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It’s summer, and Jack is left at home to take care of his autistic sister, Maddy, while his mother works two jobs to support the family. For Jack, this means chores and boring days. But one day, Maddy, who never speaks, sees a box of seeds at a street fair and she tells Jack to buy them. Jack is so astonished that his sister spoke that he does buy the seeds, even though they cost him his mother’s car. The seeds, of course, turn out to be magic, and the adventure begins. The seeds, of course, grow magical plants in a magical garden. Jack, Maddy, and their friend Lilly, who regularly carries a sword, learn about their new magical garden. Some of the garden is friendly, but some of it is not. And one special night, a dragon visits the garden, and that changes everything…
Mighty Jack is a special book, full of whimsy, friendship, and courage. I love Ben Hatke’s artwork, and how he mixes complex topics in with non-stop action. If you haven’t read any of Mr. Hatke’s work, please try Zita the Spacegirl. And of course, read the continued adventure of Jack, Maddy, and Lilly in Mighty Jack and the Goblin King.
This is a spinoff early reader series from one of my favorite books — The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Calpurnia is a spunky precocious girl in Texas at the turn of the century, the 20th century that is. Through explorations of the natural world with her grandfather, Calpurnia has developed a strong scientific and curious mind, a mind that sometimes gets her in trouble. Calpurnia is the middle child with three brothers on either side of her. Her closest brother is Travis, an animal adopter of the worst kind. The first book in the early reader series, Skunked, Travis adopts a pair of abandoned skunks. It is up to Calpurnia to figure out how to care for the skunks and make sure that mom doesn’t find out about them. In another book, A Prickly Problem, her father’s prized hunting dog, Ajax, has not one but two run ins with a porcupine. Calpurnia’s analysis of Ajax’s intelligence is hilarious as she explains the difference between a smart dog and a dumb dog and that’s it’s usually easy to tell. “Here’s how you tell. Smart dogs learn from their mistakes. Dumb dogs don’t . . . So guess what? We owned the dumbest dog of all.” (page 57). These little adventures of Calpurnia are good for readers of Laura Ingalls Wilder and a nice lead in to her bigger chapter books in J Fiction.
When zombie start to rise from battlefields and from graves during the Civil War, it causes a bit of a problem for everyone involved: the War Between the States becomes the War Between the Living and the Dead. The walking dead, called shamblers, are decimating cities as they hunt for more living food to eat. Jane McKeene, a young Negro woman born into this new and brutal conflict, is training at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore to fight the shamblers to keep people safe. When families in the Baltimore area start to go missing, Jane finds herself pulled into a political conspiracy that puts her, and her friend Katherine, in mortal danger. Using her skills learned at Miss Preston’s School and her own sharp wits, Jane must find a way to save herself and her friends before all of them are turned into shamblers themselves.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland is a wonderful alternate history story, and Jane and Katherine are fantastic characters. Both are strong women fighting against what seem impossible odds. The premise of the book is highly original, and pacing of the book kept the pages turning. Highly recommended.
On July 2, 1997 Christophe Andre was kidnapped. Hostage opens with Andre recounting his three month ordeal to author/cartoonist Guy Delisle. At the time of his kidnapping Andre was working as a financial administrator for Doctors Without Borders in the town of Ingushetia, a small Russian republic west of Chechnya. His kidnappers came very early in the morning, busting in claiming to be the police. He thought they had come for money but quickly realized he was being kidnapped. His captors held him in in a solitary room handcuffed to a radiator. He had very little to eat and nothing to do but think. Obviously his confinement comes to an end but I won’t elaborate on how he gained his freedom. It’s so exciting to watch it play out!
The writing in this book is economical and the drawings are uncomplicated but nuanced. Every word is essential and every mark is significant. At 432 pages I read this book in one afternoon. If you like a good page-turner Hostage will not disappoint.
I can’t even explain how good Ken Bruen’s books are. Is it the story lines or the main character that’s so great? I’m gonna go with just the way he writes – the reading itself is just pure pleasure. His latest The Ghosts of Galway is no exception. The story features Bruen’s ex Guard Jack Taylor and Taylor’s crush/nemesis, the evil Emily. Jack goes to work for a short time as a security guard and his boss wants him to do some “side work.” Although the side work itself is not anything illegal, it puts Jack in the middle of a lot of illegal activity and greediness. Of course, then this leads to the deaths of some who are closest to Jack’s heart. I was surprised 3 different times while reading this book which isn’t something that happens often when you’ve read as many mysteries as I have. And Jack’s thoughts! And the dialogue! I never think I could run while listening to a talking book but maybe I should try it with one of Bruen’s novels – there’s just a rhythm to the writing that really hooks you. Highly, highly recommended!
Have you ever felt harassed by a door that just wouldn’t open? You push, you pull, and yet, nothing? Do you blame yourself for not knowing how to open the door? Well, you shouldn’t! The issue isn’t with you; it’s with the design of the door.
The Design of Everyday Things takes a look at the considerations that should be taken into account for everyday items that we all use. It discusses the importance of making the use of everyday items clear and obvious, as well as why failures we often consider human error are actually design flaws. The book is detailed without being overly technical, and provides lots of interesting case studies of how to design in a way that puts the user first. This book is a fun informative read, and it made me feel a whole lot better about every door I’ve never been able to properly open on the first try.
Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility: The Lives of Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth by Marian Veevers
When it comes to details on the lives of late-18th/early 19th century writers Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth, it’s natural to yearn for more. Austen was a prolific correspondent, but so often acerbic in her comments on acquaintances and relatives, that most of her letters were heavily censored by or destroyed outright by family members. Wordsworth, the author of memorable journals and observations , is regularly overshadowed by the famous brother to whom she was devoted, the poet William Wordsworth.
Author Veevers is able to put together enough information on both to compare, contrast, and note when characteristics coincide, avoiding the oversimplification of presenting Austen strictly as “sense” and Wordsworth as “sensibility”. She includes observations on the roles of women in Georgian society and illustrates how regularly the wishes and ambitions of single women were discounted and disregarded. Some conjecture regarding an early failed relationship of Austen’s and the possibility of an affair between the Wordsworth brother and sister ensures that the subjects’ emotional sides are not neglected.
Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility: The Lives of Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth is a well-written and entertaining account of the lives of two classic figures of English Literature.
What do you do as your 13th birthday nears and on that day you will become a siren like your three older sisters? Lolly Salt does not enjoy singing ships to their doom but when the Sea Witch calls she and her sisters must answer that call. Lolly lives in a modern Maine but through a diary finds that there are connections to the past and a witch trial of the late 1700s. Lolly is best friends with Jason and with his help she sets out to break the curse on her family and, as she discovers, the curse on the witch. Lolly is a compelling young lady fairly sure of her place in the world, except for the siren problem. Her mother was Native American and Lolly wonders why Native Americans are left out of the “American Vision” textbook she is assigned for History class. Her discussion with her teacher brings that home in an intelligent way that should get us all thinking. Siren Sisters has a nice combination of friendship, magic, and a modern touch.
Harriet Westaway, a tarot reader by trade, is in trouble. Paying clients are sparse, and her bills are plentiful. All alone in the world since her mother’s death, Harriet made an unfortunate decision to borrow money from a loan shark to make ends meet. And, of course, that decision has made for more trouble, as she can’t pay the loan back either. One night, Harriet realizes she has no way out of her financial hole, and despair consumes her. And on that night, she receives a mysterious letter claiming she has received an inheritance from her grandmother. The trouble? Harriet is certain that the letter has reached the wrong Harriet Westaway, as she does not have any family. Yet, desperation drives her to travel to see about this claim. Harriet’s act of deception leads her on a path of danger, secrets, and lies.
I love Ruth Ware’s books. The Death of Mrs. Westaway has a creepy, Gothic quality, one full of enigmatic suspects and unexpected murder. If you like the works of Agatha
Christie, you will certainly like this book.
Ok, I graduated from Purdue so I feel like I’m betraying them but there is a new book out from Indiana University Press called Campus Canines that is so cute! Purdue, we need our own book featuring Boilermaker dogs! Regardless, I.U. and dog fans will want to take a look at this and I’m sure they will then feel nostalgic for their days back in Bloomington as a lot of the dog pictures have the dogs posing by Showalter Fountain or at Dunn Meadow or other familiar landmarks. I am somewhat partial to the doggies named Nyx and Kilroy but you might prefer others. Caine and Sophie are also cute as buttons but they cannot help it because they are puppies. This book would make a really good present for the I.U. (and dog) fan in your life.