January 16th, 2016

Dead Dog Cat


Another day, another book, this one being Osprey Fortress #45: German Defences in Italy in World War II. These defences weren't successful in stopping the Allied advance up the Italian Peninsula, but they did slow it; had it been faster, the history of the Balkans and other areas of Eastern Europe might have been quite different. Not the best book I've read from Osprey, but far from the worst.
Briana and Aunty Tara
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Books 7 & 8 - 2015

Book 7: The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East by Kishore Mahbubani – 293 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
For two centuries Asians have been bystanders in world history, reacting defenselessly to the surges of Western commerce, thought, and power. That era is over. Asia is returning to the center stage it occupied for eighteen centuries before the rise of the West. By 2050, three of the world's largest economies will be Asian: China, India, and Japan. In The New Asian Hemisphere, Kishore Mahbubani argues that Western minds need to step outside their "comfort zone" and prepare new mental maps to understand the rise of Asia. The West, he says, must gracefully share power with Asia by giving up its automatic domination of global institutions from the IMF to the World Bank, from the G7 to the UN Security Council. Only then will the new Asian powers reciprocate by becoming responsible stakeholders in a stable world order.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am studying a Masters of International Business/International Relations, and I am quite into reading on the topic, partly because I feel it makes me better at my job, and partly because I eventually want to work overseas. Knowing I was going to be doing this degree, I picked up a whole stack of books on international business at the beginning of my semester, but it ended up taking me most of the semester to finish them. This was one of them and it fed nicely into an earlier book I read. Basically, this book looks at the influence Asia is expected to have in the next century in particular, as it rapidly modernize over half the world’s population (I still personally wonder about how this will end up being sustainable but that’s a topic for another day). This is actually a fairly interesting read, on a topic that could actually be quite dry. I learnt a fair bit about the emerging Asian economies, and the impact a substantial middle class has on the likelihood of world peace (quite a strong positive correlation there – who knew?). There are some points that I think might be a bit generous to some of the countries mentioned, but like all things, only time will truly tell us how right our predictions are. Nonetheless, this book gave me a much more positive view on the economic situation we can hopefully look forward to as we settle into the twenty-first century. GFCs be damned!

7 / 50 books. 14% done!

2072 / 15000 pages. 14% done!

Book 8: Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs – 331 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
This is the gripping new Temperance Brennan novel from the world-class forensic anthropologist and Number 1 bestselling author Kathy Reichs. Tempe is faced with the horrifying possibility that the killer who got away in Monday Mourning is back...For a decade, Temperance Brennan has been haunted by the one who got away. The killer of young women. The monster. And the one who has now come back. Feeding on fear, grief and rage. Killing again. Killing girls. Getting closer. Coming for Tempe.

At my time of reading this, this was the last Bones book published (there has since been another), and I was thrilled to say that I had FINALLY caught up with the series. This book definitely ends on a cliff hanger that I did not see coming, and was pleasantly surprised by after slogging through so many of these books. I won’t deny that I do not remember the killer from Monday Mourning that this book returns to, probably because I read that book some five years ago, and I don’t enjoy these books enough to go back and re-read them. The introduction of Tempe’s mother was interesting, though I find it convenient that so many of these type of characters have some random friend or family member that is some sort of techie (this hasn’t stopped me from using this same cliché in my own story, but at least mine’s a freaking alien!). Overall, this was by far one of the better Bones books, which I find strange because numerous reviews I read before and after reading this book suggested otherwise (maybe I just seek out different things when I read crime books). Probably for the first time, I find myself looking forward to the next one!

8 / 50 books. 16% done!

2403 / 15000 pages. 16% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited by Richard Florida – 465 pages
-        Jaco the Galactic Patrolman by Akira Toriyama – 247 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages
Briana and Aunty Tara
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Books 9 & 10 - 2015

Book 9: Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
'All of us face hard choices in our lives,' Hillary Rodham Clinton writes at the start of this personal chronicle of years at the centre of world events. 'Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become.' In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, she expected to return to representing New York in the Unites States Senate. To her surprise, her formal rival for the Democratic Party nomination, newly elected President Barack Obama, asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. This memoir is the story of the four extraordinary and historic years that followed, and the hard choices that she and her colleagues confronted. Secretary Clinton and President Obama had to decide how to repair fractured alliances, wind down two wars and address a global financial crisis. They faced a rising competitor in China, growing threats from Iran and North Korea, and revolutions across the Middle East. Along the way, they grappled with some of the toughest dilemmas of US foreign policy, especially the decision to send Americans into harm's way, from Afghanistan to Libya to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. By the end of her tenure, Secretary Clinton had visited 112 countries, travelled nearly one million miles and gained a truly global perspective on many of the major trends reshaping the landscape of the twenty-first century, from economic inequality to climate change to revolutions in energy, communications and health. Drawing on conversations with numerous leaders and experts, Secretary Clinton offers her views on what it will take for the United States to compete and thrive in an interdependent world. She makes a passionate case for human rights and the full participation in society of girls, youth and LGBT people. An astute eyewitness to decades of social change, she distinguishes the trendlines from the headlines and describes the progress occurring throughout the world, day after day. Secretary Clinton's descriptions of diplomatic conversations at the highest levels offer readers a masterclass in international relations, as does her analysis of how we can best use 'smart power' to deliver security and prosperity in a rapidly changing world - one in which America remains the indispensable nation.

So I am studying International Relations at a Masters level, which stemmed out of an increasing interest in politics, particularly American politics (which itself probably stemmed out of my increasing love for the United States, though after spending seven weeks there over Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years 2015/16, I am thrilled to be back home in my humble little far-away island home of Australia (the food’s better!)). Anyway, I am probably more a Democrat in my political leanings, though I can see the merits of the core ideas behind the Republican Party (just don’t engage me in a conversation about the comparison between Australian and American political parties – if I have to explain to one more Australian why our Liberal party is not the same as the Republican Party I will scream!). Anyway, I have to admit, I’m hoping for a Hillary Clinton victory in 2016, for reasons many and varied, and I’ve always been a fan of good old cheeky Bill (I have his biography too!), and after seeing this book on the bookshelf of a lecturer I respect from the university I work at, I decided I should read it. It took me a good six months to slog through it, but it was an interesting experience. Part exercise in writing history, part political spin, part education piece to a market that already knows and another that will never read the book anyway (she literally has to explain that Australia (and the whole Southern Hemisphere) has summer when the Northern Hemisphere has winter – how do people not know this?!), this is an interesting piece of non-fiction. Hillary has put her own spin on things, ensuring she comes out relatively clean (not too clean, because that would look suspicious), and in writing a book clearly aimed at justifying herself to the American public, shows international readers why America can often rub the rest of the world up the wrong way (Freedom and democracy aren’t unique to America, FYI). Nonetheless, I learnt a lot about international political events, and understanding Hillary’s view helped me understand why certain events have attracted certain reactions. I will also say that I was consistently impressed by Hillary’s work ethic, passion for the public sector, and drive. I think books like this one are important, as are reading books from other varied view points on the events described, in order to ensure one never goes along with the public discourse purely due to lack of knowledge. I also think it’s a book one should definitely go into with a very open and critical mind – not because anything Hillary says is inherently wrong, but simply because one must always be conscious of bias. One of my most important reads for the year. A worthwhile slog.

9 / 50 books. 18% done!

2999 / 15000 pages. 20% done!

Book 10: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Thirteenth: The End by Lemony Snicket – 324 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Like an off-key violin concert, the Roman Empire, or food poisoning, all things must come to an end. Thankfully, this includes A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. The thirteenth and final installment in the groundbreaking series will answer readers most burning questions: Will Count Olaf prevail? Will the Baudelaires survive? Will the series end happily? If there s nothing out there, what was that noise? Then again, why trouble yourself with unfortunate resolutions? Avoid the thirteenth and final book of Lemony Snicket s international bestselling series and you’ll never have to know what happens.

Alas, I find myself at the final Series of Unfortunate Events book. It’s been a long slog over a good five years, but I finally made it. Boy, this story did not pan out how I thought it was. I think I genuinely thought the name was a misnomer and things would turn out fortunate in the end. Spoiler Alert: they don’t! Well, not really. It’s a very wistful, melancholic kind of ending, that seems to elude to a sort of resigned acceptance of the fact that people are neither good nor bad, only corruptible and unwilling to fight the status quo. Now that its over, I’m not really sure if I know how I feel about the series as a whole. It’s an interesting read, but perhaps not one I would otherwise imagine should be targeted at children, if it hadn’t have had children/young adult protagonists. Would I recommend it? No, probably not. Would I discourage readers from it? No, probably not. It’s a strange kind of series that ultimately feels like it’s about nothing much at all. Then again, maybe that’s not a bad message for kids! A series that ends as enigmatically as it begins.

10 / 50 books. 20% done!

3323 / 15000 pages. 22% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited by Richard Florida – 465 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich – 301 pages
Briana and Aunty Tara
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Books 11 & 12 - 2015

Book 11: Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter – 263 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Empowerment, liberation, choice. Once the watchwords of feminism, these terms have now been co-opted by a society that sells women an airbrushed, highly sexualised and increasingly narrow vision of femininity. While the opportunities available to women may have expanded, the ambitions of many young girls are in reality limited by a culture that sees women's sexual allure as their only passport to success. At the same time we are encouraged to believe that the inequality we observe all around us is born of innate biological differences rather than social factors. Drawing on a wealth of research and personal interviews, Natasha Walter, author of the groundbreaking THE NEW FEMINISM and one of Britain's most incisive cultural commentators, gives us a straight-talking, passionate and important book that makes us look afresh at women and girls, at sexism and femininity, today.

I sometimes wonder if there reaches a point where you’ve read too much on a particular topic. If so, I think I may have reached that point when it comes to gender politics (for the record, I do not believe such a point actually exists). You see, when reading this book, I found the author referencing in text at least three other books I had on the topic (it gets even more scary when they start referencing academics I know, but I guess that’s to be expected when you work in a university). Anyway, so this book on my beloved topic of gender politics, particularly feminism, actually contradicts a number of those other books I’d read, which though I found disconcerting, I also found wonderful. You see, I’m nothing if not thorough and open to getting every analysis and opinion on a topic in order to ensure I have a well rounded view. In this book, Walter counters numerous other books, including The XX Factor and The Female Brain, which I read this year and a few years ago, respectively, arguing that in fact these books harm the female agenda because they reduce us to our biology and completely ignore the social implications of increasingly narrow definition of what a woman is. Personally, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, though the line moves depending on each individual woman and which country you’re in. Walker focuses on the UK, and from a combination of living there for three months, Walker’s anecdotes, and the various English TV shows I’ve watched, I personally think the situation is more dire there than it is in Australia. Ultimately, what I think this book does is remind us that biology is only one piece of the puzzle, and decisions are made, and lives lived based on a combination of drivers and factors, this being perhaps the most marvelous thing about humanity. It’s a good book, a necessary book, in a genre that people will probably still be writing about long after I stop reading.

11 / 50 books. 22% done!

3586 / 15000 pages. 24% done!

Book 12: DB30Years: Special Dragon Ball 30th Anniversary Magazine by Michael LaBrie – 315 pages

Description from Amazon.com:
Kanzenshuu, the leading Dragon Ball fansite, provides an in-depth look at and celebration of 30 years for our favorite Japanese manga and anime series.

When I was about 14, my younger brother started introducing me to the cartoons he watched on a breakfast program called Cheez TV. This show aired on weekdays between about 7:30am and 8:30am for probably close to ten years here in Australia. For those of us who didn’t have pay TV (cable), this show was basically our first introduction into anime out here in the wild west of Australia (I have so many, mostly guy, friends my age who have very fond memories of this program). Anyway, my brother introduced me first to Pokemon, then to Digimon, and then finally Dragon Ball Z. I’m not sure why, but that last one stuck, and over several months, I watched, and then re-watched Dragon Ball Z’s Cell Saga (still, to my mind, the best saga of the show). I feel absolutely head over heels with that show, and to this day, Dragon Ball Z remains one of the few shows I can watch over and over again and still enjoy. It was probably the first thing I ever felt passionate about, getting into buying the mangas, DVDs, reading and writing fanfiction, and going to conventions (I have met and have the autographs of Sean Schemmel, Mike McFarland and Chris Sabat, so suck on it, people!). As I got older, I left fanfiction behind for writing my own fiction, inspired by my favorite group of aliens, humans and hybrids (for the record, Vegeta is my favourite character – he inspired a lot about my lead character in my novel series; Bulma was my first female role model because, you know, she’s awesome). I probably hadn’t watched any DBZ for about five years, when the same younger brother came up to me earlier this year and mentioned that they’d made a new DBZ movie, 18 years after the show finished its run in Japan (which in of itself was probably a good five years before I ever watched it in its English Funimation dub). I watched Battle of Gods (the new movie) on youtube that night, and feel head over heels all over again, reminded as to why I loved that crazy show. I’ve since re-watched most of the show (well I’ve re-watched everything from the Trunks saga to the end of DBZ, the Bebi saga and part of the Dragons saga in DBGT, the first two sagas of DB, and bits and pieces of the rest), went to see Resurrection F twice in the cinemas and started watching Dragon Ball Super as soon as it started airing in Japan in July. Heavens, I’ve started reading and writing fanfiction again! The show that I grew up with, that so many other kids grew up with around the world and across at least two generations has had an amazing revival, and its awesome. So back into trawling the Internet for DBZ related material in my late twenties, I discover two awesome things: 1) Dragon Ball Z: Abridged (funniest thing on Earth), and 2) that 2014 was the thirty year anniversary of the start of DB. Looking into the second one, I discovered this magazine, a compilation of articles by fans about how they got into DBZ, and what they love about it, as well as further details on the Battle of Gods premiere (they had a premiere for a DBZ movie!!!), and all sorts of other tidbits. It was a fairly fast read, and an enjoyable one for a giant nerd like me. So while my family continues to make fun of me for my totally lame immature enjoyment of a ‘cartoon’ (I struggle to explain anime to them), and while men in the US (where I’m currently on holiday) comment excitedly on my DBZ t-shirts (who knew that was the way to get male attention!!), I will continue on my love affair with the little show that could about a group of unlikely defenders of the Earth. A recommended read for any fan of the Dragon Ball franchise.

12 / 50 books. 24% done!

3901 / 15000 pages. 26% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages
-        Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich – 301 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt – 205 pages

Book 5 - The Children of Men by P.D. James

Title: The Children of Men
Author: P.D. James
Pages: 278
It is the near future: no children have been born for twenty-five years and the youngest person on earth has just died. The human race faces extinction. Under the depotic rule of Xan Lyppiatt, the old are despairing and the young cruel.

Theo Faren lives a peaceful life, until a chance encounter with a young woman, the last pregnant human on earth, leads him on a desperate journey. Suddenly he faces great danger and agonising choices which could affect the future of mankind.

My thoughts:
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Book 4: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Book 4: Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3).
Author: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), 2015.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Mystery. Detective Fiction.
Other Details: Hardback. 494 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (17 hrs, 54 mins). Read by Robert Glenister.

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible--and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them.. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
The best so far in this excellent series that draws on the essence of classic private detective fiction in which the dogged gumshoe eventually runs rings around an incompetent police force. Cormoran Strike's earlier successes have alienated many at Scotland Yard, further complicating this case in which Strike is the target.

In this third novel in the series the central characters reveal more of their personal histories. It is a strong, intelligent novel that kept me guessing until final pages as to who was responsible. Rowling in her alter ego of Robert Galbraith has certainly established herself in this genre and I look forward to more in this series.

I had ordered this novel from the library and as it was taking ages for me to reach the head of the queue elected to listen to its audio edition. Then about halfway through I was notified that it was ready to collect and so had it as a dual read/listen. The narrator did a brilliant job.
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Perfectly Potato Dream; Scary Dreaming Away; Funny Owl Song

I was almost done writing this post and then Semagic ate my draft. For the first time in years. (It also reset itself in multiple other ways.) GRAAR. Here's take two.

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story, by Patrick McDonnell
Cute story, charming illustrations, not nearly as good as the other picture book of his I'd read.

Dream On, Amber, by Emma Shevah
I really liked the parts of this middle-grade novel that were about interactions between the two sisters, and their relationship more generally. There was not a lot else that was remarkable in the book, other than its ease in reading. As a middle grade reader I read so voraciously that, while I did occasionally find Amazing Memorable Cherishable Books (eg the Green Howe series), when I was hearing about a book, I mostly wanted to know which of three categories it fell into: "Solid and Indvidual," "Weirdly Addictive Series [or Author] of Dubious Quality," or "UGH BORING SKIP IT." This one fits neatly into the first category.

The Potato King, by Christoph Neimann
UGH BORING SKIP IT ;). More specificallly, it's weirdly monarchist and anti-democratic in its implications, and I've seen better potato stamp pictures back when I was a kid making potato stamp pictures with my
friends. Not sure why this was so well-reviewed.

Blown Away, by Rob Biddulph
An elegant, stylized picture book with heart. Made me think of Mad Men aesthetically (and ONLY aesthetically). I was thoroughly won over.

Dreaming in Indian, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale
A thought-provoking and well-designed anthology that showcases Native American writers. Aimed at young teens, enjoyable by everybody. Sometimes rather heart-breaking, but only in the service of more fully communicating some very rough experiences.

The Fun Book of Scary Stuff, by Emily Jenkins
It was fun! And full of monsters! Does what it says on the tin. (Though *I* wasn't scared ;).)

The Song Within My Heart, by David Bouchard, paintings by Allen Sapp
The paintings in this book are exquisite, and grounded. Unfortunately, I really didn't care for the accompanying text.

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, by Duncan Tonatiuh
Perfectly balanced nonfiction picture book about the Mexican artist Posada and, well, you already read the subtitle. Anyway, the art is beautiful, the narrative is compelling but has lots of interesting factual stuff, and the whole thing fits together to be more than the sum of its parts. Nifty!

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, by Sean Taylor
Goofy, zippy picture book about a young owl who thinks very highly of himself. It made me giggle.
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Night Ball; Lucy Train Boots; Nueve Octopus Girl; Lizard Ghost Ants

On the Ball, by Brian Pinkney
Picture book about a kid and his soccer ball. I know it was fun and well made but it was very much NOT memorable, ie I already don't remember anything else about it.

Night Animals, by Gianna Marino
Suuuuper cute picture book about night animals who are worried about Night Animals. Not very complex, but that's fine.

Lenny & Lucy, by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Sweet, slightly melancholy story with beautiful illustrations. Magical realist? I think?

A Mile in Her Boots, edited by Jennifer Bove
Ooh, this was a cracking read. A plethora of essays about working in the wild, all by women. You're probably either already investigating how to get your hands on this book, or already tuning me out, so I don't need to say more than that.

M Train, by Patti Smith
I absolutely loved this book. It's very internal, but also very interested in the world. She writes so sparingly, but every word is there for a reason. And her life has been rich, and full, and she skims around over top of it in a way that should be confusing but actually just helps you to pay closer attention. And it was so WORTH the attention I paid it. I'll definitely reread this some day, and I hope she writes another one this good soon.

The Octopus Scientists, by Sy Montgomery
Really cool YA nonfiction picture book, tons of very engaging andbut information-stuffed prose, tons of pictures, and I feel like I can take as long as I want to get around to the author's adult work Soul of an Octopus now, because I suspect this one might be better.

Drum Dream Girl, by Margarita Engle
Some pictures books just fly, you know? Everything comes together and the experience of reading them is a bit like listening to a poem while dreaming. Marvelous book.

Nueve Dias Para Navidad, by Marie Hall Ets
I wanted to learn more about traditional Mexican Christmas celebrations and this picture book from the 50s was the only book my library had. It's written at like a 2nd-grade level? I was pleased to still have at least enough Spanish to read it. Glad that stuck. The book itself is quite fun in that old-picture-book way.

Lizard from the Park, by Mark Pett
Very well made, did not blow me away as there is an entire genre of such books (SPOILER: kid discovers dinosaur), for many different age levels, and I read pretty much ALL of them as a kid (and still do for that matter, 'cause my niece likes dinosaurs too). So, you know, it's cool. But there weren't really any distinguishing features.

The Grasshopper and the Ants, by Jerry Pinkney
The art is the amazing beautiful Jerry Pinkney art, but I felt like his retelling really didn't have the power I was hoping for (based on my love for his book about the mouse and the lion). It's a perfectly *serviceable* retelling, but that's all. Good thing that art is so amazing.

Leo: A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett
Probably my favorite of all the picture books I read this year. The illustrations and the text are very old-school but also very fresh and the story and the word choice are so darn good. Gnah! Why are the best picture books always the hardest to talk about? Even though it was published this year, I felt like I was discovering a lost classic from Crockett Johnson or something, like it had just been part of the Ursula Nordstrom canon since long before I was born and I had never happened to come across it before. LOVED it.
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Ask Waiting Earmuffs; Postmouse's Wedding Pony; Mama's Pen Chomp

Waiting, by Kevin Henkes
Cute but not super-memorable picture book. The situation was a lot more compelling than the plot. The illustrations were very pretty.

Ask Me, by Bernard Waber
This is a sweet, bright, and movingly illustrated story about a girl and her dad that I very much would not recommend to anyone who is estranged from their dad because of some really terrible stuff. Especially if some of the GOOD things they remember about their dad had to do with being out in nature together. Hooboy. *feels sad just remembering how sad and wistful she felt reading the book*

Earmuffs for Everyone!, by Meghan Mccarthy
A delightful nonfiction picture book biography about the guy who gets all the credit for inventing earmuffs. The pictures are funny and the text is thought-provoking. When I was a kid I went through an obsessed-with-the-processes-of-invention-and-being-famous-for-inventing phase and my head would've exploded over this book.

Mr. Postmouse's Rounds, by Marianne Dubuc
Absolutely lovely. Richard Scarry-esque, yet also quite clearly coming from the French rather than the American picture book tradition. I felt lighter after reading this book.

The Princess and the Pony, by Kate Beaton
I liked this! Quite a lot! Perhaps I have broken my weird aversion to Kate Beaton (who I really OUGHT to like as her stuff is right up the maribou alley) and I will now be able to appreciate her cartoons for grownups! We can only hope!

Sona and the Wedding Game, by Kashmira Sheth
I have no idea how I ended up reading this but it was really nice. A sympathetic main character, secondary characters that are fleshed out beyond one-dimensionality by pictures that make you feel like you're in the room with the people being portrayed, and a plot that is both funny and educational.

Mama's Nightingale, by Edwidge Danticat
This is a polemic in the clothing of a picture book and if it were written by anyone other than Edwidge Danticat it would probably fail miserably. Because she is an amazing writer (and found an excellent illustrator), it has loads of attractive personality and can get away with its polemic-ness. At least for those readers (like me) who agree with it. I feel a bit weird when picture books are so cheerfully banging kids over the head with a political message that is pretty darn upsetting, but in this case I think it walks the line well enough to school them without hurting them. Still, feels a bit weird.

My Pen, by Christopher Myers
A marvelous illustrator who is not so good at telling a story. But the illustrations were fabulous!

I Will Chomp You!, by Jory John
This is one of those break-the-fourth-wall picture books. At first I thought it was just another solid example of such with lots of repetition and bright colors, but then I ended up reading it aloud to some of my college-age student workers (long story) and it is AMAZING as a read aloud. They loved it, I loved it, my spouse and our friend who walked into the library in the middle loved it, random people in the library lobby loved it... score!
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Best Crenshaw Nature; Mister Stanley Quit; Dear Whisper Girl

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015</i>, edited by Tim Folger and Rebecca Skloot
NO content-less polemic! Only a BIT of content-full polemic (and it was good)! More nature writing than technology writing (O.O)!! I liked, or more than liked, every single essay!!! BEST AM SCI NAT EVER!!!!!

Third Grave Dead Ahead, by Darynda Jones
This series is getting a lot more tightly written and it's still just as funny. (I also think it's heating up, although that might have more to do with where in the hormonal cycle I am when I read one than anything else... *blushes*) Love it when I am sitting near the beginning of an urban fantasy series wishing there were MORE than 8 books already written ...

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
The most charming and hopeful middle-grade problem novel I have ever read. Really well done, and I love the ambiguity about Crenshaw's reality juxtaposed with the stubborn, endearing realness of his character.

Loula and Mister the Monster, by Anne Villeneuve
This picture book is as playful and floppy as the titular monster (really a dog). Thumbs up.

It's Only Stanley, by Jon Agee
I wanted to love this scifi picture book, because it is so creative and funny (both text and drawings) and the story is neat. But we just never clicked that well. I did like it though.

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt
I had been avoiding this picture book ever since it came out because it was SOOOOOOOO overhyped, but then the sequel came out and I wanted to read it. So, you know. It was actually pretty awesome! But not quite as awesome as the children's-book-reviewing community would lead one to believe. Fun pictures, funny epistolatory text, sly references from one to the other, kids no doubt dig it.

Dear Yeti, by James Kwan
ADORBS. I just want to pick this book up and squeeze it and kiss it on its dear little head. Pictures are adorable, story is adorable, messages are adorable. *beams*

The Girl Who Spun Gold, by Virginia Hamilton
A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in the style of an African folktale, with vivid and suitably mythic illustrations. I like this BETTER than the usual version of Rumpelstiltskin. Which is surprising (I have been borderline obsessed with Rumpelstiltskin since small) - except that it's Virginia Hamilton, so, you know, not surprising.

The Whisper, by Pam Zagarenski
A strong contender for Favorite Picture Book of the Year. Not, this time, for what it does for my little-kid side (though she approves), but instead because it makes grown-up me so happy. Inspiring text that does not set off my cynic alarms, beautiful art that is delightfully strange and just a tiny bit uncomfortable. I checked it out from the library, read it twice, and then purchased one copy for me and one for my oldest niece.
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