Book Reviews: Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney


Author: Jeff Kinney
Title:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Publication Info: Amulet Books, 2007

Title:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Publication Info: Amulet Books, 2011

TitleDiary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel
Publication Info: Amulet Books, 2012

TitleDiary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down
Publication Info: Amulet Books, 2016
Summary/Review:

I started reading these books with my 9-year-old son and then more surprisingly my 5-year-old daughter took an interest.  So I dove deep in Wimpy Kid books for a while.  The books are purported to be the journal of  middle-schooler Greg Heffley complete with hand-drawn illustrations.  The books are generally a series of humorous events as Greg gets himself into various scrapes.  While depicted as an unpopular weakling and thus a sympathetic character, Greg can also be arrogant and insensitive to others.  In short, a typical teenager.  Greg frequently is embarrassed by/tries to change his nerdy friend Rowley to help him fit in, although the irony is that Rowley by being cluelessly unreflective of himself, ends up more popular.  These are funny books that occasionally touch upon more serious issues (dating, puberty, honesty, responsibility, etc.).  I expect I’ll end up reading more.

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Author: Becky Albertalli
TitleSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Narrator: Michael Crouch
Publication Info: Harper Audio, 2015
Summary/Review:

Simon is a closeted gay teenager living in the Atlanta suburbs and finding himself falling in love for the first time.  The problem is that the boy he loves he only knows through anonymous email exchanges.  Over the course of this novel, both Simon and “Blue” end up coming out and eventually meeting in real life.  But what’s great about this novel is that it explores the changes and complications of life in Simon’s circle of friends and family.  The book has a lot of heart, romance, and humor.

Recommended books:

Every Day by David Levithan and George by Alex Gino
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones by Brandon Sanderson


Author: Brandon Sanderson
TitleAlcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones
Narrator: Ramon De Ocampo
Publication Info: Recorded Books (2012)
Previously Read by the Same Author: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
Summary/Review:

Six years ago I read the first book in the Alcatraz series and really enjoyed it and meant to continue with the series.  Now at last I’ve read the second book in the series and it was worth the wait.  Sanderson’s Alcatraz Smedry is an unreliable narrator who keeps interrupting the story to deliberately make the reader question everything.  It’s gimmicky but in-universe it works since the concept of this world is that evil librarians control reality.  It’s a funny adventure set in the Library of Alexandria, and Sanderson is committed to the idea of the wraith-like curators persistently trying to trick the human visitors into taking a book in exchange for their soul.  It’s a clever and enjoyable read and I should not wait so long to continue the series.

Recommended booksA Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Hark! : a Vagrant by Kate Beaton


AuthorKate Beaton
TitleHark! : a Vagrant
Publication Info: Drawn and Quarterly (2011), Edition
Previously read by the same authorStep Aside, Pops!
Summary/Review:

This is the first collection of the hilarious webcomics on historical and literary themes from the brilliant Kate Beaton.  I was going to post links to my favorites but I lost the file so you’ll just have to find the book and read.  And laugh.  And then say, “hmm…yes, I’ve learned something.”  Cuz they’re that good.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde


Author: Jasper Fforde
TitleLost in a Good Book
Narrator: Emily Gray
Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2011)
Other Books Read by Same Author: The Eyre Affair, Shades of Gray, The Last Dragonslayer, The Song of the Quarkbeast, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, and The Eye of Zoltar.
Summary/Review:

Rereading the Thursday Next series has its surprises in remembering what basic concepts of the Nextian universe have and have not yet been introduced.  Lost in a Good Book is a workhorse of a second novel introducing Jurisfiction, Mrs. Havisham, and Aornis Hades, among other things.  After the “relaxed” pacing of The Eyre Affair it’s also the first book in which Thursday has to jump among threats from Hades, Goliath, the Book World, Spec Ops, and the impending demise of the world.  There’s even a joke in which Thursday is quoted in her memoir remembering the first time she saved the world from destruction which is hilarious in retrospect.  A good follow-up in a great series and Emily Gray provides excellent voice work for the narrative.

Here’s my review and favorite passages from when I first read this book in 2003:

The second book in the Thursday Next series, and like <i>The Empire Strikes Back</i> is better than its predecessor and a stand-out in the series. It also begins a story arc that continues in the next two books. Of course, you should just read them all. The Thursday Next series is just one of the best examples of fantastic, alternative historic, time traveling, satirical, police procedural, and humorist writing out there today.

“Growth purely for its own sake is the philosophy of the cancer…” (p. 97)
“My father said that it was a delightfully odd – and dangerously self-destructive – quirk of humans the we were far more interested in pointless trivia than in genuine news stories.” (p. 141)

Rating: *****

Movie Review: Zootopia (2016)


Title: Zootopia
Release Date: March 4, 2016
Director:   Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Summary/Review:

Set in a world of anthropomorphic mammals where predator and prey have agreed to live together, Zootopia is a comic, animated film that smartly takes on issues of inequality that appear ripped from the headlines touching upon women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, and prejudice against Islamic peoples.  The story is about Judy Hopps, a country rabbit who comes to the big city as the first rabbit on the police force.  Made unwelcome by her police chief, Judy ends up working with a hustler, a fox named Nick, to investigate the disappearance and apparent reversion to wildness of several predators.  The movie has fun with the clichés of police procedurals and revels in exploring the fantastical world of a city made up of different mammalian habitats.  It’s a funny and clever movie, and enjoyable for old and young alike.

Rating: ****

Webcomics


If you’re my age or older, you’ll remember the anticipation of getting the Sunday newspaper, fighting with your sibling for first dibs, and the joy of laying out the full-color comics section (a.k.a – the Funny Pages) and reading your favorite comics.  I feel that I grew up in the last golden age of newspaper comics with The Far Side, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbes all making  their debuts in the 1980s.  Older comics like Peanuts, For Better or Worse, and Doonesbury were also still fun to read.

Newspapers have gone into a steady decline and newspaper comics have gone down with them.  Of course, there are still newspaper comics and I read the Comics Curmudgeon daily to see them lovingly lampooned by Josh Fruhlinger.  I think even today newspaper comics could be brilliant but publishers these days have focused on keeping the limited space for comics occupied by legacy comics of deceased cartoonists that have long past their freshness date. Large format comics with artistry and provocative topics might even draw some readers back to newspaper, but we won’t ever know in this extremely risk averse climate.

And so today I turn to the internet for my comic joy.  A number of comic artists have been brilliantly innovative in the web format and I’ve listed below the comics I read regularly.  They can also get to be very specific to certain topics, as you’ll note I have multiple comics about biking and libraries.  My list is arranged in reverse alphabetical order.

Yehuda Moon and Kickstand Cyclery – Set in a fictional Cleveland-area bike shop, this comic focus on the joys and challenges of the American bicyclist

Wondermark – This comic repurposes 19th-century illustrations to create quirky commentaries on popular culture and bad puns. I’ve been accused of writing for Watermark, so close is creator David Malki’s sense of humor to my own.

XKCD – The stick figure comic features clever jokes about science, math and computing as well as some creative large format works that use web technologies to their full advantage. The strip can be arcane so it’s handy to check out Explain XKCD when you just don’t get it.

Unshelved – Set in a public library, this comic has jokes that library and information professionals appreciate, but it’s broad enough to be appreciated by a general audience.

Shelf Check – Another library comic, which may be a bit more inside jokey, but also addresses issues of representation and equality in libraries.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – Another comic that usually has some science or philosophy underlying the joke although it has no set theme and focuses on lots of different issues.

Medium Large – A joke-a-day comic with a few recurring characters that focuses on pop culture arcana. Creator Francesco Marciuliano also writes for the newspaper comic Sally Forth (and mocks in Medium Large).

Lunarbaboon – The comic depicts a fathers view on parenting and children. Another comic that seems to have been drawn from the thoughts within my mind.

Leftycartoons – Infrequently published satirical comics about politics from a left-wing perspective.

Jen Sorensen – Another editorial comic with a slightly less left-wing perspective than Leftycartoons.

Hark! A Vagrant – Oddball humor inspired by historical events and literature. I previously wrote a review of a volume collecting these comics.

Dustinland – An autobiographical weekly comic that’s basically whatever is on the mind of artist Dustin Glick each week. When I first started reading this years ago, it was about dating, dead-end jobs, and social lives of young adults. These days it alternates between comics about raising a young child and political commentary.

Dinosaur Comics – This is the opposite of artistically adventurous as every single comic is the same six panels repeated, but with different text every time. And yet it somehow stays fresh seeing a new joke in the same formula over and over.

Derangement and Description – Can’t have library comics without an archives comic too. The jokes here are brilliant but probably aren’t going to be understood outside of the field.

Bikeyface – A Boston bike commuter’s commentary on why she bikes and all the problems of a city hostile to biking.

What webcomics do you read?

 

Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda (2008)


Title: Kung Fu Panda
Release Date: 6 June 2008
Director:  Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Summary/Review:

Another family movie night, inspired by a visit to the zoo.  Po is a clumsy panda working in a noodle shop who is a big fan of the Furious Five kung fu warriors.  He somewhat accidentally finds himself selected as the Dragon Warrior to defend the Valley of Peace against the vengeance of the evil Tai Lung.  There’s a lot of humor playing off of martial arts film clichés, pop culture references, and Po’s roly-poly silliness.  But it’s also an inspiring film as Po manages to be a hero in his own way.  The animation is also pretty spectacular.  I’m still wondering how they made two sequels out of this, though.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Reviews: Earth, Air, Fire, and Custard by Tom Holt


Author: Tom Holt
TitleEarth, Air, Fire, and Custard
Publication Info: London : Orbit, 2006.

Summary/Review:

This is the third in a series of J.W. Wells stories where the hapless Paul Carpenter finds himself forced to work in a company that’s really a front for the magic business of a bunch of goblins.  In this adventure he has to deal with the lack of love in his life, pointless errands for his boss, dying several times, a parallel universe made of custard, bovine divinity, and setting reality straight several times over.  The plot and twists are overly complicated but that’s part of the fun.  The humor in this book is sharp and while the book may be overly long, I enjoyed catching up with Paul and company.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson


AuthorJenny Lawson
TitleFuriously Happy
Narrator:  Jenny Lawson
Publication Info: [New York] : Macmillan Audio, p2015.
Summary/Review:

This collection of humorous essays is a laugh riot from the perspective of the author of The Bloggess which skips among topics such as depression, anxiety, marriage, therapy, and taxidermy.  Really, a surprising amount about taxidermy.  Listening to the audiobook in Lawson’s enthusiastically goofy voice is an added bonus.

Recommended booksHyperbole and a Half  by Allie Brosh, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day, and Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me  by Ellen Forney
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Step Aside, Pops : A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton


Author: Kate Beaton
TitleStep Aside, Pops : A Hark! A Vagrant Collection
Publication Info: [Montreal, Quebec] : Drawn & Quarterly, 2015.
Summary/Review:

The brilliant webcomic Hark! A Vagrant is collected in glorious print.  Beaton’s comics tend to focus on historical and literary references with various levels of absurdity, so as a History/English major with fondness for absurd comics, they appeal to me.  This collection includes biographical comics of people you should know such as Sara Josephine Baker  and Ida B. Wells.  Then there’s the history of the invasion of Canada by Irish-American Fenians and the role of the bicycle in liberating women.  Have you ever wondered about the basic nuttiness of Wuthering Heights or wondered what became of the guy in the beginning of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty Boys” video?  These things are analyzed here.  And the popular misconceptions of feminism are pilloried in the series “Strong Female Characters” and “Straw Feminists.”  But I probably bust a gut the most reading “Founding Fathers (in a Mall)” and its sequel “Founding Fathers (Stuck in an Amusement Park).”

Recommended booksHyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Rating: ****

Strange Lyrics in Later Verses of Popular Christmas Carols


A lot of people sing the first verse and chorus of popular Christmas carols and then move on.  But if you stick around to later verses you can find some interesting attempts by the lyricist to fit in large concepts and unique rhyme schemes.  Here are some of my favorites.

Carol: “Cherry Tree Carol”

Lyric: And Mary gathered cherries / While Joseph stood around.

The whole song is rather bizarre, but I like to think of this part as if it were a stage direction.

“What was Joseph doing while all this was happening?”
“I don’t know, he just stood around.”


 

Carol: “Deck The Hall”

Lyric: Troll the ancient Yule tide carol

The redefining of “troll” in Internet culture makes this sound like a rather rude thing to do, but even before that it brought to mind of creatures under bridges eating billy goats, not sing festive tunes.


 

Carol: “Do You Hear What I hear?”

Lyric: A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.

Or maybe a blanket or something that actually insulates rather than metals that would be rather chilly on a cold night.


 

Carol: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Lyric: This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.

The words “doth deface” sound so Metal.


 

Carol: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Lyric: Hail, the incarnate deity

I can’t hear the words “Hail, the incarnate deity” without hearing them in the voices of the aliens from Toy Story.


 

Carol: “In the Bleak Midwinter”

Lyric: Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air

A choir director really wanted us to emphasize the word “thronged” while singing and now I can never get past what a strange word that is or the imagery of a throng of cherubim and seraphim hanging out in the air.


Carol: “Little Drummer Boy”

Lyric: The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum

Once again my mind fills in the details and I get an image of the ox and lamb wearing berets in a smokey jazz club and saying “dig!”


 

Carol: “Silent Night”

Lyric: Shepherds quake, at the sight.

THERE ARE REPORTS OF JUDEA BEING HIT BY A SHEPHERD QUAKE, ESTIMATED AT 5.7 ON THE RICHTER SCALE.

 

 

38 Things About Me and Star Wars


38 years ago in May 1977, Star Wars made its debut changing film and cultural history.  I’ve never been a Star Wars superfan, but I liked the movies as a child and grew up alongside the franchise.  With The Force Awakens premiering this week, here are 38 random thoughts about me and Star Wars.

  1. I was 4-years-old when I first saw Star Wars.  It’s possibly the first movie I ever watched in a movie theater.  The earliest I can remember, at least.
  2. I watched the movie with my sister and father at the Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts (on Martha’s Vineyard).  The seats slid back and forth to allow the user to adjust the seat back to upright or slanted position. My sister and I slid back and forth in the seats a lot, to my father’s annoyance.
  3. I most likely fell asleep during the movie since for years afterwards I thought our heroes escaped from the trash compactor and then got medals.
  4. R2-D2 was, and remains, my favorite character.
  5. It would be another 6 years before I saw the movie again, something that’s hard to believe when movies these days are readily available on video, cable tv, and streaming on the internet shortly after release.
  6. I watched it on HBO at my grandparents’ apartment in Brooklyn.  The image was very fuzzy because my grandparents didn’t actually subscribe to cable tv, but somehow picked up HBO from their neighbors.
  7. In the intervening years, what I knew about Star Wars was informed by a picture book that had an audio cassette accompaniment.  I’m pretty sure that this audio cassette include scenes & characters cut from the film that were later restored in the Special Edition.
  8. I had a large number of Kenner Star Wars action figures and toys that I played with often, accumulating a large well-loved collection over the next 7 or so years.
  9. I made up my own stories with the action figures, many involving Luke & Han having to work with Darth Vader against a common foe.
  10. We also had a 45 of the disco version of the Star Wars theme by Meco.
  11. My mother got really good at singing the Star Wars theme by clucking like a chicken.  She only does it for family members, so don’t ask her.
  12. Because the movie was called Star Wars when I first saw it (and for 20 years after), I still call it Star Wars even if it’s more fashionable to call it A New Hope or Star Wars IV.  I liked that for the original trilogy at least there were no roman numerals and wish they’d stuck to that.
  13. I saw the Empire Strikes Back at the Ridgeway Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut.
  14. I missed most of the scenes where Luke was training with Yoda because I had to go to the bathroom.
  15. During the climactic duel between Luke and Vader, the film melted and we had to wait for the projectionist to restore it to the screen.  Twice.
  16. I was certain that Darth Vader was lying about being Luke’s father and clung to this belief for three years until Yoda confirmed it in Return of the Jedi.
  17. I saw Return of the Jedi the New Canaan Playhouse in Connecticut.  I had recently touched poison ivy and my body and face were covered with rashes and calamine lotion.  Watching this movie was the first time in days where I was so pleasantly distracted I forgot that I itched.
  18. Return of the Jedi was the first Star Wars film I saw multiple times in the theaters (and after Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the first films to see again and again, period.  It was a novelty back then).
  19. I loved the Ewoks, and while it’s unfashionable to admit it, I still do.
  20. The Ewoks tv movies were terrible, however, and oddly disturbing to my young mind.
  21. I saved up proof-of-purchase tabs from Kenner products to mail in for a free (+ shipping & handling) action figure of the Emperor.  It took a lot longer than the promised 4-6 weeks to arrive.  I checked the mailbox every day for months suffering crushing disappointment every day until it arrived.
  22. There was a time in the late 80s and early 90s when Star Wars kind of disappeared from the cultural consciousness.  I was part of this and didn’t pay much attention to it during that time.
  23. Before moving to Virginia and starting college in 1991, I sold all my Star Wars toys at a tag sale.  The action figures went for 25 cents each.  I hope they’re still around getting loving care and someone is playing with them.
  24. My freshman year of college someone rented Star Wars and we all watched it over and over again.  I’d only seen it maybe 3 times in my whole life, so it was weird to see it several times in one weekend.  I also noticed things about it I’d never noticed about it as a child. Like, Luke Skywalker is super whiny.
  25. In 1997, I enjoyed seeing the Special Editions as they were released to movie theaters over a period of months. I thought the Star Wars Special Edition was a fun alternate take, although it shouldn’t replace the original theatrical run, the changes to Empire Strikes Back were mostly cosmetic, and the changes to Return of the Jedi were too cornball for a film that could use more gravitas.
  26. Unpopular opinion: I don’t really care if Han or Greedo shot first
  27. I saw The Phantom Menace while visiting my friend Vicki in Bowling Green, Ohio.  Like many, I thought it was dumb and disappointing.  I haven’t seen it again.
  28. I mean really though – Jar Jar Binks, the “Yipee!” kid, and endless podracing!  What were they thinking.  Natalie Portman was good though.
  29. My favorite memory of the movie is seeing two shirtless, shoeless dudebros from Cape Cod riding the MBTA Red Line who were planning “to smoke a bong and watch The Phantom Menace.”  At every stop one guy would ask the other if this was their stop and the other one would say “No, my brother, it’s Davis!”  They did get off Davis.  Hope they enjoyed the movie.
  30. A year later I went camping with some friends in Western Massachusetts and some creepy guys in an adjacent tent site where watching The Phantom Menace in their tent.
  31. Speaking of bad Star Wars movies, my wife Susan informed me that there was a Star Wars Holiday Special that frightened her as a child.  I’d never heard of it before, but ordered a bootleg off Ebay.  It’s just as bad as you’ve been told.  But whoever taped it initially did so from a television broadcast in Baltimore so it has all the 1978 commercials in it, which is pretty cool.
  32. I saw Attack of the Clones with Susan at the AMC Loews Boston Common Theatres. The first time we tried to watch it, we had to be evacuated due to a fire alarm just after the opening credits.  I remember watching the fire fighters casually riding the escalator on the way to investigating the fire.
  33. Attack of the Clones was better, but still disappointing. I really hated all the monsters in the pit, and Yoda acting like Robert Duval in Apocalypse Now.
  34. Saw Revenge of the Sith at the same place, and with the same feeling of “this is okay, but could be better.” It is the only one of the prequel trilogy films that I watched a second time.
  35. I’ve read all the novel adaptations of the Star Wars films.  I found the writers of the prequel trilogy actually did a better job with plot, dialogue and characterization than appeared in the film, and wish these books had somehow been adapted into the movies rather than the other way around.
  36. I also read Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy and The Hand of Thrawn books which are excellent stories with some interesting new characters, although I think they would actually adapt poorly to film, so I’m glad they’re going a different route with the new trilogy.
  37. My children don’t like watching movies, so I still haven’t been able to convince them to watch any Star Wars films, but when I do I’m going to try Machete Order.
  38. If things go to plan I will see The Force Awakens while vacationing with my in-laws in Myrtle Beach after Christmas.  I love that I always seem to be in a different city and state when I see these movies.

Book Review: What If? by Randall Munroe


Author: Randall Munroe
Title:What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Publication Info: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Summary/Review:

This book contains the sentence: “Aroldis Chapman could probably throw a golf ball about sixteen giraffes high.” That alone makes it worth reading. The creator of the webcomic xkcd, Randall Munroe uses math and science to investigate cornball questions from his readers.  If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a baseball were pitched at the speed of light, what would happen if every person in the world jumped at the same place at the same time (say, Rhode Island), or what place on earth would allow for the longest free fall, this book is for you.  In addition to Munroe’s humorous, but mathematically explicit, explanations there are plenty of whimsical illustrations.  There are also a series of questions too weird and worrying for even Munroe to answer.
Favorite Passages:

Our plastic will become shredded and buried, and perhaps some microbes will learn to digest it, but in all likelihood, a million years from now, an out-of-place layer of processed hydrocarbons—transformed fragments of our shampoo bottles and shopping bags—will serve as a chemical monument to civilization.

 

If humans escape the solar system and outlive the Sun, our descendants may someday live on one of these planets. Atoms from Times Square, cycled through the heart of the Sun, will form our new bodies. One day, either we will all be dead, or we will all be New Yorkers.

 

So we shouldn’t worry too much about when computers will catch up with us in complexity. After all, we’ve caught up to ants, and they don’t seem too concerned. Sure, we seem like we’ve taken over the planet, but if I had to bet on which one of us would still be around in a million years—primates, computers, or ants—I know who I’d pick.

 

if an astronaut on the ISS listens to “I’m Gonna Be,” in the time between the first beat of the song and the final lines . . .  . . . they will have traveled just about exactly 1000 miles.

 

Rule of thumb: One person per square meter is a light crowd, four people per square meter is a mosh pit.

 

Al Worden, the Apollo 15 command module pilot, even enjoyed the experience. There’s a thing about being alone and there’s a thing about being lonely, and they’re two different things. I was alone but I was not lonely. My background was as a fighter pilot in the air force, then as a test pilot—and that was mostly in fighter airplanes—so I was very used to being by myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t have to talk to Dave and Jim any more . . . On the backside of the Moon, I didn’t even have to talk to Houston and that was the best part of the flight. Introverts understand; the loneliest human in history was just happy to have a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Recommended books: 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense by Michael Brooks, What’s next? : dispatches on the future of science : original essays from a new generation of scientists by Max Brockman, and Feynman by Jim Ottiavani
Rating: ****

Book Review: Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket


Author: Lemony Snicket
TitleShouldn’t You Be In School?
Narrator: Liam Aiken
Publication Info: [New York] : Hachette Audio, 2014.

Other Books Read By Same Author:

Summary/Review:

The third novel in the All the Wrong Questions series reaches a turning point in the overarching story, and contains a lot of surprises.  I like this novel particularly because the many supporting characters introduced over the course of the series come together as a team.  Even S. Theodora Markson gets a turn to break away from her arrogant mien and general incompetence.  While the themes in this novel are dark – children are essentially held in prison and drugged with laudanum, for starters – there’s an optimism that stands out among Snicket books, and satisfying twist at the conclusion.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket


AuthorLemony Snicket
TitleWhen Did You See Her Last?
Narrator: Liam Aiken
Publication Info: [New York] : Hachette Audio, [2013]
Other Books Read By Same Author:

Summary/Review:

The second installment of All the Wrong Questions picks up in Stain’d-by-the-Sea with Lemony Snicket investigating a missing person’s case, putatively with the help of his chaperon S. Theodora Markson.  It continues to be a whimsical mix of mystery novel and humor.  One thing that stands out is that other than Snicket as narrator, the major characters in this novel are all women, which is a refreshing change.  I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket


AuthorLemony Snicket
TitleWho Could That Be at This Hour?
Narrator:  Liam Aiken
Publication Info: 9781619695375
Other Books Read By Same Author:

Summary/Review:

Daniel Handler under his nom-de-plume Lemony Snicket narrated the trials and travails of the Baudelaire children in a A Series of Unfortunate Events.  In this series, All the Wrong Questions, Lemony Snicket tells “his own” story of how as a teenager he became involved in a secret organization, was assigned to the worst chaperon, and begins his first assignment in the town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea.  The book reads as a pastiche of classic children’s adventures and noir detective stories with memorable characters, a lot of humor, and puzzles to solve.  It’s a good start to the series and I look forward to reading more.
Rating: ***

Hipsters Go Berserk


With apologies to Sandra Boynton on her birthday, here is a parody of a her classic picture book Hippos Go Berserk that I felt compelled to write.  I originally posted this on Facebook and several of my friends contributed, including: Steve W., Susan L., Christine R., Edward H., Chris D., Debbie W., Sid S., and Carolyn G.  I don’t have the skill to add illustrations to the text, but if you’re interested in drawing it up, have at it.  Just give credit where credit is due.

 

One hipster, all alone, texts two hipsters on an iPhone.

Three hipsters at the door, bring DVDs of mumblecore.

Four hipsters in fedoras sardonically talk about their auras.

Five hipsters with ironic facial hair wear bow ties and rock their flair.

Six hipsters pedal fixies while wearing tweed caps.

Seven hipsters sneak in some Pabst.

Eight hipsters with white girl dreads, proudly display their artisanal breads.

Nine hipsters get down and pretend to twerk.

 

ALL THE HIPSTERS WRYLY SHOUT “LET’S GO BERSERK!”

All through the hipster night, hipsters dance to Times New Viking,
but at the hipster break of day they seek tunes more to their liking.

 

Nine hipsters amble out the door making their way to a vinyl record store.

Eight hipsters then head west to make it to Coachella ahead of the rest.

Seven other hipsters thought it was best to head instead to SXSW.

Leaving behind six hipsters wearing skinny jeans that are quite distressed.

Five hipsters prepare for their northward treks by donning pairs of horn-rimmed specs.

Four hipsters move to a transitional ‘hood, avoiding Wal-Mart like no one else could.

Three hipsters, as was their wont, designed websites in a quirky, homemade font.

Two hipsters get their kicks applying filters to all their pics.

One hipster, alone once more, thinks all those hipsters were such a bore.

Book Review: The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde


AuthorJasper Fforde
TitleThe Song of the Quarkbeast
Publication Info: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (2011)
Summary/Review:

The second book in the Kazam series returns to Hereford where dictatorial King Snodd IV is looking to corner the market on magic.  The only person who can stop him appears to be Jennifer Strange, the orphan teenager who manages employment for a house of sorcerers.  In typical Fforde fashion, humorous and quirky events intertwine to bring this story to an entertaining resolution.  I look forward to reading more about Jennifer and her companions in future installments.

Rating: ***