Marlowe + Tolkien = Butcher

Front cover of Storm Front by Jim ButcherDo you like the mysteries of Philip Marlowe; noir books full of hard bitten, sexy dames and the dark urban streets? Do you enjoy Tolkien; books full of wizards, elves, and vampires? Well, if Philip Marlowe and Tolkien were to have an intellectual heir, he would be Jim Butcher. Butcher’s "Dresden Files" series tells the story of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only official wizard and private investigator. The books are riveting, funny, and full of action, philosophy, and intrigue as the world of the Fae meets the mean streets of modern Chicago. Harry always seems to get out of deadly situations by the skin of his teeth, relying on luck, scrappy allies, and sheer cussedness. He is someone everyone can imagine crossing the street to get away from, but ends up as endearing, charming, and likable. I highly recommend this book to adult readers. About four of the twelve books written so far have a brief “romance” scene that makes the series unsuitable for younger readers.


News Alert: Picture Book Charm Masks Insidious Link to Lifelong Learning

The OC Register ran an article last year commenting on the fact that most publishers no longer publish picture books due to the fact that parents these days are pushing their children to read beyond their level (as if it’s some sort of contest), which presupposes that picture books are too simplistic. On the contrary, the picture book business is booming. But first: some preliminary education before I actually get to my point—and I do have one!

A picture book is a primary reading level designed for babies up to third grade. A picture book has lots of, well, umm, pictures, and is one continuous story as opposed to chapters, as in the primary level 1, 2, 3, beginning reader chapter books. Seemingly innocuous, the picture book actually functions as a critical tool in cerebral development. Cumulative stories such as The Napping House, by Audrey and Don Wood where actions and/or characters build and repeat develop and strengthen synapses.

Circular stories such as If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff where the plot is interlinked so that the ending leads back to the beginning not only develop patience and focus, but also stimulates contemplation. Dialogic reading is made possible through participatory stories such as Panda Bear, Panda Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin. Then there are picture books for play/creative dramatics such as Miss Mary Mack by Mary Ann Hoberman and Nadine Bernard Westcott. And finally the concept books, ABC’s and counting as in A Is For ? by Henry Horenstein, and Let’s Paint A Rainbow by Eric Carle.

Without delving into publishers or politics, let’s keep it simple and agree to note that picture books are still in full swing. The subtle difference—which is actually my point—is the contents' increased sophistication. Authors appear to be writing for the parents as much as for the child—and this makes them more fun for everyone! Currently my favorite is: Louise the Big Cheese and the Ooh-la-la Charm School by Elise Primavera; illus. by Diane Goode.

Fancy NANCY and the Mermaid Ballet by Jane O’Connor; illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser, and Where's My T.R.U.C.K? by Karen Beaumont; illus. by David Catrow. Vibrantly detailed illustrations lend humor to the authors’ subtle message of friendship; the intertextuality of which parents may enjoy more than the kids. Louise the Big Cheese had me in eye-squirting laughter! My advice: don’t be scared away by the insidious fear of lifelong learning . . . read them for their charm.


What's New In Horror

As a genre, horror is defined by its ability to frighten the reader.  At its best, horror can contribute to that "un-put-down-able" factor that any good book should have, and it will take readers on a thrilling ride all the way to the climatic finish.  While it is not a genre that will appeal to all readers, it has a loyal, devoted, and diverse fan base.  Here are some of the latest horror offerings that can be found in the OC Public Libraries' catalog:


A predator stalks the frozen woods.

At a fort deep in the Ontario wilderness in 1878, a ghastly predator is attacking colonists and spreading a gruesome plague-his victims turn into ravenous cannibals with an unending hunger for human flesh. Inspector Tom Hatcher has faced a madman before, when he tracked down Montreal’s infamous Cannery Cannibal. But can even he stop the slaughter this time?

In Montreal exorcist Father Xavier visits an asylum where the Cannery Cannibal is imprisoned. But the killer who murdered thirteen women is more than just a madman who craves human meat. He is possessed by a shape-shifting demon. Inspector Hatcher and Father Xavier must unravel a mystery that has spanned centuries and confront a predator that has turned the frozen woods into a killing ground where evil has come to feed.

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.
Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment. Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.

Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad-until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.


When four old University friends set off into the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle, they aim to briefly escape the problems of their lives and reconnect with one another. But when Luke, the only man still single and living a precarious existence, finds he has little left in common with his well-heeled friends, tensions rise. With limited experience between them, a shortcut meant to ease their hike turns into a nightmare scenario that could cost them their lives.

Lost, hungry, and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, Luke figures things couldn't possibly get any worse. But then they stumble across an old habitation. Ancient artefacts decorate the walls and there are bones scattered upon the dry floors. The residue of old rites and pagan sacrifice for something that still exists in the forest. Something responsible for the bestial presence that follows their every step. As the four friends stagger in the direction of salvation, they learn that death doesn't come easy among these ancient trees . . .

Life on Meditrine Island is luxurious…but brief.
Marla Neuborn has found the best post-grad job in the world – as a 'Lamplighter' working on Meditrine Island, an exclusive idyllic paradise owned and operated by a consortium of billionaires. All Lamplighters have to do is tend to the mansions, cook and clean, and turn on lights to make it appear the owners are home. But the job comes with conditions. Marla will not know the exact location of the island, and she will have no contact with the outside world for the duration of her stay. 

Once on the island, Marla quickly learns the billionaire lifestyle is not all it is made out to be. The chief of security rules Meditrine with an iron fist. His private police force patrols the shores night and day, and CCTV cameras watch the Lamplighters relentlessly. Soon Marla will also discover first-hand that the island hides a terrible secret. She’ll meet the resident known as the Skin Mechanic. And she’ll find out why so few Lamplighters ever leave the island alive.

Doug and Laura thought they bought Galaxy Farm, but the old house is possessing them instead.
 Doug and Laura Locke are New Yorkers who need a fresh start, so they move to Galaxy Farm, an old thoroughbred stable in Tennessee. There Doug finds inspiration to write his epic novel and Laura renews her love of teaching. They also rediscover the love that first drew them together. 

But the home has many secrets. There’s a graveyard hidden at the property’s edge, and tragic deaths stalked the previous owners. Doug has become entranced by the abandoned taxidermy he discovers in the attic. And Laura falls under the spell of the ghosts of twin girls she meets in the old nursery. Only a local antiques dealer senses the danger. She has gruesome premonitions of horrible events to come. She knows she must convince Laura of the threat before the dark force in the house can execute its plan. But time is short, and something seems to be very wrong with Doug…


Twenty-year-old Russ arrives in the northern California town of Freedom to visit his dad. Freedom has peculiarities other than its odd name: the local mayor's ideas of "decentralization" have left it without normal connections to state or federal government and minimal public services. Russ meets an interesting young woman, Pendra, but before he can get to know much about Freedom or its people, a savage tsunami strikes the West Coast.

The wave of human brutality that soon hits the isolated town proves more dangerous to the survivors than the natural disaster. Russ, his father, Pendra, and the other townsfolk must tap all their courage and ingenuity - and find strength they never knew they had - if they have any hope of living to find real freedom!

These are just some of the horror offerings currently available, or on order, via the OC Public Libraries system.  What are some of your favorite horror novels, and who are your favorite "scary" authors?


The Thing About Jane Spring

Jane was raised by her military father. She knows how to stand tall, to tell the truth, to keep her clothes clean and tidy, and by all means to wear sensible shoes and clothing. She is a good military daughter. She is also a very good lawyer. Jane is honest, straightforward and does not coddle anyone in court. She usually wins her cases, even if she leaves behind shell shocked defendants. She treats everyone around her as if they were all military personnel. She finds civilians an odd bunch, with no integrity. At thirty-one years old Jane has never had a serious relationship with a man. No man wants a second date with her. She cannot understand why. She is attractive, smart and has a nice figure. Why would men never ask her out for a second date? Jane finally decides that there must be something that she is doing wrong. She decides that she needs a mentor. Not having any close female friends nearby, and having lost her mother at 3 years old, Jane does not have a mentor to show her how to catch a man. Who could be her mentor? Jane thought that her grandmother would have been a good mentor, but she has passed away. Jane could not forget their evenings watching old Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Cary Grant movies together. Doris, with her beautiful clothes, wonderful smile and great job, always ended up with hunks like Rock or Cary. Should Doris be her mentor? I’m going to stop right here and not tell you more, I don’t want to ruin any more of the plot, but you can see where I am going. The Thing about Jane Spring is a cute, fun, somewhat outrageous, great for a relaxing evening or a day at the beach read. An added bonus if you grew up like me, watching Doris Day, Rock and Cary in Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back and That Touch of Mink, you will have a fun nostalgic time reading The Thing About Jane Spring.


New March Travel Writing

"He gave the impression that very many cities had rubbed him smooth."

- Graham Greene

Two travel books have popped up in our catalog that I can’t wait to get my hands on. The first is Le Road Trip: A Traveler's Journal of Love and France by Vivian Swift. Library Journal describes it: “Part travel memoir (of Swift’s honeymoon), part tips’n’tactics for road tripping through France, part illustrated volume featuring hundreds of the author’s watercolors, this could be almost as good as being there.”

She’ll take us on a ride through Paris, Normandy, Brittany, the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. We don’t yet have copies circulating, but if you’re interested, you can click here to place a hold on the book and get a copy when it becomes available.

In the meantime, you can get to know the author’s witty and engaging style on her website.

Another recent release is The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer. A well-seasoned and much-loved travel writer, Iyer tells us about his connections to his father and to the writer, Graham Greene (even though the two had never met outside of the pages of Greene’s books). In doing so, he tells us about himself, and no story about Iyer is complete without globetrotting. The LA Times calls the book, “patchwork rather than a narrative, proceeding through a series of dreamlike connections as Iyer, alone in a hotel room, or a bar in Saigon, or on a perilous mountain road after a car smash in Bolivia, finds himself meeting characters and walking through plots and coincidences that Greene might have invented years before.”

You can get on the waiting list for this book by clicking here.

And to bide your time, why not catch up on some of Iyer’s other travel writing? Or check out one of Greene’s travel-inspired stories. (I love The Quiet American, a novel about a war correspondent forced to make difficult choices in a bygone era in Vietnam.) Look them up in our catalog and take your pick!


The King is Dead

A colleague recently asked me if I like to know the ending of a book before I get to it, and I responded with a definite “no!” Later, driving home and listening to the audiobook Ed King by David Guterson (author of Snow Falling on Cedars), I realized that revealing the ending at the beginning can be a deliberate device.

In Ed King, the ending is not specifically spelled out, but the realization early on that this is a modern retelling of an ancient Greek tragedy (see the title, hint, hint) creates the same effect. The knowledge of what is to come, and wondering just how Guterson is going to get his characters there, make this a page turner (or a disc changer, as it were).

It’s the summer of 1962, and Walter Cousins is an actuary who should be better able to assess the risks of philandering. Diane Burroughs is the teenage au pair caring for Walter’s two small children while his wife convalesces following a mental breakdown. An unplanned pregnancy sets Walter and Diane on a path to destiny –in the shape of their son, a baby boy adopted by the King family and named Ed.

Ed King’s life is a virtual tour of pop culture; from his early foray into video games to his eventual reign as “The King of Search,” Ed manages to hit on every high tech trend of the 1970’s on. Readers even get a glimpse of what the future may hold as Ed, a Steve Jobs-like character, works to perfect an Artificial Intelligence to rival the best human interaction. While most of the characters are flawed, self-absorbed, and immoral, they are also vividly drawn with a dark humor. Not for the squeamish, Ed’s date with destiny drives the novel, at least for me.

For the more romantically minded, One Day by David Nicholls offers a similar snapshot of pop culture of the 1980’s and1990’s while telling the love story of two friends, Dexter and Emma, visiting the two each year on the same day, July 15. Dexter and Emma also have their flaws, but their sins are less base, the humor less dark.

One Day
is available as an eBook from OC Public Libraries’ digital catalog, and both of these titles are available from OC Public Libraries in print and audio; on the audiobooks, Arthur Morey does a mostly fine job with Ed King,although his British accent leaves something to be desired, but Anna Bentinck’s narration of One Day is masterful,and her shifts between Emma’s Northern accent and Dexter’s posh voice are effortless.


How Agatha Christie Changed the World (of small town mystery fiction)

Okay, I’ll admit it. Until recently I had never read an Agatha Christie novel. This is especially embarrassing because I love mystery novels and my favorites are mysteries set in small towns! When I finally read one of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books for my book club all I could think was, um I think new mystery authors totally ripped off Agatha Christie! Maybe “ripped off’ isn’t the correct term. After all imitation is the best form of compliment, right? Perhaps it is better to say, I love a good small town mystery and now I know where they all got started. Small town England! Pretty much every popular mystery series featuring a woman protagonist stems from Miss Marple. (Or so it seems to me.) Maybe they have different characteristics, live in another place, or look different but the similarities are there.

Some of my favorite small town mystery series are Nadia Gordon’s Napa Valley Mystery series, Louise Penny’s Three Pines Mystery series, and Mary Daheim’s Alpine mystery series. Another favorite of mine is Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mystery series. Although Santa Barbara, a.k.a Santa Teresa is no longer a small town it was back in the 1980s, when this popular series featuring lady private investigator, Kinsey Millhoune, takes place. Take a look at these book series and their nosy lady sleuths, cast of strange and interesting characters and descriptions of small town life and see if you see traces of Agatha Christie anywhere. I guess this is why Christie is dubbed “The Queen of Crime”. Feel free to comment on this post if you agree or disagree with my observation!


Beyond the Lorax, or Plant a Truffula Seed

Spring has sprung and Earth Day is April 22. If you’ve got kids, you’ll know the movie, The Lorax, based on the 1971 Dr. Seuss book, opened in theaters recently. This is a perfect time to teach children about ecology, conservation and appreciation of nature.

Did you know? The Lorax is gone and sadly, so is the last Truffula tree! Just one seed remains, and...
"… UNLESS somebody like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not!”

Don’t miss the opportunity to read this book out loud and enjoy Seuss’ unique rhythmic, fantastical style. Or read similar books about conservation, recycling, and love of nature available at your local Orange County Public Library. Children won't care about conservation tomorrow UNLESS they learn about ecology today. So plant a Truffula seed and read!

The Wump World by Bill Peet
Disney artist Bill Peet takes us to Wump World where an invasion of Pollutians has made the Wumps' favorite food—grass—very scarce. Kids will enjoy the illustrations and humorous storyline.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Caldecott Medal) by Simms Taback
Clever Joseph knows how to recycle! Children will love to see the remarkable transformation of this overcoat. Each brilliantly illustrated die-cut page reveals the next version of a patchwork coat.

OK Go! by Carin Berger
Few words and whimsical collage illustrations show how too many cars make for a thick, smelly atmosphere. The pollution solution? Alternatives like bicycles, walking and taking the bus.

South by Patrick McDonnell
Simply illustrated, without any words, a little bird gets left behind when his flock flies south without him. A kindly cat, Mooch, steps in to help.

Hey! Get off Our Train by John Burningham
Ride along as a little boy dreams about engineering a train while picking up endangered animal species along the way.

The Trouble with Dragons by Debi Gliori
Dragons are very messy! They don’t much care about the way they treat the environment. Global warming puts everyone at risk, even Santa Claus!

The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis
Two girls sneak off to a pond and discover the most darling creature—a bog baby! They try to make a pet out of it—feed it cake, keep it in a bucket, walk it on a leash—but eventually they must return the fragile critter to its natural environment with amazing results. Delicately illustrated by Gwen Millward.

All the World by Liz Garten Scanlon
A day in the life of two children shows how everything is illuminated by nature and our connection to each other. Beautifully illustrated by Marla Frazee.


Why Read Faulkner?

The El Toro Book Club recently discussed William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Due to the subject matter and the challenging style in which it is written, I was expecting a low turnout and negative comments. Much to my surprise, many people showed up for the discussion, and the overwhelming consensus was yes it is a challenging read, but so worth the effort.

The book is written in a stream-of-consciousness style with multiple narrators, each one providing a unique monologue of the events as they unfold. Addie Bundren, the matriarch of a Southern family in the 1920’s, is deathly ill. Her husband, Anse, is determined to honor Addie’s wish of being buried in her home town of Jefferson, resulting in the Bundren family embarking on a journey of misfortune. Events unfold that are at times comic, at times tragic, and occasionally grotesque (imagine the smell of a corpse after 10 days in the hot Mississippi sun).

A good portion of our discussion revolved around the Bundren clan, and there was much to ponder. Was Daryl really insane? Why didn’t Dewey Dell want to get married? Why did Vardaman think his mom was a fish? One Book Club member aptly described the characters as “people right out of a Coen Brothers movie.”

Need another reason to read Faulkner? Hollywood insiders report that James Franco (from the movie 127 Hours) plans to direct his version of As I Lay Dying this summer.


It's Tea Time

If you like cozy mysteries, check out Jeanne M. Dams’ Dorothy Martin series. Dorothy Martin is an American widow living in the English town of Sherebury. Sherebury is a fictional university/cathedral town that is rooted in English history. Dorothy’s everyday life in her adopted country is an adventure in wonderful English scenery, interesting friends and acquaintances, and of course a mystery that needs to be solved. Dorothy is in her late 60’s, but refers to herself as middle age. Her love of wearing unusual hats, her American accent, and her ability to solve mysteries make the town residents look at her as being a little eccentric.

What would a cozy mystery be without a love interest? We find it in (retired) Chief Constable Alan Nesbitt, a distinguished, well-respected man whose wisdom helps Dorothy along the way to solve her mysteries. Give Dorothy a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

See Jeanne M. Dams' books in our catalog.


Book Lust Goes on the Road

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charmand adventure. There is no end to theadventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” --Jawaharlal Nehru

Calling all travelers! The next time you’re researching a trip, grab a copy of Nancy Pearl’s BookLust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers to find some suggested titles that will help get you on your way. The book includes both nonfiction travel narratives to teach you about the area and the people you will be visiting and fiction that will keep you dreaming until your departure. Both will give you a sense of the spirit of place.
Whereas Pearl’s first book in the series, Book Lust, is broken down into a variety of themes (“Action Heroines,” “A Dickens of a Tale” and “Rivers of Words” are a few), the sections of To Go are meant specifically for travelers to sink their teeth into. If you’re taking a trip across the pond, have a look at the section, “Entering England.” If you’re going to Jamaica, you can check out “Cavorting Through the Caribbean.” Or if you’re just looking for something exciting to read, see “A Is for Adventure.”

Each section gives a good selection of books to choose from. I looked at “A Mention of the Middle East” and found these, among others:

  • Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s O Jerusalem!: Day by Day and Minute by Minute: The Historic Struggle for Jerusalem and the Birth of Israel
  • David Ignatius’s Agents of Innocence
  • Jim Krane’s City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism
  • Maliha Masood’s Zaatar Days, Henna Nights: Adventures, Dreams, and Destinations Across the Middle East
  • Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness
  • Hugh Pope’s Dining with Al-Qaeda
  • Matt Rees’s The Collaborator of Bethlehem, The Samaritan’s Secret, and The Fourth Assassin [His mystery series also includes an unmentioned title, A Grave in Gaza.]
  • Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza and Palestine
  • Jennifer Steil’s The Woman Who Fell From the Sky: An American Journalist in Yemen

All of these titles are available in our catalog.
Happy reading and happy landing!


Enthralling Dystopian Debut

It seems with the Twilight series there was a flood of vampire/werewolf books and with The Hunger Games came an overabundance of dystopian novels. It was no wonder I was a little reluctant to read Divergent by Veronica Roth. With that overkill in mind, I was looking for reasons to dislike it, but I found none! It’s a well-written, fast-paced and action packed story which retains your attention from beginning to end!

The beginning of the novel, for me, was reminiscent of The Giver by Lois Lowry. In both books the main character has come of age (12 in The Giver and 16 in Divergent) and is either chosen for or veered toward a vocation, if you will, but that’s where the comparison ends. Sixteen year old Beatrice Prior must choose a faction that will identify her for the rest of her life. Her choices are great vocab words: Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity and Candor.

Beatrice was born into Abnegation, but has always felt she does not belong because she is not naturally selfless so at 16 she chooses Dauntless where she is known as Tris. Coming from a faction that seems to reject everything from eating hamburgers to hugging, Tris is extremely na├»ve and her character grows the most as she discovers friendships, enemies, bullying and falling in love with one of the Dauntless trainers named Four. The romance aspect is not aggressive and sappy.What’s more—there’s no love triangle! There is graphic hand-to-hand, Fight Club like violence so the book merits an Older Teen sticker in our library system. The only complain I would have is the ending feels rushed; while Roth spends time on the initiation phase into Dauntless, the ending feels rushed. A lot seems to happen very quickly, but despite that Tris discovers while each faction attaches itself to one human characteristic, being human is complex so she recognizes: “I am not Abnegation. I am not Dauntless. I am Divergent. And I can’t be controlled.” This, of course, sets the stage for the next book in the trilogy, Insurgent, due May 1, 2012.


Where do you go when you’re done with Harry?

Admittedly the rea
der’s rage for devouring Harry Potter and his magical crew has not died down much; in fact, you could say that a whole new wave of interest has come ashore. But, where does one turn when Harry’s all checked out, or you want to move on in the same vein? Try Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice series. I first got hooked on the series back in grad school, during a time when I had to read, and review 50 books for a class on children’s literature. Running out of time as I was, I began checking out books on CD so I could listen every minute of the day. Naturally, I did most of my listening in the car. A friend accompanying me during one of these times, turned to me and—ashen white and aghast—remarked “Is this a children’s book?” My reply . . . “times have changed since we were kids!” As narrator,Christopher Evan Welch is delightfully chilling, and made the read rich with palpable appeal—scary! Set in the moors of Chippenden, Tom Ward—the seventh son of a seventh son--at his mother’s urging, has been apprenticed to the Spook, Old Gregory. His training to banish boggarts and drive away ghosts finds him befriending a girl named Alice--who just might be a witch--and discovering staggering family secrets. Like Harry Potter, this is a multi-textured tale that examines the Master / Student relationship particular to the supernatural, while keeping you precariously positioned on the edge of your seat. This is an XFICU book. So to decode: the X designates the book as children’s as opposed to an adult book. FIC stands for fiction—make believe stuff, as opposed to real information—and the U indicates a 6th to 9th grade reading level. I would recommend this book to anyone 10 years old and up.


Ghost Wave

Ghost Wave: T
he Discovery of the Cortes Bank and the Biggest Waves on Earth (2011) by Chris Dixon. If you like surfing and the ocean, then this is a book for you. In Ghost Wave, the author takes his readers on a real life adventure located off the southern California coast, where, believe it or not, some of the world’s largest waves are now known to be generated and at times surfed. The place is the Cortes Bank, and it’s not your typical surfing location. What’s so different about this place you might ask? Well, the Cortes Bank is located approximately 100 miles west of the city of San Diego - out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, south of the Channel Islands. When you catch a wave here you’re not going to see land anywhere except perhaps six feet underwater at low tide at Bishop Rock. And, the fast moving wave you’d be riding might be as large as 70 feet tall. This type of surfing is not for the faint-of-heart, and “in short, the Bank [is] not a place to be trifled with.”

Ghost Wave recounts the story of the discovery of the Cortes Bank, and also provides a history of big wave surfing in general at places like Waimea Bay, Kaena Point, Todos Santos, Mavericks, and Jaws that ultimately leads into several chapters on the Cortes Bank. The pictures in the book are well worth a look, and provide the reader a great opportunity to see what big waves breaking out in the middle of the ocean look like with some of them being ridden by some very rare and brave souls.


Dumplings in Taiwan

Dumpling Days
by Grace Lin is a happy intermediate level children's book and an informative one. Pacy Lin's parents have decided to spend a month of the upcoming summer taking her and her two sisters to Taiwan to meet family and learn of their heritage. This is not good news. The girls had other plans.

The plane ride where they are forced to wear matching hot pink jumpers lasts forever and they do not know the language or the customs of the place when they arrive. And the jet lag and news that they will be attending classes makes them cranky. But the warm welcome by loving family members and celebrations at one restaurant after another seem to smooth and comfort things. Pacy loves dumplings, even if the chopsticks are a challenge. "There was no day that dumplings couldn't make better."

Pacy and her sisters Lissy and Ki-Ki are not always sweet and obedient. Middle sister Pacy is known to complain, quarrel with her sisters, or say the wrong thing. The art class that she knew she would love becomes tortuous after day after day of just painting bamboo and sitting by the perfect Audrey, who lords it over her.

But their adventures are many: the markets, the fortune teller, Lissy's photo shoot, the opera, Ghost month, temples, new food experiences, such as a pot of eels. They take the train to the country village of Taichung, much different than modern Taipei. When there are difficulties, there is always extended family nearby who help and understand. And of course the end of the month leaves them sad to leave after all.

This book is clearly autobiographical. Grace Lin captures her childhood perfectly and sprinkles her own clever drawings throughout the book. Lin is the author and illustrator of the Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, more of a magical fairy tale, and then The Year of the Dog and the Year of the Rat, which introduce Pacy's story before Dumpling Days. Visit her website for more information.