23 September 2011

Sea of Monsters

Sea of Monsters: Percy Jackson & the Olympians Book Two
Rick Riordan
children's fantasy fiction, ages 9-14

This book follows up on the first book and the series is best read in order. Percy is a seventh grader with a few more problems than the average tween. Once again he is stuck in the middle of the bickering Greek gods' constant games with each other and with mortals.
Percy sticks with his friends from the first book and is challenged to see the good in some new friends (or are they enemies?) such as a cyclops. Riordan throws in a whole lot of action courtesy of Ares and the other gods and introduces some surprising anachronisms - how about enlisting some dead Confederate sailors in a quest? Why not?

I have already checked out the next book in the series ("The Titan's Curse") and a book of short stories about Percy Jackson ("The Demigod Files"). I am assuming that the second movie is somewhere in the works.

After I read what I have checked out, I might try a book from a different series by the same author just for a change-up.

Ten Tiny Babies

Ten Tiny Babies
Karen Katz
board book
children's fiction, ages 1-4

This book helps children learn to count to 10 by introducing a cast of 10 adorable tots one by one. I was a bit confused by the book at first because some of the words are big and some are little and over to the side. I skipped a few of the words and the book didn't make sense, then I realized my mistake.
In this case, though, do not judge the book on my opinion. There is a certain 2 1/2 year old that LOVES this book and asks for it all the time. When someone is not reading it to him he stares at the pictures. I think I will have to buy him his own copy. He adores these cherubic tykes and the caregivers who are pictured on the last page of the book and although the book does not say it, the boy always adds "Mommy and Daddy" to the words at the end of the book.
The happy children are dressed in playful colors and patterns and represent a rainbow of ethnic groups. I don't know if they are orphans in an orphanage or kids at a daycare center or an adopted family or what, but they all go to bed in the end in beds all lined up in a row like Disney's Seven Dwarfs.
I think I have read this book at least 20 times in the six weeks or so that I have had it checked out, so it has started to grow on me. It does have a pleasant rhyming scheme once it is read correctly.
It looks like Karen Katz has written quite a few books, so I will see if I can interest my patron in "Ten Tiny Tickles" by the same author as a change-up.
I thought it was somewhat presumptuous to label this book as "a classic board book", but now that I have read it a number of times, they are right. It does have the makings of a classic even though the book is only 3 years old.

Perfect Pony

Perfect Pony
Dandi Daley Mackall and Claudia Wolf
ages 5-7.

This is one in a series of books about horses and ponies meant for K-3 readers. The cover says "I Can Read! Reading with Help 2". After I read it, I checked our library's catalog and there is a book that is set before it about a horse named "Bob", but this story stands alone fine.
Dave gets a pony, Lily, for his birthday. Although Jen already has a horse, Bob, she is jealous. She soon realizes that both of them are happy with their mounts and there is no reason to be jealous.
This is a pleasant book with pleasing pictures and a moral about jealousy. It is published by Zonderkidz and it should appeal to Christian and non-Christian families and there are always those readers who can't get enough horse stories.
Maybe they should have chosen a more specific title like "Lily, the Perfect Pony" because I see more than one book with this title in my library's catalog.

Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
adult or young adult science fiction

I received this book as an uncorrected proof after it had already been read by a few other librarians. I passed it on to a male who was born in Ohio in October, 1972.
I don't know where to start describing this book. I love, love, loved this book! After I read it, I checked out the book on CD to experience it once more with Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame as my audioguide. It is the perfect homage to a geeky childhood spent on playing an Atari 2600, programming a TRS-80, listening to MTV, watching sci fi movies, mastering D & D, and reading comic books circa 1977 - 1992. Nerds unite!
I will steal a quote from www.goodreads.com - "WOOT, WOOT and UBER WOOT".
I have to admit that this book probably has a limited target audience. The target reader of this book is a middle class male born in Middletown, Ohio in October 1972 as the book character James Halliday was. Readers who were born before 1962 or after 1982 or who were popular in high school will probably not get into this book.
Here is the plot: James Halliday, and some others, have created an escapist cyberreality entitled "The Oasis". Reality stinks since all of those nuclear bombs, economic crashes, environmental disasters, etc. happened before 2044. Nobody wants to be in the real world, so just about everyone hangs out online in "The Oasis". Halliday is old and eventually dies. In a Willy Wonka-type move, he wills his vast fortune, and control of his cyberworld to the most worthy heir - that is, the one who will love his 1980s nerdy life as much as he did.
Enter Wade, a.k.a. "Parzival", an empoverished 18 year old orphan who knows that "knowledge is power". Wade has spent the last 5 years of his life preparing for possibility that he might win Halliday's contest and his vast fortune. Will this underdog have his day or will it be "game over, man" for his dreams?
It is a fun book replete with American popular culture references.
Many people are wondering how soon it will be when it will be made into a movie. The author was also the writer of the movie "Fanboys" about a group of Star Wars fanatics on a quest so it is reasonable to believe that this might happen.
A bonus for Ohio readers is that Halliday is from Middletown, and the tech center of the world by 2044 is Columbus, Ohio where the players converge at one point in the book. Author Ernest Cline grew up in Ashland, Ohio.


Kent Haruf
adult fiction

I saw a list of books that Barack Obama has read since becoming President. Most of them were about history or economics, but then I saw this fiction book among the nonfiction books. I remembered that this book had been considered for our library's "One Community One Book" book as well, so it must have some kind of universal appeal. When I checked it out I also saw that it was a National Book Award finalist.
Those are impressive credentials, so I had high hopes for this book. It is a well written book, but in a quiet way. There are no car crashes or terrorists or murders, although there are some nasty school bullies.
The exact time period of when this is set is not mentioned, but it is probably in the 1970's or 1980's in rural Colorado. A few stories of people in the same small town overlap. There is the teacher whose wife is having a breakdown and is left with his two sons. There is another teacher who is trying to help a young, pregnant teenager. There are also the elderly bachelor brothers who I could not help but thinking of as, in the words of Garrison Keillor, "Norwegian bachelor farmers, so you know they're not only good for you, but also pure, mostly".
They are all trying to get through life as well as they can with the twists and turns that life sends them. They are everyday people in an average American town. You get the idea that they would all be pretty good neighbors to have. That is why the book is entitled "Plainsong". It is just another typical day in late 20th century America. If this book is overlooked in 2011, it might be worth re-reading in 2061 to see how America has changed or is the same.
Already, from the time period in which it is set to today, we can see that unwed mothers are more frequent, divorce is more commonplace, and telephone booths have gone the way of the telegraph.
One thing about the book that struck me right away is that, for some reason, the author has decided not to place any dialog in quotation marks. Why? Probably to keep the flow of the book going. As I said, it is a quiet book that flows like a tide going in and out. Each ebb and flow is the same, but not really. Each time it is slightly different. That's how life in America goes - new people, same old stories.
If I were a teacher I might have students "compare and contrast" this book and its setting and characters to "Our Town" or "Spoon River Anthology" or Keillor's "Lake Wobegon" world.
This book will probably appeal most to a middle-aged or older audience with more female than male readers, although the author is male and the number of male and female characters are fairly well balanced.

21 September 2011

Public Service Announcement

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14 September 2011

Stolen Life: A Memoir

Stolen Life: A Memoir
Jaycee Dugard
adult autobiography

Jaycee was kidnapped by two strangers when she was 11 years old. Eighteen years later probation officers finally became suspicious enough of her captures to get her back home to her mother. Jaycee, now 30 years old, tells her own story. While she was held in a couple's back yard in two buildings she was tied up and raped for years and years as well as subjected to the husband's skewed view of the world. During that time she gave birth to two daughters who were also kept captive at times and allowed in the main house at times. They did not go to school except for occasionally working on worksheets which Jaycee was eventually allowed to download from the internet under the supervision of her kidnappers.
The book is simply written. Keep in mind that Jaycee only went to school until fifth grade. During much of her life in captivity she did have access to an occasional book, but much of her education was from watching television. She plainly states some of the horrors that were done to her and occasionally reflects on how they have affected her. Some questions are left unanswered as this is told from the victim's viewpoint. There are many things she did not know and may never know. She does not say how many years in prison her capturers received or a number of other facts that a reporter may included. I suppose that readers can turn to People magazine and other news venues for that information. There is definitely room for a sequel or another book written by a reporter telling the same story from different views - like the view of her mother or the police officers or the kidnappers. I see that my library also owns "Lost and Found" by John Glatt about this same case.
I read this book in a very short time. I can see that this will probably make its way to being on psychology and sociology reading lists as well as its current New York Times bestseller status.

Better than a Smart phone

Super - stache!


Is it sacrilege to put a mustache on Superman? You decide.

Free the Books!

This is similar to what our library is doing, but more charming. If you have books sitting around - free them up to give to someone else by posting it in a public place. I have seen groups do this (inside), but the "birdhouse" shaped mailbox/bookbox idea (for outdoor use)is new to me.


You may notice that many of these boxes are surrounded by snow. It did start in Wisconsin and Minnesota after all!