CassieBash accepts 75 Books Challenge

Converses75 Books Challenge for 2015

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CassieBash accepts 75 Books Challenge

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des. 31, 2014, 9:03pm

I'm going to give this a go, but in order to make it a true "challenge" for me, I am discounting all juvenile books except for chapter books. (K-12 educators and public librarians--do they still use "chapter books" as an official term? As I'm in acadamia now, I'm a little out of the loop with terminology in this age group.) I've got stacks of books that I've vowed to read, as well as my resolution to read more nonfiction, so I'm hoping this challenge will help me keep going. I will try to post a little summary or review of the book with the author & title.

gen. 1, 2015, 9:50am

Welcome! Looking forward to your reading. But I think you'll find that our recommendations won't make reducing your TBR any easier... :)

gen. 1, 2015, 2:46pm

Hi, Cassie! Welcome! And, yep, I think 'chapter books' is still a viable term.

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 11:37am

Oh, I know, drneutron, I expect my list to increase whenever I log in. But then I get plenty of book reviews in my professional journals, and it doesn't help that my boyfriend owns a used book store in Muncie, IN. And thanks, scaifea, for verification of my terminology.

I finished my first book of 2015 this morning and started my 2nd! Which is good since to squeeze in 75 books in a year, you have to read more than a book a week.

Book 1: The Wolving Time by Patrick Jennings.
Read the acknowledgements; I love how this book, written by a public librarian, came to be because of a fourth grader's question and an entry in a children's dictionary!

The time and place is the French Pyrenees at the end of the sixteenth century. The village priest has his eye out for witches and heretics, which he finds with regularity, thanks to his torture sessions with those accused. So you can imagine the danger that Laszlo and his parents are in: strangers in the village who have never been accepted, living alone and isolated as they tend their sheep, not attending church because they stay removed from people as much as possible. Oh, and did I mention that they're werewolves? So when the orphan Muno--the priest's servant--runs away and, while passing through the pastureland where Laszlo is tending sheep, she sees his mother transform into a wolf. Muno promises to keep this secret, but will she?

Vampires and zombies have their charms (OK, yes, that _is_ a strange way to word it, I suppose), but I love were-animals! My sisters and I used to pretend that we were animals when we played, and this book has an excellent spin on the werewolf legend (thanks to the children's dictionary). The gentle werewolf family tending sheep, reading their books and manuscripts (including the Bible), and their willingness to help those fleeing persecution, torture, and execution is a nice contrast to the more traditional horror stories where the werewolf is a vicious creature nastier than real wolves.

Everything other than the werewolves was realistic; there are no real witches in the book and you are given the impression that, like those accused in the real witch hunts, they were ordinary people who belonged to the wrong social castes or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Disclaimer: there is nudity as they strip before changing shape but while this causes some embarrassment among certain characters, there is no sex scene and the werewolves are blasé about it--human clothes are restrictive to wolves and it's easier to change when they change. There are also descriptions of torture; I've read more detailed descriptions than this but I know there are lots of readers on here with different preferences, and forewarned is forearmed.

I hope to have my next post up in 2-3 days; my next is also a youth book--realistic fiction. Thanks for reading and posting.

gen. 3, 2015, 9:26pm

Oh, and in case you're wondering about that bookstore, it's White Rabbit Used Books on University Avenue on the south side of Ball State University in the shopping area known locally as "The Village".

gen. 3, 2015, 9:29pm

"Chapter books" is a term still very much in usage in elementary schools, Cassie.

I hope you'll make time for some fantasy and science fiction reads too.

gen. 4, 2015, 6:55am

Neat! I grew up in Indiana and have good friends who graduated from Ball State! I haven't been to Muncie in years, though. If I ever get back there, I'll definitely look for the White Rabbit!

gen. 4, 2015, 8:40pm

Ronincats, I will definitely have a bit of most everything except for romance. That's one genre I just can't seem to get excited about, even though I've tried. I tried "Twilight" but it didn't seem to matter how many werewolves and vampires they threw in, it was too much teenage romance angst for me. Romance when mixed in to most other genres is fine as a subplot most times--I didn't mind it in "The Hunger Games", for instance.

In fact, glancing at my pile of reading here, I've got several fantasy titles of varying sorts, from anthropomorphic animals to dragons.

Scaifea, White Rabbit Used Books has a Facebook page where you can contact him if you wish. If you have specific things you're looking for, let him know. He may be willing to make arrangements for shipping.

Editat: gen. 5, 2015, 6:49am

>8 CassieBash: Cool! I'll check out the Facebook page! If nothing else, I'll 'like' it and maybe bring it to the attention of my still-living-in-Indiana friends...

ETA: Okay, I'm back from 'linking' the page, and now that I've seen a photo of the store, I'm pretty sure I've been there! It's been years, though. What a lovely building for a bookshop!

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 11:38am

Book 2: Out of the Dark by Welwyn Wilton Katz.

Ben, his younger brother Keith, and their dad move from Ottawa to Newfoundland--a big adjustment for Ben. His father is a native to the island and Keith adjusts well, but Ben struggles, finding it hard to trust the locals. Right away, it's clear Ben is holding on to the past and gradually you get clues as to what it is. Before Ben can truly get beyond the past, he must first face it and leave the dark place he's mentally retreated into.

The author has done some excellent research into both Vikings and Norse mythology, both of which are integral to Ben's character, especially as he often retreats into a sort of Viking role-playing story where he pictures himself as an integral character as a way to handle stress, but at times even Ben finds this fantasy scary, especially as he finds himself slipping into this world without consciously trying to.

It's a quick story and fairly short, and I don't want to give too much away, so I'm going to stop there. I'm hoping that the Inter-Library Loan request I asked for arrives tomorrow for my next fiction selection, but in the meantime, I'm reading a (very fitting) nonfiction book about animal survival tactics for winter. Stay warm and safe, all!

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 11:39am

Book 3: He Laughed with His Other Mouths by M. T. Anderson

A few years ago, I was finishing my Masters in Library Science. While the start of my career was in a public library, I'm currently in a small academic one and so I chose to take a lot of academic and educationally slanted classes. Until my last class, when I decided that I was going to take one that I wanted to take, instead of one I felt obligated to take. So I took a youth lit class and got to read something much more fun than peer-reviewed articles. And for our sci-fi/fantasy section for younger readers, I chose a strange, quirky title called Whales on Stilts. And yes, they were whales and yes, they were on stilts by the climax. (There were also laser beam eyes, but I suppose the title wouldn't have been as catchy if they'd tried to work in those, too.) "Whales" is book one of this six-part set called Pals in Peril and this is the final part. If you've read any of the series, you might have caught that one of the characters, Jasper Dash (a Tom Swift parody), has an alien as his father. This alien beamed information into Jasper's mother, who proceeded to drink concoctions like amino acids and such in order to create Jasper. Decades later-Jasper is stuck at age 13 (long story but it's mentioned in the series)--Jasper has perfected a teleportation device that he believes will let him find his father. Question is, is that necessarily a good idea?

Don't expect the science to make any sense and, frankly, if I were to choose only one genre to categorize it into, I'd say humor. Yes, the series has elements of fantasy and sci-fi but the style is so bizarre and the events so weird and amusing, I personally think the humor aspects trump the others. A note on the style: throughout the book, the author has side distractions such as advertisements and footnotes that ramble, which add to the humor but some readersmight find distracting. Oh, and in case you're wondering, one of the alien creatures has multiple faces, thus the "other mouths".

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 11:39am

Book 4: Zombie Birds, Astronaut Fish, and Other Weird Animals by Becky Crew

Derek, my boyfriend, had this book come through his shop and set it aside for me in case I was interested. Since this was a credit book and not a cash only, I took a chance. It's one of those books where each weird animal gets its own couple of pages so I read this here and there, a few entries at a time. But it's going back to White Rabbit now that I've read it.

The facts are interesting but not particularly detailed. Worse, the author tried to be cute by putting in these anthropomorphic story sections about the animal--these I personally found both unnecessary and distracting. Most were also crude and gave "examples" of how the species' oddities would actually be detrimental in a human-oriented situation; personally I didn't find them all that funny. These animals don't go to singles bars or interview for jobs where shooting blood from your eyes or eating bats' brains during lean winters is a detriment to success. Quite the contrary--from the factual part of the text,you can easily tell how these odd features and behaviors benefit the animal in the real world they face every day. So I skipped most of the extraneous stories (easy to do--they're in italics).

If the book was a bit more in-depth in its coverage of each animal, I'd consider keeping it. I loved reading about these strange creatures, some of which I'd never heard of. A vegetarian spider, a species if fish in which the males become absorbed by the females, a rat with a poisonous pelt, and more are in here. Good for animal trivia buffs.

gen. 14, 2015, 1:01pm

I think I'll pass on those last couple, Cassie.

gen. 15, 2015, 12:38pm

I saw on Roni's thread that you raise butterflies (and we share some butterfly and caterpillar books). If you're inclined to photography, the Gardens & Books group would welcome posts (or your very own thread) when the season arrives.

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 11:42am

>qebo: thanks for the invite. I will have to look into that group. Wildlife is the one thing that I photograph! And it sounds like a good group for me; I have some butterfly garden books that would fit right in. My own garden, and my little friends who overwinter in chrysalis and cocoons, are of course sleeping through the rough northwest Indiana winter.

>ronincats: I'm about halfway through an anthology that might be more your speed. It's an old thing that was up in my library's collection of donations that I put up for sale, and when it didn't sell, I went ahead and bought it myself. (To clear our shelves of the accumulated donations and weeded books, we charge 25 cents per paperback, 50 cents for hardcover, and $2.00 for all you can fit into a standard-sized paper grocery bag--no limit on the number of bags. We price books to move at our sales!) Anyway, the anthology is Great Science Fiction about Doctors: 18 Choice Tales of the Outmost Worlds of Medicine. The cover is absolutely hilarious. Check it out:

Gotta love those old Flemish doctor "robot anatomy" classes!

The book is from 1963 and was edited by Groff Conklin and Noah D. Fabricant, M.D. (I don't know about these guys...that last name is awfully close to "fabrication"! lol ) Authors included in this anthology vary from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Arthur C. Clarke. I would argue that some stories, like Nathaiel Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter are more fantasy than science fiction, but I just finished C. M. Kornbluth's The Little Black Bag last night about a time-traveling medical kit that sends out a "distress" signal through time that lets the futuristic controllers know when the kit was used...shall we say..."improperly"? I don't want to spoil the ending if you haven't already read this story, because this was one of my favorites so far from this anthology.

Because of the date, more modern science fiction will of course not be included, but they've still been enjoyable reads. It was a pretty good buy, and probably was more so in 1963, even at the astounding cover price of *gasp* 95 cents. (Which was a lot more in 1963, I'll grant you. Our library's acquisition list that goes back to the 1920s is extremely interesting when you look at the purchases. You were paying a lot for a book back then if you hit the $1.00 mark--that was virtually a sure sign of its scholarly status!)

gen. 15, 2015, 3:33pm

Oh, Kornbluth's story is a classic! It's one of those you simply do not forget, especially not the ending. I love doctor stories in space--some of my favorites have been James White's Hospital Station series, Murray Leinster's Med Ship and Alan Nourse's Star Surgeon, all of them classics.

I did put your book on my wish list for, but the library doesn't have it. Amazon does have some used copies, but I'll probably wait for a while and see if it pops up on the swap site. Thanks for thinking of me!

gen. 15, 2015, 5:25pm

I may be willing to pass it on to you, ronincats; if I decide not to keep it, you'll be first to know! I am afraid that one reason I'm reading through my backlog is to downsize. I have a place in my bedroom between the TV stand and the wall that I have filled hip-deep with books--rows upon rows of books. Not to mention the small stacks under the beds and under my nightstand, oh, and all the ones that are actually on my shelves that I haven't yet read. *sigh* I have decided that a book must either really wow me or, in the case of nonfiction, be exceptionally informative. (Thus the reason for releasing the "Zombie Birds" one back into the used book wilds--it neither wowed me nor was it particularly informative, however interesting it is that a mantis shrimp can create mini-explosions with its claws. I can look that stuff up on the net.)

Next up is probably one of the YA Dragon Codex books. I don't remember which color dragon I'm up to. Either that or I'll finish my other non-fiction on winter survival techniques in North American animals.

Editat: gen. 15, 2015, 5:41pm

Hi, Cassie - welcome to the 75ers! I'm reading through my backlog to downsize as well at the moment, at least theoretically. In practice it's...not going so well. :)

gen. 16, 2015, 4:13pm

Yeah. Know the feeling!

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 11:43am

Book 5: "Great Science Fiction about Doctors: 18 Choice Tales of the Outermost Worlds of Medicine", edited by Groff Conklin and Noah D. Fabricant, MD

As described above--won't go into too many more details. An enjoyable anthology but am willing to pass this on. Don't know why but while I don't mind short story compilations, there aren't a lot I read over and over, with the notable exception of Ray Bradbury. Oh, and collections of myths, fairy tales, and folklore--but that's a given considering that I am a storyteller at the Fisher's Renaissance Festival, and those are my source materials. :)

Anyway, ronincats, if you want it, let me know.

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 11:44am

Book 6: Brass Dragon Codex by R. D. Henham (Dragon Codices series)

I've read up to this point in the series and have two more Codex books in my possession to finish. The books are nice in that you can read each volume as a stand-alone, although with this one, it circles around to the first Codex book--though I didn't realize it at first and it's still independent enough that you wouldn't have had to read the first to enjoy this one. The thing that really makes it seem like a series is the letter to the author that are supposed to be notes that Henham then uses to craft the tale, so each book has an introductory hook, and the world's parameters are consistent, which is always a plus in a series. This particular Codex dragon is an orphan who befriends a gnome cast out of a desert city for inventing a dangerous device (which readers familiar with the history of communication would recognize as a telegraph). The gnome is determined to show the humans in the city that his device is not the weapon their mayor--who received a powerful shock from the uninsulated wires--believes it to be. Unfortunately, word of this "weapon" gets around and a band of dwarves, a group of knights, and a thief all decide the invention is worth claiming as their own. To complicate matters, the blue dragon that killed the brass dragon's parents is trying to finish the business--though why the blue is so upset as to want to wipe out a family of brass dragons is never explained, at least not yet. (There was supposed to be a "Blue Dragon Codex" in March 2011, but the series only goes up to Gold. A bit of sleuthing turned up that the publisher discontinued the series before the last 3 volumes could be released.)

Overall, the Codices have been an OK read. Nothing spectacular, but not so boring that I put the book down. In fact, they're quick reads that, even factoring in work, chores, and other essential duties comprising each day, I can generally polish one off in about two days. I will be taking these back to the White Rabbit, where I will no doubt replace them with something else eventually--though I'm going to try to restrain myself until I read my piles down into a more manageable stack. Wish me luck on the restraint, since I will hopefully be visiting Muncie this weekend, weather permitting, and I can't go to visit my honeywumpus without visiting his store!

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 12:03pm

Book 7: Avril Crump and Her Amazing Clones by Angela Woolf

If I had to sum up this book in one word: Dahl-esque. It has all the classic makings of a Roald Dahl story: an odd hero/heroine who's seen as a misfit, British humor (or humour, if you prefer), over-the-top villains, odd relatives, and unusual events. Avril is a meek scientist--overweight, little hair, and has been bullied and ridiculed all her life, even by her fellow scientists working at Leviticus Labs, where an evil scientist named Gideon Blut attempted to clone humans. Mainly using DNA from the bodies of such notable dead people as William Shakespeare and Napoleon Bonaparte (though that hair might also have been from Napoleon's faithful pet). Gideon has disappeared but the cabinet where he supposedly worked on his clones (the Replication Chamber) is stii in the Lab. An unfortunate accident involving Avril's chemisty set and the Chamber results in the creation of three clones from DNA left in the Chamber: a tall, thin man in military uniform, a small, intelligent girl, and an egotistical talking dog. Avril is trying to keep the clones safe, but Gideon isn't as out of the picture as most believe, and he has spies and henchmen and, yes, he even creates a successful clone of Avril in his attempt to get to the clones so he can destroy them. Why? They don't fit in with his ideal image of mankind, who he intends to perfect....

Like Wolving Time, this one was borrowed from my sister who had bought a bunch of books from our public library. It's the first of a set published in England; my sister said this was the only one released in the States. Pity, as it ends with Avril and company getting ready to investigate Gideon's manor, so while there is a little closure, it's like the ending of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory leading you towards Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

See? I told you it was like a Roald Dahl story....

Editat: gen. 27, 2015, 11:36am

Book 8: Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

Nonfiction title that I picked up from our local Humane Society fundraiser for a buck. Heinrich is a naturalist who was fascinated by the minuscule kinglets living in his northern New England territory and how, despite their small size that would put most winter-active creatures at a disadvantage due to heat loss, kinglets manage to survive. This book doesn't focus exclusively on these tiny birds, but look also at the winter survival tactics of bears, rodents of many types (squirrels, beavers, etc.), turtles, frogs, different species of insects like butterflies, ladybugs, and honeybees, as well as other birds and even trees. Fascinating for nature lovers, and though I'm a nature observer, I couldn't bring myself to take my studies as far as he has, mainly because some of his tactics do involve killing and studying dead specimens. I can read about it, but I prefer my wildlife on the move. But the information was fascinating and in-depth enough that, at least for now, it's a keeper.

gen. 26, 2015, 10:48pm

>23 CassieBash: I have The Snoring Bird by Bernd Heinrich, recently acquired from the 75er Xmas Swap. Who knows when I'll get to it though; my reading pace is insufficient to keep up with the books on my shelves.

PS: Are you rejecting touchstones, or are you unfamiliar with them?

gen. 27, 2015, 12:31pm

Heinrich has another book called Summer World: A Season of Bounty that I'm guessing is much like Winter World but focusing instead on the flourishing of life during the summertime. It was definitely worth the $1.00, especially since the money went to a worthy cause. Last year, I'd read The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, which was extremely interesting--I especially enjoyed the apple and potato chapters (though the potato farming parts were downright scary). I'm not sure what my next nonfiction will be; I'm thinking perhaps that I'll start The History of the San Francisco Disaster and Mount Vesuvius Horror or The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime. Everyone out there reading this--feel free to vote! :)

>24 qebo: qebo PS: Not rejecting as such. Usually I'm posting (like post 23 above) via phone. I have no internet at home except what I can get through 3G, and it's just a pain to flip to the non-alpha characters any more than I have to, especially those double-flips. I finish a lot of books while at home or on weekends, so the phone is usually what I use when posting my book synopses. Also, it's usually late and touchstones are not first and foremost on my mind when my warm bed and cuddly cat await.

That's really the only complaint I have with living in the country--our road doesn't have cable and dial-up is our only practical internet (if you want to call dial-up "practical" anymore). I cancelled my internet when I determined that I was only using it to update the computer, rather than actually using the internet itself. That, and the 3G network loads pages faster than dial-up. The desktop has officially been internet free for over a year and has been relegated to a photo studio and mahjong gaming station, mainly for my mom.

Right now I'm on lunch break at work, and I have a full-size QWERTY keyboard that lets me type quickly and efficiently. (Though since I've gotten the phone, I've become much better at the hunt and peck method.) So I have gone back and edited my posts to include touchstones. I will try to remember to add touchstones, or "back-fill" them when on break at work, as I've done above. As soon as they get high-speed internet services available out my way, I'm getting it. But until then, I make do with what I've got.

gen. 27, 2015, 12:38pm

>25 CassieBash: Ah, I completely forget about all these newfangled devices. I can barely type a few words on the phone. Dialup? Yikes.

gen. 27, 2015, 9:11pm

>26 qebo: qebo: Yikes indeed. When I cancelled my account with my ISP, they told me how many hours I'd used the internet over the past month and of course tried to convince me to continue. I told them that I had no doubt that we'd used tgat much, but since that time was spent just updating the antivirus and Windows, it was pointless to keep our service. They couldn't argue with that logic. Not long ago, we got a call from some "company" saying that one of our computers was sending out a "distress call". How a computer can communicate with another when it can't connect to the Internet is beyond me. But you gotta give them credit for persistence, especially when they kept trying to convince us after we'd told them about the no Internet situation.

Perhaps it's because I just finished a nature book, but I'm trying to picture a computer sending out a distress call like a baby bird calling its parents.... :)

gen. 28, 2015, 9:13am

>27 CassieBash: "distress call"
Hah. Kudos for creativity, I guess.

gen. 30, 2015, 2:55pm

Book 9: Green Dragon Codex by R. D. Henham

Scamp is…well, let’s just say he lives up to his name. A lot. Scamp gets into near-constant mischief, and one day, while running from the local bullies (the leader’s hair is now green, thanks to Scamp), he goes deep into the woods and is nearly killed when a green dragon drops from the sky, killed by a mysterious bronze dragon and a small group of men, one of whom is an evil black mage. The dragon and men and obviously looking for something, but until Scamp finds the mysterious wooden chest, he doesn’t know what it could be. Inside the chest is a two-sided tablet (white side, black side) with strange writing, and a hard, stone globe (which is, in fact, the green dragon’s egg). Scamp, his brother Mather, and his friend Dannika take the chest and its contents to Peda, the village mage, who is then murdered by black mage as he attempts to find the chest, hidden by Peda. When Scamp and company return to find Peda’s house burnt, Peda’s ghost sends them on a quest to take the contents of the chest to “the home of newborn magic that floats upon the sea”.

As a chromatic dragon, greens are always evil, but when the egg hatches and Scamp finds himself holding a baby dragon, he’s convinced that dragons aren’t born evil. But even if he believes this, no one else seems to, and everyone other than Scamp is prepared to kill the wyrmling. As Scamp and company try to keep the tablet safe, they are tracked and attacked by the black mage, his minions, and the vengeful bronze dragon.

One particularly nice thing that I can say about these books is that there are no weak main character females. This series is apparently quite popular with boys, and it’s good when a book that appeals to boys includes strong female characters (in this case, Dannika), often working with equally strong male ones. While there are flaws in each character, the characters grow either despite of or through these flaws. The books are predictable and not overly complex; you won’t have a lot of subplots, though some books have one or two. And you really don’t worry about the characters, too. This is fluff reading for me, but at the moment, fluff is good. And I’ve made a noticeable dent in one of the piles of “to read” books. Unfortunately, I’m visiting Derek in Muncie which means, no doubt, that I’ll be bringing more books from his shop back with me. The big question isn’t whether I’ll bring back books, it’s how many I’m going to bring. I’m just glad there isn’t a Muncie Public Library sale going on this weekend!

feb. 1, 2015, 11:55pm

Book 10: Silver Dragon Codex by R. D. Henham

This is the last of this series that I had lying around here, so I thought I might as well just finish them. Belen is a dancer in a circus; she's been with it for five years, when the ringmaster found her wandering outside the woods where a little village lie, now in ruins. A white Mage has accused Belen of being a renegade silver dragon that destroyed the village. Belen would like to say she's not, but--well, she's got a memory problem. (Yes, it's--gasp!--amnesia!). So she and her friends--a juggler, a tightrope walker, and a foreign hypnotist who can barely speak their language--set off for the ruins to investigate and, hopefully, clear Belen's name.

This title in the series seemed a bit more complex in plot than its predecessors, and I think Belen's story tied in with one of the earlier books. My guess is that Henham wanted all the books to be entwined with at least one other from the set by the time they were all published, but since the series was cancelled before it could be completed, we may never know.

I did get to Muncie Friday night and got some books at Derek's store, but I restrained myself and came back with far fewer than I took down. Most of my selections were fantasy but my new fiction read is a slender Steampunk mystery.

feb. 5, 2015, 2:00pm

Haven't been on LT much--too much shoveling snow to do. But in between shoveling, I did finish:

Book 11: Steampunk Holmes: Legacy of the Nautilus by P. C. Martin

Dr. Watson has a mechanical arm chock-full of interesting weaponry. Holmes no longer takes hansom cabs; he has his very own motorcycle called "Widowmak'r". And Captain Nemo has scuttled his famous ship, Nautilus, under the sea. But it doesn't stay there for long, and the specs have been put on Engine Cards for Britain's best to study. If Great Britain can crack the inner workings of how the Nautilus works, the country will have the opportunity to create the most powerful submarines (and who knows what else?) in the world. But before scientists can study the contents on the Engine Cards, three are stolen from the respectable Mr. Cadbury (no connection to the Cadbury Egg), who is found dead by the railroad tracks running through the city. It looks as if Cadbury may have been killed in a shady deal for the cards, but if that's the case, then why were only three taken? How does Mr. Valentine, brother to Cadbury's sweetheart and who committed suicide after finding that the Engine Cards under his office's protection are gone, fit into the picture? Is Captain Nemo really dead, as they say? Well, you won't find out from me, because what fun is a mystery if you know what happens? It's a slim volume that I read in under 24 hours, and I actually had solved some of the puzzle by the time I was half-way through, but it is an enjoyable and quick read if you're not looking for a mystery that's full of tangled dead-ends and weird plot twists. And the steampunk was a great fit for the character, who always struck me as a bit ahead of his time, anyway.

I will soon (possibly tomorrow) be posting book 12, a collection of Indiana ghost and horror folklore that I requested from another academic library. Hey, if you've got to test your library's new inter-library loan feature, you might as well request something you'll read, right? :)

feb. 5, 2015, 10:35pm

Book 11: Spooky Indiana: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore by S. E. Schlosser

I admit it--I'm a folklore junkie. If I ever decide to further my formal education beyond my MLS, I don't want a doctorate, I want a Master of Folklore Studies or some equivalent. So when I decided it was time to test our inter-library loan settings, I requested this title.

I thought I'd heard just about every ghost story and Indiana legend of general creepiness there was, but a few of these were new to me. It was narrative, so that it was like a campfire story session when I read it; the style was very much in the keeping of the oral tradition of storytelling. However, because of this style, the stories didn't provide detailed accounts and, in some cases, it's hard to tell the "urban legend" type of story from the "actual haunting" stories, so if someone in a paranormal investigation team wanted to use this book as research, they might have to cross-reference information to verify what is what. I wouldn't recommend it for squeamish types, as a few of the stories are quite descriptive, such as "Strange Case", a story about a South Bend doctor who treats a patient who picked up a deadly disease while grave robbing, and then begins to rot away while still alive. (The book's account goes into much greater--and grosser--details.) While I won't rank this as my top choice for a book on "actual" American hauntings, it does make for a quick and enjoyable (if you like gross and creepy) read.

I have begun books 12 & 13; both will probably take me a little bit. I've chosen an historical fiction and the natural disaster book.

feb. 10, 2015, 7:09pm

As I downloaded two more audiobooks today, I began to ponder whether it's legit to count them in the 75. What does everyone think? To audio, or not to audio?

I listen to a lot of audiobooks via my public library's OverDrive offerings. I got into the habit of listening to books on my commute to and from Indy (a 3 hour drive, one way) since there's a radio signal "dead zone" in one or two spots on the route. Have listened to audiobooks regularly since, even while washing dishes. While I don't do the Indy route any more, my daily commute is an hour long each day, and Muncie trips add even more book time.

feb. 10, 2015, 7:36pm

Of course they count toward the 75! I rarely listen to audiobooks myself, but many 75ers do. Definitely count them!

feb. 10, 2015, 7:46pm

Lots of our 75ers routinely count their audiobooks! A book is a book is a book.

feb. 10, 2015, 9:30pm

I live and ... well, you get the idea. Audiobooks totally count.

feb. 11, 2015, 7:06am

Yep, audio books most definitely count!

feb. 11, 2015, 1:09pm

OK, so if I count them...let's see if I can remember them all, going back to January.

Book 12: News for Dogs by Lois Duncan

Bruce loves Red Rover, the purebred Irish setter that he's slowly buying (in installment payments) from the father of the town bully, Jerry. (This first bit clued me in to the fact that this is not the first book written about these characters; Duncan does explain the setup but you can tell there is a back story here.) Jerry is irresponsible and, frankly, downright mean to both Bruce and Red Rover; this is obviously why his Jerry's father feels Red Rover would be better off with Bruce, at least initially. However, Jerry isn't stupid and he's a good con man. When he frightens Red Rover so badly that he runs into traffic and causes an accident (no fatalities), Bruce finds that he's left trying to explain things to his parents--and to Jerry's father. No one seems to listen to him when he explains that it was Jerry who really caused the accident. But now Jerry's father finds that Red's transitionary ownership status might put him into legal liabilities, and Bruce has to start paying off Jerry's father ASAP, or Red will end up back with Jerry. So his sister, Andi, comes up with the idea of creating a dog-based newspaper, with all articles and stories featuring local canines, vet advice, dog-friendly recipes, even a dog-based gossip column. Bruce joins as a reporter and begins earning money to pay for Red. It's not that easy, though. Jerry's cousin Connor arrives and they start selling magazine subscriptions. Then, well-loved dogs begin disappearing, too, including Red--while ransom notes demanding payment start showing up. Bruce knows it's got to be Jerry and Connor, but he'll need proof.

A quick read/listen, and not at all difficult to follow. Don't expect a lot of plot twists and turns; this book is written for Duncan's earlier readers (think 3rd--5th grade) and won't be anything like Duncan's young adult novels, but for younger readers, this is a good story with humor, a realistic plot, a bit of mystery and detective work, and plenty of dogs and dog owners with unique personalities.

Book 13: The Legend of the Wandering King by Laura Gallego Garcia

This fantasy reads like a Middle Eastern fairy tale. Walid, the young prince, wants to become the most renowned poet in all the land. To do so, he has to compete in the annual poetry contest, held in a faraway city (name forgotten by me). His father is concerned that the young prince will lose and thus bring shame upon their rule, so he makes a deal with the prince: if they hold their own poetry contest and he wins, he can go the following year. Unfortunately, Walid loses to a simple carpet weaver, Hammad. In fact, he loses to Hammad when they have a second contest the following year. To punish Hammad, the prize for winning the third time includes not only gold but the "honor" of becoming the royal librarian, knowing that Hammad would likely win again, and that Walid would then be able to exact his revenge. Hammad would rather return to his humble home and life--all he wants is the gold to provide his sons with a way of reaching their own goals to become merchant, herder, and warrior--but Walid gives him "impossible" tasks to complete, first. Hammad spends endless hours putting the royal library's scrolls into order and, exhausted, pleads for Walid to set him free from his duties so that he can return to his family. Walid still refuses, and commands Hammad to weave a special carpet that contains the entire history of the human race.

From that point, Hammad seems possessed, and talk of Hammad being possessed by djinn spreads through the palace. Hammad neither eats nor sleeps but constantly weaves the carpet, driven mad by his obsession to finish it. When it is completed, Hammad dies before he can be reunited with his family, and the carpet....the carpet is exactly what Walid has asked for, and more. It shifts, it changes, and staring at it can reveal too much, because it is the past, present, and future of mankind, with everyone's lives tied up in the weaving. Walid begins to regret his decision at this point and when the carpet is stolen, he begins the journey to track it down, knowing that in the wrong hands, it could be disastrous for all. Along the way, he meets Hammad's sons, and a beautiful woman with whom he falls in love.

Critics were harsh reviewing this one, but I'm not sure if they really got the point. As one Amazon reviewer said (I agree, SeussFan), this isn't supposed to read like a modern novel; this is supposed to read like a classic fairy tale, where characters are archetypes and are not supposed to be in-depth. This isn't like the modern retellings of classic fairy tales, where there are complex subplots and motivations beyond what the original tale set up. This is a modern fairy tale set up as a traditional one. The author even works in a lot of traditional elements, such as use of the number 3, and the enigmatic "helper" who appears and disappears to guide Walid on his quest. So if you enjoy reading the original Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault tales, you'll probably like this one. If you prefer the more modern take and wouldn't touch the original versions with a ten foot pole, skip this one.

Book 14: Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

Jepp is a dwarf, the son of an woman innkeeper in a little village, living peacefully and beloved by all the locals. Then one day, a man from the court of the Spanish Infanta comes to offer him a life in the castle. Jepp is led to believe that this will be a wonderful life for him, but while he is well-fed and looked after, he is merely court entertainment, expected to cheer the Infanta and perform for the court. (Which is historically very accurate; dwarfs were often considered just a step above trained monkeys.) But Jepp is highly intelligent and logical; while others believe in astrology, he does not. After all, his fortune should be favored, with wealth and a good woman at his side. But the woman he loves dies in childbirth, and he is punished for helping her escape and is sent away to serve Tycho Brahe, the famous astronomer.

This is an excellent historical fiction told in first-person narrative by Jepp. I don't want to give any real details away, so I don't know that I want to go into much more description, but Jepp does go on a quest to find his father, whom he has never known, and discovers along the way that his past is more hidden from him than he had ever realized. And as for his fortune and the woman he should be destined to have? You'll have to find that out for yourself.

I'm out of lunch hour; I'll post the rest later.

feb. 12, 2015, 8:20am

I did a quick write-up on my laptop so I could quickly copy/paste this morning. Continuing on the audio front:

Book 15: The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

This book is part horror, part mystery. Maddy Clare is the ghost of a girl who was found muddy and badly hurt on the steps of a farm house outside of an English village one day. The people on the farm—an older couple—took her in, but Maddy remained mute and distant, and she hated men. She tolerated the farmer, who kept his distance (because, frankly, he was scared of her), but didn’t allow any other man anywhere close to him. This continued even after she hanged herself in the barn; the village priest tried an exorcism but she nearly killed him.

Enter the ghost hunters, Alistair Gellis and his partner, Matthew Ryder, who met each other during WWI. The problem is obvious—they’re both men, and the farm wife—the husband is deceased at the time of the investigation—won’t allow another man to risk his life. Sarah Piper’s temp agency calls on her to take the job, and she begins on a journey that will terrify her as she is drawn into Maddy’s mystery and world. Maddy only communicates with Sarah, and that communication isn’t always with words. As Sarah receives images and dreams, it’s up to her and Matthew (the love interest) to put Maddy’s fury to rest before she dooms Alistair to join her in death.

There were places where I found myself a bit bored; this author won both crime writer and romance writer awards for this book, apparently, and sometimes it seemed as if she couldn’t decide which she wanted the book to be: mystery or romance. Sometimes, I thought the romance/sex scenes were simply added in because she thought the story was moving too far away from the romance, but I far more enjoyed the mystery. And while I was a half-step ahead of the heroine/hero in their deductions, the mystery plot was good enough to keep me listening through the heavy romance sections.

The reader's accent was perfect for this story; her British accent and the first-person narrative worked well together.

Book 16: Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout

OK, this one was probably a mistake for me to try as an audio; I think I would have been able to follow it a bit better in print. One thing about this book is that it is in flux, from one person's point-of-view to another, and it's not always clear who's chapter is whose at first. Some chapters aren't even from anyone's point of view. And then there's the issue with whether Juaquin is in a skewed reality or in the real reality. By the end of the book, you are left to wonder how much of it really happened....

Ghost Radio is a radio program created by Juaquin and his girlfriend, Alondra, after Juaquin's friend and fellow musician, Gabriel, is killed one night in an accident involving an abandoned radio station, a water-covered floor, electrical guitars, and a power surge. Juaquin recovers from his own injuries and creates Ghost Radio, a call in show where people can confess their supernatural events to the world at large, anonymously. But as the show's popularity increases, Juaquin begins to "intrude" upon his callers' worlds, seeing what they had seen when the strange event in their life took place, as if he is shifting through time and space to take on their experiences first-hand. Then, Gabriel begins calling and tormenting Juaquin about the past, about Juaquin's life and Gabriel's death, and Juaquin struggles to make sense of all the clues and try to answer all the puzzles that litter his life. Does the strange tattoo he has on his arm signify something important? How does the Toltec priest fit in? And most of all, what is real and what is not?

Personally, I've read/listened to better ghost stories, if you're going for the scare factor. (Some of that was that I just couldn't like Juaquin enough to worry about what happened to him. Sorry, Mr. Gout.) While some of the call-in stories were kind of spooky in that urban legend kind of way (in other words, kind of mesmerizing while you're hearing it but not scary enough to lose sleep over later), the main plot of the book wasn't frightening at all. It did make me think about our perspectives of reality, however; the (supposed) Toltec idea of the world being a dream and what happens when the dreamer wakes is interesting though I don't find it frightening. (I also don't know whether it really is a Toltec idea or not--I don't know enough about the Toltec culture so I would have to research that. For all I know, Gout borrowed it from another religion, or the Spiritualist or New Age movement claimed this was Toltec ideaology.)

My biggest complaint was actually the reader, who kept his voice quiet and even, and it was sometimes difficult to hear as I was driving or doing the dishes. There were days when I didn't listen to the book as I was driving because it was snowing or raining and I knew I'd never hear him over the windshield wipers. I think he was trying to go for the low, mysterious voice to add to the "spooky" atmosphere but as I said, I didn't find this book particularly scary at all and I don't think any narrator would have made this book truly scary for me.

Book 17: The Map Trap by Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements books are just so fun to read; my first was Frindle, which dealt with how the widespread use of a word can cause the word to be accepted into the general language. Like all of Clements' books (at least the ones I know of), this one too centers around the school year. In this case, Alton's sixth-grade year is turned upside down when he shows one of his secret maps from his collection that he's drawn to one of the "popular" boys in school, Quinton. Most of Alton's secret maps aren't what we think of as typical maps showing locations of objects (although one map does do just that--it maps 29 areas around his school with unusual smells). Many of them might be embarrassing if they get out, which is exactly what might happen when they are stolen from his home room cubby. Now, Alton must track down who stole his maps before they go public, especially ones like the map of his teacher's brain (what she thinks about most), the map that charts the principal's "um" problems, and the map that charts the social sciences teacher's wardrobe and pop quiz correlations.

The reader of this audio really enhanced the book; I would definitely listen to a book read by him again.

feb. 16, 2015, 12:29pm

Book 18: A God against the Gods by Allen Drury

During ancient Egypt's 18th Dynasty, a highly unorthodox pharaoh rose to power. Amunhotep IV--who later renamed himself Akenhaten--took power, first alongside his father (possibly--scholars differ on this point), the ailing Amunhotep III, and then as the sole Pharaoh until his own demise. This book doesn't go that far--it only goes as far as his ascent to sole Pharaoh-hood, but it definitely leaves you with the setup for his fall. Akenhaten, also known as the Heretic for his radical religious (and thus political--you couldn't separate the two in this society) practices. In essence, Akenhaten, seen as a living god, declares war on all the established gods of Egypt barring one minor sun god, the Aten. (His first name is derived from the sun god and principle deity of the 18th Dynasty--Amun- or Amon-Ra). The entire book is a fictionalized account of how decisions and events in the lives of the Royal Family and Court led to Akenhaten's radical views and his own decisions.

This book focuses more on the interplay of the Royal Family and their Court than with an actual plot. The book is divided into 5 books, each one focusing on an aspect of Akenhaten's rise to power, starting with the events that put into motion the hatred he would express towards the Egyptian pantheon, especially Amon. Each book has subdivisions narrated in principle character's first person perspective, and include many historical figures beyond Akenhaten and his father, including Aye and Horemheb (both who would later succeed Akenhaten as Pharaohs), Nefertiti (Akenhaten's Chief Wife), and Akenhaten's younger brother, Smenkhkara, with whom this book suggests that Akenhaten might have been involved with intimately.

From an historical/archaeological perspective, the 18th Dynasty is particularly tangled regarding relationships, both by blood and by marriage. There is no actual evidence, one way or the other, that Smenkhkara and Akenhaten were anything more than devoted brothers, but some doubt exists as to whether this person truly existed, or if it was another name that Nefertiti (or another woman) took on. Considering that Akenhaten changed his name when he began ruling, it is possible that Nefertiti or another of Akenhaten's wives took on the name when they came to power after his death. (The 18th Dynasty is also the one where Queen Hatshepsut took control and ruled as Pharaoh for many years, even going so far as to wear the ceremonial false beard and dress of a male pharaoh.)

While there are no sex scenes, sex and reproduction is mentioned--Akenhaten tries desperately to acquire a male heir--there are references to homosexual relationships (Akenhaten and Smenkhkara as well as a nod to lonely soldiers out in the middle of nowhere) and to incest (ancient Egyptian ruling families were frequently inbred, as the society saw the legitimacy of the throne passing through the female line, even though males were traditionally pharaohs). Abortion is also mentioned, as are miscarriages (I am separating out miscarriages as some infant deaths mentioned were natural and not induced). Much of this is treated as just a part of life, with the exception of the homosexual relationship between Akenhaten and Smenkhkara, which is seen more as a bad political move.

The author does admit that much of this is fictionalized and so you may or may not agree with his interpretation of history, which is usually the case with historical fiction that takes place this far back in time. It is full of political intrigue and each person's voice was unique, with their own personalities, fears and concerns, and interpretation of events.

feb. 16, 2015, 5:11pm

>39 CassieBash: Jepp, Who Defied the Stars
Oh, I've had this on the wishlist for awhile, glad to see another positive review.

feb. 17, 2015, 8:00am

The audio reader was good; if you're into audiobooks, see if your public library has a copy available. That's where virtually all my audio book reviews come from, so if your library has OverDrive access, see if they've purchased or leased this title. It must have been on someone else's list, too--I had to put a hold on it to get it.

I'm still waiting for my turn for "Game of Thrones" in audio. Last I knew, I was #9 on the list. Which is much better than the #38 when I first placed the hold back in October.

feb. 18, 2015, 12:02pm

Book 19: Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

This audiobook is performed by Segel himself—and beautifully done, I might add, with excellent character voices and inflection.

Charlie is 11 years old and has a ton of problems. First, his mother died four years ago. Then, his father remarried, to a woman who owns the purple mansion on the edge of town that his mother had told him never to visit. He has terrible nightmares about a witch and her giant cat who holds him prisoner every night. And Charlie is certain that his stepmother (or stepmonster, as he calls her) is helping the witch--and is probably a witch herself. Perhaps the worst thing, though, is the blackness that threatens to engulf him whenever he's scared or angry.

Before all you stepmothers turn away in disgust, I will give one major spoiler--his stepmother is not a witch, nor is she evil. What the book is really about is having to deal with your fears and your loss, and knowing that it's OK to have help and stick together (something his mother told him to do for his little brother). The witch is a true nightmare; in this story, nightmares are creatures living in their own world, where your spirit goes when you sleep. Nightmares are supposed to help humans become stronger, to overcome their fears, but when one nightmare, President Fear, begins to have plans to take over the waking world so that nightmares can scare people 24/7, he needs help to get him and his nightmares into the waking world--and Charlie, living in a special house where the division between worlds is thin, is the key. Charlie's fear is so great that he has unknowingly opens the portal between worlds. When Charlie sees the witch from his dreams crossing over and stealing his brother, carrying him into the nightmare world, he physically crosses the border to rescue his brother. In the nightmare world, he gets help from his friends' spirits--their bodies are safe in our world--and a few rogue nightmares who think Fear has gone too far and must be stopped.

For the first half of the story, I kept wondering if much of it was all in his mind and the book would end up being a more psychological story than a fantasy one. It takes a long time before you are confirmed that the nightmare world does indeed exist and isn't a hiding mechanism of Charlie's--a way to avoid facing the loss of his mother and a way to project blame onto his stepmother. In some ways, that version would have been as good in its own right as the one written by the author. According to Amazon, this is book 1 of a trilogy (just started; this book was published late last year), but the story is complete and won't leave you with unanswered questions.

I was hoping to be able to get in a good deal of reading this weekend, but we were just informed yesterday by the company we've hired to repair our old barn that they are ahead of schedule and are wanting to start work next week instead of June. This means that we'll be cleaning the barn out this weekend, instead of staying in the house watching the snow fall, with a cat curled up on my feet, a cup of hot tea nearby, and a book open in front of me. Oh, well. The sooner they get it fixed up, the sooner we can keep the snow and rain out.

feb. 18, 2015, 2:37pm

>43 CassieBash: if your library has OverDrive access
It does, but I don't do audio. I doubt I'd deal well without ability to page back, and I don't have any situation where listening would be suitable, e.g. no long drives.

feb. 19, 2015, 7:45am

With our -20 wind chills today, I wish my drive wasn't long, either! My office feels like a refrigerator (granted, a warmish one!) and I think I'm not even going to bother changing out of my boots and thick socks today. Did that yesterday and my feet were so cold within a few hours. It seems even colder today.

Enjoy Jepp when you get the chance; it'll be a good read regardless of format! :)

feb. 23, 2015, 9:18pm

Book 20: Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff

Jayna's only family in the world is her older brother Rob, since their parents died. As soon as Rob was of age, he came for her at the girls orphanage as her guardian. They were happy in the little house with its pond and Theresa the turtle. Then Rob goes off to serve as cook on a destroyer during WWII and Jayna (aka Gingersnap, as her mother called her) has to live with their landlady. Before leaving, Rob finds a stone that looks like a tiny girl's face and gives it to her for luck. From that point on, Jayna is visited by a good ghost or spirit (or is it just Jayna's imagination?) who gives her the courage to set off to find her grandmother, who she believes has a bakery in Brooklyn called Gingersnap. Armed with a little money, one suitcase, the lucky rock, a turtle in a carrier, and a book written in French with a picture of the bakery on it, Jayne is determined to find her grandmother and to stay with her until Rob returns.

A gentle story where the "ghost" provides guidance and comfort rather than chills. One unique thing was that at the end of each chapter, Jayne gives a recipe for a different soup, her culinary specialty. Each soup somehow fits with the chapter, like the Waiting Soup. A good read for youth--particularly girls--who are 4th grade and up through junior high.

feb. 25, 2015, 12:26pm

Book 21: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

I took a break from my own pile of reading to check this out of the public library; it's a brand-new book by Holly Black and since I was there to pick up a book for my sister anyway, I couldn't resist. I will continue to chip away at my pile, though, never fear. Unfortunately, I'm going to return our books to the library and need to get another for my sister, so I'll have to go in and pass right by their sales shelves. Which means I have to look through the sales shelves for possible purchases to add to my pile.... :)

The town of Fairfold has had an uneasy truce with the fairy world for a long time, what with the unbreakable glass casket with the sleeping fairy boy inside and a creature that lives in the middle of the wood, a fearsome creature under the control of the Alderking. Usually, tourists are the victims of the fairy magic, tricks, and occasional killing, but recently the fairies have been more active in the lives of the native townfolk. Hazel and her brother Ben live Fairfold. In their youth, Hazel and Ben began hunting the darker fae; Ben with his enchanted musical talents—a gift from one of the faeries—and Hazel with the sword she found by the river one day. Ben has problems controlling his gift, and feels it is unsafe for him to continue the hunts, while Hazel has the desire to do nothing else, wanting to free the town from all the dangerous fairies. However, even she drifts away from this goal a bit as she grows older; her dreams of living the life of a “knight” are put aside as she deals with adolescence.

When the casket is broken and the sleeping fairy boy is found missing, Hazel has cause to believe that she was the one who somehow broke it, though she has no recollections of how. Then, the creature in the middle of the woods makes a full-out assault on the school, and Ben and Hazel find that they must try to stop the fairies before the town of Fairfold falls. With Jack, the changeling child who has grown up with his human family (including the boy his fairy mother tried to steal but was forced to return), they set off to unravel the few clues to the mystery of the fairy boy, the creature in the woods, and the Alderking.

As always, Holly Black does a superb job of creating faeries that are both dark and light (and in varying degrees) and are more accurate to the historical versions rather than the cleaned-up fairies found in Victorian-era reading (when they became more kid-friendly). The hag, the red caps, the pookah are all suitably nasty, and even the more courtly ones are dangerous. This is a YA book and those children who read and enjoyed The Spiderwick Chronicles by Black will certainly enjoy this one, as the fairies are very similar in many ways to the ones in Spiderwick (which were also refreshingly temperamental) but there will be fewer truly “good” fairies in this book. There is also a theme of homosexuality with Ben, so be forewarned if this theme isn’t for you.

I could go into more details but there's not much of my lunch time left; I must be ready to help a student one-on-one with library database searching at 12:30, and I want to clear my dishes away first.

feb. 26, 2015, 2:57pm

Book 22: The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Audiobook performance; sometimes I find performances with more than one person (as opposed to Jim Dale's one-man performances reading the Harry Potter series) a bit distracting, but it worked with this production, possibly because there are few characters that you have to keep straight throughout the entire story. Virtually the entire first book is relegated to the two main female characters: Lady Saren and her maid, Dashti, with a few extraneous characters that you'll never meet again, with the exception of two men: Lord Khasar and Khan Tagis. It's not until about the last third of the book that there appear a lot of characters, but by then you know these four voices so well that they are easily distinguished from the rest. I checked this one out through the public library Overdrive which had very little about the book, and as it had been released during the period I was working on my MLS, I fell behind in keeping up with the literary world. I had heard of the book, but knew nothing much about it. Throwing caution to the wind (as I do sometimes when choosing my audiobooks), I checked it out and downloaded it. I'm glad I took the chance, even though finishing it has cut into my listening time for my next audio, the whopping Game of Thrones, which proceeded to fill up my phone's memory when I downloaded the files. Ah, the things I sacrifice, like recording yet more video of my cat, for the sake of a good book! :)

The story was reminiscent in ways of my book 13 (The Legend of the Wandering King) in that it is a modern fairy tale with the classic approach. Not knowing this, however, I began thinking it a romance, then an adventure, until the fantasy element appeared (unexpectedly, too--didn't see that coming). So for those of you who don't like fantasy at all, be forewarned that whatever you think of the beginning, there will be a fantasy element toward the end. Even saying this may be giving too much away, so I'll stop right here regarding the fantasy and just continue to the plot setup.

It seems that Lady Saren's father fears Lord Khasar, probably the cruelest man on the Asian steppes, who is out to conquer all kingdoms that he can so that he can rule as Khan supreme. In order to "protect" his kingdom, he offers Lady Saren to Khasar in marriage. Khasar accepts (though you must wonder if it would have really prevented Khasar's attack) but Lady Saren refuses. Outraged, her father banishes her to a far watchtower, stocked with 7 years' worth of supplies, and bricks her within its walls. She is to stay there for at least the 7 years unless she agrees to marry Khasar. Dashti, her new maid, accepts imprisonment with her lady. From there on, the first part of the book is their survival as told through Dashti's journal, the Book of a Thousand Days. Both Tagis and Khasar visit the tower (on separate occasions) and Dashti is told to impersonate Saren when Tagis comes; at this point, it is clear to the reader that while Saren has professed her love and betrothal to Tagis, the two have never met. Khasar, however, is not fooled; he has met Saren and knows Dashti is not her. This is the reader's introduction to the two men Saren has to choose from, if you could call it a choice, for Tagis is as kind and gentle as Khasar is cruel and violent.

I don't think I'll spoil anything by saying that they do get out of the tower, thanks to Dashti's inspiration and perseverance. Saren, who hasn't seemed very mentally stable from the beginning and has only grown worse in the isolation and confinement of the tower, has fits of terror. She is convinced that Khasar is around every corner, waiting to kill her. Slowly, they make their way to Tagis's city, where Dashti wants to convince Saren to reveal herself to him. Preferably before Khasar's army, which grows closer every day, can attack.

Again, I don't want to spoil the fantasy element; I've already spoiled the element of surprise and careful readers will probably quickly figure it out based on the clues in the book. (Hindsight is always 20/20 vision!)

By tomorrow, I should have book 23 finished; I'm reading a collection of very early works by Dr. Seuss, back when he was writing for magazines (all great authors of that era seem to have gotten their start in magazines) and doing Flit cartoon advertisements.

feb. 26, 2015, 9:50pm

Book 23: The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs the Dough by Dr. Seuss with intro by Richard Marschall

The intro introduces readers to Seuss's early career, before he was writing children's books. He describes (and rightly so) how several of Seuss's creations were started. For instance, under a work entitled "The Facts of Life or, How Should I Tell My Child?" he has several cartoon panels of tongue in cheek key moments in the history of reproduction. One of these is labeled "998,000 B.C. Elephant eggs prove impractical. A very familiar looking elephant is attempting to sit on an egg. Horton, anyone? Some are more subtle but one of my personal favorites is a tie-in to Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book where a creature wakes himself up by nipping his incredibly long tail. It takes the pain all night to travel to the creature's brain. In this older version, a caveman has marked different areas on a beast that has a similar neural setup, so that striking it in one spot may wake you up at 6, while further down you can sleep til 8.

This book isn't for kids; Seuss's earlier work tackles more mature themes, one of my personal favorites being a short story about the animals people with delirium tremens see come from. For adult fans who want a thorough overview of Seuss's entire works, this is a must.

març 3, 2015, 2:57pm

Book 24: Running away with Nebby by Phillis Garrard

Very short chapter book from 1944; picked this first edition up for 50 cents at our local public library's ongoing book sale. My mom loves old-fashioned animal stories so I thought I'd give this to her after I'd read it if she wants it. It's a simple story about two English children whose merchant father leaves them and his treasured horse, Nebuchadnezzar (Nebby for short) with a stern aunt who plans on selling the horse to the cruel grocer. (Could have been worse--could have been the butcher!) Still, the children decide that their aunt has no business selling their father's horse and decide to run away, taking him and his horse cart with them, to their cousin, Miss Prymm, who lives in the English countryside. This is a simple, straightforward plot, where you know the children and the horse will be fine. (This was obviously published as a children's book, and during that time period, children's literature was filled with feel-good stories where happy endings reigned supreme.) It might still be a good read-aloud for younger children, though the dialog is very quaint--but older children will probably find this doesn't have enough action to suit them.

I'm slowly, slowly making my way through the San Francisco/Mt. Vesuvius book, but right now I'm just not in a non-fiction mood. When I have read it, I've found it sad, interesting and, in some places, surreal. One section described how some mothers had to have their dead babies forcibly taken from them because they couldn't cope with the realization that the infants were dead (very sad), while elsewhere, people had moved their dining room furniture out onto their lawns to eat because they were minimizing their time indoors, in case of another quake, and turning the affair into an almost picnic-like event (very surreal). My favorite incident, however, described how a man had managed to find and salvage a piano, pushed it into a park where homeless people were camping, and proceeded to play music for them (very cool!).

Editat: març 11, 2015, 5:06pm

Book 25: Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I worked hard to finish this audiobook within the time limit set by OverDrive. It's a long book and I was still finishing up The Book of a Thousand Days when my turn at the book came up. (I placed it on hold 'cause I figured that was about the only way I was going to get a chance at it.

I don't know just where to start with a summary of this book because 1) as I said it's long--very long and 2) it's complicated--very complicated and 3) because it's so long and complicated, I'm afraid I'll give too much away. Most of the fun of this book--and the vast majority of the plot--is intrigue, and I don't want to give away too many spoilers. That is, of course, if there's still someone out there who, like me, hadn't read or listened to the book, or watched the series. When this came out I remember how popular it was but as I was up to my eyeballs in MLS homework, it went on my "to read" list and stayed there. (This backlog of 4 1/2 years of MLS studies resulted in an extra layer of insulation in the form of books stacked 2 feet high against the wall, 3 layers deep.)

So, what I will do instead of a plot summary is give anyone out there who is still unfamiliar with this series (this is Book 1) a rundown of what it is and what it isn't. It is considered a high fantasy _but_ be prepared for the fantasy elements to be downplayed until the last third of the book or so. If you're wanting wizards casting spells or dragons breathing fire on every page, skip this book. Because while there are magical creatures and spell casting, most of the action is the political machinations of various lordly families struggling to maintain or take power or revenge. There are complex familial relationships, traitors galore, love/lust triangles, murder, spies, setups, revenge, and scandals. But there is also deep love and loyalty--between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children. There may be character deaths that you might feel unfair and may even grieve for, depending on how deeply you become attached to characters. But that's life, and this book feels all the more real for it, despite the fantasy elements. It's the same with J.R.R. Tolkien's writings--put enough time and effort into your world and your characters, and they'll be believable.

My transparency warning is that this book is full of violent scenes and lots of sexual content. In fact, as big a hit as this was with the YA crowd, I'm surprised it never seemed to make the list of the ALA's "Top 10 Challenged Books" when The Hunger Games made it on the list at least 3 times for sexual content, and that trilogy is tame by comparison. The 2014 list isn't out yet, but if it didn't make it onto the 2011 list when the book first came out, it's highly unlikely it would make it on there now. (Though Hunger Games was on the 2013 list still.)

On a side note, I also noticed that And Tango Makes Three has finally been dropped, as of 2013, from that list. Since 2006, that poor book has made the top 10 list six times (and for the first 3 years was #1 on the list). I know not everyone wants to expose their children to homosexual households, but trying to remove a book from a library isn't going to make the issue go away. I thought the book was a good introduction to the concept for those people who would like to answer their children's questions about a "two daddy" household--it didn't have any sexual content (the picture of the penguins "sleeping together" is them huddled up side by side with their heads tucked under their wings) and it was a very gentle story. But of course, if this isn't for you, the simplest thing to do is just don't check it out and monitor what your children are reading.

Every year I showcase some of the most commonly challenged and banned books here at the library, along with the reasons why people found them objectionable. The most common reaction from students: "They banned that? I read that in elementary/middle/high school!" Some of the most ludicrous reasons to ban a book ever:

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl was challenged as required reading for a middle school because the material was "too depressing". Duh! But unless you're seriously suffering from clinical depression, I think middle school students should be able to handle a "depressing" topic.

The Chronicles of Narnia is, sadly, challenged for both sides of the same coin. Some people think it's too "Christian", others think it's too "pagan". Oy-vay!

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is in a similar situation; when it first came out, it was considered by some to be too "racially tolerant". Now, it's too "racially intolerant". You can get editions that have had the text altered so that the "n" word is no longer in it, but the context changes. You can read a Guardian article of the issue here:

If anyone has heard of any other crazy reasons to ban a book (and I'm sure they're out there), please feel free to post here! I'm always in need of a good bit of irony.

març 15, 2015, 6:32pm

Book 26: A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz

Maud is an orphan that no one wants, until the day Hyacinth Hawthorne comes to adopt a little girl from the orphanage and hears her singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" from her prison in the privy, where she was put as punishment for disrupting class. What she thinks will be a loving home, however, soon becomes a job. For Hyacinth has adopted Maud as a way to help the family "business"--spiritualism. Hyacinth finds rich clients to swindle with fake seances, and the most recent potential is a woman named Elizabeth Lambert, whose daughter drowned and who has offered a substantial reward to the medium who can call forth a physical manifestation of her daughter. Enter Maud, whom Hyacinth is coaching so that they can fool Lambert and win the reward. But Maud, forced to be a "secret child", meets Lambert and, already questioning the morality of what they're doing, has a choice to make: continue the charade to keep in Hyacinth's good graces, or reveal all to the kind Elizabeth Lambert?

You feel sorry for Maud, who tries so very hard to win Hyacinth's--and to a lesser extent Hyacinth's sisters--affection, only to be used again and again in a seance. Maud even knows that Hyacinth is really only using her to get money but she's so desperate for love (and, especially at first, is thrilled to have nice things of her own) that she will do just about anything for a nice word from Hyacinth. Fortunately, she does have one true friend in the household--"Muffet", the Hawthores's maid who is both deaf and mute, but who quickly learns to read and write with Maud's help. Muffet loves Maud fiercely and is a true, staunch friend. Hyacinth, on the other hand, is willing to go to any length to get Lambert's money, as Maud finds out.

I've had this book finished for a couple of days and am just now posting, so I don't remember if there was any specific language warnings. If cursing took place in this it was pretty minor. This would be a YA book but it isn't one that is particularly intense nor does it deal with controversial subject matter such as drug abuse, sex, etc. it is a period piece set in 1909 so some of the locations, technology, and dialog will seem quaint to older readers and younger readers who aren't fans of historical fiction may not be interested, but spiritualism was big in Victorian-era parlors so this time period is the perfect one for this plot.

març 16, 2015, 4:58pm

Book 27: Captain Grey by Avi

Quick and short chapter book that moves quickly along, full of piratical adventure. Good for younger chapter book readers who've tackled Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones and Marc Brown's Arthur chapter books and is ready for something about that length but a little more challenging and intense. Kevin's father returns from the Revolutionary War a broken man who's turned against the idea of any government and takes Kevin and his (slightly) older sister Cathleen into the New Jersey wilderness to live as hermits. They run into Captain Grey, a pirate who shares, it turns out, a similar belief and has formed his own "nation" of pirates. Kevin is taken captive and is forced to learn the pirates' trade, as Captain Grey wishes to turn Kevin into his heir. Kevin wants no part of this murderous band but has no choice at the time. His only hope is that whoever has been answering his messages sent via a passenger pigeon (remember, they weren't extinct until the 1900s) will help him escape. But who is it, and is the person a member of the "nation" or from the outside?

març 19, 2015, 1:21pm

Book 28: What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World by Henry Clark

This book is a science fiction/fantasy/humor blend and is probably aimed at that awkward-to-define age many people call "tweens". Three friends find an old, battered green sofa on the curb close to their bus stop one day. One of them, Fiona, suggests they search under the cushions and in all the nooks and crannies sofas naturally have, and between the three of them, they find: a double-six wooden domino, a two headed coin of unknown origins, a fishhook (River found this the hard way, drawing blood), and a zucchini crayon. Each of these items is important in one way or another to the plot and does, indeed, lead to saving the world from a fiendish, other-dimensional fellow by the name of Edward Dissen, who owns a large corporation which is a front for his taking over the world scheme. Actually, the scheme is quite clever for this target audience age group, as it involves his corporation's food division, cell phones, and mind control. (After all, what tween is without a cell phone unless forced by circumstance or punishment?) The only thing really that's kept him from taking over the world already is his Compulsive Completist Disorder (CCD), which makes him want to complete collections to the point of being unable to function until the collection is complete. As usual, I don't want to give away too much--some of the fun is discovering the importance of all these things from the perspective of River, who is your narrator--but I will say that the zucchini crayon is a rarity, as the Victory Garden crayon set (only 500 boxes made) contained 2 rutabaga crayons as most of the zucchini crayons met an untimely fate in the factory. The zucchini crayon from the sofa may be the only one left in existence and would be the crowning crayon in any collection....

The book gives some nods to other classic youth authors including, most notably to Madeleine L'Engle and her tesser. It also includes nanobot technology, cloning, holograms, and artificial intelligence/self-learning computers. Oh, and a hot air balloon shaped like a toilet. The humor is partly the in the wording--River's perspective is amusing and even witty at times --and partly in the situations (due to unusual circumstances, River literally "knocks himself out") and objects themselves (the cat called Mucus was named by a young boy who intended the cat to be "Mew Kiss", but had problems with pronunciation).

març 25, 2015, 10:00pm

My post tonight for book 29: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick will be short. I was going to wait until tomorrow to post when I figured I'd have time but I'm no longer sure what i'll be doing or where I may end up tomorrow. My sister was pulled to the ground by her pony today and landed on her face. Her lip and nose are cut but she's got a headache and we're monitoring her in case of concussion.

This selection is an edgy YA book with topics and language some readers may find upsetting. Leonard is a misfit in his school; he'd always been different. But he did have a friend once: Asher Beal. But Asher changed--became evil, according to Leonard. And Leonard's own life is far from perfect, with a mother who's set up a second home away from Leo and a father who left long ago. There are only 4 people Leo feels any sort of positive connection to: his elderly neighbor who introduced him to Humphrey Bogart, a girl who passes out religious pamphlets, a fellow student who's an excellent musician, and a teacher of Holocaust history. Each of these 4 will get a present from him, so that, he hopes, they will know how much they meant to him, because on his 18th birthday, Leonard decides to kill Asher and then himself with the Nazi pistol his father had inherited. The entire book takes place from Leonard's 1st person perspective so it actually only takes place in the time span of two days, though a goodly amount of the book is flashback. The acknowledgement includes several mental health professionals and social workers, which may account for some of the story's believability; you can definitely get inside Leo's head as he tells his story. There's raw emotion there that in my audiobook version was emphasized by an awesome reader.

This book got some good reviews in the library lit so I thought I'd give it a try. This isn't my usual read but occasionally I do pick up a gritty YA reality fiction title. Not sure what my next audio will be but I'm hoping to finish my print books soon: the children's fantasy this weekend and the nonfiction maybe by the end of next week.

abr. 15, 2015, 11:50am

It occurred to me that I'm a bit behind on posting here; I just finished book 31 and realized that I haven't yet posted book 30. So here are two books for the post of one:

Book 30: The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda: Leo receives a family heirloom: an old, painted music box. There are 4 instructions that come with this box: wind it three times only, never wind the box while the music plays, never move the box while the music plays, and never close the lid until the music has stopped. Leo's certain that these instructions are for the box's safety--it's old, after all--and not for his. But when his cousin Mimi breaks the rules, she opens a doorway between the world of the music box--the world of Rondo--and ours, and Leo and Mimi are taken into the box's world on a quest to save Mimi's best (and possibly only) friend, her dog. In Rondo, they learn about the woman who's stolen Mimi's dog, the Blue Queen, and her plans to escape from Rondo into our own world. Leo would rather just leave with Mimi, even if it means abandoning Mimi's dog, but Mimi is the only one who holds the key that can get them back to their world. As they quest, they meet plenty of Rondo residents: Conker, a former hero who's companion is a talking duck named Freda; Bertha, a pig who plays watchdog against wolves; Tye, a mysterious woman/tiger hybrid; as well as enchanted swans, a troll, and plenty of other surprises. Probably intended for the 5th grade audience, this book was a nice, light read to counterbalance the horror audiobook I listened to, and which is.... (WARNING: Next book is a horror book that may be disturbing to some; you have been forewarned!)

Book 31: Rotters by Daniel Kraus: Most horror books fall in the fantasy realm because they deal with monsters, ghosts, aliens, or what-not. Those that aren't usually cross into crime stories, like Silence of the Lambs, where some psychopath is out murdering people and cannibalizing them. This book comes the closest to that kind, but it isn't about a murderer at all. In fact, the book is about a small group of people who call themselves "Diggers", because their occupation is grave robbing. While their long-ago predecessors, the resurrectionists, also removed the bodies to sell to anatomists for dissection in the classroom, this group only take the valuables, justifying it with the "can't take it with you/they don't need it anymore/it's a waste just lying in the ground" arguments. And Joey Crouch, a teenage boy who had been living happily in Chicago with his mother, is thrown suddenly into their world when his mother is killed and he's sent to live with his father, one of the most respected Diggers in the group. Joey knows nothing about his father, and his father knows nothing about him. All the Diggers live by a code--only take the valuables, don't disturb the body any more than you have to (and repair anything you disturb as best you can), and don't leave evidence that you've been there. All but one. Boggs and Joey's father, Harnett, were once raised by the same Digger; Boggs feels Harnett is his brother, but Boggs doesn't do things by the book. Or, rather, he does things by his own book--the Rotters Book, a compilation of Polaroid pictures of those whose graves he's robbed. Boggs tells Harnett and Joey about this book, and worse--Boggs takes 2 Polaroids: one for the book, and one for the grave he's robbed. Proof of the Diggers is lying scattered in the ground all over Boggs's territory, and Harnett and Joey try desperately to do damage control. Besides the Digger plot, convoluted into this is the bullying Joey receives as he tries to adjust to a new school and his ever-shifting relationship with his father. This is a complex story (over 450 pages, according to Amazon) and I haven't really got the time to go into all the complexities on my lunch break, but I'll leave you with a link to Daniel Kraus's page for it. Apparently, it won the Parents' Choice Award in 2012, which makes me chuckle since I would never have guessed that a book about grave robbing would win that particular award (OK, ultimately, it's about Joey's relationship with his father, but there's still a lot of decomposition descriptions in there). My explicit language and content warning apply here; I wasn't kidding about the decomposition descriptions and they do go into the details of funeral parlor embalming and practices that some might find disturbing.

The link: Rotters, by Daniel Kraus

abr. 16, 2015, 9:46pm

I find most objections to most banned or challenged books mostly ludicrous. The only really good reason to object to a book is that it's poorly written.

Anyway, A Drowned Maiden's Hair was not one I found poorly written. I enjoyed it enough to search for and read three more by Schlitz, Splendors and Glooms, Good Masters, Sweet Ladies and The Night Fairy (my personal favorite).

abr. 17, 2015, 8:12am

>58 Storeetllr: I enjoyed "Good Masters, Sweet Ladies" as well; our library collection owns a copy of that in our children's section. I'll keep my eyes open for the others! "Maiden's Hair" was a lucky find at the sales shelves of the public library, which I must peruse anytime I set foot in the building for any reason whatsoever.

I had a setback in my readings; I tried to enjoy The Complete History of the San Francisco Disaster and the Mount Vesuvius Horror as my nonfiction and just can't get into it anymore. All the stories are beginning to sound the same; it's like they focus on the same basic events, just reworded. If you're a diehard history fan, or if you have a personal connection to the place, it might help. The photos and illustrations are wonderful even in black and white; some remind me of the oldest National Geographic magazines. Then I had an audiobook I started but had problems getting into as well, so I returned it and got another.

My new nonfiction read is The Last Monarch Butterfly and I'm enjoying it much more. While I know a lot about the information provided so far, I am picking up some new facts and info about one of my favorite Lepidoptera species. Plus, I've been meaning to get around to reading more of my gardening and insect nonfiction books, anyway.

abr. 24, 2015, 8:11am

Book 32: House of Robots by James Patterson: Sammy doesn't have anything remotely like a "normal" life. His sister has an auto-immune deficiency disease that keeps her isolated in her room most of the time to limit her exposure to germs, his mother is a famous robotics researcher, his father writes and illustrates popular graphic novels, and his newest brother of his mother's creations. Sammy is told to guide E the robot through school, a major embarrassment for Sammy, who initially balks at the idea. However, gradually E grows on him and Sammy is forced to admit to himself, if not to E, that E is pretty cool and that maybe having a "brobot" isn't a bad thing. His mom insists that E has a special reason for going to school with Sammy, but won't tell him. Then there's the school bully Sammy and his friend Trip have to deal with, and what's up with that ominous black SUV with the Notre Dame specialty plate?

I'm skeptical that James Patterson can truly write as many books in a year (even if they are formulaic) as are credited to him--does he have a stable of ghost writers working for him? Doesn't really matter, because except for a few outstanding authors, I'm a content person. I'm not a Patterson fan as such, and many of his crime and suspense titles just don't sound like my cup of tea, but I chose this book because I needed something light after listening to Rotters and I wanted something short since I have some holds placed on some rather longer books. (In fact, I need to finish listening to Puck of Pook's Hill rather quickly, as one of my holds is now ready and it's the second book in the Game of Thrones set, so it's going to take some intensive listening time. (I'd better plan a road trip!) :) Also, every time South Bend references were made, I smiled and nodded to myself because this is in my general geographical location, so I'm semi-familiar with the area. It's not often I come across a book with local references in the OverDrive audio collection!

abr. 26, 2015, 1:16pm

Book 33: Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling blends a little fantasy (the children in the book summon Puck accidentally by performing excerpts of A Midsummer Night's Dream in a fairy ring) and lots of historical fiction. Puck introduces the children to figures from different time periods in England's past, and they give accounts of what life was like when they were living. The characters are fictional but their respective stories do tie together in the end. A gentle children's story though today's children may find the turn of phrases difficult to understand, and British-centric words might need defining.

Book 34: The Last Monarch Butterfly by Phil Schappert was the nonfiction I decided to read after dropping the San Francisco quake/Mount Vesuvius book, mainly because I've been inspired by the caterpillars and butterflies that I've found or have hatched. It's a good overview of what's known--and in some cases, what's not known--about monarchs and their life cycle, migration, and the challenges they face both in their overwintering sites and their breeding range. I know a fair bit about how to raise them and many of the challenges they face, but know little about their migration habits and their use of the poisons found in the milkweed plants, so I learned a little more about that in this book. It doesn't give gardening tips, other than encouraging readers to plant nectar and host plants, but anyone interested in this particular species will be interested in this quick and informative title.

abr. 26, 2015, 1:53pm

>61 CassieBash: The Last Monarch Butterfly
Well that's an obvious one for my wishlist. :-)

maig 1, 2015, 5:01pm

Puck of Pook's Hill was a favorite of mine when I was young! I still enjoy rereading it occasionally. The British mythology/history was a bonus.

maig 1, 2015, 5:07pm

>63 ronincats: Can't go wrong with Kipling. My boyfriend's mother was British and Kipling was her favorite author. Puck of Pook's Hill was one of her favorites, too.

Editat: maig 6, 2015, 1:25pm

Book 35: The Fair Folk edited by Marvin Kaye: A collection of short stories featuring various creatures of the fey, as we say at RenFaire. Stories include a brownie who takes tips from decorating shows and magazines, with unfortunate consequences for her benefactor ("Grace Notes" by Megan Lindholm), a detective who specializes in crimes committed by faeries ("The Gypsies in the Wood" by Kim Newman , and a strange pairing between two children who may (or may not) be what they seem ("Except the Queen" by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder). Authors include some big names in fantasy, like Tanith Lee, Patricia A. McKillip, and Craig Shaw Gardner. A nice collection, but my favorites were the highly amusing "Grace Notes" and the serious, dark but more traditional "Except the Queen". I'm debating about whether to keep the collection for those two alone; I tend not to keep short story compilations of works by more than one author, since there are usually several that I probably wouldn't re-read and my actual shelf space is very limited right now. (I'm trying harder to be more practical about what I'm likely to re-read and therefore what I need to keep, but of course it's a never-ending battle.) I may have an out if I lend this book to one of my sisters; maybe they'll want to keep it and I can borrow it when I want to re-read those two. Sometimes it's good to have siblings who share your taste in reading materials.... ;)

maig 6, 2015, 1:40pm

OK, so I just noticed that my counting skills aren't what you'd expect from someone holding a master's degree. I tried to count Book 35 above as a second book 34, but caught my mistake. Still it made me think, "Did I do this somewhere else earlier?" and sure enough, when I went back through, I found I counted two books as "Book 11" (posts >31 CassieBash: and >32 CassieBash:). Fortunately this works in my favor, as it means I'm further along in my goal than I had thought. So really, Book 35 on post >65 CassieBash: is at least Book 36, unless I've goofed and double-counted elsewhere, but it doesn't look like I have. Which means number 37 should be next in line! Looks like it'll probably be Book 2 in Song of Ice and Fire, Clash of Kings in audio. I'm in the middle of a non-fiction and now that I've finished book 35...I mean 36!...I can choose another fiction. Not sure what yet, but I'd love it to be small and thin enough to slip into the pocket-sleeve in my master's robe for the graduation ceremony on Saturday. I always end up in the middle and due to my short stature, I usually can't see what's going on, and the sound system is designed to project out to the grads and their family, not back to faculty/staff, so I get bored. A book would help pass the time if I thought I could get away with it.

maig 6, 2015, 4:18pm

The Fair Folk looks like fun! I'll be looking for it to put on the TBR list.

Congrats on finding your fortunate counting errors!

maig 6, 2015, 5:12pm

>67 Storeetllr: I was in the mood for some more traditional faerie literature, instead of the light romps of fantasy that I'd been reading or the heavily political Song of Ice and Fire series I've been listening to on OverDrive. For my next book, I'm sort of in the "not sure what genre I want next" mood, and may choose based on size and likelihood of whether I'd keep it or not. Sometimes I find that it's good to just read something I'll enjoy once but can then put in the stack to take for trade-ins or donations so that they're no longer part of the general chaos that is my personal space in the house.

Yes, it was fortunate the counting errors were in my favor, though I wouldn't have minded maybe one more miscount. I'm still ahead by my calculations (done on a calculator, since math obviously isn't my strong point!), which is to read on average 6.25 per month, which is equal to 31.25 books by the end of May. Gardening and caring for the caterpillars will take its toll on my reading time during the start and end of summer, but usually during the middle of the summer, when it reaches 80 degrees with a relative humidity of 70% or higher so that the heat index is in the 90-100+ degree range, I'll probably be inside reading a lot. I can't handle heat/humidity combinations very well anymore.

Editat: maig 8, 2015, 4:04pm

OK, these would be books 37 and 38, adjusting for the miscount mentioned above.

Book 37: Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin: Book 2 of Song of Ice and Fire extends the plot of A Game of Thrones, but with more fantasy elements actively involved than in the previous book. I've got a hold on the audio for the next in line, Storm of Swords, so I'm between audio books right now. I'm first in line and since these are such long, complex books, I don't want to start another audio and then find, half-way through, that it's my turn in the hold queue, as usually happens. This often means I've got less than the full 2 weeks to listen to a book that's over 30 hours long, which can be a trick sometimes, depending on what's going on at work and in my life in general. So I may start listening to a collection of short stories or NPR or music on my drive--I haven't decided which yet. Sadly, my car can only play the radio and tape deck; the CD player has been out of commission for over a year now, and most of my audiobooks are on CD.

Book 38: Our Cat by Baron Ireland is a collection of poems about the author's cat, Krazy. This obscure book is from 1934 and apparently the collection is a reprint of various poems that the author contributed to the New York Herald Tribune. It's so obscure, however, that I tried to add its touchstones, only to find that neither title nor author come up. I will admit that most of the poems were OK but certainly not stellar, but my favorite made me laugh. It's called "Apex" and is about a 500 mile trip to Maine that the author took, as he berates big game hunters and daredevils who haven't yet attempted this simple-sounding feat. He could only have written this poem from experience. A stanza, for your pleasure:

"Go cope with your rhinoceros bare-handed and alone,
Or kick a famished grizzly if for harmless fun you hone,
Or aggravate a timber wolf with pokings of a cane,
But do NOT try to drive a cat fine hundred miles to Maine!"

The ink and pen illustration of a wide-eyed calico cat clawing her way over the driver's left shoulder, knocking his hat off his head as he frantically grips the wheel, is the absolute best part of this book. In fact, the illustrations were all adorable, and the artist, Harry Hanson Lees, is at least well-known enough to get his own touchstone. This book will definitely be going in the sale pile but it did give me a chuckle or two.

maig 11, 2015, 10:54pm

Book 39: Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard by Sally Roth: Rodale publishes some excellent gardening books, and this is no exception. This book goes beyond "plant these flowers for nectar" but also introduces readers to caterpillar host plants, using fruit and other "goodies" for butterfly species that don't prefer nectar, butterfly and hummingbird behaviors, hummingbird nesting, the importance of water, and more. There are do-it-yourself designs for not just garden layouts but also hummingbird feeders , window box, butterfly shelter, and more. Two identification chapters in the back describe and summarize key species of both types.

I started reading this shortly before a family trip to a native plant sale for ideas. While not everything referenced in this book for species of butterflies in our area came home with me ( it's bleeping hard to find Virginia snakeroot in our area, it seems), I did get several mentioned as host or nectar plants. This would be an excellent addition to any wildlife gardener's collection.

maig 15, 2015, 7:50am

Book 40, Creating a Butterfly Garden: A Guide to Attracting and Identifying Butterfly Visitors by Marcus Schneck, is like the pocket version of Book 39, with a few notable differences. Obviously, from the title one can infer that hummingbirds aren't included, and that's indeed true. This book focuses almost exclusively on butterflies. The "almost" refers to another notable difference--while not the crux of its concern, moths as the other member of the Lepidoptera clan do get a nod, with a few pages dedicated to the "night garden" and with 9 common and fairly widespread moth species included in the ID guide. I call this the pocket version because it's very slim--it doesn't have the in-depth info of Roth's book, but for a butterfly beginner, it covers the basics and has lists of flowers for each season (a key to attracting butterflies is to always have nectar flowers blooming) and a wildflower list. The ID section isn't as full but does include a lot of common US species. If you're just starting a butterfly garden or want to make an existing one more Lep friendly, this 80 page book can be read quickly and will give you a fast start.

maig 17, 2015, 10:19pm

Book 41: The Buccaneers by Iain Lawrence is actually the third in a trilogy. I haven't read the other two but this story works OK as a standalone. John Spencer is part of the crew on the Dragon, a cargo ship sailing from England to the Carribean in 1803, after the heyday of piracy. However, John discovers that while the likes of Captain Kidd is gone, there are still nightmares prowling the seas, preying on ships. Bartholomew Grace, captain of The Apostle, kills ruthlessly all crew of any ship he encounters, but he has plans to bring down the English navy, which he blames for his hideous disfigurement. John must find a way to stop Grace's plans while keeping himself and his crew mates alive.

Good action/adventure story, especially for boys. There are a few pages giving historical info and background, along with some suggested reading for true stories and accounts of famous pirates.

maig 23, 2015, 9:04pm

Book 42: The language and flow of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt seemed familiar to me very quickly. A quick Google search proved that I did, indeed, recognize the style, as I'd listened to The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp before starting this challenge. Her approach to writing is very distinct, a personal voice that's southern folksy without the dialect--that's the best comparison I can make. It's something like reading a midern myth. Her stories anthopomorphize most everything, especially trees and animals, and both books include fantasy creatures like the Sasquatch-like Sugar Man and, in this case, the lamia "Grandmother Moccasin", a giant magical snake. But the story is only partly about Grandmother. Most of it centers around the old bloodhound, Ranger, and his adopted family of cats. But overall, the book is about love: Ranger and the cats, Grandmother's love, first for a human who betrayed her, then for her "daughter", a second lamia named Night Song, and Night Song's subsequent love for her husband and daughter, and their love for her. It also shows the destructiveness of hate, and that was what made this story hard for me to read. The villain of this story is Gar Face, a man who'd grown up abused and who ran away from home after his father beat him until disfiguring him (thus the name "Gar Face"--people in his new home named him after the fish). Gar Face, in turn, neglects and abuses Ranger throughout the book, and attempts to kill all three cats, with some success. Though the ending was as positive as it could be, getting there was rough. No foul language, no sex scenes, but if you're looking for a Read-aloud chapter book for your child's bedtime story, you may want to look elsewhere. Gar Face kicks and beats Ranger bloody, using a board in one scene, so my disclaimer on this book is for animal abuse and a bit of child abyse. If you think you might want to try one of her books to "try" her unique wording and style but are hesitant about the violence, try Sugar Man Swamp instead. It has that same feel but the intense parts are based less on physical violence and is more about the loss of home and livelihood, and also has a happy ending. I liked the story well enough but reading descriptions about abuse of this sort is probably going to keep me from reading it over and over again, so this is on its way to Derek's store.

maig 27, 2015, 11:47pm

Book 43: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin, audio version. More political intrigue, more deaths, more fantasy elements. It's interesting to see characters develop (or not, in a few cases). I'm not sure, other than Bran, if I like too many other characters but I am interested in how things will turn out for certain characters, especially after the surprise epilogue where a character you think is dead turns out to be not as dead as expected. That will complicate things in the next book, I think.

Heads up on this series--if you haven't yet heard and are a fan, Mr. Martin will have a prequel available later this year (July, I think). I was looking up the name of the next title in the series to search OverDrive so I could place a hold and it came up in the Amazon search. It's something like "The Kings of the Seven Kingdoms" but the exact name escapes me so feel free to search Google or Amazon or your other preferred search source. Happy reading, fans of this series!

Book 44: Old Hungarian Fairy Tales by Baroness Orczy: Ah, Dover reprints! Supplying us with inexpensive print copies of classics and obscure works. As a folklore fan and storyteller, I've been wanting to expand my repertoire of stories. Dover states that this work was originally published in 1895, and the stories have a very Victorian feel about them, so I'm not sure just how "old" they really are, especially compared to Grimm Brothers, Perrault, Aesop, and other "traditional" tales from the world over. That said, these stories aren't without their charms and they may be based on old stories that the Baroness adapted. As the publication date is before 1923, these are public domain by US standards and with some editing I should be able to use them for storytelling.

juny 1, 2015, 8:24am

Book 45: The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley: I chose a couple of children's books to listen to while waiting for the 4th Song of Ice and Fire book to be returned. (Children's books are fast "listens" so they don't cut into too much time for the much longer books by Martin if the hold becomes ready while I'm in the middle of another book.) The Water Babies is a Victorian England fairy tale, where the fairies tend to be creatures who protect and teach children, rather than the traditional, darker fae. Just about everything in the Victorian era written for children was "cleaned up", as parents tried to shelter their children from harsh realities, and probably is the beginning of the "Disney-fying" of traditional folklore. It's a fascinating read given the background of the era, and despite his comment in one part about the best stories are ones without morals, Mr. Kingsley certainly does use this book to illustrate "do unto others as you would have done unto you", and does it quite well, since the story isn't as preachy as it could have been. Tom, the main character, has grown up ill-used by his master, a chimney sweep who regularly beats him and who drinks most of the profits. When Tom is accused of stealing and runs off, he ends up, feverish and ill, in a stream, where the fairies scrub his old skin off and make him into a water baby. (There are suggestions of children's deaths more than once, but they're all veiled by fairies turning them into water babies or fantastic creatures with wings, depending on the circumstances.) Ultimately, Tom must try to help his old master overcome his nature and guide him to a better path, as his master is suffering from his own punishment, and he can only be saved by changing his ways. Obviously, Mr. Kingsley doesn't use any foul language, there's no adult situations, and this book is a G rating or, at worst, a PG for the mention of beatings, smoking, drinking, gambling, and general "bad habits" that the Victorians frowned upon. I don't think most parents would object to these passing mentions--it's not like Kingsley dwells on them or goes into great details--so feel free to use it as a bedtime chapter book if you want. There isn't much action so I'm not sure just how much most modern kids might enjoy this, as like most classics from that time, the story is generally gentle and calm, but there might still be some children out there who wouldn't mind a story such as this.

juny 4, 2015, 8:44am

Book 46: The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders: Mom, Dad, twins Lily and Oz, and a third baby on the way. Sounds like a normal family, right? Well, of course it's not, otherwise we wouldn't have a plot! This modern fantasy centers around Lily and Oz and their new friend, Caydon, who are drawn into an adventure to retrieve 3 family heirlooms: 3 chocolate molds, owned by the three great-uncles to Lily and Oz, that when filled with a special chocolate recipe, can grant immortality. A gang is trying to get the chocolate molds by pursuing the only surviving brother and creator of the immortality chocolate recipe, Isadore, so that their leaders can become immortal, too, but Isadore has his own designs on the molds, wanting to create another recipe that will let him turn back time for his own sinister desires. For kids, this read has more action than The Water Babies and the dialogue is much more modern, too, with cultural references children will understand. This is a good book for read-alouds and it has some great opportunities for character voices, including the immortal cat and rat team, Demerara and Spike, Elmira the Jamaican witch, "J" the head of the Secret Ministry of the Unexplained, and of course Lily, Oz, Caydon, and Isadore himself. Swearing is at a minimum--I believe Isadore talks about immortality being a sort of "damnation" once, and I believe he also uses "Hades" instead of hell, but I think that's the worst of it. There is death but not violent, descriptive ones (someone is turned into a statue, another dies peacefully), so I'm not going to red-flag it as being inappropriate for younger readers.

I'm not sure whether to start another audiobook--I don't want to get too involved and I know I'm first on the hold list for Book 4 of Ice and Fire, and I want to hit the ground running on that so I can finish it within my allotted 2 week checkout period. Perhaps it's time to return to musical options on the drive to and from work. :)

juny 25, 2015, 11:09pm

Book 47: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin is the continuation ( Book 4) of the series. You can tell that the book is preparing you for the finale, as many characters are left in cliffhanger positions, and others are setting up or breaking alliances, and talk of the dragons is everywhere. My biggest disappointment was the lack of Daenerys's storyline. Whether it's because of the dragons--I have a soft spot for dragons--or not, I'm very interested in her story. Of course, she'll be integral to the next book. My usual disclaimers with this series stands: sex, violence, swearing, etc. Well, he's written three books in this fashion; you honestly didn't think he was going to change the format now? Of course not! But because McDonald's has to warn people that their coffee's hot, I'll do the same. You can't say I didn't warn you.

Book 48: Mordred's Curse by Ian McDowell: I had higher hopes for this book which, I will say, isn't a bad read if you don't mind the more modern language and sentence structure, though this spoils the illusion of the time period for me. I also wish that my edition (Avon Books, I expected better from you!) had been assigned a better proofreader; there were lots of dropped words spread throughout. While you're able to deduce which ones are missing, after awhile it's a bit distracting to me. I don't mind the use of the "f" word which is prolifically used as both a curse word and for having sex. I didn't mind Mordred's characterization, nor his insane mother and her desire to bed her own son (which, depending on what version of the Arthurian legend you read, isn't inaccurate--incest in Arthur's bloodline was a frequent theme in some tellings). Arthur was a bit whiny and obnoxious but then everything is told from Mordred's perspective, and as you read you'll see this isn't out of place in this context. Gwen is smart, educated, and of course beautiful, but falls in love with Mordred--this, also, didn't bug me. Sadly, the character that did make me think "WTH" was Merlin, whose one scene before he's exiled portrays him as a dirty old pedophile who tried to seduce Mordred. Wow. Don't know where the author got that from. If anyone knows of an authoritative source that describes Merlin as such, please let me know what it is, because I have never come across anything of the sort, and I'm curious to know where McDowell might have come up with this portrayal.

Book 49: Darkness Creeping by Neal Shusterman: think of a Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine short story collection and you have the idea. Suitable, language-wise, for the same age group as Goosebumps only with plots that are more serious than some of the Goisebumps books--you won't find killer sponges under the sink. Some even have ironic endings (Monkeys Tonight) and happy endings are not the norm here. Scary? Meh. Not to adults. After this, I'll probably stick with Mr. Shusterman's young adult books--I recommend The Dark Side of Nowhere for sci-fi fans.

juny 30, 2015, 3:19pm

Book 50: War Horse by Michael Morpurgo was made into a movie in 2011 but was originally a youth novel. Set during World War I, and told from the point of view of the horse Joey (a la Black Beauty by Anna Sewell or Traveller by Richard Adams), the story is about a boy's loyalty to the horse that he trained to work in the family's fields, and that his father sells to the British cavalry to help pay bills. Most of the adventure is oversees in Germany and is the horse's survival story, and as many reviewers of both the book and the film note, highlights the sheer folly of sending a mounted troop of men into 20th century warfare. If anything, it shows how much war had changed in the way people fought, particularly with American readers, whose modern warfare history may jump wars and skirmishes that happened in other countries but didn't include the U.S. (unless, of course, you're a war buff and know all about those pesky occupations and rebellions and such). For many, the war preceding WWI is the Civil War, which was still cavalry-heavy and didn't involve machine guns. In fact, the Germans seemed to use horses more for getting their artillery where it needed to be, rather than riding them in combat as the British did. (Not that this didn't take its toll on the horses, as the book notes.) This isn't a bad book for 4th or 5th grade up; if you're worried about sex, swearing, drugs, etc., you'll not find them in here. Deaths--human and animal--do occur because it is, after all, during WWI and you will have casualties.

Book 51: An Illustrated Guide to Ghosts & Mysterious Occurrences in the Old North State by Nancy Roberts: I'm a sucker for ghost legends and I fear I'm running out of ones I've never heard of in my own state, so I figure it's time to branch out. While I don't plan on visiting the Carolinas anytime soon (pity--I'd love to see a bog full of wild Venus flytraps), I came across this book in my boyfriend's shop and decided, upon his recommendation, to give it a read. (He has his own copy from childhood--it was one of his first ghost lore collections and he loves the pre-PhotoShop trick photography that helps give each story some character.) From hoofprints where nothing grows or covers them for long, to a grey man who warns people of impending danger, many of these legends can be referenced online and expanded upon. Roberts' writing is more narrative than scientific, with lots of dialogue (imagined, I would suppose--I doubt that there's a written record of what the people in these old legends, some dating back to pre-Revolutionary days, actually said), so it's a quick and easy read. Whether you believe them or not could be beside the point; I read these stories because I'm interested in folklore of all kinds, not because I take every story as the gospel truth. (But feel free to share any experiences you've had--I'd love it if someone from this area of the states could share their story of the supernatural!) Many stories are even iconic in just about any state you could name--what one doesn't have a mysterious hitchhiking girl who disappears just when you get her home? (Chicago is our local hitchhiker's setting.) And what about a haunted car? Still, whether fact or fiction, the storytelling is good and it's even suitable for younger readers (again, 4th or 5th could probably handle the vocabulary) interested in "true" ghost stories, without being overly scary.

jul. 4, 2015, 10:33pm

Book 52: The Little Helliad by Janet Morris and Chris Morris is one book of a series called Heroes in Hell. Satan tells Homer (the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, not the Simpsons character) that he's basically in a funk and feels that he needs a classical epic written in his honor, and he's chosen Homer to do the dubious honor. Homer agrees but only on certain conditions--safe conduct throughout Hell, and no deadlines. However, Homer also agrees to write a second book, one showing the Devil and Hell in all their nastiness, for an angel to smuggle out for publishing in the mortal world, to warn people. Joining Homer for the mission is Confucius, who has an endless supply of either fortune cookies or tea for guidance. Throughout the mission, Homer and Confucius join up with (and often must again leave behind) such interesting persons as Achilles, Ofysseus, Theseus and Persephone, Alexander the Great, and even Lawrence of Arabia. A fun and interesting take on Hell and Satan.

Book 53: The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb: Grace Alban returns to the sprawling family estate of her childhood after her mother dies, and she becomes the head of the Alban family. Unfortunately, she also inherits a sinister family mystery that a local reporter was going to make public with an interview granted by Grace's mother, who died just hours before the scheduled meeting. Unlike book 15 in >40 CassieBash:, The Haunting of Maddy Clare, the relationship between the heroine Grace Alban and the love interest local minister Matthew) doesn't seem like it was put there for the sake of making the book a romantic horror. Nor is it used as a device for gratuitous sex, something the book avoids well. It is, in fact, half mystery and half horror with a modern setting but a gothic feel. And just when you think you had things figured out, the book throws you a curve ball. At the very end, I was half a step ahead of the characters as far as figuring out what was what but by then the pace was going pretty quickly and it wasn't long to wait before they caught up with me. There are some supernatural elements involved but these aren't overly used. This was a good old-fashioned ghost story with a twist. Minor swearing, relatively little violence (and what's there isn't described in gory detail), and no sex.

jul. 10, 2015, 12:00pm

Book 54: The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates is psychological horror, not supernatural. Both can be good, in my opinion, but if you prefer psychological horror, this has got some good stuff. My personal favorite was actually the last story, "A Hole in the Head", in which a plastic surgeon decides, upon strong urging from one of his patients, to perform a trepanation on her, and his thought processes as he wrestles with whether he should do this, and then when he does decide to (with predictably bad results), how he handles the misfortune. Many of the stories just stop, so don't expect closure in all of them. Language may be an issue; a couple of the stories has a liberal use of the "f" word throughout, and as the trepanning thing above might suggest, there is some gore in some stories. (In case anyone reading this doesn't know, trepanning is the act of drilling a hole or holes into the head, done for various reasons throughout history, including pre-history.) "The Corn Maiden" itself involves girl school bullies kidnapping and starving a younger girl, dubbing her "The Corn Maiden" after a Native American ritual they are attempting to replicate, all because the leader of their group is bored and, frankly, a bit crazy. But then, pretty much all of these stories involve people who are crazy in some ways: the damaged war vet, the two separate stories about twins, with one always overshadowing the other (think good twin/bad twin). The only story where something supernatural may have been hinted at was "Nobody Knows My Name", where a young girl "talks" to a stray cat that tries to steal her and her baby sister's breath. Or is the cat's conversation just in her head? And did the cat really steal her sister's breath, or did the girl have more of a hand in her sister's death?

jul. 14, 2015, 10:20pm

Book 55: An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton is a YA fantasy romance based on the legend of Tam Lin, who was taken by faeries and...well, I don't want to give too much away, but of course love is a key element. One of the nice things about this book, however, was that the romance, while integral, didn't overshadow or overburden the plot. Jenny's slowly developing relationship with Tam doesn't get in the way of Jenny's other concerns: her sister's disgrace and what she might do to fix it, her father's desire to find a suitable match for Jenny (translate that to mean the usual political gains won in medieval betrothal), and Jenny's desire to please her father and impress Earl William, said "suitable" match. But as she learns more about William, she can't help contrasting his arrogant, nasty temperament to Tam Lin's gentle ways. Her decision must be made before midnight on Halloween, however, or Tam Lin may be lost to her forever.

The romance was gentle for the most part; sex is alluded to but not described in detail, nor is crude language used. If swearing was in there it was few and far between; I can't recall coming across a damn or a hell as a curse, though Hell as a place is mentioned. This was actually an ALA Best Book for YA in 2005, and it will be staying on my shelves for the time being--a rarity right now as I'm forcing myself to be more selective due to dwindling shelf space.

Sadly, while I love saying you can never have too many books, just not enough shelf space, I'm finding that it only goes so far outside of theory....

jul. 23, 2015, 7:59pm

Book 56: The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller is a good old-fashioned mystery with a touch of unrequited romance between the two detectives, Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon. Set in turn-of-the-century (19th century--we're talking 1895 here) San Francisco, two seemingly unrelated mysteries begin to twine into one. Yes, there are elements of this story where you might just go, "Really? Isn't that highly convenient?" I'm not going to go into too much--no spoilers here--but there were some things in this book that somehow made me think fondly of the original Scooby Doo mysteries. I knew where the ending was heading in part, but some of the fun of reading a mystery like this is to see how the author ties up the end. I loved the oddball Englishman who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes helping them along (even when help isn't wanted), and the romantic tension between Carpenter and Quincannon was the right mix of romance--not too much to detract from the story, and just believable enough to give the characters more dimension. Give this a try if you like historical fiction and mysteries centered around this era, or like the classic mystery stories of Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie.

Book 57: If I Were an Evil Overlord is a collection of short stories that focus on, well...pretty much what the title suggests: evil overlords. Ever wonder why so many are overthrown or thwarted? Several of these stories were hilarious, a few more serious, some were half and half. I don't have the book with me at the moment, but I loved the story about the HVAC repair men who have to fix the air conditioning in a mad scientist's volcanic lair (the AC fan was making noise...why it was making noise quite tickled my morbid sense of humor), the pompous elf hero who thinks he knows all about overlord's beautiful daughters and their willingness to rescue the handsome hero no matter what, and many more. I read few short stories--I prefer longer stories with lots of character and plot developments--but this collection had some gems and may just earn a permanent spot on my shelves!

jul. 26, 2015, 9:42pm

Book 58: Birdwing by Rafe Martin is a fantasy extension of the fairy tale of six brothers, whose stepmother changes them into swans. Only their sister can save them, and only if she can make shirts for each of them with stinging nettles and fragile star wort before six years are up, and she cannot speak or make the slightest sound while doing so. Starting with a re-telling of this tale, the book follows the growing pains of the youngest brother, whose transformation back to his human self is incomplete, leaving his left wing instead of an arm--and thus earning him the nickname of "Birdwing". While he hates the limitations of having only one human arm, there are some advantages--he can understand animals and sometimes has premonitions. When his father has the opportunity to wed him to the daughter of the mad king of a neighboring kingdom, part of the marriage contract would be to replace the wing with a functional golden arm. Horrified that his father might force him to choose the arm over the wing, he starts on a journey of discovery that eventually leads him to his stepmother, who offers him a choice: a human arm, or his swan's wing? A wonderful fantasy of PG rating (for one scene that hinted of sex--nothing explicit), and perfect for its intended YA audience.

jul. 30, 2015, 4:21pm

Book 59: The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein was the latest of my audiobook selections. It's horror, though I must confess I was never really scared. It wasn't that the plot wasn't good, it was just that this story didn't seem very intense. Of course, most of the ghosts in the book are actually helpful and are working to help Zack and his new stepmom, Judy, defeat the evil spirit, Clint Eberhart, who died at the crossroads of 31 and 13, taking a busload of people and a cop with him. His bride-to-be chooses an old oak at the edge of the crossroads and creates a memorial; so powerful is her obsession that Clint's spirit is bound in the tree, while the spirits of the cop and bus occupants are bound to Clint's existence, and cannot pass on to heaven until Clint is gone. Thus, of course, it's in their best interest to guide Zack and Judy to destroy the tree shrine that keeps Clint bound to this life. When lightening strikes the tree and frees Clint from its confines so that he can now roam at large, Clint decides it's time for him to live again in the young body of one of his descendents, which basically means possession. The plot wasn't gripping but wasn't bad, the characters were OK--actually Gerda Spratling, the crazy Clint-obsessed, now old lady, convinced that Clint will still marry her when he gets a body, is deliciously ill-tempered and evil. The reader seemed a bit too perky at times, considering what's going on in the story; I've listened to her read before and she's definitely not my first choice for a horror. But at least she has good enunciation and her voice is loud enough to be heard when driving; I've been frustrated by readers whose voices are too quiet to hear over road noise, since I listen to audiobooks to and from work mainly.

ag. 3, 2015, 6:24am

Book 60: The Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones: War is coming to Dalemark as two peoples--each calling the other Heathens--and Tanaqui's oldest brother Gull and her father are recruited. Gull comes back, but only in body--his soul seems drawn towards the sea, where a dark Mage named Kankredin is catching the souls of both people. Tanaqui weaves rugcoats telling the story, and these weavings of hers are more important and powerful than she first realizes, as the weaving a themselves are a kind of magic that may be strong enough to help stop Kankredin and free the captured souls. Told as first person, you discover the story as Tanawui weaves. At the end of the book is a note about spellcoats that is apparently supposed to be from a Dalemark museum. This is book 3 of 4 but it does well as a stand-alone.

ag. 6, 2015, 8:13am

Book 61: We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee is an autobiography of a British man whose entire family (minus one brother's last-minute bail-out) decide to pool their resources to purchase an old zoo. This zoo had suffered from mismanagement, PR nightmares, and a host of other issues that led to its being on the market. Concerned about what might happen to the animals, and intrigued by the idea of owning a zoo, Benjamin, his wife, his widow mother, and most of his siblings manage, against huge odds, to succeed in the purchase and restoration of the zoo. Much of the book is how they had to make repairs and do daily tasks on a shoestring budget and with dwindling funds, as they struggle to find people to help finance their plans until the zoo is fit to reopen (provided, of course, it passes the required inspection). There are some close calls with escaped animals, and some tough decisions on how to deal with animals they don't have the room for, or who can no longer be housed happily (such as the two sister tigers who no longer get along, and had to take turns with the outside pen). Few animals are culled, however, thanks to Ben's moral stance that healthy animals should not be shot just for convenience. The saddest parts of the book are about his wife, Catherine, whose battle with an aggressive brain tumor does not end happily, and Ben is quite open about how he handled the loss, and how their two children handled it. (The part that brought tears to my eyes was actually one in which his son "wants to be strong" for his father and refuses to cry when his dad breaks the news to the children that their mother is going to die.) I'm not much of a biography fan unless it's written as more of a story, and being an autobiography, this one fits that description, with the added benefit that many of the stories center around animals. (You might have guessed that I've also read James Herriot books, and you'd be right.)

ag. 8, 2015, 9:03pm

Book 62: Dissidents by Neal Shusterman: A confession: when I think of Neal Shusterman, I think of YA science fiction, not realistic fiction. I have an autographed copy of The Dark Side of Nowhere from when I met him at a local reading council meeting, and he shares a shelf with another YA fantasy/sci-fi author, William Sleator and my Red Dwarf novels. I picked this up without reading anything about it--library bag sales are great for picking up books based solely on author name recognition, cover art, etc. So when I discovered that the book was grounded in our reality and more or less contemporary, I was a bit surprised. But Shusterman is an excellent writer, no matter the genre. Taking place in the Soviet Union, where Derek comes to live with his mother now that his father is dead, Derek has to adjust to a new school, a new life, and a new title--"the ambassador's son"--as well as his temper. He's angry and sullen all the time, until he becomes intrigued by Anna, the daughter of a dissident who was exiled to Romania. Now, all Derek can think of is meeting Anna, even if it means shaking his bodyguard, befriending Soviet kids, and infiltrating a Soviet Young Pioneers meeting.

ag. 18, 2015, 3:38pm

Book 63: A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin I was hoping for more closure, but then I found out that there is an upcoming 6th book (possibly a 7th), so that doesn't bother me so much. The series is truly epic but then, can the "game of thrones" really ever end? Politically speaking, there will always be struggles for power and really the game never ends. But we lost a lot of key players that I really liked, and while there are still one or two in the series that peak my interest, even if they aren't directly vying for the throne, I'm not sure it's worth the bother any more. I'm almost ready to just give it up here, as the events of the books are all beginning to just seem endless and pointless--especially the sexual scenes and references, which are beginning to get really tedious to me, and seem to have gotten more and more prevalent the further into the series he goes. And if he describes one more piece of meat as being "blacked on the outside, red and dripping on the inside" I'm going to write the author a letter and ask him to get a thesaurus. (Food references and descriptions also seemed to run rampant in this one...made me hungry a couple of times.) There is such a thing as dragging a thing out too long, and this series is beginning to feel like that to me.

ag. 19, 2015, 12:53pm

Book 64: Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones: I really hadn't realized I had another Wynne Jones book lying around until I picked this up and saw the author. Huh, go fig. But then I have so many books stacked up against my outer wall (I'm always joking that I'm adding more insulation to combat what seems like increasingly colder Indiana winters), I can't keep track of all the authors and titles, so I can't say that I'm totally shocked. I purchased the book for the summary blurb on the back and the intriguing cover art, with a dog and a dog-shaped constellation falling towards what I assume is supposed to be Earth, based on the plot. In this world, every planet and star is inhabited by living beings, called luminaries, that are responsible for maintaining whatever motions, life, etc. falls within that sphere's influence. Sol (our sun), for instance, is in charge of Earth and its beings. Sirius, the luminary of the Dog Star, is accused of the destruction of another luminary, using a strange object called a Zoi, that is the embodiment of the force of movement. The Zoi was lost in the attack, and is believed to be on Earth. The luminary judges decide that Sirius must find the Zoi before he can return to his place in the heavens; until then, he is forced to begin a life on Earth as a dog. Starting as a puppy, Sirius must recall who he is, find the Zoi before someone else--someone who might use it for evil rather than good purposes--and return to his rightful place in the heavens.

I am now 11 books away from the 75 book goal--woo hoo!

ag. 19, 2015, 1:39pm

You summarized Dogsbody but didn't say how you liked it. I adored it as a preteen, weeping copiously every time. It doesn't have quite the same charge as an adult, but I still like it. I have been meaning to reread the Spellcoat tetralogy for some time, but never seem to get around to it. I've been reading a lot of children's series lately--maybe this is the time.

ag. 19, 2015, 4:35pm

>90 ronincats: I liked it; didn't adore it or weep but I probably would have in my younger days. I kind of figured that Sirius would end up back in his star, so I can't say the death of the dog itself was unexpected. I plan to pass the book on via Derek's store or Ancilla's book sale, so hopefully someone else will find the book and enjoy, if not fall in love with it. And if they fall in love with it, so much the better!

Among the books that still make me cry whenever I read them are Charlotte's Web, Moreta, and the two classics by Richard Adams: Watership Down and Traveller. The senselessness of the war makes Traveller hard for me to read and I've only read it twice, and I've read Charlotte's Web so many times and I know what's going to happen, but Wilbur's grief and Charlotte's quiet death always gets to me. *&*^*^* sad animal stories! :)

My next book is already chosen, and if you like fantasies that take place in alternate versions of Earth's history, I strongly recommend the Master Li and Number Ten Ox trilogy written by Barry Hughart. I just recently received the third book--Eight Skilled Gentlemen--via Amazon sellers to complete the trilogy and I'm excited to start it. The first--The Bridge of Birds--was purchased on a whim through Derek's store, the second--The Story of the Stone from the local public library's booksale. You definitely want to read them in order; the first book is definitely the first, as it details how Number Ten Ox and Master Li end up working together. Set in "ancient China that never was", these books have supernatural elements such as curses, demons, and other Chinese cultural entities muddying the mystery that's at each book's center--people have compared them to Holmes and Watson. Only Holmes and Watson never had to deal with supernatural Chinese stuff....

ag. 19, 2015, 4:40pm

I'm a crier, so lots of books make me cry, but Charlotte's Web and Moreta are definitely in that group. I can't read Adams--too much violence to enjoy Watership Down although I finished it, and haven't tried the others.

Oh, you are in for a treat. Bridge of Birds is a true classic, just perfect in every way. The next two, while not as good, are still definitely entertaining and worth reading. I'm glad you are starting them.

ag. 19, 2015, 11:04pm

>92 ronincats:. Definitely don't read Traveller. But if you're on a youth science fiction/fantasy kick, try some William Sleator. Interstellar Pig and the twisted and psychological House of Stairs are two of my favorites. The Beasties is good too, if you like a touch of horror with an environmental slant.

I loved Bridge of Birds; I've already read books 1&2 and was just waiting for a reasonably-priced copy of book 3 to show up on my radar. Sadly, I told myself I should read more of the titles that have been lying around for far longer, especially since I'll be keeping the trilogy and probably won't be keeping most of the others (but then again, I did choose to keep Birdwing and An Earthly Knight so who knows?). But hey, I need to read it sooner or later, so why not sooner? Ah, self justification works again.... :)

ag. 24, 2015, 11:06pm

Book 65: Mysteries of the Ancient World edited by the National Geographic Society is outdated a bit but like all National Geographic books, it's got nice pictures, especially considering that the book was from 1979. The book looks at several ancient civilizations and their monuments, culture, and often the sudden collapse of their society. From prehistoric cave paintings, Egyptian pyramids, Europe's megaliths, and Easter Island's moai, to point out only a few, this book gives theories based on what was, up to that point in time, current discoveries and findings. Ancient civilizations are, to me, more interesting to read about than our modern society (as a general rule--there are some areas of our modern society and culture that I find fascinating). I especially liked the chapters on the Mycenaeans and the Etruscans, even though I took all theories presented throughout the book with a grain of salt. The pictures are (with maybe a couple of exceptions) in full color. Not a keeper, but I'm exceedingly picky on what I keep in my history section, and this title most certainly is not new enough to be included but hopefully it will find a new and loving home elsewhere.

For an idea of the books on more modern society and culture that I am drawn to, the last one I read was Swindled. A good but rather frightening look at the history of what we put into our bodies as food, and just how much the food industries (particularly in the U.S., Canada, and the UK) can get away with. Don't eat anything while you're reading it....

set. 1, 2015, 2:04pm

Book 66: The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris is a forensic mystery with a hint of romance that takes place in England during the time the Americas are fighting for independence. When Lydia Crick's brother dies horribly and unexpectedly, she requests that Thomas Silkstone perform an autopsy. When Thomas suspects murder rather than natural causes from the (implied) syphilis that her brother had, fingers point towards Lydia's husband, who seemingly had motive and means. But like all good mysteries, you can't blame the obvious choice. The suspect pool is rather limited and, again like all good mysteries, there are some red herrings along the way, and there is a mystery within the mystery. While I was half a step ahead of the Doctor Thomas by the end, the read (or rather listen, since this was an audiobook) was enjoyable. I'm not bothered if I solve the mystery ahead of the hero, as long as the tale is well-written, as this one was. It doesn't hurt that the reader was Simon Vance--oh look! audiobook readers get touchstones, too!--who does an excellent job of reading--not too quiet, not to loud, with a pleasant British accent that works beautifully with many of the books he's read. Enjoyable escapist literature, which for me is what fiction is all about.

set. 7, 2015, 10:54pm

Book 67: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews: This audiobook was the "revised" edition. I assumed this maybe meant that it was edited for language but it's clear that isn't the case--plenty of the "f" word here, and lots of sexual comments--mostly crude teenage boy breast obsession. (The book's first person narration is by Greg Gaines, a not-so-typical senior in high school, but more on that later.). It's not abridged, either, as the audiobook states clearly at the end. So I have no idea what could have been "revised"....

Greg is trying (and succeeding) to get through high school by being on the fringes of all social groups and cliques without seeming to truly belong--a delicate tightrope act. In this way, he hopes to make it through high school without enemies; but since he can't really belong to any one group, he doesn't really have friends, either. Except for Earl, who shares Greg's love of films and filmmaking. When one of his former acquaintances, Rachel, develops leukemia, Greg's mother forces him to revisit their relationship. In the process, Rachel meets Earl (who, incidentally, is in many ways a more likable character than Greg), who tells her about their secret moviemaking. Rachel appreciates the films, even though they're not good (both boys know this, but even self-deprecating Greg likes how they seem to cheer her up). So they end up pressured to make a film just for her--a grueling process that flops miserably, and it's not until it's too late (I'm not giving away anything that isn't revealed in the first 15 minutes of the book) that Greg realizes why it failed and what would have been the best way to film Rachel's movie. Not a bad listen though I would have preferred it if the author skipped the occasional script-like interjections at times--I know why it was done, and it worked better for some scenes than for others. Not the happiest of endings, but realistic both in the events and Greg's reaction; the most moving scene is when Greg realizes what went wrong with Rachel's film and what the perfect Rachel's movie would have been. Greg says at the beginning that he didn't learn anything from Rachel's death, but that moment says otherwise. Not bad for realistic YA fiction, but not spectacular, and I'm not sure whether someone going through a similar situation (friends with someone with a terminal illness) would necessarily find comfort in this book regarding the illness and death itself, but it might make them feel a little better if they can relate to the confusion and anger Greg feels about it.

set. 28, 2015, 10:08am

Got two more to post; one audio, one print. So Book 68 is Eight Skilled Gentlemen by Barry Hughart, the third book in the trilogy of Number 10 Ox and Master Li. It took me awhile to finish this, not because it isn't an enjoyable read (it is), but because I've been busy doing other things, not the least of which is preparing for the Fishers Renaissance Faire coming up this weekend (shameless plug). I'm a storyteller there so if you happen to be in the Fishers/Noblesville Indiana area on Sat. or Sun., stop by and see my character, Lady Lepidoptera. Anyway, in this installment of Ox and Li's adventures, they must investigate the murder of magistrates, killed under suspicious (and supernatural) circumstances that seem to involve the Eight Skilled Gentlemen, who are demons, each with their own nasty way of killing people. These seem to be connected to a collection of unusual cages, as well as an illegal counterfeit tea ring. Part mystery, part fantasy, Eight Skilled Gentlemen was a nice blend of these two genres and while I found the plot to be not quite as tight as in Bridge of Birds (the first book of the series, and definitely the best), and I suspected very early on who was the main culprit (though not how it would be resolved), but it was still quite enjoyable as a read. Like its predecessors, this book does have its raunchy side so be forewarned about the sexual references and language.

It took me awhile to listen through Book 69 for pretty much the same reasons, and of the two I enjoyed this one more. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty was a youth fantasy about a young girl and her father secretly living in the Biltmore Estates basement. Hired as a mechanic, he keeps Serafina as much a secret as possible, fearful that someone will take her away from him. Serafina is very unusual; with four toes and strangely formed collar bones, amber eyes, and a penchant for catching rats. During one of her nocturnal ramblings through the basement, she witnesses a man with a black cloak chasing a young girl--one of the Vanderbilt's guests--and makes her disappear inside the cloak. While the basics of the cloak I figured out very easily, as I've come across these sorts of devices in fantasy novels before (think transference of powers/youth/etc.), suspects abound. Half of the fun of the story is also finding out more about Serafina's mysterious past--again, part of which I'd figured out before Serafina--and her growing friendship with the Vanderbilts' nephew, Braeden, who's more at home with his dog, Gideon, and the horses in the stable than with most people. However, Braeden and Serafina end up working together to try to stop the man in the black cloak. This is a more fast-paced story than the other, and it, too, is part mystery, part fantasy, and part tame horror (I personally didn't find it scary, but some children might, I suppose). I didn't notice anything potentially objectionable regarding language, adult themes, etc., so I would rate this as safe for any child whose parent doesn't object to horror and fantasy motifs.

oct. 19, 2015, 8:55am

Book 70: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut was my banned book choice this year. It's also my first Vonnegut read, despite his shared ties in my area (he frequently visited Culver, Indiana). I knew it was a sort of anti-war novel; did not see the science fiction tie-in coming! Billy Pilgrim, the book's WWII veteran protagonist, jumps through his life via a sort of time travel, thanks perhaps in part to his abduction by the aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, who believe that all time exists simultaneously, so we don't ever really die. The book is a compilation of scenes from Billy's perspective as he chronologically lives through WWII as a prisoner of war, but interspersed with his time travel to earlier and later times in his life, so that his life's story is pieced together from snippets here and there. Ultimately, I was ambivalent about it; I didn't love it, but didn't hate it, and frankly, aside from some sexual comments and language, I don't see why Slaughterhouse Five would still be censored, though at the time it was published in 1969, the political, social, and cultural environment would have been radically different and less accepting of its message and language.

Book 71: Fly Trap, aka "Twilight Robbery" in the UK, by Frances Hardinge is the second novel about Mosca Mye, her goose Saracen, and Eponymous Clent, in a world where tradesman guilds are locked in power struggles. Hardinge has put a lot of thought into this imaginary world and its political, social, and cultural history. After freeing Mandelion from political tyrants, turning the city over to the radicals, and defeating the Locksmith guild (as chronicled in the first book, Fly by Night), Mosca and Clent find themselves inside of Toll, a town controlled by the Locksmiths and where people must pay handsomely to leave the city. By day, Mandelion is full of "daylight names"--people who were born under auspicious Beloveds, the little gods and goddesses that are everywhere. (People who are born under the time "controlled" by a certain Beloved is given a name appropriate to that Beloved--Mosca was born under Palpitattle, who keeps flies out of jam and jelly jars, and her name means "fly".) "Night names" are able only to move about after sunset; the Locksmiths lock and unlock certain secret doors that hide night people from day people during the appropriate times. When the mayor of Toll is informed that his only child, the lovely Beamabeth, is likely to be abducted by a radical, Mosca and Clent offer assistance in order to pay the Toll to leave the town. More and more complications arise as the two attempt to earn their way toward freedom, and they find themselves once again entangled in the complex political machinations of a town run by the Locksmith guild. This book is a fantasy in that it takes place in a completely fictitious world, but it has no magic, no sorcery, no unusual creatures. But the characters and the world are as rich and complex as any, and seem real. I would suggest reading "Fly by Night" first for the background into the guilds and their power struggles, and for a bit of the world's setup and history, but it can be read as a stand-alone if need be. This is one of those books that leaves you wanting more, even though the story is complete and doesn't leave you hanging; you just love the two main characters and the world so much you just want more.

oct. 20, 2015, 4:13pm

Book 72: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: I did the audio version, and at times I had problems telling who was saying what, and what were Scout's thoughts versus what she was only thinking. It's a good book if you like this genre, so my advice is read it instead of listening to it, if that's an option for you. I had heard about the controversy over Atticus and his bigoted views, and how for many people it ruined their view of him--just like Scout’s view of him was ruined. And that is the point of the whole book—Scout, now a young girl in her twenties, is disillusioned by her father’s bigotry, when she had thought he was a good, perfect person, and how she must decide what to do about all these relationships she once felt so secure and sure with. She had put her father on a pedestal, and when she returned home after living in New York, she learns just how deeply racist her father, her childhood friends, her entire town is. She grew up not realizing what Atticus or any of the people she grew up knowing thought about the African-Americans she had grown up accepting. Much of the book is flashback to events that happened to her as she grew up, creating a juxtaposition as well as a context for her own thoughts and feelings as well as what’s currently happening around her. Yes, the "n" word is there, as is the archaic "Negro"--but Scout is as outraged by its use as anyone, and you must remember that this book is taking place in the 1950s Deep South, before desegregation had truly been incorporated officially in many small towns, so its use would have been commonplace, just as it would have been commonly used during Mark Twain's time as he wrote Tom Sawyer. This book has just as strong a statement on racism as To Kill a Mockingbird, it's just presented differently and through a different character--Scout instead of Atticus.

oct. 22, 2015, 11:26am

Cassie I noticed that your favourite author is Ray Bradbury. Did you see that the American Author Challenge in the group is featuring him this month? Well done on notching up your first 100 posts.

oct. 22, 2015, 3:31pm

Thanks! Didn't notice that, but this month is perfect for Bradbury--he would most definitely have approved! I haven't had much time for LT (or any other social media) recently so I haven't done much LT exploring of topics and challenges. In a few days, I'll be able to add book 73 and maybe 74, depending on how the print book I'm reading and the audio book I'm listening to even out. It's possible I'll be able to post them back to back. I've read most of his currently in-print books and have crammed as many of my collection in the built-in shelves in my bed's headboard as I can without risking damage. While I'd rather have all my collection in nice hardbacks, those paperbacks do save a bit on space and allow me to get that many more in there. :)

oct. 29, 2015, 12:43pm

Book 73: Splintered by A. G. Howard: This would be the audiobook, beautifully read. Splintered takes the world of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and creates an even darker world than that which Carroll made. Alyssa hears insects and flowers talk and thinks it's a sign that she's inherited her family's curse--a madness that affects only the women descended from Alice Liddell, the girl upon whom Carroll based his Alice on. Doctors call it schizophrenia, but it turns out that those voices she hears isn't just in her head; she's part netherling--a part of the Wonderland world that she must go to in order to break the curse and, supposedly, the hold that Wonderland has on her family's lineage. Assisted by two rival men for her affection--Jeb the mortal boy and Morpheus the moth-winged netherling--Alyssa must undo many of the things that the original Alice has done to upset the balance of Wonderland. But does that include her ruling as the head of both the Red and White Courts for the rest of her life? A bit romance-heavy and angsty at times for me, but with enough action and dark fantasy to keep me listening nevertheless. I'm not "hooked" but if the audio was available for the next book in the series, I'd probably download it for a listen. I loved the way the original plot of Alice's adventures from Carroll's originals were woven and, in many ways, darkly twisted, to form a new take on this world. I loved, for instance, that the White Rabbit from the original turns out to be a creature known as Rabid White, as small as a rabbit but skeletal from the neck down, with a small human-like face with horns that, in silhouette, resemble rabbit ears. Things like this, that take Carroll's creations and twist them into darker, more sinister things and situations, were what made the book for me.

oct. 29, 2015, 10:03pm

Getting, oh, so close to the 75 book mark!

nov. 2, 2015, 4:58pm

>103 ronincats: 75 is so doable, especially with the audiobooks. I'm listening to a children's fantasy right now and have a second in the wings. When the library forces you to finish an audiobook in 14 days, it's amazing how motivated you can be to listen to a book just about anywhere. Doing dishes and cleaning, providing vacuums aren't involved, are my two big ones other than my commute. During the summer I took the phone with me and listened while I took care of my caterpillars or walked the dogs. I'd have listened while gardening if the mosquitoes hadn't kept me from that task this year. I'm working on a couple of print books, too; getting closer to finishing the big paperback collection on ghost legends from around the U.S. and I've started my newest nonfiction, Stiff--both of which I chose as Halloween-ish reads. The fun will be seeing how many I can get done after the 75!

nov. 6, 2015, 3:29pm

Book 74: Haunted Heritage: A Definitive Collection of North American Ghost Stories by Michael Norman and Beth Scott: A collection of supposedly true hauntings from around the U.S. with a small sampling of Canadian ghosts, too. This is going to be one of those "you like it or you don't" kind of reads--the book is pretty much just a collection of ghost stories, some modern and some historical, with little to no attempt to explain the phenomenon (aside from the investigation of the Paulding Lights in Michigan, which turn out to be, for those skeptics out there, head- and tail-lights from vehicles on U.S. 45). If you're looking for the scientific investigation elements, skip this one. If you like the folklore aspects, this may be a good book for you. I'm a mix of both, but while I have a couple of other compilations of Michael and Beth on this topic, this book doesn't strike me as being one I'll keep, especially since I recognized a few from their other collections. This, I think, can return to my boyfriend's store (The White Rabbit Used Books in Muncie--shameless plug) from whence it came.

Book 75: Let the angels sing! I have reached the goal on Nov. 6, 2015! Number 75 is The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick; an audiobook read, I think, by the same person who did the narration for the strange audiobook about the stuff in the sofa helping to save the world. The character voices seem somehow similar.... Anyway, this is a fantasy about a city zoo with a second, secret zoo, created using both technology and magic, inside it. Only a group known as the Secret Society (I know--not particularly creative) are supposed to know it exists, but when a girl named Megan disappears, her brother Noah and her friends, Ella and Richie (together, the four call themselves the Action Scouts) all investigate the clues that lead them constantly back to the zoo. Super-intelligent animals (yet unable to speak in human voices--they communicate with looks, animal sounds, gestures) and a zoo security guard named Tank help the Scouts find their way in so they can try to find her. They learn how the zoo came to be and that the violent creatures known as "sasquatch" that live in a special sector of the secret zoo probably are holding Megan captive. Can the Scouts save Megan and the secret zoo at the same time? Not a bad story for the age group it's marketed for, and I like the idea of a Noah's ark (yes, I think the choice of the main character's name is probably a nod) protecting the last of the extinct and endangered species, but it's probably not the best executed story of its type. I'd say it's for an advanced 3rd-5th grade student mainly and, as such, it has no objectionable language or content.

nov. 7, 2015, 10:29am

Congrats! That one sounded fun!

nov. 9, 2015, 8:09am

>106 drneutron: Which one--book 74 or 75? I enjoy to varying degrees most of the books I read, since I've adopted the 3 chapter rule: if I can't get interested in any of the characters or plot by the third chapter, I stop reading it. Technically, for short-chaptered books like the one I'm reading now (For Edgar bySheldon Rusch), I do give them a few extra chapters to be fair, but I spent waaayyy too much time on a couple of books that really let me down, and I decided "no more". If you're reading a horror story with a monster of the week, and the main characters are so obnoxious that you're rooting for the monster to eat them all, then that's probably when it's a good time to quit, because you're bound to be disappointed. :) )

nov. 9, 2015, 9:10am

Oh, sorry. 75. I like the idea of a secret zoo. Someday I may grow up! :)

nov. 9, 2015, 3:47pm

>108 drneutron: The book's ending had closure in many ways, but it did leave a hint of a possibility that there could be a sequel. I'd love to think that there's a secret zoo protecting the remaining extinct and endangered animals--I'd love to see a quagga in real life. *sigh*

nov. 9, 2015, 7:20pm

Congratulations on reaching the 75 book mark, Cassie!!

nov. 12, 2015, 10:53am

Thanks, ronincats.

Book 76: Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett: A collection of short stories and a sample of some of Pratchett's earliest works, written for children and originally published in a newspaper where he worked. The stories are simple but full of Pratchett's typical humor. I especially love how the monsters like dragons and abominable snowmen turn out to be peaceful, though my favorite story was, I think, either the story about the egg dancers or the dust mote people, a la Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who, only without the elephant and with a hint of the Space Race thrown in. Terry Pratchett does love playing with "what if people were small" scenarios, as his dust mote people are likely related to the carpet people, featured in two different stories in this collection. This entertaining read (or listen, in my case) is excellent for kids (or parents) who just can't get enough of British storytellers in the vein of Roald Dahl, though Pratchett's stories are generally less dark than Dahl's. No objectionable language, no objectionable content--perfect bedtime stories!

I'm going to give audiobooks a break for a bit; I'm kind of in a music mood for driving right now. It's going to be close as to which print book I'm going to finish first; Stiff, my lunchtime reading (takes more than reading a nonfiction book about death, decomposition, and forensics to put me off my lunch) or For Edgar, my "light" fiction bedtime reading. Stiff is a slower read but it had a head start and I can get in a good chunk of reading in an hour's time, while I've been pretty worn out at night recently (you can tell there's only about a month left in the semester--just about everyone is buckling down now) and I've been calling it quits early some nights, only getting in a few chapters (which I've already mentioned are fairly short, so little headway there in terms of pages).

nov. 18, 2015, 9:58pm

Book 77: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach is not a book for the faint of heart. In some ways, I can see how this could be especially hard because it's nonfiction and even the less gruesome parts still deal with human mortality, a subject that many avoid. I don't have that avoidance issue (by now followers of this thread have probably figured this out) and I enjoyed the book immensely. Topics covered include a whole chapter on decomposition (she visited the Tennessee body farm for that), the history of anatomical specimens (including a history of body snatching), the various scientific uses for a corpse (impact studies, forensics, etc.), even a chapter on innovative ways to dispose of your earthly remains. Composting doesn't sound half bad in my opinion, especially when they talk of planting a living memorial--a tree, shrub, etc.--with your remains underneath (properly prepared for composting--there is a recommended process). I did read this at lunchtime as I ate but I don't recommend that for most people, as the printed word doesn't tend to elicit feelings of disgust in me, but I know it does for many. Now if this had been a video documentary, that might be different....

This book is a nice addition to my collection of other "disturbing" books on death and society or medicine (it kind of bridges the two, though in-publication catalog information classifies it as medical). And for the most part it is, but Roach often comes back around in any given chapter to our human reactions and emotions tied to death, and that's going back to the societal aspects.

Oh, and you might want to skip the decomposition chapter if you like Rice Crispies or chicken soup. It might ruin them for you.

nov. 21, 2015, 9:25am

Book 78: For Edgar by Sheldon Rusch is a modern crime thriller/mystery, where the demented mind of the killer is influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, and he stages his murders to reflect Poe's stories. Special agent Hewitt quickly becomes involved when she makes the connection between the skull and ribbon on a tree branch with "The Gold Bug". She receives guidance from an old flame, an English college professor under whom (no pun intended) she had a class that centered on Poe's works. This flame, started during the class and ending with the (possible) suicide of her roommate. Haunted by this memory and the memories of her dead parents, Hewitt must try to stop the killer whom the media have dubbed "The Raven".

Not bad; loved the concept as I'm a Poe fan myself, but I'm picky with what mysteries I keep, as I tend to re-read few of them, and most mysteries I do keep tend to be historical in nature. Wasn't the most unpredictable I've read, but I will warn that there is a sex scene (though not very explicit) and the "f" word is frequently used, so if you're offended by these, as well as graphic descriptions of mutilation, this might not be a good choice for you.

nov. 24, 2015, 3:31pm

Book 79: The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson: There is a hidden entrance, a gump, that leads to an enchanted island in a London railway (sounds a bit familiar, Harry Potter fans?) that is open for nine days every nine years, where fantastical creatures roam: from fey and fairies to hags and harpies. This island is ruled by a royal couple, who are very delighted when the Queen gives birth to a baby boy--the Prince of the Island. When three nurses take him into our world through the gump, where he is kidnapped by a haughty, puffed-up piece of work called Larina Trottle, who decides to raise the boy as his own. For nine years, the King and Queen pine for their son, and for nine years, the nurses punish themselves by living isolated in a cave and eating only the foulest of foodstuffs. But when the gump opens again, plans have been laid to send rescuers to bring the Prince back: an old wizard who isn't up-to-snuff with his spells, a gentle one-eyed ogre--the smallest of his kind, a plant-crazy fey who's just a little too kind perhaps, and a young misfit hag who doesn't look ugly and who can't yet do proper hag things like making people have nightmares. But their rescue is complicated by the Prince himself, who's grown up spoiled rotten.

A gentle fantasy, this chapter book is probably good for 4-6th graders reading alone, but it would also make a good read-aloud for younger audiences. While there is some brief scenes of violence (depending I suppose on whether you think a little old lady spearing a hotel fountain goldfish to death with a knitting needle is violence), and the detailed description of the nuckelavee could be scary for some young children, there is no swearing. It was a cute fantasy but rather predicable from an adult's perspective. My biggest question after reading this book is this: what fascinates the British about railroads? You have no idea how many modern British authors I've read who incorporate railroads and trains as a major aspect, one way or another, into stories! :) My guess would be that rail travel is still a major thing there, whereas here in the U.S. trains aren't used for long trips as much anymore. I can't remember the last time I saw a train with a caboose....

des. 5, 2015, 7:14pm

Book 80: Big thanks to ronincats for the book swap; this one is Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card, who does a wonderful job creating a complex world of fantasy both politically and religiously. In this world, there are three deities: the Sisters, who represent the feminine, the Hart, who represents the masculine, and God, who came across, at least to me, as a very gender-neutral and, frankly, as a pretty non-personable entity, and unlike the Sisters and the Hart, God (I personally didn't equate this God with the Judeo-Christian deity or the Islamic) had very little to do and/or say and seemed more of a plot device than a true character. A cruel tyrant on the country's throne is overthrown by a man named Palicrovol, who to secure his claim to the throne marries the overlord's daughter, Asineth, and rapes her publicly, then sends her into exile with his trusted wizard Sleeve to watch over her, setting into motion the events that will lead to Asineth's rise to power and the fall of the gods, who conspire together to bring about her downfall and their own restoration. Lots of sexual references--many ribald and raunchy--so avoid this book if such things aren't to your personal taste. But I found the plot tightly woven and the world had a "real" feeling to it...well, you know...for a fantasy world... ;).

des. 9, 2015, 12:31pm

Book 81: Picked this knowing it would be a fast read and it would probably end up in Muncie; with Christmas approaching, I'm likely going to get some books as presents, and I've got one more potential trip to Derek's store before the holiday arrives. Therefore, I've been reading books that I thought I could read relatively quickly, and Ghostly Adventures: Chilling True Stories from America's Haunted Hot Spots by Christopher Balzano fit that nicely. Part "basics of ghost investigation" and part sampling of ghost reports from various locations, I approached this book as I do most books on hauntings--as a collection of unverified folklore tales. I'm not saying these hauntings aren't real, nor any of the other hauntings in any of the other numerous books I've read, but I tend to enjoy these stories as merely that--stories. Most of these were less "folk-loric", to borrow from the Tappet Brothers and more modern, private residences but they were interesting, and some were "positive" hauntings, unusual in collections like these; for example, one woman was haunted by her younger sister's ghost, who offered signs of comfort during rough times in her life (probably my favorite modern haunting in this book). In the first half--the investigation part--he goes into warnings about getting in too deep and opening yourself up to demons, the equipment used in many investigations, and of course one often-overlooked piece of advice in these tomes--doing research through local channels, including the library. (As a librarian, I love this sort of suggestion/promotion!)

As I'm not likely to go investigating, I see no need to keep this book. While there were several stories, the more modern hauntings overall don't have the same charm in my mind as the reports of hauntings of a more historic nature, that tend to have a lot of activity that stretches over a huge length of time. I guess in the end for me it's less about the activity and more about how that activity ties into the legend. Still, if you plan on getting into paranormal investigations, this book would be potentially helpful for the newbie, with a glossary of terms, explanation about common equipment and the purpose behind each device, and even a fold-out map in the back of the locations of the hauntings mentioned in the book.

des. 23, 2015, 5:41pm

For my Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Holiday image this year (we are so diverse!), I've chosen this photograph by local photographer Mark Lenoce of the pier at Pacific Beach to express my holiday wishes to you: Peace on Earth and Good Will toward All!

des. 24, 2015, 12:49am

>117 ronincats: Thanks for sharing; that's beautiful! We were gifted with a strange (for an Indiana December) but lovely sight--a full rainbow arcing across the sky in the east, from north to south. I've uploaded three pics to the gallery; normally I'd embed them but I've yet to figure out how to get the location code for the pictures through the iPhone. I do miss my right mouse button sometimes. You'll also have to envision the pictures rotated as I've not edited them and the phone tends to take pics sideways.

I'll be posting using the phone a lot next week, since we were officially given permission to close for the few days between Christmas and New Years. If Indiana would catch up to the 21st century and provide some funding for high speed internet connectivity in its rural areas, it would be different. But as long as dial-up is the only game in town, I'm not playing.

des. 29, 2015, 12:22am

First, my prayers to all those whose holiday celebrations were shattered due to the weather, be it flood, snow, or tornado. Today's icy mix and wind was bad but we were fortunate compared to many. Condolences and prayers especially to those who have lost homes, friends, and/or family.

Book 82: The Heretic's Apprentice by Ellis Peters is another Brother Cadfael mystery. A young man, Elave, who has returned with his master's mortal remains while the two were on pilgrimage finds a charge of heresy laid against him by jealous and greedy men who covet the dowry he's brought for Fortunata, the adopted daughter of his master's nephew Girard. Does the intricately carved box hold within a dowry worth killing for? Someone obviously thinks so. I haven't read all of this series and I tend to read them as I come across them in Derek's shop; all have been stand-alone stories enjoyable as light historical mysteries (my favorite kind). It'll return to Derek's store but then many mysteries for me are read 'em once sort of books. It takes a spectacular specimen--or one heavy in historical detail of great interest to me--to remain on my shelves.

Book 83: Scary: Howl of Fame by Sheryl Scarborough and Sharon McCoy is a juvenile nonfiction that is like a "best of"-- a hall of fame--of various horror-related categories. Aside from a section devoted to entertainment--which, interestingly enough, leans towards featuring pre-1990s (book was published 1995) including the radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds"--the book also includes snippets of information about other horrors, among them the earliest haunted house on record (the philosopher Athenodorus's house), the most mysterious criminal (Jack the Ripper), the most grotesque burial ritual (a tribe in New Guinea who mummifies their dead by using the heat from a fire, and the deadliest game, created by the Aztecs, where one of the teams (no one is entirely sure if it's the victors or losers) is sacrificed. Not enough details in this book to keep it, and not as scary as it may sound--but then again I'm no longer 10 years old and I knew most of this information already. However, my family and I did decide that sometime we need to track down a copy of "The best movie to watch in the dark...alone!": "Dead of Night", a 1945 movie that sounds like a good old-fashioned psychological thriller.

des. 30, 2015, 9:34am

Book 84: Mythbusters: The Explosive Truth behind 30 of the Most Perplexing Urban Legends of All Time by Keith Zimmerman and Kent Zimmerman

OK, so for the record, I can't watch the show. Not won't--can't. Like non-dialup internet access, cable isn't available where I live, and rumor has it that those lovely trees that help block the snow-drifting winds would make satellite impractical, so aside from the handful of network stations that I can pull in via converter box, television is very limited at best. Having read this book, I think I would enjoy the show; the book was a written account of how they put to the test a number of myths and legends, including how they set up their experiments and the results. Yes, they also include the "don't try this at home, kids" warning. This is a great read for fans of the show but if, like me, you can't watch the show but love exploring science, this is perfect. Young adults in particular will probably love this as there were plenty of scenarios involving blowing things up.