Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

A Kiss in Time
Ever since I read Beastly, I've wanted to read more from Alex Flinn. Especially another retold fairy tale. I got my chance with A Kiss in Time.

What if an American teen boy is in Belgium as part of a European tour his parents forced on him? What if he comes across an abandoned old castle when he slips away from the tour for a day? What if he happens to find a sleeping princess in that castle and awakens this princess who has been asleep for over 300 years? What if she now thinks he's her true love and that they should marry? What happens when she goes home to Miami with him?

This contemporary retelling of Sleeping Beauty answers these questions and more. It's funny, but with serious undertones. Talia's struggle to accept and adapt to all the changes brought about in 300 years add a humorous tone tot he story. While Jack's dysfunctional relationship with his family is only emphasized when Talia is added to the family dynamics. While the story is engaging, there are a few spots where I felt like it dragged a bit. But, fortunately they didn't last and it quickly picked up again.

A Kiss in Time doesn't quite match Beastly in my opinion, but it's still a great story. I'd recommend it for anyone who likes to read retold fairy tales. It's a 'B' book for me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Tales From Outer SuburbiaIn Tales from Outer Suburbia, the reader will find a collection of short stories about suburban living. But, its not any suburban living that any one of us will find familiar. Shaun Tan writes about the odd, the strange, or just plain weird. I doubt that my imagination would come up with anything this inventive, even if I had an infinite amount of time to plan it.

These stories and pictures remind me of something you might find in a Chris Van Allsburg picture book -- something that's so strange that you can't get it out of your mind. Before I knew it, I was adding on to the story, thinking up 'what if' scenarios, or wondering where on Earth that story idea came from. This collection is short, less than 100 pages with beautiful illustrations. It's a must read for those that pride themselves on finding the 'different' stories, the gems that can be found by looking on shelves other than the bestseller shelves. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and would love to use one of the stories with a class. I give it a 'B.'

Lincoln Through the Lens : How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life by Martin W. Sandler

Lincoln Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life
I've read plenty of biographies of Abraham Lincoln, so any new ones I read need to have a unique viewpoint or hook. In Lincoln Through the Lens, Martin Sandler ties important events in Lincoln's life to photographs taken of him. This is by no means a thorough examination of Lincoln's life, but I still think it's worth a look. Some of the photos selected for use are rare and readers will enjoy viewing these.

While probably not the best choice if you're looking for information for a report (except for supplementary information), the casual reader will find it fun to peruse. I give it a 'B.'

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Sons of Liberty #1 by Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos, art by Steve Walker

The Sons of Liberty #1
Two runaway slaves, Graham and Brody, develop supernatural powers and use their special powers to thwart the slave catcher chasing them. Set in Colonial American, right before the American Revolution. The story is peppered with historical figures, like Benjamin Franklin, but isn't based on any actual events.

I wish I had read a description before beginning to know what this story was about, since I expected it to be based on true events rather than this fantasy adventure. It wass too bizarre to fit with the historical setting for my taste, but others might disagree. I think those that devour graphic novels starring superheroes will find this one appealing. For me, it was just weird and disappointing. I give it a 'C.'

A Career as a Plumber by Simone Payment (Essential Careers)

A Career As a Plumber (Essential Careers)

I wouldn't normally pick up a book on plumbing to read, but I picked this new one up to peruse and ended up reading it. It's a nice overview of a plumber's job. The reader learns what sort of training and education is needed to become a plumber, what kinds of jobs a plumber does and what the prospects are in the near future for someone choosing this career. It's a good choice for those working on a report on a career, as the information is presented in a clear fashion and the page layouts are pleasing to the eye. Plenty of color photographs adorn each page, and only add to the attractiveness of the book. Many additional resources are given in the back of the book, including contact information for plumbing and construction unions and trade organizations, suggestions for further reading and a bibliography. Links for web sites with information can be found on a page set up by the publisher.

This isn't something a person would probably pick up for pleasure reading, but it can be a valuable resource for a report. I give it a 'C,' since it's more of an informational resource than entertaining.

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

Cloaked in Red
When I pick up a Vivian Vande Velde book, I know I'm going to be reading something that takes a unique view on a familiar theme, plot or idea. Cloaked in Red is no exception, being a collection of short stories, all based on the traditional fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. I loved the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) humor and jokes written into the stories, primarily related to the traditional Little Red Riding Hood tale or other fairy tales or even the Grimm brothers. If the reader isn't familiar with these stories, some of that humor may be lost on them. Most of the stories in this collection are extremely short and that's probably my biggest complaint. I wanted more. More details, more descriptions, more background, more story. I know, these are short stories based on a short fairy tale, but I've become so spoiled with all the novels published recently based on fairy tales.

While I love a couple of these stories, overall it's just average fare. That's why I give this story collection a C. I'd recommend this only to those that love reading retold fairy tales.

Monday, March 21, 2011

We Have a Katniss for ‘The Hunger Games’

When we were off for a week of spring break there was big news about 'The Hunger Games' movie ...

EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate Confirms Jennifer Lawrence As Katniss In 'The Hunger Games'

So, Jennifer isn't who I had pictured as Katniss when reading The Hunger Games, because she's older than Katniss and she's blond! Of course, the blond hair can easily be fixed for the movie. I'm willing to give her a chance and wait and see how she does in the movie, especially since the director says she blew him away at the audition. Now, I can't wait to see who is cast as Peeta! All I can say, is no one that's 'known' really matches how I envision him, so I really hope it's an unknown. Probably not, but we'll just have to wait and see.

What do you think? Do you like the choice of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss or who would you have cast? Who is your pick for Peeta? Do you have any favorites for other characters?

To read more about this, check out Scholastic's On Our Minds blog.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Scorpia Rising

I'm getting excited for the release of the last Alex Rider book, Scorpia Rising, which will be on March 22. I've already preordered my copy, which I'll add to the library once I've read. Are you excited? Who is counting the days?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Capture by Kathryn Lasky (Guardian's of Ga'Hoole #1)

The Capture (Guardians of Ga'Hoole, #1)After the movie was released last fall, I realized I needed to get some of the Guardian's of Ga'Hoole series for the library. I vaguely remember when the series was first released, and several students eagerly reading them, but they never seemed to fully get my attention. The visually stunning trailer I viewed at the movies last summer was enough to get my attention and I finally read the first book in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, The Capture.

Soren is a young owl who is taken from his home and brought to St. Aegolius. He's told that it's an orphanage, but he's suspicious of the true motives in bringing all of the young owls there. All these young owls are put into a program of re-education, where they are brainwashed into forgetting all about their past and learn to blindly follow the rules. Soren and his friend Gylfie secretly resist this and seek to discover the real purpose of St. Aegolius, placing their own lives in peril.

I was surprised with how this story starts. From the blurb on the back of the book, I expected it to start either with his capture or already capture. Instead, there are several chapters where we view Soren's life with his family. The reader gets a realistic view of an owl embedded within this fantasy-adventure. You learn about what an owl eats, how he learns things from his mother, and so forth. I think I was just impatient to get to the real action of the story, so it seemed to be a slow start. Once Soren is captured and the intrigue starts, the pace increases and I finished it in a flash.

Fans of animal fantasies will flock to this book, for it has everything they're looking for. A solid start to the series, I give it a B.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Texas Turns 175!

By Bonnieblue.png via Wikimedia Commons 
  • 175 years ago, Texians took a giant step in forming the Republic of Texas. On March 2, 1836, the delegates attending the Convention of 1836 in Washington-on-the-Brazos adopted the Texas Declaration of Independence. At the same time, Mexican leader, Santa Anna, was leading the siege of the Alamo, which eventually fell on March 6.

  • The Texas State Library & Archives will have the Texas Declaration of Independence and the William B. Travis letter from the Alamo on display in Austin until April 21. If you get a chance to make the trip, you should take the opportunity to view these rare documents. You will be one of a small group of people to actually see these items! For more information see - Texas State Library & Archives.

  • The AMS library has many books on the Texas War for Independence and the Republic of Texas. Some that I found interesting:

The Texas War of Independence 
by Richard Worth
Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, c2009

This book tells the story of the Texas War of Independence and the Mexican War from the viewpoint of Mexican Americans. The efforts of Mexicans to preserve their empire in the southwest against a large migration of Anglo settlers who believed they were fulfilling the Manifest Destiny of the United States are detailed here. At First, the clash between Anglos and Mexicans led to the independence of Texas. Finally, it resulted in the U.S. invasion of Mexico and the takeover of the southwest, which became part of the United States.

 13 Days to Glory : the Siege of the Alamo 
by Lon Tinkle
Texas A&M University Press, c1985

A day-to-day chronological investigation of the siege of the Alamo in 1836, discussing the circumstances that led each person to be inside the abandoned mission during the battle that claimed the life of frontiersman Davy Crockett.

What are some of your favorite books or resources on Texas History?