Books My Son Loves: Happy Lion by Louise Fatio

The Happy Lion (Read to a Child!: Level 2)"Bonjour, Happy Lion!"  Oh, how funny this whole book is.  It's fun for both my son and I because he gets to hear the story of the lion and I get to use a faux French accent while reading it.  This silly story of a lion who accidentally escapes the zoo of his French town is another of my son's favorites. 

The pictures in the book are cute and provide my son with plenty to discuss with me, especially the picture of the lion in the zoo and the picture of the fire engine getting ready to try to get the lion into a truck to be taken back to the zoo.  (Though my husband did ask when he saw it, "Are they really going to hose down the lion?  This is horrible!")

The resolution is sweet and very happy.  I can't recommend it enough to those with children who like silly accents and big cats!


The Hero Strikes Back by Moira Moore

The Hero Strikes BackFrom the author's website:  "The weather in the city of High Scape has taken an unnatural turn. It’s snowing in the middle of summer, and the townsfolk are desperate for Shield Dunleavy Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish to fix it – which they can’t, but try explaining that to an angry mob.

Meanwhile, there’s a crazed killer targeting aristocrats. Karish has forfeited the Dukedom of Westsea to continue working as a Source, but Lee fears that technicality  won’t matter to the murderer."

I'm still amazed at how much I'm enjoying this series.  While I definitely did not enjoy the continuation of Lee and Karish's story as much as the first book, this story gives us some great insight into why both Lee and Karish are the way they are (with conversations with both mothers), and it gives a good plot involving High Scape (the weather and its relationship to a bunch of aristocrat hate killings).

Lee frustrates a bit more in this book than she did previously.  While in Resenting the Hero her inability to understand emotions or even feel them to the same extent others do is frustrating, in The Hero Strikes Back she comes across as obtuse or purposely ignorant, which is much worse.  Still, this is only highlighted in her relationship with Karish.  In other instances, her emotional decisions and responses seem more natural.  Obviously this is to prevent Lee from realizing that Karish is madly infatuated with her, but it makes their scenes stilted occasionally.

On the other hand, I liked the mystery/action plot of The Hero Strikes Back just a bit more.  First, we're kept in High Scape for the entirety of the book, which is nice since High Scape is supposedly an important city in the world.  Second, both Karish and Lee feature in the majority of the book as opposed to Karish's disappearance for a good portion of the first book.

I hope Lee and Karish both get a better feel for their powers in the third book and that we find out more about what Lee is capable of after this second novel.  I also hope that Lee gets involved with her new aristocratic friend since I doubt the author will be putting Lee and Karish together anytime soon!

Verdict:  7.  I liked it, but not as much as I liked the first book in the series.  Still, it was pleasant, easy to read, and fun.  What more can I ask for this summer?
Thoughts:  Still hate the name Taro.  Still effing hate the covers.

Lee and Taro books
  1. Resenting the Hero
  2. The Hero Strikes Back


Friday Links: Thoughtful Posts, Stupid Posts, and Posts I Just Don't Agree With

Happy Friday all!

Start with the good:  Ever called a book trashy?  Well, what makes a book trashy?  Do you read trashy books or do you apply the term only to genres that you don't read?  Persephone Reads has a great post about the use of the word Trashy.

The Stupid:  No need to edit when you write young adult novels, folks!  This was just an oddly insulting post to young adult writers from a young adult writer.  Guess whose books I won't be reading?

Posts I just don't agree with:  An independent bookstore in Seattle is refusing to host an author or carry books from an author who is using Amazon's publishing services because Amazon pulls away from his business and is not a friend to the independent bookseller.  I find the most maddening part of the post to be the line:  "Neither of us will change our minds. I'm the owner of the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan. You are working for Mr. Potter. And Mr. Potter is always buying."  Don't do that.  Don't cast yourself as good and the other person as evil and refuse to allow that there is any grey in the situation.

I'm not saying that Amazon is all good and light.  Far from it.  However, I think Amazon does a lot of things right.  It does things that make me want to buy more books than I previously did.  It makes it possible for me to buy more books than I previously did by offering up books I can't find in bookstores.  Refusing to stock books they publish is simply spiting your own customers.  Are your customers going to look at the spine of the book and see Amazon and think to themselves, "What is this Amazon thing?  Maybe I should check it out!"  No.  More likely they'll think to themselves, "I want that book that my local bookstore is not selling, well, I'll buy it at Amazon."


The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

The Goddess Test (Harlequin Teen)
From the author's website"It's always been just Kate and her mom--and now her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

If she fails..."

WARNING:  Spoilers contained within.

Interesting fact for you:  I'm a skimmer.  On my first go through, I read books really quickly and skim a lot.  This means that for this blog, I do a fair bit of rereading to make sure that I give books a fair review here rather than just thoughts on the parts of the book I managed to catch on my first read through.  Some books improve for this.  Others suffer.  A lot.  This is one of those books.  When I had first finished The Goddess Test, I was fairly sure I was going to give it a six or so.  Light fare, enjoyable, with very loose interpretations of mythology.  I had really skimmed it quite quickly, however, and I felt I must give it a better read.

Wow, I should never have done that.  What had been an enjoyable read because an eye-rolling exercise in anger.  The problem is related to the second interesting fact about myself -- I'm a huge mythology fan.  When I was younger, I'd read any book on mythology I could get.  That included a set of Encyclopedia Britannica that I'd pull out and cross-reference, happily reading about little know demigods and muses and prophets.  I enjoyed Greek mythology the best, but would dabble with Roman, Norse, Mayan, and Japanese mythology.  Frankly, The Goddess steps all over mythology like it is dirt, which made me want to weep.

Kate is a rather silly heroine.  She seems to have no friends or feelings about anything other than her mother.  Since she is close to her mother and her mother is dying, this seems somewhat explained, but it is still obnoxious and allows all of her time and energy to be wasted on Henry, a morose, sad sack of a hero, who angsts around his home with all his might.  When Henry basically attempts to bargain with Kate so that her mother can live for a while longer, Kate agrees and is forced to live as a horrible prisoner in a gorgeous home with a gorgeous guy who wants her to be his wife (she's sixteen, I think!) and she's forced to attend picnics and wear pretty clothing (which she sulks and sulks about).  Oh, and she's forced to study mythology.  She is also taking tests, but we, like Kate, are never aware when Kate is being tested, which is annoying and vague.

Luckily, Kate has several friends in the house, including one from her week or two in Eden -- Ava.  And Ava is where I go nuts with this book.  At one point, Ava sleeps with two different men in a very short period in the book.  This in a roundabout way leads to one of the men killing the other man.  At this point, these paragraphs happens:
"You didn't hack him into little pieces, but you're the reason it happened."  I stopped in front of the bed, running my fingers through my hair.  "Ella wants you gone.  Frankly, if all you're going to do is waste your time sleeping with every guy in the manor and acting like the world revolves around you, then so do I.  You're useless here.  The only things you've done are bicker with Ella and get Xander killed."

The moment I said it, I regretted it, but I couldn't take it back. It was the truth, or at least an exaggeration of it. But when I looked at Ava, I saw a scared girl who was my friend, not the heinous, selfish whore I'd painted her as. My stomach twisted, and guilt flooded through me so fast that I felt like I was choking.
Of course you feel guilt, Kate.  You just slut-shamed.  And it made me ashamed of you.  Ava's sin is to sleep with two guys ("EVERY GUY IN THE MANOR") within the same month.  One of them then forces the hand of the other to cause his own death.  How the hell is this Ava's fault?  It's not. 

Regardless, at the end of the book, we learn that Kate's tests are all related to the seven sins.  (Those Greek Gods are really big on the cardinal sins of the Catholic Church!)  But the tests are almost deemed unimportant, not being administered by anything besides fate (not the Fates, but just random pure luck), apparently, and rather nonsensical for the most part.  Also, why not call the book The Goddess Tests?

Did I like anything at all about this book, you're asking?  I liked that (spoiler) the gods totally portray a huge farce to test Kate.  That seems like something the Greek gods would do and they wouldn't be apologetic about it at all.  I liked that I didn't realize a lot of the mysteries of the book until the end.  I read a few reviews which stated that they were all over realizing everything like who the murdered in the book was, but I had no clue.  And I liked James.  <3 

I'm unsure if I'll read the next book in this series.  I did enjoy the book the first time I read it, but now I know it's not my favorite. 

Verdict:  4.  I really had a fight with myself over a four or a five, but ultimately went with a four  because while I did enjoy it on my first time through my second read through made me so damned angry.  I warn you to never read this carefully.

Thoughts:  Calliope?  Diana?  Really?  Why not just name all of your characters different mythological names which have nothing to do with their role?  It's a good thing that Kate is really dumb, or she might wonder if Calliope is the muse of poetry, which she is not.  This is so incredibly odd to me.  At least Diana could be considered a common enough name that this might occur, but Calliope is not exactly your every day name.  It's like having a book about Norse mythological characters and naming one of the characters Freyja and then not having the real Freyja in the book!

Also, why do the gods have nothing better to do that hang out at Henry's all the time?  One would think that administrating love, the sea, and travel would cause some busy times, but apparently not.  Also, why doesn't Apollo heal in this book at all?  It's always Hades or Zeus doing the healing.


Books My Son Loves: Kisses For Daddy by Frances Watts

Kisses for DaddyFrom the author's page:  "It’s time for bed, but Baby Bear is grumbly.
‘What about a big bear kiss for me?’ says Dad.
‘No!’ says Baby Bear. ‘No kiss for Daddy.’

We have a number of "Mommy" and "Daddy" books in the house!  Many of them are sweet, but the majority are rather boring.  Luckily for my husband, the daddy ones are much more interesting, though I suspect this has something to do with the fact that I pick out quite a few for my husband for various occasions, but do not receive them back.  (Hint, hint, sweetie, I want some of the book I showed you.)

Anyway, that piece of Sunhi household trivia aside, this book is a treasure.  It's the story of a little baby boy bear who must get ready to go to sleep and the daddy who helps him by giving him a bath and putting him to bed.  During each step of the process, his daddy asks for a certain type of kiss such as a koala kiss or a giraffe kiss, and describes the type of kisses each animal gives.  The baby bear rejects each request, until the end in which he gives his daddy a big bear kiss.

The art is adorable and hidden in each scene are animal pictures that you could easily point out to your child.  For instance, while there is an obvious koala picture on the koala page, a railing post and wallpaper make the silhouette of a koala head, as well.  On the bat kiss page, a washcloth shadow gives the silhouette of a bat.  It actually took me three readings of the book to realize this!

The best part for my son is the fun way baby bear rejects the kisses.  He often imitates it when we read this story, and at the end of the book, kisses are given all around.

This is a great book for gifts for a father or for father's to read to their children.


Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday edited by Megan McCafferty

Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter BirthdayFrom the Wayback Machine's crawl of Megan McCafferty's website: "Remember what it was like to be sixteen? Whether it was the year your teeth were finally free of braces or you were discovered by the opposite sex, that magical, mystical age is something you will never forget. Edited by Megan McCafferty, author of the runaway hit novels sloppy firsts and second helpings, SIXTEEN: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday is a compilation of short stories inspired by all the angst, melodrama, and wonderment of being sixteen.

Sarah Dessen's "Infinity" is about a girl confronting two major milestones: getting her driver's license and losing her virginity. The Dead Girls in Jacqueline Woodson's "Nebraska 99" have already done it and now must cope with being teenage mothers. And Carolyn Mackler's, "Mona Lisa, Jesus, Chad and Me" explores whether friendship can survive when prayer and partying clash. Also included is a new Jessica Darling story by Megan McCafferty about the last fifteen minutes Jessica spends--or rather, doesn't spend--with her best friend, Hope, who is leaving Pineville.

Also featuring stories by Steve Almond, M.T. Anderson, Julianna Baggott, Cat Bauer, Emma Forrest, Tanuja Desai Hidier, David Levithan, Sarah Mlynowski, Sonya Sones, Zoe Trope, Ned Vizzini and Joseph Weisberg, these hilarious, poignant and touching tales are perfect both for those who have yet to reach that milestone and those who want to reminisce about their "sweetest" year."

I spotted this sweet little polka-dotted book at the used bookstore the other day.  I noted the title, the editor (she wrote my beloved books Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings), and the copy included the words "hilarious and poignant".  What a lie.  If this book were more honest it would be "Well-written stories that will make you sad for the rest of the night and you'll lie on your bed and weep and despair through several of them."

Some of the stories, including Sarah Dessen's and Megan McCafferty's are actually quite good (and helped pulled the average of this book up from a 2).  They ring reminiscent of my sixteenth year when everything was overly melodramatic and you spent a great deal of time thinking about driving, sex, school, and friendships.  Others, like Sonya Sones's free verse story and Hidier's story of an Indian girl who falls in love with her best friend are interesting and contain both sad and happy elements.  They ring true to life for people in difficult or odd situations while containing an element of hope or love.  And, frankly, Sarah Mlynowski's "The Perfect Kiss" made me cheer for the heroine.

But, you'll notice I just listed fix stories I liked out of sixteen.  The other eleven just made me want to curl up and give up.  Woodson's story "Nebraska 99", in particular, left me feeling hopeless and out of sorts and miserable.  This does speak to the power of the writing, but it doesn't particularly leave me wanting more.

Again, I can't give this book too low a score.  It contains many well-written stories.  It contains several stories that I loved.  It dealt very well with a range of teens by including different characters of different ethnicity, genders, and sexuality.  But, and this is a big but, I just couldn't enjoy the book.  It was like kale.  I know I'm supposed to like kale because it is some kind of super food that is good for me and I admire it in principle, but I hate to actually eat it.  I know this book is good, but I hate to read it.

Verdict:  4.  I'm unspeakably depressed after having finished this collection.  Everything sucks at sixteen, everything.  I know I enjoyed that year, but clearly no one else on Earth did.

Thoughts:  The ratio of depressing to empowering was way too high for a book about sixteenth birthdays.  Seriously, the story about the girls who were pregnant teenagers made me want to lay down and weep.  Powerful, but not my cup of tea when I expect "hilarious, poignant, and touching tales".


Friday Links: What Do You Owe An Author

A big post which is generating a lot of discussion this week is Gail Carriger's instructions/suggestions to her readers on how they can help out authors.  You might know Gail's name because it was all over the blogs when she wrote Heartless.  (PS.  If you follow that link, don't buy the book at Amazon because Gail wants you shopping local and at indie stores if possible.  If you have a good indie bookstore near you, congrats.  I, a suburbia living stay at home mom, do not have the time nor inclination to drive to my closest one in the city.)

This post appears to have driven Jane at Dear Author half-mad.  I mostly don't blame her.  What I found condescending and slightly aggravating, Jane found to be full of untruths.  I know little of best seller lists or royalties, but I suspect that my lack of reading her novels won't affect Carriger at all.

See, if you look at all the books I'm reviewing and the fact that I'm an unknown reviewer, you might wonder how I'm getting the funds to get all these books.  I'm a relentless library supporter.  I love my library.  I always have.  This does not mean I do not buy books.  The groaning bookshelves at my mom's house would give light to that lie.  (A good portion of the income I had in my twenties went to both clothing and books.  I really should have saved more.)  However, I have a child who will need to go to school in the future now and a mortgage and car payments and a need to eat something healthier than ramen and I need to save money in case my child's asthma flares up again.  This means that I library reserve a lot or I buy at used book stores.  On rare occasions when I feel like splurging, I order willy-nilly from Amazon or I pick up a few books and magazines at Barnes and Noble.

I would hate to think this makes me a bad reader.  I do what I can to be a good reader.  I tell people about books I've read here and I've almost always been a relentless loaner of books.  Perhaps this is bad also since I should buy people their own copies.  If it make Carriger feel better, I've lost so many books through loaning that when I loan a book I almost inevitably buy a second copy for myself.  I do own two copies of some books just because.  I'm possibly trying to solely support Robin McKinley's life style with my love for her books.  (How many copies of Sunshine or Hero and the Crown does one girl need?  Clearly both a hardback and a paperback and maybe a copy for my nook.) 

Either way, however, do I feel guilt for the way I read?  No.  I know exactly how much of my money goes to books versus things like clothing or hobbies.  If I quit buying books completely, I could probably buy myself a few new designer purses each year (even when you factor in my library borrowing).  Or I could upgrade my son's schooling to something fancier.  I could get that fancy sewing machine I want.  But I don't.  I read and I buy books the way I want to buy books. 


The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

The Stepsister Scheme (PRINCESS NOVELS)From the author's website"Cinderella–whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas)–does marry Prince Armand.  And if you can ignore the pigeon incident, their wedding is a dream come true.

But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon.  And though Talia–otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty–comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.
That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her own very secret service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course).  Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy duty flirting.

Can the three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains?"

Remember when I said in my review of Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance that I spent a significant amount of time trying to choose the rating I wanted to give to the book which I felt bordered between a five and a six?  Well, second verse same as the first.  Here's another pleasant, but slightly lackluster book.  This time it's a little easier for me to give the six rating because I know exactly where a great portion of lackluster feeling is coming from.

The book follows the story of Danielle (Cinderella) in her quest to find her missing husband, Prince Armand, who I assume is simply charming.  She does this with the help of Talia (Sleeping Beauty), a girl given many a gift by faeries, and Snow (White), an expert in mirror magic.  Danielle, not to put too fine a point on it, is nice.  She's sickly nice.  She's the kind of nice that makes your teeth rot.  She doesn't kill bad guys even if they are majorly bad and she tries to believe in everyone she meets.  She's also a great portion of the problem I have with this book.   Danielle's actions with regards to her stepsisters and to other characters in the book drove me mad.  Why does she always try to understand and forgive them?  I must be a total hater, but I like a character with some teeth like Talia. 

Additionally, while Snow and Talia had interesting stories behind their powers that made sense with regards to their faerie tale stories, Danielle seems to have no reason she can communicate with animals, nor is there a reason why her mother was able to turn herself into a tree that could gift things to Danielle.  The answer is simply, "It seems to be magic."  

I also didn't enjoy the random turns into humor this book made.  It seemed like Hines was attempting to be serious the majority of the time, but decided to include lots of humorous bits. 

So, after all that bitching, why the good score?  I adored Talia and Snow and their relationship with each other.  I enjoyed the easy feel of the book, which was perfect for early summer.  Really, have I mentioned that I adore Talia?  I did?  Let me reiterate.  She's everything I wanted Danielle to be.  Brave, sure of herself, hard, but still with flaws.  She is a heroine in all of her glory. 

I think I'm going to give the follow up book a read to see if the focus moves away from Danielle towards the group more as a whole. 

Verdict:  6.  Not my favorite book, but decent light fare that I hope will improve with a different focus in later books.

Thoughts:  I'm stuck in a rut of books that I rate five to six.  I can't wait to get past it.


Books My Son Loves: Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein

Little GorillaLittle Gorilla is one of those rare books I don't discuss much in this series, the book my son loves much more than me.  I found the art to be a bit off-putting and gorillas are certainly not my favorite creatures, but for my son, this book was amazing. 

We will read it time and again and he is always fascinated by the beginning of the book.  Who loves little Gorilla, he'll ask me.  He wants a recitation of names and he superimposes his own life onto this book.  "Does Uncle E gorilla love the Nathie gorilla?" he begs of me, Nathie being his name for himself.  Does the mommy?  Does the other grandma?  How much do they love him?  Is that the baby's hand?  Is it reaching for his daddy? 

Then, we move into the animal section.  What animals are there?  What are they doing?  Do they love the Nathie gorilla?  While I get little joy from the illustrations, my son's thrill with the story tempers that and the story's gentle message that growing up doesn't cause love to fade makes me smile. 

Every time we read this, the story ends with my singing of Happy Birthday and the blowing out of the candles on the cake for Little Gorilla by my little son.  And every time we finish reading this, I remember how much, exactly, I love his reaction to it. 


Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin

Jenna & Jonah's FauxmanceFrom Amazon's website"Fans of romance don't need to look any further than the fauxmance brewing between teen idols Charlie Tracker and Fielding Withers-known on their hit TV show as Jenna and Jonah, next-door neighbors flush with the excitement of first love. But it's their off-screen relationship that has helped cement their fame, as passionate fans follow their every PDA. They grace the covers of magazines week after week. Their fan club has chapters all over the country. The only problem is their off-screen romance is one big publicity stunt, and Charlie and Fielding can't stand to be in the same room. Still, it's a great gig, so even when the cameras stop rolling, the show must go on, and on, and on. . . . Until the pesky paparazzi blow their cover, and Charlie and Fielding must disappear to weather the media storm. It's not until they're far off the grid of the Hollywood circuit that they realize that there's more to each of them than shiny hair and a winning smile."

Honestly, I've spent the last hour or so looking for an author's site that has a description of this book and trying to choose between a rating of a five or a six.  As you can probably see, I've settled on a six for now, but I'm still not sure.

One of the problems about books that are written from two points of view (like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist or Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance) is that I normally end up liking one character more, sympathizing with them more, and rooting for one character over another.  In this book, Jenna (or Charlie) is the definite winner to me.  Shallow, petty, ambitious, slightly vapid, she still comes across as an individual who's actively trying to find out what she's good at.  She's not content to sit idly watching life go by her.  She's grasping sadly at everything around her, trying to make herself a better or more successful actor.  Fielding (or Aaron, and let me just suggest to you that you don't throw a name change on a character who already has the feel of having two names), on the other hand, seemed to feel that his life plan would fall in his lap, and it annoyed me to no end.  Fielding seems to want to act only because other people around him keep telling him to do so but he takes no initiative to stop acting besides not correcting a rumor and lie being spread about him.

While I enjoyed several sections of the book on their own, I felt the moves in setting were a little strange and did not go smoothly for my reading.  I think the whole thing could have benefited greatly from a little more time on their original show as Jenna and Jonah and perhaps further in their fake relationship, but that is barely touched upon before the move is made to their isolation.  Just as quickly, it's moved again away from that and fully half the book takes place in a setting not even mentioned in any copy I found.  Was that a twist, or just poor copy?

Either way, I think more time spent in their fake relationship would have helped to establish a greater enmity between the two.  We're tossed one or two "I hate this other person" lines but always with an addendum of "but they're really hot" or "but I really liked them once upon a time" or "but I think we could have been something more" which doesn't make them seem like they dislike each other at all.  I think an exploration of their staged relationship would have worked better, because it would have allowed them to really give the reader a feel for the dislike they feel while highlighting the very interesting fact that the authors did bring to it -- the fact that two people who've been in a fake relationship and worked sixteen hour days together for years on end would know each other like no one else has ever known them.

So, since I'm complaining so much in this review, what did I like about Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance?  As I mentioned, Charlie's attempts to find acting skills, fame, and her own identity make her a doer.  I almost always love doers in books.  People who do shit, whether good or bad, entertain.  I don't read books to meet good and kindly characters.  I read to be entertained.  I loved the brief mentions of scenes from their television show or their contract morality clauses, such as what flavors of ice cream Charlie can be seen consuming in public.  While the forced comparison Much Ado About Nothing bothered, the examination of a Shakespeare troupe's reaction to Disneyesque actors is pretty darned hilarious. 

Perhaps I'm just too old to enjoy this novel (which read as really young 'young adult') and the wrong target audience even outside the age issue.  I never cared about celebrities so much. This novel is much like Twizzlers to me.  It's candy that I like while I'm eating, but which I'll ultimately wonder why I ate when there is so much better candy out there.

Verdict:  6.  I would give Charlie's (Jenna's) sections a 7 generally,  and Fielding's (Jonah's) a 5.  Split the difference?

Thoughts:  What is up with my run of books recently that have no authors that want to pimp the books on their websites?  I'm pulling more than a few book descriptions from Amazon.  Yuck.


Friday Links: Birthday Parties

You probably are not aware, but two different people (the most important people) in my life had birthdays this week.  While one of them was too old to have a themed party (perhaps) and the other wanted a fireman themed party (with a dose of soccer), I got to thinking of book themed parties this week. 

Some of my favorite are this baby shower party with a book theme, the idea for a girl's party based on Madeline, and the best, a Mad Hatter tea party.  Have you ever thrown a book themed party?  If so, which book and how did you go about it?  Books for young boys seem to be a bit sparser than those aimed at girls, so what books would be best for them?


Mistress of the House: Great Ladies and Grand Houses by Rosemary Baird

Mistress of the House: Great Ladies and Grand HousesFrom Amazon's product page:  "In the 18th and 19th centuries, to become Mistress of the House was the natural prospect of women born into Britain’s wealthy aristocratic families. An advantageous marriage would bring with it an important ancestral home—a visible expression of power, prestige, and good taste. Rosemary Baird introduces us to ten of these remarkable women, detailing their accomplishments in the creation and running of Britain’s great houses. We also learn about their education and training, the marriage market, and their obligations as leaders of fashion, interior design, and society. Based on diaries, letters, and family archives, Mistress of the House is a fascinating work of social history. Rosemary Baird was educated at Cambridge and Oxford; a former consultant at Sotheby’s, she is now Curator of the Goodwood Collection."

This incredible dry book starts off in a fairly interesting manner, detailing how women in years past in England helped build giant homes, decorate them, and create incredible legacies which they'd leave to the family members in their names.  The book describes how the legacy of these women would be kept fairly quiet due to their gender and history's general desire to attribute their work and effort to their husbands.  It also lists what a rich wife of that time would be expected to do, and what she could do given leeway. 

Unfortunately, it quickly moves to individual ladies of the time, and this is where the work suffers.  While some ladies have stories interesting enough to hold the attention (Catherine Lennox, Elizabeth Montagu and the Duchess of Portsmouth) while others bored me silly.  Combined with the fact that most chapters read like a laundry list of accomplishments, it tended towards the tedious in chapters for people such as Theresa Parker.  "Yes, yes, they worked on their house.  Yes, yes, they put up Indian Paper in the great hall." 

Sadly, due to the method in which this book describes the ladies (lady by lady), it also becomes greatly repetitive in the chapters of women with no great claim to fame other than their houses.  I powered through it, but it would be lists of items purchased by ladies interspersed with a sentence like "Husband managed to make her a duchess."

I am going to give it a positive verdict, but I'm writing the review the way I am because I want you to know that if you do not have a great patience or if you have little interest in manor homes of England or strong females of bygone eras, this is probably not going to be a book you enjoy.  My love of the running of manor homes and of strong female personalities is great, and I'm still only giving it a six out of ten!

Verdict: 6.  However, I would not rate it higher than a four unless you have a rather deep interest in intellectual, dry works regarding large manors in England.

Thoughts:  One third of this book was footnotes.  I kind of felt robbed!


Books My Son Loves: Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

Kitten's First Full MoonFor the baby shower for my son, my hostesses implored that people include a book with their gift.  Most people gave me classics, but a few who knew me well gave me books about cats.  Clearly the person who knew me best got me this Caldecott Medal winner.

This is an adorably illustrated and sweet story of a kitten that just wants the bowl of milk sitting in the sky.  My son loves this story because I infuse it with a lot of emotions.  When kitten can't get the milk, I make it sad and I frown.  When she gets hurt, I touch him on his head or ear to indicate where she got a little banged up.  When she gets her milk, I smile and cheer. 

Though he appears to be getting over this book (my son now has a love for slightly longer books) it remains one of my own favorites, and I only highlight books that both my son and I both love in this series.  Otherwise, I'd be writing on my fifth Curious George post by now or I'd be detailing the horrible soccer story I just got from the library which he is obsessed with. 

I will note that my son is always happy to go back to this story and that it's been a favorite since he's been younger than one.  He was highly obsessed with the moon (third or fourth word), so take that with a grain of salt.  Of course, if your child is also obsessed with the moon, it might be a nice break from Goodnight, Moon.


Unlocked by Courtney Milan

UnlockedFrom the author's website:  "A perpetual wallflower destined for spinsterhood, Lady Elaine Warren is resigned to her position in society. So when Evan Carlton, the powerful, popular Earl of Westfeld, singles her out upon his return to England, she knows what it means. Her former tormenter is up to his old tricks, and she’s his intended victim. This time, though, the earl is going to discover that wallflowers can fight back.

Evan has come to regret his cruel, callow past. At first, he only wants to make up for past wrongs. But when Elaine throws his initial apology in his face, he finds himself wanting more. And this time, what torments him might be love…"

I love to read other book review blogs, and while Dear Author is not my favorite reviewing site (though it is my favorite book news site), I do find that I love Jane's take on books.  When she posted this highly appreciative review of a Regency romance, I wasn't that intrigued until she pointed out the price.  Swoon, it was a buck.  I downloaded the Kindle app for my iPhone, bought the book, and read it that night.

I've reverted, slightly, from my old love of the Regency, but when I do read it done well, I find I still can't resist it.  Milan does Regency well and she makes a character who should be unforgivable all too human.  Evan is a prize and I don't mean that sarcastically.  We know he was a jerk, and that the reason for his actions was petty, but he looks at his actions and he realizes just how wrong he was.  Additionally, though he knows how horrible he was, as he realizes even further how Elaine feels, he recognizes how much worse it is than even he suspected.  He doesn't expect forgiveness though he requests it.  He works at forgiveness.  Like all people who were once bullied, I love a good groveling scene in which a bullied person gets the abject apology of the bullier, but I even more appreciate that it takes more than just a pathetic apology to get past Evan's actions.

Further, though this is a short novella, time passes.  Love doesn't occur overnight.  Elaine at first accepts Evan's apology, but it takes her time to really understand that he means it.  I wish we had gotten a better look at the time that had passed and their developing friendship (and I suspect I'll be searching out Milan's other full length novels to see if she has other novels about developing friendships), but I simply appreciate that these characters don't come to fully love each other within a week's time.

I will issue a caveat and state that two scenes in the novella made me come out of the reader's high I was on, and they were fairly lengthy scenes so it was quite a ding on the score.  Both scenes dealt with the characters in private and were unrealistic to me, which made me a little sad and pulled me out of the story entirely. 

Everything else about this novel, including Evan's relationship with his cousin and Elaine's relationship with her mother, deserves full scores, however.  Those two relationships in particular deserve some high marks.  Evan's cousin though quite petty and evil also shows a human nature at the end which entertains,.  Elaine's feelings toward her mother are fantastic.  We see there a mother daughter relationship which is fraught with problems even though they love each other and are both good people. 

Great work, Milan!

Verdict:  7.  I was leaning on a six here due to the scenes mentioned briefly above, actually, but the price and the strength of all the relationships.  I can't give it anything less than a seven.  In fact, if you factor in the price, it should probably jump to an 8 or a 9.  If only all self-published works were this good.

ThoughtsA dollar.   If books were normally a dollar or two (e-books or otherwise) I'd probably be living in stacks of books.  In fact, I purposely limit my own visits to used bookstores for this reason.  I'd come home with a pile of books and devour them until I was tired from lack of sleep and my son was whacking my knees with his soccer ball begging, "Play with me!"


Friday Links: Joined a Read A Long

Well, I decided to do it.  I've been working a this blog pretty steadily over the last month.  I've read a lot, created a Twitter account, reviewed a lot, and it's been during the busiest time of the year for me.  So, I joined a read-a-long.  Specifically, the Read-A-Myth Challenge.  I'm starting at the wimpiest level of Athena which means I need to read two books which are either retellings of myths or non-fiction works on mythology.

I mean, I've already read The Goddess Test and I'm pondering my thoughts on that one and I should have a review for it up within the month.  That means all I need to do is read one other book about myths and post a review on it in the next six months.  Considering mythology is one of my favorite subjects (c'mon, you all read encyclopedia articles about mythological figures too, happily cross referencing until every encyclopedia was open around you, right?!) I think I should be able to handle this challenge.

Abandoned is probably going to be the next one I attempt since I don't know when The Goddess Test's sequel is coming out.  Unless I should give Percy Jackson another go.  Any suggestions?!