Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book review - The Lost Prince

Title: Seaborne #1: The Lost Prince
Author: Matt Myklusch
Genre: adventure, mild fantasy
Similar books: Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
                     The School for S.P.I.E.S by Bruce Hale
clever, better than I expected

Summary: For as long as he can remember, Dean has been a spy for the pirate king One-Eyed Jack. An assignment to spy on captain Gentleman Jim gets complicated when they cross paths with men who claim to be Seekers from the hidden country of Zenhala. These men think Dean is their lost prince. He goes along with them to gather treasure for One-Eyed Jack, but as the trials go on Dean begins to question his mission.

My Opinion: This is one of those books that I could easily imagine as a movie. Loads of action, death defying stunts, treachery, plots, and other assorted adventurous doings. It began to lose me a little when they arrived at the island. There was a little too much description without enough payoff. And things seemed a little too exotic for no particular reason. If you can set aside disbelief, both in setting and some slightly logic defying plot points, this is a fun read. Additionally, the ending is far more successful than I expected, taking a somewhat surprising turn. Great for fans of secrets and pirates.

More Information: The Lost Prince releases April 14th.
Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Monday, March 30, 2015

Slightly nerdy pendants

Perhaps five years ago I was a big fan of the cartoon Avatar: the Last Airbender. It had an epic storyline, a complex mythology, and serious messages all combined with a delightful sense of play. It's one of those shows that you watch all the way through and then immediately want to start all over again. For some time now I've had this idea to make some pendants inspired by the emblems of the four nations on the show. This is what I came up with. They're somewhere between a quarter and a half-dollar in size, all made from polymer clay.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Zippety Day!

Today was Zippety Day at my library, a day to celebrate our mascot. And what better way to celebrate than with a party? With games, crafts, a specially written story, and a craft, Zippety Day is one of our favorite events to plan.

One of four posters featuring zippety

Playing Feed Zippety a Cookie
fishing - photo by Nicholas Navarre
Playing Musical Statues - photo by Nicholas Navarre
Wearing our Zippety hats with Zippety!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book review - Black Dove, White Raven

Title: Black Dove, White Raven
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: historical fiction
Similar books: Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan
                     Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Pretty epic

Summary: Rhoda, Emilia, and Teo moved to Ethiopia from the United States in the 1930s. They wanted to escape the racial tensions and judgement that came along with a white woman raising a black child. They fell in love with their new country. When war with Italy threatens, they find themselves caught up in a new conflict. Will their new country save them or tear them apart?

My Opinion: Dual perspective, journal style writing can be hard to pull off but Wein is more than up to the task. The sheer scope of this novel may be off-putting for some but it is well worth the effort. This novel is a great source of cultural and historical education. It gives the reader a great deal to think about and discuss. The issues at play here (slavery, racial equality, colonialism, etc) are complex and have no simple resolution. It portrays each character's perspective not as "right" but as emphatic. And I like that the ending isn't a simply happy-ever-after but a sense of growth and ongoing change.
More information: Black Dove, White Raven releases March 31.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Books on screen

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

If you've read this book (and if you haven't you really ought to) you know that the first 3/4 of this book center around family humor. Its only in the final chapters, once they arrive in Alabama, that the serious political issues come into play. The movie version eliminates most of those early scenes and incorporates far more scenes of racial tension. It adds a scene where Byron and Kenny try to eat at a southern lunch counter and adds in cousins who talk about marching in a protest. While these things are important historically they entirely change the tone of the story. The original story shows us kids who have their eyes opened to injustice by as moment of intense violence. The movie makes it more of a process. More about a political situation and less about the individual. So, while both have merit, I personally prefer the novel. And if you enjoy audio books, this one is read by Levar Burton.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
The Lost Prince by Matt Myklusch
For as long as he can remember, Dean has been a spy for the pirate king One-Eyed Jack. An assignment to spy on captain Gentleman Jim gets complicated when they cross paths with men who claim to be Seekers from the hidden country of Zenhala. These men think Dean is their lost prince. He goes along with them to gather treasure for One-Eyed Jack, but as the trials go on Dean begins to question his mission.
This book combines the thrill of pirates with the intrigue of missing royalty. The characters have great depth. I love what I've read so far and don't anticipate that opinion changing as I read on.
What did you recently finish reading?
Anywhere But Paradise by Anne Bustard
The year is 1960 and Peggy Sue's family has just moved to Hawaii. Peggy Sue never wanted to leave Texas in the first place and having to quarantine her beloved cat, being one of only a few white students in her entire school, and not understanding local customs convinces her that Hawaii is just about the opposite of where she wants to be. Will Peggy Sue's opinion change or will living in Hawaii turn out to be the worst possible choice her parents have ever made?
This short read has a great sense of place and character. It's historical fiction but has more universal lessons. It could be a great read for upper elementary school kids. Besides, who doesn't like reading about Hawaii?
What do you think you will read next?
Ask the Dark by Henry Turner
A story about the local problem kid going up against a killer.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book review - Frank Einstein and the Elctro-Finger

Title: Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger
Author: Jon Scieszka
Genre: sci-fi/humor
Similar books: Dino-Mike and the T. Rex Attack by Franco Aureliani
                     The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole
very educational

Summary: Frank Einstein and his best friend Watson are working on an invention to provide free energy to everyone in Midville. Their rival, Edison, will do anything to stop them so everyone will have to get their energy from his power company at whatever prices he pleases. In the process Frank, Watson, and the reader learn about forms of energy.

My Opinion: This series has loads of great science information presented in a kid-friendly manner. This book alone teaches about the laws of motion, simple machines, types of energy, magnetism, and even how a solar cell works (something I confess I did not know). Add in a relatively entertaining plot with a really fun cast of characters and this becomes an easy recommendation for young readers.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Experimenting with t-shirt crafts

Ever get an idea and run with it without really thinking through all the steps or really making a solid plan? I usually rein in those impulses but occasionally I like to just freeform a craft. Sometimes the results are great (like with the goat puppet I made for my nephew) and sometimes they're .... well, the craft I'm sharing with you today.

This project started with a doodle of a rag doll with striped socks. I knew I had some scraps of a striped t-shirt tucked away so I found some other t-shirts that coordinated and just ran with it. I didn't even make any patterns. Which is why one arm is longer than the other and one leg of the shorts is significantly wider. Still, I feel like the base concept is solid and if I take the time to create an actual pattern it could be a project worth repeating.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Science with little kids

I hosted two programs this week: Science After Dark and Puppets!

Science After Dark compiled some simple science experiments using everyday materials. We explored inertia, chemical reactions, static, hydrophobic materials, and the joys of slime.
showing how inertia works with cardstock and a penny

we made observations on the effects of hot and cold water on glow sticks

experimenting with marbling food coloring on shaving cream

borax and glue slime

In Puppets this month we began constructing the puppets for our annual puppet show. This meant working on several different kinds of puppets all at once, so I wasn't able to get very many photos. Here's a couple of shots of the in progress puppets. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book review - The Walls Around Us

Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Genre: horror/magical realism
Similar books: The Drowning by Rachel Ward
                     All Those Broken Angels by Peter Adam Salomon
pretty eye opening; great for discussion

Summary: All of Violet's dreams are about to come true. In just a matter of weeks she will leave for Julliard. Before she leaves she must confront a part of her past with a trip to Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center where her best friend Oriana was imprisoned. The place where Oriana died. This is also the story of Amber, a long term inmate at the Center and Oriana's cellmate. These two stories weave together to tell teh tale of Oriana's life and death.

My Opinion: This is the third book I've read by Nova Ren Suma and the one that works the best for me. The first two (Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone) hooked me right away but sort of fell apart towards the end. This book started slower but really stuck the ending. The tone is more consistent as are the supernatural elements. There's also this fantastic exploration of guilt, innocence, and perception that would make for excellent discussion in a book club or other group.

More Information: The Walls Around Us releases March 24.
Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Graphic Novel Spotlight: No Girls Allowed

No Girls Allowed by Susan Hughes

No Girls Allowed tells the stories of seven historical women who rejected societal expectations of females, disguised themselves as men, and made things happen. They ruled nations, fought wars, and sought their freedom and better education. The art in this book is black and white line drawings and rather stylized, making at times a hard sell. Still, it's easily understood even without mind-blowing drawings and it's a great quick look at some important historical figures. This is well worth a look, especially for the reader who thinks graphic novels are all superheroes and weird fantasy.

You'll notice that the female characters have a circle on one cheek to indicate their gender

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Rhoda, Emilia, and Teo moved to Ethiopia from the United States in the 1930s. They wanted to escape the racial tensions and judgement that came along with a white woman raising a black child. They fell in love with their new country. When war with Italy threatens, they find themselves caught up in a new conflict. Will their new country save them or tear them apart?

This is the first of Wein's books that I've read and only a few chapters in I'm already very much invested in the story. She has remarkable way of writing characters we want to care about. I love what I've read already and don't expect that opinion to change.
What did you recently finish reading?
The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond
Dominic Hall feels like life is pulling him in many different directions. He wants to spend time with both Holly Stroud, his gentle and artistic neighbor, and Vincent McAlinden, a local thug with a reputation for being dangerously unpredictable. His mother encourages him to focus on his education and reach for higher things while his ship-builder father wants him to stay grounded in his current reality. Dominic can't even make heads or tails of his own nature. What sort of person is he really?

This book lacks the magical elements common in Almond's books. It's a fascinating exploration of growing up and discovering yourself. Dominic makes good and bad choices, heads in directions we wonder if he can come back from, faces nearly overwhelming odds. Mostly, this is a story of the constant state of becoming we find ourselves in as people.
What do you think you will read next?
Between Now and Never by Laura Johnston
This is part of my continuing effort to read stuff I wouldn't normally pick. A teen romance, this one promises a car accident, amnesia, and FBI involvement.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book review - Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions

Title: Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions
Author: Sheila Grau
Genre: humor
Similar books: Goblins by Philip Reeve
                     Little Miss Evil by Bryce Leung and Kristy Shen
What's not to like?

Summary: This should be Runt Higgins's year. He may be the smallest werewolf at Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions (he hasn't even transformed for several years) but now that he's in the Junior Henchman program he has a chance to prove himself. Unfortunately, things start going wrong the first day with a series of attacks against the school. It's up to Runt to save the school from destruction.

My Opinion: This book is really fun. Runt is an incredibly likeable character who gets into entertaining scrapes. This is a great start to a series and has lots of room for growth as the series progresses. It's funny and relatively gripping just in the writing. The illustrations just add to the charm. I really enjoyed it and I'm sure kids will too. I look forward to recommending this to kids at my library.
Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Monday, March 16, 2015

My new messenger bag

This craft is one I've been working on for a while. I found some bright green canvas pretty reasonably priced at a local store. The lining fabric I had picked up previously to make a shirt. It's large enough to hold several books. I think I'd like to add pockets at some point.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book review - Little Miss Evil

Title: Little Miss Evil
Author: Bryce Leung and Kristy Shen
Genre: humor/superheroes
Similar books: How to Grow Up and Rule the World by Scott Seegert
                     V is for Villain by Peter Moore
deliciously evil
Summary: Fiona's dad is a villain. They live in a volcano. She flies to school in a helicopter. And every year on her birthday, her father gives her some kind of weapon to prepare her for a future as a villain. The problem is, Fiona doesn't want to be evil. She wants to be seen as a regular kid. Then, the volcano base is attacked and her father is kidnapped. The only way to get him back is to hand over a nuclear bomb. It will take all of her skills for Fiona to get him back. And she just might have to get a little bit evil.

My Opinion: Could this book be any more fun? You've got all the classic super-villain types here: the greedy for gold, the power-mad, and the over the top evil-for-the-sake-of-evil screwball. It might not be great literature, but there are a lot of good things happening here. Characters all have at least a little depth. Life is portrayed as complex, a series of tough choices. Mostly, though, it is incredibly entertaining.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pick 6: love stories

Romance is definitely not my favorite genre. I try to read them occasionally just be aware of what's out there.  Here are 6 love stories published in the last 6 months.

6 new love stories

1. Love and other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

2. How (Not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts

3. I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

4. Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes

5. The Secrets Between You and Me by Shanna Norris

6. My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?
Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions by Sheila Grau
This should be Runt Higgins's year. He may be the smallest werewolf at Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions (he hasn't even transformed for several years) but now that he's in the Junior Henchman program he has a chance to prove himself. Unfortunately, things start going wrong the first day with a series of attacks against the school. It's up to Runt to save the school from destruction.

I love the concept behind this book. What I've read so far is quite entertaining.

What did you recently finish reading?
Enchantment Lake by Margie Preus
When she takes a mysterious phone call from her great aunts, Francie rushes off from her audition in New York back to Minnesota where strange things are happening. Residents of Enchantment Lake are dying in mysterious accidents. Local law enforcement thinks nothing is wrong. Francie isn't so sure and her investigations might just get her in over her head.

This is a fairly standard young teen mystery. The clues can be a little hard to follow and the writing style is a bit odd but it's not a difficult read.

What do you think you will read next?
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
A story about two non-white girls, disguised as boys, headed west on their own? This could be absolutely amazing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book review - Catch You Later, Traitor

Title: Catch You Later, Traitor
Author: Avi
Genre: historical fiction
Similar books: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
                     Rex Zero and the End of the World by Tim Wynne-Jones
I highly recommend

Summary: It's 1951 and Pete likes nothing more than reading and listening to detective stories. He soon finds himself mixed up in a very different sort of mystery when a rumor goes around that a member of his family is a Communist and his teacher and classmates, even his best friend Kat, turn against him. Pete searches for the truth, but he begins to wonder if finding it will fix his problems or make things even worse.

My opinion: Avi is pretty much a consistent source of good kid's fiction, especially historical fiction. I find that novels are a great way to learn about history and this novel is certainly no exception, taking a close look at life during the cold war and the affect being an accused communist had on whole families. Add in universally applicable lessons about loyalty, honesty, and growing up and and this becomes just an all around great novel.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Talking dogs

For some time now I've been toying with the idea of what you might call a "hidden arm" puppet. This is a puppet attached to a shirt of some sort. The intent is that a false arm appears to be holding the puppet while your real hand manipulates it. 

This is actually a pretty easy puppet to make. What you'll need is a loose fitting shirt of some sort (I used a hooded sweatshirt), a large-ish stuffed animal (Build-a-Bear sized works pretty well), sharp scissors, thin cardboard, and some knit fabric. I'd hoped to do a full tutorial for you but I forgot to photograph the middle steps so I'll describe those as best as I can.

1. The first thing you'll want to do is cut open your puppet's mouth. The dog I was using actually had a folded over lip that was just about perfect, but most stuffed animals have a stitched on mouth that should work pretty well as a guideline. Once you've got the mouth cut, go ahead and pull the extra stuffing out of the head and set it aside for later.  

2.Cut a hole in the animal's back that gives you access to the mouth, probably from the neck down about 4-6 inches. If the animal you chose has a narrow neck, you'll need to cut into the back of it's head. Don't be afraid to cut farther than you think you'll need. You can always sew or glue that back shut. Pull some extra stuffing out at this point. You'll want the animal pretty floppy so you have room inside of it to work. 

3. Decide which arm will be holding the puppet. This will generally be your dominant arm. Cut a hole in the armpit of your shirt large enough to fit your arm comfortably through. I also cut several inches down the sleeve to give the top of the shirt a more natural look. This also gives your arm a little more space to move.

4. Sew the end of the dominant arm sleeve shut. To make the false arm more convincing you might want to stuff the sleeve lightly with fiberfill or even some rags. If you're using a sweatshirt like I did you can sew the sleeve cuff into the front pocket. For a regular shirt you'll need to tuck the cuff firmly into your pants pocket. 
My false arm isn't stuffed in this photo and you can see how odd and flat it looks.
4. At this point you're going to want to make a sort of sleeve out of your knit fabric. This sleeve goes inside of your puppet, so you'll want to make a tube of fabric that fits loosely around your forearm. It needs to be long enough to reach from the puppet's mouth to the hole you cut in it's back. You can sew your tube but hot glue works pretty well too. You also need a circle of fabric the same circumference as your tube. Think of it as a "cap" for the tube. Attache this circle of fabric to one end of the tube.

5. This part is a little tricky. Cut 2 half circles about the size of the puppet's mouth from the cardboard. These give your mouth stability. Glue them to the inside of your fabric tube, resting against that "cap" you made. Now you need to insert the tube into the puppet. Line up your cardboard circles along the puppet's upper and lower jaws. I found hot glue was the easiest way to attach the tube into the puppet's mouth.

6. Remember the stuffing you removed earlier? It's time to put that back into your puppet. Stuff it just enough to give it some shape. If you over-stuff it will be uncomfortable when you work the puppet. 

7. Attach the top of your fabric tube to the opening you cut in the back of your puppet. Again, you can sew this but for mine hot glue worked pretty well.
My fabric tube was a little long, so one edge hangs out of the puppet's back. I tuck it around my wrist when I use the puppet.
8) optional: At this point, you can attach the puppet directly to the shirt. You may find it easier to leave the puppet unattached and simply tuck it into the crook of the false arm when you want to use it.
Finished puppet!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book review - Flunked

Hi friends! I'm pretty excited to be a stop on the virtual tour for Flunked. Here's my review.

Title: Flunked
Author: Jen Calonita
Genre: fantasy
Similar books: Goblins by Philip Reeve
                     The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
kind of wicked fun

Summary: (provided by the publisher)

Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run- down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).
Until she gets caught.
Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School- where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?

My Opinion: This book will be a solid addition to your middle grade fiction collection. It has a nice assortment of characters, all of whom have a decent level of depth. The plot has enough complication to keep you guessing but not so many twists as to become confusing or hard to believe. Fractured fairy tales can be a lot of fun or really annoying. This one falls into the former category. It doesn't make excuses for familiar villains but makes them more than just evil. They are misguided or selfish, not pure evil. Plus it is, at times, pretty funny. The first in a series, there's a lot of room here for growth. I look forward to seeing how this series develops.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley. 

If this sounds like something you'd enjoy, check out the excerpt provided by the publisher below.

There’s a boy up there, standing on the crystal chandelier! He has slightly curly blond hair and is wearing a uniform—­a navy sweater vest over a white shirt with khaki pants—­but his boots are muddy. He’s stepping on priceless crystals with cruddy boots? Is he insane?
“Jax! What are you doing up there?” Kayla whispers heatedly.
“I’m cleaning the crystal for Flora,” Jax says and rolls his eyes. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m making
a break for it.”
Kayla applauds. “Yay! This time I know you can do it.”
I shade my eyes from the light bursting through the stained-­glass window next to the chandelier Jax is perched on. “Busting out? Why?” I ask Kayla. “I thought you said this place was cool.”
Jax laughs loudly and looks at me. I feel slightly stunned. I’ve never seen violet eyes before. “FTRS was fun for a while, but strange things have started happening and I don’t want to be here when something bad goes down.”
Strange things? What kind of strange things? Why does Kayla suddenly look pale?
“He’s exaggerating,” Kayla tells me, but she doesn’t sound convincing.
Drip. Whatever Jax is holding is leaking. Kayla and I move out of the way so we don’t get wet. “Grease,” Jax explains to me. “It lubes the window.” He swings the chandelier, and as it nears the window, he uses a fork to try to pry the window open. “A few more tries and I’ll have it.”
“Then what are you going to do, genius?” I ask. “You’re two stories up.”
Jax’s eyes gleam. “I’ve jumped from higher spots before.”
“It’s true,” Kayla says to me. “Jax once jumped from the gym to the dining hall turret. That was three stories up. We call him the Escape Artist. One time he even managed to break into Azalea and Dahlia’s rooms and borrowed their keys to the indoor pool so the whole dorm could take a midnight swim.”
“Impressive,” I tell him. “And I thought I was good at tricking obnoxious royals.”
“She stole a dragon’s tooth clip from one this morning,” Kayla fills him in.
“Nice,” Jax says. “Your first pull?”
“No, I’ve been doing it for a while,” I brag.
“Me too,” Jax says. “My father is a farmer. You can only get so far trading vegetables. I needed to kick things up a notch.”
For some reason, I don’t think any of us are going to make the transformation Headmistress Flora is looking for. “Why do you want to break out so bad?”
“I’ve got places to see, and Enchantasia isn’t one of them.” Jax swings the chandelier so hard the crystals clang together. The window latch pops open, and I watch Jax leap from the chandelier to the tiny window ledge. I’m in awe. Jax looks down at us smugly before pushing open the window. “Are you sure you two don’t want to join me?”
“There’s no time for us,” Kayla says. “Get out of here. Wait!” Her eyes widen. “You deactivated the alarm on the window, right?”
“There isn’t one,” Jax insists. “If there was, I wouldn’t be able to do this.” But when Jax lifts the window, we hear:
EEEEEE! EEEE! EEEE! Unauthorized exit! Unauthorized exit!
The shrieking sound is so intense that Kayla and I cover our ears. Within seconds, Flora is out of her office and running toward us.
I feel something brush past me and I whirl around. When I look up at Jax again, a large, muscular man with a long mane of hair is hanging on to the window ledge, his furry hands pulling Jax back by his shirt. How did the man get up there without a ladder?
“Mr. Jax,” the man says in a low growl, “we really must stop meeting like this.”

Fairy Tale Reform School Quiz Link: Fairy Tale Reform School Quiz
If you get sentenced to Fairy Tale Reform School, it will help to have an ally. Take the quiz and find out who your mentor would be.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Book review - Dead to Me

Title: Dead to Me
Author: Mary McCoy
Genre: mystery/historical fiction
Similar books: I'm Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil
                     What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Pretty good detective story
Summary: Alice never knew what made her older sister Annie run away or where she might have gone. Their parents never talk about Annie. She'd hoped that Annie ended up somewhere nice. The reality is far worse. When Annie turns up comatose in a hospital, the victim of a savage beating, Alice sets out to figure out what happened to her sister with the help of a private investigator who claims to be her friend. She finds herself caught up in a side of Hollywood she'd never seen, filled with desperate young women and savage celebrities.

My Opinion: This was pretty much the ideal teen mystery. McCoy does a great job of setting the scene, really hitting the nail on the head with the culture of the golden age of Hollywood. Even the role of women and the corruption among the police are present in this novel. It really has that classic noir feel, more cold and clinical than the constant pulse pounding of a modern thriller. I could easily imagine this as a movie or an episode of a period crime drama. Well worth the read.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Picture books for everyone

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth

True to the title, this book holds three short, traditional tales of Zen Buddhism told in the framework of three children visiting Stillwater the panda. Each story gently leads the reader to a lesson in generosity, luck, and forgiveness. Adding to the text are Muth's fantastic, soft illustrations. Parents will enjoy this book for the moral lessons. Kids will enjoy the idea of hanging out with a giant panda. There are two other books about Stillwater and the children: Zen Ghosts and Zen Ties.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?
Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi
It's 1951 and Pete likes nothing more than reading and listening to detective stories. He soon finds himself mixed up in a very different sort of mystery when a rumor goes around that a member of his family is a Communist and his teacher and classmates, even his best friend Kat, turn against him. Pete searches for the truth, but he begins to wonder if finding it will fix his problems or make things even worse.
Avi is pretty much always a good read, especially when it comes to historical fiction. With solid characters and a situation that was reality for many back in the 50s this is, so far, a pretty fascinating read.  
What did you recently finish reading?
The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe
Billy Kinsey is disillusioned with life. His parents are caught up in the new lifestyle that came along with winning library, trying to forget their grief after the death of Billy's twin sister Dorrie. Billy's philosophy is not to take part in life. Then he meets Twom Twomey who encourages him to "go a little outlaw" and Gretchen Quinn who thinks he needs to put good things into the world. Can Billy overcome his distrust of good things or is he doomed to travel down a path to disaster?
This novel asks some tough questions about modern society and the tendency of people to consistently make the wrong choices. It's not a comfortable read but one that encourages the reader to think.
What do you think you will read next?
The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold
I like the notion of imaginary friends having lives all their own. I look forward to seeing how this one plays out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book review - Doing Right

Title: Doing Right
Author: Patrick Jones
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Juvie by Steve Watkins
                     Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman
...until it wasn't

Summary: DeQuin's father thinks he needs to be tougher. But being tough got his father a prison sentence. His uncle thinks he should just let everything go. That doesn't seem like much of a way to be a man to DeQuin. His grandfather is constantly lecturing him about the civil rights movement and standing up for your rights. When a night out with his friends goes very wrong, what will DeQuin choose? What kind of man will he be?

My opinion: (SPOILER ALERT, FRIENDS) At first, I loved this book. The characters have a decent amount of depth. The situations are complex, nothing easily solved. I really liked the interactions between DeQuin and his friends, especially his final confrontation with Martel. It encourages the reader to really think about issues of personal rights and how to make tough choices. What I didn't like was the ending. It's very sudden and leaves, I think, too many issues up in the air. I wanted more, a little sense of what might be down the road for DeQuin after his arrest.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.