April 28, 2017

Short and sweet

I've fallen for Dev Petty and Mike Boldt again. I Don't Want to be a Frog reunites us with our spunky frog friend and his glasses-wearing dad as he continually asserts that he'd rather be anything except a frog. Once again, the humor and illustrations pair together perfectly to tell a fantastic little story about an adolescent amphibian that doesn't feel overly satisfied with his lot in life. (Frogs have to eat bugs after all. Yuck!) Get ready for the end because it's sure to cause howls of laughter with the little people in your life as you read it out loud to them. I could go on and on about how much fun I think this book is but I have to get back to reading. :-P

PS This is definitely one for storytime.

Source: Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
**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. :-) **

April 25, 2017

So many books and so little time

I'd like to talk about a few books that I've picked up and ultimately decided not to finish. For most of our lives, we are told to always finish what we've started. This message is especially hammered into our heads by teachers who tell us that what we read will be used on exams or on papers. I think this is why it has been difficult for me as an adult reader to let go of guilt when I decide that a book isn't right for me. Maybe the book isn't written with me as the reader in mind. Perhaps I had expectations of the book that weren't being met. However, I think the biggest reason why I put down books (and this is what's happened to me recently) is that I wasn't in the mood for them. That's it. There's a chance (pretty slim in some cases) that years down the line I'll grab these books and devour them. There's also the chance that I'll never feel any level of interest in them. And that's okay, ya'll.

Let's talk about some of the books I've recently sampled and ultimately quit. The first one really cut me to the quick because I had waited nearly a year for it to become available at the library. The book in question was Justine by Lawrence Durrell (Yes, it is that Lawrence mentioned by Gerald.). It is maybe the most pretentious, misogynstic book I have ever had the displeasure of holding in my hands. I don't care that it was written before these things were called out. Ugh, I hated it. I made it until part 2 and then I rather happily quit reading any further. The second was Watership Down by Richard Adams. This book came highly recommended to me especially in light of how much I enjoyed Moletown which uses animals to discuss social changes in society. I got about 75 pages in and found that I was looking for anything and everything to do except pick it up and read it. There was nothing inherently wrong with the book. The writing was done well, the characters were diverse, and the storyline was unique. I just didn't have any interest whatsoever.

What's always annoying is when you highly anticipate a book and then it falls disappointingly flat. That's what happened with The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle. This promised to be a highly interesting science fiction novel about a group of people who are chosen to conduct an elite ecological experiment. The goal of the experiment is to see if it's possible to recreate these conditions off-planet and survive. I read 150 pages of this hoping that it would turn around from being overly sexualized, inane chatter about the people hoping to be chosen for the experiment. That didn't happen. I wanted high level sci-fi and I got tawdry romance instead. *crying piteously* That leads us to the fourth book and most recent: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón which was translated by Lucia Graves from the original Spanish. This was another recommended read (these are always the hardest to let go because you feel obligated) and so I really did try quite hard to get through it. As some of you may know, I'm not a fan of explicit sex scenes in books because I don't see their point. In this book, there's one very near to the beginning and it involves an 11 year old. That was the warning bell. The inherent mystery of the book didn't feel overly complicated to me and because the writer kept harping on sex (it seemed overly gratuitous to me) I lost interst very quickly. I don't even think I made it 75 pages in before I ultimately gave up the ghost. (I looked up the synopsis afterward and I was right about the mystery's solution so I don't feel overly guilty about quitting this one to be honest.)

This has been a rather strange reading year thus far for me. I've reached about halfway to my personal reading goal and yet it feels like I haven't read that much. I think a large part of that are these books which I diddle daddle over because ultimately they hold no interest for me. Meanwhile, I'm wasting time with these non-starters when there are literally hundreds of thousands of other books out there just waiting to be enjoyed. That's the key right there. Why feel guilty over a book that doesn't strike your fancy when there are SO many books in existence? The biggest takeaway is to HAVE FUN. I hope you guys are having a great week and I'll be back on Friday with a review of a book that I did enjoy. XD

**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. :-) **

April 21, 2017

All the bants

Thanks to my friends (Katie, I'm talking to you!) over at Pegasus Books, I was able to get my hands on the latest installment to The Gower Street Detective series before publication (April 11th aka my birthday). Sidney Grice and his plucky assistant, March Middleton, are at it again in The Secrets of Gaslight Lane where they are tasked with solving not one but two locked room murders perpetrated in the same house several years apart. I have to caution yet again that this is not a series for anyone with a weak stomach or an aversion to overuse of adjectives and adverbs. (I think M.R.C. Kasasian possesses the most extensive vocabulary of any author I have ever read.) For those hoping for further resolution to the dramas surrounding Grice's past with March's mother and/or March's relationshiop with Inspector Pound then you're going to be fairly disappointed with this book. This is a case-heavy narrative with complicated facets and multiple characters. It's also chock full of hilarity and acerbic wit. Grice and March are definitely getting in the groove of their partnership and their back-and-forth banter (especially with clients) is delicious. This is a series I could see being re-tooled on Masterpiece Mystery and if cast correctly it would be fantastic. And as with his previous books in this series, Kasasian manages to drop a bombshell at the end which will leave readers salivating for more. 10/10 and I can't wait for Dark Dawn Over Steep House which will hopefully be out at the end of the year.

Source: Pegasus Books

**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. :-) **

April 18, 2017

War of the Words

I had never heard of Frindle despite it being an award-winning book (2016 Phoenix Award) with many admirers (teachers, librarians, and children alike). Written by Andrew Clements with illustrations by Brian Selznick, this is the story of Nick Allen who is the premier 'idea man' of the 5th grade...until he meets Mrs. Granger. It's then that Nick's place among his peers is questioned as she challenges him to think more creatively than ever before. The humor, inventiveness, determination, and perspicacity of our main characters makes this an instant favorite for all ages. This is a super fast read (I read it in an afternoon commute in its entirety and I'm not a particularly fast reader.) and I think it would be a great one for reluctant readers especially if you're reading with them at home. Bonus: It's educational without ever really making that a big thing which is the perfect recipe for this age group especially if they're reluctant readers. *hint hint* This book is full of heart and more than a few surprises (this might give the little ones in your life some especially mischievous ideas) which means it gets a 10/10 from me. XD

Source: Book-A-Day Almanac

A/N: I decided back in February that I wanted to make time to read aloud to the middle grade crowd at my library. This is partly why you've seen more middle grade fiction popping up from time to time on the blog. (The other part I've mentioned before is that I realized I hadn't really read much geared toward this age group and I wanted to rectify that.) With these aims in mind, I checked out quite a few recommended titles and so far I am really enjoying it. I hope you are too! :-)

**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. :-) **

April 14, 2017

A different kind of robopocalypse

By chance, I saw that the second book in The Themis Files series by Sylvain Neuvel had hit the shelves. You may recall that I posted a review of the first book, Sleeping Giants, not quite a year ago and I really enjoyed it. It's a unique story that blends aliens and robots *shudder* with a heaping dose of science-y adventure and intrigue. In the sequel, Waking Gods, we're reunited with our mysterious narrator who continues to record his interactions with the team tasked with uncovering the mysteries surrounding Themis, the robot pieced together and purportedly left on earth by an alien race in the distant past. In the first book, the lid was blown off the super secret agency housing the alien creation. This book starts 10 years later where Themis and the EDC (Earth Defense Corps) are now household names. However, years of study haven't revealed all of the answers about this alien race or why they left pieces of a scattered robot across the globe. In fact, Dr. Rose Franklin is starting to wonder if maybe they were never supposed to find the robot at all... It becomes an even more pressing issue when another giant robot (larger than Themis) materializes in the middle of London. Is it a sign that they want to make contact? Is it a threat? How will the human race react? All of this and much more is explored in this book and if you thought the first was fast-paced and action packed then this one is sure to knock your socks off. 10/10

Source: Goodreads
**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. :-) **

April 11, 2017

I really am my mother's daughter. It's another frog book!

I didn't mean for this to happen but somehow I ended up running across another picture book that prominently features a frog. This one is I Don't Want to be Big by Dev Petty with illustrations by Mike Boldt and much like Frog on a Log? it's part of a series. It was the artistic style which originally drew me to this book but it's the humor that had me taking it along to storytime. This is a fantastic book to read to kids since it deals with that all-important topic: 'growing up'. Our main character is adamant that growing up is the absolute worst and he is determined that he's not going to do it. His father (an adorable frog wearing glasses) tries to convince him of the merits (all in the name of eating his dinner I might add) but the little frog has some pretty convincing arguments. I'd say my one niggling criticism is the way that the speech bubbles tend to overlap on the page which can make it a bit confusing at times (especially when you're doing different character voices). Other than that, it's a solid readaloud book that I highly recommend. 9/10

An example of both the artistic style and those speech bubbles I mentioned:

Source: Amazon
Note: I've already acquired another one in this series titled I Don't Want to be a Frog so get ready for that one in the near(ish) future. XD


**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. :-) **

April 7, 2017

Cabinets full of curiosities always seem to come with a blood sacrifice

About a year ago, I stumbled into a cute little bookstore which specialized in mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy of both the new and used variety. I felt it was my solemn duty to have a close look and about an hour later I left with a few (or three) choice items. One of these I already reviewed and today's was actually a signed copy titled The Unfinished World: And Other Stories by Amber Sparks. As the title suggests, this is a collection of short stories that have an eerie, fantastical vibe to them. Some of them are downright disturbing (the taxidermy one in particular stands out) while others are merely just off the beaten path into strangeness. If you like dark, eerie fiction that crosses into the borders of the unknown then this book would be right up your street. If you're looking to delve into short story collections but you're not sure where to start this also might be a good fit for you. As for me, I enjoyed a few of them but overall this wasn't my favorite of the short story collections I've read. (That honor either goes to Through the Woods or The Opposite of Loneliness.) 5/10

Source: Amazon

**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. :-) **

April 4, 2017

Why did the chicken stop in the middle of the road?

I think I've called this book everything but it's actual name when talking about it to other people and that's probably because it has quite the title: A Freudian Slip is When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother: 879 Funny, Funky, Hip, and Hilarious Puns by Gary Blake. If you think the title is a mouthful you should take a peek at what's inside. It's absolutely chock full of punny goodness. My mom left this with me nearly a year ago with turned down pages and highlights of her favorite jokes (this is so her type of humor). I enjoyed employing them on unsuspecting coworkers and watching their eyes roll into their back of their heads at the corniness (and sometimes incomprehensibility).

To give you a taste of what I'm talking about here's one from page 211:
Did you hear about the guy who was hit in the head by a bottle of soda? Lucky for him, it was a soft drink.
Cue all of your friends either nominating you for an award because you used this on them or they might actually whack you upside the head with an actual bottled beverage. I must also caution that there are some rather problematic jokes in this book (the argument could be made that he doesn't pull any punches toward any group of people). Also, if you're not particularly hip to the political jibe (as I'm not) then some of these aren't going to make a lot of sense. I think this is one of those books that you come to every now and again but I wonder how many people sit down and read it cover-to-cover as mom and I have done...unless they're trying to get some new jokes under their belt. ;-)

PS The answer to the joke in the title of today's post: It wanted to lay it on the line.

**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. :-) **