Dear Duncan Jones…

August 12, 2017 at 12:55 am (Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , )

Title: The Zebra Just Couldn’t Decide

Author/ Illustrator: Duncan Jones

We had the pleasure of receiving a new Duncan Jones picture book in the mail. Years ago, we were privy to his first book. My kiddo attended a book signing of his at Half Price Books in Humble. She has been wearing t-shirts he designed ever since.  Needless to say, she was pretty thrilled to discover he had sent her a NEW book.

“Dear Duncan Jones,

I think it’s a silly a book because every single animal wants to be the color that they already are. The flamingo wants to be pink and the flamingo IS pink. All rhinos are gray, people know that. The green snake already is a green snake. The wildebeest wants to be brown like the ground and he already is brown like the ground. The zebra just can’t decide and I’m kinda glad he can’t decide, because if he chose the color that he already was, he’d be as crazy as the others. I don’t know why the others want to be the color they already are.  I think it’s a pretty silly book, but I like it. And thank you for writing it.

Love, silly me”  [Ayla, age 6]

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Jorie and the Magic Stones

June 25, 2017 at 7:20 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

19437293_10100245730471579_2579479098578961460_n.jpgTitle: Jorie and the Magic Stones

Author: A. H. Richardson

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Length: 263 pages

Kiddo and I received this book some months ago as a review copy. We adore fantasy and fairy tales and Cabrynthius was an exciting addition to our travels which already included Narnia, the Land of Stories, Neverland, Hogwarts, and more.

Kiddo is six years old and her official review goes as follows,

“Jorie is a great book. I love the adventures she had. I want to learn more about the mysterious book she found under her bed. Please make a sequel.”

She also asked me to include three happy face emojis, of which I will refrain. But if we’re working on a happy face system instead of star ratings, she gives it three in a row. (I think happy faces may be worth more than stars.)

Richardson is a talented children’s adventure storyteller. I can say I probably would have enjoyed this book thoroughly as a second grader, although the average reading level might fall in a third or fourth grade level.  As an adult reading a children’s book, the story was appropriately paced, the trials and life lessons were concisely addressed, and I looked forward to reading each chapter with my little girl.

My only criticism for the work as a whole lies in an editorial preference: too many instances of the word “quite.” In future works, I hope that Richardson takes a red pen to every use of the word “quite” and marks it out. Keep three, maybe, but lose the rest. I found the word more distracting than descriptive.

All in all, Jorie and the Magic Stones belongs in children’s libraries everywhere. All kids long to go on a quest and to be chosen, but have to learn lessons of discernment and ethical choice; Richardson presents all these things well.  Like my daughter, I look forward to a sequel.

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Addleton Heights

October 9, 2016 at 7:31 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

31180231.jpgGeorge Wright Padgett has done it again – blown my mind with an awesome and fun reading experience.

Addleton Heights will be his third published work, but it’s an epic debut into the Steampunk genre and the world he has built and the characters he created have me smitten.

Just like everything George tackles, he writes his detective story with artistic spunk. Flare abounds from start to finish.

I believe so much in this book, the story, and the time period, I’m obsessed with the idea of launching the book release at the Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Of course, this launch is expensive (mainly because booking the museum after hours costs a pretty penny), but would be worth it.

So, Grey Gecko Press and I have set up a Kickstarter page. Please, please, if you appreciate my reviews, value my bookish opinions, and/or love supporting indie authors and publishing houses, check this out:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/greygeckopress/addleton-heights-steampunk-launch-party-at-hmns

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The Borrowers Series

October 9, 2016 at 2:55 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Borrowers

This was one of my favorites as a child and as I read it out loud to my own kiddo this week, I remembered why.  The Borrowers is simply magical and a tale every kid can get enchanted by.  The pages I read from were wrinkled with love, where I had toted it to school, to the mountain for camping, and every other place. I read it over and over again, and I’m hoping that my own kiddo will find the joy of reading this herself as she gets older.  But for now, I’m happy to read it aloud, and even happier to discover what other adventures are in store for Pod, Homily, and Arriety – as we’re about to begin reading The Borrowers Afield, which I never knew existed until I worked in a bookstore as an adult.

The Borrowers Afield

I read this aloud to my five year old today.  Not all in one sitting, but all in one day.  It was quite the affair, filled with many tea, coffee, sandwich, and taco breaks.  My voice is tired, but both our minds – despite the late hour – are alive with visions of dandelions as large as ourselves, bees to be pet like cats, and cats as large as an elephant.  I long to be Spiller, dashing around a field, “borrowing” from gypsies, sailing downstream in a soap tin.  I adored The Borrowers as a child, and just discovered its sequels recently; and despite having read The Borrowers Afield for the first time as an adult today, I think I might like it more.  I’m enchanted, and have enjoyed all my daughter’s renderings of tiny houses with oversized flowers and butterflies, on her drawing pad today, while I read on and on.  We look forward to the next book, The Borrowers Afloat.

The Borrowers Afloat and The Borrowers Aloft

The Borrowers Afloat took off just after Afield and left the Clock family living in less than desirable quarters along with the Hendrearys. It took far to long for them to actually make it down the drain the pipe and back into the out of doors, and this book along with the one after it – The Borrowers Aloft – were my least favorite. Mostly because the dangers became more and more stressful and the lives of the Clocks simultaneously more convenient but less cozy. I did very much enjoy the introduction of Miss Menzies, and so did the kiddo. We delighted in her as much as Arrietty. I still adore the entire series and these books deserve every star available to them.

The Borrowers Avenged

Finally the story of the Clocks is all wrapped up. But is it?! We lamented the ending and long to know what became of Arrietty’s whole life. Did she marry Spiller as she speculated? Or did Peagreen capture her heart as he did her mind?

It’s a shame there are no more. I’d keep reading them one right after another for years if I could.   The kiddo tried to tell me, “It’s ok mama, you’ll find that she’s written a second series about them some day.” I had to tell her “the author is dead, there’s no more.” “Sure there is, you just haven’t found them yet.” I didn’t have the heart to argue further. And who knows, maybe she knows something about Mary Norton the rest of us don’t…

Now we are off into another series of books for more adventures of a different nature.

 

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Twilight Books…

September 28, 2016 at 5:38 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

And no, I’m not talking about the twilight saga.  I’m talking about those books you pick up to read as the sun is setting – at the end of your day – and binge read until complete. I’m talking about all those glorious read in one sitting books. The kind that result in a little less sleep than you should have gotten the next day, but are worth it because you feel so much more refreshed than if you had actually slept.

It’s as W. Somerset Maugham said, “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

So when I am at my most miserable, I set in place the habit of reading cozy “twilight” books. I create down time where there is none, to devour what will rest my brain from my own crap long enough to kick start my next day.

51BbTTPu1kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOn Sunday, it was The Azalea Assault by Alyse Carlson. I saw the Victorian mansion surrounded by gardens and trees and grabbed it instantly. The watering can, the tagline “Murder is bad for publicity…” What’s not to love?  I can’t get enough of these cozy mysteries and this one is on the list of one of the better of them. It’s definitely an all in one sitting book and it inspired me to take a closer look at the weed situation in my garden this week. Which was lucky all in all because I found jalapeños and bell peppers for the kitchen.

Last night, however, it was The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy for an honest review – and full disclosure, she’s my cousin’s wife. But I can say without hesitation that I was pleased.  And I read it all at once.

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Available Now for Pre-Order, Release Date December 27, 2016

I enjoyed her previous book, her debut into the psychological thriller genre, The Good Neighbor but I also recognized why so many found faults with the plot that were pointed out in other reviews.  Banner definitely stepped up her game and took previous criticisms to heart for The Twilight Wife and it is leaps and bounds better in content and quality. Still brain candy, the twists not as surprising as a typical reader of the genre might like – but perfect for snuggling up with for a few hours when your own life is not something you want to think about anymore.

Also, and I said this about The Good Neighbor as well, Banner’s book screams to be made into a movie. Sleeping With the Enemy, The Net, and a number of other 90’s classics we could not do without would love to share shelf space with a film version of The Twilight Wife.  These are the stories we wear pajamas, drink a lot of wine, and eat the greasiest pizza while reading and watching.

So next time you find yourself out of sorts, too tired to look at your calendar to figure out when the next paycheck arrives and how soon it will be for you to make your next grocery trip… when you’re cranky about work, too exhausted to sleep, and definitely leaving those dishes in the sink overnight… download a copy of a twilight book… a cozy mystery, or a bit of women’s fiction like Azalea Assault and The Twilight Wife. Once you’ve read those, holler, I have an endless list to share.

If you have a Goodreads account – come find me, I share book lists and reviews there as well (Goodreads Author A.K. Klemm). Also, remember that I am an Amazon Affiliate and greatly appreciate you clicking through my blog to make your Amazon orders. It helps pave the way for me to continue reading, writing, and sharing my love for books with you (http://amzn.to/2d7edMl).

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Meet Felix Gomez…

September 19, 2016 at 2:47 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

1150191._UY200_.jpgTitle: Nymphos of Rocky Flats

Author: Mario Acevdeo

Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Mystery

Meet Felix Gomez, Iraqi-vet Vampire P.I. who has been called to Denver to investigate an outbreak of Nymphomania.  It sounds silly because it is. But it’s equally adventurous and well written.  It’s a slightly older title, but the series is still fresh with a current addition that came out in April (Rescue from Planet Pleasure).

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Mario and Me at Dragon Con 2016

At Dragon Con people would walk up to the WordFire Press booth and ask, “Do they come with pictures?” To which Acevedo would, without skipping a beat, reply, “No, only scratch and sniff.”

I laughed every time.  It just didn’t stop being funny to me.

I think that’s how Felix Gomez will be as I continue to read the series.  I’ve never been so amused as while reading Nymphos of Rocky Flats.  It has all the excitement of the X-Files with the plot development silliness of Eureka.  Just as I had settled into the pace of the book and thought, “Ok, I’m ready for all this to wrap itself up,” he’d toss something else at me and I’d giggle, “Maybe not…”

I enjoyed having a vampire story-line with a more realistic life story being dropped into an absurd universe (Iraqi War Vet meets Vampirism, Werevolvishness, and Aliens) – as opposed to the typical unrealistic life stories being dropped into a more familiar world (Two-hundred year old man falls in love with high school teen in the mundane school cafeteria; I’ll take aliens over high school again).

What I didn’t expect were the author’s deep thoughts on life to make subtle waves in some of his writing. Hints at politics and undertones on what might be Acevedo’s worldview were made but never formulated completely.  Having met the man, I know he is intelligent, well-read, and has a lot of wisdom regarding the world. As much as I enjoy his humorous banter, in both real life and his books, I’m interested to hear or read what his deep thoughts on life are.

Aside from deep thoughts, this book is all guy all the time but one girls can enjoy too.  It sells in mass market paperback form at the bookstore to middle-aged men like hotcakes all the time, but I plan to start pushing it toward more ladies.  The trade paperbacks have a longer shelf life, but honestly, I think it’s just because of where they are located. I’m already mentally planning a place to feature them for Halloween as I type.

A previous reviewer referred to the Felix Gomez series as Dude-lit. “When Girls Go Wild… Call in the Undead” the tagline of the book says.  If this doesn’t place it in that fabulous sub-genre of Dude-lit, I don’t know what would.  The fact that the book is the first vampire novel ever to be declassified by the U.S. government is another tell-tale sign.

Ironically, scantily clad women in hooker boots is not sub-genre specific, merely a hint that it’s urban fiction as it’s something that women expect to see on their chick-lit as well.  It is a consumer behavior impulse I will never quite understand – like how magazines for men and women alike feature half naked women on the fronts…  And despite the book being classic dude-lit, I’m a chick and I loved it. Then again, as a character in Rocky Flats points out: “Earth women are surprisingly complicated…”

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Side Note on Content & Ratings: I was pleasantly pleased that with all the hinting and perverted jokes, the book isn’t actually raunchy.  The movie version would probably still be rated R for nudity, but there’s a reason the books are not classified as erotica, and for that I was grateful. If it had been, I’m not sure I could look the author in the eye again – and I really like him, he’s fun.  There’s more porn in the Outlander series than in Rocky Flats.

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Beowulf

September 13, 2016 at 1:33 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I have a confession: I never read Beowulf in high school.  Or college.  I read Canterbury Tales more times than I can count (yet only remember a handful of the stories).  I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ad nauseum – and I like that story.  But no Beowulf.  How did I miss it?

I’ll tell you how, we tried to cram so much into such a short amount of time.  We spent hours and hours in school, but spent very little time actually studying.  Somewhere along the way, Beowulf was lost to me.  I’m not sure if I was ever really exposed to it or not.  It might have been something I breezed through in a Norton Anthology and regurgitated the next day for a pop quiz, only to be quickly forgotten.  I couldn’t tell you.  I only know that I had a vague idea that it was an epic poem involving something named Grendel when I began working at a bookstore as an adult.  Even then, I couldn’t tell you if Grendel was the monster or the man.

unknownAs we began our Middle Ages/ Early Ren. (450 AD to 1600 AD) year while classically homeschooling, it dawned on me that this was the year for Beowulf. I had already read the picture book by Eric A. Kimmel to kiddo when she was a wee one, but I’m sure she was so tiny she had fallen asleep; now was the time to embrace the story.

And we did.  I read her the picture book shortly before my trip to Atlanta. It fit right in with all the Celtic and Norse mythology we’ve been reading to bridge the gap between the ancient times and our exciting year ahead.  “What a guy! He tore off the monster’s arm! I can’t even do that,” she exclaimed. She was very pleased that this particular picture book could give the story in “one-sitting, all today” as opposed to the stories of Odysseus and Troy which all took weeks of chapter by chapter to finish. I foresee reading this again and again over the coming months, she loved the story so much; I have to admit, I did too.

4cf814193a0I liked it even more when I discovered there was a cartoon made in 1998 starring Joseph Fiennes as the voice of Beowulf – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKjcoFZmKuA.  We got to watch that and call it school.  It was a lot of fun.  (There’s one for Don Quixote we’ll be watching next year when we make it into the 1700s.)

Naturally, I was curious as to the accuracy of these versions.  I won’t ever truly know, because everything is a translation, but I thought I’d give an adult version a go.  There’s so many versions out there, I think I’ll just try a different one every Middle Ages cycle.  So I took the Constance B. Hieatt version with me to Atlanta and enjoyed it immensely, especially the little extras at the end.

beowulf-cover-hiea-900

The kiddo, of course, keeps asking me why we are using “fake stories as lesson books, they aren’t real stories mother!” I keep telling her, very ineloquently, that these stories help us understand the people who told them.  Read them to her as bedtime stories and naturally she’s thrilled at the excitement of them.

We’ll collect more versions over the years and by the time she is grown she will know the story well – and remember it.  Next go around we’ll even tackle it in poem form, and eventually we’ll read Gardner’s Grendel.

Do you have any favorite versions of Beowulf?  Or, more importantly, do you know any great stories of the time period that should not be missed?

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To Be Indiana Jones…

September 11, 2016 at 4:46 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

2359468Title: Babylonian Life and History

Author: E. A. Wallis Budge

Genre: History/ Archeology

So, I want to be Indiana Jones when I grow up. Who doesn’t? Although a friend advised me that to be Andi “Tex” Klemm would be far cooler, and I have suggested that I just might have to embroider this onto a fedora.

In the meantime, I study as much history as I can.  I also subscribe to the Archeology magazine.  And the way I go all fan-girl at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, well, it’s part of what makes me awesome… right?

So my “grown-up reading time” during my 5 year old’s ancient history year was Babylonian Life and History by E. Wallis Budge.  It was neat teaching her the bare bones of the Babylonians and Assyrians out of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World, and memorizing tidbits from the Classical Conversations curriculum, while getting a deeper dose for myself. I’ll continue this effort of furthering my education while I begin hers as long as I can. If you don’t have time for that, I understand completely; but if you do, this is a worthy book to select.

E.A. Wallis Budge never ceases to amaze me. Every time I think I have everything he ever wrote I think I find 3 new titles. He’s so prolific and seems to be the end all be all on Ancient History. Found some tidbit of from the ancient world you’d like to investigate? – there’s probably a Budge book for that. His prose is nothing special, and at times even a little boring, but I love reading his work and hope to read it all before I die.

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Archimedes and the Door of Science

August 10, 2016 at 7:18 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

517SvkV79rL.jpgTitle: Archimedes and the Door of Science

Author: Jeanne Bendick

Publisher: Bethlehem Books

Genre: Children’s Biography

I love these Living History Library books and Jeanne Bendick has a wonderful way of introducing great people in history and what they did/discovered on a child’s level without truly “dumbing” anything down. These books should be a part of any child’s library, and for sure any homeschoolers’ library.  My kid’s eyes have been opened to so many ideas because of this book.  At age 5, she’s already been checking out levers and experimenting with density while playing in the bathtub, she showed me how her ball has a pattern of concentric circles on it and informed me that it was three dimensional… These aren’t things that would be in her vocabulary without me reading this book out loud to her this month.

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Fever Dreams and Egyptian Myths

July 16, 2016 at 9:05 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

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This sweet boy, so sympathetic and comforting.

I’m playing hooky from work. To be fair, I have what I’d like to call the plague. It’s not the plague, but the green crap I’ve been coughing up out of my chest, the high grade fever, and the over all attack on my body has made me contemplate the potential peace of kicking the bucket.  Instead, unable to physically kick anything at all, I’m home wrapped in blankets when it’s easily 100 degrees outside.

Briefly, between fever dreams yesterday, I thought it would be amusing to read Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and chronicle my own impending doom – but alas, I passed out about two seconds after the thought, slept for a few hours, and arose only to hack more crap out of my lungs, cry a little, and crawl back onto the futon… the bed was too high to climb.

As amusing as a post on Garcia’s work would be while I drink my calories in the form of honeyed tea and chicken broth, I have no desire to spend the energy it takes to walk across the room in search of it. Instead, I reached to my right where I had been cataloguing my ancient literature collection, prior to plague, and plucked up a thin little piece called Egyptian Myths by George Hart.  It took me two days to read all 80 pages, because – you see – I’m dying.  But I made it.  And my laptop, conveniently in arm’s reach to my left, said “Hey, You have been USELESS for days. DO SOMETHING other than sleep and troll Facebook.”  Did I actually hear the computer speak to me? It’s possible. After all, fever dreams.

All in all, I am surviving, and this little George Hart piece has helped me feel as though I didn’t entirely fry all my brain cells with my 2 day fever.  I learned some things I didn’t know, refreshed some previous mythology tales I hadn’t heard in a while, and found a cool list of suggested further reading.  It was a great addition to the Ancient History stuff I’ve been studying with my kiddo over the last many months, and it went hand in hand with the arrival of my Archaeology magazine subscription.  If you can get your hands on one, it’s a great addition to any library.

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