January 19, 2018

Didn't get the word play of the title until I was writing out my notes

After what feels like a millennium, I have read The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and I totally get the hype now. Oscar Wilde's play focuses on two men who independently of the other have invented alternate personas that allow them to cut loose without (hopefully) any repercussions. One of the men has created Ernest who is by all rights a scoundrel and his creator has finally decided to do away with him so that he can settle down and get married. The problem is that his friend (the other deceitful man) has decided to take on the mantle of Ernest so that he can win the heart of a girl that he's just met. (I recommend reading this in one sitting because otherwise you're liable to get confused.) Wilde uses word play and absolutely ridiculous circumstances to discuss the folly of youth and poke fun at the whims and fancies of people who believe they are really truly in love even if they don't truly know the other person. For instance, the two women of the play are determined that they will only marry someone named Ernest but as it turns out no one is named Ernest there is a bit of a kerfuffle. After all is said and done, no one comes out on top and everyone is depicted as foolish and unimpressive. It was thoroughly amusing and I guess now I'll have to see the movie that was based on it. :-P If you haven't read it yourself and you'd like a quick, fun read this will do just the trick. 9/10

And yes the title of this post is true. I was staring at the book's title and then it hit me: "Oh because it's about two men proclaiming to be Ernest and they do it will all earnestness."  *facepalm*

Source: wobcp.org

What's Up Next: The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

What I'm Currently Reading: The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 12, 2018

Don't dismiss children's literature just because you're an adult

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy showed up on my radar through a footnote in another book that I read last year. (Just one more reminder that I am 100% a nerd especially in regards to children's literature.) Handy splits the chapters into different books considered 'classics' of children's literature and he explains why they've had a lasting effect and endured as long as they have. He makes an argument that there is a reason books become classics but there is also a clarity in realizing that a difference of opinion will most certainly occur. A good example is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I know this is a classic and it is still read by kids and parents now but I have never (and probably never will) consider this one a favorite. In that same vein, there were quite a few books that he mentioned that I had not heard of or had never read and I promptly added them to my TRL. (You may recognize some of the titles if you decide to read this book.) One of the best things about Wild Things was the organization of the chapters. It's quite obvious that Handy has not only done thorough research on the topic but has a real passion for the topic. This made it have an academic feel which I really appreciated. Interspersed throughout the book are personal anecdotes about the books he loved as a child as well as his experience introducing books to his children. (Get those tissues out, parents with small children. It's fairly sentimental.) I doubt this would be of as much interest to someone not in the field of children's literature but if you're looking for inspiration about what books to read to your kids at night then this would be an excellent source for you. 9/10

Cover art inspired by Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. [Source: Amazon]

What's Up Next: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

What I'm Currently Reading: The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham (Coincidentally, I'm watching Midsomer Murders which is based off of the book series.)

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 5, 2018

The last story strengthened my resolve to never go on a cruise

Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories was a must-have for me for 2 reasons: 1. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors and I want to read everything he's ever written and 2. I love ghost stories. I have to admit that going into this one I was very much under the impression that this was going to be a book filled with stories written by Dahl himself. I clearly hadn't read the synopsis or book jacket because that is not what this book is about. This is a collection of some of Dahl's favorite ghost stories written by other people. He compiled this list when he was working on a project for American television and his preparation was extensive. He read 749 tales of the supernatural by different authors and from that large number he whittled it down to 14 of his favorites that he felt were not only excellent examples of writing in this genre but that would make for good television. (He also discovered that women are experts in this field and until the 11th hour he thought they would beat out the men with a hard majority.) Since there are 14 different stories in this collection, I will only talk about 2 that I found particularly chilling (and yes they are written by women).

The first is called 'Harry' and was written by Rosemary Timperley. It bore a striking resemblance to The Imaginary in that its primary focus was on a little girl who had a strong friendship with an imaginary boy. The biggest difference here is that the mom tried very hard to squash this relationship because she had a deep and abiding fear...of the name Harry. Yes, I too found this odd. Nevertheless, while it may seem irrational this fear was quite powerful and instead of ignoring the interactions of her child and her invisible playmate she let it consume her until...well you'll have to read the story. 😀 Suffice to say, the ending was quite the surprise.

The other story I'd like to mention came immediately after 'Harry' and was written by Cynthia Asquith. 'The Corner Shop' follows a man who stumbles into an old rundown shop full of what appears to be dusty junk. Persuaded by the decrepit shop owner, he buys something that turns out to be of immense value. Bothered by his conscience, he feels that it is his duty to give some of this money back to the proprietor as he feels the sale was too much to his benefit. When he returns to the shop, he is shocked to discover...gosh you'll just have to check it out yourself. 😀 It's a creepy tale with a whiff of Stephen King about it that is sure to get the hairs on your neck to stand up.

I have to admit that I had to go back and look at the chapter listing to remember the stories written in this collection and only a few of them came back to me clearly. That seems to be the way with most collections that I read (except for Stories of Your Life and Others) so that shouldn't discourage you from giving it a shot. There are some real gems in there as well as some illuminating thoughts from Dahl himself in the introduction. 7/10 overall.

Such a beautiful cover. [Source: Amazon UK]

What's Up Next: Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

What I'm Currently Reading: The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers by Hollis Robbins and edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 1, 2018

2017 Book Roundup

Another year has gone by and it's now time to compile the list of books that I read in 2017. Like last year, some of these books haven't been reviewed (yet in some cases and never in others) so you'll need to keep an eye on the blog to see what I thought of them. I'm going to do something slightly different this year. I've decided to include rereads in my count because I want to be able to keep a running record (digitally) of everything I've read in a given year. Here we go!
  1. Ms. Bixby's Last Day
  2. Have You Seen Elephant? (picture book - no review)
  3. Duck, Duck, Dinosaur (picture book - no review)
  4. Sidekicked
  5. Vampire Academy
  6. Dead Wake
  7. Hark! A Vagrant
  8. South Riding
  9. Wonderful, Wicked, and Whizzpopping
  10. The Burning World
  11. Cry, Heart, But Never Break
  12. The Dungeoneers
  13. Frostbite
  14. Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast
  15. Henry & Leo
  16. Frog on a Log?
  17. The Last Shadow Gate
  18. Terms & Conditions
  19. I Work at a Public Library
  20. A Freudian Slip is When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother
  21. I Don't Want to be Big
  22. The Unfinished World
  23. Frindle
  24. Waking Gods
  25. I Don't Want to be a Frog
  26. The Secrets of Gaslight Lane
  27. Trio for Blunt Instruments
  28. Lunch Witch: Knee-Deep in Niceness
  29. The Grumpface
  30. How to Build an Android
  31. Fortunately, the Milk
  32. The Shadow Land
  33. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat (for some reason I didn't review this?)
  34. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life
  35. The House of Months and Years
  36. The Wild Robot
  37. Grandpa's Great Escape
  38. The Deadly 7
  39. The Phantom Tollbooth
  40. Book Uncle and Me
  41. Roller Girl
  42. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
  43. The Marvels
  44. Some Writer!
  45. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  46. The Mysterious Benedict Society
  47. Wildwood
  48. The Cabinet of Curiosities
  49. One Day We'll Be Dead and None of This Will Matter
  50. Under Wildwood
  51. Stories of Your Life and Others
  52. Do Not Say We Have Nothing
  53. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
  54. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
  55. The Book That Changed America
  56. Wildwood Imperium
  57. Comics Squad: Detention
  58. Wonderstruck
  59. The Imaginary
  60. HiLo (graphic novels 1-3)
  61. Ghost Waltz
  62. Bluffton
  63. The Storm in the Barn
  64. The Red Badge of Courage
  65. Science of the Magical
  66. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey
  67. A Wrinkle in Time (reread)
  68. A Wind in the Door 
  69. A Swiftly Tilting Planet
  70. Many Waters
  71. Grendel
  72. The Great Questions of Tomorrow
  73. Find the Good
  74. Thornhill
  75. Woolly
  76. everyone's a aliebn when ur a aliebn too
  77. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
  78. Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories
  79. The Importance of Being Earnest
  80. A Veil of Shadows
  81. Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult 
  82. The Goldfish Boy (not reviewed yet)
  83. Close Enough to Touch (not reviewed yet)
  84. Deep Dark Fears (not reviewed yet)
  85. Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods (not reviewed yet)
  86. The Unreal and the Real (not reviewed yet)
  87. The People's Republic of Amnesia (not reviewed yet)
  88. The Little Virtues (not reviewed yet)
  89. The Creeps (not reviewed yet)
  90. World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures (not reviewed yet)
  91. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores (not reviewed yet)
  92. My Friend Dahmer (not reviewed yet)
  93. Scythe (not reviewed yet)
  94. Mine Own Executioner (not reviewed yet)
And the reread books:
  1. The Rubber Band
  2. The Red Box
  3. Pride & Prejudice (every year)
  4. Star Trek Into Darkness
  5. Murder on the Orient Express
  6. The Neverending Story (every year)
That brings our total count to: 100 books.

I decided to do as I did in 2015 and include the review links (not doing that again anytime in a hurry) for each of the titles but you can always use the search feature to look up any genre, subject, etc. to find your next book to kick off 2018. :-) Happy New Year!!

**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 28, 2017

Eventually your past will catch up with you

I had hoped to keep up the momentum and actually post a new review every single day leading up to New Year's but I got super busy with mom in town and...ah well. :-)

I thought I made notes about every single book that I've read this year and then it's time to review Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan and I've got nothing. This leaves me in an interesting predicament because I read this book quite a while ago (September to be precise) and so this is going to be a test of the narrative's sustainability in my memory. (Full disclosure: I had to look up the synopsis because all I remembered was 'mystery, death, and bookstore'.) Without being too spoiler-y, the book follows a young woman named Lydia who works at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. Lydia has a secret. Well, it's at least a secret from her closest friends and co-workers. At the very start of the novel, Lydia discovers the body of one of her favorite patrons hanging in the bookstore where she works. (This isn't giving anything away because it's on the book jacket, ok?) This sets her off on a journey to not only discover why he killed himself but how the two of them might be interconnected beyond the clerk/customer relationship. Full of suspense (and not a little gore), this was an enjoyable read. I felt a bit like Sherlock Holmes trying to suss out the real clues from the barrage of information that the author threw my away but it wasn't too overwhelming. This is definitely a novel full of drama so if that isn't your jam I don't recommend this one. (And if you're squeamish I think you'd better steer clear.) 8/10 with a few points lost because I predicted the ending somewhat.

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories 

What I'm Currently Reading: I FINALLY FINISHED SCYTHE

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 24, 2017

What thoughts do eggs have?

Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun was an odd little book.  The reader follows our main character who is an alien (or aliebn if you prefer) sent to earth to learn about humans but because he's never met one he assumes every living thing he sees is a human. Therefore, he becomes good friends with a tree, beaver, egg, etc. Reminiscent of Find the Good, this book is chock full of life lessons about what truly matters. Our little alien friend learns how to be content and happy, what loneliness is, how to be a good friend, the value of creativity, and most of all how to accept oneself. There's also an underlying message about doomsday and what the planet would be like without human habitation. Is this actually an apocalyptic tale cloaked behind a cute alien story?  I have to point out that the misspelling (as you see in the title) was highly annoying even after I managed to somewhat successfully ignore it and took away some enjoyment from the overall reading of the book. However, if you are able to look past that (and I was mostly successful) then it's a nice little read with great messages. This author isn't afraid to tackle tough subjects and I believe he does so with sensitivity and insight. This would make a great gift for that introspective friend (or a great addition to your own collection). I'd say it was a solid 7/10 because while it was a really nice book it didn't blow me out of the water. (The best graphic novel remains The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins.)

Source: Barnes & Noble

Source: Sweet


What's Up Next: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

What I'm Currently Reading: it's 1 day til Christmas...do you think I'm reading?

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 23, 2017

Genetics gone wild...and woolly

YES. That is literally what I have written first in my notes for today's book review. Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures by Ben Mezrich is the perfect mixture of technical science and literary narrative. This book tells the story of Dr. George Church and the Revivalists (a group under his tutelage) who are trying to do what has been thought impossible: Bring back the woolly mammoth from extinction. (I have to wonder if the author received a financial backing from this group because if he didn't then he certainly deserves one. He's a major fanboy.) Mezrich covers not only their attempts at this breakthrough in science but also their competition from Seoul which owns the market on DNA cloning. The company in Seoul believes it is possible to find a complete DNA strand while Church's group thinks that the DNA will be too degraded. They're working from pieces of DNA and splicing together traits unique to woolly mammoths with the hope that a viable fetus can be carried by an Asian elephant. A scientific group dedicated to the reversal of extinction of local flora and fauna in Siberia has begun work on Pleistocene Park which is most likely going to be a functioning reality but will take several years. This is where the woolly mammoths (who wouldn't be technically true mammoths) will reside. The controversy and hubris of scientists (especially geneticists who write DNA/RNA) is extensively discussed and is fascinating to me (and I'd imagine to most laymen). However, this isn't only about the woolly mammoth. It's also an in-depth biography of George Church and how he came to be one of the leading figures in genetics. Total 10/10.

Source: Simon & Schuster

What's Up Next: Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun

What I'm Currently Reading: it's 2 days til Christmas so I'm all over the place

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **