Ruined by Reading

I am the sort who roots for the underdog, uses Apple computers, knows that playing music is better than listening to it, believes chocolate is a food group, loves animals, swims like a fish, and stands up for people and things I believe in.

Fairy Godmother's Secret

Fables & Fairy Tales to Cross Stitch: French Charm for Your Stitchwork - Véronique Enginger

Fables and Fairy Tales to Cross-stitch is a nicely-produced book of retro themed patterns. Each pattern includes a stitched example and a variety of finishing techniques are demonstrated. Patterns are clearly marked and easy to follow. The designs are stitched with DMC threads, which is convenient and known to most cross-stitchers. Someone decorating a nursery or a crafty grandparent would find this book very useful.  

Modern Embroidery

Tula Pink Coloring with Thread: Stitching a Whimsical World with Hand Embroidery - Tula Pink

Tula Pink Coloring with Thread is a nicely-produced book of embroidery lessons and patterns. Each pattern includes a stitched example which is important to stitchers deciding which design to choose and how their stitches should look. Patterns are clearly marked and easy to follow. Directions on each type of stitch are given with illustrations. The designs are stitched with Anchor threads, but most American stitchers use DMC as a default, so it would have been nice to have DMC equivalencies listed. (Never fear, conversion charts can be searched up online.) Many suggestions on finishing are provided. The designs are modern and would fit nicely with a retro/50s theme as well.

Twizzlers and Puppy Dog Eyes

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl - Stacy McAnulty

Lightning Girl is 12 year-old Lucy Callahan’s screen name in the math forum she loves. Ever since she was hit by lightning at 8 years old, she’s been a math genius. She’s also been homeschooled due to her academic differences and her OCD tendencies. When Lucy’s beloved uncle visits, he and Lucy’s Nana realize that, as smart as Lucy is, she’s missed out on part of her childhood. And so Nana insists that Lucy drag herself away from her computer and experience normal life for 1 year. Lucy’s germ phobia and repetitive sitting behavior don’t make fitting into middle school easy, but luckily, she quickly makes one friend who doesn’t seem to mind her oddities. As Lucy navigates the tricky middle school social world of cafeteria tables and group projects, she will eventually learn the meaning of true friendship, and find out just how far out of her comfort zone she’s willing to go for a friend.


This books greatest strength is in the main character’s voice, which, along with the snide, age-appropriate humor, quickly endears the reader to a character that might otherwise be a little hard to like.

Piecing Together a Love Story

The Patchwork Bride - Sandra Dallas The Persian Pickle Club - Sandra Dallas

Ellen is getting older and wondering how long she and her husband, Ben, can stay on their beloved ranch, when her granddaughter, June, gets cold feet and runs from her wedding. Ellen is working on June’s wedding quilt, which contains pieces of the wedding dresses from the women of the family. As the two women sit together, Ellen tells June the stories of one woman, named Nell, and how it took her 3 tries to find the man she would marry. The story of Nell’s first beau, Buddy, is full of cowboy swagger, the second story, about James, is a bit of a shocker, and the story of predictable, solid Wade has a not-so-predictable twist in the end.

The strengths of this book are the depictions of the relationships between the women characters, and the easygoing voice the story is told in. Readers who liked The Persian Pickle Club (which is referred to in this story) are sure to enjoy this latest novel.

Perilous Journey

Illegal - Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer

Illegal is the story of two brothers’ journey from Africa to Europe. Along the way Ebo, the main character, charms his way by singing, finds a bit of luck, and cheerfully works at whatever job he can find. Ebo is an intelligent and gutsy hero, who, perhaps because of his age, naively manages to think positively and to find solutions when faced with both mundane and life-threatening problems that seem never-ending. Ebo and his brother save one another time and again, but both are repeatedly treated horribly and discarded by people who have far more resources than they do.


This book would be great for upper elementary through high school libraries and classrooms, as it presents a well-thought out and emotionally involving introduction for kids to the refugee crisis in Europe. The illustrations draw the reader in, and effectively show the living conditions and peril the brothers encounter in an appropriate and engaging way. I enthusiastically recommend this for grades 4 and up.

Christmas Cheer

Merry and Bright: A Novel - Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber’s new book, Merry and Bright, is exactly that. The story follows Merry, a young woman with a loving family and a lot of responsibilities. One night, after a long day ruined by her rotten boss, her family announces they’ve signed her up for online dating. The story that follows is pleasant and undemanding. Unlike some of Macomber’s books, this one is not particularly church oriented. This book might make a good gift for an older female relative you’re visiting but don’t know well.

A Loony Adventure

The Martian - Andy Weir

Anyone who enjoyed The Martian’s wisecracking hero will be drawn in by Jazz Bashara, the heroine of Andy Weir’s new novel, Artemis. Like her predecessor, Jazz is flippant, wildly intelligent, and tends to constantly skate on the edge of disaster. Her loony tale unfolds at breakneck speed, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be dragging your Kindle into the bathtub because you can’t stop reading.


Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel - Mariah Marsden, Kendra Phipps, Erika Kuster, Brenna Thummler

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel, is a generally faithful adaptation of the book of the same name. For the most part, I liked the illustrations, however the pupil-less eyes gave me pause. As so many TV adaptations have recently appeared, this book is sure to be sought after for kids who are fascinated by Anne, but can't yet read the originals. This graphic novel version would be perfect to introduce the series to a reader who was a little behind in skills, or a little young for the reading level. 

Any Dream Will Do

Any Dream Will Do: A Novel - Debbie Macomber

Any Dream Will Do is a pleasant, undemanding escape. The book revolves around Shay, who has just been released from prison, and details her path back into society and into a positive life. Any Dream Will Do would make a good gift for an older, church-going relative.

Absolutely Fabulous!

The Prince and the Dressmaker - Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a modern fairy tale in which the magic stems not from a royal marriage but from acceptance. Prince Sebastian is a teenaged prince who is constantly being set up by his parents who are searching for his bride. Prince Sebastian, however, is more enamored by the fashions of the day, and so, with the help of his butler, Emile, he hires Frances, whose theatrical dresses (yup, dresses) send him out on the town in glorious disguise. Sebastian’s alter ego makes quite a splash, and so he has to learn how to juggle his newfound celebrity, his friendships, and his parents’ demands.


The story set forth in The Prince and the Dressmaker is unlike anything available in any other graphic novel I know. It will be vitally important to many teens, and I hope both middle school and high school libraries will stock it.

A Doggone Good Book

Science Comics: Dogs: From Predator to Protector - Andy Hirsch

Just so you know, this review was not written by the human who normally posts stuff here. This review was written by her dog.


Some of you may have enjoyed my previous review of _The Dog Master_, which made my tail wag. That’s right, humans, I’m back. I figured out the code to unlock the iPad and it has changed my life. This time I read a comic called Science Comics: Dogs. Man, I knew that was going to be a great book right when I saw the title. Because what topic could be more important than DOGS? (Global warming, maybe, but you humans don’t seem interested enough in that, now do you?)


Just in case you’re thinking this is “fake news,” let me remind you I’m a Border Collie, the most intelligent of dogs, and not only do I read, write, and post reviews, I also watch your Netflix when you’re at work. I mean, you don’t expect me to watch the dandelions grow all day while you’re gone, do you?


So on to the book. Science Comics: Dogs is full of interesting details on everything about a dog’s life. From the way a dog smells (Did you know we have two smellers? I bet you didn’t!) to the way humans affect dog genetics and evolution, this book has it all. Rudy, the dog who is your guide, loves ball, just like I do, and he’ll help you travel back in time to witness early dog-human collaboration, take you to Russia to observe Silver Fox breeding experiments, and even show you dog DNA. My human is a science teacher and she would do well to buy this book for her classes because everything a middle school life science student needs to know is in here. Heck, if I had a credit card, I’d buy her a class set. Then maybe she’d get home a little earlier and play more ball. If your human is smart, they’ll fetch this book from the bookstore before you can say WOOF.

Magic Carpet Ride

Pashmina - Nidhi Chanani


Pashmina is the story of an artistic high school girl, Priyanka, whose mother immigrated to America from India before she was born. Priyanka wants to know more about the Indian culture, and about her father, but her mother refuses to discuss either one. To make matters worse, Priyanka’s favorite uncle is having a child of his own and she feels left out. Then Priyanka finds a magical pashmina in an old suitcase, which transports her to the colorful, fascinating India of her dreams. Luckily, her aunt, who still lives in India, calls and invites Priyanka to visit. This visit answers Priyanka’s questions, shows her what her mother’s life was like before she left, and helps her continue her own artistic journey upon her return.


The strengths of this graphic novel are in the simple but endearing illustrations, the bursts of color that signal the pashmina’s magical escapades, and in the characterization of the teen lead, whose angsty behavior is just edgy enough without being off-putting. This would be a great companion to American Born Chinese or Persepolis, and could be enjoyed by students in middle or high school.

California Book Signings at Risk

An article about a ridiculous new law regarding book signings in California.

Now in paperback!
Now in paperback!

The Nebula Awards Shortlist

Here are the works listed for the Nebula awards

Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

Harmony - Carolyn Parkhurst
The first book I read by Carolyn Parkhurst was weird, and I liked 
it because of its weirdness. But the other books I've read by this author have been weird but also unbelievable. This one is no exception. This family's journey to be part of the founding group of what is billed as a camp but quickly seems more like a cult often doesn't make sense. What bothered me more was the portrayal of the thoughts of the autistic daughter. I've taught autistic kids, and the writing that was supposed to be the autistic daughter didn't ring true to me, to the point where I was tempted to skip over it to the next part of the book.

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