Friday, December 23, 2011

A look back at 2011

Well I met my goal of 100 books with 101 listed in my journal. I read more than that but didn't count some of the shorter works. I am in love with my Nook and I think it has opened new doors to me, as well as joining the NetGalley family.
I got an email from one of the reading sites I have subscribed to (this one I didn't even know I was a member of). They asked everyone to list their top ten books of 2011. That sounded like fun. I have read some amazing books this year and looking over my journal, I remembered what I loved about them.
So, in order that I read them, here are my top ten picks of the books I have read in 2011.

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft
20th Century Ghosts
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling
I Am Number Four
America I Am: Pass It Down Cookbook
How David Met Sarah
Bearded Women Stories
The Girl Who Owned a City

It was a tough list to make since there were so many great books this year. These 10 still make me want to recommend them. In fact, I submitted Bearded Women Stories as a possible all university freshman read. To me, it's an amazing study of humanity and how we are all struggling with being different.
How David Met Sarah practically haunts me - it's such a great book. There has never been another like it and I can't wait to find more.
I like that the list is all over the place - fiction, nonfiction, adult, juvenile. It just goes to show how eclectic my reading is (there are even 2 graphic novels). There are a multiple of reasons why these 10 are my favorites and I recommend that you read them. They may not make it on a bestseller's list but I think they are worth your time.
Happy Holidays and see you in the new year.

Little Black Dress by Alison Marie Behnke

To look at me, one would believe I have no interest in fashion. I would normally agree but there is something about clothing from another time that just captivates me. I drooled and dreamed my way through the 60 some pages of Little Black Dress.
If I had to guess, I would say this is juvenile non-fiction based on the length of this book but Alison Marie Behnke does not dumb down this information. I was a little disappointed to find there was no pronunciation guide at the end. So many designers and people of influence had really hard names.
The book is an easy to read book but there is a ton of information about fashion, politics and history. It’s a great introduction into fashion of the 1930s through 1950s. I’m still reeling. Right after I finished the book, I started checking out the recommended websites. I love looking at Elsa Shiaparelli’s designs at the Philadelphia Museum. I have to say it makes me want to design clothing and, to me, that’s the mark of a great piece of non-fiction – the desire to learn more or to experiment on your own.
This book inspired me but it also taught me. There were so many influences in fashion during those eras that I had never thought about. There was The Great Depression, World War II and television. For the first time, television was a major influence on how people dressed. Movies had often inspired high fashion but television shows offered a more every day fashion with shows like I Love Lucy and The Donna Reed Show.
With World War II, America was able to step up in fashion design. New York was able to compete with Europe which was still recovering from the war. World War II influenced a lot of fashion. Americans were introduced to Hawaiian shirts and capris. Because of the fabric shortage of that time, clothing got shorter and opened the door to smaller bathing suits and eventually the Bikini.
Fashion may not be your thing but this book is so much more than clothing. It’s history and how fashion played a part. Every culture is identified by its clothing. History is no exception. Take the time to pick up this book and you’ll be amazed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Before E by Susan Randol

When I picked up this book, I thought it was a grammar book but it’s a book on mnemonics. The book is broken into subjects from Science to Language Arts to History and offers easy ways to remember facts. The book is written for school aged children but would prove useful for any age group.
Some of the mnemonics are ones I remember and others are not. The author offers opportunities to create your own based on the information you need to remember. For those who might pass over a book like this, I would like to share that there are still mnemonics that I use to this day. Some I can’t help but to remember as I access that particular fact. For example, I find myself singing H-A-double L- O W- double E – N spells Halloween every October without fail even though I haven’t actually heard the song since second grade.
Who can forget ROY G BIV or Mary Visits Every Monday and Just Stays Until Noon Period (that’s not in the book but there are similar ones for remembering the order of the planets). Mnemonics are a great teaching tool and this is a wonderful resource for those who want to find an easy way to remember facts.
The book even offers mnemonics for remembering how to spell tricky words. I know there are a few I struggle with that will become easier due to this book.
Subjects in this book: Calendar, Astronomy, Geography, Language Arts, History, Math and Music.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea by Alinka Rutkowska

I just am not sure how I feel about this book. The language is funny and makes me suspect the author is not a native English speaker. I searched the author only to find there is no real information about her. Every thing is about her decision to travel and write but nothing about where she originated. The language on her blog only seconds my suspicion that she is not a native English speaker. Had she mentioned that, I think I would have enjoyed the book more.
The great thing about this book is that the drawings are simple and open inviting the reader to color. I am big on coloring.
However, the story was a bit odd as if the author is not really familiar with child behavior. The characters, Maya and Filippo live on a ship and this particular day they are joining other children in the kitchen to make cakes. They are left to make whatever they like. One boy is not sure he wants to make a cake. With one sentence, Maya is able to convince the boy to make a cake and then at the end he doesn't like it. The other weird part had to do with Maya and Filippo fighting over an orange. It just didn't work for me.
This is the second book in the series but to be honest - I wouldn't pay $10 for either. I think there is a good idea here but the author needs to work on the story more than the concept.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Infestation: Outbreak by Chris Ryall

One thing I want to get out right away – I prefer graphic novels to single issues. This was a single issue but a complete one. The galley description had this as a first issue, in a way it is. This is the first issue of a new plot line for an existing series.
The story and the characters were not difficult to connect with but I kept feeling like I was missing something. It does make me want to go back and find the start of this series and hope I can find it in novel form.
The story is interesting – CVO is an organization that defends the world against supernatural enemies such as vampires and zombies. The story contained demons and ended with an alien invasion. I couldn’t help but feel like there was a little BPRD rip-off especially since their demon advisor was bright red with horns that came out of his forehead.
Infestation is well drawn and easy to follow which makes the story so much better when starting in the middle. I had no difficulty determining which character was which.
I was impressed that this series is done by the same publisher that does Joe Hill’s Locke and Key. I love that series and it made me feel connected to this series. Who knows where it’s going to go but if they make an Infestation movie – I’ll be there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Aliens: Fast Track to Heaven by Liam Sharp

What a privilege to read a graphic novel before it’s published. In this case, the work is a novella – shorter than the average graphic novel. I didn’t think they could get shorter, to be honest. It was far too brief for my taste but a nice treat anyway.
Aliens was drawn wonderfully. The monster remained true to the movies. I wasn’t so keen on the multicolor panes for the characters. I prefer clean drawings but this one was filled with green, red and blue squares making it difficult for me to connect with the characters. I had difficulty determining the characters in the beginning. I know that in the horror genre, getting to know the characters can often play second to the monster.
The world was different than the worlds of Ripley in the movies and I didn’t quite connect to it. I can only hope that this was just a sample of what they are going to do with the Aliens franchise. I want to know more about this future and its intricate parts. I didn’t see a character that stood out like Ripley and it would be nice to have someone to connect with while the Aliens are wreaking havoc.
I’d read more, if offered. I may even look out for more Liam Sharp. Because this was an e-copy instead of a print copy, I did have difficulty reading some of the print but I hope that isn’t true in the print copy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do You See What I See? by James Sallie

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It was entertaining but I don't think it's worth the price. According to amazon you can get this for Kindle for $9.99 and in hardback for $70. It not worth $70 and I'm not sure it's worth $10.
It's interesting and I do recommend picking up a copy from the library but it lacks that something that would get me to come back to it time and time again. The humor is very juvenile, which is okay and some of the pictures are clever but it's not the sort that really catches your eye.
In places, I found the book confusing and rather frustrating. I believe that James Sallie has some great talent but many pictures just looked thrown together. I have set this aside for my husband and son to look at and I will share their opinion which may differ from mine.