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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vish Puri is Purely Wonderful

Booker...   (I hope Puri is pronounced like pure-ee)
The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri Series #1) by Tarquin Hall

When I picked up this book, I was thinking it would be like a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency set in India.  I was mostly wrong.  But, I was right to pick up the book.  I really enjoyed it.

Vish Puri, India's most successful private investigator, does long for the simpler more moral days of the past and his investigations don't include the violence and sexual content found in so many of the mysteries on the shelf these days.  In those ways this series is similar to the No. 1 Detective Agency, but in many ways it is different. 

Puri has all the modern technology an investigator could want.  He's also got more enemies than any person would want.  This story starts quickly!  We begin this story at the end of an investigation, giving you an idea of what Puri is all about.  Then comes an assassination attempt.  I really liked the start of this book. 

In the story, Puri investigate two cases, one more major than the other.  Both are solved in the end by the detective, who we discover is a compassionate upstanding person.  Yet, he is not perfect so he's very likable.  There's also a fun  meddling character in the family who adds humor to the book.

I don't know much about India and its culture.  I don't think I've even ever read a book that takes place in India, which actually made me a little hesitant to read the book.  But, I enjoyed learning a little about India from Hall, a British writer who lived and worked in South Asia, the Middles East and Africa.  Hall also provides a helpful glossary in the back of Indian words used in the book.

This is a great mystery book.  And the second in the series is now out in paperback (The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing).  Tarquin Hall also received Barnes and Noble's "Discover Great New Writers" Award for To the Elephant Graveyard.  It got excellent reviews.  He has other non-fiction work as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

You Can COUNT on This Book Series

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

"Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. We have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four.

I am next."
I can't possibly give you a better preview of this book then the synopsis from Barnes and Noble quoted above. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is the "hardest-to- put-down" book that I've read since the 7th book in the Harry Potter series. I started reading on Saturday afternoon, and finished on Sunday night, after 3, two hour reading sessions. Yes, 439 pages in 6 hours...I used to speed read. Thanks to my wife for recommending this book and for allowing me 3, two hour reading sessions in one weekend.
"I Am Number Four" is the first in a planned 6 book series by Pittacus Lore. Pittacus Lore is the pseudonym adopted by the writing duo of Jobie Hughes and James Frey. There is also a movie planned for next spring based on this book. The second book in "The Lorien Legacies" series is supposed to be released in the Spring of 2011, and I for one can't wait.
I can't recommend "I Am Number Four" highly enough. It has everything you could want in a book...super powered alien heroes, super powered alien villans, likable characters, action, humor and a love story. They packed so much into one story that I can't wait to see what they can get into 6 books. Hands down, one of the best books I've read in recent memory. There is some strong language, so it's definitely PG-13. I hope you'll give it a shot, I think you'll like it.

The Power of Six by Pittacss Lore

The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies Series #2)The Power of Six is the 2nd book in the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore (a Pseudonym for the 2 guys working on this series). You will recall that I really liked I Am Number Four, and I liked the 2nd book as well.

This 2nd book continues to follow John Smith (a.k.a Number Four), but in this story, we also get to know Six, who we met at the end of the first book, Seven (a.k.a Marina) and Nine. The Power of Six takes place over a very short period of time, and thus moves extremely fast and is packed with action. The story continues to follow the conflict between the Lorien's (good aliens) and Mogadorians (bad aliens) on earth. The Mogadorians are trying to exterminate the remaining Loriens before they attain their full power...yes they have super powers. Trust me, it's a good story.

You will discover that this book does not have top notch writing. I mean, it's not terrible, but I wouldn't describe it as literary genius either. Still, this was a great read and I'm excited about the third book, which will probably come out next summer. My brief internet search did not reveal a title, and I'm too lazy to keep digging.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who Wouldn't Want Some Chocolate?

The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
How It's Made: Chocolate Bar by Sarah Ridley

Chocolate TouchI used The Chocolate Touch with my younger son for a home school unit.  He really enjoyed the book.  It definitely helped that he knew the Greek myth of Midas' Touch.  In this book, John Midas, who loves all things candy, gets the chocolate touch.  As he goes through the day, his chocolate touch becomes more powerful.  My son found some of his mishaps quite funny.  It is a fairly short chapter book with at least one full page illustration for each of the twelve chapters.  I think the new cover art definitely draws kids in more than the original cover.  I would recommend this book for a younger reader who loves chocolate or a reluctant reader who could be drawn into the story by the chocolate and funny situations.  At the end of the story, hopefully the reader has learned that greed gains nothing good or too much of a good thing can be bad.

After reading  The Chocolate Touch, we had a unit study on chocolate.  One of the best books I found on the process of making chocolate was A Chocolate Bar, copyrighted 2005 and 2006.  I don't usually blog on the resource books I use during home schooling, but I was so impressed by this book that I needed to let people know about it.  This book had just the right amount of information--enough that we both learned many new things, but my son was not overwhelmed by all the facts or bored by too much information.  The reader starts in Ghana at a cocoa tree and follows the cocoa from harvest, then  across the ocean to the factory and finally to the wrapped chocolate bar.  The photographs and glossary are wonderful.  I also appreciated the information on fair trade chocolate!!  I don't know if this book is available now or if only libraries can get it, but I highly recommend this book if you're interested at all in how chocolate is made.  There are other titles in the How It's Made series covering Cotton T-Shirt, Rubber Tire, and Wooden Chair.  The books are published by Gareth Stevens Publishing with a website at .

Monday, September 12, 2011

Steampunk is So Cool

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

     Remember the show Wild Wild West.  It was great, huh?  And it could be called steampunk.  I've found I really like this genre.  Steampunk books take place in the past but have other aspects that are futuristic or science fiction.  The Parasol Protectorate Series is steampunk.  So is Leviathan, a science fiction/alternate history/steampunk novel for teens.

     Leviathan takes place at the very start of The Great War (later to be known as World War I).  Alek must hide his identity as he races from the Germans.  He and his crewmates pilot a two-legged walking machine. (I pictured something similar to an AT-AT Walker from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.)
     Deryn must hide her identity as well.  A girl would never be allowed to join the military, but she won't let that stop her from achieving her dream of serving on airship.  The airship she ends up on is no ordinary airship.  It's actually a whale who's life thread have been incorporated into a blimp like machine. 
     The Darwinists use life threads of animals to create useful devices.  The Clankers rely on metal and machinery to do their work.  We follow Alek, a Clanker, and Deryn known as Dillan, a Darwinist on their dangerous journeys filled with danger and suspense and a bit of humor.  It's a great book!  It might even inspire you to investigate a little more about WWI.
     I knew there was a sequel, Behemoth, but I didn't realize Leviathan would end in the middle of the story, leaving us with a big cliff hanger.  Luckily for us, Behemoth, is out, and the third book,Goliath, is due to come out September 20th! 

[I listened to the audio book of Leviathan, which was very good, but I haven't seen the names in print.  I think they are all spelled correctly except maybe Dillan.]

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Move Over Miss Marple

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #1)No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

I do love Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books--better than the Hercule Poirot mysteries.  I like the Fr. Brown mysteries over Sherlock Holmes, too.  I guess that shows I prefer the unconventional detective over the "super" detective.  But, that's only part of the reason why I love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series so much.

These books take place in Gabarone, Botswana.  Alexander McCall Smith does a fantastic job of describing Botswana enough that I can picture the scenery without bogging down the story.  The unconventional detective in this series is Precious Ramotswe, who uses her inheritance to open a detective agency.  Mma Ramotswe has many adventures in each book.  Some cases she takes turn out to be humorous, some heart-warming or heart-tugging, and others start out simple enough but end up getting the detective into danger.  As the series goes on, we get to better know Mma Ramotswe's friend Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and her secretary Mma Makutsi--both fantastic characters.  This series is full of wonderful stories and characters that make me feel like I'm at home with them whenever I open the book.  The stories in this series are usually not intense, but are always enjoyable.  I recommend reading the books in order because the lives of the characters progress throughout the series.  The books are not numbered so I've listed the series below.  Don't miss out on the wonderful world of Precious Ramotswe.

1-No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
2-Tears of the Giraffe
3-Mortality for Beautiful Girls
4-The Kalahari Typing School for Men
5-The Full Cupboard of Life
6-In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
7-Blue Shoes and Happiness
8-The Good Husband at Zebra Drive
9-The Miracle at Speedy Motors
10-Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
11-The Double Comfort Safari Club
12-The Saturday Big Tent Wedding
13-The Limpopo Academy of Private Detecting  (due out 4/3/12)