Sunday, September 21, 2014

Weekly Recap - September 14-20, 2014

Here's what I blogged about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I reviewed Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and gave it 3.71 ladybugs.

Monday - I reviewed The Cat and the Wizard by Dennis Lee & Gillian Johnson and gave it 3.29 ladybugs.

Tuesday - I participated in the Top Ten Tuesday meme.  This week's topic was authors we've only read one book from.

Wednesday - I shared my status with WWW Wednesdays.  It's been a while since I did one of those posts!

I also reviewed Froggy Dearest by Scott Gordon, Konstantin Grishin, Sebastian Kaulitzki & Julien and gave it 1.17 ladybugs.  I was not impressed.

Thursday - I participated in Booking Through Thursday.  This week's topic was readers in the family...

Friday - I reviewed Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane and Hoda Hadadi and gave it 2.67 ladybugs.

Saturday - I shared the new books I got over the past week in New to the TBR Pile.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

New to the TBR Pile (2)



Freebie from Amazon.ca:
Froggy Dearest
by Scott Gordon
illustrated by Konstantin Grishin, Sebastian Kaulitzki & Julien Tromeur

One fine day, you come across the frog of your dreams. Soft spoken and ever courteous, you've never met a creature quite so charming. But tread carefully, for this frog has quite a secret to share!

Mistress of the Solstice
by Anna Kashina

As the head priestess of the ancient Solstice cult, Marya must sacrifice a virgin every year. She copes with this gruesome duty by assuming a mask of cold detachment, as her father—the evil tzar Kashchey—devours the maidens' souls to maintain his youth and power. It is his power alone that keeps Marya’s kingdom safe from all enemies—or so she was raised to believe.

When Ivan arrives on a quest to stop the virgin sacrifices, Marya throws all her magic against him. To maintain her life—and that of her father—she must destroy Ivan before he completes his quest. But can she find it in her heart to do so?

Baba Yaga, Leshy, Vodyanoi, and the ancient animal deities come alive in this beautifully crafted romantic story that will take you into the authentic world of Russian fairy tales—with a dark, sensual twist.

Bought from Amazon.ca:
Good Kings Bad Kings: A Novel
by Susan Nussbaum

'My first week I learned that people refer to ILLC as "illsee". Emphasis on 'ill'. The Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center may not sound like the name of a nursing home, but that’s how they work it. Naming these places is all about misdirection. Inside, it smells, sounds, and looks like your standard-issue nursing home. Same old wolf but in a lamb outfit.'

Told in alternating perspectives by a varied cast of characters, Good Kings, Bad Kings is a powerful and inspiring debut that invites us into the lives of a group of teenagers and staff who live at the ILLC. From Yessenia, who dreams of her next boyfriend, to Teddy, a resident who dresses up daily in a full suit and tie, and Mia, who guards a terrifying secret, Nussbaum has crafted a multifaceted portrait of a way of life that challenges our definitions of what it means to be disabled. In a story told with remarkable authenticity, their voices resound with resilience, courage and humour.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)
by Sarah J. Maas

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?


What's new to your TBR pile this week?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review - Deep in the Sahara

Deep in the Sahara
by Kelly Cunnane
illustrated by Hoda Hadadi
Date: 2013
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman's beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa for faith—that Lalla's mother agrees to slip a long cloth as blue as the ink in the Koran over Lalla's head, under her arm, and round and round her body. Then together, they pray.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a strange little book.  Cute, but strange.  I'm not quite sure how to review it, as I know some of my prejudices are getting in the way of me giving the book a higher rating.  And yet, I can't shake a sense of unease when I read about a little girl being culturally and religiously indoctrinated.

The book takes place in Mauritania.  In the author's note, the author states that she lived there from 2008 to 2009.  I was not familiar with Mauritania except for one thing: I remembered that they practiced a form of force-feeding called leblouh to make the girls as fat as possible (since obesity is a status symbol in that culture).  Many claim that this practice has stopped.  But after a military junta took control in 2008, the practice has made a comeback, especially among poorer Mauritanians.  This was not addressed at all in the story, but there are some fatter women depicted in some of the illustrations, and one particular illustration of the little girl reclining on her grandmother's lap while they have a snack takes on some rather scary new connotations.

I also wasn't sold on the whole premise of the book.  When Lalla concludes that a malafa is for faith, it seems rather abstract.  The book shows men and women praying (separately, of course), but there's little else that could help explain what "faith" is... or even what it means to the little girl.

The writing was fairly good, with its evocative turns of phrase.  But it was also a bit strange, as it was in the second person.  It tells the story of Lalla, and yet it also refers to her as "you".  I'm not sure why the author chose to do this.  Perhaps she thought it sounded more artsy.

The illustrations are really the best part of this book.  They're simple, but bright and colourful.  It looks like they're a combination of drawings and paper collage.  The colours as described in the story itself come alive on the page, giving the whole book a warm and exotic feel that puts one in mind of its desert setting.

I'm not sure if I'd wholeheartedly recommend this book or not.  The illustrations are worth looking at, and the poetic language of the story is lovely... but it seems to be a bit light on plot and message.  Kids who take the book at face value and don't ask a lot of questions might get more out of this than more inquisitive children.  If I had read this when I was younger, I probably would've had a lot of questions that even the author's note wouldn't have been able to answer.

Quotable moment:

Trees of red flowers bloom with heat.
Acadia pods rattle, and fruit bats sleep.
Grandmother sits on a cushion to brew tea,
her malafa the robe of ancient royalty.
More than all the mint leaves sold in the market,
you want a malafa so you can be like a long-ago queen too.

Recommended to: kids with an interest in other cultures

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Booking Through Thursday (34)



Booking Through Thursday asks:

Do other people in your family also like to read? Or are you in this on your own?

In my immediate family, I'm the most voracious reader.  My mom reads fiction when she has time.  My father rereads his favourites over and over (maybe that's why I'm averse to rereading... he makes it look so boring).  My sister reads, but her tastes are more quirky than mine.  Some of the books she likes are ones I've never heard of!  Although, she did brave Fifty Shades of Grey and warned me away from it (for which I will be forever grateful).

I know that some of my cousins are really active readers... though I don't have a lot of contact with them.  So I'm pretty much in this reading thing on my own!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review - Froggy Dearest

Froggy Dearest
by Scott Gordon
illustrated by Konstantin Grishin, Sebastian Kaulitzki & Julien Tromeur
Date: 2014
Publisher: S. E. Gordon
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

One fine day, you come across the frog of your dreams. Soft spoken and ever courteous, you've never met a creature quite so charming. But tread carefully, for this frog has quite a secret to share!

(synopsis from Amazon.com)

This lackluster children's book epitomizes the perils of exploring the world of self-published books.  It fails on nearly every level and does little but annoy the reader.  I'm glad I didn't have to pay anything for it.

The book's first problem is that it's completely inappropriate for its reading level.  The frog speaks directly to the reader, basically singing his own praises in the hope that he'll get someone to kiss him.  For a book that's intended for kids between the ages of 3 and 6, that's just a little bit creepy.  Also, the language is a bit advanced for that age group.  Would kids that age know words like "misfortune", "radiating", and "stereoscopic"?  I kind of doubt it.

The book's other main problem is the "illustrations".  The author basically went onto stock image sites and found a bunch of pictures of digitally rendered frogs that fit with the text.  The "illustrators" are listed on the copyright page, but not on the front of the book.  That strikes me as a bit dishonest, and overall it just seems lazy.  If you really want to write a picture book, collaborate with an artist and give them proper credit.

And, finally, the book is just boring.  There's no plot.  The frog is annoying and creepy.  And the ending is just stupid.  I would not insult a child's intelligence by giving them such a book.  There are much better children's picture books out there.

Quotable moment:

You paint my heart a deep shade of red: vibrant and passionate and full of love.

Recommended to: nobody

Premise: 1/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 1/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 1.17 out of 5

WWW Wednesdays (8)

WWW Wednesdays is hosted at Should Be Reading.
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
My answers:
What are you currently reading?

I'm reading The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.
What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
What do you think you’ll read next?

I think I'll read Timebound by Rysa Walker.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More.  I think I can come up with quite a few authors this week.  I'm terrible for finding an author (or series) I like and then putting them off for months... or years:

Paolo Bacigalupi - I really enjoyed Ship Breaker.  The world the author created was so interesting.  There is a companion novel called The Drowned Cities, which I really should read.

Ann Brashares - Though I haven't read any of the Traveling Pants books, I did read My Name Is Memory, and I loved it.  Since there isn't a sequel (yet), I might try The Here and Now.

M. G. Buehrlen - This author has only published one book so far, but it had a cliffhanger ending that left me wanting to know what happened next!  I definitely need to read the sequel to The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare when/if it comes out.

John Connolly - The Book of Lost Things was really good.  I'm not sure if many of the author's other books are my cup of tea, but The Gates looks like it might be a good read.

Beth Fantaskey - One of my favourite vampire novels is the fun Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side.  I have the sequel tucked in my TBR pile somewhere.  I really should read it and get my Lucius Vladescu fix!

Isaac Marion - Warm Bodies was one of my favourite reads in 2013.  I haven't been able to get my hands on the prequel yet... so I've only read one book from this author.

Wendy Mass - Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall is a fun YA verse novel that I really enjoyed.  I've got one of the author's MG titles, 11 Birthdays, in my TBR pile, but I have yet to get around to reading it.

Sarah Miller - This author's gorgeous historical fiction is definitely something I'd like to read more of.  The Lost Crown was wonderful.  I'd like to read Miss Spitfire, especially if it's just as meticulously researched and well written!

Lauren Oliver - I read Before I Fall years ago, and fell in love with the author's style of writing.  I really should read more of her YA offerings.

Mary E. Pearson - The only book I've read by this author is The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which I really liked.  I want to read the other books in that series... as well as The Kiss of Deception (which I've heard good things about).


What are some authors that you have little experience with that you'd like to read more from?