Archive for August, 2012

Review of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy

Friday, August 17th, 2012

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

by Christopher Healy

Walden Pond Press, 2012. 438 pages.
Starred Review

Have you ever noticed how many fairy tales claim that the hero action was done by Prince Charming? The author of this book explains that there’s a reason for that.

Blame the lazy bards. You see, back in the day, bards and minstrels were the world’s only real source of news. It was they who bestowed fame on people. They were the ones who sculpted any hero’s (or villain’s) reputation. Whenever something big happened — a damsel was rescued, a dragon was slain, a curse was broken — the royal bards would write a song about it, and their wandering minstrels would perform that tune from land to land, spreading the story across multiple kingdoms. But the bards weren’t keen on details. They didn’t think it was important to include the names of the heroes who did all that damsel rescuing, dragon slaying, and curse breaking. They just called all those guys “Prince Charming.”

It didn’t even matter to the bards whether the person in question was a truly daring hero (like Prince Liam, who battled his way past a bone-crushing, fire-blasting magical monster in order to free a princess from an enchanted sleeping spell) or some guy who merely happened to be in the right place at the right time (like Prince Ducan, who also woke a princess from a sleeping spell, but only because some dwarfs told him to). No, those bards gave a man the same generic name whether he nearly died (like Prince Gustav, who was thrown from a ninety-foot tower when he tried to rescue Rapunzel) or simply impressed a girl with his dancing skill (like Prince Frederic, who wowed Cinderella at a royal ball).

If there was anything that Liam, Duncan, Gustav, and Frederic all had in common, it was that none of them were very happy about being a Prince Charming. Their mutual hatred of that name was a big part of what brought them together. Not that teaming up was necessarily the best idea for these guys.

That’s the narrator getting ahead of himself. The Princes Charming don’t start out teaming up. Things start when Cinderella decides Prince Frederic has too little sense of adventure. She wants to go find Rapunzel, who really seems to have adventures. She ends up getting involved with a witch, and Gustav and Frederic try to save her. Meanwhile, Prince Liam discovers that Briar Rose is not a nice person at all. He doesn’t want to marry her. But she has her little ways of getting revenge.

But all four princes encounter one another and end up having to fight the witch, who now has a big plot to massacre thousands, including the princes and destroy the kingdoms.

This book is very funny, and a great twist on all the old fairy tale themes. I think this would be excellent classroom reading that would keep an elementary class hooked day after day.

Now, I myself thought the first hundred pages or so were hilarious. After that, it started to drag for me. It wasn’t really less funny; it was just going on and on and on. I’d happily read a chapter a night, but not until the last hundred pages or so did I get absorbed enough to finish up, so the book took me more than a week to finish. I would have liked it a good bit shorter, but I doubt that kids will mind.

The author keeps his irreverent and humorous tone throughout the book. Here’s where Frederic meets Gustav:

Over the years, Frederic had met his fair share of other princes. None of them were anything like this prince of Sturmhagen. Gustav was so gruff. He had no patience, no manners, and ridiculously poor communication skills. Frederic could only presume the man’s flamenco dancing was just as awkward.

Lots of silliness; lots of surprises; lots of fun coincidences. My only complaint is that it runs long-winded, but the better to keep kids entertained, right? And judging by the “Book 1” on the side, there will be more to come in the future.

christopherhealy.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/heros_guide.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

#4 Children’s Novelist – Madeleine L’Engle

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Today School Library Journal released a gorgeous full-color pdf version of Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels Poll. I’m terribly proud that my name appears for my help tallying the numbers and also in some quotes about the books. This seemed like a good reason to post another of the Top 100 Authors.

#4 Children’s Novelist: Madeleine L’Engle, 317 points, 45 votes

Now, this isn’t a big surprise, since Madeleine L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time, was the #2 Children’s Novel, with 307 points.

I admit I was a bit surprised that the one other book which was mentioned was Many Waters, with a first place vote for 10 points, and the words, “My favorite of hers…I think I loved the way she embellished a story I already knew (Noah and the ark), particularly including female characters that don’t show up in the Biblical narrative except as sidenotes.” — Libby Gorman

Now, my personal favorite Madeleine L’Engle book is probably A Ring of Endless Light, but that wasn’t mentioned at all. I find I haven’t reread too many of her books since I started writing Sonderbooks, but there’s a lovely range of titles. I will have to remedy that. It turns out that I have read and reviewed a lot of her nonfiction for adults. So just for fun, I’ll post links to those here.

Here’s Betsy’s post about A Wrinkle in Time.

Here’s my most recent review of the audio version, read by the author herself.
Here’s my 2001 review of A Wrinkle in Time, posted in my third issue of Sonderbooks when it was still an e-mail newsletter.

And here are her other books I’ve reviewed:
The Joys of Love
Walking on Water
A Circle of Quiet
The Summer of the Great-grandmother
The Irrational Season
Glimpses of Grace
Madeleine L’Engle, Herself

It’s definitely high time I reread some of her others.

Review of A Walk in London, by Salvatore Rubbino

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

A Walk in London

by Salvatore Rubbino

Candlewick Press, 2011. 32 pages.

I wish this book had been written when we still lived in Europe! It would have been absolutely perfect to read to our boys (Let’s see, they were 5 and 11 years old) for our first family trip to London.

As a matter of fact, I would have liked to read it myself before my own trips to London. It gives a nice overview, with plenty of details, and I learned much about the city I didn’t know, even having been there.

The story is a little girl and her mother sight-seeing in London. They mostly talk about what they’re doing and what they’re seeing, like the girl running to climb on the lions in Trafalgar Square.

The largest text follows the girl and her mother, and smaller print tells about details in the background. There are lots of things to look at on every page, and the back cover asks if you spotted the Royal Family’s car, and gives the page numbers.

The pictures remind me a little bit of the illustrations of Paris in Madeleine, although these are more precise and more colorful. They definitely evoke London, without being photorealistic. You can tell what you’re seeing. There’s an interesting sense of depth, as it looks like he cut out sketches of people and things and placed them on top of one another, also using size to show distance.

If I ever get a chance to go to London again (and I definitely hope to do so), I will read this book before going. Eyewitness guides are fantastic, but this book a lovely way to imagine yourself taking a walk in London, and learning about the city while you’re at it.

This is not a book for group storytimes, but it would be a lovely book to share with one child at a time, taking time to catch all the details and, best of all, prepare them for a trip to London.

candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/walk_in_london.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

A Confusion of Princes

by Garth Nix
read by Michael Goldstrom

Listening Library, 2012. 9.5 hours on 8 CDs. Unabridged.
Starred Review

This book had me mesmerized as soon as I turned it on. I brought a CD into the house to listen to the next complete disc not once, but twice when I got home from work.

Khemri tells you right from the start that this is the story of his first three deaths. Khemri’s a Prince of the Empire, and Princes are mostly immortal. Of course, the Aspect of the Discerning Hand does not have to choose to bring a Prince back to life. If the Imperial Mind is not witnessing the death, they will not come back. And if a new Prince is killed before they gain their contact with the Imperial Mind, they will not come back. But no one tells the Prince candidates that.

So Khemri’s in for a big surprise when his candidacy is over and he’s an official Prince. He doesn’t get to roam the galaxy in his own ship. Fortunately, he has an excellent Master of Assassins, who can help him survive the initial attacks. You see, others of the millions of Princes hope to advance by eliminating some of the competition. In a mere two years the Emperor is abdicating, and one of those Princes will become the new Emperor.

Much of this book is taken up with a fascinating look at mankind’s future in this world. They have mastered three technologies — MechTech, BiTech, and PsyTech. And Princes are enhanced in all three ways. But Khemri gets into a situation where he needs to learn how to live and work in an unenhanced body. He needs to learn how actual unenhanced humans think. That may be the greatest challenge of all.

Through most of the book, I was afraid I was going to get to the end and then hear, “To Be Continued.” But, no, this book is stand-alone, fantastic, and hugely satisfying.

Part of the brilliance of this book is the elaborate future world created. It all works, all makes sense. As Khemri deals with having and not having his enhanced powers, you come to understand what they are and how they work. Another level is what happens inside Khemri. When he’s acting as a regular human, he encounters people who hate Princes and you see him learn to understand and care about them. You see Khemri change and understand why he’s changing.

I also enjoyed the production. There is plenty of telepathic messaging between the Imperial Mind and the Princes and some of the BiTech engineered machines. Those messages are easily designated with a sound effect on the CDs so you can easily understand what is going on.

This is an outstanding science fiction tale that covers what is most important about being human.

garthnix.com
listeninglibrary.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/confusion_of_princes.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from the Fairfax County Public Library.

#3 Picture Book Author and Illustrator – Dr. Seuss

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

I’m summing up the Author and Illustrator totals from Betsy Bird and School Library Journal‘s Top 100 Picture Books Poll. I’m doing it slowly, savoring the results, and I’m up to #3. Dr. Seuss is such a stand-by, my only surprise here is that he was beaten by youngster Mo Willems. (Go, Mo! There’s no shame in #3, after all. But to beat Dr. Seuss! That really impressed me about Mo. In fact, since Maurice Sendak died after the poll closed, Mo Willems is now the top living Picture Book Author and Illustrator, based on that poll.)

But this is about Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss is one of those writers who is such a stand-by, such a basic, you almost don’t think of him when you’re thinking about top picture books. And he has so many classics, it really spreads out the votes.

Here are his totals:

#3 Picture Book Writer, 349 points, 56 votes
#3 Picture Book Illustrator, 349 points, 56 votes

His books that made the Top 100, with links to Betsy’s posts, were:
#12 Green Eggs and Ham, 86 points
#33 The Lorax, 53 points
(Here are my pictures from The Street of the Lifted Lorax at Seussville in Universal Studios.)
#36 The Cat in the Hat, 50 points
#61 How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 30 points, 6 votes
#63 The Sneetches and Other Stories, 30 points, 5 votes
Here’s my own review of The Sneetches.

His other books that got votes were:

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, 17 points
“I figure there has to be a Seuss on my top list, and this is the one that I have the most fun reading aloud.” — Stacy Dillon
(“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”)

The Butter Battle Book, 15 points
“It’s hard to pick any Dr. Seuss title, as his entire work should make up the top 40 of any best picture book list. For me though, The Butter Battle Book is an excellent example of both Dr. Seuss’ incredible talent with words and his ability to incorporate poignant messages of humanity into his stories.” — Owen Gray
“My favorite Seuss, though as a child, I didn’t get the full implications. I just remember thinking the increasingly outrageous contraptions were fun. And I have no idea where this comes from, but I have a vague memory of a story about someone asking Dr. Seuss what side of his bread he buttered, and the response was ‘The crusts, of course.'” — Sharon Thackston

I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, 15 points
(“where they never have troubles, at least very few.”)

Horton Hatches the Egg, 14 points
(“An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”)

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, 10 points
“Fun for the young; great for graduates! Imagine giving a high school or college graduate a new copy of this book, what would she/he say!” — Dudee Chiang

Fox in Socks, 8 points
“I love to read tongue twisters aloud” — Carol
I’m with Carol! On Read Across America one year, I read Fox in Socks as quickly as I could.

Dr. Seuss’s ABC, 8 points
My oldest son learned to identify the letter O from this book at the amazing age of 15 months.

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?, 7 points

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, 3 points
“I always prefered Dr. Seuss when he wrote longer form stories, so this was a natural. All the characters are fully realized, as the situation just keeps on getting more ludicrous.” — Kyle Wheeler

Happy Birthday to You!, 3 points
(“If you weren’t you, then you might be a WASN’T. A Wasn’t has no fun at all. No he doesn’t.”)

Review of Just a Second, by Steve Jenkins

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Just a Second

A Different Way to Look at Time

by Steve Jenkins

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2011
Starred Review

I think this is the first time I’ve read a book by Steve Jenkins where I pored over the words without noticing the exquisite art the first time through. Make no mistake, his cut-paper art is as detailed and amazing as ever. It’s so realistic, I’m not sure I noticed at first that it was his usual cut-paper art and not drawings.

But the text! This is a practical way to explain time. He mentions where seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years came from (most being a long-time-ago invention of man). Then he tells some things that happen in each amount of time.

Did you know that in one second “A peregrine falcon in a dive, or stoop, plunges more than 300 feet”?

Did you know that in one week “Moose antlers, the fastest-growing tissue of any mammal, can add 6 inches to their length”?

Did you know that in one year “More than 2,000,000 people are killed by mosquito-borne diseases”? “Humans cut down 4,000,000,000 trees”?

The book is full of facts like that: some fascinating, some surprising, some disturbing. Some, like “In one year an estimated 50 people are killed by sharks,” may be included because the accompanying illustrations are so much fun.

This book definitely succeeds as a “Different Way to Look at Time.” Good for children learning about time, as well as for science buffs, as well as for the simply curious.

stevejenkinsbooks.com
hmhbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/just_a_second.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!

by Hyewon Yum

Frances Foster Books (Farrar Straus Giroux), New York, 2012. 36 pages.
Starred Review

I would have never checked out this book. I mean, come on, how many books do we need about getting ready for Kindergarten? When I did read it because it is being considered for the Capitol Choices list, I became convinced that we don’t need any of the other books. We need this one!

This is a book about the feelings of a kid and his Mom when the child is starting Kindergarten. Those feelings are beautifully expressed by size and color. I especially love the way the sizes and colors change from page to page, because feelings on such a momentous day are volatile. Feelings change.

At the start, the big boy is excitedly waking up his little, blue mother, because he’s ready to start school.

Mom makes my lunch and she starts to worry. “Do they have snacks in kindergarten? What if you don’t have time to finish your sandwich at lunch? You’ll be so hungry.”

“I can eat fast, Mom.”

The picture on that page clearly demonstrates the big, confident boy wolfing down his breakfast in an Enormous Mouthful. All Mom’s other worries, he can handle. And he’s consistently pictured as large and confident, while Mom is much smaller and completely shaded in blue.

They rush to school, with the big, happy, confident boy pulling along his tiny Mom. The reversal of the usual tropes continues, and the big boy mounts the steps to the big school.

Mom doesn’t look happy.
“We don’t know anyone here. I miss your old teachers and your friends.”

“I like to make new friends, Mom, and you’ll make new friends in no time.”

I say hi to the girl with a pink ribbon.
She says hi.

And her mom says hi to my mom.
My mom smiles back.

On that page, color beautifully dawns on Mom’s face and body. She smiles with pink cheeks, and the pink and yellow radiate into her blouse. The top of her head and her legs are still blue, but you can see that she’s warming up.

And then, on the next page, they’re back to life size. The boy is tinged with blue as he faces the open classroom door. Mom’s bigger now, and colorful, and she provides a stable place for him to hug. (There’s some blue at her waist where he’s hugging her.)

The teacher comes out to greet them, and the boy gets his confidence back. And his large size. There’s a wonderful picture on the page when the teacher says it’s time for the parents to leave. “Mom hugs me, and kisses me, and hugs me, and kisses me.” The boy is about to pop from the force of the hugs, and Mom’s face is blue again, but she’s smiling.

Then we get to work.
Kindergarten is awesome.

There’s a truly wonderful double page spread at the end of the day when the Kindergartners are lined up, ready to go home. They are all huge and confident, completely filling the page and smiling. “When we line up, I feel so much bigger.” He looks bigger, too.

Mom, waiting out in the school yard, is back to blue. But when they have a big hug, she’s back to normal color and size.

Until the boy has his final question:

“Mom, can I take the school bus tomorrow, please?”

This book is perfect in so many ways. It so wonderfully shows the feelings taking place here, using the art to say so much more than words can. Then there’s humor in the Mom’s worries, and the confident, reassuring child. But I love that even he has moments of being blue, because that’s the way it really happens.

If you know of a child getting ready to start Kindergarten, I can’t think of a better choice than this book!

mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/mom_its_my_first_day_of_kindergarten.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Librarians Help! Excellence, Education, and Innovation

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

The Carnegie Corporation has a wonderful article on their site, “Today’s Public Libraries: Public Places of Excellence, Education, and Innovation.” This picture was taken at one of the libraries in my own system.

Here are some sections I particularly like:

The second reason libraries persist is the notion of improvement, something that has been an article of faith among librarians and their civic backers for as long as there have been libraries in this country. We Americans were early proponents of universal education and individual initiative, and we long ago recognized the importance of giving people a chance to make their lives better by gaining knowledge and cultivating their minds—in other words, improving themselves both materially and intellectually. It’s an idea redolent of Ben Franklin and Samuel Smiles, Horatio Alger and even Dale Carnegie.

Visiting the Flushing library helped me realize that libraries persist because the marketplace, with all its many splendors, provides no good alternative to these comforting institutions where you can sit and think without a penny in your pocket. Libraries also persist because the idea of improvement persists—and because libraries continue to meet the needs of their patrons, perhaps even better than they have in the past. Library layouts have been evolving in recent years to accommodate different groups of patrons—just as they did years ago, to accommodate children. Librarians also have more training nowadays, not just in using computers but in communicating with patrons. And they are using the tools of the digital revolution—the very ones that were supposed to make librarians obsolete—to do a better job for the public, for example by promoting community discussions online, offering help on the Web and using Twitter to keep patrons informed.

In New York City, in Chicago, in Los Angeles and so many other places that are magnets for immigrants, libraries provide reading material in a host of tongues, not to mention instruction in the English language and workshops on how to become a citizen. They still provide books, of course, but they also provide Internet access for those who lack a connection, a computer or even a home. In smaller communities, they remain cherished civic and cultural spaces, anchoring sometimes tattered main streets and serving as a destination for children after school and the elderly after a lifetime of work. This idea of improvement—of helping people to make their lives better through knowledge, just as Andrew Carnegie sought to do through his vast international library-building program—is what ties together all the things libraries do today.

Yet even with the Internet at their fingertips, Americans still need—and want—their public libraries, even if only as a place to access the Internet. Most of us, though, want and expect much more from our libraries, and that’s reflected in every measure of public attitudes toward them. Consider that homes near libraries sell for higher prices. Two-thirds of American adults say they visit a library at least once annually. Last year voters approved a remarkable 87 percent of library operating ballot measures, suggesting that taxpayers overwhelmingly believe they are getting their money’s worth from these venerable and much-loved institutions.

Instead, librarians can focus on their unique capabilities as repositories, organizers and guides to knowledge. They can provide a focal point for their communities, as well as a necessary refuge. And they can carry forward the faith in improvement that has sustained them all along. By upholding their great tradition of public service, libraries will continue to win public support—and, it is hoped, public dollars. It’s a great bargain for society, and one likely to keep libraries in business long into the digital future.

The whole article is excellent, talking about the same thing I’m trying to emphasize here — how many different ways libraries and librarians help their communities.

And it’s been awhile since I posted about the things I’ve gotten to do myself.

A big summer theme is parents or grandparents coming in, looking for books to tempt their children, with the children along. That’s one of my favorite questions, and I usually offer them several choices. I love when a child’s eyes light up with interest. One little boy said, “That looks interesting!” when I showed him the book The Polar Bear Scientist. I found him some fiction and nonfiction that he found appealing.

I always like to stress to kids that they are allowed to stop reading if they don’t like it. I try to give them several possibilities, in hopes that something will spark their interest. That won’t work if they feel obligated to read my suggestions all the way to the end. Summer reading should be non-required reading, and a big huge part of summer fun.

I’m a lot more frustrated with parents who come in with lists or who only want books from a list. In the first place, parents in the same area use the same lists, and they tend to be checked out. (Put them on hold from home if you just want those particular books!) But when the parents are willing to talk to me and get similar suggestions, when they have a little flexibility, and especially when they bring their kids, then we can find some wonderful choices.

A fun thing happened one day at the end of July. Three different kids on the same day asked where the books by Roald Dahl were, but none of them knew his name. Instead, one asked for books by the author who wrote The BFG, the next one asked for books by the author of Matilda, and the third one asked, “You know James and the Giant Peach? Are there more books by that author?”

Also this month, one of my co-workers put on a “Book Bingo” program that was a big hit. They play bingo with a modified card (using book titles), and the prizes are — books. We use gently used donations that the system doesn’t need. Some are wrapped, and there are opportunities to exchange for a title a child wants. What I love about it is how enthusiastic the kids were and how excited about their winnings. It’s a super simple program, but what a great way to get kids excited about reading.

But my favorite question of the last month or so was the guy who walked nervously up to the information desk and asked, “Where’s the nearest exit?” Now, mind you, we have one main entrance and exit to the library, and it’s quite obvious from the information desk. He got me wondering if there was a specific reason he wanted the nearest exit, and I evaluated whether the nearest emergency exit was nearer than the main entrance. I decided it wasn’t and pointed him to the big doors through which he must have entered the library in the first place.

Did he know something I didn’t know? I have to admit, I was relieved when no alarm went off in the next five minutes.

Spread the word — Librarians Help!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely my own and do not in any way reflect those of my employer.

Review of Bossypants, by Tina Fey

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Bossypants

by Tina Fey
read by the author

Hachette Audio, 2011. 5.5 hours on 5 CDs.

I’d heard good things about this book, and then a co-worker told me she was listening to it. When she said that Tina Fey herself read it, I knew this was one book I’d want to enjoy in the audio form.

This was a perfect audiobook to get me laughing on my commute. The humor doesn’t get political very often, so I suspect some of my conservative friends may also enjoy it. Tina Fey tells about her life in performance, and what it’s like to be in charge.

I think my favorite part was when she explained what she learned from sketch comedy and how it’s like life. I wish I could quote sections to you, but that’s the disadvantage with the audio form — not easy to go back to get quotes. In sketch comedy, it’s absolutely vital to cooperate with your partner, and she gave hilarious examples.

The audiobook also included a recording of her sketch on Saturday Night Live where Tina Fey, as Sarah Palin, gave a public service announcement with “Hilary Clinton.” The pictures in the text were included in a PDF file on the final CD, and so was a complete recording of that show. Having the pictures was nice — I didn’t have to check out the print book to see them, though I admit I looked at them after the fact, not in the middle of the text, like they would have been in the original book. Tina Fey talks about her strange six weeks performing as Sarah Palin. Like so many people, I hadn’t realized that she wasn’t even working for Saturday Night Live at the time — until public demand suggested that she be the one to play Sarah Palin.

So, Tina Fey talks about performing, about parenting, about being a boss, and so much more. And she does it all with a lot of humor. This is a wonderful commuting book, because what’s better than a good laugh on the way to work?

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/bossypants.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Cinder

The Lunar Chronicles: Book One

by Marissa Meyer

Feiwel and Friends, New York, 2012. 390 pages.
Starred Review

I’ve always loved fairy-tale retellings, but this science fiction version of Cinderella is even better than most. Once again, I stayed up all night reading to finish the book, even though I know that’s not good for me. But the book was so good! Since I was able to take a nap the next day, I’m afraid my bad behavior was reinforced, and it was totally worth it.

Cinder is set in New Beijing, 126 years after the end of the fourth world war, after which the kingdoms of the earth have been at peace. They’ve been at peace, but not without problems. There’s a plague raging, and even the Emperor of the Eastern Alliance is sick with it.

Linh Cinder is a cyborg, which is why she’s a second-class citizen. She’s 63.72% human, but she has some machine parts, like her left hand and foot, and some brain and sensory enhancements. She doesn’t remember anything from before the accident and fire that burned her when she was eleven years old.

Since her adoptive father died, Cinder’s been the one making a living for her family as a mechanic. She’s a good mechanic, as her cyborg enhancements give her special abilities, but she’s surprised when Prince Kai brings in an old android that needs repair.

Cinder barely heard him above the blankness in her mind. With her heartbeat gathering speed, her retina display scanned his features, so familiar from years spent watching him on the netscreens. He seemed taller in real life and a gray hooded sweatshirt was like none of the fine clothes he usually made appearances in, but still, it took only 2.6 seconds for Cinder’s scanner to measure the points of his face and link his image to the net database. Another second and the display informed her of what she already knew; details scribbled across the bottom of her vision in a stream of green text.

There’s something important about the android, but Prince Kai has many other things to worry about. The evil queen of the Lunar Colony wants to marry an earth emperor. But the people who live on the moon have evolved the ability to control the minds of others. If she marries Kai, she will enslave the people of his country as she has her own. But she can apply powerful pressure.

In the meantime, there is a draft of cyborg “volunteers” to test potential plague antidotes. When Cinder’s stepmother decides it’s time for Cinder to “volunteer,” Cinder learns some surprising new things about herself. But she also runs into the prince again.

This book takes the framework of the fairy tale and plays with it. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that instead of losing a shoe when she leaves the ball, Cinder loses a foot. I admit I was sad that there wasn’t a fairy godmother in this story, because I wanted that for Cinder, but it’s quite amazing what she manages to accomplish herself.

And there’s no Happily Ever After yet for Cinder, but the title page warned that this is Book One, so I didn’t expect it. But at the same time, it tells a satisfying story, following the Cinderella basic framework, yet adding in an intricate plot all its own. The future world is credibly and skilfully built. And the romance between Cinder and the Prince is done well.

I’m going to want to read the next volumes just as soon as they come out. Though I will definitely try to start very early on an evening when I have no other plans.

thelunarchronicles.com
macteenbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a book I got at a library conference.