Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review: Sandra Cisneros by Karen Warrick

✰✰✰✰✰ This biography of the author of The House on Mango Street is sure to inspire fans of Sandra Cisneros. As part of the Latino Biography Library series, Sandra Cisneros: Inspiring Latina Author will appeal to readers of all ages, but especially to young adults and aspiring writers.

Author Karen Clemens Warrick provides useful and detailed insights into the life and writings of the respected author. We follow Cisneros on her journey to develop her own writing style as she travels from Chicago to Iowa, from Europe to Texas. Along the way she learns to find her voice through her writing and speak out loud.
Through many challenges, Cisneros has always relied upon her writing, and she has led the way for many other writers.

This biography makes excellent use of call-out boxes to bring focus on interesting pieces of information. Also, the book features beautiful full color photographs that hold a reader's attention. A handy chronology, glossary, and index are included. Additionally, Warrick provides resources for further reading and a list of books written by Cisneros. Finally, the chapter notes are perfect for students working on book reports.

The Bottom Line: With the reinforced library binding, Sandra Cisneros: Inspiring Latina Author by Karen Clemens Warrick is sure to last the test of time. The text is clearly written and a pleasure to read. Highly recommended as an excellent biography for kids in grades 6 and up.

Details: Sandra Cisneros: Inspiring Latina Author by Karen Clemens Warrick. Published by Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2010. ISBN: 978-0-7660-3162-3

Other titles in the Latino Biography Library series include: Ellen Ochoa: Astronaut and Inventor by Anne Schraff, Pablo Neruda: Passion, Poetry, Politics by Jodie A. Shull, Freddie Prinze, Jr.: From Shy Guy to Movie Star by Sally Lee, George Lopez: Latino King of Comedy by Lila and Rick Guzman, Gloria Estefan: Superstar of Song by Sally Lee, Jaime Escalante: Inspirational Math Teacher by Anne Schraff, and Roberto Clemente: Baseball Legend by Carin T. Ford.

Note: Enslow Publishers, Inc. provided a complimentary copy of Sandra Cisneros: Inspring Latina Author to Mini Book Bytes for review purposes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review: V is for...Vampire by Adele Griffin

✰✰✰½ Kids will love this series about a teenage vampire girl named Lexie who just wants to fit in at high school. The Livingstone family left their Old World ways behind, including their thirst for blood, in an effort to become mortal. Things are looking up for Lexie when the ever popular Mina Pringle asks Lexie to be a speechwriter in her bid to be elected as freshman class president. However, when Mina uses Lexie's way with words to woo the dreamy Dylan Easterby, Lexie decides to run for class president herself.

As if things weren't bad enough, the Livingstone family is assigned to help with the relocation of two mischievous pixies. Lexie suddenly finds herself torn between running a clean campaign and reverting to her vampire ways. She soon learns that her human energy is wearing off, and she's becoming Nocturnal. Can she make things right before she slips into the Dark Side forever?

The Bottom Line: V is for...Vampire: A Vampire Island Story is campy, witty and just plain fun. The middle school crowd is sure to adore Lexie and her friends.

Details: V is for...Vampire: A Vampire Island Story by Adele Griffin. Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 2009. ISBN: 978-0-399-25277-8

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

✰✰✰✰✰ Flavia Sabina de Luce is an 11 year old amateur sleuth with pigtails and a passion for poison. Flavia is happiest when she is holed up in her Uncle Tarquin's abandoned Victorian chemistry lab. When not concocting poisons or re-enacting the great discoveries of chemistry, our precocious heroine can be found riding her trusty bicycle, Gladys, about the eccentric village of Bishop's Lacey.

Set in post-World War II England in 1950, the intrigue begins when a dead jack snipe with a stamp pierced by its bill turns up on the doorstep. Just hours later Flavia stumbles upon a dying man in the cucumber patch of her family's estate, Buckshaw. Suddenly the de Luce family's world is turned upside-down, and Flavia's father is arrested for murder.

Flavia discovers that weeks earlier the priceless Ulster Avenger belonging to King George the Sixth was stolen. This is not the first time that theft and death have been associated with her Father. As a schoolboy at Greyminster School, Mr. de Luce was present when his favorite teacher, Mr. Twining, fell to his death after another Ulster Avenger went missing.

Flavia sets out to discover if there could be any connection between the stamp delivered to her Father via the dead bird and the two incidents of theft followed by death. We are invited to follow Flavia as she sets out to solve the crime and ends up in jam herself. Can this 11 year old girl outwit everyone and save herself before it is too late?

The Bottom Line: Alan Bradley's debut mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, is deliciously fun, quirky, and original. Most enthusiastically recommended for mystery buffs who appreciate fast-paced action and an engaging writing style. This is a fantastic, captivating debut, and I, for one, am looking forward to following Flavia as she untangles future mysteries.

Details: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. Published by Delacorte Press in 2009. Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 384 pages. ISBN: 978-0-385-34230-8

For more information, visit Flavia de Luce

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cookbook Review: Woman's Day Thursday Night is Hearty Meat

✰✰✰✰ This recent release from The Editors of Woman's Day features recipes that are super easy and quick to prepare. It's the perfect resource for meat lovers on the go. You won't find a single fish or vegetarian dish in this slim cookbook.

The Editors have chosen recipes featuring ingredients that are readily found at your local grocer. Most of the recipes can be prepared in about 30 minutes by following just a few simple steps. Each recipe features full color photo of the finished dish and basic nutrition information. There are also options for variations on a recipe and tips for what to serve with a dish where appropriate.

This cookbook is divided into just 3 chapters: Beef, Chicken & Turkey, and Lamb, Pork & Veal. Tempting recipes include: Shepherd's Pie, Hungarian Beef Stew, Roasted Chicken & Root Vegetables, Curried Lamb, Pork & Cider, Stew, and Osso Buco. As a bonus, several hearty slow cooker recipes are featured as well.

The Bottom Line: This slim cookbook is easy to use and follow. There's a variety of recipes to temp even the most finicky eater. While this cookbook lacks an index, most cooks will be able to find what they are looking for any way due to its simple organization. Whole heartedly recommended for cooks with busy schedules who are looking for simple, tasty recipes packed with protein.

The Details: Woman's Day Thursday Night is Hearty Meat: The Eat-Well Cookbook of Meals in a Hurry by the Editors of Woman's Day. Published by Filipacchi in 2009. Edition: Original, Paperback, 96 pages. ISBN: 978-1-933231-62-4

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cookbook Review: The Golden Book of Baking by Carla Bardi

✰✰✰✰½ Whatever your delight, you'll find it here in The Golden Book of Baking: Over 300 Great Recipes. Filled with hundreds of scrumptious treats, you'll find recipes for classic sweets as well as something new. There's even a chapter on savory baking.

Recipes are organized into chapters by topic: Cookies, Bars, and Brownies, Small Cakes; Butter Cakes; Layer Cakes; Pies and Tarts; Pastries; Yeast Cakes; and Savories. There's also a detailed Index. Recipes that caught my eye include: Lemon Cheesecake Squares, Double Chocolate Pound Cake, Pineapple Upside-down Cake, Pecan Tartlets, Apple Crumble Kuchen, Spinach Quiche, Goat Cheese Parcels, & more.

This cookbook is fabulously illustrated with full color photos that will make your mouth water. Recipe directions are concise and clear; however, the steps are only separated by a dot. Numbered steps would have been a plus.

The Bottom Line: While this cookbook assumes previous baking know-how, everyone will want to pick it up, browse the recipes, and dream of sweet decadence. Highly recommended for bakers with intermediate to advanced skills. The only drawback to this book is that it does not lie flat while using it.

Details: The Golden Book of Baking: Over 300 Great Recipes by Carla Bardi. Published by Barron's in 2009. ISBN: 978-0-7641-6272-5

Monday, February 1, 2010

Celebrate Library Lovers' Month!

February is Library Lovers' Month, a time to celebrate your favorite academic, school, public, or private library. In these difficult times, libraries are being used more than ever before. However, the reality is that it's becoming more and more difficult to provide the same level of services with the current budget cuts. Show a library your appreciation by stopping by for a visit and getting involved.

How will you acknowledge the value of your library? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Join the Friends of the Library.
  • Honor a friend's birthday with a book purchase.
  • Support a subscription to your favorite magazine.
  • Donate your time, money, office supplies, or books.
  • Write a poem about the library and post it on your blog.
  • Tell your local politician how the library has helped you.
  • Write a letter to the editor about your favorite library.
  • Print out bookmarks and give them to your friends. (You can find bookmarks here.)
  • Attend a library board or local government meeting and tell them how you feel about your library.

Don't forget the hardworking librarians and support staff who maintain the collection and help you find the materials you are looking for. Just stop by and say "thank you." How you celebrate is up to you. By promoting and supporting your favorite library, you can help make sure libraries are around for generations to come. So get out there and celebrate Library Lovers' Month today!

For more information on this and other library celebrations, visit the Friends of Libraries U.S.A.