Read Across America Week/Children’s Author List

In honour of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2nd, the National Education Association (NEA) has set aside this week to honor the birthday of one of the world’s most beloved children’s author.  The NEA’s Read Across America began in 1998 and is an annual reading motivation and awareness program celebrated to encourage reading and literacy and create lifelong readers.

This year NEA is teaming up with Renaissance Dental to deliver an important message: 2 x 2 + 20 = good oral health and literacy habits. “We’re asking children and their parents to brush for two minutes, two times per day plus read for 20 minutes each day,” said Rob Mulligan, president and CEO at Renaissance Dental. “That’s a daily total of 24 minutes focused on developing good oral health and reading skills.” American students miss over 51 million hours of school every year due to oral health problems. Students miss critical instruction time—especially in early grades where reading skills are a critical focus. This partnership will bring books and toothbrushes to kids in need on the eve of National Children’s Dental Health Month (February).

There are so many wonderful Dr. Seuss books that inspire and encourage reading, and there is nothing like reading with a child. Joy can be found not only by sharing the story, but also by sharing their reactions and discussing their thoughts.

Don’t forget to read to your adult loved ones as well. That special poem, silly rhyme, moving passage, joke that you can’t wait to share, or just the book you are reading now.

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”

bookpile2

Here is a listing of some of my favourite children’s and young adult authors (that I am still reading!)

A. Chris van Allsburg (Polar Express), G.A. Aiken (What a Dragon Should Know), Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)

B. JM Barrie (Peter Pan), Frank Baum, Alan Bradley (Flavia deLuce), Thornton Burgess, Gillian Bradshaw (Arthur series)

C. Lewis Carroll (Alice), Chaucer

D. Kate DiCamillo, Roald Dahl, Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), Jeanne DuPrau (Embers)

E. Julie Andrews Edwards, Michael Ende (NeverEnding story)

F. Ian Fleming (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), Anne Frank, Fynn (Mister God, this is Anna)

G. Neil Gaiman, Kenneth Graham, Jean Craighouse George

H. Mark Haddon (Curious Incident Dog in the Night), Rachel Hartman (Seraphina), George Haley

I. Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie), Washington Irving (Rip van Winkle)

J. William Joyce (Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore), Brian Jacques, W.E. Johns (Biggles)

K. Rudyard Kipling, Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew)

L. Andrew Lang (Blue Fairy Book), Madeleine L’Engle, Munro Leaf (Story of Ferdinand), Edward Lear (Owl and Pussycat), C.S. Lewis (Narnia)

M. Walter Moers, Gregory Maguire, Andrew Motion (Silver), Brandon Mull

N. Edith Nesbit (Railway children), John Newbery, Mary Norton (Borrowers)

O. Scott O’Dell

P. Terry Pratchett (I shall wear Midnight), Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), Gary Paulson

Q.

R. JK Rowling (Harry Potter), Arthur Ransom, Marjorie Rawlings, Rick Riordan (Perry Jackson)

S. Robert Louis Stevenson (Kidnapped), Maurice Sendak, Lane Smith, (It’s a Book), Louis Sachar, Dr Suess, Lemony Snicket, Brian Selznick (Hugo)

T. J.R.R. Tolkein, Nigel Tranter, Mark Twain, Tasha Tudor

U. Anne Ursu (Shadow Thieves), Florence Upton (golliwoggs)

V. Chris Van Allsburg (Jumanji)

W. T. H. White (Sword in the Stone), E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web), H.G. Wells

X.

Y. Laurence Yep (Golden Mountain Chronicles), Jane Yolen (Owl Moon, Wizard’s Hall)

Z. Paul Zindel (Pigman), Pamela Zagarenski (illustrator)

 

February 24 – Random Reader

What are you reading now?

Kingdom of Summer by Gillian Bradshaw – part of a trilogy about Sir Gawain of the Arthurian Legends (the first book is the Hawk of May and the last is In Winter’s Shadow). Bradshaw won awards for her first novel (Hawk of May), and I so loved it, I immediately found the second in the Library.  I had always believed Gawain (or Gwalchunai, his real name) to be Welsh, but come to find he was from the Orkneys, Scotland. He earns Arthur’s trust and friendship in the first novel and defends the kingdom while trying to unite Britain, with the usual characters: Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin, Morgawse etc. This is a brilliant retelling of the Arthur legend, that will appeal to all ages. She wrote this trilogy in the 1980s, but they are being reissued in trade paper. I have discovered a new author and can’t believe the diversity of her writing.

Books On the bedstand:

Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie – I have been charmed by the Roman Medicus and read these as soon as they are published. This is another hilarious look at murder in Roman Britain, a bit further north of Londonium this time, but with an engaging cast of characters. You do need to read these in order, but what a treat.

How Literature saved my life by David Shields – perusing the library shelves this one just lept out at me!

Alys Clare – Out of the Dawn Light – she was touted as being the new Ellis Peters (Cadfael), which I return to and reread, as well as watch on PBS. I love this time period and the writing is fantastic: intricate plot, depth to all characters, well researched medieval history, skillfully written – in another series (Hawkenlye)!

The Book I am waiting for:

Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd. I adore both of their series – both Insp Ian Rutledge and Nurse Bess Crawford. I have not purchased this one because I am in the throes of moving and packing and can’t bear the thought of another book (weight and volume)

The Book I am talking about:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – this was published last year but I can’t stop talking about this. I am writing a long review and ended up re-reading the entire book, enjoying it just as much the second time. This is a superb fantasy novel, not just for YA.  I  cannot wait for the sequel, for a series, for anything else she writes!

The previous book:

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Beekeeping for Beginners – Laurie R King. I introduced one of my bookclubs to the Mary Russell (Mrs Sherlock Holmes) series, and the writing of King. Yes, I have read almost every novel she has written. Full price on Kindle, hard copies when I can find them. This lead to several other books about Holmes and Doyle – surprised by how many writers belong to the Baker Street Irregulars!

Watching on the tele?
As I impatiently await the modern Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch (season 3), I have continued, in order, with re-watching the Big Bang Theory (and am also impatiently awaiting season 6 to be available on DVD). I love Sheldon. I can so relate to these guys.

Listening to?

Japandroids – Celebration Rock. Yeah, this surprised me too, almost as much as the Librarian who gave it to me. It was listed as one of the top five albums of 2012, so I had to try to listen to it. Of the five, only the Dylan will remain with me.

Book Review – Sh*t My Dad Says

7821447-1Sh*t My Dad Says
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

Last night I was looking around for something to read and was searching the library’s digital collection when I came across a book entitled, Sh*t My Dad Says.  The title alone was intriguing and – knowing very little about the book – I downloaded it and began reading.   To say that it’s exactly what I needed right now is putting it mildly.  With the winter weather droning on and on, I was in need of something light and humorous to lift my spirits.  This was definitely the book for that!!

Sh*t My Dad Says is a work of non-fiction anecdotal humor about a  young man growing up with a father that has no “filter” on what not to say.  At one point, the author refers to his father as being the least passive aggressive person he’s ever known.  If his father is thinking it, it will come tumbling out of his mouth.

Justin Halpern’s book isn’t quite a memoir so much as it is a series of anecdotes on life through his father’s eyes….and it is absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious!  More than once I caught myself reading a passage that was so funny that I was caught in a fit of giggles with tears streaming down my face.  It’s that funny!

A word of caution to the reader, however:  when I say that Halpern’s father has no “filter,” I mean that he not only has no filter on his thoughts, but none on his language either.  The language can be a bit raw, and that can be a bit of a turnoff.  If the reader can get past the language, though, the book is absolutely hilarious and is a wonderful tribute to all of our parents who embarrass us in their own unique ways.

This book is available at the Rochester Public Library in traditional format, and through downloadable e-book format.

Book of the Moment

bookpile2

Book of the Moment by Helen McIver

Thomas Perry The Boyfriend (publication March 2013)

Thomas Perry is an award winning crime writer (see especially Metzer’s Dog). He has a Phd in English, and news to me, is a producer of primetime network television (21 Jump Street, Star Trek: next generation, etc). His novel The Butcher’s Boy, which won the Edgar in 1983 for best first novel, was truly disturbing to me, where the nice man living next door can actually be a ruthless assassin. I have never looked at my neighbours in quite the same way. That series includes Sleeping Dogs and the Informant and kept me awake into the small hours of the night, with all the lights on. This time, in The Boyfriend, we have an ex LAPD well respected homicide detective, now PI, as a thinking protagonist. I never felt that Jack Till would be killed, but I was on the edge of my seat in the action packed rather brutal ride. He is tracking a serial killer, whose victims are all strawberry blondes, but who also happen to be in the high end call girl profession. The secret agenda provides another race against time. The concise writing and detail on each story level is all too real/plausible/possible and quite depressing, but adds to the credibility. Yes, I read it on one sitting, well into the early hours, heart in throat, wondering how it was going to end. In fact, it ended too abruptly for me! Dare I hope he will write a sequel?

Of similar interest: the John Sanford Virgil Flowers series, Archer Mayor’s Joe Gunther series or Craig Johnson Walt Longmire series.

Of note: If you haven’t read the Jane Whitefield series by Thomas Perry, start at the beginning! I thoroughly enjoyed the initial series, which was very inovative, creative and fascinating. The last novel Poison Flower was a return to his best writing.

Read as an ARC, pre-order on Kindle or ask your library to purchase this (they have most of the rest!)

BookScapes by Helen McIver

bookpile2

The Midwife’s Tale  by Samuel Thomas

The midwife in this tale is Lady Bridget Hodgson, and her newly acquired servant and apprentice Martha. Lady Bridget is a 30 year old twice widowed woman, whose real sorrow is the loss of her 2 children. She lives in York, and best of all is based on a real character. These were streets I know well, and the pull back in time was intense: the setting perfectly depicted the harrowing days of a siege (by the Scots, described here as barbarians). This story has an intriguing list of characters, all well developed, with distinct differences and functions. Many classes of people are represented from city officials, soldiers, jailers, working women, wives, tailors, to street urchins, in churches, government, bars, apothecaries etc.

Martha is also a fascinating character, useful to the household, but with unusual set of skills, not so much house cleaning as house breaking. She has a few secrets of her own.

This is primarily a book about women, but there is an interesting assortment of men:

nephew (Mathew) with a club foot, tormented individual but helpful

brother-in-law (Edward), dominating, political, ultimately trustworthy

Italian (Baca) mysterious bordering on violence and deadly

husbands, sinful men of god, ‘the godly’

dwarf jailer – humour in odd places, goodness

Lord mayor – powerful, secretive, ruthless chess player

rebels and kingsmen in bombardments (to be avoided!)

siege which is destroying innocent townspeople

This is not a fast paced thriller. It is filled with death and the grim reality of the struggle for life, such that you wonder how we as humanity made it out of the 17th century. There is scathing social and religious commentary, interesting portrayal of the conniving and desperate lives of most women, the corrupt power of local politics all the while presenting everyday life. If you think you’d like time travel, read this for the gritty, grimy gruesome detail that will make you revel in central heating and plumbing. My nose wrinkles just thinking of her descriptive reeking passages. The contrast with her life (with linens, extra clothing, food) to the poor and unfortunate is uncomfortable at best. The writing is evocative – reel from the scents (stinking smells really), the sounds (cannons, horse screams, rain) but also the torment and sorrow of loss of children, babies, diseases, and the precariousness of life. There are full descriptions of several types of births but also the customs and camaraderie of the gossips (those women who helped with birthing)

But the characters were intriguing and interesting and every page turned effortlessly. I so enjoyed this book that I seriously hope that it is the beginning of a series. That Lady Bridget will continue to deliver babies and solve mysteries satisfactory, especially with Martha now taken on as deputy (midwife in training).

Quotes

“I was struck once again by the artist’s inability to portray him as any less pathetic than he had been in life. In truth it was a peculiar kind of masterpiece.”

“Phineas (her second husband) had taught me the hard lesson that contentment in marriage could not be taken for granted. I preferred the certainty of my work to the unknown of married life.”

‘I never forget a mother, the fathers were a different matter.”

“It is said that in his youth Edward ordered his sleeves cut an inch longer than was fashionable in order to hide the pommel of his dagger. This seemed right to me.”

“Edward was a voracious reader, and the walls of the room were covered with bookshelves containing works on every subject imaginable. There were books in English and Latin, of course, but also French and what looked like Greek. Massive folios of Shakespeare’s plays sat comfortably next to cheap pamphlets detailing a monstrous birth in Sussex….his desk was a riot of correspondence and commonplace books in which he scrawled notes…despite all this the room exuded not chaos but a sort of controlled energy.”

4.5 stars

read as an ARC

If you like Ariana Franklin, CJ Ransom and Vanora Bennett this is a book for you.

Rochester, where writers write

by Andy Seifert

Mike Kalmbach, leader of the Rochester MN Writing Group.

Mike Kalmbach, leader of the Rochester MN Writing Group.

Are you a writer? Do you dream of the day when you finally complete your book? Do grammatical errors on restaurant menus make you want to scream? If your answer is yes, the Rochester MN Writing Group may be a good fit for you.

Writing workshops and revisions occur every second Tuesday of the month at Rochester Public Library. The group also meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month for an informal, coffee shop meeting.

Led by published author, Mike Kalmbach, the group welcomes all writers. Most genres are accepted for critique (excluding erotica and extreme violence). For details and to join the group, contact Mike at mikekalmbach@gmail.com.

Bookscapes by Helen McIver

A Good Book and Chocolate – Flowers Optional
Romantic Authors

bookpile2Following the library’s (and Facebook’s) alphabetic lists of either books or authors, here is a list of authors that write romance fiction.  I, personally, never knew that Jane Austen or Garrison Keillor was considered a romance writer (searching Kindle selections). These are some of the authors I have enjoyed reading, especially classics and Regency or historical novels.

To quote Robertson Davies, “It is dangerous to condemn stories as junk which satisfy the deep hunger of millions of people. These books are not literary art, but a great deal of what is acclaimed as literary art in our time offers no comfort or fulfillment to anybody.” (From For Your Eyes Alone; the Letters of Robertson Davies, ed. Judith Skelton Grant, Viking Press)
A
Jane Austen, Jennifer Ashley, *Laurie Anderson

B
Mary Balogh, *Angela Benson

C
Gail Carriger, *Jennifer Crusie, Mary Chase Comstock

D
Christina Dodd

E
Suzanne Enoch

F
Jane Feather

G
*Diana Gabaldon, *Roberta Gellis

H
*Madeline Hunter, *Deborah Harkness

I
Iris Johansson

J
*Eliosa James

K
Lisa Kleypas, Susanna Kearsley, Lynn Kurland

L
Stephanie Laurens

M
Karen Marie Moning, *Lucy Muir

N
Brenda Novak

O
Constance O’Day Flannery

P
Mary Jo Putney, *Elizabeth Peters, * Nina Coombs PyKare,

Q
Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick

R
Karen Rose, Karen Ranney, Deanna Raybourn, *Pamela Regis

S
*Christina Skye

T
Adriana Trigiani

U-V
Joan Vincent

W
Susan Wiggs, Lauren Willig, Edith Wharton, Kathleen Woodiwiss

X-Y
*Jane Yardley, Rebecca York

Z
Mia Zachary
* Denotes authors who have a PhD in various subjects and take the romance novel to a new level.

Book of the Moment
Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea

I read Shadowy Horses, Mariana and The Rose Garden, quite quickly in succession, charmed by the writing and locations. Historical Scotland, medieval England, magic as well as reminding me greatly of reading Mary Stewart as a teenager. Then I discovered Mary Stewart was one of Kearsley’s favorite authors growing up, and I couldn’t wait to read more. Her first novel Mariana won the Catherine Cookson literary prize, all of her books have become bestsellers. She also writes classic thrillers under the name Emma Cole.

The Winter Sea is her most recent book, and rumor has it her next one is a sequel (you have time to read this one before Firebird is released in June). Prepare to be enthralled: this is a beautiful and engaging work of historical fiction, with a dash of romance, tragedy, mystery in an engrossing story. She has done her research, both in richly detailed history but also in the present day settings – interesting characters, a moody sea, enchanting Scottish village and local customs.

Summary: Carrie McClelland moves to Scotland to continue to research her next book on a relatively unknown Jacobite rebellion of 1708. She is drawn to Slains Castle, rents a remote cottage and begins to dream of her characters, creating a parallel story.

If you like Barbara Erskine (Lady of Hay), Diana Gabaldon and Mary Stewart, read on.