30. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Paranormal

Angel: The End by Bill Willingham, et al, 464 pages, read by Courtney, on 03/30/2012

Well, I’ve always been a fan of anything related to Joss Whedon, so it’s really no surprise that I enjoyed this as well. Even if it’s not actually written by him. In fact, it’s written by a bunch of talented folks, including one of my faves, Bill Willingham. This collection includes the final 3 trade paperbacks of the Angel series, with bonus collected comics (the Angel Yearbook) and artwork. I have never read any of the Angel comics, so there were definitely a few things referenced that I had no familiarity with. Fortunately, the main characters haven’t changed and I was delighted to follow their journeys past the end of the TV series. This is not a recap of stuff that happened on the series; this picks up awhile after the series (which means that if your favorite character got killed off in the TV series, don’t be expecting them to make a reappearance in the comics). There are new characters and new prophecies. And new Armageddons! Whee! If you’re a fan of the Whedon-verse, you’ll enjoy this hefty volume.

30. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

Chicken soup for the pet lover's soul by Canfield, Jack, 140 pages, read by Kira, on 03/29/2012

This book contains a variety of people’s emotional experiences with various animals that became pets, from your typical dogs and cats, to fawn (later a deer) and to a Mexican wolf.   I hadn’t read any of the Chicken soup books, figuring they’d be too maudlin & sentimental for me (do I sound like a literary snob?).  And the first story did end a bit too sweetly.  A widow receives a puppy, along with a letter, for Christmas from her husband who died a couple weeks ago from cancer.  After crying to the new puppy she suddenly has the energy to decorate for Christmas – really – ok grief recovery is a jagged thing (up & down), and maybe the letter and the connection to her husband through the dog means a lot – h’mm.

I did like the stories overall.  I also started to wonder why I have an attitude toward the Chicken soup books – they’re definitely Not highbrow (though I read scifi/fantasy, so why do I care).  Are Jack London’s canine stories acclaimed because he includes a lot more detail, underlying morals, a tragic ending, or are they well thought of because he’s Jack London.  I have to remember that Reading Advisers say “Never apologize for your reading tastes”.

30. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Autobiographies, Children's Books, NonFiction

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say, 72 pages, read by Angie, on 03/29/2012

This is a wonderful autobiography/picture book/graphic book of Allen Say. It covers his life from young child until he leave Japan as a teenager. The book is full of Say’s drawings, photographs, cartoons from Say and his sensei Nori Shinpei, and snippets from his life along with text describing what is going on. Say’s young life was filled with more than you can imagine. His father abandons him and basically turns his back on him because he wants to be an artist. His mother sends him to live with his grandmother who really doesn’t want him. So he moves into his own apartment at the age of 12! Then he becomes the apprentice to the famous cartoonist Shinpei. This book really gets you into the life of Say in just a few words. The pictures paint you into his world and show you the loneliness he felt but also the joy in discovering his life’s work. The mix of art is woven through the story and helps tell the tale. It really is a brilliant book about a wonderful artist.

30. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

The king & the thrush:tales of goodness and greed by Jennings, Tim and Leanne Ponder, 88 pages, read by Kira, on 03/30/2012

This is a brief compilation of folktales.  The two storytellers use overlapping delivery, crisp dialogue, as well as songs and instrumentals to enliven their stories.  I liked the fact that these stories were new, not just old folktales rehashed where you could guess the ending.  The audio production had too wide of a range in volume with bursts of loudness, so I found myself, reaching over to turn the sound down to save my ears and then turning it back up (minor complaint).

Our nonfiction challenge this month has me exploring some material that I might otherwise never have tried, I’m enjoying it.

29. March 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Melody H, NonFiction

Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods, 278 pages, read by Melody, on 03/25/2012

I had to read this book after reading Kira’s cryptic comment in her post about bonobo handshakes.  Not what I would have guessed.  I actually have read about bonobos and knew that they are, compared to their cousins the chimpanzees, very peaceful and cooperative, choosing to solve their conflicts with sex, not violence.  What I knew less about is the situation in their home range in Congo.  I only really knew that Congo is a place where terrible people do terrible things.  The book is a memoir of Vanessa Wood who marries a primatologist who moves her to Congo to study the bonobos.  Woods falls in love both with the apes and the people in this complex country.  Good book for both a students of animals and geopolitics.  And as to what a bonobo handshake is, read the book and find out.

29. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Short Stories, Tammy · Tags: , ,

When the Women Come Out to Dance by Elmore Leonard, 288 pages, read by Tammy, on 03/28/2012

This short story collection contains “Fire in the Hole” the short story that the TV series Justified is based on. The characters and setting are taken from the short story but not all the details. Boyd Crowder is a more likeable fella in the tv show than he is in this story. Marshall Raylon Givens is still his laid back western hero-self trying to live and work in modern day Kentucky.

Some of the other stories are mysteries in that there is a crime involved and someone figures it out but others are just narratives of life. I think I liked Sparks the first story in the book the best. All have believable if not likeable characters.

29. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Melody H, Short Stories

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, 195 pages, read by Melody, on 03/27/2012

What an amazing book.  For the uninitiated, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a picture book sort of illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, Caldecott winner for The Polar Express and Jumangi.  I say sort of because in the preface of the book, Van Allsburg says the pictures are really from a fellow named Harris Burdick who dropped off 14 drawings that he said that he had written stories for at a publisher’s desk to see what the publisher  thought of them and then Burdick, and the stories to accompany the drawings, were never seen again.  The publisher then gave them to Van Allsburg years later.  To this day, Van Allsburg’s official story is that Burdick indeed does exist and the story behind the illustrations is true.  Regardless of the ownership, the pictures are weird and magical and often menacing with cryptic quotes.  Over the years, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick has served as the inspiration in countless classrooms when students create their own stories based on the drawings. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is an extension of those projects.  Written by top flight writers; Stephen King, Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, ect and  introduced by Lemony Snicket, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is a collection of short stories that capture the mysterious wonderment of the original art.  Highly recommend this book.

29. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Melody H

Empire State by Jason Shiga, 144 pages, read by Melody, on 03/27/2012

“Angst ridden” is the best word to describe Empire State.  Jimmy lives a life in stasis, he lives with his mother, loves his friend but can’t tell her, dreams of moving, doing, being, but never seems to.  But when his friend moves to New York, he writes her and profess her love and asks her to meet him on the Empire State Building as a nod to a long running discussion of theirs about Sleepless in SeattleEmpire State reminded me of a Woody Allen film, lots of talking but very little action.  Even when Jimmy does break out of his stuporous life, still nothing really happens.  Very irritating. 

29. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry , 176 pages, read by Angie, on 03/29/2012

Brother is the youngest of five boys. He lives on the family ranch with his father and grandparents. His mother his an artist who lives in Rome and has no real contact with the family. Brother’s dad is in the reserves and his unit has been called up to Iraq for a 14 month deployment. All his brothers are either away in the military or at school so it is just him and his grandparents left at the ranch to take care of everything.

This is a really good book for kids about a boy dealing with his father being deployed in Iraq. He has to deal with his dad being gone and with trying to be the grown up since all his older brothers are also away from home. It is just Brother and his grandparents taking care of the family ranch. This is a story of a boy growing, becoming a man and realizing what he wants to do with his life. It is also the story of his family letting him grow up and become the man he is meant to become. So often families in these stories don’t want the kids to grow up or don’t want to acknowledge the growth that has already taken place. That doesn’t happen in this book. This is a very mature book but it is handled in such a way that kids can relate to Brother’s character and what is happening to him. Excellent book that I would recommend to boys and girls alike.

2011-12 Mark Twain Award Nominee.

29. March 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Autobiographies, Nikki, NonFiction

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugar, 288 pages, read by Nikki, on 03/21/2012

A Stolen Life is an autobiography about Jaycee Dugard. She was kidnapped at 11 years old and held captive for 18 years by Phillip Craig and Nancy Garrido. During Jaycee’s imprisonment she gave birth to two girls by Phillip. Jaycee had lived in a tent and trailer in Phillip and Nancy’s backyard for the entire 18 years.

Jaycee’s story was extremely difficult to read. At one point when she spoke of her first rape by Phillip I had decided I could not read the book. But I felt it was important to read her whole story. In the book during her reunion with her mother was very emotional and you almost feel what she might have been feeling right before she saw her mother again 18 years later. I want to recommend this book to everyone so you understand that it can happen to you, but it was such a devastating sad story that I almost hate to have someone else read it. Although she was freed and reunited with her family, she will be forever scarred. This is one of those books I’ll think about constantly.

28. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

Words of gratitude for mind, body, and soul by Emmons, Robert, & Joanna Hill, 105 pages, read by Kira, on 03/28/2012

gratitudeThis is a brief book mostly filled with proverbs, holy verses, on being grateful, on being thankful, for everything even the bad, awful things.  Ok, so I can see where having a lame foot, is better than having no foot at all, and where one could express gratitude for that, but I’m opposed to being grateful for things like rape, war, bullying.  Your bodily scars are NOT stronger places – they are weak points, your skin is less likely to heal from further injuries – an analogy (Alice Walker, I believe).

It had a little bit of research on gratitude studies – which I liked but they didn’t clearly explain all of the result outcomes.

I didn’t like the male dominated language (generic pronoun, as well as deity pronoun) – the social sciences don’t permit this type of discriminatory language any more (because of scientific research).  Also, since it was cataloged as a 153, it should be predominantly a psychology, self-help book, but it had far more religious material/theology than I’d expected, probably should have been a 200.

28. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Tracy, Westerns

To The Far Blue Mountains by Louis L'Amour, 370 pages, read by Tracy, on 03/28/2012

To The Far Blue MountainsBarnabas Sackett was a wanted man in England. He supposedly found the Crown Jewels and Queen Elizabeth wants them back. His only choice was to sail to America and start a new life. Along the way he makes friends and uses his skills to fight off pirates. He takes his future wife and whoever is willing to face the savages in 1600 America. Louis L’Amour’s books are always full of adventure and perils. You can’t put them down.

28. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

The Rivals by Daisy Whitney, 352 pages, read by Courtney, on 03/27/2012

In Daisy Whitney’s first book, The Mockingbirds, we met Alex, a student at the ultra-competitive boarding school, Themis Academy. She was date-raped at a party, which was ignored by the administration. Alex found herself in the underground court of the Mockingbirds, a student-run vigilante justice group. Her case was successful, which, according to Mockingbird rules, makes her an automatic board member of the Mockingbirds. Alex is honored and intimidated. She gets a case the very first week of school and this is a case with no clear victim to put forth a complaint. This case revolves around a cheating ring made possible with pharmaceutical help (an adderall-type drug). Alex and the Mockingbirds now have to figure out exactly who is involved with the cheating ring as well as how they are going to try a case with no specific victim. Ultimately, they determine that this is clear Mockingbirds territory and that they are trying the case for the good of the community at large.
What I particularly liked about this book is the fact that it is not simply a “problem” novel. It works on several levels. It is a mystery, to some extent. Who is supplying the drugs? Who is benefiting from them? How does one go about investigating a case like this? Plenty of twists and turns too. None of the characters are unimpeachable. Alex has flaws and occasionally makes terrible decisions that force her to question the limits and ethics of a group like the Mockingbirds. She is both isolated in her role as the head of the Mockingbirds and publicly exposed for the same reasons. She finds herself in a position where “right” and “wrong” are not as distinct as she had initially believed. This would likely make a good discussion novel, especially given the prevalence of stimulant abuse in academics.

28. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

The people are revolting! (in the very best sense of the word) by Hightower, Jim, 100 pages, read by Kira, on 03/27/2012

people revoltingVarious political speeches and presentations by Jim Hightower.  I really liked his quote I’m paraphrasing “an agitator in a washing-machine gets rid of the dirt, so being an agitator is a good thing”.  He notes that we need both the bean-sprout eaters and the snuff-dippers working together :); and though the Christian Coalition and bean-sprout eaters may not have much in common on social issues, they do agree up and down on economic issues.  He then goes on to dismiss the terms conservative and liberal, saying these are political ideologies, what is more useful in categorizing voters is by how much money you make.  How many of you make more than $28,400?  Michael Eisner head of Pixar makes $28,400, not in a year, not in a month, not in a week, no, he makes that much in an hour.  Whew!  Puts $71 million a year into perspective.

These are the sort of interesting things you learn on this Audiobook.

28. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction

Artists' handmade houses by Gotkin, Michael , 239 pages, read by Kira, on 03/27/2012

Soleri-Chalky-Walls-394 arts hs artists_handmade_houses arts hThis book shows the houses both inside and out of various artists’ homes.  The only artist I recognized was Paolo Soleri – I have actually toured Arcosanti an experimental city north of Phoenix that Soleri designed.  I loved the place (the book features Cosanti which is in Phoenix) – it was bright, cool colorful, cheery, even though it uses lots and lots of concrete in its design (see http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Arcosanti-Panorama-800.jpg).  I can’t imagine that Cosanti looks so different.  However, all of the pictures of homes in the book (including Cosanti), look cold, damp, faded, and dreary – I wondered if the photographer used a “drear” filter on the lens, or maybe someone sabotaged all the pictures so that the book wouldn’t be a hit – I checked it was published in 2011, so they couldbn’t have faded to these dull colors.

I was surprised at how many of these architect designers wind up NOT living in their own creations, supposedly it just happens to work out that way for some reason – if I designed a house that I liked, I’d be living there.

What I liked about the book, was the extensive photos of each artist’s house.  Other books, show a few cramped photos.  It would have been nice to see the layout or plan of individual houses, but what I’d really like is to see a version of this book that looks at Contemporary artists (like Laurel Burch, or Sherrill Kahn, or Tim Holtz, or Lynne Perella) instead of Modern Artists, with extensive photos, and good colored photos.

27. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Beekeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, 347 pages, read by Andrea, on 03/26/2012

The Beekeeper’s ApprenticeWhat if Sherlock Holmes had a female apprentice? This book explores that possibility. Mary Russell, or simply Russell to Holmes, is a highly intelligent young woman full of ambition and attitude. Holmes, although retired from the world of detective work, sees a lot of potential in Mary and decides to teach her the art of sleuthing. Friendship and eventually love for one another grows within teacher and apprentice as they experience the hardships and rewards of a sleuthing partnership.

27. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, NonFiction

Hello, Jell-o by Victoria Belanger, 121 pages, read by Brian, on 03/27/2012

There’s always room for Jell-O.  Indeed there is and the book Hello, Jell-o gives the reader over fifty ways to expand the love for Jell-o.This isn’t your momma’s Jell-O, with ways to add all kinds of fruit, green tea, yogurt and even recipes for the vegan minded.  I enjoyed to tricks, tools and technique section which has improved the quality of my Jell-O making.  There is a section on how to use mold for even more tasty fun and for those who need a drink, try alcohol in your Jell-o.  I might have to purchase this book on creative Jell-O

27. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, NonFiction

Sex & Single Girls by Edited by Lee Damsky, 320 pages, read by Brian, on 03/17/2012

Having a degree in Psychology, I love to read to read anything from the psychology and sociology areas. The book, Sex & Single Girls is about women writing about sexuality issues.  Topics covered are:  biracial marriage, abortion, satisfaction, gender identity, on line sex and more.  This book is informative and entertaining.  The World is dominated by men and their views, this book is important because it has women express themselves on important topics from a female perspective and not influenced by the male counterpoint.  I’m not saying I was comfortable with everything in the book  and nor should I, but I learned things about my own biases.  I highly recommend this book.  Notice how the cover is bland, so not to bias the content.

27. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Westerns

Cowboys & Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, 112 pages, read by Brian, on 03/18/2012

Cowboys & Aliens should have been called, “Cowboys, Indians & Aliens”, but what do I know.  A lot exactly but that is a different story. Set in Arizona in 1873 When the Wild West was searching for an identity and the Native Indians were trying to hold on to their culture and land.  At times, it was an epic struggle between The Cowboy and Indian for dominance  and the love between each other wasn’t there…not at all.  Then a foreign force from the sky crashes into this brutal land and sees all humans as pest and slaves. The feuding between the human factors must end so they may battle this new enemy.  The idea of the book is intriguing  and the moral aspect even more so but the whole story lacks over all depth and compassion.

26. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: How To's, Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

Upcycling : create beautiful things with the stuff you already have by Danny Seo , 221 pages, read by Kira, on 03/25/2012

UpcyclingI try Not to stereotype women and men, but I really was Not surprised to learn the author was a dude, it explained the more urban riveting look, with less beauty.   A number of them looked really junky.  He did employ a really wide variety of objects in his different projects.  There was one project I wanted to try, but now without the book in front of me, I cannot remember it – rats!