Posted in Classics, Kids Lit

Non-ARC Review: The Road to Oz

The Road to Oz (Oz, #5)
(Cover image via Goodreads; This is not the specific edition I read. Rather I read the one contained within the Barnes & Noble collection of Oz stories.)

3 stars.

I found this installment much more enjoyable than Book 4 (Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz). While this one also had only vague allusions to a proper plot, and had some annoying characters, the entire thing felt more purposeful and more like the first three stories were. We had some proper adventuring in the beginning (I was excited to finally read about the Scoodlers and was not disappointed with them at all… horrifyingly AWESOME) and in the end we’re introduced via multiple parades, to a variety of characters from the surrounding lands of Oz. It was a bit pointless, simply showing off new characters, but they were all relatively interesting, and it allowed for some world building as well.

While the Shaggy Man was a bit disturbing, and while Button-Bright was annoying (I loved the Scarecrow’s comments about different kinds of buttons towards the end of the book), they were more tolerable than Dorothy’s travelling companions in Book 4, and the Shaggy Man did have a useful purpose on the journey with his Love Magnet. Yes, it’s still creepy, but it could have been much worse. Still, I do agree with most other reviewers, that Dorothy seems to have absolutely no concept of “stranger danger” and never seemed even slightly suspicious when she first encountered the Shaggy Man.

In all, I quite enjoyed this as a quick read, and liked how it did set up some characters and additional worlds for later books.

Posted in History, NetGalley

Review: Looking for Humboldt

Looking for Humboldt & Searching for German Footprints in New Mexico and Beyond
(Cover image via Goodreads)

Ratings: I cannot accurately give a star rating to this, as I skimmed much of the book and completely skipped over some chapters.

This book has a huge thesis to cover–I felt like this was an example of a topic that needed narrowing down much more before it could be approved for a class paper. However, this isn’t a class paper, so it can be as sprawling as it’d like to be! But it still seemed too wide-reaching, with no clear narrative and many instances of inserting random bits of information that never really tied into the chapter’s topic.

The chapters I did read through were interesting, especially those about Humboldt and about the Civil War era in the southwest. But many other chapters seemed jumbled–here’s some biography of an important German, but here’s some social criticism, but also some personal experience. There were also many spots where the author brushed off a topic that she had started to write about, but then seemed to realize wasn’t relevant to the chapter’s topic and was too broad to continue with.

The argument that the German culture has been demonized since WWII was one that I was interested in, but still wasn’t sure about. There are many other cultures that have it much worse off than Germans do, but Schelby does make a good case for the fact that many important German works–scientific, literary, musical, etc.–were erased or ignored during the 1930s and 40s. It’s a slippery line to cross nowadays, making a European, white culture seem like the victim, but the erasing of Germans from certain points in history is something that existed and is intriguing to learn about.

A few chapters in, I did search out a Humboldt biography (The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World) and looked into Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihl, so if nothing else, I acquired many new tbr books from reading this!

I cannot say for certain who I would recommend this to, if anyone. People with strong interests in German history, U.S. southwest history, or Alexander Humboldt himself will definitely find various parts of this interesting. However, if you’re looking for something with a tight thesis, I would avoid this. I’m not harping too much on the narrative style at this point, since I did read and ARC copy, and narrative connections and transitions may still be in the editing machine.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

Looking for Humboldt & Searching for German Footprints in New Mexico and Beyond will be available September 15, 2017 from Lava Gate Press.
Author: Erika Schelby

Posted in Art, History, NetGalley

Review: The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript: The Complete Edition of the World's Most Mysterious and Esoteric Codex
(Cover image via Goodreads)

Goodreads Rating: n/a–would be 3 stars
NetGalley Rating: 3 stars

I wanted to read this for the introductory material to the manuscript, as I just wanted a general overview history at the moment, and it this definitely met the criteria! The foreword and introduction, all by scholars who have extensively studied the Voynich Manuscript, provide a succinct breakdown what the manuscript possibly is, its provenance and decipherment attempts, and prominent highlights of the manuscript’s content.

The majority of the book, of course, consists of the photographs/scans of the entire manuscript itself. I did find the quality of these photos to be somewhat blurry; however, I’m not sure if this was due to this being an ARC, my screen resolution, the fact that the manuscript is quite old, or a mixture of the above. I do hope it’s clearer in the print edition. This is also something that lends itself almost solely to a print edition, as a digital copy doesn’t lend itself very well to casually flipping through it. I did love that each page was accompanied by a small diagram of the quarto that it’s a part of. While these diagrams can get a bit confusing when it comes to the fold out pages, I still thought it was a nice touch. I do wish that there would have been annotations throughout–it would have made this a truly indispensable work then.

It’s still an excellent introduction to the Voynich Manuscript for anyone is is interested in learning about the basics.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

The Voynich Manuscript: The Complete Edition of the World’s Most Mysterious and Esoteric Codex will be available August 15, 2017 from Watkins Publishing.
Foreword: Stephen Skinner|Introduction: Rafal Prinke & Rene Zandberger

Posted in Bios & Memoirs, Food & Drink, NetGalley

Review: Sweet Spot

Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America
(Cover image via Goodreads)

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
NetGalley Rating: 5 stars

A delicious and refreshing read, perfect for the depths of a summer heat wave. By the time you finish this, you’ll be craving ice cream… if you haven’t already given into the temptation and cracked a pint or two open while you’re reading!

This was a solid combination of foodie exploration memoir and ice cream history. Ettinger’s passion/obsession for ice cream shines through as she travels around the country to find unique ice cream shops, trucks, and labs, where she explores new flavors and old secrets, as well as some of the science behind what makes ice cream more than just frozen milk. Each chapter focuses on a different subject, with Ettinger’s experiences and research (i.e. eating lots of ice cream) are woven into each chapter. While she has some set in stone views, she’s still willing to give things she once would have shunned a try, such as topping ice cream with toffee mealworms. She also delves into the history behind many famous brands, as well as the founding stories of many unique and quirky ice cream stores around the country.

There’s something interesting in here for everyone, whether you’re wanting to learn about the science of ice cream and how it’s made (spoiler: much of it is made from a pre-packaged mix), the history of brands and stores, or even the quirks of ice cream related treats like gelatos, frozen yogurt, soda fountains, and ice cream sandwiches (“sammies”).

I finished reading this on the hottest day of the season, thus far, and I wish I still had a few more chapters left to cool me off, at least in spirit.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America will be available July 11, 2017 from Dutton Books.
Author: Amy Ettinger

Posted in Bios & Memoirs, NetGalley, Non-Fiction

Review: Veil

(Cover image via Goodreads)

Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3
NetGalley Rating: 3 stars

With this book, I was expecting less memoir, and more hard facts; instead, this is a strong blend of both. Zakaria addresses a variety of paradigms and stereotypes, both in support of and against wearing a veil, showing how the incredibly wide varieties of interpretations and enforcements of the veil only create more confusion about its place.

I was disappointed that there was never a proper introduction to the veil–it delves into the paradigms and biases right away, without any neutral chapter defining the various types of veils and perhaps a brief history of the veil as an object proper. While it didn’t make any of the arguments less convincing, it did create a bit of disconnect–what exactly is the official description of a full-face veil as you are referring to it in the book?

All the points made really made me think about the issue, and how there really isn’t any definitive “good vs. bad” when it comes to the freedoms, feminism, or stereotypes regarding the veil. The one thing that still strongly resonates is how many feminist groups see the veil as something oppressive and deeply un-feminist, suggesting that veil-wearing women cannot be feminists at all; they would have to ditch the veil permanently to be considered a feminist. This seemed to be deeply unfeminist, at least in my views, as feminists can be of any race or religion, and should be able to express themselves anyway they choose to without fear of oppression because of that expression.

Although this was an ARC copy and I cannot quote directly from this just yet, I do want to end on a thought that Zakaria pointed out, that pretty much sums up the reason for this controversy–if the veil didn’t have any religious link/connotations, it would likely be ignored and rarely mentioned.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

Veil, part of the “Object Lessons” series, will be available September 7, 2017 from Bloomsbury Academic
Author: Rafia Zakaria

Posted in Non-Fiction

Non-ARC Review: The Great Pearl Heist

The Great Pearl Heist by Molly Caldwell Crosby

(Cover image via Goodreads)

2 stars.

An interesting subject that is relatively stand-alone–no serious changes in police procedure or security were mentioned as a direct result of this heist–but the way the information was presented was very dry. Crosby tried to meld the facts about the case with scenes from what life was like at the time. This device typically works well, as it’s not interfering too much with the facts, but in this case, it just seemed out of place and clunkily intertwined. Many parts seemed to be taken too much directly from the accounts and records about the heist–short sentences and brief quotes were used to try and create suspense, but it just created too much of a “and then this happened, and then this and then this” sequence.

Fortunately, the subject matter is quite interesting, and the book is relatively short, so I didn’t ever feel the urge to DNF it. I wouldn’t recommend it to many though, unless you’re incredibly enamored with early 1900s crime fighting and jewel theft in London.

Posted in Art, Kids Lit, NetGalley

Review: Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum

Mr. Owliver: Magic at the Museum
(Cover image via Goodreads)

Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3
NetGalley Rating: 3 stars

A cute picture book that introduces kids to art, while providing a bit of a mystery. Mr. Owliver is the night guard at the art museum and loves looking at the artwork while he patrols the halls. But one night, the creatures in the paintings all disappear! Mr. Owliver is in for a surprise though when he finds out what happened to them all.

I was drawn to this because the blurb promised written and visual puns on famous paintings and artists, and I wasn’t disappointed. Since Mr. Owliver lives in a world that is inhabited entirely by animals, all the humans in famous paintings, like the Mona Lisa and American Gothic have been replaced by animals and have been painted by animal artists, so there are an abundance of punny opportunities.

The reason I rounded down to 3 stars was because the resolution to the reason why all the animals went missing from the paintings was anticlimactic in my view. This was more a matter of personal preference though, and it didn’t cause me to dislike the book–I just was sort of disappointed that something more creative didn’t happen.

I did love that the book concluded with a brief overview of all the famous paintings referenced, giving the real names and artists, a bit about the painting, and a timeline of artistic styles covered. This was awesome to see, as I know many books may not include this type of information. Props to the author for including this!!

This would be a fun book to use in art classes to introduce kids to famous paintings and artists, as well as for units/lessons focusing on word play/puns and problem solving.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum will be available November 28, 2017 from Schiffer Publishing.
Author & Illustrator: Carolyn Bracken
Goodreads|Amazon|Publisher’s Website

Posted in Comics & Graphic Novels, Kids Lit, NetGalley

Review: Sticks ‘n Stones ‘n Dinosaur Bones

Sticks 'n Stones 'n Dinosaur Bones: Being a Whimsical "Take" on a (Pre)Historical Event
(Cover image via Goodreads)

Goodreads Rating: 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4
NetGalley Rating: 4 stars

A Seuss-like take on the Bone Wars, and a fairly good introduction to the subject for kids. The Bone Wars have been something that has fascinated me since I was a kid, in the prime of my dinosaur phase–my biography report in 1st grade was on O(thniel) Charles Marsh. However, since then I have not actually read or researched the feud in-depth. This was a nice introduction to the feud between Edward Cope and O. Charles Marsh, as they raced to see who could uncover and name the most dinosaur species. The feud started out relatively civil, but quickly escalated to a manipulative contest where science and reason took a back seat to the determination of the two professors to outdo each other.

This book is written in rhyme and starts off strong, providing the background information on the feud. But once we get to the actual discovering of the dinosaurs and the various talks that the professors held to “introduce” their new discoveries to the public, the prose remained quirky, but it lacked information on what actually happened. While I got the general idea, there were very few facts interwoven in the second half or so of the book, which I was disappointed with.

Despite this, the rhyme format and the illustrations make for a very cool book, and it would be perfect for any kid who loves dinosaurs.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!

Sticks ‘n Stones ‘n Dinosaur Bones: Being a Whimsical “Take” on a (Pre)Historical Event will be available September 28, 2017 from Schiffer Publishing.
Author: Td Enik|Illustrator: G. F. Newland
Goodreads|Amazon|Publisher’s Website

Posted in Non-Review Post

An Ultimate Mashup

Hey! Some of you may have already seen me share this project over on Twitter, but the past few months I have been working on illustrating a graphic novel written by Andy Weir called “Cheshire Crossing.” It’s currently being released on Tapastic and...

Sarah Andersen (of Sarah’s Scribbles fame) is illustrating a webcomic by Andy Weir (of Martian fame) about Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy saving the world called “Cheshire Crossing”.


You can view the first few pages here on Tapas. Here is their blurb about the comic:

What happens after happily ever after?

This is the story of Alice Liddell, Wendy Darling, and Dorothy Gale. Three drastically different heroines with unique gifts and untapped potential. When our world comes under threat will they have what it takes to put their differences aside and work together to give us their storybook ending or is that only a thing in fairy tales?

I am SO onboard with this.

(Via Sarah’s tumblr)

Posted in Comics & Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

Non-ARC Review: Rapunzel’s Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge (Rapunzel's Revenge, #1)
(Cover image via Goodreads)

4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Despite the happily ever after, which I can accept since this is supposed to be a fairy tale retelling, I loved this entire story. Rapunzel is badass and isn’t afraid to whack tropes on their heads with her braids. Her linking “commentary” throughout created a very readable style, and the pacing of the adventures were very well done. Nothing ever seemed over done or completely useless to the quest. The artwork is very eye-catching and really compliments the writing (it reminds me of the webcomic Plume).

Highly recommended!