thing because it gets me looking for the next issue but sad for those of us who want to visit for awhile longer.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chimichanga by Eric Powell

I don't normally read humorous graphic novels, can't say why but it just doesn't happen. Chimichanga was a delight to read. The story of a young bearded girl, Lulu, who's grandfather runs the circus. She gives away some of her whiskers to a witch in exchange for a shiny rock and a wagon. The rock turns out to be the egg. It hatches a beast she names Chimichanga (after her snack that he eats). What happens is an amusing battle between this little girl, the circus and a pharmaceutical company that wants to use Lulu's whiskers in a gas remedy.
Short, sweet and appropriate for most readers. Chimichanga can be a little frightening to sensitive readers.

America I Am Pass it Down Cookbook by Chef Jeff Henderson and Ramin Ganeshram

It's not uncommon for me to get excited about a recipe, but a cookbook is a different story. I can easily find something in a book that makes me glad I picked it up but I haven't had a whole book get me interested like this one. America I Am is a line of books catering to the history of African Americans. Pass It Down shares African American recipes old and new.
I'm not African American but there was something about the description of this cookbook that I liked. It's old Southern recipes (hubby's family is from the south) and maybe something I could add to my growing collection of recipes for my husband. What I didn't expect is a look into the life and history of food for those who came from Africa to America. I learned more than I thought possible from a cookbook.
To start with, the book talks about how plantation owners choose slaves from various regions of Africa for their knowledge of certain crops, rice being a big one. Now I'm no agricultural dummy but that surprised me. I didn't even know we grew rice in the US. That was it, I was hooked in the history of food in America.
Then came the next "story" about a man who converted to Judaism and re-discovered his heritage through food. That was it, I couldn't put it down. We forget, in this day and age of fast food and busy schedules, how much of our history comes from the kitchen. This book was a great reminder. There were tales of food as a catalyst for civil rights. Cooking and gardens as tools to better communities. Ways to teach our children to not only cook but to preserve their history.
As if that wasn't enough, there are amazing Soul Food recipes. Many I can't wait to try in my own kitchen. My favorites - recipes written by George Washington Carver to promote peanuts (peanut doughnuts, anyone?). I have to admit he has got to be my favorite unrecognized historical figure. I owe that man most of my diet since, to me, peanut butter is a must and it made my pregnancy that much easier. I may have to find a time machine and send that man a letter of thanks (or maybe to his descendants).
You know, I may be a foodie and I love learning about food in history but this book should be required reading for everyone who calls themself an American. We have so much to thank those who came before us and to honor them, we need to remember what we have that they gave us.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Secrets, Monsters and Magic Mirrors, edt. Donald Lemke

My final graphic novel for Capstone (at this time) and it was a doozy. Secrets, Monsters and Magic Mirrors was the retelling of five popular fairy tales by five different teams of authors and illustrators.
The stories told were Rapunzel, Thumbelina, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and Princess and the Pea. I loved that they were each adapted by different people. It gave the stories an element of surprise because the illustrations were so varied. All, but Snow White, followed the popular telling of each story.
I recommend this book for any reader. I can see it appealing to girls more than boys but the style of the various stories might catch a male eye. They definitely would be a great replacement for your average fairy tale picture book.
One feature I loved the most was at the end of each story was its history. A single page detailing who published the first copy of the story and some of its evolution. To me, that made the book jump over my favorite list.
There's something fascinating with the history of a story and learning exactly how it's changed over the years.
I should make a note of the illustration styles for those who need to do the hard pitch.
Rapunzal was a rather basic design, lots of grays with accents of color. The style almost reminds me of Charles Addams or Roald Dahl's books. The witch is a series of circles against sharp scenery. The characters had a German flair. When Rapunzel is free of the witch, the grays turn yellow.
The illustrations for Thumbelina are bright and more cheerful. They remind me of Nickelodeon, specifically The Wild Thornberries. I'm sure other readers can connect it to other cartoons.
Snow White has a "true" comic book feel to it. I could easily see it sitting amongst stacks of Superman, Elf Quest and others. It's darker than the rest in this book.
Beauty and the Beast is lighter and more colorful. The work is digital resulting in sharp contrasts and less round edges. It feels more like a picture book than a graphic novel.
Princess and the Pea completely reminded me of Japanese graphics or manga. The characters have sharp features and huge eyes. Everything is much lighter and muted.
I can not wait to get my hands on more of this series. Start the hunt for Capstone books and enjoy.

Vampires vs Werewolves

I'm nearing the end of the Capstone picture books/graphic novels. They have been a blast to read but I have a couple of novels by them that promise to be just as fun. Vampires vs. Werewolves is part of their Edge Books Monster Wars line.
I loved this book. It started when I discovered that one of our own WSU professors acted as a consultant. How can you not love something homegrown? Okay so maybe that wasn't a real reason but it started my excitement.
I don't recommend this for young readers but those who love scary stories will love this book. It breaks down the vampire and werewolf legends and compares their strengths and weaknesses. The very last chapter is an imagined fight between the two. It was well done and clever. It was a bit violent but it came with a warning for those interested in learning more but not getting scared.
All in all, I recommend this book. I'm throughly impressed with Capstone and will keep an eye out for their books.
This one came with a facthound link to more books and a couple of websites. Any book that gets a kid looking for more to read is awesome in my book. This is not a graphic novel (thought I should point that out) and includes amazing shots from a variety of werewolf and vampire movies throughout the ages. The final chapter has illustrations of the story.

The Awakening by Donald Lemke

This was another Good vs Evil graphic novel from Capstone Publishing (under the name Stone Arch Books). I didn't like this one as well. There were some captivating moments and some interesting mix of the blue and the red in this one but the story didn't work for me.
Yoshiro Tanaka find a cassette tape (it's 1984 after all) and in playing it wakes a troll-like beast called the Oni. The story is far too frightening for young readers even though the simple language leads one to believe it is written for young readers. It is graphic and violent compared to everything else I have read published by Capstone.
There were moments where the panels seemed out of order and confusing. I learned in the section at the end that discussed the graphic novel process that this was somewhat intentional. I think of myself as rather intelligent and as an avid reader, pretty versed in the world of graphic novels and I was left scratching my head. I can't imagine what this would be like to read as a younger reader.
Aside from that, I enjoyed the premise. The world was well drawn and, as I said, I enjoyed the mix of the two worlds. For example, the Oni was paneled in red but there would be moments where the doorways would be blue indicating where Yoshiro was. Yoshiro's blood was blue in the red panels as well. At one point Yoshiro is grabbed by the Oni, Yoshiro was blue and the hand red. I really liked the artist imagary in this work.

Alien Snow by Michael Dahl

Another Capstone Publishing book, this line of graphic novels titled Good vs. Evil.
This is an interesting graphic novel that got me reading it twice just to see how it changed. The concept of the Good vs. Evil line is to have the opportunity to read the story from different perspectives. At first I thought this was more like choose your own adventure but it's not. The top half of each page is inked in red and the bottom half in blue. Read just the top you get the perspective of "evil" or, in this case, an alien who captures the boy. The bottom half is from the boy's perspective and inked in blue.
Reading just one or the other, does give an interesting perspective but leaves out minor details. The thing I liked about that concept is that you could feel a story from the character not the omnipresent narrator, which is common in graphic novels.
The story is not very long making it perfect for young readers but the concept of the good vs. evil will appeal to older readers looking for a quick read.
Because Capstone is education oriented, the end of the story comes with questions that get the reader thinking about different aspects of the story. These have more to do with the creation of the story or how the drawings give more information instead of focusing on moral issues.
The end wraps up with a quick lesson on how graphic novels are created. This is fascinating, even for the most advanced graphic novel reader.

Vampires and Cells by Agnieszka Biskup

Another great creation from Capstone Press (publisher of Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten). This particular work is from the Graphic Library - a series of educational graphic novels.
The topic, as you can see from the title, is about cells but told from the perspective of vampires. It's a cute mesh-up that does get a little distracting for my old lady brain. For a kid, however, this is a great introduction into the science of cells. The book does get a little technical at times but a quick look at the glossery in the back will help. The technical parts are kept interesting with little captions from the vampires learning about the cells.
This is a great book for anyone but would be easily loved by a child and, perhaps, even a teen. The descriptions combine technical words with plain english explanations making it more universal than many other similar works. I appreciated the plain language which allowed my aging brain to actually learn something new.
There's no real story line with the vampires but they are humorous and entertaining. The pictures are colorful and captivating.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten by Trisha Speed Shaskan

I don't normally review young children's books but I read a fair amount. I don't review them because I don't include them in my book count unless they are spectacular in some way. When I joined NetGalley, I agreed to do children's books. I have come across some really cute books and can't wait to share them.

Honestly, Little Red Riding Hood Was Rotten is such a cute book. It's funny, entertaining and gives a different perspective to the Red Riding Hood story. This story is told by the wolf who explains why he ate Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. It's not scary in any way and should not frighten small children. The pictures are vivid and wonderful.
One thing that really sets this book apart from others I have viewed is that at the end it encourages the child to compare the story to the original and asks some questions. It encourages creative thought.
It, also, comes with a couple of websites associated with the publishing company. I explored these sites and just was amazed at the content. It is geared towards younger children (up to 4th grade) but it attempts to offer more advanced sites for those in 5th grade and up. I think they are worth exploring. and

Witch and Wizard: Battle for Shadowland by James Patterson

This graphic novel is based on the Witch and Wizard series by James Patterson. I was given the first issue of the graphic novel in exchange for an honest review. The full novel will be in stores October 2011.

I was a little disappointed with this work. The beginning felt stagnant and didn't draw me in as I had hoped. About half way through I started to feel as if this was something I wanted to read. There was just enough mystery that I want to read the next installment but I didn't connect enough to the characters to really care if I read it or not.
This is one of the problems with graphic novels, the development is different. I could see areas where the artist was attempting a connection but it was too far away for me. It's possible that Battle for Shadowland is not the first graphic novel series for Witch and Wizard. If that is so, then I suggest starting with the first to create a connection. If it's not, then perhaps that connection can only be made for those who have read the actual Witch and Wizard series.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Witch Song by Amber Argyle

I got this e-book from the publisher for free in return for an honest review.
Brusenna has been an outcast her entire life and suddenly, she is alone. Tired of waiting, she starts a journey to find her mother and the other witches she hadn't known existed before her mother disappeared.
On her journey, she learns of Espen, a witch who is determined to rule the world and destroy the other witches. Senna has to stop her, save her mother and just survive in a world she was completely unprepared for.
With a few new friends, her constant companion and guardian is Joshen, a stable boy with dreams of greatness serving the witches. They set off to find and destroy the one witch no one else has been able to defeat.

I enjoyed this book. I can't say it was my favorite and it took me far too long to read. Part of that may have been because it was an e-book not a "real" book but I can't say for certain. The book just seemed really long. I liked Senna as a character but her lack of confidence started to wear on me just a tiny bit. I loved how she grew though. It wasn't that she was a witch but she became powerful as a person. She discovered her own ability to lead, I think I would have preferred her becoming that person sooner in the book.
Joshen was great and I have no complaints about him. The characters were good but the book only touched on most of the other characters. I can barely remember anyone's name and certainly couldn't distinguish which character was which. The difference in cultures was a little weird since there seemed to be only two "peoples" in all of this world even though the entire world was affected by Espen's evil.
I never really understood why Espen was doing this (a little but there are more questions here that would contain spoilers). I thought the ending was a little too easy and strange.
I must stress that I liked this book but it did fall a little flat for me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Time to Read

Today has started off with a light steady rain and heavy dark clouds that blocked the sun. It's a perfect day for reading. For me, I like gloomy days and as we move into winter, I read more and more. I love reading but there's something about days that are bleak and dark that encourage me to read more. Often I find that I read a large percentage of my year's goal of 100 books in November and December. In fact, it was a deluge of reading at the end of a year that started the challenge for me.
This year, I am currently at 63 books. This does not take into account any really short books I read since I challenge myself to only include "novels" (whether YA, Juvenile or Adult). I don't know what I will do when I run through the stack of short stories in my Nook. I suppose it will depend on how long they are or if I review them. I don't include children's books but I do include graphic novels (note the word novel in the description). It's not a perfect system but it doesn't have to be.
Anyway, back to the art of reading. On gloomy days, I love to read. For the most perfect situation, I would brew a pot of tea and have some sorts of snacks to go along with the reading. Sometimes cheese and crackers, other times cookies or scones. It has to be something I can eat with my hands and wouldn't mess up my book.
Now that I have a Nook, however, I'm not so keen on the eating and drinking while reading. It's that fatal mix of moisture and technology that worries me. We'll see how it goes this winter. My goal is to get myself to use the Nook more than I use "books" so I can justify the expense of buying it.
I do want to go back to working on the pile of books I own. I have a terrible habit of buying books and then adding them to the growing pile because I get others from the library. I want to read what I have and get rid of those I don't see me reading again. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Roald Dahl Day

Today has been set aside as a day to honor Roald Dahl - on this day in 1916 he was born. It's been interesting to see this day littered with controversy. The garden shed or "hut" in which he wrote needs some new attention. His family wants to move it from their family land to a museum of all things Roald Dahl and they are asking for money to do so. The controversy is - they have profited so much from his books and the movies and merchandise that people feel it's only right that they pay for the move themselves. To be honest, I don't know how I feel. On one hand, I suspect if they could afford to it themselves, they would but then people are funny. I, also, feel like it wouldn't be too hard to raise the money to help, after all a good deal of money was raised to help Nathan Fillion by the rights to Firefly after he made a comment about needing the money (it was just a comment, not a serious thought but people ran with it).
What does bother me is that this is the story that is commemorating a great man. I grew up with Roald Dahl books and stories but I didn't know much about the man and honestly, never gave it much thought. It wasn't until my son became a huge fan that I started paying attention to him as an author. I had never connected the dots that the same man who wrote Willy Wonka wrote The Witches (both movies I adored and ashamedly admit I hadn't read the books as a child). For me, I was an avid reader but somehow he slipped through my reading cracks. I have enjoyed many of his books as an adult with my son. It never occurred to me to learn more about this man (I am one who doesn't associate the work with the creator of the work).
I didn't know he wrote adult fiction and in fact wrote the plot to my favorite Alfred Hitchcock episode "Lamb to the Slaughter" - where a woman kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and then serves it to the police when they come to question her.
His first big children's story was James and the Giant Peach (1961) followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He adapted Ian Flemming novels for movies including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I strongly suggest taking time to read his biography at his website - this was a man who deserves to be studied. He was an amazing man as well as an amazing writer and I'm glad that today is his day.

New posts

Reading is sporadic for me. Some weeks I read a book a day and some times it takes me a whole month to get through a book. Lately, I have decided to take writing seriously which also cuts into my reading time. With all this, I realized it's not fair to those who read my blog. I go back and forth with wanting to give this up and just post reviews to GoodReads or LibraryThing but I like the freedom I have with a blog. So I came up with a solution that should work. Regardless of what I have read, I will post on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I don't have a book to share, then I will share something to do with reading or writing. If I have a good reading week, I'll post more but I will never post less than twice a week (this keeps me in a good habit as well).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons

This is not my usual genre but Burnt Mountain had gotten such great reviews that I wanted to try. I was hesitant when I read the description because I was really sure how this book was going to go and I was pleasantly surprised.
Thayer Wentworth's life was constantly altered by Burnt Mountain. It was there that her father and grandfather died. It was there that she discovered a new happiness and escape from her overbearing mother. It was there she found her first love and her first heartbreak. It was because of that loss that she found Aengus, her husband and what she thought was the perfect life but Burnt Mountain called once more and this time it took her husband.
This was a sad and happy tale. Even in all the saddness, there was something hopeful and wonderful about Thayer. The story starts with her mother and how her mother got everything she had hoped for and still wasn't happy (okay there was one thing she wanted and never got which was something quite silly). Her mother was ambitious and nearly destroyed Thayer and her sister trying to get what she wanted. There's a touch of magic and timelessness in this story without delving into fantasy.
I really connected with Thayer and her awkwardness in life. She lacked focus but it wasn't distracting. Her story will make you sad and angry and grateful that you didn't grow up with her.

Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson

Goldy is back and up to her usual mischief. Her new assistant and old friend, Yolanda, has left an abusive relationship and moved in with a friend, Ernest. When Ernest is found murdered, Goldy has to clear her friend's name. Filled with twists and turns and mistrust this story is sure a mix of humor and mystery with a lot of cooking.
The plot of this particular Goldy Shultz Mystery was not bad - it was suspenseful and interesting. There was a lot more mystery in this story than previous ones. There were things I didn't like -
Goldy took way too many showers. The plot covers less than a week and I swear she took ten showers. It got to be distracting. If it had been intentional then some comment should have been made about her showering all the time (she showered 3 times in one day). If it wasn't then someone should have caught it.
The other thing I didn't like was Goldy's relationship with Yolanda. Yolanda was a very closed person and in the beginning Goldy believed her. Then little things came out and it didn't take long for Goldy to doubt her friend. As I said the book only covered a few days so there should have been more to Goldy's suspicions. It just didn't feel right to me.
Maybe I'm confusing this series with others since this one has become so slow over the years but I really couldn't connect to Goldy like I wanted to. The story felt a little rushed and it was so long. I felt like it would never end - it was interesting but endless.
All in all, I like these books so I liked this one but had this been the first one I picked up - I probably wouldn't read another.
On an aside - I was disappointed with the recipes. There was some great cooking in the book and the recipes just didn't seem to work for me. Maybe it was because they are at the end of the book instead of at the end of the chapter so I am still craving that particular dish.