Book Review: Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

First line: On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all.

Summary: Charles Dickens had instant success with his first books but his most recent one was a flop. When the publishing firm begins to lose money, they devise an ultimatum. Write a Christmas story or pay back the advance. With less than six weeks left between the notification and Christmas Eve, Dickens has very little time to figure out his biggest success, A Christmas Carol.

Highlights: This was a very cozy little novel about one of my favorite stories. I have watched many adaptations of Dickens’ novel with my favorites being The Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooge (with Albert Finney). The fact that this story was written in such a short period is shocking. I liked the Easter eggs in the story that tie in with A Christmas Carol. While reading I wanted it to be Christmas time and have a cup of tea. Very good debut novel!

Lowlights: There was a lot of buildup but not enough bang at the end. It was cozy and not as gripping as I hoped.

FYI: Spoilers! I have not read all of Dickens work but now I know how some of them end. Its okay. I guess after 150+ years everyone should know the stories and their endings.

#dinovember Dinosaur Bios Part Two

Name: Bob
Species: Dimetrodon
Temporal Range: Permian Period, 295-272 million years ago
Bio: The other dinos keep reminding me that I’m not a real dinosaur. It’s true. I’m not. But they still let me hang out with them.
Favorite Book: The Magnificent Book of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures by Tom Jackson

Name: Stella
Species: Triceratops
Temporal Range: Cretaceous Period, 70-65 million years ago
Bio: The other girls keep telling me I should put a big purple bow on my neck frill, but I’d rather use it to play soccer.
Favorite Book: Charge of the Triceratops (Dinosaur Cove #2) by Rex Stone

Name: Birdie
Species: Dilophosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Period, 201-189 million years ago
Bio: Do you like my pretty pink crests on my head? I’m a dainty little Dilophosaurus that likes to eat sushi and do crafts, but not at the same time.
Favorite Book: Origami Dinosaurs by Anna George.

Name: Dewey
Species: Brachiosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Period, 150-145 million years ago
Bio: My name is Dewey. My neck is long. That’s all I have to say.
Favorite Book: I Want to Be a Brachiosaurus by Thomas Kingsley Troupe

#dinovember Dinosaur Bios Part One

Name: Junior
Species: Tyrannosaurus Rex
Temporal Range: Cretaceous Period, 67-65 million years ago
Bio: Rex means King, and that’s me! My favorite thing to do it brush my huge, sharp teeth. My real name is Thesaurus Rex, Jr., but you can call me Junior.
Favorite Book: Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton

Name: Crag
Species: Stegosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Period, 155-144 million years ago
Bio: Don’t mess with me! I might whack you with one of my spikes. I’m named after a rock, and I’m tough like one too.
Favorite Book: Oona Find an Egg (Oodlethunks #1) by Adele Griffin

Name: Story
Species: Apatosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Range, 154-145 million years ago
Bio: I used to be called a Brontosaurus, but those silly paleontologists changed my name. My favorite thing in the world to do is read and eat salads at the same time.
Favorite Book: Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1) by Mary Pope Osborne

Name: Marie
Species: Allosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Period, 150-145 million years ago
Bio: A lot of people think I’m a T. Rex, but I’m an Allosaurus. They call me that because I eat ALL the other dinosaurs. Get it?!
Favorite Book: Linus the Vegetarian T. Rex by Robert Neubecker

Check out what our dinosaurs are up to on Facebook and Instagram. Just look for the #dinovember hashtag!

Drag Queen Story Time

On my most recent trip to Denver I was lucky enough to visit a small bookstore, Second Star to the Right.  It is an older home converted into a children’s book store.  The walls and tables are covered with toys, books and activities for all ages.  The staff was knowledgeable and welcoming to all visitors.  The place is truly magical.  I think I was having just as much fun as the kids.

However, the main draw of the day was the Drag Queen Story Time!  Out behind the book store was a lawn covered in blankets and pillows for the kids to sit down on.  Spots were quickly filling up as we waited for the presentation to start.  When the queens, Maleficent and Pocahontas, arrived the crowd cheered and clapped.  Each of the queens read several books to the children and performed a song from their respective movies.  Every kid was in awe of them and were excited to take pictures with them after the show.

The money raised from the performance was given to The Center in Denver, an LGBT community center.  This is a monthly program run by this little book store.  As a librarian it is fun to see different ways to interest kids in reading and to see love of literacy spread to all ages.

Book Review: Unqualified

Unqualified by Anna Faris

First line: I’m not qualified to write a book.

Summary: Anna Faris, actress and the host of a podcast, is writing her first book. She details her life, career and advice she has for her podcast listeners. Written in an informal style, as if she is talking to the reader. Her wit and sense of humor comes through in her writing.

Highlights: I have been a fan of Anna Faris for many years. I have seen most of her movies and always make time to watch her TV show, Mom. She is funny and heartfelt. However, she is very truthful about the struggles of life in Hollywood and in the public view. I like her even more after reading this. She may be unqualified but she does a great job!

Lowlights: It was a little hard to read after the recent announcement of her separation with her husband, Chris Pratt. I also felt like some of the conversations from the podcast seemed a little out of place. I understand that it makes it easier to fill some pages and cover topics that she has already covered on the show.

FYI: Good for a chuckle. Very honest.

Book Review: Everything is Awful

Everything is Awful by Matt Bellassai

First line: I was six years old when I last peed my pants.

Summary: Matt Bellassai is an internet star! He has his weekly show where he gets drunk and tells you have to live your life. He started his career at Buzzfeed and won a People’s Choice Award for his online videos. In this book he talks about the embarrassing and real parts of his life from his childhood to coming out to living in New York City.

Highlights: Hilarious stories! I love to watch his weekly videos on Facebook. Coworkers laugh at me while I am busting up in the breakroom. I cringed during the braces story, felt embarrassed during the closet scenario, and laughed through the rest of it. He has a way with words and while I was reading, I could hear him speaking which made it even better.

Lowlights: I wanted pictures! Several of the stories were a little slow moving but not enough to hinder the telling and laughs associated with it.

FYI: If you watch his Facebook series, “To Be Honest”, then this is a must read!

Book Review: Uncommon Type

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

First line: Anna said there was only one place to find a meaningful gift for MDash—the Antique Warehouse, not so much a place for old treasures as a permanent swap meet in what used to be the Lux Theater.

Summary: A collection of short stories written by Tom Hanks. Each story has its own feel and flow to it but in each he incorporates a typewriter. The stories span from time travel to a struggling actress to a bowler with a perfect score.

Highlights: I liked each and every story. They are all unique. I was excited to read this book because I am a big fan of Tom Hanks. He is very talented and once again proved it with this collection. The depth of the stories and the variety captured me. It was nice to have something I could pick up and put down without losing track of the storyline. I think my favorite was the story of the time traveling billionaire. The ending was sad but I completely enjoyed it.

Lowlights: I wanted more! I have never been drawn to short stories but I think this will be a gateway into trying more. I was always disappointed when the story ended.

FYI: Must read for all Tom Hanks fans!

Book Review: The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide

The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide by Joy Neighbors

First line: Cemeteries are usually viewed with reservation.

Summary: Filled with helpful tips on how to plan, research and preserve information that can be found at cemeteries. This book describes different symbols, types and information about gravestones and their meanings. It also walks the reader through websites and online tools that can help a novice or experienced genealogist on their journey of discovering their family history.

Highlights: I loved seeing the different types of stones and the symbols with their meanings. I never considered that the type could tell you about the finances or social status of my ancestor. All the hints and tips about ways to search for information were helpful. As I was reading, I would open a browser and try them out on my tree. I have a few illusive ancestors and I tried using the tips to discover more about them. I still have not found their death dates but I have learned other little tidbits about their lives. I hope to continue to find more with time.

Lowlights: There was a lot of information that I was familiar with so it was a little slow going through that but at no fault of the author. I like that they walk the reader through the process of signing up and searching.

FYI: Perfect for any genealogist.

Book Review: The Latehomecomer

The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang

First line: From the day that she was born, she was taught that she was Hmong by the adults around her.

Summary: A memoir by Kao Kalia Yang, an author, activist, and public speaker. She was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. Her family are Hmong. They spent many years running and hiding from Vietnamese soldiers who were hunting the Hmong people. She spent her first years in the camp. When the chance to travel to America became available, her family took it. The first years in Minnesota were hard. They had to learn English, live off welfare checks, and try to feed their expanding family. Over years, her parents got jobs, learned to drive and encouraged their children to better themselves. As a young woman, she now looks back at her life and the strength of her family.

Highlights: I had never heard of the Hmong people. While reading this I was earning a history lesson as well as a social one. Refugees have to be strong to leave their homes and try to start over in a new country. Yang has a great way with words. I was scared for her family. I was happy when they were happy. It surprises me that something this terrible was happening in such modern times. Most of the events happened during my lifetime. This book can open the reader’s eyes to troubles of refugees. It is easy to overlook these people. But many of us are here because of “refugees” even though we call them immigrants. We need to have more sympathy and help for people who have lost everything and are trying to begin again.

Lowlights: I have no complaints about the book. I am just sad I could not go see Yang speak when she was in Wichita.

FYI: Big Read Wichita 2017 book.

Book Review: Warbringer

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

First line: You do not enter a race to lose.

Summary: Diana was born on an island of immortal women called the Amazons. Her mother is the queen of the Amazons. She has never been off the island or even met a man. When Diana sees a shipwreck off the coast of the island, she breaks the laws of her people and rescues a young girl from the wreckage. However, once Alia, a young student, is brought onto the island mysterious things begin to happen. In order to save her home and her fellow Amazons Diana has to take Alia off the island and break the curse associated to her lineage and blood.

Highlights: I loved the Wonder Woman movie so I had to read this! I have never read anything by Leigh Bardugo but I will have to now. I liked the adventure and action. It was fast paced and fun. This was a good reimagining of one of the best female superheroes. Diana is strong willed and brave. She is a role model for young girls.

Lowlights: I was thrown off at the beginning because the story takes place in modern times. Diana is a teenager that is still training to be an Amazon. This is a different spin and completely different from the movie. It took me a while to get used to the idea but it worked well.

FYI: This is the first in the DC Icons series. Next is Batman by Marie Lu, Catwoman by Sarah J. Maas and Superman by Matt de la Pena.