Friday, July 26, 2013

The Witch's Guide to Cooking With Children by Keith McGowan

Cover Art for The witch's guide to cooking with children  You have to love the title, and the story is about what is sounds like it is about.  Sol and Connie move into a new house and meet their new neighbor.  Ms Holaderry seems like a kindly old lady, but Sol is puzzled by the fact that her dog seems to be chewing on a human femur bone.  Sol is smart, and Connie is clever, so together they figure out that Ms Holaderry is a witch,  but not just any witch.  She is the witch form "Hanzel and Gretel" fame, who loves to capture and eat children. Now in the 21st century she has modernized.  She agents and convenient drop off locations where parents can leave unwanted and disobedient offspring.  What Connie and Sol do not know is that someone has nominated them to be her next dinner.  This is a wickedly clever modern retelling of the old, and rather dark, fairy tale. It is a great book for kids who liked "A Series of Unfortunate Events" but is not nearly a dark and scary as Coraline. There is plenty of tongue in cheek here, and the reader is never really in doubt that the children will triumph in the end. (180 p.)

Shadowmancer by G.P Taylor

Cover Art for Shadowmancer Thomas is a boy from a medieval coastal village that is dominated by a tyrannical clergyman named Obadiah Demmurral.  When Thomas meets a man from Africa who has come to the village to retrieve a religious artifact stolen from his people by Demmurral, Thomas, and his friend Kate, unwittingly get involved with a plot by Demmural to overthrow the powers of heaven and set himself up as the new god of this world. There are so many necromancy books out there, from all different cultural backgrounds. This one is interesting because it is written from a biblical/Christian background, and G.P Taylor quotes bible passages throughout.  The story is fast paced and intense.  The Christian message is a little heavy handed, but doesn't get in the way, too much, of the action of the plot. Taylor is as interesting a character as any in his book.  In his younger years he was involved with the music industry, got involved with the occult, but then converted to Christianity.  He spent some time as a Vicar, but resigned his position to write full time. This book is firmly a YA book, and not really for kids less than about 14-15, not because of sex, or even really violence, but because of dark and complicated philosophical themes. (275 p.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dodger by Terry Pratchet

Cover Art for Dodger In this book, set in an alternative Victorian London, Dodger is a 17 year-old-street kid who saves a young lady who is being attacked during a rain storm. For the rest of the book Dodger is trying to discover who the girl is and who was trying to kill her.  In the process Dodger meets, and impresses, some famous historical figures from Victorian London, including Charles Dickens, two-time prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, and humanitarian Henry Mayhew.  Pratchet is such a clever and witty writer, and the book is an intelligent look at the of the underbelly of Victorian England through the eyes of a very likable and engaging main character. Those who love Pratchet's Discworld series will find this book a little more mellow than some of those when it comes to Pratchet's signature social satire.  But taken on its own, this is a great story full of wit and wisdom for teens and adults alike. (360 p)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Extra Credit by Tommy Greenwald

Cover Art for Charlie Joe Jackson's guide to extra credit In this second adventure of Charlie Joe, the 6th grader finds himself in trouble with his parents. If he doesn't get his grades up they will send him to a reading summer camp. Charlie Joe decides that the only way to get his grades high enough is to do extra credit.  Of course, when you are asking for extra credit, you have to do whatever the teacher assigns, and his teachers put him in some pretty hilarious situations.  In the end his amazing people skills pull him through. This book is mostly about preteen relationships.  Charlie Joe has to work on his relationships with his teachers, but there is also a lot of relationship drama with his friend group, with pre-adolescent crushes and jealousy.  I really liked the first book in the series Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading. I liked this one as well, except for one thing that kind of ruined it for me. Twice in the book, Charlie Joe hits another kid in the groin with first a ball and then an apple.  Of course, the victim doubles over in pain and everyone else laughs.  But in real life, no kid should hit another kid in the groin, and it is not funny.  If someone is trying to hurt you, or kidnap you, sure, go for the groin, but it is no way to deal with someone just because they are being a jerk. In the book, Charlie Joe does suffer consequences because of his action, but not like what would really happen if someone did that in my son's school.  It wouldn't be a reprimand and grade issue, oh no.  The police would be called in and there would be suspension and maybe a trip to juvi court.  So, if you give this book to anyone you care about, make sure they understand how things really work in that respect. (265 p)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Edenbrooke by Julie Donaldson

Cover Art for Edenbrooke : a proper romance  Marianne Daventry is a younger twin who has always lived in her sister Cecily's shadow. When her mother dies, she is sent to live with her grandmother at Bath, while her socialite sister has her first season in London.  Marianne dislikes the hustle and bustle of Bath and is therefore grateful when her mother's friend invites both Marianne and Cecily to their large estate for a visit.  As soon as she arrives, Marianne strikes up a friendship with her hostess' son,  Philip, without realizing it is the same man Cecily has vowed to capture and marry.  Marianne gives up hope of winning a competition for Philip's attention with her sister, but, after some encouragement from unexpected sources, decides that Philip is worth the fight. Here is another book recommended to me by the helpful librarian in the grown-up section of the library.  It is written by a Utah author and published by a Utah publisher, Shadow Mountain, as part of their "Proper Romances" series.  It is a period romance, after the manner of Jane Austin, complete with ballroom scenes, inheritance, sibling rivalry and a dashing hero. If "The Help" is a four course meal, this book is a cupcake with sprinkles.  There wasn't a lot of substance there, but it sure was fun to eat. I have to admit, I did get a little exasperated when after the 4th or 5th time that Philip declares his undying love to Marianne, she still doubts if he is serious and really likes her, or is just flirting. Still there is much here to like and I would be totally open to reading another in the series. (264 p)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Cover Art for The help    This is a story about a small town in Mississippi during the early 1960's.  There are a group white women who had been friends in high school and college, who now form the upper crust of a small town society.  One of the women, Eugenia, is not married, but has dreams of becoming a writer. Because of a challenge from a New York publisher and because of fond memories of her family's maid, she decides to interview the black maids of her friends to find out what it is like to work for white women in Mississippi.  As she gradually progresses in her project she comes to realize what a dangerous undertaking it is for those she interviews, and even herself.  She also comes to love and admire the women she interviews and they come to love and admire her.  The chapters are written from the point of view of three people, Eugenia, and two of the maids, Aibileen, and Minny. The writing is wonderful and the characters, fascinating.  They are types that that you instantly recognize and think, "I know someone who is just like that,"  but they are not stereotypes. There are a couple of scenes that are difficult, but not because they are smutty, but because she so poignantly portrays real life.  

     I usually read children's books because I am a children's librarian, but our library is having an adult summer reading program, and I signed up for it.  I figured I would take it as an opportunity to expand my horizons and try some grown-up literature.  I started out with Water for Elephants, but quit it about a quarter in because it had offensive elements.  One of the adult librarians suggested The Help. I knew it had been made into a movie, so I decided to give it a try. I am glad I did.  (451 p.)