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

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.


A Little Bit Different by Claire Alexander


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Where would we be without individuals and personalities? This is a fun, short and cutely-illustrated book for young children about the joy of being an individual.

Among the ploofs, Shoof is definitely an individual, but at first, Shoof is shunned. It's only when minds are opened and individuality is finally appreciated, that Shoof finds a place in this world. Whether Shoof's friend's talents will be appreciated is another matter! I commend this as a worthy read for young children.


The Little Book of Drawing Dragons & Fantasy Characters by Michael Dobrzycki, Bob Berry, Cynthia Knox, Meredith Dillman


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a short but useful book about drawing and shading, and making realistic images of fantasy beasts such as dragons, griffins, satyrs, and wyrms. It takes a step-by-step approach, and I'm not sure I buy into this raw blocky shapes first approach, followed by refining them because, for me at least, it means a rather soul-destroying trudge through drawing and erasing repeatedly as the blocky shape is transformed into the final artwork. Ultimately though, the point is to get to that final image, so whatever works for you as an artist is the way to go.

I wish more attention was paid to thais kind of thing, because I've seen very many art books which take this same approach and treat all prospective artists as though they are at the same level with the same personality and methodology and in need of precisely the same tuition. That is patently untrue, but I guess if you wish for more individual attention, you take an art class. This book is a 'lowest common denominator' kind of approach, but that doesn't mean it can't take you at least a part of the way along the path you wish to travel, and if starting here gets you closer to that fine end result embodied in the examples we see here, then this is as good a way to go as any!

On that basis I commend this as a worthy read.


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Volcanoes and Earthquakes by Anita Ganeri, Chris Oxlade, Pau Morgan


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

From the same team who brought The Water Cycle (Ganeri and Oxlade writing, and Morgan illustrating), comes this one about volcanoes and earthquakes. Once again our guides are Ava and George who seem to have an extraordinary wealth of knowledge about a commendable diversity of topics! Would that our president was as well-informed as these two kids are. In this one we go up to the top of volcanoes and deep into the Earth's core.

In this volume we learn of magma chambers and ash clouds, of sliding sandwiches and lava lamps. Actually I made up that last one, but we do have sliding sandwiches so kids can make their own fault lines and strike slips! Fun! The kids take us through tectonic plates and home-made volcanoes and educate us along the way. The only thing I found fault with (if you'll excuse the pun) was that in the section on famous earthquakes it seemed to be largely the USA which was featured - San Francisco and Alaska, with a mention of Kobe in Japan.

It's a little tiresome for the US to always be puffing-itself up into the forefront, like the rest of the world doesn't exist. San Francisco barely makes it into the top ten of the most devastating earthquakes. All of the others were elsewhere, such as the appalling St Stephen's tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean, and the devastation in Haiti less than a decade ago. I felt it disrespectful that the US was held up as being famous (for what exactly?) as though nowhere else really matters, when these other disasters took far more lives and some of which are far fresher in the world's memory. The world isn't the US and the fiction that it is has become a serious and dangerous problem under our current president. This insularity and provinciality needs to stop.

That aside though, I consider this book an informative and worthy read.


Kind Mr Bear by Steve Smallman


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is a very short book, illustrated by the author, about a kindly old bear who helps everyone in the forest. He helps recover a kite from a tree(that is, a toy kite, not a bird of the same name!), lift heavy things, and shelter the tiny denizens of the forest from surprise rainstorms. People take Mr Bear for granted until he's not there any more. When he's sick is when people miss him, and finally it dawns on those forest folk that maybe Mr Bear could use some help.

The book was wonderfully-illustrated and the story poignantly told, and I commend it as a worthy read. The only oddity is that in a section in the back, title Next Steps, the discussion topics weren't about Mr Bear, but about Percy and Posy the penguins. I suspect this was put in there as a place-holder for a new discussion page to be written for this particular book, and that has not yet been added since this is an advance review copy. Presumably that will be fixed before the final version is published!


Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Girl Who Married an Eagle by Tamar Myers


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a sweet and fun book, although disturbing in parts. One of the disturbing parts came right on the first page, second paragraph, where I read, "She'd been born and raised in Oxford, Ohio, the home of Miami University." Only I'm the USA can you get such an utter rip-off and bastardization of names. Oxford is purloined directly from England, of course. Ohio isn't even an American Indian name. The name was oyo or o-he-yo which meant simply 'big water'.

Finally comes Miami university - in Ohio, not in Florida much less actually in Miami! The hilarious thing here is that that isn't even the name: the name was Mayaimi after a people who were pretty quickly rendered extinct because of the depredations of white folks. The name itself means? Big water! LOL! Of course Oxford itself is named so because it was the place where the oxen crossed the...big water! Water, water, water and not a drop to drink!

The story relates the tale of a young African girl Buakane, who is effectively sold to a brutal chieftain as one of his many wives, but who, on her wedding night, decides she'd rather run away than submit to this. She ends up at a missionary school where a brand new recruit and college-grad, Julia, has freshly arrived, ready to become the director of the school. Julia meets Hank, who is the bereaved father of Clementine, a young girl known locally as The Great Distraction, and who is the third in this trio of strong female characters who dominate this story.

During her escape, Buakane is set upon by hyenas and gets bitten in the thigh. Fortunately, Hank happens to be driving by, bringing Julia to the mission, and they're able to pick up the wouldn't-be bride and deliver her to dour Nurse Doyer who happens to be a skilled nurse although a truly unpleasant person. Quite honestly, I could have done without the references to Mrs and the reverend Doyer. Other than the sewing up and Buakane's wound, if they'd been omitted entirely from the story it wouldn't have made a bit of difference to it.

That aside though, I loved each of these characters. Obviously there is a strong religious element to the story, and while I feared this might ruin it for me, in the end it wasn't an issue. Each of the three main characters was in their element and strong and feisty and amusing. To watch them interact and in particular to see how the problem of the chieftain demanding his wife back or demanding Julia's head is resolved, was a joy. I loved this story and highly commend it.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lulu-Grenadine Fait des Cauchemars by Laurence Gillot


Rating: WORTHY!

Continuing the international theme from the last review, There is over 20 Lulu-Grenadine books for children written by this slightly crazed-looking female author. This is the first I ever encountered her, and it was appropriately in French. I have only high-school French and most of that is forgotten, but I had enough to guess at what was being said and it was entertaining. I didn't know the word 'Cauchemars' but it became obvious that it means nightmare, of which a literal translation from English would be jument de nuit, except that the 'mare' in nightmare has nothing to do with a female horse, but is derived from an ancient European word related to oppressive feelings. So no more horses of the night! LOL! I have no idea what cauchemar actually means if translated literally.

In the story, this young girl, Lulu-Grenadine (that latter word meaning pomegranate) has a nightmare of little white dark-eyed ghosties floating around in her room, but eventually realizes they're nothing but her wild imagination. The book is entertaining and educational, usefully advising children that there really aren't any ghosts, and that an active imagination can be put to better uses than keeping you awake at night! I commend this book even though it needs no mending, except to maybe have it in the English version for better clarity for us English-speakers!


The Hole by Øyvind Torseter


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a highly amusing children's book written and illustrated by a Norwegian writer (don't worry - it's translated into English by Kari Dickson). The first name is pronounced a bit like Irvin with a 'd' on the end. Quite literally the central theme of the book is that it has a hole right through it, cover to cover. The hole takes part in the story. When this guy moves into a new apartment and discovers the hole in his wall, he also discovers that as he moves around, so does the hole! Eventually he manages to capture it in a box and take it to a research lab where they conduct various experiments on it - determined to find the hole truth no doubt.

On each page of this large format book, the hole appears in different locales. It's a lightbulb on one page, a traffic light on another, someone's eye in another, someone's nostril in another, and so it goes. How they ever managed to match the hole so well to the drawings in putting together this book I can only guess, but it was well done and the book was very entertaining. I don't know what a child will make of it, but hopefully they will be at least as fascinated with it as I was!

I commend this book as a worthy read.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Mythologica by Steve Kershaw, Victoria Topping


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

If Steve is the cake in this book, then Victoria is definitely the Topping. The text is great, but the artwork will blow your socks off. In fact I still haven't found mine, and I'm seriously considering billing the artist for a new pair.

I asked myself, when beginning to read this, what it can bring to the table that couldn't be served equally well by a quick reference to Wikipedia. The answer quickly became obvious. This book has pizazz, which no one could ever accuse Wikipedia of! It's not dry and technical, but lively, exciting, and has roots you can follow all the way back to Tartarus. Unlike those annoying Rick Riordan books which brutally-wrenched the mythology from its native Greece and inexplicably transplanted it to the USA with nary a με την άδειά σας (which is Greek for 'by-your-leave'), like only the USA matters and alas who cares about Hellas anyway, this book keeps everything where it originated and tells the complete story in pithy paragraphs that skip none of the weird details which is what makes these tales so engrossing.

The book runs to some fifty pages of text and illustration, and covers Zeus, Hera, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, Dionysius, Hades, Demeter, Persephone, Ares, Gaia, Prometheus, Pan, Eros, Penelope, Narcissus, Oedipus, Pandora, Icarus, Midas, Cassandra, Orpheus, Helen, Achilles, Hector, Jason, Medea, Cyclops, Argos, Typhon, Chimaera, Medusa, Cerberus, Talos, Pegasus, the Muses, the Fates, the Amazons, the Argonauts, the Hydra, the Centaurs, The Griffin, the Giants, the Hundred Handers, The Minotaur, the Sirens, the Harpies, the Phoenix. In short, it has everything in one convenient place.

The text alone would have made this a worthy read, but add to that the artwork (and especially its diversity) and it takes it to a whole other place. I was repeatedly struck by how much of the Bible's mythology was taken directly from the earlier Greek stories. This is a wonderful book with much to entice, and I commend it as a worthy and educational read.


Math Games for Kids by Rebecca Rapoport, JA Yoder


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Telling a kid that the book you're gifting them has some forty pages of math might well make the kid turn and run the other way. Is math fun? Well that depends how it's done. If you lead with the idea of building 3-D shapes using toothpicks and...gumdrops, then you might get the kid's attention, and that's how this book starts out!

Not all kids are math averse, of course. Some do love it already, but for many, if they're at all like me (and hopefully they're not!), then math might seem daunting rather than haunting. The first thing you should know is that this isn't really about working with numbers, but about working with shapes and patterns, and reading this made me wonder if maybe our approach to math ought to include topics like these early - bring math to your kid as fun and games and maybe when the tougher and more numerically-oriented materials inevitably crop up, they'll be less inclined to run? I know I would have been.

Colorfully- and simply-illustrated and full of fun topics laid out intelligently and attractively, this book begins with creating shapes using toothpicks for the edges and gumdrops for the vertices, teaching about prisms and pyramids, but before your child becomes completely imprismed, the book moves on to drawing circles and ellipses, including how to create a giant one in the playground. Next up is topology and Möbius strips, which might sound scandalous to some but it really isn't, because Möbius knows where to draw the line.

This is followed by a little bit of geography and a lot of four-color maps, and then stitching curves (which commendably shows both boys and girls at work) followed by fractals. And trust me if you understand only a part of the fractal section you've got it all. Snowflakes and graph theory lead to Eulerian circuits and a trip to Königsberg which now has a much less appealing name I'm afraid to say. No! I'm not afraid to say it. I will say it! It's Kaliningrad! There, I said it!

All the solutions to the various puzzles are included toward the back of the book along with an index. I liked this book, and consider it very useful and effective way to introduce young children to math. I commend it as a worthy read.