11 Picks for Speculative Fiction Fans
2 hours ago
160 adult / YA booksSo I sorted them out by categories, though fewer than I show in my page of books read in 2011. It's already hard enough to read the categories below the colorful stacks on the chart.
+48 children's books
208 books read in 2011
29 other NF
Harry Dunning graduated with flying colors. I went to the little GED ceremony in the LHS gym, at his invitation. He really had no one else, and I was happy to do it.With JFK on my mind, this beginning sounds boring, but I'll keep reading because I lived through that day and really, really, really want to see what Stephen King will do with this revised history of his. Here's a summary of the book:
"It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away — a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life — like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963 — turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession — to prevent the Kennedy assassination."If you want to share the first lines of a book you are reading, click on the link and visit Katy at A Few More Pages. (Today's list.)
I love Enzo, the dog who is the main character of this novel. Yes, even though I'm a cat person, I love this dog. He makes more sense than some of the humans I know, and I like the way he thinks. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend this book. Photo found here.
My friend Donna bought this one for me as a joke. My childhood nickname, which I never liked, was "Bitsy." I didn't expect to like the book, which was indeed light reading. It must have hit me at exactly the right time, because it was fun to read. Two sisters buy a "B and B," which turns out to mean "Bait and BBQ." They know nothing about fishing or running a restaurant. Having owned a bookstore, I know it isn't this easy to set up a business and have it succeed beautifully. But I enjoyed the happy ending.
I rarely read mysteries and got this because the protagonist is a clergywoman — an Episcopal priest. Yup, she also helps the local lawman solve a case. Both of them are former Army, and she flew helicopters. She's also a Southerner, like me, and managed to get stuck in two inches of snow, which I mentioned in my review. Because this author kept me reading nonstop through this one, I plan to read more of her books.
This protagonist became a clergywoman after the death of her husband, though she didn't serve as pastor of a church, as I did. Rather, she served as chaplain for search-and-rescue missions in the Maine woods, giving comfort to people whose loved ones are missing. I am a little bit knowledgeable about search-and-rescue work because I read a book Wendy recommended in 2007, when I was a new blogger: Place Last Seen by Charlotte McGuinn Freeman, 2000, fiction (California), which I rated 9 of 10.
This novel is about 17-year-old Mia, a talented cellist, who has been in a terrible auto accident. She lost family members, and life will never be same again. If she decides to stay. Although she's unconscious, she is aware of the people around her — nurses, grandparent, boyfriend. And the whole book is about her decision. What will she do? What would you do, if you were in her place? Having played bassoon in my high school's concert band and orchestra, I liked that the book centers around music.
This book is like a "verbal video," starting with being told to "picture yourself sitting in the darkness, like the beginning of a movie. On screen, the sun will soon rise, and you will find yourself zooming toward a train station in the middle of the city." That city is Paris, and Hugo lives in the train station. I enjoyed the drawings from the book, several of which I included in my review. It's an imaginative book that makes the reader open her mind and "see."
There’s a whole world of unusual schools: schools on boats, in a cave, on train platforms, on buses, and even in a treehouse. My friend Donna taught for twenty-plus years, mostly middle school English, and has an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, so I got her to read this too. I was impressed by the innovative ideas, like curved hallways for blind students, rather that the long, straight halls of most schools. Donna liked the way the book was organized, with activities that could be used, and yet it wasn't "dumbed down" for middle school readers.
The only time I mentioned this book, I just discovered, was in the comments on a library loot post about two books about twins. Tongue in cheek, Sean said, "I sense there's a theme you are hinting at with your choices." Yes, I learned about the two library books at the same time and put both on reserve. Then I discovered — on my own dining table — that my roommate had a copy of this book. My daughters are identical twins, so I always notice books and articles about twins. A 13-year-old travels from Nebraska to Washington state to find the twin sister from whom she was separated at age three. It's the best of the twin books I read in November.
One of my blogger friends, one I've actually met, was in Key West when I came across this book, which is set in Key West. There's probably little or nothing the same as what my friend experienced there, since the book takes place in 1935, but I did recommend it to her. It's a 2011 Newbery book, filled with adventures of the 11-year-old kind, including a search for pirate treasure and the hurricane of 1935.
This book has been challenged as racist because it depicts a black child as “completely idiotic and stupid.” Epaminondas is neither stupid nor an idiot. He is struggling to do the right thing, just as I did, when I was a child. If the adults had been careful of their language, which the poor kid took literally, the outcome would have been different — though we wouldn't have much of a story here. This book is like Aesops Fables, something that makes us think.
This one reminds me of one of my all-time favorite children's books: Cathedral by David Macauley, 1973, showing step by step how a cathedral was built. Laura Amy Schlitz shows us the makeup of a medieval village, looking closely at the various activities of young and old, merchants and craftsmen. I had a little trouble finding all the tiny people, but the book kept my attention and taught me a lot about medieval times.
Although I read this picture book in a few minutes, I didn't return it to the library for several days. Donna, my roommate, fell in love with it and wanted to show it to several friends. She plans to buy herself a copy. Yes, she's that in love with the book. I'd have gotten her a copy for Christmas, but I was afraid it wouldn't arrive in time. The jackass can't relate to anything but his laptop, no matter how many times the monkey and the mouse say, "It's a book." It doesn't need a password, it doesn't toot its horn, and it doesn't have to be recharged. It's a book!
The guy has a cat, but it isn't a cat at all — it's a big gray thing with a trunk. Aw, c'mon! You know what it is. An elephant, see? The guy paints his "cat" in all sorts of art styles, having it do cat kinds of things: eat, sleep, chase a ball of yarn. Children will have fun thinking they are smarter than that artist who can't tell a cat from an elephant. And a very agile elephant it is, too.
This is the sequel to Douglas Wood's bestselling fable of ecology and spirituality called Old Turtle. I like this one even more that the first. The whole earth is full of suffering and war until one little girl seeks Old Turtle, who tells her about a "broken truth" and how mending it will help her community to understand the common bond of all humanity. The partial truth the people had was that YOU ARE LOVED. But the missing part has the possibility of bringing people together. What's missing? ... AND SO ARE THEY.
A girl arrives with her brother and grandmother at the National Gallery with an orange balloon. She knows she can't take it inside, so she finds someone to take care of her balloon until she returns. In side-by-side pictures we see the balloon's adventures, which parallel what the children are inside. Of course, the balloon floated away. And of course, it ends happily. The sisters who dreamed up this book together did a great job.
I like the combination of wonderful poems and paintings, which means this book can be enjoyed by adults as much as children. And I like what Caroline wrote in the Introduction: "In our family, we were encouraged to write or choose a favorite poem for each holiday or birthday as a gift for my mother and grandparents instead of buying a card or present. My brother and I would copy over and illustrate our choices, and my mother pasted them in a special scrapbook. When I look through that poetry scrapbook today, it reminds me of our last-minute races to find the best poem, and it evokes who we were as well as if it were a photo album."
What were your favorite books of 2011?Funny you should ask. See above for my BTT (#17)
Because Jacob can communicate with animals, Katy thinks of him as someone special, even though the townspeople say he's touched. He doesn't speak, but he isn't a deaf-mute. He has a special affinity to the animals, and young Katy likes him. When she is an old lady, she needs to tell Jacob's story, even if others don't want to hear it.Katy and her father, the doctor, have a discussion about the "irrational" things people do to make themselves feel protected (p. 134). For Jacob, it was that hat he wears and never want to remove. I think it's sort of like Linus's blanket or the pacifier a baby doesn't want to give up. Jacob's hat helps him feel safe.
Father had already explained to me that not many women became doctors, and those who did might have a hard time of it. He had known a girl in medical school, he said, and the other students — even Father, though he was ashamed of it now — had played some cruel tricks on her, to see whether she had the stuff for medicine. And she did. She ignored their pranks and became a doctor. But she never married, Father said, and never had children, which was a loss, he felt, to a woman.I like Katy, the protagonist — she's the main character, though she tells the story of Jacob. She's a spunky girl, who sees the world clearly. She notices things, which helps the reader understand even more than the little girl telling us what she sees and hears around her. I rate the book 9 of 10.
I decided I could do it all, and would. I would go to college. Then I would become a doctor and I would marry Austin Bishop and have children one day, and maybe would travel, too. I thought I might go to Africa and China and all the places we studied in school.
I am a very old woman now. My great-grandchildren — who call me Docky, a name my youngest patients gave me years ago — ask me to tell them stories, and I make up tales about talking pigs with pink hair ribbons on their curly tails, or monkeys who wear vests and carry canes. I am as good at foolishness as I once was in the operating room.Even as a child, Katy Thatcher knew that she too wanted to be a doctor. Because Jacob can communicate with animals, Katy thinks of him as someone special, even though the townspeople think he's an imbecile. But the key words on the back cover that make me want to read the book are these:
If I tried to tell them this story, the one I am about to set down here, their parents would send me warning looks over the heads of the children. Don't, the looks would say. Stop.
He meant to help, not harm. It didn't turn out that way.Lois Lowry is a fantastic writer. I've read both of her YA novels (young adult fiction) that have been awarded the Newbery Medal: Number the Stars and The Giver. I look forward to hearing the story Katy will tell us in this book — about Jacob.
From Maggie B: Christmas reindeer musicMay your holidays be as delightful as these special greetings.
From Carla C: Woodland creatures build a snowman
From Jane Y: Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
played on a glass harp
From Beth Kephart, to her readers: Holiday wishes
From June D: Merry Christmas eCard
From Colleen R, to her readers: Interactive Christmas card
SALTYAdditional instructions from my daughter:
Corn chips (nothing made of wheat)
Roasted garlic crackers marked "Gluten Free"
Tostitos salsa con queso dip (okay, per the book)
Lay's french onion dip (okay, per the book)
SWEET (fudge wreath, Rachael Ray's recipe)
Land O Lakes unsalted butter (which I forgot to take out of the fridge for this photo)
Photo by Michael Piazza
Nestle's semisweet chocolate chip (okay, per the book)
Nestle's premier white morsels (substituted, because butterscotch chips didn't pass the test)
Publix sweetened condensed milk (okay, per the book)
McCormick pure vanilla extract (passed the test)
Walnuts (they're okay, no gluten)
Raisins (they're okay, no gluten)
Maraschino cherries (red ones are okay, but not the green ones)
Don't use wooden spoons, which may have gluten from being used before.It's complicated, but I love him and want him to enjoy the visit along with the rest of us.
Use metal spoons.
Use a well-cleaned metal pan.