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Witch Eyes

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I enjoyed this one a lot for a paranormal YA title! What differentiates it from the paranormal pack is the male witch protagonist and the fact that he is gay. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to read a book about a gay teen that wasn't explicitly ~about~ his gayness. He is gay, but it's hardly central to the plot, which mostly deals with Braden, the protagonist, coming to Belle Dam, a town dominated by warring factions of witches. Braden also has some pretty spectacular (heh) witch powers himself, and it's interesting to read about how they function in service of the plot. Braden gets a love interest straight off - Trey, the son of Braden's father's worst enemy. It ends up being a sort of Romeo and Juliet situation, where Braden and Trey can't be together because their families are on opposite sides of this long-standing witch war/rivalry.I was engaged by the plot from the get-go, interested along with Braden to piece the puzzles together - why is there a feud, who is out to hurt Braden, what are his father's motivations, etc. There's a sequel out which I'm very interested to read as a lot was left unresolved. My only complaint is that it really could have been longer. A lot of the tertiary characters are just sketched in. It's told from Braden's first-person POV, so that's somewhat expected. But it felt a little thin.As I was reading, I kept thinking it would be a great tv series a la The Secret Circle, The Vampire Diaries, or MTV's Teen Wolf.
Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, plural. If my life weren't complicated, I wouldn't be Ruby Oliver

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I love Ruby Oliver so much. I started listening to the Ruby Oliver books on audio, so this is actually the first in the series that I've read. I just listened to A Treasure Map of Boys and when I realized the final book wasn't on audio, I had to check it out from the library. Ruby's family goes a bit outer limits in this one, though no one seems too concerned and it's played for laughs more than anything. Still it made me feel sorry for her - no wonder she's a bit of a neurotic mess. I like the psychological evolution of Ruby through the series - at the end we see her being pretty upfront about what she wants from her relationships and she's got a more honest perspective on herself and the people around her. I like how Gideon is basically Ruby's fantasy boyfriend come-to-life and he's still disappointing in some ways. I like how she says she wants something real AND something uncomplicated and then finally realizes she can't really have both. One of the greatest things about this books is the realism in the friendships - Megan, the closest Ruby now has to a best friend, is portrayed as full of love and acceptance for Ruby and her foibles, while at the same time she's far from flawless in her expression of friendship. And yet Ruby realizes this about her, doesn't try to change her, doesn't end up having unrealistic expectations of her, etc. I like how Ruby still feels slightly muddled about Nora - someone who dropped her twice and DID have unrealistic expectations for her. And her realization that Nora didn't really love her the way she wanted to be loved as a friend was spot on. Lovely. Kim and Cricket are definitely stuck in their stock villainess roles, but they really do represent a realistic aspect of high school social life, and I like that Ruby still goes back to her early friendship with Kim and loves and accepts it for what it was. I'm ultimately not sure how I feel about Noel. He has a series-long history at not being able to deal with problems, of denial. I agree with Dr. Z that it would be hard to be in a relationship with a person like that. Also he seems to have a very warped view of Ruby; like he doesn't see her whole/real self. Anyway, I'm sure they'll break up once they go to college, so whatever. Anyway - I LOVE RUBY. She's such a fully developed character and I wanted them to make a Ruby Oliver television series so I could hang out and watch her every week. She's adorable.
Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done

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Okay, it's kind of dry and heavily weighted towards exposition on principles of behavioral economics. My mom read it and recommended it to me as someone who has real difficulty sticking to commitments. I guess I was expecting more of a self-help tome. However, I was very interested to learn about all the experiments that had been done in getting people to stick to various commitments - such as quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising more, and other, more esoteric, personal commitments. I liked reading about personal commitment from a behavioral economist's point of view - no judgement about what people have or have not been able to bring themselves to do. Just statistics!It was an interesting book, but slow going. I have serious doubts about the economic viability of this guy's website - stickk.com (or whatever it was). I liked the idea of commitment contracts and may eventually commit to starting a commitment contract, lol. We'll see.
Mercy Watson to the Rescue

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Mr. and Mrs. Watson have a pet pig named Mercy. She's the most adorable and best pig ever - they treat her like their child. They sing her to sleep, kiss her goodnight, she sleeps in a bed - adorable! She also LOVES hot buttered toast - it's her favorite snack. The Mercy Watson books make a great early-reader series - the vocabulary is not too advanced, there's tons of repetition, and most importantly to an adult who is listening or helping read along, these books are funny. Mercy and Mr. and Mrs. Watson are lovable, the scrapes they get themselves into are hysterical, their neighbors are quite the characters themselves. All in all, perfect. Also, the illustrations, with a seemingly-Southern inspired retro-flair, are super. I honestly couldn't picture Mercy in any other way. I love the slight sheen on every body's rosy-apple cheeks and chin.
Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride

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I love Mercy Watson! I'm an unabashed fan. In this lovely title, Mercy and Mr. and Mrs. Watson have their special Saturday lunch, and then afterwards, Mr. Watson and Mercy go for a ride in his (awesome) pink convertible. Mercy wants to drive, so she hops in the driver's seat; Mr. Watson needs Mrs. Watson to come out and bribe Mercy with the promise of more hot buttered toast in order to get her to move. The image of Mercy looking all sly and conniving while sitting in the driver's seat is absolutely beautiful and hysterical. Eventually during their drive, Mercy DOES get to drive, to a great and calamitous ending for the story involving a pig flying. Once again, everyone ends up satisfactorily happy, munching on hot buttered toast.
Mercy Watson #5: Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig

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This time Mercy is beset by Animal Control Officer Francine Poulet. After eating Eugenia's newly planted pansies, Mercy goes to a tea party hosted by her neighbor, Stella. Meanwhile Eugenia discovers the destruction to her garden, snaps, and decides to try and get rid of Mercy once and for all for setting animal control after her. Francine Poulet eventually discovers Mercy at the tea party and in an attempt to capture her, falls on her head, forgets what she was doing, and ends up joining Mercy, Mr. and Mrs. Watson, the Lincolns, and Stella and her brother for hot buttered toast.I was noticing during this reading that the way the illustrator draws the characters' faces so shiny kind of makes me think they have been rubbing hot buttered toast all over their faces! There's an adorable image of Mercy in a fancy lady's hat looking grumpy while Stella pores her imaginary tea and serves her imaginary cake. All this imaginary food does not satisfy Mercy, I'm sure you can guess. Francine Poulet was excellently characterized, with a giant beak nose, and her dogged (heh) pursuit of Mercy is fun and funny. Enjoyable all around!
Mercy Watson #4: Mercy Watson: Princess In Disguise

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I still love Mercy Watson. This title is a Halloween story that has Mercy dressing up as a princess pig and going trick or treating to her neighbor's house. You may remember that her neighbors are Eugenia and Baby Lincoln, one saucy, one sweet. Now they have a cat, General Washington. Mercy gets into it with the cat, chases it up a tree, and leads an inadvertent Halloween parade down the street. All ends happily as usual with the firemen who get the cat out of the tree staying for some hot buttered toast. Things I loved about this one: Mercy's costume - utterly adorable; Mercy thinking she can get some buttered toast as a Halloween treat (a butter candy has to suffice!); and, as usual, the illustrations as a whole. There's something so nostalgic about the illustrations, and I love how all the characters (except sourpuss Eugenia) have such glowing, smiley faces. One thing that's starting to grate on my nerves a little bit: how often the characters' names are repeated throughout the course of the story. I can't figure out if it's a limited vocabulary issue or if a lot of easy readers do this and I just don't notice... does it help children with cognition and understanding the story if the names are constantly repeated? I don't know. Anyway, it kind of makes it hard from a read-aloud standpoint.
Mercy Watson #3: Mercy Watson Fights Crime

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I love Mercy Watson, but I have to say I didn't love this one quite as much as the first two. In this one, there's a wannabe cowboy robber who gets surprised by Mercy when he's in the process of robbing the Watsons. He ends up riding Mercy and, through a series of misadventures, gets caught by the cops. I love most of the characters in the Mercy Watson books because they seem to be so organic to the setting and the story. But a short, wannabe-cowboy thief doesn't seem very organic to me! However, Mercy is still adorable, the illustrations are magnificent, the language is perfect easy-reader material, and all in all, it's very enjoyable.
Froggy Gets Dressed

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I think this is the first in London's "Froggy" series. The storyline is simple: Froggy wakes up, sees that it's snowing, wants to play in the snow, get dressed to go outside, goes outside, realizes he forgot to put on a particular item of clothing, goes back in, undresses, redresses, goes back outside, repeat repeat repeat at least five times before he gets too tired from all that dressing and undressing and gives up and goes back to bed.I can see why this is probably great fun in a storytime setting. There's the dressing sound-effects that London sprinkles throughout the text, the repetition of action, etc. I think kids probably identify with the idea that getting bundled up to go outside is an ordeal in and of itself. The illustrations are simple, brightly colored, and easy to make out even at a distance - not too detaily or cluttered. Really perfect for a preschool or toddler storytime. That said, man, this is kind of a boring story! And I really can't believe that Froggy was so popular that he inspired a whole series... He's cute and all, but not THAT cute.
13 Words

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I give it four stars for the art and the focus on one of my favorite things - cake! It's Maira Kalman's typical style; seemingly unrelated, sketchy images given relationship through their coloring and juxtaposition. I wonder if the story was written to the art or if the art was created for the story (the former seems most likely). I think Kalman herself is the despondent bird, eating cake and painting ladders. The dog in the story looked suspicously Max-like, especially once he started trying on hats. The story itself is sort of odd - I'm sure there's some porquoi tale of how this story came to be, lol. Why 13 words, why these 13 words? They certainly aren't any sort of controlled vocabulary and the words don't really have a common theme - in that sense it's not a "useful" children's book (cringe cringe) for learning to read or learning vocabulary. Well you know what I mean. It's kind of like a party game where you all pick a word out of a hat and somehow have to make a coherent story.Interesting! Not the best, but still interesting. And the art is amazing.
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