Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss

Rating: WORTHY!

This book was set in 1487, which is the same year that the farcical witch-hunters' manual Malleus Maleficarum was published, and Leonardo da Vinci drew his 'Vitruvian Man'. It tells the story of Giulia Borromeo, the daughter of a Count and a seamstress in his employ.

When the count dies, it turns out that in his will, he has left provision for a dowry for Giulia so that she might marry decently, but her wicked stepmother decides that Giulia needs to be married to Christ, and gives her dowry to a convent, to which Giulia is promptly dispatched. She's not sent so promptly however that she doesn't have time to pay a quick visit to an astrologer who maps out her future with regard to whether or not she will ever meet her romantic match.

If she'd worded it precisely that way, she might have got a clearer answer, but in a desperate attempt to make sure she gets what she wants, she also pays a sorcerer to create an amulet containing a spirit which will guide her to her true love. I'm unconvinced of the value of incorporating this supernatural element into this story, because it seemed like an unnecessary distraction to me, and the story works perfectly well without it, but the amulet played only a small role, so I was willing to let that slide.

That amulet seems to Giulia like it burns when she meets a young man at the monastery who is there to renew a damaged fresco. Of course she's not supposed to be with him alone, but she's a bit of a rebel, and she doesn't want to be at the convent anyway. She has other plans. She's expecting to meet the love of her life and move on.

Later, she meets the same guy on a supervised trip from the convent. This trip came about because Giulia has some talent for drawing, and the convent she was sent to conveniently has a workshop of some renown, where nuns create works of art to adorn churches. It's quite a lucrative business, especially since one of the nuns - the maestra, has created a brilliant shade of blue known as passion blue - not from romantic passion but from the passion of Christ. Once Giulia's skill in art comes to light, she's is adopted by this maestra, and begins training as an artist under her wing. She attends the workshop each day instead of pursuing what the other nun novices are doing.

Despite being thrilled with her opportunities there, Giulia is still intent upon pursuing her romantic inclination, and she secretly arranges to meet her guy in the orchard behind the convent one night, where there's a breech in the wall and he can climb through. These meetings continue, but they don't end up where Giulia was expecting them to!

The book was quite surprisingly entertaining. It felt really nice for a change, to pick up a book like this on spec as it were and to discover that it's as good as you'd hoped it would be. We should all write books like that. I commend this fully as a worthy read.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Princeless Vol 6 Make Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin, Brett Grunig

Rating: WORTHY!

This was billed as 'Part Two' and I was unaware of there being a part one. This is when I decided to quit reading this series because it's far too hard to try and keep track of which volume comes where. If there are two parts, isn't that two separate volumes? I mean all of this is the same story, so it's completely arbitrary as to where it's split! Just list them numerically in the order they should be read, and don't inexplicably branch off into a completely separate story that retains the same name. It's not rocket science.

Why publishers have such an issue with issues is beyond me. Do they not want people to have a good reading experience? It would be perfectly simple to label these quite clearly an unambiguously according to the order in which they should be read - but that would actually benefit people so why in the name of all that righteous would Big Publishing™ ever do such a thing? They're not interested in helping people. They're interested in profiting and that's it.

So this will be the last of this series I read, but it was not because this particular (half-)volume was a bad one. It was entertaining enough, but as I mentioned in a previous review, the sameness doesn't go away, and by this point this showing-up in an obscure local to rescue a sister, running into problems, then emerging victorious has become a ritual. It's not thatentertaining! It's certainly not original at this point. Plus for the first time I did not like the 'sister' (in this case endlessly-arguing twins) being rescued. So while I consider this a worthy read, I do not have the patience or time to continue with this when so much else begs to be read. Again writing was by Whitley, and art by Martin and Grunig.

Princeless Vol 4 Be Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin, Brett Grunig

Rating: WORTHY!

So on goes the story. These will be my last two of the Princeless/Pirate Queen mess of comics, not least because it's far too hard to keep track of what order one should read them in, but more importantly, this is a case of diminishing returns. The more of these that I read, the less entertained that I am, sorry to report.

Not that these last two were unentertaining by any means, but this is a problem with series. They're really the same story told over again with a different tweak each time, and that's not that entertaining to me. At some point I lose interest. This is why I shall never write a series myself. The last thing I need is to bore myself with my own writing!

So this episode it's off to rescue the middle sister of the Ashe family, Angoisse. Her sister Adrienne and her indefatigable colleague Bedelia plunge fearlessly into the swamp, lose their dragon, and confront zombies and a vampire who is intent upon capturing Adrienne and returning her to her royally-pissed King of a father for a reward.

As usual there are surprises awaiting Adrienne, and as usual she wins out. But her sister isn't the same as when Adrienne last knew her. Now if only they can beat the dread Grimorax, maybe they'll have a chance! This was amusing, and a little bit different, which is what kept me entertained, but even in this I could feel the same-ness creeping in. However, it is most definitely a worthy read: decent script by Whitley, and great art by Martin and Grunig

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Princeless Book 2 Get Over Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin, Kelly Lawrence

Rating: WORTHY!

I came across these books purely by accident in my local library and pretty much have started falling in love. The writing (by Whitley) is good and amusing, and M-ART-in takes fine care of the ART. Colors by Lawrence are also excellent. Naturally when you're relying on your local library to get this new stuff (new to me anyway) you can't always be sure you get it in the right order - or read it in that order either, for that matter.

This is book 2, and I should have read it after the other volume I got, so that's on me. What's not on me though is the confusion by the author starting a series within a series. Some of the books are subtitled 'Raven the Pirate Princess', and those are intermingled in the library listing, so it was a real pain to sort out not only in what order these should be read, but also which were of one series and which of another. Life ought to be a lot simpler than this. No wonder people end-up takine automatic weapons into crowds when life is like this - and this sure as hell isn't the most egregious example of life's frustrations; it's just one of many minor ones, but many a mickle maks a muckle dontcha know?

That pet frustration aside, I really enjoyed this volume in which Adrienne and Bedelia take their dragon Sparky on a road-trip (road? Air-trip) in search of Angelica, who ain't so angelic, but who is Adrienne's sister, and who bills herself as fantasy land's most beautiful.

Unfortuantely, it appears that Angelica is in no need of rescue and probably would prefer to be left alone with her swelling crowd of admirers, but that's not the only problem since the King has hired a group of poseurs, aka knights(? Maybe?) to track down and kill the knight he believes is responsible for Adrienne's death. The problem is that the night who "killed" Adrienne is actually Adrienne herself, as part of a dastardly escape plan. The plot quickens. Loved it. Commend it. Haven't had this much fun since Bad Machinery and Rat Queens which is hardly surprising since this appears to be a cross between both those series. Now I'm on my own quest to find more.

Princeless The Pirate Princess Girls Who Fight Boys by Jeremy Whitley, Rosy Higgins, Ted Brandt

Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Whitley, with art by Higgins and Brandt, this began as a Rapunzel rip-off about the rescuing of a purported princess (she'd deny it) from a tower. Her hair, unfortunately, was nowhere near long enough, but the escape was affected anyway, and they were on their merry way. The 'pirate princess' was desperate to take over the nearest pirate ship, especially since it was being run by her brother (although he was not on board). I was sorry one of the trio dropped out and spent the rest of this volume napping, but that's dwarves for you.

Most fun sentence: "We kept company for a few moments before she continued eastward while I ate and watered my horse." I've heard the phrase "I could eat a horse," but the way this was worded, she actually did eat a horse. And then watered it. That takes some doing....

Loved it though. A fun romp. Commend it. Looking for more.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Rating: WORTHY!

Eliz is counting the days until her graduation when she can head off to college and leave her little town behind. She's tired of being the odd one out at school and has no interest in anyone there. What neither the school nor anyone else but her immediate family realizes is that Eliza Mirk is the creator of a web comic called Monstrous Sea, which is highly popular. Why it is, I don't know.

There are a few (and far between) illustrations in the print book along with some text about which I had no particular feelings one way or the other excepting to say that it didn't seem to me the type of thing that would inspire and rabid readership and a thriving paraphernalia store which nets Eliza a comfortable income such that she can already pay her way through college.

This all begins to unravel when a studly guy arrives at her school as a transfer, and immediately he and Eliza start becoming an item. At first it's very awkward, but when they both reveal their shared interest in Monstrous Sea (he as a fan fiction writer, she as a fan fiction artist - so she tells him) they begin hanging out together and eventually really are dating. This is where I began to have problems with this novel because it started feeling too trope to live. The girl who thinks she's unattractive and has no interest in guys. The stud of a guy - a jock, with chiseled features and a buff bod - is attracted to her. Seriously? That is so YA. This could have been about a couple of regular nerds with no special physical qualities and it would ahve read a lot better, so why'd the author go the trad route instead of making her own path? Selling out to Big publishing™ maybe? Far too many YA authors do.

For the longest time it seems as though Eliza was truly going to be different, because the writing suggested she was perhaps overweight and typically dressed way down, but in the end she's the good-looking girl who only needs to take her eyeglasses off to be a runway model. Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but it came close at times. That started to turn me off the novel, but the writing continued to be good, original, and interesting and the relationship didn't suddenly balloon out of nothing. That sure helped. The thing is that it could have been that same way with the nerds. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

I read on anyway, and found myself being drawn into the story and wanting to know what happened next even when, at the end, it became predictable. Eliza had a counterpart who had started a series of books and then when it came to the last volume - never produced one. She left her fans hanging and dropped out of the world. You knew at this point that Eliza would contact her when she ran into the same issues, which in Eliza's case were precipitated by her idiot parents who have zero understanding of Eliza, and who constantly demean and belittle her interests concerning Monstrous Sea; they consider it to be just some passing fad which didn't deserve to be taken seriously. They had no interest in even reading the web comic.

I wondered at times how autobiographical this novel was. I don't know. I hope it wasn't, but it could well be for all I know. She writes like maybe it is, or like maybe she knows someone like this. I can understand it from my own experiences. But loved ones aren't by any means required to love what we love. We can only hope for understanding, and be miserable if we don't get it! Writing can be a very lonely profession, even for an amateur.

The problem other than the trope high-school couple was that the ending was very predictable. You know she's going to be outed before she tells her studly boyfriend her big secret and that he's going to react very negatively, but in the end everything is going to be hunky dory, and she's even going to be reconciled with her family that she's spent the entire novel all-but despising until that last few pages. That was too sickly for me, but despite that, the overall the novel was worth reading. Besides I'm tired of wishing for novels that don't necessarily wrap-up neatly in the end like a pathetic TV sitcom tying off all the loose ends in a half-hour or forty minutes. I got so tired of waiting for such novels to come that I started writing them myself!

I read somewhere that this author is John Greene's new favorite. I wonder what happened to the previous one? How are they faring? Whenever I read one author recommend another like that I wonder how much they were paid to review the book. She's fortunate that I read that commendation after I read her novel, because if I'd read it beforehand I would never have picked this book up! I can't say she's my favorite author, but then I'm not paid for my reviews! I can say I would read something else by her - except maybe not if it was as long as this was.

History Dudes Ancient Egypt by Laura Buller, Rich Cando

Rating: WORTHY!

I liked this book. It was fun, full of detail, not remotely boring, and amusingly-illustrated by Cando (which I confess sounds suspiciously like a made-up name!). From my own researches into ancient Egypt for various projects I've been involved with such as Tears in Time and Cleoprankster, I could tell it was accurate, too.

It tells a young reader everything they might want to know about ancient Egypt and author Buller pulls no punches, beware. It discusses pulling out brains during mummification, and stuffing body organs into canopic jars. But it explains everything about everyday life as well as everyday death along with food, religion, habits, games, and so on. It talks about clothing, wigs, and shoes, about building pyramids, and everything else a young kid might want to know about an ancient and fascinating civilization. It's the perfect introduction to ancient Egypt for young children and I commend it wholeheartedly.

A Girl Walks Into a Book by Miranda K Pennington

Rating: WORTHY!

This was really more of a memoir about the author's life and her bad relationships than it was about the Brontë books, but there was nonetheless enough in it pertaining to the books, and it was interesting and amusing enough in parts that I decided I would rate it favorably. I picked it up to read the blurb initially because I found the title amusing.

This author is clearly in love with the Brontës, something I confess I am not. I tried Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and did not like it at all. I tried Shirley by Charlotte Brontë and found it boring in the extreme, so I DNF'd it in short order. Agnes Grey destroyed my little grey cells. The only place I erred from that poor history was Jane Eyre, which I liked.

Given this dismal track record I was curious as to what new light this author might shed, and there wasn't a lot except in where it applied to her own love life - or lack of one, or failure in one. It became a bit annoying in parts, because it seemed like every Brontë she read pertained to whatever was happening in her life at that moment and I wonder if her attachment to the book might have been less were she to have had a more accommodating social life.

The most infuriating part - and the part where I wondered if I might have to ditch this book - was where she became involved with a colleague at work in a wretched co-dependent relationship and this went on, and dragged on and on forever. It bothered me that she stayed in this relationship with this guy who was half-assed about it for the longest time and just when I thought she was going to ditch him permanently she reported getting back with him and then peremptorily marrying him! Now I'm wondering how long that marriage will last. But it's her life; I'm not going to judge this book on the poor choices she might have made living it! Especially not since the book made a point of comparing her poor choices in other relationships with the relationships the various Brontë books detailed.

It was because of reading this that I decided to try Shirley and Agnes Grey. I do not thank her for that! She ends the book with a report about traveling to London and then to Haworth in Yorkshire which is where the Brontës lived. It's a bit of a honeymoon for her and her husband. Of course the first morning they're in Haworth, he gets sick and she has to hike a mile in the Yorkshire fog down to the nearest pharmacy. Which is called a chemist in Britain.

It turns out he had this thing called quinsy which I'd never heard of before, despite having grown up in Britain. I realized what it was when I discovered the scientific name for it is peritonsillar abscess. From what I've read of it, that's hardly so debilitating that he couldn't have got out of bed and gone to the pharmacy himself, so to me this spoke poorly of this ongoing relationship between these two, but then I've never had it, so maybe it's worse in person than a text can convey. I dunno.

After reading so much about this relationship this felt to me like just one more burden it had put on her. But surgeons took my tonsils when I was little so I don't have any issues with those. They still haven't paid me for them. Maybe if they had, I'd feel differently!

Like I said, this book can be annoying in parts, but it is educational and entertaining, and even insightful in others, so overall, I commend this as a worthy read.

Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly, Molly Park

Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Ly and illustrated by Park, this book was a regular-sized comic book, but with hard covers and it was quite a fat tome to boot. I really enjoyed it. Both the writing and the artwork were excellent. Suee is a strange, but engaging and rather fearless child, unless you count her fear of making friends. Because she's at a new school and so reticent about socializing, she begins rationalizing her behavior by telling herself that she doesn't need friends and anyway these people (pretty much all other humans) are not right for her.

That's not really her problem though. She's a very independent young woman and doesn't pine for the company of others. No, her problem latches onto her right after she visits this one rather scrappy and dark room in the school, and she hears someone calling in there and ventures inside. From that point on, it seems, she finds herself the host of a rather different shadow from the one she normally sports in bright light. This shadow has a will and agency of its own and seems to appear most-readily when she's annoyed.

After some negotiation, the two seem to get along, but there's something not right, not only with the weird shadow, but with other kids in the school - particularly the ones who are bullied. After a while they seem to turn into rather zombie-like people. Not the brain-eating variety, but the shambling, lifeless variety. And like Damien Mocata in Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out, they have no shadow.

At first, Suee pretends she has no interest in these events, but as her own shadow bothers her more and more, she finally snaps and determines that she will figure out what's going on here and fix it! Unless her shadow companion takes her over first, just like other children seem to become taken. By this time she has two recruits who will help her and the three of them eventually do overcome these problems and in doing so learn something about bullying and friendship. I loved this story - particularly the shadow - both the drawing of it and the repartee - and I fully commend this graphic novel as a worthy read.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Vegan Vamp by Cate Lawley

Rating: WORTHY!

This was another freebie from a book flyer I get via email. I downloaded it some time ago, and I forgot about it until I saw it offered again in that same flyer, so I dug it out of my collection and read it. It's nice not to be beholden to Net Galley for a change, so I can pick and choose whatever I feel like reading at the time, and take my time with it rather than feel compelled by deadlines and archive dates!

The story is very short, and clearly it's aimed to be a loss-leader to lure potential addicts into a series. I'm not a series fan, nor am I a first person voice fan, nor am I a vampire story fan, so this one had three strikes against it to begin with, but it was so different, or at least it promised to be, and I am a big fan of not taking the road most traveled. I was pleased that the blurb did not lie and that this novel actually worked its way under my skin. I ended up enjoying it.

That said, series? I'm not sure I want to get back into this in another story even though I enjoyed the first one, because that way lies madness. It takes a person into that insanity territory where you're doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This applies to you whether you are writing a series or reading one. So maybe I'll be back, but while that decision remains to be made, let's look at this one volume.

Mallory is not liked by her fellow office colleagues, except when she buys drinks. On this night, after doing that very thing and resenting it, she leaves the bar early and wakes up several days later with no memory of what happened in between. Plus she's lost many pounds in weight. Eventually she gets to a doctor who realizes that she's been bitten by a vampire. Mallory is referred to an underground vampire society that the doctor feels can help her. The problem is that she's not your usual vampire. The thought of blood, let alone drinking it, turns her stomach, as does much of the usual food she had liked to eat. She finds through trial and error that a vegan diet works for her.

That immediate issue settled, she takes up a commission from the vamp society to track down her attacker, who will be giving the underworld a bad name if he (or she) continues unchecked in this apparently random assaulting behavior. So the story goes and it was entertaining, amusing, and quite interesting although the mystery was a bit of a mess-tery. That aside though, I enjoyed the story and the voice, and the fact that the novel is set in Austin even though the author isn't. I will definitely consider reading another volume of this.

Troublemaker by Andrew Clements

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a really short audiobook aimed at middle-graders and read pretty decently by Keith Nobbs.

Young Clayton Hensley was known for the rather mean gags he pulls at school and he was getting sent to the office a couple of times each month, but when his older brother gets out of jail, he lays it on the line that he wants Clay to reform and not end up like him. On Halloween though, someone eggs the school principal's house and spray paints a graffiti sketch on the door. The picture is of something that Clayton had drawn at school in art class, so now he's the prime suspect, especially since he supposedly spent that entire evening in his ground-floor bedroom in a huff. He could have easily slipped out of the window. But did he?

The story was a bit predictable and trite at times. I mean, it seems to me it would have been difficult for someone to do all of that to a house and not been seen by trick-or-treaters for one thing. For another having the school cut-up being also artsy was a bit much, but overall it wasn't too bad and it sends a message, so I feel I can commend this as a worthy read for the intended audience.

Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie

Rating: WORTHY!

After this I have about four more Agatha Christie novels I'm interested in reading because they had mentions that interested or intrigued me in the biographies I read, and then I'm done with her. I think I've done enough! LOL! This one was another attempt to listen to one of her stories, an effort which hasn't been going well lately, but I can hope that if they're read by David Suchet as this one was, they might engage more. He does a masterful job of reading this particular novel - really quite engaging. That may be why I enjoyed this story, although the story is one of her better ones, I think.

The mystery is of the death of Marlene Tucker, a young girl who is ironically playing the victim in a murder mystery enactment put on as a sort of treasure hunt for attendees at a fête held at Nasse House in Devon. I recently saw a novel advertised which essentially steals this plot for its own. The treasure hunt is being staged by Ariadne Oliver, a well-known writer of murder mysteries, who has contacted Poirot because she has become suspicious of an assortment of changes to her plot which have been requested by various people. Something feels wrong to her and she hopes Poirot can figure out what's up, but before he can do so, Marlene is dead, and Lady Stubbs, wife of Sir George Stubbs, the newish owner of Nasse House, is missing.

The murder investigation drags on over several weeks with neither the police nor Poirot making progress, until Poirot has an insight and finally solves it. I find it ridiculous that Poirot is never charged with obstructing justice since he frequently withholds so much information from the police, even when he has strong suspicions, if not a strong conviction of the murderer's identity! But that aside, this story was well-written and entertaining, and beautifully-read, so I commend it as a worthy listen.

Agatha by Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau, Alexandre Franc

Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Martinetti and Lebeau, illustrated by Franc, and translated from the original French into English by Edward Gauvin, this was a really good graphic introduction to Agatha Christie, which I encountered during a search of my local library's resources regarding Christie biographies.

It begins in what is often seen as the biggest mystery about this author, which is what happened to her during her short disappearance in December of 1926. Personally I think it can be quite adequately accounted for in precisely the way this book explains it - she was pissed-off with her husband, who had told her he wanted a divorce so he could continue seeing this woman he had met, named Nancy Neele, and apparently decided that he liked better than he did Christie. I also think her depression over this may have been exacerbated from her mother's death earlier that year.

But this graphic novel goes further, bringing in her literary creations, most especially Hercule Poirot, as characters in the story, seen and heard only by Christie, but who comment on her life and discuss things with her, annoying her as often as not. The story as told her is interesting, engaging, and moving, and tells a complete story, abbreviated as it necessarily is in this format. I commend it as a worthy read.

Agatha Christie by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, Elisa Munsó

Rating: WORTHY!

I've been following the 'Little People, Big Dreams' series in the form of advance review copies from Net Galley. This is the first I've encountered in the 'real world'! It's also the first print book and it was a much larger format than I had imagined from the ebooks I've been reading. This came as part of a library search for Agatha Christie biographies so I decided to give it a look and while it was not anything spectacular, it was a worthy read considering the age range it's aimed at. It's a nice introduction to the second best-selling author in the world after Shakespeare (I don't count religious fiction).

The book keeps it simple in both illustration and text, and lays out the bare bones of her life from her childhood to her death. For a simple and basic introduction of the so-called Queen of Crime thrillers (I've had a mixed bag of results from my reading of her work). This works well. Any child who has literary aspirations could benefit from reading this, so I commend it as a worthy read.

Hawk Moon by Rob MacGregor

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun and entertaining whodunit set in high-school. It's a little heavy on the Hopi religion, and at first I thought this might turn me off it, not being remotely religious myself, but I do enjoy a variety of stories including those with religion in them, and in the end it wasn't an issue.

The story concerns Will Lansa, who is back for the new school year after spending the summer on a Hopi reservation with his father. After meeting with his girlfriend on a lonely stretch of land outside of town, Will breaks up with her and she promptly disappears. Will is the last one to see her alive, and consequently becomes the number one suspect when her murder appears to be the explanation for her disappearance. This becomes even more of an issue when his baseball cap, along with a knife, a distinctive gift that he had foolishly kept in the unlocked glove compartment in his jeep, are discovered with traces of Myra's blood on the knife blade.

In the rush to judgment, and even though Will hasn't been arrested, he's largely shunned at school except by a few close friends and a key person in the form of a computer whizz named Corina who has long had a crush on Will. With her help and some assistance from a spirit guide, Will eventually manages to solve the mystery and prove his innocence. I can actually think of a better way to have told this story, but in in the end, it was told well enough, and it was engrossing and a easy to finish, and I commend it as a worthy read.

An ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing, Paulina Morgan

Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is a neat little colorful book (illustrated by Morgan) for young children written by Ewing, aimed at teaching tolerance and acceptance, and it's never too soon to learn such things. Young children in particular are far more accepting than so-called grown-ups when it comes to those who might be perceived as different, and it's only to the good to bolster those non-discriminatory perceptions. From A for ability through D for difference and E for equality, through I for immigration and J for justice to T for transgender and Y for 'Yes!', this book covers it all. I commend it as a worthy read for young children.

Experiment with Kitchen Science by Nick Arnold

Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

What kid doesn't like to mess it up in the kitchen? This book facilitates all of that, but with a purpose: that of learning some science (and making some sweet treats along the way). We learn how to make butter, how to make a non-Newtonian fluid - which is a lot more fun than it sounds. We lean about fat and protein, starch and cellulose, swelling jellies, and how to mix oil and water!

We learn about specific gravity, air pressure, and surface tension, making beautiful paintings using milk, dishwashing liquid and food coloring, and also about colored foam and giant green eggs! The lesson on bicarbonate of soda and volcanoes makes some crunchy sweet treats, but note that not everything that results from these scientific forays ends up being edible! Educational it is, though. There will definitely need to be a lesson about brushing teeth properly after that one.

Throughout the book there are safety warnings and copious advice on when adults should step in and help out. I think this was a smart, fun, safe, entertaining, and very educational book, and I commend it fully.

Winter Sleep by Sean Taylor, Alex Morss, Cinyee Chiu

Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a sweet and charming book about animals who sleep their way through winter the better to creep out with the spring and renew their lives along with nature revitalizing itself each year. Visiting his grandmother, the unnamed boy in the story is taken to a secret glade in the nearby woods where he finds the charm and appeal of nature to be irresistible. But when he makes a return visit in winter, the entire glade has changed, and far from being a place of buzzing insects, flourishing flowers, and chirping birds, it lies asleep under a blanket of snow, soundless, lifeless.

Or so it appears.

Grandmother Sylvie points out though that even in the midst of the quietude, they're surrounded by sleeping nature: the bears and the bees, the dormouse, the bat, the beetles, the earwigs, the moths, the fish and the frogs, all hidden and awaiting the return of long days and strong sunshine to wake up and get moving. There's a section at the back of the book about how and why animals hibernate, and the illustrations by Cinyee Chiu are charming and well-wrought. I commend this as a worthy read.

Wild in the Streets by Marilyn Singer

Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

A Singer writes poetry! I'm not a huge fan of the poetic despite having published a volume of my own short stories and poems, but you have to love this one which not only teaches about wild animals that have adopted a lifestyle among humans - for better or for worse, but which also teaches a bit about poetry, using several different forms to describe the various animals and discussing those at the end of the book.

As for the animals? Well! The book travels the world from Austin to Australia, Rome to Rio, and it looks at Coyotes in Chicago (although pick most places in the US and you'll find coyotes!), Agoutis in Brazil, Bees in Vancouver, Butterflies in California, Boars in Germany, Hyenas in Ethiopia, tree frogs in Taipei, badgers in burial grounds, and so on. The animals are fascinating: from charming to harming, and trooping to pooping. Just like the the pigeons with the deadly aim, you can't miss with this book, which was fascinating and engrossing. I commend it as a worthy read.

One More Time by Nancy Loewen, Hazel Michelle Quintanilla

Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I had two bad starts with this writing/illustrating team due to technical problems with the books, but I had no such problem with this particular title, which was much better.

When a young boy gets a new scooter for his birthday, he naturally wants to ride it at once, but he can't - he keeps falling off! Well, the answer to that is perseverance and with some help from grandpa and his own mettle, the kid learns that practice makes perfect. A nicely-illustrated and fun story about sticking to it.