Showing posts from August, 2016

What I didn't finish, and why

Lately, I've found myself  not finishing some books, and while I don't like to write reviews of books I haven't finished, I thought it might be useful to talk about why I let them go. I'll say right here: it's not always because they are bad books. In fact, it's usually just because they aren't the right books and the right time. That said, here are a couple of books I let expire, and (to the best of my ability to suss out) the reasons why. The Road to Little Dribbling , by Bill Bryson Yup, that's right: I DNF'd a book by the famously witty Bill Bryson. As a matter of fact, this didn't totally surprise me. I had a love-hate relationship with A Walk in the Woods (yes, he made me laugh, but he also made me want to throw the book across the room with his lack of knowledge and planning, utter ignorance of good hiker etiquette and Leave No Trace principals, etc.). I enjoyed his book about Australia, but then when I read the one on the US, I found tha

Mystery Review: The Black Thumb, By Frankie Bow

Title: The Black Thumb Author: Frankie Bow Publisher: Hawaiian Heritage Press, 2016. 270 pages. Source: Electronic review copy Publisher's Summary: When a violent death disrupts the monthly meeting of the Pua Kala Garden society, Professor Molly Barda has no intention of playing amateur detective. But Molly’s not just a witness-the victim is Molly’s house guest and grad-school frenemy. And Molly quickly finds to her dismay that her interest in the murder of the stylish and self-centered Melanie Polewski is more than just…academic. My Review: This was a mystery that caught my attention and kept it from the start to the end. Maybe I was a little extra taken with the main character because I've spent most of my adult life in or around academia, but really the book has little to do with Molly's campus life, since it takes place during the summer vacation. It was just a good read in an interesting setting (Hawaii is just a bit exotic to me, since I've only ever been on

Flashback Friday: What's for Dinner?

It's Flashback Friday--a fun blog-hop that's a break for bloggers and a chance to give something from long ago another airing. Click on the image above to check out the hop and find the list of participants. I hunted through the archives for a story to re-share. I couldn't remember this one from May 2014, but it made me smile when I re-read it, so here you go. It's short--only about 700 words. What’s for Dinner? Mom’s acting weird.  Well, that’s kind of normal, if you follow me, because she’s always weird, but usually she’s weird like wearing strange clothes and working all night on one of those bizarre sculptures she makes.  I won’t ever tell her this, but I don’t like them.  They have too many jagged edges.  They’ll tear holes in you if you get too close.  I sometimes wonder if she’s out to destroy someone, or if she just sees the world that way, all jagged.  Either way: weird. But what’s really weird is that she’s started cooking.  No more Swanson’s pot pies, and no

Middle Grade Audio Review: The Green Glass Sea

Title: The Green Glass Sea Author: Ellen Klages. Read by Julie Dretzin Publisher: Original hardback Viking Books for Young Readers, 2006 (324 pages). Audio by Recorded Books, 2007. Source: Library (digital resources) Publisher's Summary:  It's 1943, and eleven-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is en route to New Mexico to live with her mathematician father. Soon she arrives at a town that, officially, doesn't exist. It is called Los Alamos, and it is abuzz with activity, as scientists and mathematicians from all over America and Europe work on the biggest secret of all--"the gadget." None of them--not J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project; not the mathematicians and scientists; and least of all, Dewey--know how much "the gadget" is about to change their lives. [Note: I'm not sure where the summary on Goodreads came from, but probably not the publisher--it is poorly written and has spelling errors! Don't let this put you off.]

Middle-Grade Monday: Far From Fair

(The Ninja Librarian knows this post is late. It's been that kind of summer in Skunk Corners). Title: Far From Fair Author: Elana K. Arnold Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016. 240 pages. Source: Library Publisher's Summary: Odette has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in the Coach with her par­ents and exasperating brother. And there’s definitely nothing fair about Grandma Sissy’s failing health, and the painful realities and difficult decisions that come with it. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair but does it have to be? With warmth and sensitivity Elana Arnold makes difficult topics such as terminal illness and the right to die accessible to young readers and apt for discussion.   My Review:  At first, I didn't think I was going to like this

Flash Fiction Friday: When Pigs Fly

This story was inspired by a little ornament I saw atop a mailbox while out biking this week. It must have a story behind it, though given the neighborhood, I'm sure it's a very different story from the one I have chosen to give it. To me, the story feels like another nod to L.M. Montgomery. Slightly longer than usual at just under 1100 words. When Pigs Fly “I don’t think we’ll ever save enough.” Evelyn didn’t say it to be discouraging. It was a simple statement of fact. That made it worse. Barry sighed, but said, “We’ll find a way.” “I do hope so,” Evelyn said with a glance around their run-down apartment. Soot from the trains and factories marked everything, and the street outside was noisy and crowded. “But I really think pigs will fly before we save enough money for even a little farm.” Barry grinned. “When I prove you wrong, I’ll name our place Flying Pig Farm.” They laughed, and sighed, and Barry took his lunch and went to work. Barry and Evelyn Thomas were small-town peo

Gone Fishin'

Well, actually, no. The Ninja Librarian doesn't fish. But I have been helping Mom move, and didn't get a post ready for today. So have a few flowers, instead. Some alpine flowers from the Sierra Nevada: Columbine Indian Paintbrush A type of sunflower (DYC) Leopard Lily or similar And from one of our coastal communities, a bunch of naked ladies in a cemetary: ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2016 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Non-fiction review: As I Saw it in the Trenches

I apologize for the lack of a cover photo--I'm on the road and my antique laptop wouldn't cooperate! Title: As I Saw it in the Trenches: Memoir of a Doughboy in World War I Author: Dae Hinson Publisher: McFarland & Company, 2015. 177 pages. Source: Library Summary:  This is the memoir of a WWI soldier, written down by him sometime in the years after the war, and discovered and transcribed by his nephew decades later. Hinson's goal seems simply to have been the accurate description of his WWI experiences. It is full of details about the war as he lived it. Review: This book reads very much as what it is: the account of a person who was not a professional writer, but a good observer and who obviously put a lot of effort into his narration. The editors have had the sense to leave it alone and not try to polish it up, and there are some places where errors slipped in or bits are missing, but the whole makes sense and it maintains the author's voice. The result is a ve

Friday Flash: Some Heroics Required

Chuck Wendig gave us a sub-genre mashup this week , and the dice gave me "creature feature" and "sword & sorcery." That's almost too easy a fit, but I was pressed for time, so that was a good thing. In 998 words, I give you: Some Heroics Required “You have to, Eeyla. You’re our last hope.” The knight shifted uncomfortably. She was the last hope? To go after a monster that had destroyed how many knights? “It’s defeated every other knight in the realm?” “Well, no.” Lord Altain looked uncomfortable in his turn. “But you have what none of them do. You have magic.” Eeyla sighed. She might have known. “So some fool of a wizard created a golem that’s run out of control. Why me? Let him fix his own mess.” The Lord Chancellor grimaced. “The monster ate him for breakfast, minutes after it was created. It had most of the village for elevenses.” It was the knight’s turn to grimace. It didn’t look like there was any way out. With a small groan for the joints that had bee

Wednesday Wanderings: Ansel Adams Wilderness

Two weeks ago I returned from a week of backpacking in the Ansel Adams Wilderness (California; just south of Yosemite) with my husband and oldest son. It's hard to capture a week's worth in a single blog post, but I'll take a shot at the highlights. It started with the drive from San Francisco, through Yosemite, and on to Lee Vining, where we treated ourselves to dinner at the Mono Cone, an old-school burger joint. After a night camped in an unnamed location, we picked up a backcountry permit and hit the trail about 10 a.m. A typical preparation scene. The trail heads right up the wall, though unfortunately it leads to a trio of lakes that were dammed before the wilderness area was created. We thought the tramway was no longer in use, but when we got to the top we found that it's still the way workers commute to the job site when the dams need attention. I'm sure they actually ride the brakes hard, but it looks like a roller coaster to me! Eventually we found a tran

Monday Mystery for Kids: Murder is Bad Manners, by Robin Stevens

Title: Murder is Bad Manners Author: Robin Stevens Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015. 307 pages. Source: Library digital resources Publisher's Summary: Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.) But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls  know  a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive. Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police