Sunday, January 29, 2017

718 (2017 #16). Lady Cop Makes Trouble

by Amy Stewart

This book is a sequel to Girl Waits With Gun, and it's helpful (but not absolutely necessary) to have read that book first, if only to know more of the backstory of the three Kopp sisters, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette.

It's the summer of 1915, and Constance, the heroine in both books, is working as a deputy to Sheriff Robert Heath in Bergen County, New Jersey.  That is, she's doing so unofficially, since the laws in that place and time required that deputy sheriffs be eligible to vote - and women weren't allowed to vote in 1915.  Officially, she is matron for the female jail, but she's called upon to investigate (and sometimes make arrests), primarily in crimes involving women (as criminals or victims).

Constance is also fluent in French and German, and so the sheriff brings her along to the hospital one day to translate for a prisoner undergoing treatment there.  There's a storm, accidents outside the hospital pull the sheriff away, the power goes out - and the prisoner escapes.  To save her job (and that of the sheriff, who, under state law in those days, could be imprisoned himself for letting a prisoner escape), Constance must find the escapee, Doctor Reverend Baron Herman Albert von Matthesius (a real criminal).

That part of the story drags out a bit, but this was still a fast, fun read.  Once again, author Amy Stewart has based her novel on real incidents she found from newspaper and other research in the life of the real Constance Kopp.  Most of the other characters are based on real people as well.

There are going to be at least three more books in the series - I'm looking forward to them.

from page 304 of Lady Cop Makes Trouble

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to a public library.]

Saturday, January 28, 2017

715-717 (2017 #13-15). Three More Picture Books That Caught My Eye

When I was at the public library a few days ago, looking for recent winners of American Library Association Youth Media awards, I spotted a few books on display that looked interesting, that I was pretty sure we didn't have in the children's literature collection I manage at the university.  So I checked them out:

Musicians of the Sun is similar to many of Caldecott Medalist and honoree Gerald McDermott's other traditional literature books.  Like The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh, this book also retells Axtec folklore.  The Lord of the Night (the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca), sends the Wind god (Ehecatl) to bring the prisoners of the Sun god (Tonatiuh, interestingly enough) - four musicians named Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green, to the "gray and joyless," dark and silent earth.  In his author's note, McDermott said "the story became for me a metaphor for the author's journey," and that the illustrations are "in acrylic fabric paint, opaque ink, and oil pastel on paper handmade in Mexico."

Matisse's Garden, written by Samantha Friedman and illustrated by Cristina Amodeo, was published by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City in 2014 to accompany an exhibition of the "cut-out" works from the last decade of the life of Henri Matisse.  The artist found it difficult to paint or sculpt after surgery for abdominal cancer (although this is not discussed in the book), and took up his scissors to make cut-paper collages, often on an immense scale.  Author Friedman was an assistant curator at MoMA and co-organizer of the exhibition, while Amodeo is an Italian designer.  I particularly liked the way the way the latter built in references to Matisse's other work (such as Dance) in her cut-paper illustrations.  The book features eight reproductions of Matisse's cut-paper works, some on fold-out pages to better fit the scale of some of these large works.  More details about Matisse's life and these works are in an endnote.

Ada Twist, Scientist, is the third book in a series written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, that promote STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) careers.  Told in rhyme, Ada Twist is a little girl who starts out quiet and observing, but once she turns three, the questions - mostly "Why?" - flow.  The fact that Ada is a female of color (and has puzzled but supportive parents) is even better for encouraging all young children to question and hypothesize and persevere.  The illustrations use watercolors, pen, ink, and pencil, sometimes on - appropriately - graph paper of different types.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[These books were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Friday, January 27, 2017

714 (2017 #12). The Japanese Lover

by Isabel Allende,
read by Joanna Gleason

I've read a lot by Isabel Allende, and while this does not measure up to her earlier works, I still liked The Japanese Lover.  A major criticism from some fans is that Allende tells the story, rather than showing the story through action.  Yet, given that the book covers 74 years, from 1939 to 2013, and jumps back and forth from the 2010-2013 period to earlier years, that may be understandable.  Besides, the idea of the book is that one main character is telling her life story to others.

The two main characters in the book are  Alma Mendel Belasco, who is 78 when the book begins in 2010, and Irina Bazili, who is 23.  Irina, a Moldovan refugee, has just started to work at (the mythical) Lark House, a retirement community in San Francisco with a continuum of care levels, and Alma has just moved into independent living there.  Alma hires Irina to be her secretary, and both of them get involved in a book that Seth, Alma's grandson, is writing - and Alma begins to share her memories.  Eventually she gets around to her Japanese lover - Ichimei "Ichi" Fukuda, the son of the Belasco family gardener.  Alma's and Ichi's families also become part of the story.

Through her characters, Allende weaves in all sorts of history - Japanese-American internment camps, war, the Holocaust, and the attempts of Jewish people (like Alma's Mendel parents and brother) to avoid it (Alma was sent from Poland to live with her Belasco relatives, including her cousin Nathaniel, who becomes her best friend and husband).  She also brings up topics like racial prejudice, aging issues, death with dignity, and a few others that were surprises to me as the story went on.

I actually liked this book. Besides the historical fiction in it, I'm mesmerized by the idea of a love that lasts over 70 years. Actress Joanna Gleason's reading is perfect; she has a beautiful soft voice that seems to fit all the characters.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[The e-audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my university and local public libraries respectively.]

Thursday, January 26, 2017

712-713 (2017 #10 & #11). Two Award-Winning Picture Books

When the American Library Association announced its annual Youth Media Award recipients on January 23, 2017, I pulled the one honoree I'd already ordered earlier in the year (because it was a picture book on the 2017-2018 Texas Bluebonnet Award reading list) from the to-be-cataloged shelf at my university library.  I also went to my local public library and checked out the two picture books they had that were honorees.  I wrote about one book yesterday; here's my review of the other two.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the "most distinguished American book for beginning readers."  Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! An Alphabet Caper, written and illustrated by Mike Twohy, was named as a 2017 Geisel Honor Book.

This clever alphabet book uses a single word on each page or spread to tell a simple story of a dog, a mouse, and a ball.  Mike Twohy is a longtime cartoonist whose work has been published in The New Yorker magazine and other mainstream publications.  He used India ink and felt-tip pens to create the illustrations in this book.

The Pura Belpré Illustrator Award is given to "a Latino/Latina ... illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth." Duncan Tonatiuh, a previous medalist (2012) and honoree (2011 and 2014-2016), had two works named as Honor Books for Illustration in 2017, one of which is on the 2017-2018 Texas Bluebonnet Award reading list.

The Princess and the Warrior is a retelling of the legend of Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl, two volcanoes near Mexico City.  

The illustrations (hand-draw then collaged digitally) were inspired by Mexican Pre-Columbian art, primarily the Mixtec writing code of the 12th century.  A characteristic of this style, according to the author's note at the end of the book, is that "people and animals are always drawn in profile.  Their entire bodies are usually shown, and their ears often look like the number 3."  Tonatiuh even uses speech scrolls in his illustration (similar to speech bubbles), such as in the illustration below.

Tonatiuh based the enemy warrior in the book on the real Mixtec warrior Jaguar Claw, and uses a number of Nahuatl (Aztec) words in the book, some of which have become part of Mexican Spanish.  A glossary of these follows the author's note, and is followed by a bibliography.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[These books were borrowed from and returned to my local public library and my university library respectively.]

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

711 (2017 #9). They All Saw A Cat

by Brendan Wenzel

When the American Library Association announced its annual Youth Media Award recipients on January 23, 2017, I pulled the one honoree I'd already ordered earlier in the year (because it was a picture book on the 2017-2018 Texas Bluebonnet Award reading list) from the to-be-cataloged shelf at my university library.  I also went to my local public library and checked out the two picture books they had that were honorees.  I was going to write about all three together, but one book deserves a post all its own.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal "honors the illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children."  Receiving an Honor Book designation this year was They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.

This is an incredibly clever book that explores the concepts of observation, perspective, and point of view.  The text is simple and patterned and repetitive (all good features for a book for young children):

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws...
and the child saw A CAT,
and the dog saw A CAT,
and the fox saw A CAT,
Yes they all saw the cat.

Except, of course, as the illustrations make obvious, each one of these sees the cat differently.  The same pattern is repeated more times with different sets of creatures, such as a fish,

 a bee,

a snake,

a skunk,

and a bat.

The illustrations for some of the latter animals will inspire questions - for example, why does the skunk see the cat as black and white?  Why does the bee see the cat as a bunch of colored dots?  The book doesn't have any explanatory notes at the end, so it might encourage parents/teachers and children/students to do a little science research.

And then, some of the animals "see" the cat based on their relationships with it - such as the mouse, a cat's prey - prompting some thought about perception and empathy.  One of my friends pointed out that a colorblind child would have a different perception of the bee's image, for example.

Brendan Wenzel used a lot of different media (colored and "regular" pencils, oil pastels, watercolor, charcoal, acrylic paint, Magic Markers, and an iBook) and techniques to create his illustrations, which could also spark more discussion.

The publisher's website has a trailer, teacher's guide, and activity kit for the book.  They All Saw a Cat definitely deserved Caldecott honors.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

710 (2017 #8). After You

by JoJo Moyes

This is the sequel to JoJo Moyes' highly successful Me Before You, which I listened to about three years ago.  As the title implies, this is what happens to Louisa Clark after Will Traynor dies in the first book.  While this book could technically stand alone on its own, I would definitely recommend reading Me Before You first.

Despite being left some money by Will, and being encouraged by him to travel, Louisa's living out of boxes in a flat in London, and working at an airport bar.  An accident sets in motion a transition, but it takes a LONG time, and is complicated by Sam, the attractive paramedic who treats Louisa, as well as an unexpected visitor from Will's past - the daughter he never knew he had, sixteen-year-old Lily.

Lily behaves like a spoiled brat, and I found myself growing irritated with Louisa for putting up with her.  But as Louisa (and I) learned more about Lily, she starts to grow on her (and me).

Characters from the first book reappear in this one, including Louisa's quirky family, to provide some comic relief.

And - it looks like there will be a sequel.  Moyes leaves Louisa's future a bit up in the air at the end of this book, with some unfinished business.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Monday, January 23, 2017

709 (2017 #7). The Queen of the Frogs

by Davide Cali,
illustrated by Marco Soma

A modern fable, originally published in Portugal, about a frog who finds a crown (a human's ring) and begins to get (and expect) preferential treatment as the queen. Whimsical illustrations by Marco Soma have the frogs in 1920s clothing and settings, in mostly natural greens and browns.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program,  It will be added to my university library's collection.]

Thursday, January 19, 2017

708 (2017 #6). The After Party

by Anton DiSclafani


I put this book on my wishlist because I'd seen it touted as historical fiction set in 1950s Houston.

It's set in 1950s Houston, but there's very little historical information in it.  Yeah, the main characters spend a lot of time at the Shamrock Hotel (although by 1957, it was the Shamrock Hilton), and they live in tony River Oaks, and they are filthy rich (in most cases from oil), but that's about it for historical context.  The setting really could have been anywhere.

This is the story of a dysfunctional relationship between two women who are 25 when most of the story takes place, in 1957.  Joan Fortier is beautiful, popular (especially with men), and mysterious.  Cece Buchanan (also named Joan, but never called that around her more illustrious friend), has a mother who dies when she is 15 and a father who moves away and marries his mistress.  She's taken in by the Fortiers, but the unspoken assumption of Cece and Joan's mother  is that Cece will "take care" of Joan.

Joan is a narcissistic b***h.  Cece is pathetic, obsessing about her.  I wanted to strangle both women.

Not recommended.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to a public library.]

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

707 (2017 #5). Anatomy of a Song

by Marc Myers,
read by Jonathan Yen

I received the CD version of this audiobook to review from the publisher, HighBridge Audio.  As others who also received review copies via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program experienced, there are numerous skips in the first disc, about halfway through it all the way to the end.  The second through fifth discs worked fine, but problems reoccurred on the sixth disc.  By this point, I was fed up - and not all that impressed with what I'd heard so far - so I skipped to the last disc (number 8) just to see how the book ended. (Answer:  abruptly, after the column on song #45 was read.)

Needless to say, the poor quality of the discs greatly detracted from my understanding and enjoyment of the book.  I was also hoping to hear at least some excerpts from the songs, but that did not happen either.  That was a great disappointment, and to my mind, a lack of imagination or initiative on the part of the audiobook publisher to not include them. Jonathan Yen's reading was not particularly inspired, and I have to wonder if he was chosen for the audiobook due to the similarities between his voice and that of Casey Kasem, the longtime (1970-1988) host of the "America's Top 40" radio show I listened to frequently.

Author Marc Myers wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal with the same title as this book, and this is a compilation of some of those articles (with some updating), arranged chronologically by the date the song was released by the artist performing it.  Myers gives a little background for each song, and then interviews at least one person associated with it - often the songwriter and/or performer, but sometimes the producer and/or other members of the band.  The interviews that delve into *why* a particular song was written, what inspired it, were of the most interest to me.

I recognize over half the titles of the songs in the book (there's no table of contents in the audiobook, but I found a list of the songs in a review online.  I'd probably recognize more if I could hear snippets from all of them).  For that reason, I'd say this book is probably aimed at my generation, but the subtitle, "The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop," is misleading when it comes to iconic.  I did like the "oral history" part, the interviews with those actually involved in making the song being the best part.

If you are a big music fan, and understand terms like "overdub" and "reverb," you may like this book.  I wouldn't recommend the audiobook, though.  Instead, read the print or e-book version (where you can get pop-up definitions!), and listen to each song as you read about it.  I *may* try to borrow a copy and do that with the parts I missed on the defective audiobook.  The operative word being "may."

[ETA 27 January 2017 - I did borrow the e-book, and noticed it has photographs of the performers of each song.  Yet another plus for the print or e-book over the audiobook - the latter was a missed opportunity to add snippets of each song to increase the listener's enjoyment.]

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[I received this audiobook from the publisher via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program,  As two discs are apparently damaged, I will have to throw it away.]

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

706 (2017 #4). Hidden Figures

by Margot Lee Shetterly

The movie based on this book was released a week before I went on a cruise, so I borrowed it to read.  It's an interesting nonfiction account of the human "computers," primarily female mathematicians, who took the formulas from the engineers, plugged in the data, and did the calculations in the early days of aeronautics.  Many of the computers  - even in Hampton, Virginia, home of the Langley Research Center - were black.

Like many industries, Langley first started employing women during World War II.  Its work ramped up as the home of NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.  That organization morphed into NASA as defense work slowed but the Space Race began in the late 1950s.

This nonfiction work focuses on the lives and careers of three black women - Dorothy Johnson VaughanKatherine Coleman Goble Johnson, and Mary Winston Jackson.  All three women started in the West Area Computing Unit (albeit at different times), a segregated work group. Other women are discussed in the book as well, and at times it becomes hard to keep track of them.

The women tell stories of a "Colored Computers" table in the lunchroom and separate bathrooms, common in a state that was one of the last to desegregate.  Margot Lee Shetterly, who grew up in the area with a Hampton University English professor mother and a NASA research scientist father who began working at Langley in the early 1960s, points out that America's discrimination at home did not sit well with the minority-dominated nations they were trying to win over from Soviet influence to democracy.

Shetterly provides end notes, a bibliography, and index, although unfortunately the e-book does not take advantage of linking technology with them.  I also would have liked to see some photographs of the women in the book.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

Monday, January 16, 2017

705 (2017 #3). A Wedding for Christmas

by Lori Wilde

A little over a year ago, I read I'll Be Home for Christmas, Lori Wilde's previous book in her romance series set in mythical Twilight, Texas (aka Granbury, my current home town).  I predicted that Lori's next Twilight novel would be about a character in that book, Katie Cheek - and I was right!

This novel starts with a flashback to the time of the previous one.  Katie has traded her home in Twilight for that of Gabi Preston in Los Angeles for the Christmas season (like in the movie The Holiday - which I have not seen).  Both women are looking for a change in pace.  In Katie's case, she is ready to move on after the death of her fiance over a year earlier.

While attending a charity event in L.A. in a hot red dress borrowed from Gabi's closet, Katie is bowled over - literally - by her old crush from Twilight - Ryder Southerland, her brother Joe's best friend.  Hot sex ensues.  But Katie sneaks out without saying goodbye and goes back home, with the courage now to change her life.

Flash-forward one year, and Gabi and Joe are getting married.  Yup, you guessed it - Katie is the maid of honor, and Ryder is the best man.  The story from then on is pretty predictable, except for one interesting twist.  Katie's OCD tendencies have led to her operating an organizing business.  She's called in to clean up the home of a recently deceased hoarder so the widower owner will be allowed to return there after hospitalization.  That owner turns out to be Ryder's father.  More interesting to me, though, was a hypothesis Wilde shared about reasons for hoarding and compulsive buying, including attempts to fill emotional voids in life.

It was fun to see references to couples from other books in the series besides Gabi and Joe:  Emma and Sam, Sesty and Josh, Meredith and Hutch, Sarah and Travis, and Caitlyn and Gideon.   This was an easy, light read, perfect for the holiday season.

Mbr /> © Amanda Pape - 2017

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to a public library.]

Sunday, January 15, 2017

704 (2017 #2). News of The World

 by Paulette Jiles

I was intrigued by this book both because it was a National Book Award Finalist for 2016, and because it is historical fiction set in Texas.

It's 1870, Reconstruction in Texas, and widower Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who fought in two wars, now earns his living by reading news from faraway places in small towns in north Texas.  In Wichita Falls, he is hired to return ten-year-old  Johanna Leonberger to her German immigrant relatives in Castroville.  Johanna was captured by the Kiowa tribe at age six, when her parents and sister were killed, and remembers nothing of her earlier life.

Like many former Indian captives, Johanna is not eager to go "home."  The captain, now in his 70s with two grown daughters, is very patient with her.  As they make their 400-mile journey southward by wagon, their relationship develops.  Johanna's eventual chattering in broken English (with a bit of German mixed in) is especially amusing.

Author Paulette Jiles came to Texas late in life, but obviously appreciates the state.  She based Kidd on a real news reader, a friend's ancestor named Caesar Adolphus Kydd.  He, along with the real Britt Johnson, come from Jiles' novel about Britt, The Color of Lightning, which of course I now have to read - along with most everything else Jiles has written.  Her prose is spare but beautiful - she began her writing career as a poet.

I read the e-book and, honestly, did not notice the lack of quotation marks around dialogue.  So many authors do that nowadays that it no longer bothers me.  What *did* annoy me was not being able to see the detail in the map at the beginning of the book (a major flaw, in my opinion, with nearly all illustrations, maps, charts, etc. in e-books).  I did find a similar map at a website for the book, although the little wagons overprinted on it make it hard to see the detail underneath (click on the image to enlarge it):

Most of the places on the map (and that Kidd and Johanna visit; they aren't all on the map) are/were real places.  Some are not, though.  Some of the more significant scenes in the story occur in the mythical town of Durand, which is supposedly on the Bosque River in Erath County (misspelled as Earth county in the map).  The location almost sounds like Stephenville (also misspelled on the map), where I work.  It and the county both existed in 1870 - but the route on the map doesn't go anywhere near them.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this short, quick read.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[This e-book was borrowed and returned to my university library.]

Saturday, January 14, 2017

703 (2017 #1). Queen of Swords

by Sara Donati

After finishing the fourth book in Sara Donati's Wilderness series, which ended with a cliffhanger, I couldn't wait to start the next book.

Fire Along the Sky ended with Jennet Scott Huntar, the Bonners' distant cousin from Scotland, being kidnapped near a British prison for Americans captured in the War of 1812 - just as Jennet's love, Luke Bonner, helps his younger half-brother Daniel Bonner escape the prison, with the help of his half-sister Hannah Bonner.  All Jennet is able to leave behind as clues are a couple of tarot cards, one of which is the Queen of Swords.  (It's never explained what message Jennet was trying to send, but it is pretty clear to me that Hannah is the Queen, and she is the major character in this book.)

Queen of Swords begins nearly a year later, with Jennet's rescue in the French Antilles in August 1814.  Jennet gave birth to Luke's son, Nathaniel, while in captivity, but sent him away, supposedly to safety, with a man called Honoré Poiterin.  Stopping first in Haiti and then in Pensacola, Florida, the Bonners learn Poiterin and his formidable grandmother are claiming Nathaniel as his own, and have taken him to New Orleans.  So of course the Bonners go there, setting up the story to intersect with the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815.

Other than a few letters, and an appearance by a couple at the end, the Bonner family back in Paradise, New York, and in Montreal play little part in this book.  Jennet and Hannah both endure assaults, and Hannah reunites with an old friend from her New York days, Dr. Paul Savard, and meets his half-brother Ben, of mixed race like herself.  You can probably predict where that goes.

Nevertheless, it's an exciting book, and I learned a little about the Battle of New Orleans and some of the real people connected with it, who appear as characters in this book:  Andrew Jackson, Edward Livingston and his wife Louise, and Jacques Villeré and his son Gabriel.

I'm looking forward to the final book in the series, and finding out what happens to the rest of the Bonner clan and their friends.

© Amanda Pape - 2017

[The book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]