31 August 2010

Chosen One

Chosen One
Carol Lynch Williams
read by Jenna Lamia
book on CD
young adult audience

I am highly impressed by Jenna Lamia's voice on this book on CD. She really nails the tone of the main character - 13 going on 14 year old Lyra. I am so impressed that I am going to search our library catalog to see what else we have with her as a narrator and listen to one of those as my next book on CD for my commute.
This is a tense book with the plot pivoting around one moment in time - teenager Kyra's pending wedding to her elderly uncle. She is mortified that the prophet in charge of her cult has heard from God that she should become a 7th wife in this polygamous society. The whole book is creepy in that we know that there are cults out there in the United States and around the world where this happens. Even in polygamous societies more than 2 or 3 wives is unusual. Kyra knows that her uncle is a cruel man and life will be hard with 6 other wives to serve under. How can she escape this fate? One hero in this book is the bookmobile librarian. Hoorah for the bookmobile and its noble staff!
This book might be too creepy for some readers, but it is at least a little realistic in that this story could be happening somewhere in Utah, Texas, or British Columbia right now. Generally this book and the audiobook should appeal to teenage and adult females.
A note about the cover. Amazon.com shows a book cover of the back of a a girl with a tank top on, bra showing, and braided hair unraveling. This is an odd choice because Kyra and family are always modestly covered from head to toe and tidy in appearance. Near the end Kyra says she will never be the type of girl to have a bra strap showing. Our library received the book on tape repackaged by Midwest tapes. This cover photograph shows a girl sitting in a tree reading a book. Kyra does sit in a tree to read a book often, so this photograph makes more sense, except that Kyra is supposed to be almost 14 and the girl in the photograph appears to be younger. Odd.

27 August 2010

Restless Hearts

Restless Hearts
by Marta Perry

Love Inspired
Steeple Hill
a division of Harlequin Books

Adult Christian/inspirational romance

This is a pleasant book set in contemporary Amish country Pennsylvania. A woman whose mother was ex-Amish comes to Pennsylvania to take a job as a midwife. She encounters a policeman who is ex-Amish. A romance ensues. I found this book to be much better than the average Harlequin paperback.

Claire and the Unicorn Happy Ever After

Claire and the Unicorn Happy Ever After
B. G. Hennessy
Susan Mitchell
children's fantasy fiction, ages 3-8

What makes for a happy ending? Who decides what "happily ever after" is?

A girl, Claire, asks her father about this after he reads yet another bedtime story that ends with "happy ever after". (I don't know why is isn't the more commonly used "happily ever after'). Her father turns the question around and asks Claire what she thinks the answer is. Claire dreams about what the answers would be from various fantasy tales and creatures.

This is a good bedtime story that can be read by a parent and help get a child to think about pleasant things while falling asleep.

25 August 2010

Wonder Woman The Contest

Wonder Woman The Contest
written by Nina Jaffe
illustrated by Ben Caldwell
created by William Moulton Marston
children's fiction ages 4-7

This book shows part of the origins of Wonder Woman and how she came to live among us mortals. Parents and grandparents who grew up with Wonder Woman comics and the television show will be pleased with this G rated slim volume. The children will probably want to read the whole series so I recommend buying the whole series for your library or your home.


The Magicians
Lev Grossman
adult fantasy fiction

1. Couldn't he come up with a better title? Try googling "magicians" to find this book - ha!

2. I don't know what the author was trying to do with this book. Is it a parody of the Harry Potter books? It it inspired by Harry Potter? Is it riding on the shirttails of Harry Potter? That being said, it was a pretty decent book and worth a read. I just don't know what the author or publisher was thinking. He even mentions Tolkien and others in the book.

3. I don't understand why there is a tree on the cover.

Plot: A senior in high school is recruited to go to Wizard school. A bunch of stuff happens that is very Harry Potter-like. Then a bunch of stuff happens which is very Narnia-like. I mean it is so similar that it makes you think that it was stolen from Rowling and Lewis, but put together in a way not quite like either. This book has some sex and drug use and drinking, so it is not as innocent as Potter or Narnia. I guess the target audience is adults or teenagers whose parents don't mind that they are reading about sex and drugs. They say the students are at college and the book covers about 5 years, but then later in the book they say the students are teenagers. In my world of math 17 years old + 5 years = age 22, not a teenager. I didn't get that.
Some reviewers said it drew from World mythology including Jewish mythology, but I don't know if this is true or not.
I guess I recommend this for 16+ readers who enjoy fantasy books but they might end up as perplexed as I.

Little Mouse Gets Ready

Little Mouse Gets Ready
Jeff Smith
children's fiction
ages 2-6
2010 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book
Ohio author

His mother is waiting, but Little Mouse must put on his clothes one piece at a time - carefully like little children have to. Then there is a surprise ending that makes parents/librarians/adult readers say "that's what I was thinking".
This is cute, friendly fare for young readers.

The cover says: Toon Books: bringing new readers to the pleasure of comics.
(This is a hardback children's book, but I guess the publishers want us to think it is a comic book or a graphic novel. I would not use the word novel to describe this short book. What is the definition of cartoon or graphic novel, anyway?).

Save the Tree!

The Big Green Help
Wonder Pets!
Save the Tree!
adapted by Kermit Frazier
illustrated by Amy Marie Stadelmann
children's fiction, ages 3-6

The Wonder Pets television show follows the same format each episode - the Wonder Pets get a call from an animal that is in trouble and the Wonder Pets save the animal (usually a baby animal). This book changes the format, however, and has them save an urban tree that is in an abandoned city lot. The plot is awkward because the song says that the animal in trouble has to get on a telephone to ask for help. Trees can't get on the telephone and trees aren't animals. This book and episode is part of Nick Jr.'s Earth Day celebration - The Big Green Help. Why didn't they have the Wonder Pets save an endangered bug or snake or something instead?
Other than that, this book is charming, as is the entire operatic series.

19 August 2010

Color of Water

Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother
James McBride
adult memoir

This book was published in 1996 and every year since then a librarian or website or patron has recommended it. I think Oprah recommended it as well. I finally decided to check it out and see what all the hype was about.
James McBride is the son of an African American minister and a woman who described herself as light skinned. While saying she was light skinned is technically the truth, the truth is also that she was not at all African American, but a Polish Jewish immigrant (She passed away in 2010). Life was tough for his mother, Ruth, and tough for James McBride as well. His mother grew up under the very strict discipline of her rabbi father and her disabled mother. James grew up very poor and had to live with the social stigma of being a mixed raced child in the 1960's and 1970's. His father passed away before he was born, and although he had a step father this man did not even live with his wife and children. Ruth had a total of 12 children.
This is not a warm, cuddly book. Life was HARD! His mother was not particularly affectionate and took a get-tough attitude toward life. She was convinced that regardless of the color of her skin, her children's skin, etc. if someone prays hard, studies hard and works hard in America, by the grace of God, they will succeed.
The author titled this as a tribute, but it is not an affectionate tribute. It is a hardscrambled tribute.
One librarian that I talked to about this book said that this is more relevant than ever as evidenced in the life of our President. Barack Obama, the child of a White mother and a Black father studied hard and prayed hard and look where he is today! Mom McBride was right.
There are only a few photographs and these are intentionally faded out and shown in black and white. I understand the effect they were going for, but I was curious to see more photographs of these remarkable people and places.

Overall this is a very good book, but I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped for more joy and humor. It is pretty serious book.

Here is a link to the New York Times article on her life and death: