Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D’Art by Christopher Moore

What did a stooped old man (with a tendency towards exhibitionism), a beautiful and mysterious woman, and a highly desired ultramarine paint known as “sacred blue” have to do with Vincent Van Gogh’s death?  Christopher Moore, the king of irreverent hilarity, will lead you to the answer in this playful and often bawdy romp through nineteenth century France.  Join Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and fictitious artist Lucien Lessard as they investigate their friend Van Gogh’s death, and along the way discover an ancient cave painting, a trove of priceless art treasures, and the truth behind Lessard’s father’s death years earlier. Moore’s book is a pleasure to read, not only for its bursts of humor and wonderful caricatures of the French Impressionists, but also for the author’s skilled writing.  A perfect summer read.

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

This is not your typical YA dystopian story.  First, it takes place in the United Kingdom, a huge move away from the typical setting somewhere in North America.  Second, the first-person narrator speaks in a particular dialect that at first can seem confusing, but then becomes a type of free verse that places you right in the mindset of the main character, 15-year-old Willo.  Third, it’s cold.  Very very cold.  Willo lives in a world of winter, where it snows practically the entire year and major European cities have dwindled to overcrowded settlements without enough food or electricity.

Against this bleak backdrop, Willo’s story begins when he returns home from trapping in the woods to find that his entire family has disappeared from their house in the mountains.  His search to find them leads him away from the only home he’s ever known in the woods on a journey where he learns dangerous secrets about his past and makes difficult choices that will affect his future.  This is a coming of age story told in a unique style in an imagined future. There are environmental and political themes in the background, but the main focus is on the story of a boy coming into his own and taking charge of his life. The book ends on a positive note and has much to offer for teen and adult readers alike.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

I never really thought of myself as being old enough to have  historical fiction about my generation, but this book has changed my mind.  Computers with high speed internet have become so ingrained in my life that I sometimes forget how painfully slow dial-up used to be.  Kids today might not remember those AOL trial offer CD-ROMS that used to come in the mail and litter customer service counters, but I distinctly remember wondering what the internet would be like — then fighting with my parents about tying up the phone line when I started to use it!  And although I was introduced to chat rooms, IMs, and e-mail in much the same way as Emma and Josh, I was not able to peer into my future via a mystical connection with my [15-years-in-the-future] Facebook account.

Josh and Emma weren’t sure what to make of it at first.  Sure, the picture looked a lot like an older version of Emma… but it had to be a prank.  Right?  Once they started to believe that this could possibly be a glimpse into the future, it became increasingly tempting for Emma to try and change the future.  If Emma saw something indicating that she would become unhappy in the future, she tried to think of what she could change now.  And while Josh thought his future self seemed pretty happy, he wasn’t so sure about how to handle some of the things he learned about other people.  It reminded me a bit of Back to the Future 2 with ever-changing Facebook status updates instead of actual time travel.  A fun read that makes you think?  Awesome!

Making Rounds with Oscar : the Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa

  • Dosa, a geriatrician working at a nursing home, at first scoffs upon hearing that Oscar, the resident cat, knows when a patient at the nursing home is going to die.  Then he starts observing that the cat unerringly heads to the room of a dying patient and stays there, providing company and comfort to both patient and family members.  However long the passing takes, Oscar stays.  Dr. Dosa begins to gather information from families of patients who have died at the nursing home, and eventually he becomes a true believer.  It is clear that Oscar somehow knows when death is near, and he won’t let anyone in his nursing home die alone.  A touching, true story about an amazing cat.


Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

Forget what you think you know about mermaids.  They aren’t beautiful creatures with beautiful voices who long for nothing more than to be human… They are ruthless creatures who happen to be beautiful and have beautiful voices so they can better lure humans into the water in order to kill them and absorb their emotions!  Calder White is a merman whose family lives in Lake Superior.  He leaves his sisters and migrates to the tropics  during the winter, but his instincts and family bond force him to return to Lake Superior every summer.  Returning is especially important this year, though, because his sisters believe that they have finally found Jason Hancock.  ”Who’s that?,” you ask.  Oh, only the man responsible for their mother’s death.

When Jason Hancock was a baby, his father fell into the lake and was rescued by a mermaid [Calder’s mom].  In exchange for his life, he promised to give her his infant son [Jason] — but he left and took his family with him.  Calder’s mother was furious and, in her anger, was caught and killed in a fisherman’s net.  Not only do mermaids refuse to accept broken promises, but this family of mer-people wants revenge for their mother’s death as well.  Calder’s job is fairly simple.  He needs to find a way to get close to the family so that he can lure Jason into the water, where his sister’s will exact their mother’s revenge.  The only problem?  Calder starts to have feelings for Jason’s eldest daughter, Lily.  My favorite part of this book?  The end page that said a sequel would be out in 2013!

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way by Mayim Bialik, PhD

I have been hearing much more about Attachment Parenting [AP] in recent months, so I decided to check out a book that several people told me about.  Many people will recognize Mayim Bialik as the actress who played “Blossom” [on Blossom] as an adolescent and who now plays “Amy Farrah Fowler” [on Big Bang Theory].  What a lot of people may not know, though, is that Bialik also has a PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA.  Based on her background in neuroscience, she and her husband decided that the AP style of parenting was the best possible way to raise their children — and, now, Bialik has become a spokeswoman of sorts for AP.

My son and daughter are 7 years old and 2.5 years old, respectively, so I knew a lot of the book — the information about birth, the postpartum period, and staying sane through infancy, for example — would not necessarily help me anymore.  Still, I knew the basic premise of AP would work as a guide for parenting children of any age.  Some of the topics I most enjoyed reading about — probably because they were most applicable to me now — were how to let kids be kids, how to use “gentle discipline,” and how parents can balance taking care of their children with being attentive to their own needs.  The best part of this book?  The fact that Bialik avoids being preachy and acknowledges that different methods work for different families.  How refreshing to read a parenting book that didn’t make me feel like a bad mom!