Good Books and the Random Movie

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28 June 2011

Ash

Ash by Malinda Lo is a retelling of Cinderella, with a twist. This novel takes place in the same world as her book Huntress.

After Ash's mother dies, her father brings a new wife home from the City - a new wife with two daughters. Then her father gets sick and they all move to his wife's house outside the city. But the city doctors cannot save him.

Now Ash is an orphan. She is far from anyone she knows and in order to pay off her father's debt, her stepmother makes her into a servant.

Unlike the original Cinderella, Ash does not go to the ball to meet the prince. Ash is more interested in the King's Huntress. And Ash makes a deal with a fairy to be able to escape her stepmother's house to go see her. But wishes granted come with a price.

Lo's recreation of the story keeps the romantic feel of the original tale, but builds a relationship based on mutual interest instead of one dance. A must read for anyone who is a fan of fairy tales but wishes they had more substance.

Lo, Malinda (2009). Ash. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

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24 June 2011

Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is about what could happen if a plane of 50 teen beauty contestants crashes on a tropical island. Also, the best book cover ever!

The annual Miss Teen Dream Pageant is flying all 50 contestants to a tropical beach to practice the dance routines, film back stories, and work on their tans. But the plane goes down on the way - and the survivors are trapped on a desert island with little food, little drinkable water, and little hope for survival.

When times get tough, some beauty queens stick to the script their managers helped them create, some find their true selves, and some flip out.

Touching on the use of advertising and media to control our sense of self, Bray winds our truths into an outrageous story of self-discovery and girl power. Bray is obviously mad and brilliant! Read it!

(Also, loved the shout out to friends in the character names - Jennifer Hubert Swan of Reading Rants and author David Levithan were two I spotted.)

Bray, Libba. (2011). Beauty Queens. New York: Scholastic.

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21 June 2011

The Gathering (Darkness Rising #1)

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong is the first book in her Darkness Rising series.

Maya lives on Vancouver Island with her parents. Her father is a park ranger and her mother works for the medical research company that owns the town. Maya was adopted so she does not know of her heritage but she is obviously Native American.

For her sixteenth birthday she is trying to convince her parents to let her get a tattoo. She has a paw shaped birthmark that is fading and she would like to make it darker. She also has a strong relationship to the animals she helps heal and a former patient who is now practically a pet - a cougar named Fitz.

Lately things have been getting strange. Cougars are approaching her out of the forest; an old woman sees her birthmark and calls Maya a witch; and the hot new student seems to be interested in her.

Armstrong has begun an exciting new fantasy series. Maya is a great character and the changes in her life will make for an interesting plot. Readers who love fantasy but cannot read another vampire story will do well to switch to Armstrong's Darkness Rising series.

Armstrong, Kelley. (2011). The Gathering. New York: Harper Teen.

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20 June 2011

Raggin' Jazzin' Rockin'

Raggin' Jazzin' Rockin': A History of Musical Instruments Makers by Susan VanHecke is a beautiful look at the music makers of America.

Through a personal look at the person or family behind an instrument, this look at music, history and America is a look at our collective culture.

Makers included:
Zildjian cymbals
Steinway & Sons pianos
C.G. Conn horns
Martin guitars
Ludwig drums
Hammond organs
Fender electric guitars
Moog sound equipment

These great names in American instrument making, and the famous musicians who use them, is an interesting way to look at our country and the influence music has on us all. As a side note: if you get a chance to tour any of these factories it is totally worth it!

VanHecke, Susan. (2011). Raggin' Jazzin' Rockin'. Honesdale, Pennsylvania: Boyds Mills Press.

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19 June 2011

Eona: the Last Dragoneye (Eon #2)

Eona: the Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman is the second and final book in the Eon series.

Eona was chosen to be the Mirror Dragoneye - the first time the Mirror Dragon had chosen someone in 500 years. This may be due to the fact that local tradition now forbids girls to become dragoneyes and the Mirror Dragon is female.

The next steps for Eon are about learning to work with and control the power of her dragon to help the empire. But there is no one to train her. Usually the dragoneye chosen twelve years ago, in the last cycle, is your trainer.

Not only is there no Mirror Dragoneye to train her - ten of the other dragoneyes have been murdered. And when she connects with her dragon, the 10 bereft dragons try to attack her.

To make matters worse, the rightful emperor has been usurped by his uncle and is in exile. Eona need the strength of her dragon to help him regain the thrown.

Goodman has written a great fantasy series featuring a strong female character. The series is filled with Chinese culture - one of the few YA fantasy series with a non-white female hero. Readers of dystopian futures will enjoy the feel of this series though it has the feel of taking place in the past. It has all of the adventure, political intrigue and corruption, and characterization of a great read.

Goodman, Alison. (2011). Eona: the Last Dragoneye. New York: Viking.

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14 June 2011

Huntress

Huntress by Malinda Lo is the story of a world out of balance.

Taisin is studying at the Academy. She has been there for six years and she is advancing in her powers. When she starts having visions of herself and another student, Kaede, she goes to the Sages.

Kaede has also been at the Academy for six years. Her studies are not advancing. However, her father's position as the King's Chancellor has kept her there where other students might have been asked to leave.

The King has received an invitation to the Fairy Queen's castle. While the King cannot go due to unrest, he will send his son along with Kaede and Taisin -as Taisin's visions proclaimed.

As they leave for the unmapped parts of the North - a place no human has gone for centuries - Taisin is uneasy. What she saw in her vision makes her think that their journey will be more than just a long walk. The decisions they make will change the course of history.

Lo has created a world that readers will sink into with ease. Her characters struggle to find their place in the world while also changing that world. Huntress takes place in the same world as her book Ash.

Lo, Malinda. (2011). Huntress. New York: Little, Brown & Company.

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13 June 2011

Skinny Bitch

In spite of the completely offensive title and writing style, this book - Skinny Bitch: A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous! by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin - is filled with important information for a healthy diet.

Written in what we New Yorkers would call an LA style, this book is so filled with information on how and what Americans eat and why it needs to change, that ever single line of the book is important.

Information from hundreds of studies is boiled down to the basics - the vegan lifestyle is the only healthy lifestyle. Here is why:

Animals that are raised for meat, milk, and eggs are full of chemicals and antibiotics that are harming our bodies - not to mention what they are doing to the livestock. People and bugs are becoming resistant to antibiotics to a point where soon we will not have treatment options that work.

Aside from the harm done to animals by factory farming, there is ample evidence that humans should not consume animal products at all. Milk has addictive properties to lure baby mammals to drink it. Its sole purpose is to plump up the baby bodies that rely on it. But once we are adults we have no need for such rapid weight gain. And if you look at our insides or even just our teeth it should be evident that humans were not created to be carnivores.

Freedman and Barnouin admit that it is not easy to quit eating meat and dairy, but give all of the good options available in vegan foods - from junk food tasting stuff to the best veggie burgers. - there is no need to eat meat or dairy. I know the authors' marketing is working with the whole "skinny bitch" idea, but it would be great if the same information was also available without the swearing and name-calling that is off putting to some readers. May I suggest another version of the book without the language - it could double sales!

Freedman, Rory and Kim Barnouin. (2005). Skinny Bitch. Philadelphia: Running Press.

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12 June 2011

Unbridled

Unbridled by Beth Williamson is a romance with a western twist.

Alex grew up on a ranch in Wyoming, but she left when she was sixteen. For the last ten years she has lived in Los Angeles.

Now she is ready to face her father and his betrayal - he left when her mother was dying of cancer and then returned for the funeral with a date.

When Alex gets back to the ranch, in a haze of emotion and memory, it has been turned into a guest ranch. The home she grew up in is now the office for a hotel - for city people to play cowboy for a weekend. And the man running the ranch is not her father. Connor Matthews is the manager of the ranch and has been since before Alex's father died two years ago.

Now Alex is torn between memories of her past and the reality of ranch. She is half owner of the ranch along with the half-brother she had no idea she had. And she is both mad at and in lust with the manager of her family ranch.

Williamson has written great characters into a compelling and interesting story. We all have things from our past that we must eventually face and the story she has written will pull reader in. Romance readers who enjoy a plot with their sexier scenes will delight in this author.

Williamson, Beth. (2010). Unbridled. New York: Heat Books.

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10 June 2011

The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles #2)

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is the second book in his Kingkiller Chronicles.

In this second volume, Kvothe continues to give his story to Chronicler. To describe the plot would likely give away too much and I do not willingly include spoilers.

The Wise Man's Fear maintains the feel of the first book, The Name of the Wind. Rothfuss has complete knowledge of the world he has created and how players move through it. If feels as complete a world as Pern or Tortall. His characters are whole and their depths are slowly revealed as the story continues.

Fantasy readers will devour these first two books and wait impatiently for Rothfuss to write more of Kvothe's life.

Rothfuss, Patrick. (2011). The Wise Man's Fear. New York: DAW Books.

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01 June 2011

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns is a look at our oceans and what we are doing to them.

Since Benjamin Franklin ocean scientists have been looking at currents that affect travel. One way that Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer uses is to track things that have fallen off of container ships. For example, in May 1990 the Hansa Carrier ran into a major storm in the Pacific and lost 21 cargo containers. One was filled with Nike shoes.

Over the next few years, Ebbesmeyer and a society of beachcombers tracked where the shoes landed. The same was done with a container filled with 29,000 floating bath toys - ducks, frogs, beavers, and turtles. Where the toys were later found showed scientists how currents work.

One effect of the currents in the Pacific is that where they converge - in the middle of the ocean about half way between California and Hawaii - is a giant field of floating debris that has been said to be as big as Alaska. It is called the Great Garbage Patch. The plastics we use do not break down, they float, and they are creating a hazard for animals, fish and humans alike. From things that fall off of ships to discarded soda bottles that float down river to the ocean, this indestructible material is accumulating in the Pacific (and other places around the world's oceans).

As the plastic gets broken into smaller pieces through weather and rough currents, it is more likely to be eaten by sea turtles, jelly fish and birds. Larger pieces of plastic, including rope and fishing nets can cause tangles that kill fish and mammals. Though it is exciting to think of tracking a rubber ducky from a ship in the middle of the ocean to a beach in Oregon, the garbage and debris we create will eventually change the ocean currents, which in turn will affect the weather and climate. We all need to do our part to reduce the disposable plastics we use and make sure those we do purchase make it into a recycling bin.

Also check out this adult book on the subject - Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,000 Bath Toys Lost as Sea by Donovan Hohn.

Burns, Loree Griffin. (2007). Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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Dreadnought (HIVE #4)

Dreadnought is the fourth book in Mark Walden's HIVE series - The Higher Institute of Villainous Education.

Otto and his friends have been at HIVE for almost two years now and they are ready for their first field trip / training exercise. Nicknamed the 93 because an average of 93 percent of students live through it, the Alpha class is headed to Antarctica.

On their way to the field trip, their aircraft makes a stop at the new headquarters of G.L.O.V.E. (Global League of Villainous Enterprises - the organization that runs the school and the world of evil). But before a quick tour can be completed, headquarters is attacked.

In another high-tension adventure, Otto and friends will go up against the world's worst villains. (For a villainous school, the students save the world fairly often.) This series will delight fans of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, Robert Muchamore's CHERUB series, and the Chance twins series by Jack Higgins and Justin Richardson.

Walden, Mark. (2011). Dreadnought. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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