Review: Little Sweet Potato by Amy Beth Bloom and Noah Z. Jones

Little Sweet Potato

How did I get it?: I ordered it for my library. I thought it might be a good pick for a Story Time and it definitely is.

Why did I read it?: The cover alone was enough of an enticement for me, but I liked the summary as well.

Summary:

When Little Sweet Potato rolls away from his patch, he is forced to search for a new home. He stumbles upon some very mean plants and flowers on his journey and begins to wonder: Is he too lumpy and bumpy to belong anywhere? Will Little Sweet Potato ever find a home that’s just right for him?

Review: Little Sweet Potato simply does what I think a lot of longer books fail to do. It shows through something as silly as the exploits of a sweet potato that it can get better and you can find somewhere good to plant yourself WITHOUT getting preachy OR suggesting that those jerks out there will necessarily change their minds and be less horrible one day. “It isn’t all mulch and sunshine out there,”  as one gleaming eggplant reminds our starchy little chum, but the good news is you won’t always have to be out there. Eventually you’ll find a person (or people) to connect with who aren’t mean or narrow-minded and you can make a home (or life) with them. That, to me, seems to get at the very heart of the notion that things will get better for those who find themselves continually struggling with being different.

So that’s why I felt Little Sweet Potato deserved not only its own review but also a review here on the little blog I’m trying to get back into. This picture book came out just a little over a year ago and I never heard about it last year so chances are people who aren’t librarians haven’t either.

More importantly, I think everyone knows at least one person who needs this book. Chances are it might be you because I know that I needed this book today and I definitely would have benefited from a copy while growing up.

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Books to Look For: Crowflight by Sunny Moraine

Crowflight by Sunny Moraine (September 2013, Masque Books)

Summary: Turn is a member of the ancient Crow tribe, a Psychopomp in training—a guide of souls into the lands beyond death—with a bright future ahead of her, until she witnesses the suspicious loss of a soul between worlds. Accused of losing the soul herself, Turn is exiled to the Shadowlands beyond the Crow’s city, lands occupied by the mysterious and secretive Raven tribe, weavers of dark magic and suspected by Turn as playing a role in her exile.

But when Turn is saved from sickness and starvation by a Raven, everything she has always believed to be true is thrown into question. As she struggles to adapt to life among the people she once feared, terrible truths begin to emerge. There is a dark conspiracy behind her exile—a rising power that threatens to destroy everything that the Crows stand for, and even to upset the balance between life and death itself. And Turn may the only one who stands in its way . . .

Release Date/Month: September 2013

More Info/Website: Click here to visit Masque Books or click here to visit Sunny Moraine’s website.

Why I Suggest It: During the early stages of my on-going reading slump, I was lucky enough to read over one of the early drafts of this book. Crowflight is awesome and refreshingly unique. The world, the magic, and the characters are really well-developed. I really cared about Turn and all the trials she endured as one by one the people she trusted betrayed and used her for mysterious ends. She really grows and comes into her own as the book progresses, and already I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book of the series.

I can see Crowflight really appealing to Stacia Kane fans and to people looking for dark, haunting Fantasy series. It is also only $4.99 so really…what do you have to lose?

CSI:LibrarianBooks to Look For is my way of coping with my atrocious reading slump. Reading is wonderful, but I have read more books than even I can imagine at this point and helping people find books is absolutely the best thing in the world.

So if you’re looking for some books to read or trying to find an author similar to one you enjoy or looking for a book you can’t remember enough details about to find on your own? Comment on this post or email me at inspector dot librarian at gmail.com. I’ll happily take the case!

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Short Fiction Round-Up #4

Since I’m still having trouble reviewing books, I figured I would review some shorter pieces I’ve read recently. They’re all available online for free reading too, so be sure to click on the links to read them!

The Study of Monstrosities” by Greg Kurzawa – What are men without their masks? And what was the mask without the man? Unsettling and creepy, this short story reminds me both of the Lovecraft mythos and The Monstrumologist.

3 Snake Leaves” by Emily Carroll – He married the princess, agreeing that either one of them would be buried alive with whichever one of them perished first. Two snakes provide an alternative to the prince’s unfortunate plight, but nothing can save the prince and princess’ tale from an ill-fated conclusion. This ending is presented from two different point of views depending on the character you click on. A very dark and haunting comic ballad.

When We Were Heroes” by Daniel Abraham – An engaging, well-written look at the effects that celebrity status/notoriety as well futility/frustration/tragedy have on super-powered people.  Curveball is trying to achieve something normal while Bugsy is trying to find something to distract him from anything that matters. I’ve yet to read a Wild Cards anthology, but now I think I might have to check one of the newer ones out. Or just more Daniel Abraham.

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Harry Potter and the Too Many Books With the Same Cover Incident

I suspect there a point in every reader’s life where they wonder just how they ended up with so many copies of various Harry Potter titles. If you don’t have this problem, I envy you because after unpacking at my new place, I discovered I own about 4 copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (/Philosopher’s) Stone. In my defense, one is from Ireland and one is in French so only two of them are identical.

Another problem I suspect every reader has is that often an awesome book comes out multiple times and oftentimes it gets a better cover the 5th time around. Or the 1st. If you do not have this problem, I also envy you. I own about 3 copies of The Hobbit (I was determined to own one that resembled the copy from my childhood) and random copies of The Chronicles of Narnia in addition to a matching set I bought when I visited Wales.

But if you have both of these problems, you will understand just how happy and angry I was to discover that the paperbacks are being re-released with lovely covers from Kazu Kibuishi (artist and author of the ever-so popular Amulet series).

Harry Potter Boxed SetHarry Potter Boxed Set I mean, ARGH! Look at how well they all match! And this isn’t even touching on how great the individual covers are.

For example, here is the cover of the book I currently own 4 copies of:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

What am I to do? I don’t need these books. Not even slightly, but I want them. I can’t even come up with a flimsy adult-shaped excuse either because if I want to re-read them, I own them. Or…actually I seem to be missing Book 5. But I own the rest and I work at a library, for crying out-loud.  And yet… And yet.

And yet if you do have either one of these problems, perhaps you can give me some advice. Should I go for a 5th copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as well as its sequels or no?

And for those who need a 1st or 5th copy of their own, the box set comes out on August 27.

Posted in Bookish Announcement, Bookish Thoughts, Children's Book | Tagged | 2 Comments

A Much-Delayed Return

Hello again and… Wow. It has been sort of a ridiculously long time since I attempted a blog entry!

I have to admit at the time –which was back in October of 2012– that I just felt a general sense of pointlessness with continuing. Back in October, I felt that all I had learned from blogging about books was that it was contest or a competition to see who could read the most and post about it the fastest. And it was one that I was constantly losing.

I couldn’t stop seeing everything as some sort of epic race with me in last place because I was somehow reading the wrong way. As a result, I also couldn’t really enjoy reading. I felt pressured*  to get books done promptly and without savoring what I was reading. I felt really irritated by my own reading preferences as opposed to embracing and following them as I was initially doing when this book blog started. And it was sort of a mess for me in a number of ways.

After a break that I ought to have given more warning about and for which I deeply apologize, I find that I want to go back to book blogging. I actually sort of miss it now. I want to go back to fumbling my way towards providing the same content I was before in terms reading and reviewing.

I don’t expect to post every day. I don’t think that served much of a point, and definitely contributed to my blog burn-out. I don’t expect I will do many memes although I might look into book challenges again at some point.

I do expect that the books I read will be a mix of old and new rather than forthcoming as I am back to trying to make a sizable dent in my To-Read Mountain. 

And I also expect to occasionally post about the video games I’ve been playing.**

So if you’re still around and interested, thanks for reading and checking back. If you’re here for the first time, expect more content and book reviews soon.

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* By myself, obviously. No one was actually pressuring me outside of that little inner critic voice that hounds me from time to time.

** AKA the other reason I haven’t been blogging. So many of the games coming out now just have really, really good storylines but that is a post for another day.

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Highlights from the Book Horde #60

Highlights from the Book Horde is a weekly post where I list the awesome books I’ve recently purchased, borrowed, received in the mail, or checked out of the library.

Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thompson Phantom by Jo Nesbø Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull  Ten by Gretchen McNeil

In the Mail:
Amazing boxes of Halloween and Holiday Reads from the lovely folks at HarperCollins:
Big Nate: In a Class by Hiimself by Lincoln Peirce (Very popular Middle Grade series)
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (60th anniversary edition)
Dark Eden & Dark Eden: Eve of Destruction by Patrick Carman
Don’t Turn Around by Michele Gagnon
Fang Girl by Helen Keeble
Feedback by Robison Wells
Ten by Gretchen McNeil
The Turning by Francine Prose
Warriors: Omen of the Stars Box Set by Erin Hunter
Wildwood & Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis

From the Library:
Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thomson
Phantom by Jo Nesbø
Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

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Review: Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye

Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan KiesbyeHow did I get it: My library.

Why did I read it: The book looked scary and unusual and familiar all at the same time. I figured it would make for a refreshing change in one way or another.

Summary: 

The village of Hemmersmoor is a place untouched by time and shrouded in superstition: There is the grand manor house whose occupants despise the villagers, the small pub whose regulars talk of revenants, the old mill no one dares to mention. This is where four young friends come of age—in an atmosphere thick with fear and suspicion. Their innocent games soon bring them face-to-face with the village’s darkest secrets in this eerily dispassionate, astonishingly assured novel, evocative of Stephen King’s classic short story “Children of the Corn” and infused with the spirit of the Brothers Grimm.

Review: Exactly the  creepy, fascinating, and dark book I’d been craving as well as a look at a town that I can only hope is entirely non-existent.  I can definitely see the Shirley Jackson comparisons what with the ugly truths and horrible ways in which people deal with, talk to, kill, and hurt one another. Several sections reminded me of Ray Bradbury and Angela Carter too. I can also see the Stephen King comparisions although I would say Kiesbye seems to be more careful with his words. There is a sharp, almost simple directness about Hemmersmoor and its strange inhabitants. In many ways, the novel read like the dangerous doppelgänger of a wholesome children’s book, which I can’t help but think was entirely intentional.

The supernatural atmosphere of Hemmersmoor and the ways in which all of its people treat one another was truly alarming and spooky. I appreciated Kiesbye not going the boring, predictable route of children are inherently evil and/or childhood can be a dark, unpleasant experience that only those involved can ever truly understand. Instead his book shows all kinds of people behaving in bad, dark ways whether it is only in childhood or whether the habit continues long into adulthood. By the end of the book, the blame for various unforgivable actions can be placed at the doorstep of virtually every person living in this particular village. I also loved that the bad things that happen don’t always result in justice and that there isn’t always a favorable outcome for victims.

The scariest aspect of the book, however, reminds me in many ways of one of my favorite H. P. Lovecraft passages (from “The Call of Cthulhu”): “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” Granted Kiesbye’s protagonists aren’t battling or necessarily ignoring anything as dire as an Elder God, but in many ways it is even more chilling to realize that the memory of sinister actions and malicious wrong-doings can fade away from the minds of most people, even those directly involved. That even the darkest pasts and secrets won’t always haunt people or ever be shared. That the worst acts might one day only be remembered as idle gossip or old wives’ tales. That only the reader and certain characters will ever know –or at least remember– the ghastly goings-on in Hemmersmoor.

In conclusion, a perfectly frightening and chilling read. Only one section of the book really didn’t work for me, and I’m still not sure what it amounted to because I’m still not entirely sure what I was meant to get out of it. Over all though, I was throughily engrossed and captivated by this book. That said, Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone is certainly not for those looking for any leve of positive insight in regards to small town life, relationships, friendships, or people in general. I would advise against picking this book up if you’re hoping for a happy or even some sort of redemptive ending. It is also not necessarily for those looking for good night’s sleep, but if you enjoy horror, I’d highly suggest checking it out.

How I would rate it: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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