Happy Holidays! The 12 Days of LT scavenger hunt is going on. Can you solve the clues?
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Once more, CassieBash tackles her "to read" pile in 2018

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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Dec 26, 2017, 11:30pm Top

Hello again, all! Hope your holiday celebrations were wonderful, regardless of what holiday you honor. My Christmas saw a few additions to my book piles, of course, but some just won't make the official count, because of my personally imposed rules, which help keep me on track for reading from my piles of as-yet unread books. My rules are as follows:

1. Books must have chapters or be divided into stories, or otherwise have more text than illustrations or white space. This is to keep me from too easily making my goals by reading picture books and then not feeling as if I need to keep up my pace. Plus, there are no easy read or picture books in my "to read" pile, anyway.

2. Audiobooks count, but they must meet rule 1 restrictions to count. Also, to guarantee that most of my 75 are print (and therefore most are from the "to read" pile), no more than 15 of the 75 can be audiobooks.

OK, those are my rules for my challenge. I'm going to start the 2018 year off with the first book of a 20 volume set that is a collection of various works by genre--provided volume 1 can hold my attention. It's stories of war and battles and that's not usually my cup of tea, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I'll read the other volumes here and there throughout this year and the following years, with no set time goal for finishing the set. My nonfiction choices this year will start off with a book I borrowed from our library at work on the nightshade family; if it makes anyone feel better, I've bumped a lot of nature nonfiction to the front of the nonfiction queue, so this year's nonfiction picks may be a bit less gross and disturbing than usual (overall). Then again, this is the nightshade family, which includes belladonna, mandrake, and devil's snare (Jimsonweed), which are rather poisonous, so maybe my first nonfiction pick isn't so far off my usual fare.

About my reviews: I tend to give little synopses with warnings about content and language; I read a lot of chapter and young adult books, and I know some parents may be interested in knowing if there's swearing or crude humor or adult situations or themes. Usually, if I recommend a book as a good read-aloud, it means that the content is, at worst, a PG rating, usually for mild violence, kid-scary, sad, or confusing situations (including death), or something else that I may feel that most children can handle, especially if they talk with their parents about it. I also try to give you a good idea about the reading level/intended audience level of a book so that parents with solo readers may get ideas. As always, though, you know your children best so though I may recommend a title, it may still not be something your child will be interested in or ready for, so don't take my review as the word of an expert. After all, reading is a very personal experience and what one child finds delightful, another finds boring.

Well, that's what to expect from my posts in a nutshell. I hope you enjoy my future reviews and get some ideas on what you may want to read (or in the case of those weird and disturbing nonfiction selections of mine, avoid). Above all--have fun!

Dec 27, 2017, 10:03am Top

Welcome back for another great year of reading!

Dec 28, 2017, 2:08pm Top

Welcome back. I don't impose those same rules. I count all the picture books. I'd feel guilty if I only read picture books, but I mainly read the Caldecotts and the ones which catch my attention otherwise. I listen to audiobooks on the commute to and from work and on trips. I don't feel they outnumber my regular reading. I occasionally finish an audiobook in the house when I'm near the end and it's one I just can't "put down" until the next morning's commute. I generally am curled on the couch with one or more cats atop me when I read at home.

Dec 28, 2017, 10:47pm Top

>2 drneutron: Thanks, and happy reading!

>3 thornton37814: Well, as I said, I've got to keep up the pace on the piles of older-age reads, or the piles will just keep getting bigger; at the moment, I think I've made a slight dent in the piles. I have books on my shelves I haven't yet read, too, so the "pile" is actually bigger than it seems, just like in car mirrors! :) Because of this, I also don't tend to re-read a lot unless it's a book I've forgotten about and want to re-read it to see if it's still good enough to keep. Oh, I'm going to re-read a few things, but I really need to concentrate on things I haven't read yet, so that I can decide whether to keep them or if I can take them to my fiancé's used bookstore for trade-in value. The aforementioned fiancé, Derek, is in Muncie (his shop is White Rabbit Used Books on the south edge of Ball State University--shameless plug) and I'm a good 2.5-3 hours' drive away, so like you, I also use the audiobooks for those commutes. (My work drive is usually not so bad unless we're having a heavy snow year, and then it can take me twice as long to get there. I usually listen to the radio or music on my phone, or practice storytelling.) Like you, I often finish an audiobook at home. I find they're nice to listen to when doing dishes, since I don't have a dishwasher and it can be a time-consuming task. Good luck with your 75!

Edited: Dec 31, 2017, 10:12am Top

Happy reading in 2018, Cassie!

The last 2 years I am reading (mostly) alphabeticly through my childrens/YA collection, to decide what to keep and what to cull.

Dec 31, 2017, 12:44pm Top

Happy New Year! I wish you to read many good books in 2018.

Jan 1, 3:51am Top

Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.

Jan 1, 1:10pm Top

Dropping off a
And wishing you

Jan 2, 9:44am Top

Thanks, everyone! Happy New Year (Reading) to all!

Jan 3, 6:20pm Top

Good to see you back! I'm looking forward to more critter books and posts.

Jan 4, 9:17am Top

Good to be back!

Well, there probably will be a critter book or two, but I think my nonfiction selections will probably focus on plants this year. I checked out a book on the nightshade family from the library, and I suppose I should make an effort to read it before the due date, which because I'm considered faculty, isn't until the beginning of May, but still.... I also have that book about seeds that I bought off the public library's "last chance" shelf (not sure what happened to all the books on the "last chance" shelf--if they were donated or *gulp* pulped; I haven't been brave enough to ask, nor am I sure I want to know the answer). Since my butterfly bush was struggling last year and, what with the harsh conditions we've been having this year, I'm not sure it will survive the winter, and I've been contemplating what, if anything, I'll do with that potential space, so perhaps reading some of these plant books will help inspire me. I'd still like to dig out that old book on milkweeds that I haven't read in a decade or two and re-read that to determine if the information--so valuable when I was younger--may be of use to me still or if it's time to pass it on because all the "insights" no longer are. I won't say I won't read one of my...er...more unusual choices, such as books about forensics, funeral customs, or diseases, but I probably won't read as many. I have a lot of fiction in my "to read" piles so this year's mantra may be "Focus on Fiction". I've started the first volume--the war stories one--of that 20 volume set and it's not bad for what it is. War stories are still not my cup of tea, but most of the stories are at least marginally interesting, and include authors such as Victor Hugo and Rudyard Kipling. Most tend towards being narrative, which helps, rather than reading like a news story.

With 20 volumes, it's a large set, and I'll have to seriously consider whether the stories--which will all be in public domain--are worth keeping in print format. I'd hate to break up the set; if I want specific stories or volumes, maybe I can find them in eBook format on Project Gutenberg or in audio format on Librivox.

Jan 4, 3:37pm Top

Happy New Year! I don't think I've posted on your thread before, but I see you read a lot of children's and YA books. I do, too, and I'm always looking for people on LT to discuss them with, so I thought I'd say hello!

Jan 4, 4:13pm Top

>12 foggidawn: Hi, foggidawn! Yes, I do read a lot of children's and YA, and I have lots of them, mostly fantasy, horror, and science fiction, in the "to read" pile. Always glad to talk about books of just about any genre and age level.

Jan 5, 10:52pm Top

Hi, Cassie. Dropping a star.

I'm like Lori - I count anything and everything I read. I figure reading a 500+ page book averages out for the 12 page short story that I've just read. Since my "average" book turns out to be around 250 pages, I feel that counting the picture books and short stories should count. But that's my two cents! Plus, I can't tell how big my TBR piles are getting because I buy mostly Kindle books these days!😜

Jan 7, 1:22pm Top

Ah, well, space is a premium here in a small farmhouse with 4 avid readers, all who prefer print, and I tend to keep my books solely in my room, which is a modest enough size that, despite the two large and two half-sized bookshelves (plus the built-in shelves in my bed's headboard and the little shelf under the night table), I still have four stacks around 3 feet high, which tends to make it a little crowded. I've tried eBooks but still prefer print, plus the Internet dead zone in which we exist (yes, there are still places where dial-up is your most reliable solution, for what it's worth, which isn't much), makes downloading things impractical if not impossible. Until someone in Indiana fixes this infrastructure issue, I probably won't buy a Kindle or Nook (though I wouldn't turn down a free one).

Book 1 of the New Year is the first volume of the set Classic Tales by Famous Authors: Battle, Camp and Siege. Some of these stories collected here are works of fiction, or are narratives, based on historical battles. Works include excerpts about Waterloo from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Rudyard Kipling's The Drums of the Fore and Aft, an English-Indian (as in India-Indians, not Native Americans) skirmish, H. Rider Haggard's character Allan Quartermain, with the help of his British and Zulu companions fights a tribe of Masai to save a girl in "In the Land of the Masai", and there's even one with a hint of the supernatural by Amelia B. Edwards, " Service of Danger", about the Black Forest campaign between Austria and France during Napoleon's time. There are also a couple of romance battles; Sir Walter Scott's "Battle of Beal' an Duine" from his The Lady of the Lake and "The Revolt of Lucifer" from Paradise Lost by John Milton. Also included are more nonfiction accounts, such as "Picture of War" by J. A. MacHahan, a correspondent for a New York paper who was sent on assignment to Turkestan to cover the war between the Russians and the natives, as well as J. A. Froude's account of how Julius Caesar took Alesia and Washington Irving's description of how the Christians captured the city of Granada from the Moors.

I have to start my review by saying this was a most interesting mix. Honestly, mixing this eclectic group of war battles, skirmishes, and conflicts seems odd. You will have a serious, very factual work sandwiched between two that are very fictional, even romanticized. There is a very different feel between Irving's account of Granada and Milton's battle for Heaven, or even Haggard's adventure story. This isn't bad unless you prefer to read collections that are more uniform in theme, tone, pacing, voice, etc. For me, the variety was actually a good thing, since some of the accounts were heavier than others, and as I said before, war stories aren't my cup of tea. For the most part, they were interesting if not enjoyable.

But, I should also warn that these works are a product of their times, and the stories chosen are from European and American writers, and there are some racist views, though I was occasionally surprised by some of the authors' positive slants, such as the brave, good-hearted Zulus in the Allan Quartermain story. This book series comes from 1905 and the works they choose are, of course, older still. And yet, many of the stories I found to be less insulting than the general preference and introduction, in which the editors/compilers basically say that European and American works are far superior to those from other races and countries, with the exception of the Japanese, whose stories "have fierceness and cunning at the core, but these are accompanied by love and fidelity and loyalty....that characterize the modern literature of most civilized nations", as opposed to Arabian works, which they claim only have cunning and simplicity at their core. I won't repeat the insults they make of the oral traditions of the Native Americans, Africans, and African Americans. Skip reading this crap at the beginning, which is arrogant and snobbish and doesn't offer any insights unless you're a literature scholar interested in the history of racial views. Start instead with the synopsis of selections, a sort of annotated bibliography (though not in order, oddly enough), and the author bios.

Jan 10, 8:39pm Top

Did you know that belladonna and potatoes, mandrakes and tomatoes, Jimsonweed and chili peppers, tobacco and petunias all have something in common? They all belong to a family known as Solanacaea, or the nightshade family. Book 2, The Fascinating World of the Nightshades, is written as a taxonomical look at the origins, hybridization, domestication, and human uses for some of the tastiest--and deadliest--plants around. (Only the hemlocks probably rival them for the "most poisonous plant" award in my state--though I won't deny the possibility that someone could argue a plant elsewhere on the planet that can kill faster--though hemlock kills pretty quickly, with very little needing to be consumed.) This book lives up to its name if you're interested in the history of any one of these plants (plus a few lesser-known species). You won't get gardening how-to tips in this (although the chapter on tobacco makes it clear that in this family, it's the "picky" one), nor will you get any graphic descriptions of death (though symptoms of nightshade poisoning and acknowledgement of death as a possibility is in there). What you will get is an interesting, sometimes complex, look at how humans discovered that they could use this plant for something (food, medicine, general enjoyment/recreation, etc.) and how they could raise it to make it easier and more convenient to get, or to improve on its flavor or other usefulness. The one thing the author didn't cover--more's the pity from my perspective--is the importance of this family of plants in nature. See, every summer and fall, I raise caterpillars--any caterpillar I can identify and locate the appropriate food for--until they hatch out into butterflies, moths, or skippers (even if I have to keep them through the winter as cocoons or chrysalises). This particular family of plants is, of course, host to one of the caterpillars hated by so many gardeners, the Carolina sphinx moth (a.k.a. the tobacco hornworm*). These moths are intricately marked and beautiful in their own way, and they can maneuver as well as any hummingbird (hovering, flying backwards, etc.), but they're also important night-time pollinators. See, in some parts of the country (Indiana included), there are very few night-time pollinators other than moths. So for evening- and night-blooming plants, these moths are very important. Sure, they eat tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. But that's the thing--these caterpillars don't care what Solanacaea they eat. They'll eat any of them. So I remove any found on the desired crop and start raising them on something less desirable (Jimsonweed, recently, but for years it was horse nettle, a variety of nightshade with green, tomato-like berries and spines like you wouldn't believe!). I even have a theory that I could train the local population to prefer certain nightshades over others; after raising young on horse nettle for a few years, I actually began finding their eggs and caterpillars on the nettle themselves; prior to that, I'd never seen them use that plant species as a host plant. Since the Jimsonweed has really gotten out of control in our horse paddock, I've been finding them on those (as well as species of beetle larvae who also eat Solanacaea). Who would like to send me some grant money to study whether we can "train" pest insects to eat the weeds and leave the garden plants alone? :)

This is probably obvious, but parents, not a read-aloud, unless you have a very gifted child interested in horticulture. Useful for a middle school or high school student as a source though if they're doing research on any of these plants (or the family of nightshades in general--sounds like the kind of topic I'd have chosen). No inappropriate language, and the only sex mentioned is, of course, plant reproduction. There is some basic genetics discussed, too, as apparently the nightshades are a family that lend themselves to genetic studies (or at least did so in the late 80s, when this edition was released).

*Side note: There's also a tomato hornworm, but the differences are subtle. Most people growing tomatoes assume the hornworm caterpillars they find on their plants are obviously tomato hornworms, because what else would eat a tomato, but it could just as easily be the tobacco species--and may be more likely to be in some areas. On the other hand, because their ranges do overlap, you could get both on the same plant. I tend to get the tobacco hornworm, and rarely see the tomato variety, even though the tobacco hornworm is considered a more southerly species.

Jan 11, 12:54pm Top

I used to remove all hornworms from my plants, but since I discovered what moth they become, I allow them to survive.

Tomatoes usually grow back, anyway...

Jan 11, 6:48pm Top

>17 fuzzi: I thank you and the moths thank you! I must confess that this year's Jimsonweed crop was targeted by another, less desirable insect that somehow I just can't bring myself to love. Normally, I am a fan of the beetle family and can usually think of something positive to say about any given creature, but these guys are just...ew! We started seeing them on my sister's Chinese lantern, a fellow nightshade, but this year they just infested the Jimsonweed. Last year, the hornworms were all over that stuff--but this year, I saw few on them and I think it's because every plant had so many of these creature's eggs or larvae on them that I believe the adult moths didn't want to have their larvae competing with that of the three-lined potato beetle. I can't blame them; the habits of these larvae are disgusting yet effective; they cover themselves with their own poisonous feces (remember--they're eating nightshade, and Jimsonweed is not a plant you want to taste test!). And because the beetles lay their eggs in clusters on plants, the larvae just strip the plant bare, leaving little else for other species wanting a nightshade snack. I've found that there are few predators able to get past the "fecal shield" as it's called (yes, it's really called that by experts), but supposedly there is a jumping spider and a damselfly capable of ignoring the shield. We control them by hand on the plants we want to keep by crushing the eggs or removing the infested leaves and squashing the larvae between two surfaces. Now, if I can just find a jumping spider's territory next year, I'll be able to bring him "snacks".

Even getting Jimsonweed to feed the hornworms this year, I was crushing little yellow eggs before putting the leaves in with the caterpillars.

Jan 11, 7:42pm Top

>18 CassieBash: I remember those from when my mother had a large vegetable garden, but did not know about their defensive shield. Ick.

Jan 11, 8:15pm Top

>19 fuzzi: They're different from the Colorado potato beetle, with which I was more familiar until just a few years ago when the three-liners started chomping on the lantern plants. Those are the ones I remember hand-picking off the potatoes in the garden and dropping them into a small coffee can with a bit of gasoline in it. Fortunately, they don't use a shield, which would have made an unpleasant task even more so. Maybe those are the ones you're remembering--it would explain why you didn't know about a defensive shield. The...uh...shield is quite noticeable and in fact had us stymied for a bit with identification, because it was the larvae we found first. Once we found the beetles on the same plant and put two and two together, it was a lot easier to identify.

Jan 12, 11:28am Top

>20 CassieBash: the Colorado potato beetles were probably the ones I recall. We have Cucumber beetles, too, which look like the other beetles you mentioned.

Edited: Mar 29, 8:02am Top

I've managed to read two Newbery books in three days (OK, technically one winner and one honor, but still), and I've started a third. Book 3: Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon is the 1928 winner of the Newbery Medal. Gay-Neck is a carrier pigeon, and it's basically his biography. If you ever wanted a good narrative on how carrier pigeons were trained (at least back then; don't know if the process has changed any since then), you'll find this book fascinating. As we start the story with Gay-Neck as a chick, we get to not only watch him trained, but watch all of his experiences of growing up, learning to fly, and learning who his natural enemies are and how to avoid them. Later, when Gay-Neck and his handler, Ghond, are sent to the fronts of WWI, he learns about unnatural enemies as well.

The language actually feels less dated than many other books I've read from this time period, I think because it doesn't use much in the way of slang or phrases from the time period (the word "gay"--in this time period, "gay" meant carefree or lighthearted--this was one of the few words that were used that have since changed in meaning), but instead sticks mostly to simple, everyday language, with a few Indian words thrown in (but defined for you, which is always nice, especially in a youth book). While the last part of the book is about Gay-Neck serving in WWI, much of the book is about his training. I will give this book a caution for parents looking for a read-aloud; there is some death in here that may not be appropriate for your youngster, so as always, I recommend at least skimming the book first to judge whether your child can handle the situations of death and war. The description at the end of the book of a killer buffalo that is, in turn, violently killed, may be among the more graphic moments of the non-war sections.

Book 4, Highway Cats, was in many ways harder and more graphic than Gay-Neck, as the cats in this book are all abandoned, dumped, and/or abused in one way, shape, or form. It's painful to read about some of these cats' backstories, especially the Siamese Khalia Koo, who's face was damaged hideously when a previous owner purposely tossed her into a fire and, ashamed of her scarred and mangled face, she hides it in various containers dumped from the speeding cars of Interstate 95 as they rush past Potterberg, where they mayor, in a plan to boost his name for re-election, has decided to create an access ramp to the nearby mall from the interstate--and the plans will destroy the only home the stray cats know. This is a short, simply-written book and I can't give much more of the plot without giving away too many spoilers, but I will give you one more snippet: the book starts with three tiny kittens being abandoned in the median of the interstate, and when they miraculously make it across the road safely, many of the cats start wondering if there's more to them than meets the eye--and the reader will, too.

Like Gay-Neck, there are some dark places here, so parents looking for a read-aloud, you might steer clear of this one if your children are pretty young and sensitive. It could, like Gay-Neck, be used as an older child read-aloud and discussion starter; there are plenty of themes here that you could talk about, including animal abuse, conservation and ecology, the importance of local history (can't explain that without a possible spoiler), and whether the kittens are what they seem. The most interesting thing about this book is that all the moments where we see things from the human (usually the Mayor) perspective, the work switches from the standard third person narrative to a play format, as if the Mayor and his aide are mere players--pawns--in a larger show or production. A rather deep and thought-provoking approach for a children's book....

Now that I'm underway with the challenge, here's my counter to start with. Huh. That snowman's gonna melt well before I hit the 75 mark, I hope! But it fits the landscape outside my window right now. My count by book type is 1 adult fiction, 1 adult nonfiction, and 2 children/YA fiction.

Jan 17, 8:12am Top

Book 5: Pecos Bill is a 1938 Newbery Honor. While this is a juvenile fiction, I wouldn't say it's for very young children. Though the language is appropriate enough--no swearing though there are a few "ain'ts", which even the author notes isn't proper English but is proper "cowboy", there are some violent moments and even death, especially into the end. Pecos shoots off trigger fingers and one of Pecos's own cowhands is "riddled with a dozen bullets". There are, of course, funny moments (being a collection of tall tales, after all), but it gets pretty dark in spots. Of course, Slue-foot Sue and Pecos's horse, Widow Maker, are there, as are the Coyotes who raised Bill like an American West Mowgli. There is a bit of sexism (one character says it's just like us women to want anything that's been denied us--in this case, riding Widow Maker) but I actually don't remember any slander against Native Americans or Mexicans (though I can't say there wasn't for certain), which considering its age is a bit impressive. Not a bad read and it fits well into my folklore interests, though tall tales in general are not a branch of folklore that I seek out to collect. Later this year, perhaps, I'll read the French fairy tales collection in my "to read" pile. Right now, it's onto another youth fantasy.

I'll recommend this one to those interested in tall tales and/or cowboy lore.

Jan 17, 12:33pm Top

>23 CassieBash: I have read many of the tall tales of America, including Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan, and enjoyed them. I don't recall what version I read, however.

Jan 17, 4:22pm Top

>24 fuzzi: I think the main reason I don't actively collect tall tales is that (relatively speaking) they tend to be more modern stories. They don't usually fit in with my storytelling venues and subjects at this point in time. The older stories are more appropriate to tell at the renaissance festival and Irish Fest down in Indy.

Edited: Jan 17, 7:11pm Top

CassieBash, now you dun it...I found the copy of Tall Tales of America, which I loved as a child...

Look at the endpapers:

Jan 18, 8:40am Top

>26 fuzzi: Nice illustrations on the end pages. I'm familiar with several; the two Johns (Appleseed and Henry) were always two of my favorites, especially Appleseed, who was part legend and part real man (John Chapman), who of course helped spread apple trees across Indiana, as well as other states. Not sure about now, but we used to learn about him in history in maybe 3rd or 4th grade. Of course, what they also don't tell the kids is that the trees he planted were used to make hard apple cider more than anything, because that was the drink of choice on the frontier back then. (Water wasn't necessarily safe unless boiled.) Plus, for those who may remember my review of The Botany of Desire from a previous challenge, you may remember that one of the things I learned about apple seeds is that they don't breed true (a Golden Delicious seed likely won't produce a Golden Delicious apple; all domestic apples are grafts), so the likelihood that most of the trees he planted by seed would bear edible table fruit are unlikely. Liquor was probably the only use most were suited for.

Book 6: The Night Fairy was written by the same person who wrote Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, a wonderful play/poem/nonfiction combination for children about life in medieval times, which she wrote for a class so that each student would have approximately the same chance to be seen on stage (there are no "leads"; each segment in verse is by a different member of the village). She apparently always has an eye on what she feels is lacking in the demand for children's literature; according to her, she wrote this book because she noticed that many little girls loved fairies and nature, and she didn't see too much variety in the fairy stories out there for younger readers. So she wrote this book, a story about Flora the night fairy, whose wings are accidentally torn off by a bat. From that moment on, Flora hates bats and wishes them ill, and she learns to use magic to sting animals, hoping to one day use it on bats. She adjusts to living in the daytime, taking up residence in a bird house set up by a human (she and the animals see humans as giants) and acquainting herself to the daytime animals around her. She is a fierce, wild creature at first but as she interacts with other creatures, she slowly learns compassion and eventually, forgiveness. A good read-aloud, especially for fairy-crazy girls, though a boy willing to sit through a story with a female protagonist should also enjoy it. There is action and animals, and it's also a bit of a survival story, for Flora, without her wings, must figure out how to move about a garden (at her size, this is a daunting prospect) and to avoid the dangerous animals, for even a squirrel is a potential enemy.

I'm working on a lot of short, quick reads at the moment, as I'm intending on visiting Derek in the next week or two (weather permitting), and I can take my finished, non-keepers to him (and in some cases, back to him). Right now, I have "to read" piles and a "to trade in" pile; it's been over a month, thanks to snow and holidays, since I've managed to make a Muncie trip, so that "to trade" pile is building up and taking up space I can use for other things. I think the next in line is a nonfiction about haunted houses in Louisville, Kentucky, which I might actually offer to my dad instead, as he lived in Louisville for years with my stepmom, until she passed on about two years ago. He's now up here in Rochester--an easy half-hour drive away (easy being relative when it's snowed, of course). I have quite a few more youth fiction (especially fantasy) in the stacks I've set aside to read this year, so for those of you interested in children's and YA, stay tuned.

Jan 18, 9:56am Top

>27 CassieBash: *perks up ears* Did someone say "children's and YA?"

Jan 18, 12:41pm Top

>28 foggidawn: you're in the right thread for that. ;)

Jan 18, 4:01pm Top

>28 foggidawn: Yes. Yes, I did. Among my pile of "to reads" this year are Marco's Millions, Neversink, Dragon's Milk, an older juvenile nonfiction called The Milkweed and Its World of Animals (if I can find it on the shelves) and a bunch of others.

>29 fuzzi: And fuzzi, I'm beginning to get the itch to re-read my Gypsy horse trilogy; I know last year you were reading the Black Stallion series like crazy. Have you read Gypsy from Nowhere, Gypsy and Nimblefoot, or Gypsy and the Moonstone Stallion yet?

Jan 18, 9:32pm Top

>30 CassieBash: I've not read any of them yet. If I can find a free/cheap copy, I'll give it a whirl...which one would you recommend?

Jan 19, 9:01am Top

Well, if you want to go in chronological order, you want to read them in the order I have them above. My favorite is "Gypsy and Nimblefoot", which has two plots in one, but they're all good. Guess I better hang on to my trilogy; while the first two are running under $3.00 used on Amazon, the cheapest copy they have listed for the "Moonstone Stallion", is a bit over $12, and the whole set, boxed (my box no longer exists), is going for $35. All three have stand-alone plots though.

Jan 19, 2:46pm Top

I've put in a request to ILL, as our public library does not have any books by Sharon Wagner.

Jan 21, 7:19pm Top

>33 fuzzi: Not entirely surprised; I'm guessing she had her hayday in the late 70s/early 80s regarding her books' popularity. Good luck!

Oh, no!! Muncie trip!! Some of you who have followed other threads of mine may know already what that meant--my honeywumpus's used bookstore, The White Rabbit. Somehow, though, I made it out with a very minimal amount of books added to the "to read" piles: a couple of science fiction/fantasy and a children's chapter book. This self-control I'm going to chalk up to my low desire to poke through the piles of books in the hopes of finding something new and potentially good; the drive was a bit draining because of the thick fog and periodical spats of rain.

Book 7: Haunts of Old Louisville is not the chiller you might think; the emphasis is on the history of the buildings and the neighborhood and the original residents as it is of the ghostly activities. The content and language are kid friendly but I think the writing style and approach is more adult--a YA reader would probably enjoy it, especially if they have an interest in history, especially of Kentucky. Architects will enjoy the brief history of each building and its style, and the pictures, though black and white, really show off the beauty of each structure. A bonus map that shows where each location is in the neighborhood is included in the front of the book.

Reading more children's and YA books now; just a heads-up, foggidawn, fuzzi, and others interested in those.

Jan 26, 8:37am Top

Book 8: Neversink: Neversink is an island of sea birds, overseen loosely by Tytonia, ruled by owls. It's been this way ever since the Cod Wars, when Tytonia's wildlife was struck with a deadly plague (is there any other kind, really?) and the owls forced the auks and other sea birds to provide them with the only "safe" food--fish. The sea birds fought back and eventually a truce was made, with Neversink gaining a sort of independence and yet officially not. Basically, the owls ignored them, and birds like Lockley and his wife, Lucy, both puffins, lived on the island in peace. Except there were a few owls who couldn't forgive grudges, most notably Rozbell, a pygmy owl with a Napoleon complex. When Rozbell finds out that there are a few diseased animals showing up on Tytonia, he works up his followers into believing that the plague is returning and forms a coup to overthrow their king, the Great Grey Owl. Once in charge, Rozbell and his Parliament (used simultaneously as both the government body and the collective noun describing a group of owls) decide to start the Cod Wars all over again, jeopardizing every bird on Neversink. It's up to Lockley and his friends, Egbert the walrus and Ruby the hummingbird, to find a way to save Neversink from tyranny.

I'm having a hard time deciding what age group this was written for. Older YA readers would probably not be as interested in this as tweens and upper elementary, but that's as close as I can come to an age grouping. As far as language and content, there is no cursing, no steamy sex scenes (there's talk of mating but nothing descriptive--it's just mentioned--and laying eggs, and that's as far as it gets), but there are some jokes and references that I think would go over the heads of younger readers. For instance, there's a reference, and a somewhat suggestive one at that, to Sigmund Freud, but without knowing who Freud is, the suggestive part is diminished and kids will probably take it at face value and not read much into it. There are some words that younger readers would need defined or explained; with the Parliament of Owls, it's fun to know that other than being a governing body, it also refers to the owls as simply a group. (A lamentation of swans is also mentioned, but not in a double-meaning sort of way; it simply is there.) If you were a kid reading this for a book report and you were expected to find 10 new vocabulary words to define in it (did anyone else have to do that when they did book reports?), there would certainly be a lot of possibility in here. The story was good, though if you're anti-evolution, there is a hint of that in here so that might be a negative for some--and it featured several fantasy elements: talking animals, a quest, a goddess. It could be used as a read-aloud if your child is precocious enough and not bothered by animal injuries and death and the child is old enough to not need a lot of illustrations (there are a few scattered throughout).

Jan 26, 5:05pm Top

>34 CassieBash: guess what our ONLY local used bookstore had a copy of when I stopped by today...? Yep, Gypsy From Nowhere! Since I have a lot of credit, it didn't cost me anything.

Jan 27, 2:09pm Top

>36 fuzzi: AWESOME!! I'm kicking around the idea of re-reading the series soon. I know I was thinking of doing it later in the season but your last read made me want to read a pony book soon. I don't have any pony books in my unread to-read piles right now, and I don't think that I can wait until May. I may start the series after Book 10, another children's fantasy.

Book 9 is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm. I must confess that I have never read a Piggle-Wiggle book until now, even though she's considered a classic children's book series. I read this one because Derek had read it and he remembered the horse named Trotsky and we had a conversation about whether the book had ever been banned by McCarthy-ists. (I did a little preliminary research but couldn't find anything that suggests it had ever been banned.) Since there's nothing else suggestive of Communism in here, perhaps it was examined and dismissed as harmless (which it is). I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been banned, because heaven knows there are books out there banned for very flimsy reasons--but I digress. The book is about a woman who can "fix" childrens' bad habits; in this one, they stay on her farm and unlearn their bad behavior through some event that seems spontaneous to children but reading as an adult, have been contrived by Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to show the child the "wrongness" of their actions. What bothered me, as an adult, was how every parent seemed ineffectual; when one parent lamented about their child's behavior, it seemed like the whole town recommended her as a solution. Now, I know parenting is work, and as someone who's never had children, maybe I'm underestimating how difficult it is, but still--a whole town that seems to need this woman's help to straighten up their kids? Wow, I'd hate to live or work as a teacher/librarian/pediatrician/fill in your own preferred child care industry here in that place!

Still, young children will probably find the stories (each chapter is about a different child with a different behavior) engaging, the content and language is appropriate for any audience, and each chapter is short enough to be good for read-aloud for kids ready to sit still for stories without pictures on every page. They might even be braver, more responsible, and better behaved--at least maybe in the short term. Or not. But at least as a parent, you'll be able to tell yourself (I hope) that you're not that ineffectual a parent.

Jan 28, 9:56pm Top

>37 CassieBash: I loved the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books as a kid, but you’re right — all the parents are really helpless!

Jan 29, 8:04am Top

>38 foggidawn: Yeah, I think it has more kid appeal than adult appeal; nothing wrong with that.

Book 10: Woo-hoo! I've hit the 10th book mark (so to speak) and we haven't even yet made it out of January! I'm planning on reading a few more YA (pony) books with the previously mentioned Gypsy trilogy, and then I think I'll tackle something longer and more challenging, like the second book in that 20 volume set, or a good nonfiction. But first, book 10 was Magical Mischief. In our modern world, magic is almost like an entity unto itself, collecting in pockets in various places according to its liking (English magic likes seldom-trafficked, dusty and unkempt places), and it can be very difficult for it to find a place to suit its needs. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), there are places like Hardbattle's Books, a bookstore full of dusty tomes and lots of nooks and crannies. The problem is that magic doesn't stay quiet; it defends itself, starting with a strong, unpleasant smell that adjusts to each individual's non-preference. But Mr. Hardbattle, once learning that magic is almost like an endangered species, is determined to try to protect it and continue to offer it sanctuary in his little store. Unfortunately, this hurts sales and makes life difficult, and when his rent is going to be raised, he must try to figure out where to relocate this magic so sales can increase. With the help of a boy named Arthur, Ms. Quint the spinster, and an unexpected and unlikely friend or two (no spoilers here!), Mr. Hardbattle has very little time to find the magic a suitable new home.

This was a fun book that, as an adult reading this, you can tell after a bit that it will have (*******VAGUE SPOILERS HERE*****) a happy ending. Everything will be resolved to a relatively positive degree of satisfaction. I would say that this book is an excellent read-aloud and there are no real warnings here. Yes, there are some unsavory and downright unpleasant characters, but just about every book is going to have at least one or two of these. No adult content, no bad language, no violence...a perfect G-rated book.

Jan 29, 9:14am Top

>39 CassieBash: let me know when you plan to read the first Gypsy book, and I'll join you in a shared read.

I've decided to not read this month's Black Stallion challenge book, The Island Stallion Races, as I didn't care for it when I read it years ago. No sense in wasting time on something I'm pretty sure I won't like.

Jan 29, 4:30pm Top

>40 fuzzi: Go for it! I've started already and I'm not quite halfway through. Though as fast as you read, you'll no doubt catch up in no time! :)

Jan 29, 5:53pm Top

>4 CassieBash: I'm going to hold off, as I'm trying to finish A Civil Contract by Thursday, and I've a couple hundred (at least!) pages to go...

Jan 30, 7:22am Top

>42 fuzzi: Sounds like a plan. I can hold off on reading the others; we can do a shared read for the second book in the trilogy, Gypsy and Nimblefoot, if you want.

Jan 31, 6:58pm Top

Last day of the month, and I just finished Book 11: Gypsy from Nowhere. Yes, it's a tween/teen girl and her pony book. Yes, the technology, clothes, and other things in the book hint at its age. But it has a great message, wonderful characters (including the horse, who isn't anthropomorphic but who does have, as anyone with a close relationship with their pets will tell you, a distinct personality). No bad language, no adult content, but still a serious problem that a teenager might identify with, even now. You see, Wendy loves horses, and she dreamed of owning Buck, a horse owned by her best friend's father. But when she disregarded the warning to not take Buck out of the paddock, he shies into a truck. Wendy is badly injured, Buck is killed, and Wendy blames herself completely, and refuses to ride ever again, even though she's going to live on her aunt and uncle's dude ranch. She vows not to ride, fall in love with a horse, or make any friends, since she is certain they will hate her for what she did, but when she finds a stray filly caught in barbed wire, she finds it harder and harder to keep her vows. Will the filly she's named Gypsy help heal Wendy's heart?

Part 1 of a trilogy. Horse-crazed girls will like these as long as they don't mind the dated-ness.

Edited: Feb 3, 8:42am Top

>43 CassieBash: I'd like that, have to locate a copy first.

>44 CassieBash: nice review. I finished Gypsy last night, review will be forthcoming...

Feb 8, 8:47am Top

Book 12: The Blackhope Enigma is an art fantasy. You see, the Blackhopes were a well-respected family in ages past, and they commissioned a painting from a Venetian master who was said to have known how to make paintings "live". I mean really, truly, alive paintings. This painting master, Fausto Corvo, was being hunted by a greedy, power-hungry man named Soranzo, who wanted his own living paintings. So Fausto hid himself away, supposedly into a painting, but not before painting something for his good friend, Innes Blackhope. This painting hangs on display in a tower on the Blackhope estate--now a museum--and from time to time, they say, the odd old skeleton will appear in the tower, dressed in clothes from another time. The skeletons appear on a labyrinth set into the floor of the tower, right in front of the painting. It's all part of the mystery, but to Sunni and Blaise, two high school art students, they're more interested in the painting. But when Sunni's stepbrother Dean figures out the secret to entering the painting, Sunni and Blaise must follow to try to get him out--only they don't know how to get out, either. Can Dean, Sunni, and Blaise find their way through the world of Fausto Corvo's painting to find the way out, while dodging the monsters and perils in the painting as well as figuring out which of the people who have also found the way they can trust?

A YA reader with just a hint of romance, readers will be trying to figure out friend from foe right alongside the main characters. This is the first book of the adventures of Sunni and Blaise--my copy had an excerpt from the next book--an excerpt that I decided not to read since I don't have a copy and I don't want to take the time for an inter-library loan book at this time. If I come across a copy by chance, I'll probably get it; this book was good but I'm not feeling the need to absolutely continue the story, as it has a good stand-alone ending. This book has no inappropriate language or content; I'll rate it G or PG (for the potential romance and a bit of minor violence). Recommend to YA fantasy readers

Feb 8, 10:12am Top

Speaking of continuing stories, I managed to find a copy of each of the followup books to Gypsy From Nowhere. Yes, I liked it that much. :)

Feb 8, 12:32pm Top

>47 fuzzi: I could tell by your review. When do you want to start the shared read of Gypsy and Nimblefoot?

Edited: Feb 8, 3:43pm Top

>48 CassieBash: after it gets here, ha!

I had ordered it using bookfinder.com, through a company called Valore Books. A couple of days later I got an "oops, it's no longer available" email, and I was not amused. I then found it on Ebay (yippee!) and hope to receive it in the next week or so.

I had a similar problem with Alibris books (or maybe it was Biblio?), that their database was not updated regularly. After ordering books several times and none of them being available, I stopped using the company.

Feb 8, 4:42pm Top

>49 fuzzi: OK, keep me posted. I'll start volume 2 of that 20 volume set; it's another compilation of short stories or sections from novels, so I can put it aside between sections and come back to it easily.

Feb 9, 7:26am Top

>50 CassieBash: I'm good, not lacking in available reading material until the next Gypsy book arrives. I am almost done with To Be a Logger and then I'm going to dive into a shared read of The Golden Gate with harrygbutler (we both like Alistair MacLean books).

Another one "in the mail" is The Black Stallion's Courage, which I could not find anywhere, including the library! Unbelievable. I'd like that one to get here soon, as it is February's book in the Black Stallion shared read "challenge".

Feb 9, 8:01am Top

>51 fuzzi: I've started the first section of vol. 2 of Classic Tales by Famous Authors: The Sea (touchstones obviously can't find this specific volume). About half the book are excerpts from Moby Dick. That should keep me busy while you finish up your reads! :)

Lacking in available reading material? Do either of us know what that state of being is like? I hope to never quite manage that, though I would like to have a bit less than I do now, LOL.

Feb 10, 12:46pm Top

>52 CassieBash: I can't imagine not having books, or a library!

Gypsy and the Moonstone Stallion came, and yet I'm still waiting for Gypsy and Nimblefoot to arrive, go figure. I started a long overdue reread of Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown last night as I was too tired to pick up a new read; I almost finished it. If the mail doesn't bring any new books today, I'll start my MacLean tonight, and go from there.

Feb 12, 4:26pm Top

>53 fuzzi: Isn't that always the way--getting series books out of order.

Feb 13, 10:15am Top

>23 CassieBash: >23 CassieBash: Love the Newbery reads - I haven't gotten around to either of those yet.

Feb 14, 7:47am Top

>55 rretzler: Both Pecos and Gay-Neck are older books so some libraries may not have them if they haven't held onto their older Newbery winners, but I would think that you'd easily find them via inter-library loan. I have a copy of Tales from Silver Lands on my shelves at home but have yet to read it. It's kind of buried right now, like the book I want to read on milkweed.

I'm nearly finished with the section on Moby Dick and am looking forward to moving on with the rest of the book. So far, the first two volumes of this 20 volume set just haven't thrilled me. Since the books were published pre-1923, all the material contained within is in public domain, and what I might do is try to track down copies of the original source material outside of these volumes, which will likely make their way to Muncie in a couple of years or so, once I've finished reading them all. If someone wants the entire set, then, they can purchase it there.

Feb 14, 5:27pm Top

>56 CassieBash: That's likely the case with our library. It is supposed to be a good library system, but I've found that they certainly lack some of the older books - likely because they may have circulated so much that they were damaged and couldn't be replaced because they are not out of print. It's a shame that award-winning books don't stay in print.

Happy Valentine's Day, Cassie.

Edited: Feb 15, 12:45pm Top

>57 rretzler: our library discards books that haven't been read within a certain time frame. Some books I've found at their FOTL sales were in great shape.

Feb 19, 4:46pm Top

>58 fuzzi: I've found a mix, though I think most of the sales books I've picked up from libraries have been in pretty decent shape.

Now that I've finished with the Moby section, this seafaring volume is going by much more quickly, and is a bit more enjoyable than the previous, war-related volume. Still not probably selling me on keeping the set, but there are still 18 more to go. I'm going to say it will take me a few years to read through the entire set, as I'm about ready to switch to maybe a nonfiction or go back to juvenile and YA fiction reads after this one.

Feb 20, 8:33am Top

>59 CassieBash: mix it up! If you look at my reads list you'll see that I do that, a lot.

Feb 21, 4:17pm Top

Book 13: Classic Tales by Famous Authors volume 2: The Sea is a collection of nautical-themed adventures and includes, as the first half, selections from Moby Dick, parts of which were interesting (although at times gory, as the excerpts seemed to focus more on killing whales than anything) but was overall slow going, as it was full of details as any nonfiction book on the subject of whaling would be. After that came an excerpt from Charles Reade's book Hard Cash, "The Sea Theives of Sulu" in which a ship with cargo, crew, and passengers meets pirates on the high seas, followed by another excerpt, this time from Victor Hugo's Ninety-Three, "The Escape of the Cannon" in which a twenty-four pounder cannon has not been fastened down properly and during the voyage slips free and starts rolling uncontrollably on the deck. Then two more excerpts: the first, "Rounding Cape Horn", from a book called Two Years before the Mast, in which a ship and her crew face the daunting challenge of having to round the cape during winter, followed by "A Real Shipwreck" from South Sea Bubbles, in which the author gives an account of what it's really like to be shipwrecked (not like those romanticized fictions like Swiss Family Robinson or Robinson Crusoe that the author finds so obviously unrealistic. The last two works are a bit different from the others, which were very serious. The first is a poem, The Yarn of the Nancy Bell by half of the musical playwright team of Gilbert and Sullivan; Gilbert's poem is black humor about the desperate measures taken by the crew of the ship "Nancy Bell" when the ship was wrecked and the remaining crew members were facing starvation. The second--and my personal favorite of the lot--is Barny O'Reirdon, the Navigator (which sadly seems to lack a touchstone), by Samuel Lover, in which a well-respected fisherman in the little Irish village of Kinsale meets up with a young upstart relative who has been to Fingal and seen nautical wonders Barny can't believe. Desperate not to be shown up, he decides to put to sea and sail to Fingal to see for himself the wondrous sights science and "larnin'" have done. The first problem is that Barny doesn't know where Fingal is. When he finds a ship he's heard is going to Fingal, he decides to follow it. The second problem becomes apparent after following the vessel for a week or so--his "guide" isn't going to Fingal, but to Bengal.

Like the first volume, these classics are a product of their pre-and turn-of-the-20th century times, and will occasionally have some offensive stereotypes and phrases. It did have the author biography and critical synopses of the selections but there were no introductions so I'm guessing that the intros in the first volume were it for the series. As with any collection, each reader will have their own favorites; I was drawn most to the two humorous ones--though I did also really enjoy Hugo's almost poetic description of the literal "loose cannon". Recommend to fans of seafaring works and to classics lovers.

Things have been stressful at work and so I'm going back to children's and YA fiction, to indulge in lighter reads and escapist literature, so those of you who are into this (I'm looking at you two in particular, fuzzi and foggidawn), get ready for more reviews!

Feb 22, 3:25pm Top

>61 CassieBash: I've got the next Gypsy book in the queue, not "on deck" but 2nd in line. It should be a quick read when I get to it. I've got Pirate King by Laurie R. King about half done, and then I really want to get Alistair MacLean's The Golden Gate finished before Thursday. Soon...soon...

Feb 23, 12:30pm Top

>62 fuzzi: I'm chomping at the bit (pun intended); I'll read quick books until you give me the starting bell. :)

Feb 26, 8:35am Top

I've read three books to post here, all children's/YA. Two are William Sleator books.

Book 14: Falling In is a youth fantasy--probably upper elementary and into middle school--about a girl who doesn't feel she fits in to our world. Isabelle Bean feels certain she is a changeling--an elf or fairy baby switched for a human child--but has no proof. When she opens the door in her school nurse's office, she finds herself falling into another world, a world where children are constantly moving about between the 5 villages overshadowed by a child-eating witch seeking revenge for the death of her own child at the hands of children. But when Isabelle meets the witch, who turns out to be a healer with a special gift that seems magical, she's convinced that she is the healer's child, switched before it could truly die, and sent to our world to save it. Is she really a changeling child? A story about family and not wasting gifts given to you, there are some dark spots (including the story about the witch's baby being stoned to death by children) but there is no swearing or sex. A suitable read-aloud for older children ready to handle a little darker fare that's not as much scary as suspenseful. But, as always, read or skim it yourself first before deciding whether your child is ready for themes about child abuse and infanticide.

Books 15 & 16: Marco's Millions is the first of two books that go together; The Boxes is the sequel. So as not to give away too much plot about either, I'm going to just give a brief overall synopsis of the two, much like I did last year with his other two books The Spirit House and Dangerous Wishes. Marco is a boy who has always measured millions not as money but as miles--he loves visiting new places. His younger sister Lilly is frail but able to sense things before they happen, much like Marco's mysterious aunt who had disappeared years before. Because of this, their parents guard Lilly like she was made of glass, and Ruth, the youngest child, often is overshadowed. When Lilly tells Marco about her dreams of strange creatures asking her to come into their world to help them appease their Lord--a singularity that distorts time and space--it is Marco and not Lilly who makes the journey. "The Boxes" follows Lilly's daughter as Marco leaves his niece, Anne, in charge of a pair of boxes she's told not to open (but of course does anyway)--one that holds a strange creature, and the other that holds an interesting box, not unlike one that Marco gets on his first adventure. Either book can be read as a stand-alone, but having read The Boxes once before, reading the first book did help a little in being able to understand what Anne is facing when she opens the boxes. This pair of books is a good, quick tween science fiction read for a weekend.

Feb 26, 8:44am Top

Oh, and I thought some of you might get a kick out of seeing my Guardians of the To-Read Piles:

They are, from left to right, Quetzie (short for Quetzalcoatl), Chezzie (short for Cheshire, as in cat), and Oculus (Latin for "eye"), because he has 5 of them.

Feb 26, 3:51pm Top

>65 CassieBash: I love your Guardians of the To-Read Piles, but I am distracted trying to to read the titles of the books :-)

Feb 26, 5:26pm Top

>66 FAMeulstee: That's OK; take your time looking. Sorry that not all of the books are title-out. You may not be able to tell it, but the piles are a bit wobbly if you're not careful messing with them, because they're probably about 4 feet tall or so. Even with the wall and each other to help provide support, by the time you get that high, stability can be an issue. Many are library discards and the hardcovers usually have those plastic protector sleeves they add, and that adds a certain slick element into the mix, too. It took a bit of careful stacking to avoid a Jenga-style collapse.

While I'll probably read a little from each pile this year, Oculus is actually guarding the pile I mainly plan to be drawing from over the next couple of weeks. Except the medieval mysteries by P.C. Doherty under Chezzie are starting to whisper seductively to me too, however....

Feb 27, 10:32am Top

>65 CassieBash: I see what books you have guarded by Oculus...I'm trying to finish my current read before midnight on Wednesday, but will be up for the next Gypsy book later this week!

Feb 27, 12:19pm Top

>68 fuzzi: Yes, but the current read, Boltzmon!, came from that pile, too. Most of what he's guarding are YA and chapter books, plus a bit of nonfiction, including the book about seeds I bought last November at the library sale and want to read this year. Not that I didn't want the Gypsy books close by.... ;)

Feb 28, 9:01am Top

>63 CassieBash: last night I decided to start Gypsy and Nimblefoot as something relaxing to read just before bed. I wound up reading the whole thing, late.


Feb 28, 4:43pm Top

>70 fuzzi: Yeah, I know--it's that good. I'll tackle it next; have just a very little bit of Boltzmon! left. Shall we say to start "Moonstone Stallion" on Saturday or Sunday? That gives me tonight to finish the Sleator book, and a couple of days to read "Nimblefoot" before starting "Moonstone". My prediction is that one or both of us will have the trilogy finished by Monday morning. :)

Feb 28, 5:58pm Top

>71 CassieBash: that'll work. I rolled my Alistair MacLean from a February challenge to one in March, and picked up the latest Black Stallion book from the library, lots to read!

Edited: Mar 1, 9:17am Top

First day of March, and another book to post:

Book 17: Boltzmon! is another Sleator book about a space/time singularity (he likes those), but this one is sentient and even has a physical form. The remnant of a black hole, the boltzmon is all-knowing and can take people to other places in the space/time continuum, including alternate dimensions of our world. This is precisely what happens to Chris, younger brother to Lulu, his popular, spoiled, and ill-tempered sister who makes Chris's life miserable. But when the boltzmon suddenly appears to Chris and explains that unless he can get to the mysterious time temples on an alternate Earth, he will die. Chris doesn't know exactly what he needs to do in these temples, and the boltzmon--who seems to be an unreliable form of transportation at best--isn't exactly forthcoming with explanations. Will Chris be able to get to the time temples and figure out what he needs to do?

Like nearly all Sleator books, this one has a twist, and while on the surface the plot seems to be about getting to the time temples, the book's message is really about how important family is, despite all of the differences between siblings and parents. This slim novel is a quick read for adults and YA but might be a little slower going for the average upper elementary student, though one into science fiction will probably understand it better. No unsuitable content or language for any age, and while it's not one of my favorite Sleator books, it was pretty good and even I had a hard time figuring out whether the boltzmon was trying to help Chris or hinder him out of sheer spite. The book has a similar feel of one of his previous books (and one of my personal favorites), Interstellar Pig, but was very different enough to make this not seem like a cookie cutter plot.

As of March, here's how I stand in the challenge (the pink fish with the lipstick and huge eyes):

I'm really not that far behind compared to last year, in which I had an early edge, thanks to a surgery that kept me home (with a sizeable pile of books nearby) for three full weeks, and another three on a no lift, no push, no pull ban that meant I had little responsibilities and lots of free time. So I'm pleased with the pace I've got right now. Depending, of course, on how our spring and summer weather turns out--right now, temperatures are looking to be near normal but precipitation, at least through the spring, will be above average--I may slow down some during the gardening months, as I spend more time outside weeding, planting, and such and less time inside reading, crafting, etc.

My breakdown so far is as follows:

Children's fiction: 8
YA fiction: 5 (I'm counting the Sleator books in YA--even though the reading level is younger, the science fiction content is more middle/high school; they definitely straddle the line)
Adult fiction: 2
Adult nonfiction: 2

Next up, obviously, will be the two last books in the Gypsy horse trilogy--2 more YA--and then I think I'll tackle that seeds book. This seems like an appropriate time to start reading some of the gardening nonfiction to help mentally prepare myself for the gardening season!

Mar 2, 7:22pm Top

Book 18: Gypsy and Nimblefoot is the second book in the trilogy, and my personal favorite of the three (though they're all very good). Last year, Nimblefoot was badly hurt in an accident, and Wendy's uncle agrees to let her ride him to test how well the injury healed. When they discover the horse's reluctance--even downright refusal--to touch rocky ground, Wendy's uncle begins to second guess his decision to spare the horse's life. Can Wendy and Gypsy solve Nimblefoot's problem before her uncle decides the horse is dangerous and must be destroyed? And what of the haunted gulch and the rumors of thieves? Both the A plot and B plot are really good, and the author does a great job of tying the two plots together in the end. An excellent G rated horse/girl book suitable for long read-alouds or solitary reading.

Next up, starting tomorrow, is the third book in this series? Ready, fuzzi? ;)

Edited: Mar 2, 9:18pm Top

>74 CassieBash: I was going to start this month's Black Stallion book next, but I'm more 'n ready to tackle the third Gypsy book instead!

I originally had requested the first book Gypsy From Nowhere through ILL, but as you might recall, I found a copy at our used bookstore before my loan came through. The ILL arrived, and the lady who ordered it for me decided to read it instead of returning it immediately!

Mar 4, 8:00pm Top

>75 fuzzi:. Hee, hee, we librarians can be like that! ;)

I just finished book 19: Gypsy and the Moonstone Stallion, the third and final book in the Gypsy horse trilogy. In this installment, Wendy and her friends, including new friend Little Elk, a Native American boy, find out that Wild Horse Island, an island with ties to the Blackfeet tribe, is to be developed into a resort. Legend has it that a horse--the spirit of a long-dead warrior chief who died on the island, haunts the place. But when Wendy and her friends really see a pale horse on the island, the race is on to save the horse before the developers start construction.

While not my favorite book of the trilogy, all the Gypsy books are great and my only complaint is that there are only three. Nowadays the author probably would have been urged into making a series and I could see the potential here; great characters, good plots, and the themes of family and friendship running throughout. Again, a G rating makes it suitable for family bedtime reading. Really, I'm serious--if you're into the girl and horse books, this trio should be on your to read list.

Next up--Tackling the book I rescued from the last chance sale shelves at the local public library, a like-new copy of a nonfiction about seeds. I'm guessing a third of you may be scratching your heads and wondering why anyone would want to read about seeds. I suspect another third is thinking it's probably an interesting topic and you're eagerly awaiting the review. The last third is scratching their heads, too, but only because they're familiar with my usual nonfiction choices and are wondering why I'm not reading about something gross like infectious diseases. Don't worry--I have a book about the plague planned for later. :)

Mar 4, 8:35pm Top

>76 CassieBash: as I finished the third book in the Gypsy series, I was saddened to think there were no more. Wendy's dad could have come to visit, and especially I would have liked Gypsy becoming a 2 yo and finally being put to saddle.

Shucks... :(

Mar 5, 8:13am Top

>77 fuzzi: I know! Some series go on for too long, but I think this one had potential to go on for at least a few more books. I could also see this series developing into a horseback Nancy Drew type series, because there always seems to be some sort of mystery going on. I think that's Sharon Wagner's big genre, having looked at other titles she's written.

Mar 7, 8:22am Top

So I decided to work on reading that natural history of seeds book in an attempt to inspire me to garden. Unfortunately, it's not happening, mostly because it's snowing outside now.

First torrential rains and flooding, now snow, sleet, and ice. Yep, that's northwest Indiana for you.

Mar 11, 11:12am Top

The last-chance nonfiction, An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds, is book 20. This is a readable but well-researched book that takes a quick but encompassing look at all aspects of seeds: why plants make them, what the benefits of seeds over other propagation techniques are, what the size of the seed means, dispersal, germination, masting (years when plants can make bumper crops of seeds), seed production and protection, even chapters on our domestication and uses of seeds for food and drink. Gardeners will likely find this fascinating, as will amateur botanists and naturalists, but the book is obviously written for a general adult public and not for the scholar already grounded in the topic. A good adult nonfiction read that I'm going to keep, at least for the moment.

My short-term goal is to read 5 more books by the end of April, which will mean that I'm 1/3 of the way through both the year and the goal. If I can continue to read at least 25 books every 4 months, I'll reach my goal. The most impressive thing about this year's challenge is that I have not yet used an audiobook, which is unusual, but now that the weather is beginning to settle itself (more or less) another Muncie road trip should happen soon. I have a few pre-loaded Librivox books already on my phone, so I'm ready.

On to my next read, which I think will be a mystery. Haven't done one of those in awhile.

Mar 12, 12:55pm Top

>80 CassieBash: I'll check the library for that one.

Mar 22, 7:47am Top

I'm monitoring the forecast for the Muncie, Indiana area. I was planning a trip down there to visit Derek, but we'll see how things shape up, as they're predicting snow. Right now, they bumped up the snow totals from last night's modest prediction (3-5 inches) to a storm watch with 8 inches and a glaze of ice. Of course, they still have time to change the amounts and downgrade, so we'll see. A part of me says that if the weather turns out to be too nasty to risk the trip, that it might be for the best, since the Muncie Public Library is having a bag sale on Sunday. I really don't need the temptation, but of course if I'm down there, we'll be going (Derek buys to restock his store's shelves, so it's a given). I'll wait to see what they're reporting the travel conditions to be on Saturday night before committing (Indiana residents can check road conditions using this link to the DHS travel map), but I know it's supposed to be worse both to our north (sorry, Chicago) and down south (from about Pulaski county on through Indy, including Muncie). I figure if the weather decides to be nasty enough that I'll cancel this weekend's trip, then God has decided I have enough books stashed right now and I don't need any more. :)

Oh, and if any of you have checked the map and wonder why everyone in the northwest corner of the state is in yellow, it's not snow (or at least not to my knowledge). Several counties, including mine, are still working on flood-damaged roads and bridges. I know of one report at least in our county where a bridge was at least partially destroyed by flood waters. Last I'd heard, there were still a handful of roads in our county that were closed or restricted due to damage. Still, we are lucky; I pray for those down south impacted by the tornadoes and severe weather.

Mar 22, 1:23pm Top

>82 CassieBash: if the storm is really bad, wouldn't the library cancel/postpone its sale?

Mar 22, 2:56pm Top

>83 fuzzi: Quite possibly, but I'm booked for the next two weekends with family things, and if they postpone, the timing may not be right. It may also depend on how quickly and efficiently Muncie the city can dig out comparable to its county (Delaware) the other counties on my route--sometimes the cities are better at snow removal than the county/state plows. The Kokomo area, for instance, falls in the watch too and they're notorious for getting lots of precipitation. (I've had to pull over between Grissom AFB and Kokomo for blinding rain more than once on Muncie and Indy trips.)

Mar 23, 8:25am Top

Very quickly--Book 21 is Brother Cadfael's Penance, which has to be close to the end of the series (which I'm reading out of order as I find the books; it's OK, they're mostly stand-alone mysteries), as it starts to tie up loose ends and as Cadfael starts reflecting on his mortality. In this book, Cadfael actually leaves the order--without his abbot's blessing, risking permanent isolation from the abbey--in order to save the son he'd sired in his youth before taking his vows. But first, he has to figure out who is holding his son, a prisoner of war whose name has not been released for ransom. Not a bad way to end the series, if this is the last book (it's the 20th--a nice even number on which to end). A good history mystery for those who like such.

Mar 24, 10:39am Top

>85 CassieBash: It looks like Brother Cadfael's Penance is indeed the last book in the series. I have read and liked six Cadfael books now, so I have 14 more to go :-)

Mar 24, 7:51pm Top

I saw a little while ago Indianapolis is already over 8 inches with a few more hours of snow anticipated. I didn't look as far north as Muncie to see accumulations, but I think it was a pretty narrow band of snow overall so maybe it wasn't as bad?

Mar 25, 7:16am Top

Muncie is in the clear; the snow did indeed go south. My route is not impacted so I see this as a sign that God thinks I need more books (or that He at least doesn't care if I get more). I'll be leaving in less than an hour for Derek's house. Once at the sale, my plan of attack--the youth books, then fiction and nonfiction (in that order) and finally the non-bag items like audiobooks and DVDs.

Mar 26, 7:38am Top

Brought home 41 books between the Muncie sale and the few Derek had set aside. I've even already read one, so book 22 is The Other Felix, a children's story about a boy named Felix who, every night, enters a dream world with terrifying monsters who chase him. And whatever happens in the dream world is disturbingly real, as evidence that the things that happen there carry over into the real world (he loses a slipper in one of the visits, and the slipper has vanished when he wakes up). He also has to deal with his father's late nights and worries about The Project; if it fails, his father loses his job. And then there's the new kid at school, Chase, who doesn't like Felix and makes trouble for him. But at least in the dream world, Felix finds a friend--a boy who looks just like him, also named Felix, who knows how to stand up to the monsters. But as Felix spends more and more times with the "Other Felix", and learns how to stand up to the monsters and survive in the dream world, the "Other Felix" starts to become less friendly.

A book about facing your fears and uncertainties, with the monsters standing in allegorically for real-world problems, "The Other Felix" is meant for younger audiences and would make a good read-aloud, with no inappropriate language or content. The monsters may be a bit scary for some children, though if you're concerned about the end and don't mind finding out more, read the SPOILER BELOW:


The book has a happy ending, even for the monsters. Felix visits the dream world at the end one last time, but as an observer rather than participant, and he sees that the monsters and the Other Felix have made friends, sharing food and playing games. Things improve with Chase and school, and even though his father loses his job because The Project fails, Felix feels things will turn out OK and even tells his dad he'll help him fight his own monsters.

Mar 26, 3:46pm Top

>89 CassieBash: Sounds like you had a nice haul!

Mar 26, 4:53pm Top

>90 thornton37814: Oh, yeah. I could have done far more damage to both their inventory and my pocketbook, but I restrained myself. Mostly I bought more children's and YA novels, but there's a mystery or two, at least one adult fantasy novel, and some nonfiction, mostly on animals but there's at least one forensics book. My fiance, Derek, bought 11 bags (compared to my three) to restock his store. But then, he's buying for everyone, and I'm just buying for myself. I picked through their children's and YA pretty thoroughly but restrained myself with the animal nonfiction, since they had a lot and I'm not picky when it comes to animals, even the ones most people think are ugly and gross (last year's Parasite Rex book probably proved that to a few of my thread readers). But I did pick up a few, one on animal language and one on insect/human relationships.

Those of you who have been following my 75 challenges for awhile may recognize one of my purchased YA titles from my 2015 challenge (book 31): Rotters, which I recorded as an audiobook at that time. I now have a nice, shiny (literally, as the dust jacket is covered in one of those clear plastic sleeves we librarians often add)hardback copy of my own. This book, which deals with professional grave robbing, is part horror, part father/son reconciliation story. Included in my review was this note:

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).

It still makes me chuckle thinking about it winning a Parents' Choice Award.... :)

Mar 26, 6:53pm Top

Hmmm... grave robbing - might make a nice Halloween Read addition!

Mar 27, 7:41am Top

>92 drneutron: If you have the stomach for detailed descriptions of decomposition, yes, it would. This book is pretty gory; it's right up there with Parasite Rex and Stiff, both of which had some pretty graphic descriptions of less-than-pleasant things, even by my account (and I've kept "Stiff"). But hey, if you can stomach it, then go for it! I'm planning on waiting for another year or two before thinking about re-reading it, since it's been less than 5 years when I listened to it and, well, that "to read" pile doesn't get any smaller if I do too many re-reads. Got quite a bit bigger, in fact. And I was just thinking how nice it was that it seemed I'd made a small dent. Ah, well, that's the life of a bibliophile.

I have plenty of horror books in the "to read" pile for Halloween, so I'm set for October.

Mar 27, 5:17pm Top

For those of you who like to read titles in piles of books--I'm looking at you, FAMeulstee :) --here are the piles of newly-purchased Muncie Public Library (and a few from White Rabbit Used Books) that I brought home.


Mar 28, 7:51am Top

Book 23: Everyone knows the story of Jack and the beanstalk, right? How Jack climbed up the beanstalk, was hidden by the giant's wife, how he stole from the giant 3 times. But The Thief and the Beanstalk takes that story and goes beyond. Jack is an old but still wealthy man now, living in a fortress with his burden of what happened to the kindly giantess after he'd left; when he'd fled for the final time, the giant didn't follow immediately, but took out his anger on his wife. Jack's been living with this guilt for a long time, wondering if the giantess had been killed by her husband. So when Nick, an orphan who falls in with a cut-throat band of thieves with designs on Jack's fortune, gets caught in Jack's house, Jack uses Nick's fascination with his story--which many doubt really happened--to pass along three of the magic beans. When the beanstalk grows, Nick can't help but climb it, hoping to procure his own treasure that will let him escape from the band of cut-throats he's fallen in with. But what awaits him at the top?

This book is for upper elementary/tween readers, and would be a good read for a boy who likes fantasy--as long as he doesn't have arachnophobia, that is. As nasty as the descriptions of the giantess's sons are, the most frightening creatures in the book (in my opinion) are the spiders with human heads, particularly the baby ones with infant heads. Yes, the giants are violent and Finch, the leader of the cut-throats, is about as nasty a human character as you're likely to meet (hopefully only in books), but the author does a great job of describing those human-headed spiders. I'm not phobic about spiders myself, but even I found the scenes with these creatures a bit unsettling, as they somewhat act like humans and can reason to a good extent. It would make a good read-aloud and has no foul language or mature content, though there is some violence on the part of the band of thieves and of course the giants and spiders--basically, all your villains. It does have a slow start but the pace picks up quickly once Nick plants the beans.

Mar 28, 9:28am Top

>95 CassieBash: Those spiders sound like a big "nope" to me.

Mar 28, 11:52am Top

>94 CassieBash: nice haul!

I love the afghan/bedspread they're on, too.

Edited: Apr 11, 7:56am Top

>96 foggidawn: Yeah, the author did a good job giving them just enough human features, behaviors, and personalities to make the creep factor really high. Like I said, not usually bothered with giant spiders--Aragog from Harry Potter and the giant spiders in J. R. R. Tolkien's books don't give me the creeps like these did. The infant spiders were particularly eerie, because despite the cover art showing one that looks like it has a doll's head rather than a real child's head on it, the author description was so good that I could really picture real infant heads on the spiders, and as they reacted in a very human-infant way to their surroundings...I'll leave it at that. But horror fans would love this, so boys with a penchant for creepy stories would find this right up their alley.

I've finished another book from the haul, a short tween collection of stories that retell the story of "Little Red Riding Hood"; I present Book 24: Cloaked in Red. After a highly amusing (and, really, accurate) introduction in which Velde points out the shortcomings of the original story (no matter which version it is), she sets out to correct these shortcomings in eight different retellings--some amusing, some ironic, some a bit darker than others. But all have, somewhere, the main aspects of the original story: the girl dressed in a red cloak, the wolf, grandma, the woodcutter, the basket of goodies, picking flowers, etc.

A quick read, and tween girls who love fairy tales in particular will probably enjoy this. Me, I found some of the stories (as is often the case in anthologies) to be better than others; my personal favorite was "Deems the Wood Gatherer", which was very amusing in a dark and ironic way and wove in hints of other fairy tales. But none of the tales were bad and the language and content make this appropriate for younger readers as well, or as a good read-aloud.

My new genre tally is as follows:

Children's fiction: 10
YA fiction: 8
Adult fiction: 3
Adult nonfiction: 3

I'm looking to start another nonfiction; I'll have to read a bit of it to determine whether it's YA nonfiction or adult nonfiction; it has a lot of photos and the subject matter--weird science--could go either way, but with a quick, cursory glance, I'm leaning towards YA nonfiction. This is another Muncie find, and probably another one, like the last three reads, that will find its way to Derek's shop at the next Muncie trip. This title doesn't look like a library discard--the only markings inside were the price and a cryptic #11, so I'm guessing this is someone's donation.

Mar 31, 8:07pm Top

Book 25: Extreme Science: From Cybernetics to Time Travel, Adventures at the Edge of Knowledge: A quick adult nonfiction read that highlights some rather disturbing personas in the scientific community, both past and relatively present. Some of the notable names discussed include Vladimir Demikhov, who created living (albeit short-lived) two headed dogs via surgery, Stubbins Ffirth, known for trying to prove that yellow fever was not spread by human to human contact by exposing himself to various bodily fluids from infected patients, Philip G. Zimbardo, who conducted an unethical experiment in which student volunteers were assigned roles as either prison guards or prisoners to see what would happen, Harold Shipman, a doctor who killed elderly women with drug overdoses, and Kevin Warwick, who has implanted microchips into his body. And there are actually worse people included in this book-complete with pictures. This isn't a book for the faint of heart (and it says so in the introduction), but by now regular followers of my challenge threads know this is right up my alley. However, it will be going to Derek's as it isn't something I'd re-read. The most fascinating (and least disgusting) chapter--the last in the book--is about extreme science in pop culture. I suspect this book won't be going to the shop but rather into Derek's personal collection.

Apr 10, 8:07am Top

Book 26: The Pirate Captain's Daughter: I've had this Muncie sale find read for a few days now, just haven't taken the time to post it. Catherine is the young, only child of the captain of the Reprisal, a pirate ship with a motley crew (what pirate ship has otherwise, though?). When her mother dies, Catherine insists to her father that she will be a pirate, whether on his ship or not, and so he feels compelled to take her on board, though of course the crew can't find out she's a girl, since having a woman on board is traditionally bad luck. If ever it's discovered, it means death not just for her, but for her father. To complicate things, one of the crew knows about a precious ruby that her father owns and is looking for it, and Catherine is certain he'll kill to get it, and there's also William, the young, handsome cabin boy.

This book doesn't glamorize pirates much, which makes for a nice change of pace from many books of this sort. In fact, it describes some rather brutal scenes and habits, which for Catherine, who has always viewed her father as a gentleman pirate, is a rude awakening. Though she herself isn't expected to take part in the actual raids of the ships, she and the other musicians are expected to play during them--raucous and off-key music that the pirates dance to in order to work themselves into a frenzy and frighten their victims--but she is on deck and witnesses the pirates' actions. There is just enough romance to make the story good but not so much to detract from it. YA girls who are looking for a book that's not a lot of romance nor a lot of action, but a blend of the two, will enjoy this. As for my collection, it will be going back to Muncie to become stock at Derek's store.

I'm nearly done with book 27, which I started this Saturday, plus I've started volume 3 (Heroism) of that 20 volume set and am reading short stories here and there between other books, so I'm not sure yet where that one will fall in the count. Like the previous two volumes, this is a lot of war-related stuff and therefore isn't my cup of tea, so I figure reading it between the YA fantasy and science fiction selections will keep me from getting bogged down by one war story after another (though the section they included this time from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables was more enjoyable than the one about Waterloo (this time they focused on the barricade scenes). I'm nearing the completion of the audiobook I've also got started, too, but it's progressing slowly as I'm only listening to it on and off for a half-hour or so at a time while commuting to and from work. (It would help if the Librivox app wasn't a bit glitchy, too--why won't you shut down when I tell you to!! And then you don't remember which chapter I was on and I have to skip around--aaarrrggghhh! It's back to OverDrive at this rate.)

Apr 11, 7:53am Top

Book 27: The Broken Thread is a YA fantasy that takes place in a world where a tapestry, woven by a select group of women, shows the fate of the world. Alina is excited to be chosen; she's wanted to be a Weaver all her life. But as a novice, she is expected to start at the bottom, and it's hard for her to have the patience to wait. So when she has the opportunity to stand, alone, before the tapestry, and she notices a loose thread that's too short to join with the others, she uses a strand of her own hair to connect the loose thread to another. In that moment, Alina watches in horror as thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of other strands break free. She is told that the short strand was the life of a prince whose life was to be cut short, and that by tying the thread with others, she has prevented his death, and he has caused the deaths of others. To fix this mistake, she is sent through time and space to kill the prince and thus repair the damage to the tapestry. But the prince is only a young boy, spoiled and scared because of attempts made on his life--attempts that have failed thus far. Alina decides to enlist the help of the person wanting to kill the prince, but she must find out who it is first. And as she spends more and more time with the prince and his handsome guard Daris, Alina finds it harder and harder to fulfill her mission.

Faster-paced than the previous read, this book also has more action. Alina's predicament of how to fix the tapestry without risking her own life as she helps guard the prince means that there are some good moments of intrigue and a hint of mystery to help balance the romance, which is subtle and slow to develop and compliments rather than takes over the plot. Fantasy readers of all ages who like good, strong women characters will appreciate this title.

Apr 16, 8:00am Top

Book 28: An Elephant in the Garden takes place in Dresden, Germany during World War II. A woman, known mostly in the book as Mutti (Mom) by her daughter, Elizabeth (from whose point of view the story is told, as she's an old woman now reflecting on her life to a nurse taking care of her in a home) and son Karli, has her husband away at war and is taking care of her children on her own. On top of this, Mutti had talked her boss, the director of the zoo in Dresden, into allowing her to care for Marlene, a 4 year old elephant, by taking her home every night--an elephant she's cared for ever since its mother had died, and whose life is threatened, as the director of the zoo has said that all the large animals must be shot if the air raid sirens go off, for the safety of the city, and this included the elephants. When Marlene chases an annoying dog one night, it saves their lives, as they are not within the city limits when the bombs completely destroy Dresden. Mutti, Elizabeth, Karli, and Marlene head together for the countryside, trying to avoid the bombers as well as the Russian army, which is now on the move towards them. When they seek shelter at the home of their aunt and uncle--a farm abandoned now, as they assume the family fled--they find Peter, a Canadian pilot who had helped in the bombing and parachuted from his plane before it went down. Peter tries to help, but Mutti, furious at what has happened, doesn't want to call a truce. Can the five of them--Mutti, Elizabeth, Karli, Peter, and Marlene--stay ahead of both German and Russian soldiers to reach the relative safety of the American and British forces?

Michael Morpurgo is known for writing a lot of YA and chapter books that take place during wartime, and the other book of his I've read is War Horse. I know that "Elephant" is loosely based on true events; I believe "War Horse" is as well. Both books dealt with the themes of human suffering during war, and the hardships of survival. "Elephant" contained little to no inappropriate language (I believe there may have been a "hell", but I believe it was used as a comparison for what Dresden looked like as it burned, rather than in a swearing context) and while there is a bit of romance, it's again very innocent and G rated. Recommend for those interested in historical fiction with a human interest slant.

Apr 19, 8:03am Top

Book 29: Children of the New Forest: A Librivox, public-domain audiobook read wonderfully by Nick Whitley (he's no Jim Dale, but he's good with expression and differentiating voices), this gentle historical fiction follows the lives of the four Beverly orphan children whose family had supported King Charles I during the English Civil War. Supposedly burned alive in their estate manor, they were secretly taken away by a servant to live in a cottage in the forest, taking on the identities of a forester's grandchildren and taking on his last name of Armitage. But their cottage lies in the forest now in the care of one of Cromwell's people, a man named Heatherstone. Most of the book is how the children, first under the advice and assistance of Jacob Armitage and then, after the old man dies, on their own, survive in the forest and avoid detection of their true identities, and how they wish to support King Charles I (and after his death, King Charles II) and reclaim their heritage. This book was written originally in 1847 as a children's novel, and while it has long periods with little action, the characters are likeable (well, the ones you're supposed to like) and the story of how they live off the land and create a working farm (think Robinson Crusoe by Defoe only, in my opinion, more interesting), and children who like survival stories might enjoy this (provided they don't mind a hint of romance that grows throughout the book between Edward, the oldest Beverly, and Patience Heatherstone), but there are periods of time where little true action happens, so it comes across as a little slow compared to many modern survival stories. However, language and content is no more than PG at worst, so this story is appropriate for all ages. There aren't a lot of descriptions of too many specific events but it does capture well the feelings of mistrust and suspicion that would be present in any civil war, no matter where it takes place, so if you want a historical fiction with battles and lots of facts and happenings woven in, this book isn't for you.

Apr 23, 7:44am Top

Book 30: Living Hell: Imagine that Earth is in such potential trouble that your family is sent to seek out new habitable worlds in the universe on board a partially-organic spaceship, and that upon hitting a wave of strange radiation, that ship's organic matter takes over, transforming the entire ship into a living entity, complete with an immune system that's trying to kill your species, seen as dangerous invaders causing damage inside. That's what happens to Cheney and the rest of the crew aboard Plexus, and now they're struggling to make sense of their new world and how to survive with no weapons or real idea of what's happened (at least not right away).

Knowing a bit about anatomy and immune systems, I loved how the author took the everyday equipment from the ship and made them aspects of a living entity, from the cables becoming blood vessels to certain transport vehicles becoming killer T cells and macrophages. (If you're at a loss right now, don't worry--it explains the basics in the book.) We so seldom think about what goes on in our bodies every day, and this book is a glimpse into that world that most know little about. This was a great book, if a little gross to contemplate, with characters you love (don't get too attached to anyone--there are a lot of casualties), but the description of things that become organs and tissues could be considered by some to be a bit on the disgusting side (though it was pretty tame by my standards, but then I read about the Ebola virus, parasites, ergot poisoning, and forensics--just putting that out there). There is a little romance but nothing too intense; like most of my recent reads, it was sweet and subtle and innocent, and the language was PG, with surprisingly little swearing (I don't know that I would be so nice with my language in that situation myself). A great and unusual YA survival book I would recommend in particular to those interested in a strong male character (Cheney) who finds the strength and courage he didn't know he had to take charge and become a leader.

Apr 25, 10:10am Top

>104 CassieBash: sounds interesting...

Apr 25, 3:59pm Top

>104 CassieBash: I'd read other science fiction books with spaceships that were alive or nearly so, but they were always benevolent and sentient, which this ship doesn't seem to be, or at least it doesn't communicate with the people in it (because the computer is no longer really a computer, I suppose). I'd tell you more but I'm afraid that would be spoiling things, and you know I don't like to give spoilers.

Apr 26, 7:25am Top

Book 31 is volume 3 of the 20 volume set Classic Tales by Famous Authors and is the "Heroism" volume. Which means a lot more war, generally--there are a few selections that don't deal with war but most do. At least some of these were in epic poem style, which brought back memories of reading The Illiad and The Odyssey, both of which I believe have their own volumes in this set. I may start mixing up the volumes just to get a bit of variety, depending on what volume 4 is. Some of the non-war selections are "The Minions and the Angevins" by Alexander Dumas (less war, more duel), Washington Irving's piece called "The Great Voyage" about Christopher Columbus, a bit about Paul the Apostle as adapted from Acts, and a section by Plato about Socrates's death. There was a section of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, this one called "The Friends of the 'Abaisse'", dealing with the barricades (if you're familiar with the book and/or musical, you'll know the scene). The Charge of the Light Brigade is of course a classic, but many of these works I wasn't familiar with--though I feel as if I'm reading "Les Miserables" in its entirety piecemeal (and out of order). I don't think there will be too many more volumes where Mr. Hugo will fit, but it will be interesting to see if they squeeze him into any more volumes, as so far he's had something in all three volumes I've read to this point.

Apr 26, 8:24am Top

>107 CassieBash: that sounds like a really interesting volume to dip into.

Apr 26, 2:42pm Top

>108 fuzzi: I believe in your 75 Challenge Thread, you mentioned somewhere about short story collections being a mixed bag. So far, all of the volumes have had some interesting stories and some not-so-interesting. War stories, unless they're about the more human side of things (which may be why I liked Hugo's section in this book, while not caring much for the section in the first volume), have never been my cup of tea. I find war strategies tedious to read and there are some of those in this book. I listed the best sections here, except for a couple of epic poems beyond Tennyson's "Light Brigade". I'm going to read something light--maybe that juvenile milkweed nonfiction--and maybe another YA novel. Since I'm a little ahead of my minimum goal of 25 books, I may pick up either a large novel or an adult nonfiction sometime in May. It's been a little while since I've read a nonfiction.

Edited: Apr 27, 7:15am Top

>109 CassieBash: there's a nonfiction group I follow, and sometimes I partake in their challenges. You could get some ideas for NF reads there. I've found journal/diary volumes highly interesting, and have completed a couple lately.

For military fiction reading I'm keen on MacLean (!) but he doesn't go into great details about the strategies of his characters' actions, just gives us some character development, a decent believable plot, and some suspense.

And Walter Lord is very, very good, NOT tedious at all.

Apr 27, 8:18am Top

>110 fuzzi: I have lots of nonfiction lying around to read, so that's not an issue yet. I've got a few dozen in the "to read" pile. I might take a look at that insect-human relationship one after reading the milkweed book. Since most of the milkweed book is on insects, it seems like a fitting segue. Right now, I'm reading a quick YA novel.

I might try MacLean some day, especially since I like character development and suspense, and maybe I'll check out Walter Lord, too. Who knows?

Apr 28, 10:57pm Top

>111 CassieBash: so many books...so little time... ;)

Apr 29, 8:04pm Top

>112 fuzzi: I'm beginning to think that I need to be immortal now to make any progress with my "to read" pile. I just bought about 6-8 more books from the public library today.

But on the other hand, I've finished one that can go to Derek's: book 32 is The Year of the Beasts, a story of sister rivalry and stolen love. This YA book is probably considered a romance by many but I saw it as a realistic fiction on family hierarchy and the jealousy that can arise between siblings--especially when young love is involved. Tessa and her slightly younger sister Lulu have always been close and generally have a good relationship, but all that changes when Lulu rather unintentionally steals Charlie, the boy who Tessa has wanted for her boyfriend. It doesn't help that Tessa's friend Celina now seems to spend more time with Lulu than her. But Tessa ends up in a secret relationship with one of the misfit boys, Jasper, yet she still wants Charlie and she finds herself resenting her sister more and more.

I really can't tell you more without giving spoilers, but I can tell you that one of the unique things about this book is that every other chapter is done in black and white graphic novel style, with the characters portrayed as various mythological monsters. It becomes much clearer later why (too much of a spoiler to tell), but the book is all from Tessa's (though in 3rd person) perspective. I won't read it again but I did enjoy it well enough to finish it, as the book wasn't as heavily about the romance as much as it was about Tessa's handling her loss of Charlie and how she treats Celina, Lulu, Jasper, and Charlie. YA girls who like realistic fiction will probably enjoy, and the language and content was actually pretty clean, but the story takes a darker turn later as something happens that changes everything--and that's as close as I'll come to spoiling anything.

Reading that milkweed book now, and then I have another nonfiction pick or two on insects before I'll return to fiction.

Apr 30, 7:44am Top

Book 33: The Milkweed and Its World of Animals: This was one of those dirt cheap finds at the Argos Public Library sale long, long ago (*cough* 1970s *cough*) that I purchased as a child and have kept to this day. With only 4 other LT users claiming this in their collection, I'm not sure if it's rare or simply just a book that no one cares much about or is often overlooked. The latter would be especially sad, as it is a good introduction to ecology for children. I've read it a few times but it had been awhile, so I thought I'd revisit it to decide whether it's time to let this one go. I ask myself why I'm hesitant to get rid of it. I know most of the information in this book, and then some (but there were a few things here and there--little snippets of information that I'd forgotten). The pictures are black and white (but very, very clear--even action shots like the hummingbird hawkmoth drinking nectar on the wing, or the closeup shot of an individual milkweed flower). The book is written for upper elementary students (nostalgic, but it doesn't dumb down the science), and it's from 1976 (a first edition hardback). I'm going to say that the reason I'm going to keep this volume for at least a little longer (it's slim; it doesn't take up that much space) can be explained if you read between the lines (the curved lines of parentheses, that is). Even after 40+ years, this book is still enjoyable, both the text and, perhaps especially, Mr. Les Line's fabulous black and white photography. For parents wanting to explain the basics of ecology, animal and plant reproduction (very basics--no real sex talk here), and the dynamics of animal/plant dependency, this book still does a great job, with short chapters suitable for quick read-alouds, if desired, or for reluctant readers who like to finish chapters because it shows progress and helps keep them motivated to continue. Adult scholars looking for in-depth information should find another book on the subject, but parents with science-minded kids might want to pick up a copy if they can find it and the price is right (Amazon has a used copy for $7.00 in hardback right now).

May 8, 10:42am Top

>113 CassieBash: >114 CassieBash: just catching up with threads.

I know I'll never read all my books, but I'm going to give it a try!

And I'm more inclined now to ditch books that aren't keeping my interest, as there are plenty more waiting for my attention. :)

May 11, 1:04pm Top

>115 fuzzi: I have a 3 chapter rule; if it doesn't hold my attention or I don't find it engaging by the time I read through chapter 3, I decide it's not the book for me and find something else. That being said, I probably should have done that with book 34, although it did have some points here and there that did keep me interested just enough to keep me going. Book 34: The Voice of the Infinite in the Small: Re-Visioning the Insect-Human Connection was a mixed bag for me. First, I do agree that our society tends to unfairly vilify insects and other invertebrates that we've been taught, through cultural norms, as "undesirables" for simply doing what they do. (Yes, female mosquitos drink blood because they need it to reproduce and not because they're out to get me.). And yes, I agree with the autjor's points that there is a balance in nature and that the eradication of a species such as the mosquito Ian from an ecological standpoint a very good idea. (Many birds, reptiles, amphibians,mammals, and even other invertebrates like dragonflies rely on mosquitos in their various life stages for food.) We do need to find alternate controls to controlling insects other than our ineffectual and dangerous poisons, which are often indescriminate killers and which may harm us as much as the insects we're trying to get rid of (plus most species start developing resistance, just like drug-resistant bacteria from over-use of antibiotics). But the author believes that we can communicate psychically with these Earth brothers and sisters of ours and that the insects are trying to communicate powerful messages of healing or warnings that we need to pull together into one United brotherhood. Sorry--I'm just not that New Age. Many of the anecdotal stories included are either pulled from sources that have no citations or they're from other New Age sources; there is very little "hard" science and here and there she gets a few minor-ish (depending on how you classify "minor") facts wrong (scorpions are not arachnids; they are Arthropoda like spiders but they have too many legs and body segments to be in the spider family). While I believe we are all connected (it's called ecology), I don't believe that insects are trying to contact me.

I would recommend this only to someone who is into the New Age movement or perhaps one of the Eastern religions, as the author does tie in some of the information to them, Buddhism and Zen in particular, but if you're looking for something less New Age regarding our connections with insects or the natural world, look elsewhere.

May 14, 4:42pm Top

Book 35: The Ogre of Oglefort: Like most of Eva Ibbotson's children's books, this fantasy's "villain" isn't what he seems. Without giving away too much (because where's the fun in that?), the main characters are a Hag who used to live in a Dribble until it was drained for development, a troll who's forest home was logged and who now pushes trolleys in hospitals, the son of a banshee who's a questionable wizard, an orphan boy, and a princess who wants to be a bird, rather than be betrothed to the prince her parents have picked out for her. When the Norns of Fate see the princess being held prisoner by the ogre, they send the Hag, the troll, the wizard, and the boy to rescue her. But the rescue party encounter...uh...unusual circumstances that get complicated (and in places very amusing). A light fantasy where things aren't always what they seem, and where things don't get too intense for younger readers. Another good read-aloud for parents with children who can handle some minor "scary" stuff (the ghosts are an unsavory lot, and the ogre....), but overall the plot doesn't ever get so horrible as to be a really frightening experience for most children (I acknowledge that there are some kids out there who scare easily, so as always, I suggest reading it first yourself). But not one I'm going to keep, as I have to be more discriminating with the books I choose to rretain. (I keep telling myself this, but you know how that goes.)

I'm going to start reading during my lunch hours again, now that summer is here and I'll (theoretically) have fewer student interruptions while I'm eating. So I've brought a light read in with me today and have started it, and have kept the big guns at home for those longer reading sessions. I'm still on track for completing the goal, and a little ahead of schedule, as I need to read 25 books every 4 months (and here I have 35 under my belt and it's just now May), so I'm pleased. Of course, we're also heading into summer, and if the weather is nice (not hot and humid, not raining every day), I'll be outside more and reading less, so we'll see how much that may slow me down.

May 15, 7:42pm Top

>116 CassieBash: thanks for the warning.

I would love to read at lunch, but it's our busiest season (both incoming and graduating residents) so I get interrupted, a lot.

May 16, 9:41am Top

>118 fuzzi: Book 34 was a bit disappointing in many ways. I was hoping for more...er...studied ways for humans and insects to interact. Stuff like organic gardening, maybe appreciation of their beauty and variety, getting kids interested in them at a young age, and/or a discussion on our reliance of insects and why it's not a good idea to try to eradicate entire species/families of even the "pests". While the book did mention these, it wasn't the focus and it spent more time with psychic conversations and dreams.

Fall and spring semester lunch breaks tend to have too many interruptions for reading, but our summer terms have traditionally been slow, something we hope to actually get away from. Increasing summer enrollment is a struggle but it would be nice. Until then, though, I will enjoy reading at my desk while I eat, with the help of my little book stand.

Edited: May 26, 12:45pm Top

Book 36: A Sudden Wild Magic is listed as a YA book but I would say if it is, it's for older YA. At the end, there are references to a female character performing a dark ritual designed to control a male character that involves cannibalism and the male anatomy. I'll leave it at that. There's also hints of promiscuity and more than hints with adultery, so I'd hesitate to let my tween read it unless I felt they were more mature than the average.

The basic plot is that our world is being used as a think-tank for ideas by another world in another universe and that they're purposely sabotaging our world to get the needed ideas to save their world from similar problems (think global warming at the time of the plot). It's up to a group of women and men selected to go on a journey to this other dimension and its meddling world to set things right.

I didn't find this to be one of her better books; I didn't like most of the characters from our world and few from the other (though at least I liked the ones from that world that you're supposed to like). Gladys was my favorite; I liked her attitude and she was definitely a crazy cat lady, so what's not to like? But definitely not a keeper, so on to Muncie it goes, along with book 37:

The Dog That Drove Home, the Snake-Eating Mouse, and Other Exotic Tales from the Animal Kingdom was my lunch-time book and is one of those collections of excerpts from books, newspapers, and other sources about animals--some well-known like Lassie, Koko the gorilla, and Morris the Cat, others much more obscure, such as the python raised by an Indonesian family that had such a strong bond that the snake guarded the family's son fiercely. Interspersed are some general animal facts. Some of the stories I took with a grain of salt, as many from the older newspapers sounded more like something made up to fill space, and some had no source documented, but most were believable and likely true (lots of stories about cats and dogs separated from their owners tracking them down). But not worth re-reading.

May 28, 1:01pm Top

I've breezed through a YA historical fiction for book 38: The Auslander. Piotre is a young Polish farm boy growing up in the 1940s. When his parents are killed and his farm seized by German soldiers, he's sent to an orphanage where he's discovered by the Race and Settlement workers and is reclassified as German--one of the "lucky" ones, he thinks at the time, who will be adopted by an upstanding family in Berlin. But as Peter, as he's renamed, tries to fit in with his new family and the expected duties of a young man in Nazi Germany, he finds himself questioning the Reich and wondering if he really will ever fit in.

I've read several YA novels of WWII but most focus on characters that are either in concentration camps or ghettos and most aren't from a German character's perspective. Also, while the camps and ghettos are mentioned, this book focuses a lot more on the everyday dangers that the average German citizen faced, especially ones who didn't really approve of the Nazis. It also mentions the lesser-discussed atrocities the Third Reich committed in the name of racial "cleansing": sterilization, killing the mentally and physically disabled, the racial profiling "tests" via blood and eyes. While the details aren't excessively graphic, the story is dark (how could it be otherwise considering the subject?) and the content and some language (there is the f word at least once) definitely boost this into the YA levels. But it was a good read for those interested in a different approach to a novel on Nazi Germany.

May 28, 1:45pm Top

>121 CassieBash: Have you ever read the Rowan Farm series by Margot Benary-Isbert? I first read them as a child, and they impressed me strongly about the difficulties of the German family immediately after the war dealing with aftermath, from a German children's perspective. Classics imho and hard to find now.

May 28, 6:37pm Top

>121 CassieBash: one of my favorite YA books takes place in Poland during WWII, called The Silver Sword. I can't tell you how many times I have read it. Some editions are titled Escape From Warsaw.

May 29, 8:59am Top

>122 ronincats: & >123 fuzzi: I'll have to keep an eye out for some of those--although Escape from Warsaw sounds familiar. I may have read that one--but I could be remembering the title from the Culver YA collection. I used to be so familiar with my children's and YA fiction collection there that you could ask about a book by title or author and I usually had a good idea of whether we owned a copy.

May 29, 1:03pm Top

>124 CassieBash: I think that The Silver Sword was based upon a real story, but I'm not totally sure.

Either way, it's a good read. I loved it as a child, and when I reread it a couple years ago, found that it was also an excellent adult read.

May 31, 4:58pm Top

Book 39: Nightmare in Pewter: This is stated as a novel of supernatural suspense on the cover, and I have to agree. It wasn't all that much in the way of a horror story; it was more of a mystery than anything, with a supernatural element to it. So go ahead and read this in a dim room, if you want. I doubt it will give you much of a scare, and it wasn't really all that bloody or violent, either.

Shelbie is working as the head of a local historical society/museum, and one of the exhibits is an ugly little pewter statue of...something. Most think it looks most like a primitive Easter Island head. But it seems that every 25 years, these statues are tied to a rash of suicides. It's up to Shelbie and her friends to figure out what the connection is. This isn't a very complex plot really, but it does keep you wondering about a couple of the characters for a bit, especially Matt, a possible love interest for Shelbie. He's awfully interested in the pewter statues.

One of the fun things about this book is that it's written by an Indiana author, and he's worked in lots of Indiana elements, including names of towns (Elwood and my own home town, Argos) and even one nasty true crime story about Belle Gunness, an Indiana black widow murderer. So every time a familiar town name popped up, I was like, "Yeah, I've been there." Lots of fun for a Hoosier reader but not a high re-reading probability, so I'll be taking it down to Muncie (in Indiana!) for Derek to resell.

Edited: Jun 11, 9:52am Top

Book 40: The Paladin by C. J. Cherryl: Saukendar, a master warrior under the regime of the old Emperor, has gone into self-imposed exile in the mountains after nearly losing his life to a coup when the Emperor's son becomes the new ruler. Guided by two powerful courtiers, the new Emperor grips the country of Chiyaden in a reign of fear, with mercenaries and uncontrolled soldiers running roughshod over the people. But assume dad has removed himself from all this, living a solitary and quiet life, until a young woman named Taizu--scarred within and without--comes to him for training so that she can kill the courtier who destroyed her village. Saukendar wants to refuse, but she won't take no for an answer, and he finds that he is becoming fond of her. Can he teach her enough so that she can fulfill her goal--and survive doing the deed?

Half romance, half action story, this novel has the feeling of an historical fiction of ancient China--though the country is fictional. Still, history buffs who love ancient Chinese locales may enjoy this low fantasy delivered realistically enough. Though there is talk of magic, dragons, and demons--and later in the book, Taizu gets an undeserved reputation as a demon--these don't appear or even seem to exist in this realm outside the imaginations of the people. There are adult themes here, mostly sex and violence, and while the sex scenes are there, it's not highly descriptive. More descriptive are the violent death scenes, but even they aren't too gory overall. Taizu is a strong female character, Saukendar, though gruff, is likeable, and for a long time in the book, these two characters (along with his horse, Jiro) are the only ones in the story as they slowly come to an understanding.

**Addendum**: I noticed that the Touchstones for the title weren't working via the phone; not sure if that was LT or the phone's issue, but I've refreshed this post and the touchstone for the title is now there.

Jun 11, 9:51am Top

Book 41: The Blue Cat of Castle Town is probably a staple read and considered a classic in Vermont, the setting for the book. The author drew her inspiration from a real carpet that was hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art when she visited, and among the designs worked into the carpet was a blue cat. With a little research about real people from the town, Coblentz was able to craft a gentle children's story about Castle Town, Vermont, and how the people there are inspired by the blue cat and the cat's song of the river, which as a blue cat it is his duty to learn and spread the song among the people of the town, teaching it to them so that they will think of beauty and peace instead of greed, as the song of the man Arunah Hyde would have them sing.

The plot is set up as a basic "good v. evil" story, with the blue kitten, who later grows, of course, into a blue cat, armed with the river's song of creativity, beauty, and contentment against the song of greed and speed that Arunah Hyde sings and that overshadows the town when the kitten first arrives. This version was an audiobook from Librivox, read by Peter Eastman, who read slowly and clearly, though it (plus the lack of contractions) made him sound a bit like a machine in places. Still, it's a good children's story with a G rating.

Ironically, I chose to read as my new light read at home Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons, which recounts her days raising a brood of four children (plus cats, dogs, and a husband) in...where else?...Vermont. I swear that it wasn't planned; I chose the book because it looked like a fast, fun read compared to the last. At work, I'm reading a nonfiction book about insects, so between that and this Jackson memoir, I'm actually reading two nonfictions--possibly a first for me. Jackson's will be finished long before the insect one, however; this rainy and cool weekend was a boost for reading, as it was on the whole too wet to work in the garden much.

Jun 11, 10:27pm Top

Woo hoo! A double-post day! Just finished book 42: Raising Demons. As mentioned above, this is Shirley Jackson's recollections of living in Vermont and raising a husband, four children, and an assortment of dogs and cats, all while trying to maintain a bit of sanity. A hilarious read for adults, especially for parents and anyone who works with kids and loves their unique take on the world. Much of it is written with dialogue so that it reads like a light novel. My favorite story was either the trip to New York (which started out as a planned dental visit and became a 4-day family vacation), during which the youngest girl managed to unwind a knit hat in a highly creative way, or the car accident during which her children tell the cop who arrives on the scene that the people in the other car steal horses and cattle, rob trains, are moonshiners, and that they keep dynamite in a false bottom in their car, or perhaps drugs, or maybe both. The kids do and say such hilarious things that you can't ever guess what'll happen next, except that it's likely to be funny.

Jun 13, 12:50pm Top

>127 CassieBash: so, didja like it? Huh? Huh? :)

I've been a fan of CJ Cherryh for years, but avoided The Paladin for some reason. When I did read it a couple years ago, I really enjoyed it.

Jun 13, 1:26pm Top

>130 fuzzi: It was a bag sale book so it probably cost me a whopping 15-20 cents tops, so I figured, why not? It was quite enjoyable, but then I have eclectic tastes. Still, I liked both the main characters, and that's often half the battle. And not to give anyone too much of a spoiler, but I loved how Taizu was clever enough to use those rumors about her to her advantage.

Edited: Jun 14, 9:29pm Top

>131 CassieBash: CJ Cherryh has strong female characters, but without the oft-used anti-male bias. Artist Michael Whelan did a cover for one of the Morgaine books, Gate of Ivrel, and it's evident he was making a slight parody of the Conan covers:

Edited: Jun 18, 10:31am Top

>132 fuzzi: slight parody Ya think? lol....

Book 43: Fenzig's Fortune was a Muncie Public Library bag sale book; I'd love to say that I'm making a dent in the newly acquired books from that sale, but I just went to Ollie's, a big buyout type store in Kokomo, Indiana, where they have a huge (for that type of store) selection of all kinds of books. I just bought six or seven new ones. It never ends.

Fenzig is a gnome, which seems to be, at least in this book, a direct ripoff of a hobbit, right down to the huge appetites, the hairy feet, and the underground homes. This last, at least, could also have come from folklore, as gnomes, like many traditional faeries, live underground. This, however, is where the similarities to anything J. R. R. Tolkien ends and the author makes the world her own.

King Erlgrane is a power-hungry man, and very wealthy--so much so, that Fenzig, a gnome thief, tries to rob him. Due to enchantments set by a powerful wizard, he's cuaght, and Erlgrane gives him a choice--die, or steal three perfect emeralds from Duke Rehmir. When Fenzig agrees to steal the emeralds, the wizard casts a spell that will kill him eventually if he doesn't return soon enough for him to remove the spell, thus ensuring that Fenzig can't just cut and run. Fenzig finds help in his quest, which turns out to be far more complex than he'd thought, in the unlikely companionship of a snake oil salesman named Carmen the Magnificent, who is more than he seems.

At first, I'd figured the plot to be pretty straightforward, but there are several good twists (which of course I'm not going to disclose). You start to wonder in places just how the story will continue, because there are a few places where the author could have ended it, but when you get to these points, it's clear by the number of pages left that something is going to happen that will keep the story going a little longer.

This fantasy is likely marketed to teens but there's little here that makes it unsuitable for younger readers if they're reading above their grade level. I can't remember if there were any curse words or not, but if there were, they weren't there a lot and there was certainly no "f" bomb. There is some violence in the form of swordplay, brawls, and magical animals that attack people and even an entire gnome village, but nothing too gory is described. Recommend for young fantasy lovers and those who love quick-read YA fantasy.

Jun 25, 4:44pm Top

Book 44: Slade House is a horror story about Norah and Jonah Grayer, twins who need to capture and devour the soul of a special type of person every 9 years in order to keep their physical bodies and the time anomaly that keeps their home--Slade House--in existence on another plane of reality, despite the fact that in our time and place, Slade House was destroyed during a WWII bombing and the place it once occupied now is claimed by roads and other housing. Each chapter is told from the point of view of their victims, and so each chapter, staring with the first in 1979, covers the events leading up to the victim's death (and yet not-quite-death, as there are remnants of sorts from the previous victim, that can interact to a degree with the current victim, trying to warn them), with a time span of 9 years between each one, going up to the year 2015, which is the only chapter told not from the perspective of a victim, but of one of the twins (Norah).

This is a book that, like a lot of horror books, has coarse language and some sexual content, though not a lot of blood and gore, relatively speaking, since the twins are soul vampires and the ceremony they use isn't particularly reliant on bloodletting or anything gory. The last chapter's victim turns out to be a surprise--and that's as much a spoiler as you're getting from me. I personally didn't find it all that frightening, but I did find the concepts introduced intriguing, though devouring souls to remain immortal isn't exactly a new concept, nor is a house or location frozen in time. But the twins' abilities to manipulate what their victim's ideas of reality are made it much more interesting, since they spun webs of deceit to lure and hold onto their victims, and it made it much more difficult to determine what in the chapter was reality and where the twins' manipulation took over. Probably better for those enjoying psychological horror than for those looking for bloodbaths.

Book 45: The Telling Stone: This one is the second book of what I'm going to assume will be an ongoing series or at least a set with a finite number (like the Harry Potter series). Timothy is on a quest to find the stone in Scottish legend that is known as the Stone of Destiny, which supposedly cries out when a true king stands upon it. Timothy is one of these kings; he is destined to be a Filidh--a keeper of knowledge and truth, and leader of The Market, a place out of time where people not only gather to buy and sell but to serve the Light.

I think I might have enjoyed it better had I read the first one prior, but I picked this up cheap and decided to give it a try. I, personally, found that it seemed a little disjointed here and there; I was able to catch on to the characters OK (I read the stuff at the back that explains the Celtic mythology and such, though I do have a small familiarity with it already, and that helped a bit), but while I could follow the plot fine, it did seem as if there were some events that were just...abrupt. I don't know how else to put it. It was an OK fantasy, but I personally liked Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising books much better from a reader's perspective. Sadly, I didn't get it quite finished before leaving Muncie this weekend, so I wasn't able to immediately pass it on to Derek, but that's definitely where this one's headed.

Edited: Jun 26, 4:40pm Top

A quick update of what I've read so far:

Children's Chapter Fiction: 11
YA Fiction: 16
Adult Fiction: 7
Children's Nonfiction: 1
YA Nonfiction: 1
Adult Nonfiction: 6
Audio: 3

Last year at this time, I'd read more, because the surgery allowed for more reading time, so I'm 10 books behind where I was last year. (This weekend's heat wave should help me catch up, since I certainly won't be doing any gardening with triple-digit heat indices--or is it indexes when talking about heat instead of books?) I didn't break out the children's and YA from each other but I had 25 combined, so I'm not far from that right now. I'd read more children's nonfiction by this time, but I don't have a lot of that in my "to read" pile right now--much more of my nonfiction is adult. I keep telling myself that I need to concentrate on reading the adult fiction and nonfiction books in the stack--and then I end up buying more chapter and YA books (mostly fantasy). I did dig out a P. C. Doherty medieval mystery for a change of pace, and I'm finishing up that nonfiction about insects here at work, plus another audiobook, so I have another 3 going. I'm close with the insect book, so I may just take that home this weekend (if I haven't already finished it) to make it book 46.

Edited: Jun 29, 3:55pm Top

Book 46: The Science Times Book of Insects: The Best Nature Reporting from the Acclaimed Weekly Section of The New York Times: Now this is an insect book! Well-written (if you ignore a few typos that I have to wonder were printed in the original articles?) research that gives insight into the fascinating lives and behaviors of insects and other arthropods (the book includes arachnids and even scorpions--not insects, but often lumped in with them). The articles are arranged in chapters that focus on some aspect of the creatures: design, adaptability, reproduction, social aspects, etc. If you want to learn about how a family of Lepidoptera have evolved to let their caterpillars call on ants to help against predatory wasps, or if you want to learn how Japanese bees defend their hives against hornets by making things hot, or what robber flies really do, then this book, while a bit outdated (1998), is a good start. Written for the average layman, The New York Times's staff have interviewed several experts on a variety of insects and their arthropod cousins, from caterpillars to cicadas and from spiders to scorpions. And while it does have a chapter on the "pest" aspect of insects, for the most part, it doesn't vilify them--the first article of that chapter even focuses on an "insect sleuth" who specializes in figuring out not only how to deal with a current infestation of common pests, but also how to prevent re-infestations through eco-friendly ways, usually focusing on changing the general environment. In this book, insects are neither New Age manifestations of our personalities nor are they malevolent beings who purposely seek to harm. They are merely living beings, smarter perhaps than we usually think (or want to think), trying to survive. This book is actually not bad for mature chapter-book readers, so if you have a child of, say, 5th or 6th grade interested in biology, and you're not concerned about them reading about the mating aspects, then this book is probably a good read for them.

Jul 1, 11:25am Top

>136 CassieBash: sounds like something I'd read!

Jul 1, 2:21pm Top

>137 fuzzi: It was good; I'm an amateur entomologist (as you know!) and there was plenty of information, despite the fact that the book is 10 years old, that was new to me.

This insane heat has allowed me to not only finish the mystery but a chapter book horror as well. Book 47 is The Mysterium. After starting it, I noticed that this book--an ex-library copy that states it as book 17 in the series--comes after at least one other in the "to read" pile. Oh, well--I read the Cadfael mysteries out of order, so I guess it doesn't much matter....

In this one, Hugh Corbett has to track down a killer who claims to be the same killer--The Mysterium--of 20 years prior. It is possible; The Mysterium had supposedly been trapped when he'd sought sanctuary in a church, only to disappear seemingly into thin air, and he was never brought to justice. Now his victims are those tied to a man named Evesham, the very man who had nearly brought him to justice. Can Corbett track down the killer? A good read for those who like medieval England history mysteries.

Book 48: Witch's Fire is a short, easy read for 5th grade+. Kirsty lost her mother and older sister in an accident that's left he in a wheelchair, and she's been living with her grandmother for 2 years while her father was "picking up the pieces", as he put it--which included marrying Rita, Kirsy's new stepmom who has a daughter younger than Kirsty. But now she's moving in with them in their new Wisconsin home--a house that the neighborhood locals claimed had belonged to a witch. A witch that didn't want anyone else in her house. A witch that stayed young by somehow "feeding" off young girls every summer. The neighbor boys say the witch missed a feeding and she aged overnight, and she's been in a nursing home since then. But she could regain her youth if she could just absorb enough life from a young girl or two; could Kirsty and her new stepsister, Pam, be her intended victims? Kids will probably get more chills from this than adults, though in all fairness, with this heat and humidity (triple digit heat index), I doubt even the creepiest books would cause a chill right now. :) Still, the story is good and it's as much to do with Kirsty's feelings of helplessness, isolation, and adjustment to her new family as it is about being the target of a possible witch's plot. Content and language is G rated with no swearing.

Jul 3, 3:13pm Top

Book 49: An audiobook version of Far Far Away, checked out from the Plymouth Public Library's OverDrive selections, is part mystery, part fairy tale, and part (friendly) ghost story. It probably shouldn't surprise anyone that this is somewhat a fairy tale, since the ghost is that of the famous Jacob Grimm, heard only by Jeremy Johnson Johnson in the small town of Never Better. Life might sound as if it should be great in a town called Never Better, but Jeremy has plenty of problems: his mother ran off for adventure, leaving him when he was still very small with his morose father and his grandfather, only to die somewhere in Canada. By the time the story starts, Jeremy's grandfather is also dead, and Jeremy's odd jobs and his attempts at running the small bookstore are their only income, as his father has taken to bed. The bank is about to repossess their building, and to make matters worse, his strange habit of seeming to talk to himself (when he's really talking to Jacob) gives him the reputation of being a bit odd--and thus unpopular. But then Ginger, the popular tomboy of the town, takes an interest in him, and soon the two are fast friends. Which is good, because the fairy tale isn't a cleaned-up Disney version, but something so dark that even Jacob, who had collected those dark tales with his brother Wilhelm, is shaken by. You see, in his wanderings searching for his brother Wilhelm, Jacob came across a ghost who told him of Jeremy's abilities to hear ghosts, and told him of the threat of someone called the Finder of Occasions, who was waiting for the opportune time to harm Jeremy. Jacob takes it onto himself to guard Jeremy from this Finder of Occasions, but will he know the threat when he sees it?

This has been a wonderful audiobook; though I'd say that it's written with an adult audience in mind, the innocence of the developing love between Jeremy and Ginger, and the mild language, make this suitable for a YA audience. The phrasing of the narrative, told by Jacob, and his speech patterns in dialogue, the foreign phrases and words that are peppered throughout (though translated), probably would impede most younger chapter book readers, even though the content and language is PG-13 at worst--though the last part of the book gets quite dark. Love to tell you more, but no spoilers here! Recommend for those who like modern fairy tales and low fantasy who don't mind the dark twist or the mystery aspects. See if you can guess who the Finder of Occasions may be....

Jul 3, 3:37pm Top

>139 CassieBash: I love that book!

Jul 3, 8:17pm Top

>140 foggidawn: If you are into audiobooks, the reader is really good!

Jul 8, 9:53am Top

Book 50: Geek Fantasy Novel is a strange book, mostly because of a plot point that I'm not sure I should divulge (so I won't--when in doubt, leave it out). Fans of M. T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts and other similar works in which you have asides and such from the narrator won't find this distracting, but if you don't like that literary 4th wall broken, skip this work; it's not for you.

Ralph is a gaming geek kid with dreams of working on video games for his favorite gaming company, but when he applied, he got a rejection letter advising him to finish high school at least. He thinks he's going to have another boring summer--but then a letter from the estranged British side of his family arrives, and Ralph, always a well-behaved, non-rebellious child up to now, not even breaking his parents' odd rule forbidding him from making wishes, goes against his parents, and sneaks a flight to England. He meets Aunt Gert and her husband, Gideon, and their three children: Cecil, Beatrice, and Daphne. And he meets one more Aunt, the crazy aunt that no one in the family, American or British, talk to--the Duchess of Cheshire, or Chessie for short. And there's something strange and a bit menacing about Chessie; she keeps saying she wants to grant the children wishes, as if she's some sort of fairy godmother. But rumor has it that in this family, wishes can kill....

Despite what sounds like an ominous plot, the tone is pretty lighthearted and the book has plenty of humor--albeit odd humor. Like Anderson's books, it's quirky, but I don't think that the plot is as well-developed as it could be. I didn't dislike it, but I'm not gushing about it either. It's a "meh" kind of book in my opinion--good enough for a quick, amusing read before moving on to other things.

Jul 8, 9:56am Top

Wow, just realized that I'm at the 2/3rd mark half-way through the year. Time to start looking at those big, thick books seriously now....

Edited: Jul 9, 9:41am Top

My younger sister was cleaning out her shelves and decided she could live without these old textbooks that were used during our elementary school days at Argos Community Schools. Anyone recognize these? I'd love to know what other school systems, and where, might have used any of these. The three book collection was used as a set and each book advanced a little more regarding vocabulary. She's donating them to a coworker for her little ones.

I've always loved the milk carton cow on the "Cloverleaf" book.

Jul 12, 9:36am Top

Book 51: The Wicked and the Just: This book is told from the viewpoints of two girls: English Cecily and Welsh Gwenhwyfar (Gwinny to her English masters), with alternating chapters separating the characters' voices. Cecily and her father have been removed from Edgeley Hall, where she had lived happily with her mother (now deceased) and father. When her uncle returns from the Crusades, he reclaims his birthright and suddenly Cecily and her father find themselves without a home. When her father is offered a place of standing in Caernarvon in occupied Wales, Cecily feels her life is ruined. She was supposed to be the lady of Edgeley Hall, was going to inherit it, but instead she must go to Wales, where she's sure the barbarous Welsh will kill them in their sleep. Gwinny is forced to serve the spoiled Cecily and endure her bullying, while she watches her people being mistreated, abused, and even murdered unjustly. While there is friction between the two girls, with nothing approaching a lasting affection for each other, at times there are some moments of shared alliances, as Cecily, not completely devoid of a sense of justice, does try in some small ways here and there to make things right.

The end of the book is full of brutality, so this YA book may not be suitable for younger readers; additionally, the language, written with sentence structures that would seem odd to younger readers, might make it even more difficult. For those who know their history (and for those who don't, there's a good-sized historical note at the end), the Welsh around Caernarvon end up revolting against their English masters and so this book's climax will be gory. I won't tell you anything that happens to any specific characters--and there are some minor ones you don't find out about at all--so not too many spoilers here. For historical fiction YA and adult readers interested in the more everyday life and political aspects of England and Wales in the early 1290s, this book may not be a must, but it's certainly a good option.

I've got 2 nonfiction reads going; my work one is an historical collection of writings and letters relating to a vegetarian diet, and the other is another ghost book. Next up in fiction is an adult novel about King Richard III; this is one of those big, thick books I was looking at seriously as mentioned in >143 CassieBash:....

For those of you who are either relieved or puzzled, thinking that I've gone this entire year without reading a gross or disturbing nonfiction--never fear! In the Wake of the Plague is in the queue, as is Making Supper Safe, which might be as bad if not worse than the plague one (trust me on this; I've read other food-oriented books with some pretty high gross factors, including Swindled). So rest assured that I'm still as avidly fascinated by morbid subjects as ever.

Jul 26, 9:41am Top

Book 52: The White Boar is an adult historical fiction focusing on King Edward IV and King Richard III of England; while the front and back dust jacket flaps suggest the book is mostly about Richard, Edward is king for about 2/3rds of the book. Most of the book's 3rd person narration is from the points-of-view of Francis and Philip Lovell, cousins who served loyally under Richard both when he was a duke and later when he was a king. While many think of him as cruel, these two cousins viewed him as a hero and friend, so you get a little different look at him through most of the book--though towards the end, there is a hint of the possible darker side to him. For those who love history and are quite familiar with this time period, none of the events will be surprising. But the approach of using the Lovells to follow Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to his rising to King Richard III and later to his fall to Henry Tudor is a different perspective and may add a bit of interest to even those familiar with these events.

Aug 5, 10:05pm Top

Book 53: Kraken: Billy Harrow works in a natural history museum in London, preserving animal specimens. When a giant squid comes through as part of his work, he's captivated--his specialty is Cephalopoda and molluscs. But someone steals the thing--tank, preservatives, and all--right out from under everyone's noses. And suddenly Billy finds himself in a weird world full of magic users, strange creatures and people, cults, and a building apocalypse--and the trigger for the end of the world is the theft of the giant squid.

This was an exhausting read; just when Billy and his allies start to make some headway, there's another plot twist. There's worlds within worlds, plots within plots, and mystery upon mystery, because you will not be able to quite figure out the whole, even if, like me, you're able to figure out a part. I can't really say more about plots and characters without giving possible spoilers, so the less said in this part, the better. This is an adult book with lots of heavy swearing and violence, so be forewarned on that. It's more fantasy than anything but it has elements of gore horror, mysteries, and even some steampunkish stuff. If you've read (or watched the miniseries) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, there are elements in this similar to that story--a London that exists simultaneously but generally unnoticed by most people, and if you remember his characters Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, you'll recognize the ruthlessness of them in Goss and Subby.

I won't be reading this one again, so off to Derek's it goes, and after that exhausting read, it's back to a light YA book again.

Aug 11, 11:49pm Top

A double posting tonight, as I finished book 55 in less than 24 hours.

Book 54: The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp has one of the longest subtitles I've ever encountered outside of peer-reviewed articles, mentioning as it does the aforementioned highwayman Kit Bristol, who unintentionally assumes the role of his master's secret highwayman persona, Whistling Jack, as well as inheriting his master's horse, Midnight. Unfortunately for Kit, he also inherits his master's quest to free a faerie princess, which leads to all sorts of adventures (translation: problems), not the least of which is that a Captain Sterne wants to see Kit hanged. Can Kit avoid a hanging at the same time he's helping a faerie revolution. This YA read is particularly boy-friendly for those who like fast-paced fantasy, with lots of action revolving around Kit, with a bit of romance thrown in--but nothing sappy, as the relationship between Kit and the princess is full of misunderstandings.

Book 55: The Winter People is another YA boy-friendly title, this time a historical fiction about an English raid on an Abenaki tribe's town, the Abenakis being French allies in 1759. When Saxso's mother and sisters are taken captive by the English, he's determined to rescue them. Most of the book is Saxso's preparations and his solitary journey to find and rescue his family. This book is short, fast-paced, and engaging; a good one to try tempting reluctant readers.

Interestingly enough, my next title is also going to be a boy-friendly YA read--another amusing fantasy, but about vampires instead of faeries and highwaymen this time. I'm obviously on a theme here....

Aug 13, 8:45am Top

Book 56: Notes from a Totally Lame Vampire was a very quick, hilarious read written diary-style by one Nigel Mullet, a young teenage vampire who's almost about to turn 100 years old--and he still hasn't gotten a girlfriend. Unlike most vampires, his younger sister included, he hasn't gotten any of the super speed and strength, the vampiric good looks and charms, or any powers that are supposed to come with the vampire package. In fact, he's scrawny, weak, and forced to hang out with the Goth crowd in 8th grade (which he constantly has to repeat as his family moves from town to town to avoid humans noticing) because he, by default, best fits in there. But this year he vows will be different; he's determined to capture the heart of Chloe, the new girl in school, with or without vampire powers. And nothing--not his embarrassing parents and little sister, rival boys, or sunlight rashes--will keep him from finally declaring his love. The author has done a great job capturing that teenage feeling that no one has ever had the feelings that you have, that no one understands you (least of all your family), and of course problems with getting a date. Because it's written--literally so, with the print done in the style of large printed handwriting--like a diary, there are no chapters, and the illustrations (presumably drawn by Nigel) scattered throughout take up some space, reluctant readers, particularly boys, will find this work goes relatively fast, and the humorous twist on everyday worries of a middle-school boy from the perspective of a less-than-impressive undead should keep readers of this age group engaged.

Aug 16, 1:44pm Top

Book 57: Harmony House by Nic Sheff is an older-teen horror read. In some ways, it's as much mystery as anything else, as you find out bits and pieces about the main character's father through visions she has. Jen and her father have moved to this house-turned-hotel in a small town, which is supposedly haunted, after Jen's mother dies from an alcohol-related accident (I won't spoil details). Jen herself has turned to drug use to cope, and her father has taken his religious zealotry to new levels. As you can see, the plot already, without the supernatural elements, is already heavy and mature, and it gets darker from there. Is there really something supernatural about the house? Or is it something in Jen, as her father believes she's got a demon inside her? Or is it perhaps her father who has the demon, as he begins acting stranger and stranger, seeming to channel something sinister in the house's past, things that Jen sees in her visions? Or has he simply gone mad from the loss of his wife?

The book's language isn't really that advanced, so reading-level wise, this book could be OK for younger YA audiences. However, Jen has a potty mouth and drug abuse issues, and her father is a bit scary in his religious fervor, and it gets worse the longer he's in the house. These things alone probably bump it up into the mature YA level, then add to that some of the supernatural elements and the unsavory elements of the house's past, and you have an easy read as far as language goes, but a gritty horror. This is probably best for mature teens who aren't particularly fond of reading, in this case skewed more towards the ladies, as Jen and her friends, with the exception of the mysterious Colin, are girls. An OK read but not stellar for me, so off to Derek it goes.

Book 58: Lassie: Adventure in Alaska: I read this one quickly; it's a gift for my mom, who's a collie nut thanks to Lassie, so my sisters and I pick up Lassie merchandise cheap when we can. This one and two others were at a flea market. My first impression of the cover, with a great black shaggy woolly mammoth on the ground and Lassie jumping up beside its face made me think, "What the heck is Lassie doing fighting a woolly mammoth?" Turns out the mammoth is a frozen carcass in Alaska, and her owner (in this book) is a forest ranger who finds the mammoth body after an earthquake uncovers it. (That collie sure burns through owners, doesn't she?) A second earthquake traps her owner's leg under a huge rock, and the rest of the book is about Lassie trying to keep her owner and herself alive until help arrives. It's a feel-good book written for children, with pictures on every other page or so, and the text isn't too complex (I think "wolverine" is the longest word in the book), so I'd say 5th grade or so. Again, not a stellar book, and except that I'll be giving it as a gift to my mom, I wouldn't have bought it for myself. The only reason I read it was because I stuck the three of them for convenience's sake in my "to read" pile and I thought, "Why the heck not?"

So my breakdown now is:

Children's fiction: 13
YA fiction: 23
Adult fiction: 10
Children's nonfiction: 1
YA nonfiction: 1
Adult nonfiction: 7
Audiobooks: 4

I actually have 3 adult nonfiction books going: one on the benefits of a vegetarian diet (my workplace lunchtime read), one on haunted locations in the U.S., and one on classic children's book authors, as well as the audiobook version (through Librivox) of Twice Told Tales. I think before I start another fiction, perhaps I'd better try to finish at least one of the nonfiction books. I do have this year's banned book chosen--The Lovely Bones--which has been challenged or banned for the various reasons, too frightening for middle school students, some question whether the author is anti-Christian based on the depiction of heaven, and there's at least one case where someone thought it was pornographic (I'm assuming this refers to the rape, but I haven't started it yet, so I'm not sure). Since I'm no longer dealing with grade levels--at the college level, all our fiction, whether YA or adult, is lumped together alphabetically, so I've not had to stop and think, "Is this appropriate for this category?" as I once had to do when dealing with grade level divisions in a public library. So whether it was written for middle school students, high school students, or adults (or the author simply wrote it and let the publisher market it for whomever), I can't say. But I thought it would be a nice change of pace to read a more modern banned book this year, rather than a classic.

Aug 16, 2:59pm Top

>150 CassieBash: That collie sure burns through owners, doesn't she? Well, they do keep falling into the well...

Aug 16, 4:52pm Top

>151 foggidawn: Hee hee! Actually, from all I ever heard about that, little Timmy never fell into a well, nor to the best of my knowledge did anyone else connected with Lassie. Although apparently Timmy did fall into lakes and out of trees.... Of course, in real life...SPOILER ALERT...Lassie was a male dog, not a female. With all the hair, no one noticed. Sorry for anyone who read that and didn't know it; didn't mean to crush your childhood.... :)

Aug 16, 6:47pm Top

>152 CassieBash: I read years ago that male collies were used in the movies because their coats were better-looking than the females, BUT the films used female collies for the stunts because they were smarter...hehehe.

Edited: Aug 17, 12:23pm Top

>153 fuzzi: I know it's true about the coats thing--we have a female collie mix and her coat, which very much resembles the collie type, and it's not very thick and pretty compared to Lassie's. If I remember right, the original Lassie (a dog named Pal) was originally passed over for the role because he was a male, but he was hired as a stunt dog. But they liked him so much that they decided to make Pal the main Lassie anyway, so I don't know that it was always true about female collies being used for stunts. Maybe it depended on the specific male dog's intelligence. Even if the ladies are smarter overall, there's always one or two who skew the generalizations....

Aug 19, 9:16pm Top

Book 59: America's Most Haunted is another ghost hunter guide featuring paranormal investigation hot spots like Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Bobby Mackey's Music World, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, and more, and of course it features personal experiences of the authors (Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen) and their friends. And it has black and white photos of the locations (but suspiciously no evidence photos--though at least they aren't all about orbs and feel more skeptical about them as evidence than some). It defines and describes the various tools used in their investigations. But the really different and cool thing that's included here and not in your average ghost hunters guide are the extras at the end of each chapter that fall under the heading "What you need to know before you go", and includes not only the physical address and contact info but also lists any tours and special events held at the places, as well as lodging options. I'm much more an armchair investigator, so I won't be keeping this book, but it would be an excellent addition to a more active paranormal investigator who may just be starting up, especially as the authors warn readers about potential hazards in the more dangerous locations.

Aug 24, 2:32pm Top

Book 60: Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce seems on the surface to be a funny "realistic" fantasy about a very tall 12 year old boy who uses his height and the peach-fuzz stubble beginnings of a beard to pass as an adult and the father of a classmate, a girl named Florida, who gets in trouble when he and Florida find themselves in a father-child offer in China that will allow Florida to go into outer space. But it's actually about family, and fathers in particular, and the connections between children and their fathers.

See, Liam finds it fun to be the adult and to pretend to be Florida's father, and both of them have fun, but don't really do much bonding. The whole thing is pretty much an act. So when the opportunity to win a surprise happens and his dad doesn't take advantage of it, he does. Turns out the surprise is a trip for a father and child to what, at first, seems to be a space-themed amusement park. Once he convinces Florida to once more be his little "Princess, and they have committed to the trip, though, it turns out that it isn't really an amusement park at all but the actual site of a rocket launch, with Florida chosen (as well as three other children) to be part of a real rocket trip into space. Liam is excited at first, until he finds out that he won't be going--just the children. But then as the children start training and Liam begins to see the dangerous aspects of the trip, his "daddy" concern really kicks in, and he begins to worry about Florida--really worry about her and the other children.

The book is a bit about growing up but is a good book for children to get a glimpse of what it means to be the parent--including all the stress and worry, and even a little about the fears of letting go. It's a good boy book, as the narrator is Liam (the book is mostly flashback), and the humor of Liam pretending to be an adult around real adults (and often not doing a great job of it, what with his knowledge of gaming and his attempts to turn everything into a game), as well as the tech references, make this a relatable tween and young teen book, even with G rated content and language.

Aug 30, 9:57pm Top

Book 61:Vegetable Diet as Sanctioned by Medical Men, and by Experience in All Ages is a reprint of a book originally published in the early 1800s and it presents a (biased and preachy) argument for a vegetarian diet. Parts of it were drier than others, parts were preachier than others. Some of the information is based on the personal accounts of people, many who were doctors, some is scientific and medical information based on anatomy and physiology comparisons between humans and carnivores, herbivores (most particularly fruit eaters), and omnivores, and some are even Biblical arguments from philosophers and religious men. But some of the information in here is not only presented with archaic language and style but also, of course, with archaic racial slurs--though it's not the usual stereotypes we Americans think of. No, the Asians and Irish (being mainly eaters of rice and potatoes, respectively) are the ideals towards which the author feels we all should mimic, and it's the Laplanders, the Scandinavians, the Eskimos and other cultures relying on hunting and fishing that the author finds as crude and uncivilized, often insulting their physique and intelligence, as he claims animal food impairs both. I had to shake my head in disbelief at some of what he says, it was so offensive. This book is probably only good as an historical look; I certainly wouldn't try to convert anyone to vegetarianism armed with this alone--especially if they were Scandinavian!

Sep 3, 11:43am Top

Book 62: Erebos is a YA thriller, good for boys especially though probably not those who are reluctant readers, as the book is quite large. Still, it was an excellent read, with just the right balance of suspense, mystery, and a touch of young romance--nothing heavy or sexual but very believable. Nick is a sixteen year old boy who's studying hard in school, plays on the basketball team, likes a girl named Emily but doesn't quite know how to approach her, and who has cool friends, so life feels pretty good overall. But when a mysterious game starts being passed secretly around, people start acting strange. Different. At first, is concerned and upset, because one of his friends, Colin, is withdrawn and defensive--not like himself at all--but then Nick gets a copy of the game and is drawn into the world of Erebos, which interacts naturally with its players. So much so, that it seems to know exactly who you are and what you're doing. And it has tasks that bleed into the real world; Nick is told at one point to move a box from one place to another--and as he becomes more and more and more enmeshed in the game, the tasks become harder and less innocent. And Nick begins to wonder how serious--and deadly--this game really is. I recommend to gamers and tech fantasy fans of any gender.

Book 63: The Dark Didn't Catch Me takes place in the Great Depression era in southern Indiana (Greene County to be exact), and as this book was written by a fellow native of the state (which seems to be how it works with Indiana as a setting--not too many non-natives seem to use it as a setting), I thought I'd give it a try. It's really just a growing up story told from the point of view of Seely, a middle child just on the verge of adolescence, living in a difficult time while her parents struggle to make ends meet. The events in the book are things that happen in the course of a life, rather than adventure or exciting, earth-shattering moments--though to Seely, a few seem like the latter--so this is a very quiet story overall, with no real overarching plot beyond that of seeing Seely's world through her eyes as she grows up. In some ways, this book from the 70s would probably have been controversial during its time, much like Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret was, because it talks about periods and the physical changes girls go through, and there's a teenage pregnancy of a girl who's not married. But unlike Blume's work, the language in this book seems more dated than even the 70s, perhaps in part due to the setting of deep woods Indiana in the 1930s. I'm neither going to recommend or not recommend; it was an OK read but nothing about it stands out. Unless you're obsessed with reading everything by Indiana authors, you can skip this one.

Sep 9, 8:46pm Top

Book 64: Storm Front is an urban fantasy/gumshoe detective hybrid; the first of a series. Harry Dresden is a gentleman wizard private investigator--the only one in existence--living in Chicago and on retainer for the police. When a grisly double murder happens, one victim the member of the local mafia gang, Harry's contact on the force calls him in to do a little digging. On top of that, a woman whose husband is missing hires him, too--and because of something he's done in the past, Harry also has to do everything on the up-and-up, magic-wise, or the White Council will literally have his head.

Harry's a likeable guy, and the story is told from his first-person perspective. Though I knew pretty quickly the basics of what was going to happen--I knew "whodunnit"--I didn't know the specifics and getting there was the fun. Language included the more standard cursing--no "f" bomb--and while there was sex and nudity involved, there were no details. Intended for adults, older teens will probably like it as well if they like urban fantasy. I'll be reading book 2, which I also have, in the near future.

Sep 12, 3:49pm Top

Wow! It's going to be a close race to see what title gets to be book 65! I have four going right now; will it be...?

My audiobook of short stories, of which only three stories remain. Sounds like a winner...but I don't listen to it every day. Sometimes I use music on my commutes, sometimes I don't listen to anything. It depends on my mood.

My nonfiction read, a book of essays about children's authors, illustrators, and works. Only one chapter remains--but it's a nonfiction, not heavy reading but not exactly light, and during the week, I tend to read more fiction to help unwind.

My work novel, a fast-paced book that I read at lunch and during breaks. I'm about half-way through, but I only just started it last week, and it's proven a quick read. It could sneak up from behind to take the win.

My home novel, which is similar in pace to my work novel, but I'm not nearly so far into--but then again, I read more at home than at work. (Funny how people think all that librarians do is sit behind a desk and read. I believe that librarian is an urban legend. It's certainly not applicable to me.) Can it overtake them all and become book 65???

Oh, the suspense! :)

Sep 17, 8:59am Top

Book 65 turned out to be Twice Told Tales, the Librivox version of the audiobook read by Bob Neufeld, after all. This is a collection of short (some are very short!) stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne that read like poetry. Like his contemporary Edgar Allan Poe (who admired this book), his work is filled with great descriptions full of imagery, but with a simpler style that isn't as heavy as a Poe story. Like Poe, Hawthorne could write supernatural horror fiction, and several are included in this collection (including one of my favorites, "The Wedding-Knell"), but there are other gems here, some of which are simply nothing more than observances of daily life and others with a moral to tell. Many are charming, some unsettling, especially when viewed through a more modern lens (I'm still trying to work out just what the man's intentions towards the little girl in "Little Annie's Ramble" were--innocent or not?). Incidentally, Hawthorne supposedly added the "w" to his name to separate himself from his more strict, Puritan ancestors, one of which was a judge for the Salem witchcraft trials (and the only one never to repent his role in them). And you can tell in some of these stories that the Puritan doctrines were not to his liking; often they were seen as strict to the point of cruelty, though occasionally, such as in "The Gentle Boy", a few would be more forgiving and accepting than the rest. Readers of classics who like short stories, especially the "sampler" type of collections that contain more than one genre, will probably enjoy this read (or listen).

Book 66: I decided to finish the nonfiction, since it was so close to being done: Boys and Girls forever: Children's Classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter is a collection of essays by Alison Lurie. The first several chapters feature a short biography as well as a critique of some famous authors: L. Frank Baum, Dr. Seuss, Hans Christian Andersen, and Louisa May Alcott to name a few, while the last chapters focus on either specific works, such as Haroun and the Sea of Scrolls or general genres or themes, like fairy tales and nature. Teachers in the K-12 sector (or instructors of K-12 classes in higher education institutions), children and YA librarians, and anyone who is interested in children's and YA literature.

So now that I only have 9 books to read to meet the goal (easy peasy!), here's how things stack up so far:

Children's fiction: 15
YA fiction: 24
Adult fiction: 11
Children's nonfiction: 1
YA nonfiction: 1
Adult nonfiction: 10
Audiobooks: 5

And my ticker:

I'll probably complete the 75 goal by the end of next month; after finishing the two novels I've started, I'm going to start my Halloween reads. I have several children's and YA books set aside, both fiction and nonfiction, to read through the month of October, starting with the children's book Witch series by Phyllis Renolds Naylor and several books from the Weird and Horrible Library, which is children's nonfiction. Yes, folks, it's a return to the twisted nonfiction for me (even if it is youth nonfiction); I think I'll start with the book on body snatching and work my way through the volumes on vampires, werewolves, and so on from there.

Edited: Sep 27, 8:04am Top

Book 67: The Golden Goblet is a children's historical fiction that takes place in ancient Egypt. The orphan boy Ranofer has been sent to live with his half-brother Gebu, who neglects and abuses him. He also, Ranofer discovers, uses him to help him steal gold from the goldsmith shop where Ranofer works by taking home bits of raw gold in wine skins passed to him by an accomplice. When Ranofer finds out and tries, with the help of a new friend at the smith shop, to catch Gebu, it doesn't work. Gebu only pulls Ranofer from the goldsmith and makes him an apprentice stonecutter instead--and Gebu's thieving reaches new heights when Ranofer discovers a goblet that's been stolen from a royal tomb. Can Ranofer figure out a way to turn Gebu in without suspicion being cast upon himself? The penalty for grave robbing is death....

For upper elementary age children, this chapter book is a good story with a likable main character. It's nice that it slips in bits of history and cultural thought from the time period subtly, rather than hitting you over the head with it. There's also a small mystery regarding how Gebu is managing to rob a tomb--one that's based on historical fact. The one downside is that there were no historical notes at the end that many writers of historical fiction include--I rather like reading about the research the author has done and included, but maybe that's just me, and I'll admit that I'm a little weird about research. Maybe I've worked in the academic library sector a little too long....

Finally! This is the third time I've tried to fix that dang touchstone.

Sep 23, 7:40pm Top

Book 68: Witch's Sister: What would you think if your older sister began behaving strangely after entering junior high? What if she started spending more time by herself or with the ancient lady who lives in the huge house on top of the hill? What if she sang strange songs, calling tadpoles into her hands and getting a strange, dreamy expression as she sang? Lynn Morley and her best friend Marjorie "Mouse" Beasley think Lynn's sister Judith is becoming a witch, but no one will believe them--they chalk it up to growing up. But to Lynn and Mouse, the evidence is mounting, and everything suggests that the old woman, Mrs. Tuggle, has recruited Judith into her coven, and that their next victim will be Stevie, their little brother.

This is a revisit book that I read long ago--at the target age, actually, which is for 4th--6th grade primarily. I remember it being scarier than this time around but I enjoyed it on a whole different level this time around. As a kid, I never questioned whether Lynn and Mouse were reading more into Judith's behavior than what was really there, or whether Mrs. Tuggle was just an eccentric. Re-reading this from an older perspective made this seem like a more open-ended book; is the old woman really a witch who put a spell on Judith? This is the first book in a series of 5, so there's yet time to find out!

Well, I promised you all that I would return to reading disturbing nonfiction, so without further ado.... Book 69: The Body Snatchers is a book from a series of children's nonfiction called The Weird and Horrible Library. My first encounter with the series was in 3rd grade, when I checked out the mummies volume (and later the vampire and the werewolf ones). That mummies book is still what I consider one of my more definitive books on the subject, as it covered all sorts of mummies, both man-made and natural. This book is a fascinating (if not disturbing) look at various aspects of grave robbing, both in regards to personal belongings pilfered from tombs and coffins and the bodies themselves. The former aspect focuses a lot on the plundering of ancient Egyptian tombs while the latter aspects include not only the most famous reasons bodies were taken from their graves--to supply anatomists with specimens for their classrooms--but also some examples of how people in power used bodies for political purposes.

This series is written for older elementary and middle school age children (with a skew towards being a bit morbid, perhaps), and I'll be reading more of this series throughout the next month.

Edited: Oct 22, 1:10pm Top

Book 70: My Banned Books Week choice (happy Banned Books Week, by the way) this year was The Lovely Bones, which is challenged in middle schools (which apparently is what most people think the book is targeted at?) for mature content (sex and violence, I'm guessing, because language was pretty tame) and being "too frightening" for the age group. Well, there was the rape and the murder aspects, but guess what? Those things do happen, and sometimes they do happen to young adults. The predator lured the girl and, even though she admits in the story that something seemed off, she didn't listen to her internal alarms--something every young adult, whether girl or boy, should learn to do. The story is told from the point of view of the victim, Susie Salmon (like the fish), as a flashback from heaven. It covers the events leading up to her rape and murder, and then she follows her family, friends, and murderer, as she tries to make sense of what's happened and come to terms with her situation and those of her loved ones so that she can let go of her earthly connections and travel deeper into heaven. This was a work read and I knew, as I got close to finishing it yesterday, that the dang thing was going to make me cry (I'm fighting back tears just righting this review), so I decided to take it home and finish it there. I didn't break down into uncontrollable sobs, but some quiet weeping did occur. It's a good read if you don't mind the content and a possible cry at the bittersweet end.

Oh, and I did dig up one other frequently made objection: the author's depiction of heaven doesn't necessarily mesh with the mainstream view, though I've always thought, as Susie finds out in the book, that heaven isn't heaven unless the things you love are available to you. After all, does your personality change once you've gone on? I imagine my heaven is probably a huge library/media center crossed with a botanical and zoological garden.... :)

Book 71: And I didn't stop with that; I had so little to read in my children's fiction title, the second in Phyllis Renolds Naylor's "Witch" series, that I went ahead and finished that as well. Witch Water picks up where Witch's Sister left off, with Mrs. Tuggle now turning her sights on Lynn and Marjorie (still sometimes called Mouse), trying to entice them into her coven. Lynn is at first sure she is the target, but then they see Mrs. Tuggle calling nine crows to her down by the creek, and she seems to have set them to follow Mouse. The B plot, which so far doesn't seem to have been concluded and (I would hope) continues into the next book, is what really happened to Mrs. Tuggle's younger brother. This plot was touched upon in the first book and continues here, as certain people in the town want to move the old cemetery to allow for development, but the documents that go with the grave of Tuggle's brother are missing--most notably the death certificate. The "evidence" for Mrs. Tuggle being a witch seems maybe a bit stronger, but the adults of the story still see her as just an eccentric--which is still possible. The creek is an important part of the story and is why the title is what it is, but I don't want to spoil anything for you. Not as good as the first book, but still a quick, enjoyable read.

I've brought a nonfiction about vampires from home in for my work read--surrounded by books at work, and I bring in one from home instead! How ironic is that? But I would like to get that pile down a bit, and it'll go faster if I hold off on reading books from the library. I'll start the third book in the "Witch" series tonight; they're all short, fast reads.

Looks like I'll make the 75 mark by or before Oct. 31 this year, since I'm reading a bunch of short books and I just finished book 70. I'll re-evaluate my goal when I get there. This might be a 90 book year.

Sep 27, 9:03am Top

>164 CassieBash: The Lovely Bones was published as adult fiction and reviewed as such, so I wouldn't say that most people think it's for middle schoolers. Since the main character is a teen, I'm sure it was purchased for some school libraries, and I can see that definitely being a problem where, for instance, a middle school and high school share a library. I know lots of high school libraries carry adult fiction as well as YA, and even middle school libraries often carry some. The book was probably purchased by some school libraries based on its popularity, and got challenged as a result from those who didn't feel their children were ready for that kind of graphic content.

Sep 28, 7:43am Top

>165 foggidawn: Most of the challenges that I could find were for middle schools (whether there was a shared middle/high school library wasn't indicated); I couldn't find any public library challenges/bans for this title, so that's probably a reasonable hypothesis. Interestingly, I don't remember adults talking buzz about this book, but the YA group--especially high school and college--seemed to grab onto this book. It must not have had a huge number of challenges, as it never made the top ten list compiled by the ALA (American Library Association). In 2002, it's year of publication, the top 10 list included such "dangerous" titles as The Chocolate War, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Julie of the Wolves, and of course, taking the number one spot, The Harry Potter series (or what titles had been published up to that point, at least).

As a banned books side note, one book that I track on the lists out of amused interest is the book And Tango Makes Three, which has been on and off the list ever since its publication. For my intellectual freedom class, I had to partner with someone and either defend or challenge the book; my partner wanted to be the challenger and so I got to be the librarian defending it. So it amuses me to see how many people get into a kerfluffle about two male penguins raising a chick together, year after year, when I'm sure that there are more modern titles that censors would find just as "bad" coming out on the same topic. Since its release in 2006, it has been on the top 10 banned/challenged list 8 times, and held the number one spot for 4 years. I thought in 2016, after being off the list for 2 consecutive years, that maybe they'd finally decided to let the penguins alone, but no--it was #9 on the 2017 list. Wonder how it's doing this year....

Edited: Oct 22, 1:10pm Top

Book 72: The Witch Herself is book 3 of the series, and this time, it seems that Lynn's mother is the target of Mrs. Tuggle's influence. As the weather turns colder, Mrs. Morley decides to move her studio from the old woman's renovated hen house to the second floor sewing room--the very room Judith used to spend so much time in. And ever since she moved to the house to work, Mrs. Morely hasn't been quite herself. Questions about Mrs. Tuggle's younger brother are still on people's minds, as the town still works towards moving the old cemetery--and Lynn and Mouse are convinced that Mrs. Giggle wants to use Mrs. Models to somehow stop the cemetery project.

The book was on par with the second in the series, and has an open ending. There is a bit more danger and Mrs. Tuggle shows her true colors, leaving little doubt in readers' minds as to whether she's a witch or not. But there is a bit of a twist (that I shall not spoil here) regarding the nature of good and evil as seen through the eyes of this literary world.

Edited: Oct 22, 1:10pm Top

Book 73: The Witch's Eye: Warning!! Major spoilers ahead!! I've reached a point in the series where, to give even a brief synopsis, I'm going to have to spoil major events from the last book. Read below this point at your own risk.


All that's left after the fire that consumed Mrs. Tuggle's house--and the old lady with it--is her green glass eye. Lynn had seen it when she and Mouse went up to the site to reassure themselves that it was over--but then Stevie, Lynn's younger brother, starts behaving badly, and Lynn finds that he's found the eye and has been keeping it with him, thinking it was a marble. Lynn and Mouse are almost certain that the eye is still somehow allowing a part of Mrs. Tuggle's evil influence to linger, and they set out to figure out how to destroy the powers the eye still seems to possess.

Mouse's character is becoming less timid and stronger; it's Lynn in this book that is the weaker one. While the perspective is still Lynn's, as the series goes on, in places it seems more and more that it's Mouse's character that is the pivot, that in a way, it's her story told through her friend's eyes.

Edited: Oct 22, 1:10pm Top

74: Witch Weed is the 5th (is that right? I've lost track) book of the series, and once more, there will be some spoilers here. You have been warned. But before I get into spoilers, just a quick note that I'll be taking a short (weekend short) hiatus from the series while I'm at the Indiana Renaissance Faire. So rather than start another book, I'll be taking my adult nonfiction book about vampires along with me--not that I'll probably do much reading. I'm a volunteer performer (storyteller) at the Faire so there will be much preparation, setup, teardown, makeup, and lots of fun! If you happen to be in or near Noblesville, Indiana, feel free to stop by the Faerie Glen and ask for Lady Lepidoptera. OK, on with the summation and review....

And only two more titles to go before I hit that target 75!




Still with me? OK, the eye is gone now but the evil of the deceased Mrs. Tuggle is still around, this time in the form of purple-flowering plants. From the illustrations in my edition, they look like purple cobra lilies, a carnivorous plant native to California--but that's not what they turn out to be. In fact, they are witchweed, a member of (at the time the book was written) the figwort family. Whatever family it belongs to, it turns out that it has a lot of evil intentions, reaching out past the Morely and Beasley families to try to draw some of the other local girls under its spell. As the five girls start getting deeper into the evil magic that lingers in the flowers growing along the creek, Mouse's resolve to stay out of the coven weaken, as the lure of an easy fix to a personal family problem becomes harder to resist. Again, the story, while told from Lynn's perspective, still seems to pivot around Mouse, making me wonder if, in the final book, Mouse isn't the one who will ultimately have to confront Mrs. Tuggle in a final showdown.

Edited: Oct 22, 1:09pm Top

Book 75: The Witch Returns: The last book of the series.




Lynn can't help but wonder if the problems with Mrs. Tuggle are finally done...until the neighbor who had the house rebuilt turns out to look exactly like Mrs. Tuggle. Lynn and Mouse are no longer alone in watching for strange things, though, as their fathers and the school psychologist also have suspicions. But they need proof that the old woman isn't really Mrs. Tuggle's sister as she claims, but is actually the witch herself.

The book ends with an ultimate showdown between good and evil.

Oct 22, 1:09pm Top

I just realized that I counted two books for #69, so I'm officially posting book 76!!! The Kneebone Boy is a young YA novel (sort of sitting the fence between a book suitable for upper elementary or middle school--I could see it going either way). The book has a British feel about it (it does take place in England, but the author is American, so kudos to her for making it feel authentic!), with rather dry humor and elements that are reminiscent of Roald Dahl, Eva Ibbotson, and other British writers whose books were a mix of creepy, funny, and tragic.

The Hardscrabble children--Otto, Lucia, and Max--haven't seen their mother in years. Their father is an artist who paints portraits of tragic royalty who have lost their power, and whenever he's away on a job, the children have to stay with horrible Mrs. Carnival, who is the only one in town who seems to tolerate their presence for long. But then they have a chance to stay with an aunt in London--only when they get there, the aunt isn't home. They remember another aunt who's staying in Snoring-by-the-Sea, and have enough money to take the train to stay with her, under the shadow of Kneebone Castle, where rumor has it that a deformed monster--the oldest Kneebone child--lives....

Content is just a bit PG, with mention of "feminine thingamathings" (author's phrase, not mine) and a very little toilet humor and such. Violence, too, is minimal. So most older children and definitely middle school readers can easily handle this. It wasn't quite what I was expecting--I was thinking horror but it turns out to be more mystery and suspence--and while it's not a stellar book and probably will be passed on to White Rabbit Books in Muncie, Indiana (haven't done a shameless plug for my fiance's store in awhile; must be about time), it was a fun read.

Book 77: Yes, it's a two-book posting, as I finished a children's nonfiction this weekend as well: Werewolves is from the same series as book 69 in >163 CassieBash:. Children who like the macabre will enjoy reading about folk legends and supposedly true events of werewolf attacks (though often given in light of modern, scientific explanations). The illustrations are nice in that they show not only various renditions of werewolves, but also of a mentally ill person on all fours carrying an infant off in his mouth and one of a child suffering from hypertrichosis, giving visuals to the scientific sides of the legend. The downside is that some of the illustrations can be disturbing. I wouldn't recommend this book to timid children who suffer nightmares, but kids who eat up Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Goosebumps will definitely enjoy.

My tally so far:

Children's fiction: 21
YA fiction: 26
Adult Fiction 11
Children's nonfiction: 3
YA nonfiction: 1
Adult nonfiction: 10
Audiobooks: 5

So now that I've hit book 75 (which turned out to be 76--I need to go back and correct my count), let's get a ticker up to show the new goal:

Last year I read an even 100...but I had a head start with the time off I had to take for a surgery. Reading 90 shouldn't, theoretically, be impossible; I'm nearly done with an adult nonfiction I've been reading at work, and I still have 4 or 5 of The Weird and Horrible library to read, plus more children's and YA fiction waiting in the wings. With only nine more full weeks in the year to go, I'll have to read almost a book and a half each week. Some weeks, this is possible, but others not-so-possible. But I'm going to try, because it's not a challenge unless it's...well, challenging, right? :)

Oct 22, 3:07pm Top

Congrats on surpassing 75!

Oct 22, 5:43pm Top

Congratulations on reaching 75, Cassie!

Oct 22, 6:55pm Top

Woo! Congratulations on getting to 75! And beyond...

Oct 22, 7:23pm Top

Congratulations on blowing past the 75 book mark, Cassie!

Oct 23, 7:10am Top

Thanks, all! I have an issue with numbers, apparently, because this isn't the first time I've counted two books as one. :) Depending on how my lunch hour goes, I may have book 78 posted later. And this weekend is a Muncie trip, and I have an audiobook waiting in the wings for the drive....

Oct 23, 1:25pm Top

And here's book 78: The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula, a book about vampires--sort of. It's actually more about the author's journey to discover vampires rather than vampires themselves, but if you don't mind a bit of adult language, it's pretty funny. The author recounts some pretty outrageous stories about his "quest": how he sat through over 200 vampire movies, how he went on a vampire-themed trip with Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick, tried to find self-proclaimed vampires only to find out they're harder to contact than you might think, and how he stole medical equipment from his doctor's office so he could draw a little of his blood to drink. Most of the gross parts are morbidly funny (the blood drinking went about as well as most of us would expect), especially since he handles it with a lot of humor (he admits he was an idiot to try drinking blood). Buried within his anecdotes are actual facts about vampire folkore, films, theatre, Bram Stoker, Vlad Dracul, etc., so you will, just possibly, learn something about vampires as well as the author's personal quest. As amusing as it was, it offered no new insights into vampire folklore and history than what I've gotten from my more scholarly works, so this will eventually be going to Derek's (and he'll probably keep it for himself). My sisters and mom, however, want to read it first.

Oct 23, 8:58pm Top


Oct 30, 5:34pm Top

Book 79: Poltergeists: Hauntings & the Haunted is one more from The Weird and Horrible Library series created for young readers around 5th--7th grade. This one focused on several famous poltergeist cases, including a couple of my favorites, the Borley Rectory and Gef the talking mongoose. OK, even the author admits that Gef isn't a traditional poltergeist, but he often gets lumped into that classification based on many of the poltergeist-like activities attributed to him. And the Bell Witch, one of the first recorded American poltergeists, is also included. The book mentions that poltergeists often are associated with adolescence and sexual maturity, so readers of this age may find it fascinating as they can imagine what it might be like to be "haunted". That being said, timid readers may not want to pick up this title--though I doubt that too timid readers would be drawn to anything from a series called "Weird and Horrible".

I've started the next one from this series on demons and devils. Now that our Halloween party is over--the science experiments in the "mad scientist lab" went over great, particularly microwaving Ivory soap--I should be able to read more again. Note to those who want to try microwaving Ivory (or any whipped) soap but don't read the above web article carefully--you really do want to cut the soap into chunks like we did. Unless you want to, at best, clean up a mess or, at worst, replace a microwave, don't try nuking an entire bar or, heaven save you, several bars at once. Until you see this experiment in action, you have no idea how much a piece of soap can expand.

Oct 31, 2:48pm Top

Happy Halloween from the Book Wyrm of Ancilla College!

Nov 1, 10:12am Top

Love those wings!

Nov 1, 5:27pm Top

>181 fuzzi: Thanks! I kind of miss wearing them today.

You can't see them very well, but I actually am wearing three dragons, including Oculus, one of the dragons guarding the to read piles from >65 CassieBash: (he's around my neck), Luna, a polymer moth/dragon combination pin, and my newest, the green fellow who's one of Oculus's relatives, named Nectar, because he has cloth butterfly wings. Quetzalcoatl, also from >65 CassieBash:, is chilling in the candy bowl.

Nov 2, 7:59am Top

>182 CassieBash: I can only see the green one!

Nov 2, 9:34am Top

Oculus is around my neck, and his black blends in with the robe, but see the colorful streaks by the green one? That's Oculus's tail. His head is under my chin. To the right of his tail is the pin; you can see her body and right wing, but it's hard to make out that she's a moth dragon.

In the bottom picture, the reason I've got my right hand discreetly behind me is that I'm pulling the strings that operate the mechanism which spreads the wings. The nice thing about the outfit is that between Oculus's body and tail, the black of the strings and harness being a near match, and the robe's long hood, I don't think too many people noticed the harness itself, even from the back where there's a sort of plastic plate that rests against you.

Nov 2, 12:30pm Top

Edited: Nov 5, 7:31pm Top

Book 80: Devils and Demons is yet another "Weird and Horrible" title, but I'm going to suggest that this title is perhaps better for a more mature YA audience due to content. While not necessarily any more "scary" than any of the other titles in the series so far, the book mentions sexual aspects of cults and orgies that, historically, were traditional aspects of witches' sabbaths and demon worship (along with human sacrifice). This isn't by any means a "how-to" book, although the author does give a few of the more historical and complex aspects of summoning (a pure white, blessed linen robe woven and sewn by a pure and virtuous virgin woman--probably hard to find a robe like that in our mass-produced world). Instead, it's an historical and cultural look at how demonology evolved and progressed, from the transformation of ancient gods, once worshipped but later feared and scorned and relabelled as demons or devils, to the fall of the Knights Templars, to the rise of devil worship among the affluent in the Victorian Era, to Alastair Crowley. The author doesn't glorify or suggest that anyone should become a Satanist, but suggestive children might get ideas, I suppose. My copy will stay with me, as will the other books in this series. I'm currently reading the vampire volume and will be tackling the witches and then the magicians and sorcerer one before running out of titles I own from the collection. That will, in conjunction with the book at work and an audiobook, take me to 85. I'm not sure how much reading I'll work in around the holidays so 90 may be pushing it, but we'll see.

Nov 5, 7:44pm Top

Vampires is book 81, and is written by the same author, Nancy Garden, who wrote the last one and several others in the series. The vampire volume, as many of the ones based heavily on folklore and legends do, spends most of its content on the history and development of the legends. Don't expect a lot on the life and times of Vlaf the Impaler--this book mentions him more in context of being Bram Stoker's inspiration for Dracula than anything, and even that is only a couple of pages' worth. She does go into a lot of the different vampire lore and types of vampires from around the world, and how the modern version of the vampire evolved from them (and John Polidori and Le Fanu, as well as Vlad and Stoker and, of course, Bela Lugosi). Not a bad read and there's actually a surprising large amount of information (and folklore stories) packed into the 122 pages of text (followed by an extensive selected bibliography).

Edited: Nov 6, 5:49pm Top

How do you read so many books? I never seem to have the time for reading anymore but I love to read, the most books I've been able to read in a year is around 20 or 30. Any suggestions for this upcoming year? Thank you!

Nov 7, 8:36am Top

>188 axe8148: I read a lot of children's and YA, both fiction and nonfiction. I know some adults pooh-pooh reading non-adult books but honestly, some of the children's/YA stories are better than some of the books for adults. Many of these recent reads are under 200 pages and the reading level is probably for around the 5th grade--not so challenging reads, which also helps. I count audio books and while this year's audios have been much fewer, it also helps keep the pace going, as I have an hour's commute total each day (plus I have no dishwasher, so I often listen to audio books while doing dishes, cooking/baking, etc.). Some days, I admit to reading in the tub if I want a relaxing soak instead of a shower. I also read frequently during my lunch breaks; aside from a student worker, I'm the only person on staff at the library, so I'm pretty tied to my desk, but if students don't need me, I can get in some good reading time. The only reason I stay at my desk is because sometimes someone actually does need help during the lunch break, so I'm really there for a "just in case" scenario.

While I don't do this because I want to read and evaluate (and hopefully purge) my overflow stock, some readers count the easy readers and picture books they read to their kids (or just to themselves), so you can boost your stats that way. Graphic novels, which I've read a few in past years that I put towards my count, also might help your numbers.

I realize that these tips may not appeal to everyone, but they have a lot to do with how many books I can cover in a year, I'm sure.

Nov 8, 12:37pm Top

Book 82: House of Spirits and Whispers: The True Story of a Haunted House is written by the homeowner, who says she comes from a psychic background (on her Irish side). She has plenty of otherworldly experiences in this book about a house she bought that not only comes with its previous owners' ghosts, but also transient ghosts coming over from the funeral home nearby. She, her family and friends, and even their cats all have adventures with the ghosts, everything from pounding on the walls to mysterious footsteps, from unexplained scents to whispers, from objects disappearing and reappearing in other places to a ghostly scream, her experiences cover all the standard fare that one would expect from a haunted house. But she also describes her astral projections, dreams about the past and future, and mysterious auras and unexplained light events. If you're not into the New Age stuff, you'll probably be skeptical about some (or all), even if you believe in ghosts. If you love the New Age stuff, this book is right up your alley. It wasn't a bad read for me, but it wasn't quite as creepy as I'd have liked for a Halloween read (which is partly because the author handles the haunting events with a lot of strength and the courage that comes from indignant anger at being frightened in your own home).

Nov 11, 10:03pm Top

Book 83: Witches is a brief look at the history of witchcraft and the belief in witches that led to the various Inquisitions (Spain wasn't the only one to have them), the English witch trials, and of course the Salem witch trials. Talks about hysteria, pressures of religion and society, and how they fed into the belief and persecution of witches. Also talks about "Voodoo" (really Vodoun) as a hybrid religion rather devil worship as it's often thought of, and Wicca. Not a bad coverage of the material for beginners just learning the basics of the history and cultural aspects of the topic. Not a "how-to" book, by the way.

Nov 16, 7:03pm Top

Book 84: Magicians, Wizards, & Sorcerers is the last volume I currently own in the "Weird and Horrible Library". While witchcraft is mentioned here, the focus of the book is more about the more historically acceptable aspects of "magic": alchemy, mesmerism, a bit of spiritualism, secret clubs and societies. Much of the book is basic biographies of famous "wizards" such as John Dee, Paracelsus, Mesmer, Saint Germain, Aleister Crowley, Madame Blavatsky, and others, touching on their work whether it was more legitimate (Nicholas Flamel's alchemy, for instance) or obviously mostly show and little to no substance (Blavatsky). The author talks about various societies these people were connected with, mostly their rise and fall when their members either quarreled or they were exposed as frauds--societies such as the Rosicrucians, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and even LaVey's Church of Satan. (This is one of the few groups mentioned in the book that the author warns against getting involved with.)

Nov 17, 10:37pm Top

Book 85, Come Fall, is a young YA book of friendship. Salman has yet another foster home; he was an orphan from the start and has never had a permanent home. Now he's in the 7th grade at a school that has a designated buddy mentor system where 8th graders show 7th graders the ropes, and Lu-Ellen is Salman's. What starts out as unsolicited and unwanted help from Lu turns into friendship--something Salman isn't used to. And another boy, Blos, who has Asperger's, also joins the pair, adding his friendship. But unknown to them all, Salman is under the protection of Queen Titania of the fairies (think A Midsummer Nights Dream), who is still in a rivalry with King Oberon, which means that Puck--and Salman--are caught in the middle. Despite the fairy element, this book of friendship seems very real. While there is a hint of romance between Salman and Lu, it's very innocent. There are some minor swear words but nothing too bad or excessive. Not a bad read but not stellar so off to Derek's it goes.

Nov 18, 7:07pm Top

Book 86 was another Librivox public domain audiobook, Lords of the Housetops: Thirteen Cat Tales, read by various persons (each short story had its own reader). Some of the authors are well-known by many, some, perhaps, not as well-known. Algernon Blackwood and Edgar Allen Poe represent the horror stories, with The Psychical Invasion and The Black Cat, respectively, while Peggy Bacon supplied a wonderful fairy tale with "The Queen's Cat". I also particularly liked The Blue Dryad, where a cat defends its mistress against a deadly snake, and Monty's Friend, about a scarred, lonely miner outcast by his fellows and befriended by the camp cat--even though it has a bittersweet ending. Cat lovers will enjoy this varied selection.

Nov 20, 12:12am Top

Hi, Cassie. Looks like you are really putting the books away!

Nov 20, 7:17am Top

>195 ronincats: I usually have 2-3 books going at once, so sometimes they get finished very close together; that happened here. Book 84 was a home read, book 85 was a work read, and book 86 was my commute/Muncie trip book. I ended up taking 85 home to finish because I was so close to finishing both that and 84 that I decided I might as well just start fresh right before Thanksgiving, and the Muncie trip to see Derek Sunday finished up 86. Since we're only open two days this week--the college closes starting tomorrow and won't resume classes until Monday--it didn't seem worth it to bring another book to start until Monday next, and I haven't yet gone looking for an audiobook, so I only have my home read right now. Plus it doesn't hurt that mostly I've been reading youth books. :)

Nov 24, 8:04pm Top

Just stopping by to wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, Cassie.

Nov 25, 9:24am Top

>197 PaulCranswick: Thanks, hope yours was good, too!

Book 87: Lassie: The Mystery of Bristlecone Pine: Bristlecone Pine is the name a mysterious runaway boy gives to the forest ranger, Corey (Lassie's owner), and Sherrif Sam. While Sam works on finding out who the kid is and where he belongs, Corey helps the boy make friends and decide what he wants to do when he grows up. A quick read with plenty of G-rated adventure; modern kids might or might not be interested-- younger kids who don't grasp that this was a different time will wonder why no one who's in trouble doesn't just call for help. There's also no female role of any real significance beyond Corey's no-nonsense secretary, who's in it very little, which might add appeal for boys (no mushy stuff) but might turn off girls. But for what it is, it was a good, fun read.

I've got books 88 and 89 underway; one will go to work with me for this upcoming week and the other will be my home read--one's a YA, the other a children's book by a Russian author (and translated into English, of course). Then I think book 90 will be an adult book--either a big fiction or a nice nonfiction about animals or an infectious disease. Or maybe I'll tackle the next volume in that set I started at the beginning of the year. I'm not sure yet; guess I'll decide that when I get there.

After that, everything else will be icing on the cake.

Nov 25, 8:34pm Top

>198 CassieBash: I had that book as a youth and loved it.

Nov 26, 2:19pm Top

Book 88: In the Wolf's Lair: A Beastly Crimes Book by Anna Starobinets is the first of (so far) four "Beastly Crimes" books that follow the criminal investigations of Chief Badger and his assistant, Badgercat in the Far Woods--a place where it is a crime to kill other animals higher on the food chain than insects (insects, apparently, are OK to eat--not sure about fish since they didn't go into that in this book). When all that's found of Mr. Rabbit is his tail and some blood, everyone seems to think that Wolf, or perhaps Yote the coyote--or maybe even both--killed and ate him. But could Badger's doubts that either are the culprit really be true?

A mystery for young children, this chapter book is probably good for 5th graders up (or children with 5th grade vocabulary/comprehension skills) as a solo read but it could also make a good read-aloud for kids who are mature enough to handle talk of murder and blood. The actual murder takes place off-stage--no one is really a witness to it--so the violence is implied. No foul language but there is a lot of reference to a strong drink made from fermented moths.

I'm going to start a nonfiction on tornadoes for my work read; I've been eyeing it on our library's shelves here at the college since it was purchased and I cataloged it in 2013. I'll save the fiction reads for home for the moment.

Nov 28, 9:43am Top

Book 89: Epitaph Road: Regular followers of my 75 threads know how much I love a good infectious disease book, be it fiction or nonfiction, so it probably comes as no surprise that this book features a plot based on one. I haven't read an infectious disease book all year; the closest I've come to was >104 CassieBash:'s entry, Living Hell, where the people are equivalent to the germs, but it's not quite the same. So this was a nice (?) addition to the posts.

This is a YA utopia (so read dystopia, because utopian societies never end up all that great). At least, it's not so great if you're a human male. A highly contagious respiratory disease that only targets human males has wiped out 97% of the male population, leaving women in charge. Men aren't allowed to hold positions with too much influence--and the result seems to be a world at peace, with no war, a renewed environment, little crime, etc. But like all utopian societies, there's a dark secret, and Kellen, one of the few young men alive, and his female friends, Sunday and Tia, learn what that secret is. The problem they face--what should they do with the knowledge they have? Risk saving a few men's lives, or stay quiet and keep the status quo?

I don't want to give any more hints or potential spoilers, so that's as much of the plot as I feel you should know. It was a well-written book and certainly an interesting one; I'd love to go into a good discussion on morality, ethics, human nature....all these topics are relevant discussions to this book, and for that reason, I'm giving it a glowing review for a book group title for YA and/or adults. There's not much objectionable about sexual content (sex is highly monitored to keep births--particularly male births--within a set standard) nor much in the way of swearing. While I suspected what the secret was before too long into the book, guessing it didn't negatively impact the enjoyable read.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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