Sunday, January 31, 2010

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I got this ARC from Hyperion Books. I like to read disaster novels to see how the characters coped and store any survival ideas that sound good. I'm not expecting a disaster in my life, but who knows?

Take an office full of Indian (from India) people who are waiting to get their visa and passports for travel back home. Add in a bad earthquake and shake, and you will get a collapsed building with nine wildly disparate people trapped in one small office. Not only do they not know anything about each other, they're not people they want to be trapped with either.

There are varied emotions. Panic, anger, fear, tears. The man who takes the lead is asthmatic and only has five sprays left in his inhaler. They have no hope of being rescued soon.

At first, they aren't too upset because they have a bathroom, and the utilities are working. But, as the building collapses further, they lose their water and the use of the toilet. And the water starts to rise in the room in the room they're stranded in.

As they sit on tables and try not to panic, one lady brings up the idea of sharing one amazing thing from their life. They can each take turns.

The stories distract them from the doom around them, and everyone in the room learns about the other person by listening to their story.

It's very well done, the stories are amazing in themselves, and I found it a fast read.

If you'd like my copy of this ARC, please leave a comment here on the blog and email me at info NOSPAM (take the spaces and NOSPAM out) with your name and address and tell me why you'd like to have it. I'll give it away in about a week.

The Birdman by Veronika Martenova Charles

This is a beautiful picture book published by Tundra Books. The illustrators are Annouchka Gravel Galouchko and Stephen Daigle. It has fascinating artwork with a real ethnic feel, that takes you right into the story which is set in Calcutta.

Nobi worked seven days a week from dawn to dusk to feed his little ones. And he was working when an accident happened and he lost his family.

He lost his will to continue then, and didn't go back to work. He just wandered the streets of Calcutta without seeing anyone or talking to anyone.

One day he wanders far enough to find a merchant who sells birds. With his last bit of money, he buys the sick, leftover birds and takes them home. He nurses them back to health, and then he sets them free.

He also goes back to work and continues to buy those birds who are less than perfect and keeps healing them up and releasing to their freedom again. It gives him a new goal in life and makes his life have meaning again.

The most impressive thing about this children's picture book is that there really is a Nobi in Calcutta doing this - it's a true story! There are photos at the back of the book showing him at work and in his new life.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

This is a young adult novel published by Egmont.

Grace Devine is a young woman who has always wondered what became of Daniel Kalbi, who disappeared one night. No one is allowed to talk about him at home. Her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood and won't say why. But she still wonders about Daniel.

When she reaches school one morning, the other girls tell her about this weird student who is going to be joining their art class. He has long black hair, and he's nasty. But he fixes her charcoal drawing to make it look more alive and then she realizes who he is and it tips her world upside down.

Her family still won't talk about Daniel or what happened. And the more she learns about Daniel, the more uncertain she is about just who or what he is...

Strange powers, supernatural happenings, and lots of action in this book.

If you'd like to have my ARC of this book, leave a comment here on the blog and send an email with your name and address and why you'd like to read it. info NOSPAM - take the spaces and no spam out of it.

Tales of a Gambling Grandma by Dayal Kaur Khalsa

We all have memories of our grandparents (if we were lucky and they were alive long enough for us to know them) and this picture book from Tundra Books is a nice tribute to the grandmother Dayal remembers.

Grandma was born in Russia and immigrated. (My grandparents were from Czechoslovakia and did the same.) Grandma meets and marries her husband here in the states, but times are tough. So she learns how to play poker (and how to mark cards) and subsidizes the family income with her gambling earnings.

When Grandpa dies, Grandma moves in with her daughter's family in Queens and babysits her granddaughter during the day while the parents work. She shares stories of the past and knits. And she also plays canasta with the Sunshine Ladies for shiny things - and she wins them all!

This book would be a good springboard to discussion about the various immigrants in our country (how we became the melting pot in the US) and about simpler days.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lethal People by John Locke

This is an iUniverse book sent to me by the author. It's his first novel and is about Donovan Creed, a former CIA assassin. As might be expected, this story is fast paced and "hard boiled" even if that term isn't really in vogue anymore.

Donovan is tough, mean and afraid of no one.

He meets a woman he admires (even though he didn't want to) and when she asks him to come and meet the children she works with before they date, he accepts. And meets a little girl who has been very, very badly burned. He's OK with that, but he's not OK with the fact that she's the only survivor of her family and that the fire that killed the other family members appears to be suspicious.

He pokes around a bit and ends up stirring up a hornet's nest. The guy who ordered the hit is coming after him and wants him and anyone he cares about dead. However, Donovan has own little circle of weird friends with strange talents, and instead of retreating, he goes on the offensive.

It's fast paced, not so far fetched it's not believable, and you don't know for sure how it's all going to turn out - but you know not everyone is going to be alive at the end.

If you'd like my copy of this book, leave a comment here on my blog and email me at info NO SPAM telling me why you'd like to read it and giving me your name and address for shipping. I'll pick a winner in about a week.

My Sister Gracie by Gillian Johnson

This is a children's picture book from Tundra Books, and it's wonderful!

First off, I have to admit that I can really relate to the first dog's problem. He's lonely and wants some dog company for adventures and play. When he sulks around the house long enough, his people notice and decide to get another dog. He's all excited about meeting his new little brother. And then his people come home with old, fat Gracie. I mean, really!

I wanted either a little sister or an older brother and my mother really disappointed me. She had George. I felt just as betrayed as Fabio.

However, Fabio (and I) both got over it and found out having another member of the household was better than being alone.

If you have a new baby coming, this might be a way to get your older child to view the change differently. Or if you are introducing an older pet from the pound to your family, this may help the child understand that even older and less attractive pets need love.

All in all, I really enjoyed this story and think many children would too.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Heights by Peter Hedges

This book is from Dutton and will be released in March. If you enjoy books that talk about family dynamics and show how outside influences can turn things upside down, this is one for you.

The story begins with a middle class family who slipped into a comfortable routine in a life that they love. The husband is a popular history teacher the local academy. His wife stays home with their two young songs. Life is good.

Then new neighbors move in. Kate is the first to meet Anna, who wants to know her opinion of the neighborhood before she agrees to buy there. Kate finds her attractive and intelligent and when Anna gives her a blue scarf because she admired it, she's smitten with her. Having a new female friend in the neighborhood will be fun!

Tim meets Anna also, along with her daughter. He's good with children and can help calm the daughter down. He and Anna begin meeting in the park with their children and talking about a variety of things.

Then Anna propositions him. He doesn't say no right away, and it bothers him. It's a date set in advance, so he could say no later.

When Kate's old boyfriend shows back up in town, there's more trauma in the couple's lives and more temptation.

What impressed me most about this story is that the character who shakes up the married couple and makes them think of things that never came before is only there for a few months and doesn't even make a large appearance in the story. But she leaves ripple effects behind her when she's done manipulating people.

It's well written (Peter Hedges also wrote What's Eating Gilbert Grape and several other books) and it's intriguing. Give it a try!

If you'd like my ARC of this book, leave a comment here on my blog and send me an email at info NOSPAM - take the spaces and NOSPAM out - telling me why it would appeal to you and giving me your name and address for shipping. I'll pick a winner in about a week.

The White Stone in the Castle Wall by Sheldon Oberman

Tundra books shared a copy of this book with me. It's been in publication since 1996. And well worth looking over!

The book was a finalist for the Ruth Schwartz Children's Literature Award, the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award.

Toronto's Casa Loma was the biggest castle in North America in 1914. And the wall surrounding it has only ONE white stone. How did it get there?

This a tale of how that may have happened, and it's a good story.

John Tommy Fiddich was going to have a garden and earn money from the sales of his goods, but the weather conspired against him, and all he found after the storm was a big ugly gray rock. Then he hears about this wall being constructed and how they were buying dull colored stones. That cheers him up, and he attempts to get his gray rock up the hill to the castle grounds so he can get some money.

Imagine his surprise when he find the rain has washed all the gray off his rock and it's white now - which means it's not wanted.

He sees the castle garden and goes to admire it and, because of his attitude, things turn out even better than he imagined.

It teaches children not to give up easily and that hard work can be its own reward. The illustrations reflect the time period well.

Check your local bookstore for a copy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kyle's Island by Sally Derby

This children's chapter book (ARC) was sent to me by Charlesbridge Publishing. Publication date on this book is February, 2010. It's for ages between 10-13.

Every summer, Kyle's family goes to small lake in Michigan for the summer. But this year is different. Gram has died, Dad moved out, and Mom tells him they will have to sell the cottage because the cost of upkeep is too much. That's almost more than Kyle can handle, and none of the children are happy with decision.

Kyle likes to fish, so he spends some time alone thinking. He finds an island that has shack built on it, but he doesn't tell the others about. He's devastated that the cottage must be sold and he hasn't forgiven his father for moving out, so the island is some comfort but doesn't solve his problems.

Then he gets an opportunity to take a neighbor fishing - Tom will pay him. But Tom is fat and eats all the time. So is this a blessing because he will make some money to try to help save the cabin or is it another problem for Kyle?

This is a story about growing up and learning about the people around you, including your own family.

It's a well-paced story that will keep children's attention, I recommend it.

If you'd like to have my copy of this ARC, leave a comment here on my blog and email me your name and address at info NOSPAM (take the spaces and NOSPAM out) and tell me why you'd like to have it.

The Lineup edited by Otto Penzler

Subtitle: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives.

Little Brown sent me this book for review, and I didn't realize it was non-fiction until it arrived. I tend to read mostly fiction, but I've read a great many Otto Penzler anthologies, so I decided it couldn't be bad. I was right.

It was like being in a room with authors at a convention where they shared with you what led them to choose a certain character (or what character chose them) and why the various attributes, successes and failures of each make the character they like to write about.

21 authors speak of their characters intimately. It's fun to see what inspired them, why some keep their characters true to type and some have characters that change throughout the series.

My personal favorite was Jeffery Deaver's contribution about Lincoln Rhyme's funeral. He always grabs my attention and leads me on.

Not only will this book share writer talk with you, it may inspire you to start thinking about a character you'd like to write about or a situation that could jump start a story for you.

For being non-fiction, this was really an enjoyable read. Try it, you'll like it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Angel and Apostle by Deborah Noyes

I received this ARC from Unbridled Books and wasn't altogether sure of my expectations. I'd never read The Scarlet Letter, but the thought of a book written about her life after she'd been scorned by the Puritans had to be interesting. And it was!

I can't imagine being ostracized by an entire community. Or raising a child who cannot go school or interact with other children because of your "sin".

While she never talks to her daughter about it, the daughter gradually learns the story from other people. Her mother is really not at fault, but she keeps earning the rage of the community again and again...

Pearl, the daughter, is content with her wild life and her imaginative ways. But even that can't last forever.

The ending surprised me in some ways and, in other ways, turned out to be what I was expecting.

It reads smoothly, takes you back to the days of Puritan judgement and hatred, and intrigues your mind. What more could you ask?

If you'd like my copy of this ARC, leave a comment here on the blog and then email me at info NOSPAM (remove spaces and NOSPAM) with you name and address and why you'd like to read it. I'll pick a winner in about a week.

Mrs. Kaputnik's Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium by Rona Arato

This is a marvelous children's chapter book published by Tundra Books, who sent it to me for review.

My reason for requesting it was that it had a dragon in it. But it also has two very important messages for children.

Shoshi, Moshe, their mother, and their pet dragon, Snigger, all move from a very tiny Russian village to New York - where their father has come to start them a new life in America. The discussion of the difficulty they had at Ellis Island and entering the states as well as their lack of English and a communication problem are very realistic and will teach your child about a piece of history that my grandparents lived through. They were Ivan and Marija. They became John and Mary. So, too, do the children and their mother end up with a name change...

Shortly after they arrive, they find that father is missing and the remaining "partner" steals all their money. So they have a vacant building and no visible means of support.

Mother believes they need to continue as a restaurant and cleans the place up and starts making Matzo balls. Of course, if they cook too long, they make good baseballs... And with Snigger helping provide the cooking flame, they have some funny problems.

Then they find out about Nick the Stick - a gangster who wants a piece of the action. If they pay him, they have nothing left.

So how will they resolve this? While that problem is fermenting along, a Russian comes along that wants the dragon and it gets even more complicated!

It's a good read, I'd recommend it. And it teaches young adults about some of the real challenges in the world.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cowboy Poetry and Humor

I'm working away at listing another dealer's inventory I purchased. At this point, I'm on Cowboy poetry, humor and songs. Lots of horses, cows, lost loves, drinking, hard riding, rodeo and more...

I don't know much about it, but I'm learning. And it amazes me how much of it is based on history and life events of the cowboys. There are tall tales, but most of this writing is based on experience.

While reading, don't forget "The Code of the West", you might meet some women ranchers that are tougher than the men working for them, horses that are worshiped even after death, near death experiences that are blown off as just being a normal working day, who knows what they might write about?

There are snakes and rats (as in people's characters), men of their word, honest men, evil men, loners who would rather live with their horse, and those who long for a ranch and a family of their own.

I can honestly tell you, whatever cowboy poetry is, it's not boring!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Saving Rachel by John Locke

The author sent me this book for review, and while I expected it to be interesting, I didn't expect that I would get so caught up in it that I didn't quit reading until the last page had been consumed...

Sam is very interesting character. He's so into his geeky computer programming money scam that his personal life, while staid and reliable, is falling apart - but he doesn't know that. And once the story takes off, you can't tell who has more secrets than the other, who's screwing who, or who's going to win at the end. So you keep reading...

It all begins with Sam developing a girlfriend, almost by accident. Then he finds his home has been invaded, and his wife is missing. He's taken captive - almost reminiscent of some situation James Bond has been in, and then he's forced to make a choice between his wife or his girlfriend - only one will live.

But nothing is what it seems, and even the ending doesn't leave you feeling that who won and who lost has really been determined yet.

If you like mind twisters and creating alternate endings to books, this would be a great read for you. Just suspend your disbelief and go for it!

If you would like my copy of this book, leave a comment here on the blog and email me at info NOSPAM (take out spaces and NOSPAM) with your name and address and tell me why. I'll be giving it away in about a week. Good luck!

Topsy-Turvy Town by Luc Melanson

This charming picture book is from Tundra Books and will be published in March, 2010. The book is very good quality and the illustrations are amusing.

Do you have an imaginative child? If not, would you like to encourage them to use their imaginations? This book would be great for either type.

The young man in this story lives in Topsy-Turvy Town - and it is! Where else can you fish in your living room, or bath with a robot, or juggle a wildcat before bed? Maybe his other relatives think he's making it up, but his Mom understands...

It's 32 pages, and a fun read for children. Then let them make up their imaginary town and see how many ideas they can come create to make their town different!

This would work well for a daycare center or a reading program - it will lead to further conversation and ideas.

A Question on Twitter...

...was about what you were doing ten years ago. I don't usually pay much attention to time or the change of years, just go on about my business and work on accomplishing my goals. But ten years ago was a milestone for me.

I quit my job with the city (for personal and political reasons) and moved away from my hometown for the first time ever. I packed up my car and computer and moved from Chehalis, Washington to Las Cruces, New Mexico!

I came to become partners in a bookstore. That fantasy only lasted a couple of months, and then I started selling books online in my own business. I started with 100 books and two bookcases in a one bedroom furnished apartment.

I now have over 7,000 books and many more bookshelves. I've also managed to metamorphosis into a more experienced better bookseller.

I got rid of almost all the paperbacks I was carrying. Selling them on a big site like Amazon ended up leaving me with no profit at all. I've eliminated categories that didn't sell well. I don't buy stock that just sits. I now only buy stock I know will move or I am confident that it has enough value to hold for a bit.

Buying another dealer's western stock got me into western and cowboy history. I began picking up craft booklets and found people buy them constantly. So that's my new niche in life. Those are my major sellers.

I just love children's picture books, but they don't sell as well. I doubt I'll ever get rid of them, though. I can always read them again if they don't sell...

So ten years ago, I was poor and had nothing. Now I have a home (paid for), lots of books, and lots of shelves. Yeah, I'm still poor. But I'm doing what I love.

And I have this theory: when I get to 60 my pension kicks in from the city. What do want to bet that then my sales will take off?

I still have lots of beautiful books to list, but I've been taking some time off. I have never taken a vacation since I started this, so playing on Facebook has been fun. But one day soon, I'll be back to listing every day. That's what keeps my business perking!

Happy New Year and happy reading!

The Golden Quest by David Delisle

The Golden Quest is a graphic novel about a young boy who embarks on a Hero’s Journey with his dog Shelby to discover the Golden Rules of Mo...