Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Killer Cows, by D.M. Anderson

Killer Cows is the first novel from D.M. Anderson, a middle school language arts teacher in Portland, Oregon. It’s published by Echelon Press, a smaller publisher, and currently available as an e-book. The paperback version is scheduled to be out in August 2010.

Randy Meyer and his mother have recently moved to fictional Satus Creek, Oregon from Portland. They’ve moved around a lot because of difficult financial circumstances, and Randy hates being the new kid.

But then a meteor crashes on a nearby farm, and a mysterious cow starts trying to run down the town bully…and then the world. And only Randy and his friends can stop them!

Killer Cows was really fun to read, despite my not being an adolescent boy. Yes, there is fart-joke humor, but it’s not the focus of the book. It’s just a fast-moving, fun story that young people will enjoy.

Now. If you’re nit-picky like me, you’ll notice that this book could have used more careful editing. I’m figuring this has something to do with the small publisher. It’s worth overlooking the errors.

I think this book will be most enjoyable for ages 9 and up, but like I said, it was fun for me to read, too. I look forward to reading more books from Mr. Anderson.

Killer Cows is available now for Kindle and in other e-book formats, and it's only $2.99!

Read my interview with author D.M. Anderson at

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book Challenge Update: The Sixty-Eight Rooms and Wrap-Up

Technically I have another hour left in my 48, but I'm going to close my 48-hour Book Challenge after this post.

But first, The Sixty-Eight Rooms. Ruthie and Jack discover a magical key that allows them to shrink down to five inches tall and explore the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. I haven't seen the real thing, but this is a real exhibit -- sixty-eight perfectly detailed, miniature rooms representing various countries and historical periods.

Of course, there are similar books already out there -- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Night at the Museum both come to mind, as well as The Diamond in the Window, which has kids both shrinking to dollhouse size and entering other time periods. But it's still a well-told and engaging story.

Now for the statistics.

Since last post: Time spent reading, 2 hours, 15 minutes. Time spent blogging: 10 minutes.

Total accumulated time: 15 hours, 35 minutes.

Number of books read: 4 entire novels. 1/3 of Unwind, which I had started reading before. One chapter of a non-fiction book. One poem and several speeches/scenes from Shakespeare.

I love to read, but I have to admit that this was pushing it a bit for me. Maybe if I'd spread it out a little more, it would have helped. It's weird, because most weekends I'm wishing I could just sit around and read. I guess all I really want is a few solid hours, and maybe I can make room for that.

Book Challenge Update: Wintergirls

I've just emerged from another world, and feel as though I'm still waking up.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson takes you inside the mind of an anorexic 18-year-old, and it's a frightening trip. Definitely well done, although the frequent use of strikeout-text annoyed me (it annoys me on the internet, too).

I'm afraid I stopped to nap after an hour of reading this. But after the nap, my 10-year-old asked about the quotation "something wicked this way comes" which she saw used in Harry Potter movie preview. I pulled out our complete Shakespeare, and we read the "double, double, toil and trouble" scene from Macbeth, as well as several other famous scenes and speeches from Shakespeare. And we read the poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle" to see what that was about (we're still not sure).

And then I finished Wintergirls. Wow.

Since last post: Time spent reading Wintergirls, 3 hours. Time spent reading Shakespeare: 20 minutes. Time spent blogging: 10 minutes.

Total accumulated time: 13 hours, 10 minutes.

Book Challenge Update: Calpurnia Tate

I'd seen a few discussions of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate prior to reading this book. It's slightly controversial because of its use of the terms quadroon and octoroon.

I do agree with Laurie that seeing quadroon on the second page of the book was surprising, and it didn't seem necessary there. The words are presumably used to provide cultural context for 1899 Texas. Octoroon seems more in context in the following passage, and quadroon might have fit in better here. Viola, by the way, is the family's cook.
Viola's skin was no darker than mine at the end of summer, although she was careful to stay out of the sun, while I didn't care. She was only one fourth Negro, but that made her the same as full- blooded. I guess she could have "passed" in Austin, but that was a terribly risky business. If the passer was unmasked, it could result in a beating or jail or even worse. An octoroon woman in Bastrop had passed and married a white farmer. Three years later, he discovered her birth certificate in a trunk and pitch-forked her to death. He only served ten months in the county jail.
Was either term necessary? Maybe not. But it does help paint a picture of the time Calpurnia lived in, which placed limits on people of color as well as on girls and women. And Calpurnia's story is about how she deals with those limits. Calpurnia is interested in (and talented in) Science, not in the housewifely arts she is expected to learn. And she doesn't really come to any resolution about this -- at the end of the story, we're still left with her parents expecting her to be like other girls, and Calpurnia not liking this. But Calpurnia's grandfather encourages her and teaches her, so perhaps there is hope for her. I'd like to see a sequel.

Since last post: Reading time, 2 hours, 45 minutes. Blogging time: 15 minutes.

Total accumulated time: 9 hours, 40 minutes.

Book Challenge Update: The Dead-Tossed Waves

The Dead-Tossed Waves (by Carrie Ryan) has been on my Goodreads list for a long time, so of course I have no idea how it got there. And it turns out that it's a sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, although I think it held up well by itself.

In this story, humans have learned to live in and protect themselves from a world infested with zombies. But Gabry finds herself repeatedly leaving the protection of her walled town, eventually leaving for good, and having a couple of romances along the way.

I put in 3 hours, fifteen minutes on The Dead-Tossed Waves, and now I've moved on the The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, which has also been on my Goodreads list forever. Apparently this book is somewhat controversial. I'm actually enjoying it. I read it for an hour last night and I'm going to pick it up again now.

Since last post: Reading time: 4 hours, 15 minutes. Blogging/networking time: 10 minutes.

Total accumulated time: 6 hours, 40 minutes

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Book Challenge Update: Time for New Material

So I've been reading this book I'm supposed to review for a different blog, which has a rather long and interesting title:

Who Really Goes to Hell?


What a Protestant Bible written by Jews says about
God’s work through Christ

(A book for those in the church and those offended by it)

However, it took me nearly an hour to read nineteen pages plus a foreword. It's interesting and makes sense, but it's also dense and more difficult to read. And it's a PDF on my computer, which is also harder for me to read. So I think I'm gonna switch it up and read some of my library books instead.

I also have few remaining responsibilities for the evening, so I can devote myself to books.

Time reading since last post: 50 minutes. Time blogging: 15 minutes (2 entries). Total accumulated time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

Book Challenge Update: Unwind

Just so you know, I'm not taking this super-seriously. I just looked at someone else's posts which detailed their hours spent reading and then writing about the books, and I'm just not going to go into that much detail. I'm also not going to spend every waking hour on this. But I will be reading!

Unwind was a really good story. It's about a future in which people can send unwanted teenagers to be harvested for body parts, and in which there is a huge market for such parts. Basically, people just replace broken body parts instead of attempting to heal them. If you break an arm, you can just get a new one instead of having a cast put on. Bald? No problem. Get a new scalp.

The story follows three characters: Connor, whose parents are sending him to be "unwound" for being unruly, Risa, who is a ward of the state and is being unwound to save money, and Lev, who is being "tithed" by his super-religious family.

At first it seems rather ludicrous -- after all, what kind of parent would really give up their teenager, no matter how unruly, to be unwound? But there is an explanation for how all of this came about. And I'm not going to tell you what that is, because that's part of the book -- things get revealed.

Reading time last night: 1 hour. No, it didn't take me an hour to read -- I was already 2/3 through it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

48 Hour Book Challenge

Okay! I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna read as much as I can for 48 hours (like I don't do that anyway). Check it out over on MotherReader. Heck, you can probably still sign up yourself!

I'll be working around a softball game and other normal family activities, but I'll keep you updated on the books I'm reading. Tonight I'm reading Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

Official starting time: Friday, June 4 at 11:24 p.m.