Saturday, January 26, 2013

Candy and the Cankersaur

It's a day of firsts for me!  For the first time, I used my iPad mini to read an ebook.  I'm also trying a feature I've never participated in before, called Kid Konnection.

Published in 2012, Candy and the Cankersaur is an ebook for children by Jason Sandberg. I don't usually read ebooks, but when the author invited me to take a look at his book, I decided to read it because the book is not currently available in print form.

Although money cannot buy happiness, it can buy you a sensational pet.  A young, well-to-do girl named Candy gets a pet dinosaur from her father, Mister Wellington, who only wants to make his daughter happy.  When the Cankersaurus Rex arrives at the Wellington mansion by helicopter from the Island that Time Forgot, Candy is thrilled.  She names her new pet Cank, and attempts to teach him not to bite.  Chucky, Candy's best friend and neighbor, becomes jealous and asks his (rather matronly-looking) mother if he can also have a dinosaur as a pet.  She tells him in no uncertain terms that he cannot--dinosaurs are extinct, after all.  Crestfallen, Chucky decides to take matters into his own hands. Wearing his signature sailor suit, Chucky kidnaps Cank, and eventually leaves him at a circus.

This book is adorable! Candy and the Cankersaur seems to be the right length for young children, 28 pages, with a few lines of text on each page.  There's some drama and tension in the story, enough to capture and hold the interest of children.  The author thinks that this picture book would work well as a bedtime story for children ages 3-6, and as a read-alone book for children ages 6-9.

The drawings are fabulous!  I loved how this book looked on my iPad mini. While I was reading it I marveled over how wonderful the pictures looked. The pages fit beautifully on the screen.  The colors of the cartoons are pleasing and the illustrations have the perfect amount of detail, neither too much nor too little.  After I read this book, I wished that my young nephews lived closer so that I could share the book with them on my iPad mini (maybe I'm not completely old-school if I can picture reading to them in this way).

With this book Jason Sandberg pays homage to author Syd Hoff, who wrote the book Danny and the Dinosaur (notice the similar titles and the pet dinosaurs).  I know kids are fascinated by dinosaurs and that many kids would probably like to have them as pets. (When I was a child, I longed to have a chimpanzee as a pet, but that's a story for another day.) 

I'm sure this book would stimulate the imaginations of young children.  As a child I loved looking at picture books, and I still remember the impact they had on me. I wanted to stare at the pictures for as long as possible, as if that would somehow enable me to enter the world on the pages.  This book would have a similar effect on children, I think.  It's simply charming.

Kid Connection is a fun feature hosted by Booking Mama each Saturday.  If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult), please stop by Booking Mama and add your post to the Mister Linky.

Your comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday: Brave New Words

Word up!  I'm having too much fun.  I enjoy the time I spend with words, playing Words with Friends, doing the jumble in the newspaper, thinking about words.  Sometimes, my love of words actually shortens my reading time.  At nighttime, I might elect to play a few rounds of Words with Friends (I have about 15 games going right now), and before I know it, it's too late to pick up my current book--that happened to me last night.  Consequently, once again, my words this week are not from books, but from my 365 New Words-a-Year calendar, a steady source of brave new words.

1. balneology: the science of the therapeutic use of baths

At the end of the season, the girls' cross-country team took a field trip to the spa that uses balneology to treat sore and injured muscles.

Gellért pool, courtesy of Wikipedia
Doesn't this look inviting?  Pictured is the effervescent pool in the "Spa City" of Budapest, Hungary.  The Gellért Spa and Baths complex there features thermal baths, small pools of water from local mineral hot springs.  I've enjoyed visiting hot springs in the U.S. as well as Mexico.  Although the word "balneology" has existed for only about 130 years, the healing powers of mineral baths have been touted since ancient times.

2. mahatma: a person revered for high-mindedness, wisdom, and selflessness; a person of great prestige in a field or profession

The gentle teacher was seen as a mahatma, who inspired students to strive for excellence and to love learning.

Gandhi, courtesy of Wikipedia
I'll remember how to spell this word through syllabification: ma-hat-ma.  This word is an adaptation of the Sanskrit word mahatman, which means great-souled. As an uncapitalized English noun, "mahatma" can refer to any great person.  In India, it's meant as a title of love and respect.  When the word is capitalized, it refers to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the venerated leader who helped guide India to independence in 1947.  He's known as "Mahatma Gandhi" or just "the Mahatma", but not surprisingly, Gandhi was humble and didn't refer to himself in this manner.

3. sub rosa: in confidence; secretly

In Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, the girls often met sub rosa because they were not supposed to read and discuss books.

Sub rosa simply means "under the rose" in New Latin.  Since ancient times, the rose has been associated with secrecy and confidentiality.  In Greek mythology, Cupid gave a rose to Harpocrates, the god of silence, to keep him from speaking about Venus' indiscretions.  Another example of this association is that roses have often been placed over confessionals, intended as symbols that indicate confidentiality.  However, should you receive a bouquet of roses from a romantic partner, do not assume that the roses mean that your relationship is to be kept secret; more likely, your sweetie doesn't know about the connection between roses and secrets. ;)

Hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog, Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme that caters to those who enjoy discovering words.  What new words have you encountered recently?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday: New Words for a New Year

It was tough to start the new year without my daily fix of new words!  I was happy to receive the new 365 New Words-a-Year calendar that I'd ordered from Amazon.  I can always rely on finding a few good words from the calendar to feature in Wondrous Words Wednesday.  Below (alow?) are three words from the beginning of my 2013 calendar.

1. alow: below

Jay went alow to see if he could find more drinks for the hard-working crew. 

A nautical term, "alow" means "in or to a lower part of the vessel",  indicating the deck or the area of the rigging closest to the deck.  The opposite of "alow" is the more frequently used word, "aloft", used to refer to a higher part of the ship.

"Someone's turned the chest out alow and aloft."
~ Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

The expression "alow and aloft" refers to the upper and lower parts of a ship, but can also be used in a more general sense to mean completely or thoroughly.

2. ekphrasis: a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art

The art history student was required to write an ekphrasis on Picasso's painting Guernica, which depicts the tragedies of war and the tremendous suffering it causes.

Guernica, courtesy of Wikipedia

I encountered a variation of this word before, when I read and reviewed an arresting collection of flash fiction inspired by various works of art, We Bury the Landscape by Kristine Ong Muslim.  I featured the word here in order to employ this term, and to make it more permanent in my memory.

3. WYSIWYG:  a display generated by word-processing or desktop publishing software that exactly reflects the appearance of the printed document; acronym for "what you see is what you get"

We made the pamphlet using a simple WYSIWYG program.

Originally used by advertisers to indicate that a deal was honest and straightforward, today computer users use this term to describe software that accurately reflects the appearance of the finished product. This is obviously very helpful.  Sometimes I wish previews of my blog posts were more identical to the actual posts, especially in regards to spacing issues.

Hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog, Wondrous Words Wednesday is one of my favorite memes.  What new words have you discovered recently?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mailbox Monday

My mailbox has been a busy place lately!  A book I won on Darlene's blog, The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot arrived, along with two other books, Christmas Stories - Everyman's Library (by a variety of writers), and Much Ado About Loving
by Jack Murnighan and Maura Kelly.  I'm not sure why I'm getting Architectural Digest (I didn't order it!), but I've received the last three issues in the mail.

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme that allows us to "show off" our new books. The brainchild of Marcia, who has set up various book blogs as well as a Mailbox Monday blog, this friendly meme has been "on tour" for the past few years.  This month, Lori's Reading Corner is the host of Mailbox Monday. What new books did you find in your mailbox recently?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Watering Heaven

"Anonymity was my secret identity.  I was lost in the sea of Beijing, a nonentity in the metaphor of a metropolis crammed with millions."
~The Buddha of Many Parts, Peter Tieryas Liu   

In The Buddha of Many Parts, the main characters, a man and a woman who meet by chance, are never named, and so they remain anonymous.  Both have their own reasons for living in Beijing, and seem to relish the freedoms that accompany anonymity in a very populous city.  Inspired by the story of the Buddha sculptor who sought to create physical perfection, the blond American woman living in Beijing focuses on the body parts of people, and having "fallen in love" with the man's fingers, wants to cast them in clay. 

Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Liu is a collection of twenty short stories, including The Buddha of Many Parts.  Published in 2012, the stories are set in various locations, mostly in Beijing, but also in other places including Bangkok and Los Angeles, and present numerous characters (some unnamed), in a variety of situations.  The stories that take place in China keenly depict Beijing and other locales, bringing them to life through descriptions of 'Worm Street', men playing xiangqi (Chinese chess), Changcheng (the Great Wall), assorted street vendors, kaoya (Peking Duck), and much more.

Dedicated to his wife, Angela, Watering Heaven features a lot of romance, which seems to be a refuge for the (young) protagonists, an escape from a world of detachment, superficiality, anxiety, and unpredictability.  In the first story,  Chronology of an Egg, the girl in the story, Sarah Chao, lays an egg every time she has sex.  This story is odd yet funny and compelling at the same time, a story that brings to mind the books of medical abnormalities I couldn't help but pore over, secretly, as a child.  Romance in a large city such as Beijing seems inevitable because of all the people out and about (perhaps it's  similar to NY in this way, where I grew up--romance was always handy); it offers some protection and diversion as well. These contemporary stories are set in present times and feature the technology of today, such as email and Facebook: how does modern technology affect romance?  In The Political Misconception of Getting Fired, the male protagonist, Byron Zhou, excitedly reconnects through Facebook with a girl he had a crush on in high school, June Guan, only to find out that they've both changed (he's no longer attracted to her).  This is a dauntless story for anyone who has ever wondered how a reunion through Facebook might turn out.

Other themes in this collection of stories have to do with jobs and working, and a hefty dose of job-related angst, failure, and dissatisfaction are in the mix, reminiscent of Kafka.  In some of the stories, characters are fleeing from jobs (and relationships) that are no longer satisfying.  In the story, Forbidden City Hoops, the main character, a collector of TV sets, is fleeing from his job as a photographer, which no longer seems fulfilling to him.  In another story, The Interview, the protagonist is let go from his current job for mistaking a masculine-looking female manager for a man.  An interview for a new job starts out very well--in fact, it's too good to be true.  Soon it becomes a dreadful nightmare when he's interrogated by a different manager and the questions become intensely personal; the entire encounter is extremely upsetting.  In the story 58 Deaths and Unrequited Love, filmmaker Larry Chao fails to achieve a successful career during his lifetime.  On the whole, the book stresses the importance of meaningful work and professional fulfillment, which are seen as worthwhile but difficult to achieve.  The author's edgy, exploratory voice and tone reflect more than a few unsettled feelings concerning jobs and working.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this collection of short fiction.  Each story is unique and imaginative, and not surprisingly, they've been featured in various literary publications and magazines, including Gargoyle, Indiana Review, Word Riot, and ZYZZYVA.  What I value most about these stories is their originality and inventiveness.  They seemed very creative and novel to me, strikingly different from anything else I've encountered in books. The format of the stories is also quite creative.  In the first story, Chronology of an Egg, the author gives dates and times of events within the story, as if he's writing a report.  Longer stories have numbered chapters, or at least sections within each story, while other stories, such as Colony, Unreflected, and The Death Artist, are very short (like longer flash fiction).

Peter Tieryas Liu's short fiction is fresh, distinct, and intelligent.  Watering Heaven presents situations that are sometimes surrealistic and often serious, but laced with humor and more than a bit of irony.  Although I just read these stories, I plan to reread at least some of them soon because they're so unusual, thought-provoking, and remarkable.

Special thanks to Peter Tieryas Liu for sending me a copy of Watering Heaven.  Your comments are welcome contributions to this review.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mailbox Monday

Lines from a well-known nursery rhyme were stuck in my head.
And when she was good
She was very, very good
But when she was bad
She was horrid!
Last week, a book I won from Peppermint Ph.D. appeared in my mailbox, And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman, and so I kept hearing the lines in my head.  I Googled the rhyme for the exact words, and learned that it isn't actually a Mother Goose nursery rhyme.  The words are from the poem "There Was a Little Girl" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the line "she was very, very good" should really be "she was very good indeed".  I'm eager to find out why the book has this title.

Mailbox Monday is a social meme that encourages us to share our new books.  Created by Marcia, who has set up various book blogs as well as a Mailbox Monday blog, it's been a "traveling" meme for the past few years.  I truly enjoyed hosting Mailbox Monday during December, but now it's time to pass the torch.  Lori's Reading Corner is the host of Mailbox Monday for the month of January.  What books landed in your mailbox recently?

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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