Have You Heard

Post date: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 1:35am

Have You Heard About... Tragic Toppings

… a blueberry donut with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, stars and a sour gummy bear on top? You might think that this was the Tragic Toppings* of Jessica Beck’s new novel, but you’d be wrong.

Suzanne Hart, owner of Donut Hearts, is up to her eyeballs in dough and mystery solving yet again. Her beloved recipe book has been stolen, and she has a hard time duplicating the yummy treats without it. Two people in April Springs are missing, and one turns up dead. Did one of them steal her recipe book to try to go into business for themselves or was it someone else? This book has lots of twists and turns and quirky characters that will keep you guessing to the very end.

It’s not necessary to read the previous books, but they are fun mystery cozies you won’t want to miss.

*The first four books in the series are Glazed Murder, Fatally Frosted, Sinister Sprinkles and Evil Éclairs.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 1:09am

Have You Heard About... Scent of the Missing

… the dogs and people who work together in search and rescue? In Scent of the Missing, Susannah Charleson describes her experiences working with Puzzle, a Golden Retriever she trained to do search and rescue. In addition to talking about the difficult process of training a very intelligent but strong-willed dog, she gives examples of several searches in which they participated, some successful and some not.

Although Susannah Charleson had raised and trained dogs for other work before getting Puzzle, she learned that both the dog and the training had special challenges. The process of training a dog to search for missing people is intellectually, emotionally, and physically challenging for both humans and dogs. People may go missing through mistakes, as victims of crimes, or due to disasters. The area that needs to be searched may be dangerous or difficult to get through. Also, each dog has a different personality and skills, so search-and-rescue dogs may have specialties such as working in urban areas or on water.

Humans need to learn to work closely with their canine partners to recognize the often-subtle cues that a dog has found something or is getting frustrated. Both humans and dogs can become frustrated and even depressed after searching for long hours without success, and the owners need to find ways to combat burn-out in themselves and their dogs.

This is a great book for dog-lovers, as well as for those interested in true crimes or disaster recovery.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 1:03am

Have You Heard About... Adventures in America’s Western Parks

…the beautiful, great western parts of the United States? Adventures in America’s Western Parks: Great Train Rides, Lodges & Inns takes a train ride from Union Station in Chicago to Glacier National Park. If you go coach fare, it’s not terribly expensive. This is one super trip you’ll enjoy whether you actually visit in person or just sit back and be an armchair traveler.

Train travel to our great national parks is an awesome experience. In this DVD, you’ll travel to Glacier National Park, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Denali and several other national parks. The scenery is breathtaking. The inns and lodges of the great west are tourist attractions in themselves.

As an armchair traveler, you actually feel as if you are part of the train ride in several scenes. This entertaining DVD is highly recommended.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 1:29am

Have You Heard About... Bloodsucking Fiends

… the vampires in San Francisco? Christopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends* is a wonderfully funny story filled with odd characters and bizarre situations. Jody Stroud didn’t believe in vampires until she woke up under a dumpster, burned by sunlight and craving blood. C. Thomas (Tommy) Flood is a would-be writer from Indiana who works nights at a Safeway. Somehow, they not only meet and bond, but manage to fall in love and save San Francisco. They’re helped (mostly) by Emperor Norton and Tommy’s crazy co-workers.

This bizarre urban fantasy is packed with slap-stick and scatological humor, as well as insane situations that somehow make sense at the time. It manages to be believable partly because it seems too strange not to be true and partly because Christopher Moore does such a wonderful job of mixing the weirdly true with the truly weird. If you can believe in stoner night-shift stock boys bowling with frozen turkeys and a homeless man who thinks he is the Emperor of San Francisco, are vampires really that much harder?

* The later books in the series are You Suck and Bite Me.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 1:29am

Have You Heard About... Oh No She Didn’t

…what you shouldn’t wear?  Oh No She Didn’t: The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Learn From Them by Clinton Kelly helps you identify and avoid common fashion mistakes. You don’t have to watch TLC’s ‘What Not to Wear” to know that this book will be funny, insulting, politically incorrect, sarcastic, and very informative. No matter how you take this book, Clinton Kelly knows what he’s talking about, and he’s talking about YOU. Just because some celebrity wore her pj’s to the grocery store or Ugg boots with shorts doesn’t mean it’s the latest fashion and you need to do it too. Clinton hates ‘mommy jeans’ – (elastic at the waist jeans). Sorry Clinton, you’ll never get me to wear jeans without an elastic waist. I want comfort.

Scrunchies. If you’re 3 years old they’re great. If you’re 43 they look stupid. T-shirts with logos are dorky. Horizontal stripes make you look fat.

Face it. You’re you. Unique. One- of-a-kind. You’ll never live up to Clinton’s standard of style, and some of the tips should be common sense. Clinton makes fun of how people look to get his point across. Lots of photos in the book make this an interesting, fast read.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 1:53am

Have You Heard About... Manga Man

…the funny-looking high school student? Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran’s Manga Man is a teenager from a manga world who falls through a rip into an American comic. Ryoko Kiyama still has all of his manga characteristics – big eyes, action lines, sweat drops, a tendency to change shape when he’s overcome with cuteness, and more – in a world that doesn’t support them. Everything is different here, from cultural norms to physics. The school custodian complains about having to clean up Ryoko’s action lines, and another student is badly hurt because Ryoko doesn’t understand how permanent injuries can be.

This graphic novel is an excellent look at being an outsider. Most teens feel like aliens in a world that doesn’t understand them, and Barry Lyga vividly portrays this with Ryoko and the American students in the high school. The tension increases when a beautiful girl falls in love with the bizarre stranger. Behind the scenes, monsters from the rip are trying to break through, too. Colleen Doran does a beautiful job with the art of both American comics and manga, showing the dichotomy between the two styles and making good use of manga’s distinctive characteristics.

Teen angst, science-fiction adventure, and romance – Manga Man has it all.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 1:47am

Have You Heard About... Murder at the PTA

… the unpopular principal who was murdered? Laura Alden’s Murder at the PTA* is set in Wisconsin. Bookstore owner and divorced mom of two, Beth Kennedy gets talked into running for a slot on the PTA board when the school principal is murdered.

Beth is not one to sit on the sidelines. When asked to help clean out the deceased’s home perishables, of course Beth has to snoop around and learn all kinds of secrets about the former principal. One secret is the private funding of a new addition for a school library with computers. With quirky characters, goofy and gossipy blogging by Beth and her friends, interesting facts about the Hmong immigrants in this part of Wisconsin and even a few bits of trivia on pop culture, this is a fun cozy mystery read.

* The second book in this series is Foul Play at the PTA.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 1:49am

Have You Heard About... Welcome to Bordertown

…the hidden city on the border between our world and the Realm of the elves? Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner, brings readers back to one of the first shared worlds of urban fantasy. This new anthology includes works by some of the biggest names in fantasy and science fiction – Terri Windling (who created Bordertown and edited the first collections of stories about it), Cory Doctorow, Patricia McKillip, Catherynne M. Valente, Jane Yolen, Tim Pratt, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, and many others. In addition to short stories, there are poems, song lyrics, and a graphic novel.

Bordertown is a difficult, confusing city caught between the World of technology and the Realm of magic. It is hard to reach under the best of circumstances, although a route can usually be found from almost any urban area. However, the way there was closed completely for thirteen years. At least, it was thirteen years in the World; only thirteen days passed in Bordertown itself, and no one knows how much time went by in the Realm. Magic and technology work only intermittently in Bordertown, so those who live there learn to rely on both and neither – strange mishmashes of spells and batteries and engines that run when you whisper a charm over them. Newcomers bring new technology, dreams, and ideas to the city, but they have to adjust to a world without the internet or cell phones or instant access to everything.

Bordertown is a world of fairy tales, but it is far more Grimm than Disney. Many of the stories feature runaways and young people looking for adventure, from both sides of the border. Frequently, they find both more and less than they expected – gangs, cheap squats in rundown buildings, strange plants and animals (and people), music, art, the chance to live their dreams, and the chance to starve to death. Life on the border is not easy, but it can be beautiful.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 1:43am

Have You Heard About... The 1940s House

…the modern British family that decided to see what life was like in World War II Britain? In 2000, a three-generation family tackles the lifestyle of The 1940s House.

See what it’s like as they endure without the “modern” conveniences of the 21st century. The Brits had it a lot harder than the Americans during the war years and for a long time afterwards. Making your own bomb shelter and having to use a chamber pot, women working in factories for the first time, food rationing, and the difficulties of cooking. Air raids and the lack of sleep. Learn how America raised their morale during this period of time. No cell phones or video games. You had to use your imagination and make your own fun. Could you cope? See how this experience changed their lives.

This is a fascinating look into the past.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 1:55am

Have You Heard About... No Such Thing as Ghosts

… the young dragon who has had adventures with ninja frogs and giant bats? Danny Dragonbreath investigates a haunted house on Halloween night in his latest adventure – Ursula Vernon’s No Such Thing as Ghosts*. Danny, his best friend Wendell, and their classmate Christiana are out trick-or-treating when a bully challenges them to check out a spooky abandoned house. Christiana doesn’t believe in ghosts (or dragons, for that matter), so she comes up with rational explanations for most of the things they encounter. However, logic and skepticism are no match for the weirdness that happens around Danny, and the three friends must make a great sacrifice to escape the house and return to their families.

The entire Dragonbreath series is filled with Ursula Vernon’s quirky writing and wonderfully fun artwork, with a great mix of silliness and creepiness. Much of the book is text, but the art is cleverly integrated through frequent comic-style pieces in green, black, and white. Danny’s enthusiasm, wild imagination and love of the bizarre are tempered by his friend Wendell’s nerdiness and fear of, well, everything. Although No Such Thing as Ghosts is the fifth book in the series, it can be enjoyed without reading the others. They are all quick, fun reads, though, and well worth the time.

One of my favorite quotes (from p. 85):

[Danny] ran the flashlight over the boxes. Most of them had things written on the side like “Summer clothes” and “Kitchen stuff,” but then again, if you were a cannibal, you probably didn’t put labels like “Yummy dead bodies” and “Fresh corpses” on your boxes, did you?

* The earlier books in this series are Dragonbreath, Attack of the Ninja Frogs, Curse of the Were-Wiener, and Lair of the Bat Monster.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)