Books, Books, Books

I have so many books that I have to have custom made bookcases because I would have to buy numerous regular bookcases in order to fit everything in them. And the problem is getting worse. Although, part of it might be that teaching in elementary schools means that I have gone through and liberated all picture books from when I was young so that they are now in easy reach for lessons. We will not, however, mention the number of children’s books that have been purchased this summer. That would be a mistake. However, if you too enjoy picture books, please buy this one:

It makes me so happy!

Anyway, back to my books. I own novels, teaching books, French books and, for some reason, a lot of crossword puzzle books. I should really finish some of those before buying another one, although that doesn’t appear to be what I do. All of this explains this:

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That, my friends, is the before. I liberated the many boxes and suitcases that had been waiting, full of books, in the garage for a month to have a new home. Sadly, after taking that picture I found two more boxes of books to add to the collection.

Because I need custom bookcases, I decided that I wanted the bookcase to look like steps, and have it get progressively higher up the wall. After coming up with the idea, my father designed and then built them. I painted them and now it looks like this:

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Sadly all the picture books are pretty much under the bed, but you get the idea.

And that, my friends, is the tale of how one day I was crushed underneath a ton of books. (That’s totally going to be how it all ends, I will be crushed by my own book obsession.)

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Natural History of Dragons


A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
Written by Marie Brennan
2013, 336 pages

Generally I don’t review the books that I don’t finish. You, my loyal reader of one (just a guess, maybe there is more), said that you were contemplating reading it. I originally said that it was good, so I think you deserve some reasons why I read about two-thirds of this and then abandoned it.

So, I started out all excited and enjoying the book. The book describes the emerging field of dragonology, when no one knew anything about dragons. Lady Trent became a huge researcher in the field. This book describes her getting into the field and her first real adventure.

As I was saying, the beginning was good. Lady Trent, naturally, is not allowed to study dragons as she wants because that is not allowed. I feel like this book is written in the future, but I’m not sure why in the future everything goes back to life in the 18th century or something. Someone needs to explain why that happens in every book, because it does not make sense.

Anyway, Lady Trent begins to do research about dragons. She goes on a mission with some men to find and document the first dragon and to save it for posterity. There were monsters, suspicious villagers, and dragons. Sounds like a good story, yes? No, not so much.

Here’s the problem. The book advertises dragons, and yet they are missing in the story. I read about two thirds, and I think there were a total of five dragons mentioned in the whole thing. Those are not good ratios.

What I first appreciated, the fact that it was written as a real memoir, quickly got boring. I finally could not deal with it.

Summary: It got boring, there were not enough dragons, and all of the writing about how they had to do all this stuff to find a dragon did not make it awesome. Similarly, an evil demon appearing did not save the book.

Rating: 1 out of 5 bedazzles

Cloaked


Cloaked by Alex Flinn
2011, 341 pages

Continuing the fairy tale theme, and still living on the surface of the sun, means that there are more YA novels to read and review!

Cloaked is the story of Johnny, a 17-year old boy living in South Beach and working in his family’s shoe repair shop in a hotel. Princess Victoriana, of Aldoria (I think, or Aldonia), arrives and within a few days of their first meeting asks Johnny for his help.

Victoriana’s brother, the future king of Aldonia (or Aldoria) is missing. He has been turned into a frog by an evil witch who wants Victoriana to marry an evil prince so that he will be king, not the brother. First Johnny thinks that it must be a crazy tale, but then…not so much. Victoriana promises to marry Johnny if he succeeds in his quest.

With the aid of a magic cloak, Johnny goes on a quest to find the missing prince. Along the way he meets talking swans (they are used-to-bes, as in, they used to be human), talking rats, a talking fox, an evil witch and her scary murderous son, giants, brownies (the elves/fairies, not the food) and tries to figure out what to do with the girls in his life.

Quick read, had a lot of fairy tales mixed in and referenced, and was generally a good time.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Leaping Beauty


I feel that I live there. Seriously, this weather is ridiculous! It’s hot, and sticky, and it turns me into a vegetable who cannot see the point of moving. It feels like the sun is trying to cook my brain and it will ooze out my ears. If I were a zombie, now would be the time to make my attack. Seriously. No one should run in this heat, and it causes all sorts of questionable decisions and the inability to form coherent thoughts. It would be prime zombie-dining-time. But that is not what this is about, although it is actually related.

Due to the hot weather, I am all about the easy reads. This means that I have spent a lot of time with YA novels, and with general books for kids. I am also teaching summer school for the next three weeks and we are doing a unit on fairy tales. This brings us to today’s pick.


Leaping Beauty and other animal fairy tales by Gregory Maguire
2004, 197 pages

The premise is that Maguire (he of Wicked fame) took common fairy tales and retold them with twists, and animals at the main characters. For example, Goldilocks becomes “Goldiefox and the three chickens.” Hansel and Gretel becomes “Hamster and Gerbil.” I love it for that premise alone. Oh, but it gets better.

In the story, “Leaping Beauty,” instead of the princess being destined to prick her finger on a spinning wheel, the frog princess is destined to “bite down on a stray explosive from some stupid human engineering project, and you shall blow yourself to smithereens!”

“Hamster and Gerbil” opens with the following paragraph:

“Once there was a happy family who lived in a beaver dam. Not surprisingly, they were beavers. That is, the father and the mother were beavers. The children were adopted. There was a boy named Hamster and a girl named Gerbil. Not surprisingly, they were a hamster and a gerbil. Hamster was the hamster, and Gerbil was the gerbil.”

Finally, “The Three Little Penguins and the Big Bad Walrus”:

“Once there were three little penguins who lived in an igloo with their mother. The oldest penguin liked to eat fish. The middle penguin liked to eat fish. The youngest penguin liked to get dressed up in a ballet costume and put on a show. This was not usual for penguins, and it worried old Mama Penguin a lot.”

If these things do not convince you of the joy that is this book, I am not sure what will.

Rating: 5 out of 5 bedazzles

YA Palooza!

My life is a bit hectic. Moving, jobs, online class, upcoming trip to Canada, teaching summer school and my summer is pretty much booked. And yet, there is still a need for reading fun things that are not curriculum related (seriously, so boring!!). So, this morning I went to my new library, got a card and then raided the YA section. And so now, here I am.


City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
2007, 485 pages

I admit, I grabbed this one because it was in a book display with books that are turning into movies. I usually hate jumping on a bandwagon, particularly those that involve movie tie-ins.

However, the Pooka recommended it and also, I liked it. Go figure!

The main thing that this has going for it is that it is way darker than the usual YA stuff. Much less romance, less angsty teenage girl, more kicking ass and taking names.

The gist of the book is this: Shadowhunters live in our world. They are supposed to protect the DownWorlders and mundanes (humans) from demons and general awfulness. Clary is a teenage girl who is suddenly introduced to this world that lives parallel to the regular, mundane world. She makes some friends, kills some demons, et cetera, et cetera. Also, there is an evil Shadowhunter who wants to enslave all mundanes and Downworlders.

So, it sort of sounds like the plot from some of the Harry Potter books, but again, it’s darker.

My favorite things:
1. There is a cat named Chairman Meow. Brief appearance, but awesome name.
2. This quote. There is a discussion about how real men are terse and then this: “That’s why when major badasses greet each other in movies, they don’t say anything, they just not. The nod means, ‘I am a badass, and I recognize that you, too, are a badasss,’ but they don’t say anything becasue they’re Wolverine and Magneto and it would mess up their vibe to explain.” 🙂

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bedazzles


City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
2008, 453 pages

Sequel to City of Bones. On a side note, why do so many YA novels have sequels, and then a hundred other books that follow? Why isn’t one good enough? Anyway, not the point.

This book continues with the general supernatural beings: werewolves, vampires, fairies, demons. Clary and her friends are trying to figure out some things, like what the evil Shadowhunter is up to. There is much soul searching and new information to be learned. Naturally, a big battle plays a large part of the story.

How’s that for concise?! I don’t want to give anything away because the series is good, and this one just builds off the first one, so, read them! That is my suggestion. The second one did not disappoint at all.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bedazzles


The Selection by Kiera Cass
2012, 327 pages

Ok. Imagine that you are reading The Hunger Games. Now, same future world with castes, same people trying to earn a living and dreaming of a better life. Same lottery thing. However, instead of a lottery to become a Tribute and fight other people to the death, it’s a lottery to find a new princess for the land of Illea. All girls send their names to a selection committee and then are chosen to meet and woo the prince…or the prince will woo them. Their family will also move from whatever caste they are now (One through Eights, Eights being awful, Ones being the best) and will become Ones….or Twos. I haven’t quite figured out the caste situation yet.

America Singer, who is a singer, and a Five, has fallen in love with Aspen, a Seven, and that’s just not going to work. He convinces her to put her name in for the Selection, and she is chosen. That means she moves to the capital to try and win the prince in marriage!

I really enjoyed this book. Since it was about a million degrees today, it was almost as good as ice cream. I just sat and read and enjoyed. I think one of the reasons that I enjoyed it is that this girl is no push over. She doesn’t suddenly go nuts over the Prince just because she should. She sticks to her guns and really thinks about what she wants. None of this falling in love and being married to a soulmate at 17 or whatever. She actually thinks about it! Hurray!

(I’m not ruining anything. How else could there be a sequel if she decided super fast?!)

The other thing that I enjoyed is when you get snippets of the “history” that was created for this future world. The country of Illea was once North America. However, China took over the United States, because we owed them so much money. It wasn’t great when America was run by China, so all of North America came together to fight, and thus, it became Illea, with a king and queen instead of presidents. I also enjoy that some neighboring royals came to visit who were from Swedway…perhaps Sweden and Norway have become one?

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 bedazzles


Shopping, Seduction and Mr. Selfridge, Lindy Woodhead

Reading this has made me realize one very important thing. I could totally be rich living in the 1920s. I mean, there were no limits! Want an airplane, sure, go out and get one! You want a castle, go find some member of the nobility hard up for cash, and voila! Castle is yours! Flappers wore shoes with a place in the heel for a compact, for their makeup…..or their COCAINE! I don’t know why the cocaine is the part that I find so crazy, but it makes me do this:

(Yes! Minions! New movie out tomorrow and I’m super excited!)

The book isn’t actually all about that, but a lot of it is. It follows the career off Harry Selfridge, who started working at Marshall Fields before moving to England and building the giant store, Selfridges.

It looks like this, is in London, and Selfridge had a lot to do with what it looks like.

He dated actresses, spend ridiculous amounts of money gambling and was eventually fired from his own store. Regardless of this, Selfridge was actually important in creating the world of shopping. And we all know that I enjoy that world immensely.

Selfridge created the first true department store where people could
1. touch the merchandise
2. see everything laid out in tasteful displays instead of having everything either in the back or crammed together
3. browse without being hounded by store clerks
4. shop in a Bargain Basement
5. view elaborate window displays. The man created window shopping!

He was also the first to recognize the importance and effectiveness of advertising—and did a lot of it. He had many events in his store, including fashion shows, displays of airplanes and demonstrations of television (in the 1920s, who knew?!) He also had demonstrations by the professional sports players of they day, which coincided with sales on specific sports equipment, naturally.

Consensus: Very interesting history of shopping, but could focus a little more on his crazy personal life. Man had some serious issues.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5 bedazzles.