Sunday, August 29, 2010

Recently Finished

Be Ready When the Sh*t Goes Down by Forrest Griffin and Erich Krauss

Let's be honest. I love working at Barnes & Noble. I could be cashiering or I could be in the kids department, but no matter where I am, I'm always exposed to books I may have never otherwise considered.

That's actually not the case here. Haha. I'd already read Got Fight? and knew it was only a matter of time before this book came out. Lucky me, I was in the receiving room and opened up the very box containing the new copies. I immediately put one aside. While it wasn't quite as funny as Got Fight?, it was still pretty amusing. The cover itself is enough to get you to laugh. My dad thinks that Forrest has been hit in the head one too many times by now, and he's probably right. You'll learn how to survive the apocalypse, start your own religion/cult, and build your own eutopia. My favorite parts have to be the random stories about Forrest and a few of his acquintances, one in particular regarding his wife's attempt to teach him a lesson about leaving the doors unlocked at night. So if you want to know how to survive when the sh*t goes down, well, there are better books, but we all know which one you're going to pick.

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "Hell Yeah" by Rev Theory

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recommended for Fantasy Newcomers

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

It's my 100th Post! Whoo hoo!

I say "newcomers" because generally if you are a fantasy reader, you've taken on The Hobbit. If not, you need to get your stuff together.

The Hobbit actually was intended to be a children's book, but it's grown into much more than that now. I still remember being a little kid and listening raptly as my dad read this book to us. Dwarves that sing and battle trolls. A hobbit with a magic ring who has to escape from a create that keeps calling it his "precious." Men and elves. Escaping in wine barrels. And a huge dragon named Smaug with one, single weakness. It's exciting and fun whether you're an adult or a kid. So if you ever intend to read The Lord of the Rings, to see the movie of this when it comes out, or just want to jump into Middle Earth, here is your ticket. Please enjoy the ride.

Notes from the playlist: "The Return of the King" by Howard Shore

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Recommended for Kids Going Back to School

I Spy School Days by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

That's right! Another I Spy book! I'm not going to stop posting them until I run through all the titles. I love these books to pieces, and I'm sad they don't make them anymore. Not like this anyway. Now that school days are upon us again, why not give kids a little something fun to look through instead of just all that new school supplies (although I remember getting excited about new school supplies and new shoes and such, but maybe I'm a dork). Kids get to look for all sorts of goodies in pictures with school themes, from craft supplies to nature walks. You'd be surprised at just how much Marzollo and Wick hid in the Playground when it's just calk on asphalt...

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "The Harvest" by Bill Whelan

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - What's In the Book?

Pros: Interesting idea.
Cons: Weak storyline.
The Bottom Line: Some might enjoy. Me? No thank you.
Sometimes I wonder if I must be missing something when it comes to some of the books I read.  I enjoyed Hyperion while everyone around me went nuts trying to read it.  American Gods grated endlessly on my nerves while others raved about it.  I guess in the end it just depends upon your taste in books.  Guess that's why I seem to be the odd man out when it comes to The Graveyard Book.

I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman - I adore Coraline and will happily watch Mirrormask any day of the week.  So I was excited with the idea of a live boy being raised by ghosts in The Graveyard Book.  And while the book was entertaining, on the whole it was a letdown.

The main drive of the story is that Nobody Owens - Bod for short - was a baby when he came to the graveyard.  If he leaves, the man Jack will find him and kill him.  We don't know why Jack wants to kill him or who Jack is even working for.  Bod dutifully remains on the graveyard grounds as he grows, having several adventures along the way and remaining under the watchful eye of his guardian, Silas.

But all we get is the top layer of the story.  There is something beneath the surface, something deadly serious going on, yet we never get to know about it.  I know that even if I were a kid again and reading this, I'd feel the exact same way as I do now.  Frustrated and wanting my questions answered.  The book is essentially full of snippets of "a day in the life of Nobody Owens."  Each chapter is like a vignette, a brief adventure that Bod has.  He meets many interesting creatures and ventures to some dark places, and it's fun to go with him but eventually you want something interesting to happen, and by the time said interesting thing does happen, it's over.  Most of the time it's Silas doing all the work for Bod.

I want to know why Bod was so special (ok, so they kind of say, but then again, who the heck are "they?").  I want to know what the Sleer was.  I want to know what Silas and his two companions were fighting ("they" but again, what made them so tough and dangerous and what the heck is their goal?).  Very poor plot drive.  You just sort of keep reading, waiting for something important to happen, but instead are just mildly entertained by a series of situations and trial-and-error moments Bod gets himself into.

It won the Newberry Award, and I guess if they don't count plot as a bit point in the book and just writing and ideas, then sure, I understand.  After all, it is well-written and has some neat ideas going on (I do love the Hounds of God idea).  However, if I had to do it all over again, I'd skip this and read something else.
Weak recommendation; read if you're curious.  It won't take very long and Dave McKean's illustrations are always interesting.


Notes from the playlist: "Peter Gunn" by Henry Mancini

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recommended for Soup Connoisseurs

The Soup Bible by Debra Mayhew

I have a semi-love/hate relationship with the Bargain section of the store. I'm not a fan of it because I can never find anything (ok, I do, but it always seems to take forever). Yet at the same time, I've found a number of complete and utter gems in this section. Almost makes me wonder if I should add a "bargain" label for this blog so you can find them easier.

I'd seen The Soup Bible a few years before, and lamented at the time that I didn't have the money to spare on such a fantastic-looking book. Later when I found it again, I promptly snatched it up. I love soup. Soup makes my tummy happy. Anyone I know could tell you that. And the soups in this book? While some of them may take some time to make, they're tasty and heavens, the pictures are gorgeous. There are over 200 recipes, and for people who love to see the recipe in its finished form (I know I do!), you'll get all sorts of excited over these pictures. They're simply stunning. Each soup gives you step-by-step instructions, as well as plenty of information beforehand about stocks, garnishes, and more. Pure soup goodness.

Notes from the playlist: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recommended for Bird Watchers

Birds of Missouri by Stan Tekiela

I'd tried to work at B&N in Illinois. I managed to finally do it after we moved to Pennsylvania. I got lucky and continued to work there once we moved to Missouri.

With each and every move, my mother would buy one of these little field guides. All of them are by Stan Tekiela, who must have done some crazy research since he's the mind behind virtually every state. And I do mean every state. I haven't seen Hawaii yet, but if you search for "Birds of [insert your state here] field guide," you're bound to find it. Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, you name it. Best part is that these books are small, color coded, and filled with all the pertinent information one might want to know about the birds you happen to see in your binoculars. They're easy, really handy, and great for anyone doing casual bird watching.

Notes from the playlist: "Horsey" by Hem

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Recommended for Kids

Tarra & Bella by Carol Buckley

The other day I was in the kids section sprucing up when I came across a small promotion at the end of an isle. Dogs and Cats. Not only was the totally adorable Nubs up there, but also this book - which I promptly read.

I know, I'm at work, and I'm reading, but I can't help it. I'm a fast reader anyway. Tarra is an elephant, retired from being in the circus to wander freely in the Elephant Sanctuary at Tennessee. But she wasn't bonding with the other elephants very well. That's when a few stray dogs popped up and Bella, as the dog was later named, became best buds with Tarra. There are all sorts of photos in here of fluffy Bella trotting alongside Tarra and the two hanging out together. It's so strange and yet at the same time, so cute. The people who run the Sanctuary put out food for Bella as well as Tarra and when Bella got hurt one day, Tarra stood right by her until Bella received help and got better. I'm a sucker for this sort of thing, and if I had kids, I would buy this book for them in a heartbeat.

Notes from the playlist: "Sway" by Michael Bublé

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Recently Finished (and Recommended)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I remember when this book came out. In hardcover. Two years ago. It's still in hardcover, even though the paperback is finally here. Normally in the book world, that just doesn't happen. Typically it's 6 months to a year, then it comes out in paperback. But when a book is good--as in, selling well--the publishers wait longer. Harry Potter. 13 Reasons Why. I decided I really needed to read this book when 1.) I realized it was still in hardcover, 2.) such a fuss was being made over the final book coming out, and 3.) even my managers were discussing it with excitement. So? Let's just say when I started on this book, at 1:30 am I had to force myself to stop and was 2/3 through it. If the book weren't broken up into 3 parts and I hadn't hit that third break, I might not have.

People killing each other Gladiator style is not new. Even teens being forced to kill each other is not new (Battle Royale by Koushun Takami). But Collins takes it to a different level. The whole reason behind the Hunger Games is scary and intriguing. The world she paints is a post-apocalyptic one done up in creepy Big Brother style with fake freedom and amazing advances. What's more, Collins is a good writer. You can see everything without a ton of description being shoved in your face. This is the story of Katniss, a girl who is pitted against 23 other kids, and only one can be left standing. It's about survival, politics, unrequited love, strategy, and more survival. Looks like I'll be reading the second one, Catching Fire, very soon. I hope the Capitol falls in the future...

Notes from the playlist: "Lyin' Eyes" by the Eagles

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...