Monday, January 30, 2017

One can never have enough hats

I have a pretty well known fondness for winter hats. And not just plain hats. We're talking owls, sharks, jesters, bright colors, pompoms, jingle bells. Even though I already have enough hats to wear a different one every day for over a week, I couldn't resist making another. Especially since I had a ball of bulky weight yarn hanging around. This was a simple pattern, just a long rectangle folded in half and seemed up the sides, but I'm pretty pleased with the result. It's brightly colored and super warm, just right for brightening up a Michigan winter day.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Book review - The Time Museum

Title: The Time Museum
Author: Matthew Loux
Genre: graphic novel/sci-fi
Similar books: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey
                     Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
a pretty exciting adventure

Summary (provided by publisher): The internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history.
When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia's team represents nearly all of human history! They're going to need all their skills for the challenge they've got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself!

My opinion: At face value, this is a pretty standard team adventure story. Differing personalities come together to accomplish something difficult. Their differences are what make them work as a tea,, etc. If it weren't for the charm and subtle humor of the illustrations it would be largely forgettable. The facial expressions are particularly excellent. There's a great sense of flow and movement both within and between panels. This is a solid choice for middle grade fans of adventure and graphic novels.

More Information: The Time Museum releases February 21.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book review - Nowhere Near You

Title: Nowhere Near You
Author: Leah Thomas
Genre: mild sci-fi
Similar books: Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy
                     The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman
I liked it, though not the way I expected

Summary (provided by publisher): Ollie and Moritz might never meet, but their friendship knows no bounds. Their letters carry on as Ollie embarks on his first road trip away from the woods—no easy feat for a boy allergic to electricity—and Moritz decides which new school would best suit an eyeless boy who prefers to be alone.
Along the way they meet other teens like them, other products of strange science who lead seemingly normal lives in ways Ollie and Moritz never imagined possible: A boy who jokes about his atypical skeleton; an aspiring actress who hides a strange deformity; a track star whose abnormal heart propels her to victory. Suddenly the future feels wide open for two former hermits. But even as Ollie and Moritz dare to enjoy life, they can't escape their past, which threatens to destroy any progress they've made. Can these boys ever find their place in a world that might never understand them?

My opinion: When I finished reading Because You'll Never Meet Me, I was fully satisfied. The open ending was one of the things I liked about it. We didn't get pat answers, just two damaged boys determined to give really living a shot. I was more than a bit apprehensive going into this new book. It's too easy to ruin a wonderful world by revisiting it. Thomas does a solid job with this one. We take the idea that Ollie and Moritz were moving towards their own "happily ever after"s and complicate it. At first they get a semblance of what they wanted: love, acceptance, real life. And it's far more complicated than they realized. Attraction fades. People aren't perfect. We grow and change and hurt people. And it's all necessary. I loved seeing them dealing with new people, facing demons they'd have preferred kept hidden. My first reaction was to say that I didn't like this one as much as the first but on further reflection I think that I do. It's just a different, more complex, kind of like.

More Information: Nowhere Near You releases February 7.
See my review of Because You'll Never Meet Me here .
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Computer mouse

I have a tendency to doodle, particularly when I'm reading something hard to understand or when I'm on hold. Usually this takes the form of little scribbles of animals and fruits among notes about phone numbers and usernames. Occasionally, though, I manage to produce something nice.

I got a new computer the other day at work and the monitor is noticeably larger than my old when. It felt like it was looming over me, which lead to this little sketch. While I've adjusted to the new size and no longer feel like a mouse beside it, I still like this drawing. It holds a place of honor on my bulletin board.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Graphic Novel Spotlight - Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Sturm and Rich Tommaso

Even the harshest critics of graphic novels must see the educational value of books like this one. What better way to introduce an historical figure to a young reader than in a format that they already enjoy? Baseball is well suited to the graphic novel format. Action and dramatic shots abound. While the art is less refined than in some books it works well in this instance. A good choice for both sports and history fans.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Malala

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaele Frier

If you select only one book about Malala for young readers, make it this one. This is a clear, straightforward presentation of facts. It is not so harsh as to become disturbing (no grim details) but does not soften reality (the narration states very plainly that Malala was shot, with bullets striking her head and neck).  Young readers will learn a lot from the main text and much more from the afterward which has loads of cultural and historical information as well as resources for learning even more. With eye-catching illustrations as well, it's an all around win.

More information: Malala: Activist for Girls' Education releases February 7.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book review - The Crooked Sixpence

Title: The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence
Author: Jennifer Bell
Genre: fantasy
Similar books: The Maloney's Magical Weatherbox by Nigel Quinlan
                     The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli
magical fun

Summary (provided by publisher): Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems…
When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to the hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Soon their house is ransacked by unknown intruders, and a very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush.
Ivy and Seb make their escape only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, a secret underground city called Lundinor where ordinary objects have amazing powers. There are belts that enable the wearer to fly, yo-yos that turn into weapons, buttons with healing properties, and other enchanted objects capable of very unusual feats.
But the forces of evil are closing in fast, and when Ivy and Seb learn that their family is connected to one of the greatest uncommon treasures of all time, they must race to unearth the treasure and get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late.
Debut novelist Jennifer Bell delivers a world of wonder and whimsy in the start of a richly uncommon series.

My opinion: Books of this sort are always going to be compared to Harry Potter. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Rowling set a high standard that pushes other fantasy writers to be more. Its not enough to give a character magic; you have to create a world, complex rules, and a fantastic villain. Bell does pretty well with these elements. Lundinor is complex with lots of consistent magic rules. The book has a complete plot on its own while also contributing to a larger series plot. Characterization is not particularly complex but with more volumes coming we can expect to see depth added in the future. I wouldn't put it under the "best book ever" banner but it's solidly entertaining and well worth the time spent reading.

More Information: The Crooked Sixpence releases January 31.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Winter Scene

One of the gifts I received this Christmas was a little craft kit: wooden shapes with some markers for coloring them in. The colors were less than desirable so I substituted acrylic paint. 


Friday, January 6, 2017

Book review - The Lost Girl of Astor Street

Title: The Lost Girl of Astor Street
Author: Stephanie Morrill
Genre: historical fiction
Similar books: Dead to Me by Mary McCoy
                     Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
A solid mystery

Summary (provided by publisher): When her best friend vanishes without so much as a good-bye, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail takes on the role of amateur sleuth in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. Given that Piper’s tendency has always been to butt heads with high-society’s expectations of her, it’s no surprise that she doesn’t give a second thought to searching for answers to Lydia’s abduction from their privileged neighborhood.
As Piper discovers that those answers might stem from the corruption strangling 1924 Chicago—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.
Perfect for fans of Libba Bray and Anna Godbersen, Stephanie Morrill’s atmospheric, jazz-age mystery will take readers from the glitzy homes of the elite to the dark underbelly of 1920s Chicago.

My opinion: While period mysteries aren't for everyone, I found this book pretty enjoyable. The characters are solidly portrayed - dynamic, nuanced, and distinct. They develop depth as the plot progresses. The plot holds a decent number of twists. There were inte4rpersonal developments I predicted that never came to fruition. The resolution has groundwork laid early on, so it is logical but not obvious. The real strength in this book, though, is the historical setting. The atmosphere is fantastic. Someone looking for a thrilling read, with lots of twists and nail-biting moments, probably won't enjoy this book. But, if you're someone who prefers to enjoy the moment and the scenery, give this book a try.

More information: The Lost Girl of Astor Street releases January 18.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Pick 6: humor

Who doesn’t love a good laugh? Especially in winter with the weather kind of dreary. Here are 6 funny books published in the last 6 months, covering everything from beginning chapter books to teen novels.

6 new comedies:
1.  Friday Barnes Under Suspicion by R.A. Spratt

2. The Most Frightening Story Ever Told by Phillip Kerr

3. Doodle Adventures: The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate by Mike Lowrey

4. The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White

5. Razzle Dazzle Unicorn Dana Simpson

6. The Capybara Conspiracy by Erica S Perl

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review - The Warden's Daughter

Title: The Warden's Daughter
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Genre: Historical fiction
Similar books: Al Capone Does My Shirts Gennifer Choldenko
                     Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard
The tears will creep up on you

Summary(provided by publisher): From Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, Stargirl) comes the knockout story of a girl who must come to terms with her mother's death from inside the walls of a prison.
Cammie O'Reilly is the warden's daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she's also living in a prison of grief and anger about the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. And prison has made her mad. This girl's nickname is Cannonball.
In the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything is in flux. Cammie's best friend is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand. A child killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the only mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper. All will play a role in Cammie's coming-of-age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past.
Master storyteller Jerry Spinelli spins a tale of loss and redemption like no other. The Warden's Daughter shows that kindness and compassion can often be found where we least expect it.

My opinion: There I was, reading peacefully along, knowing pretty much where this book was going and then -bam- I was crying. I didn't realize that I had connected that deeply with Cammie. That's the strong point of this book. Cammie is so very real. Her friends, the prisoners, they all feel like someone you could actually meet. It does have weak points. It's historical fiction, which is always a harder sell with a young audience. Additionally, it's narrated by an adult Cammie remembering her childhood, meaning that we aren't always in the moment. Still, it's fantastically written and well worth the effort if you can have a little patience.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Monday, January 2, 2017

Have you seen this chicken?

My family has been a fan of Wallace and Grommit for many years now so while I was working on another Sculpey project last month I whipped up this little figure of Feathers McGraw.

 If you are unfamiliar with Wallace and Grommit but enjoy a good laugh give it a watch. I especially recommend "The Wrong Trousers", the story that features this little fellow.