Archive for August, 2012


Bunnybean’s #CBR4 Review #19: Phineas and Ferb Daredevil Days by Molly McGuire

This summer, we (my brother Joemyjoe and I) discovered Phineas and Ferb on Netflix.  We watched all the episodes and the movie, I got a Ferb doll, and Joemyjoe even got some Perry the Platypus pajamas.  Its really funny. Then our grandma came to visit, and she brought us two Phineas and Ferb chapter books (one for me and one for him).  My book was Daredevil Days.

Phineas and Ferb are step-brothers who always build and invent things all summer long.  They live with their mom and dad and sister, Candace, as well as their pet platypus Perry, who is also a secret agent who always has to defeat the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

In part one of this book, Phineas’ grandparents come to visit.  Candace is out with her friend rollerskating in the park, and Phineas and Ferb bring the grandparents to go skating, too.  They find out that their grandma used to be a roller-derby queen a long time ago.  At the park, they run into Jeremy (Candace’s boyfriend) and his grandma, who used to be Phineas and Ferb’s grandma’s roller derby skating enemy.  When the two grandmas see each other, their old rivalry starts up again and they start yelling and fighting.

Phineas and Ferb build a huge roller derby rink in their yard, so that the two grandmas can have a race.  Both families get together on separate teams to race. Jeremy’s little sister Suzy(Candace’s mortal enemy!) switches Candace’s skates to try and make her lose, but it doesn’t work.  The two grandmas end up in a tie, and their rivalry keeps going.

Part two of the book is about Ferb’s grandfather, who used to be a motorcycle daredevil.  Phineas and Ferb build him a new motorcycle to jump over a gorge. They almost fall into the gorge, but luckily Phineas and Ferb designed the motorcycle to be able to fly.  Later, the motorcycle lands in the water, and Ferb takes off a wing (one wing already was off, because it got knocked off by a branch) so that it can surf.

I liked part one better, it was funnier and had more fun characters.




Scootsa1000’s #CBR4 Review #31: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The Cannonball Read has been a great resource for me for books I had never heard of, recommended by other readers whose opinions I’ve come to trust.  I’ve made library lists and Amazon wish lists of these books, and have slowly been making my way through them.  What I never considered doing, and what I’ve found has been A HUGE MISTAKE, was to make a list of books that I SHOULD NEVER READ because these same readers — again, who I’ve come to trust — have written scathing reviews of.

Which brings me to A Discovery of Witches.  This book was Amazon’s $0.99 Kindle deal of the day a few months ago, right before we left on a month’s vacation.  And I had heard of it, and knew it was a huge bestseller, so I downloaded it and started to read it in June.

If only I had read the reviews of my fellow Cannonballers first.  If I had ever seen the usage of the term “Twilight for adults”, I think I probably could have avoided the horrible awfulness that was A Discovery of Witches.

Diana Bishop is a PhD of alchemical science who is working for a year at Oxford.  Oh, and she’s a witch, descended on both sides of her family from witches dating back to before Salem.  One day she accidentally calls up a mysterious manuscript for her research, one that has been missing for hundreds of years, and is coveted by witches, vampires, and demons all over the world.  She crosses paths with a tall, dark, brooding vampire named Matthew, and suddenly they find themselves being chased and hunted by the aforementioned witches, vampires, and demons, all of whom just have to get their hands on that manuscript.

Matthew, of course, is like an older Edward Cullen.  He’s so controlling over Diana, I almost saw it as abusive.  But he’s so handsome, and he has such nice sweaters, that Diana can’t help but fall for him immediately.  A few weeks after meeting, they are “married” (in the eyes of vampires, at least), and fleeing creatures from Europe to upstate New York, trying to get Diana to safety.  Yawn.

Other than the fact that I couldn’t find ONE SINGLE sympathetic character in this book (I think we were supposed to like her aunts, but really, I hated them), what this book needed more than anything was a good editor.  How many times do I need to read about tea, or how vampires love wine, or how Matthew had nice sweaters, or about their yoga workouts?  Seriously, this book could have been cut by at least 200 pages and still have told the necessary story.  As a former editor (never in fiction, but still), this annoyed me to no end.

I despised the Twilight books, and was one of the only anti-Twilight voices when my book club gathered to discuss them.  But this book seemed worse to me, because it was written for adults — clearly pandering to the Twilight Moms among us.  I’ve heard that this is the first book in a trilogy.  I promise I’ll never read the next two books, and will prefer the ending I’ve created in my mind — Diana and Matthew are lost in time forever.  The end.



Joemyjoe’s #CBR4 Review #5: Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald Sobol

Encyclopedia Brown is a boy who’s real name is Leroy, but everyone calls him Encyclopedia because he knows everything about everything.  He is so smart that he solves mysteries, just like a detective.  His dad is the Chief of Police in their town, and Encyclopedia sometimes helps out on cases.

Some of the cases that he solves are: The case of the happy nephew, the case of the knife in the watermelon, and the case of the diamond necklace.

My favorite was the case of the knife in the watermelon.  Encyclopedia’s friend Corky stuck a knife into someone else’s watermelon, but swore that he didn’t do it.  Encyclopedia felt really bad that he had to prove that his friend did it.

There are lots of these books about Encyclopedia and his friends.  I hope I can read another.


Scootsa1000’s #CBR4 Review #30: Just After Sunset by Stephen King

It is a well documented fact that I am a huge Stephen King fan.  I’ve read all of his books and short stories, and now his comics — some of them more than a few times.  I’ve seen him speak in person and enjoyed his talk show appearances.  I’ve read and enjoyed works by his sons, his daughter-in-law, and his neighbors.  And while I’ve enjoyed most of his writing, I have a soft spot for anything to do with the Dark Tower series as well as his short stories.

Just After Sunset is one of his more recent story collections, and it includes some shorter stories (Harvey’s Dream) along with some that could almost be considered novellas (N).  Topics include 9/11, domestic violence, nuclear war, the afterlife, and, just so you never forget this is Stephen King, demonic cats and a porta-potty prison.

This is my second reading of this collection (once in hardcover when it first came out), this time I slowly made my way through it at the pool and the beach, taking in one story at a time and then putting it aside for a few days.  Some of the stories were a quick, forgettable read, but a few really stuck with me this time:

Graduation Afternoon, the story of a girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” who spends the afternoon of her boyfriend’s high school graduation at his huge Connecticut estate when something unspeakable and unforgettable happens.

Stationary Bike, a tale of an out of shape guy approaching 40 who decides to take up exercising in order to improve his health and extend his life.  He creates an imaginary world through which to ride his stationary bike, and strange things begin to happen to him.

My favorite story (both times through the book) was N.  N is the amazing tale of a psychiatrist with a patient who may or may not be losing his mind, and may or may not have OCD, and it may or may not be contagious.  It deals with one of King’s favorite topics, other worlds that exist beyond our reality.  This has been visited by King again and again (The Mist, The Dark Tower, Rose Madder, etc.) and I never tire of it.

While I didn’t love all of the stories (I really didn’t enjoy A Very Tight Place), I enjoyed the work as a whole and look forward to King’s next collection.


Bunnybean’s #CBR4 Review #18: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Hugo Cabret is a boy who dreams of fixing a broken automaton (sort of like a wind-up robot that almost looks like a person) that was his father’s before he died.  Hugo lives alone in a train station (where he takes care of the clock), and has to steal food from the cafe to survive.  He can also fix broken toys and make them work better than ever.  Hugo lives alone because he doesn’t have a mother or a father.  His father recently died in an explosion at the museum.

He steals toys from the toy booth at the train station, and the old man who runs the booth find out about Hugo.  He introduces Hugo to his god-daughter Isabelle, and they become friends.

Hugo is always on the run from the train station inspector, because all of the shop owners know that he is stealing from them.  In the end, the inspector finds Hugo, but he is rescued by the old man from the toy booth and his new friend Isabelle.

Later, Hugo goes to live with Isabelle and her godparents, and the old man helps him to fix the automaton.

I really liked the book, it had beautiful illustrations that told the story along with the words.
I also saw the movie, which I loved.  I liked the book and the movie equally.





Scootsa1000’s #CBR4 Review #29: 2030 by Albert Brooks

I am a big fan of reading books that might fall into a made-up genre called “reality satire”…books by authors like Christopher Buckley (Boomsday! and Thank You for Smoking) and Ben Elton (Popcorn and Dead Famous, and c’mon, he created BlackAdder and The Young Ones).  I enjoy a humorous take on some of the more screwed up topics of the day like obsession with celebrity, or more serious subjects like the economy.  And so I thought to myself, hey, Albert Brooks can be funny (honestly, I’m not an enormous fan.  But he gets a free pass from me for George Kennedy’s performance in Modern Romance.  And also for Out of Sight.  Love that).  And his twitter feed (@AlbertBrooks) is pretty amusing.  So I ordered it from the library and read it in a few hours.

2030 gives us a peek at a potential future, where cancer has been cured, and access to superior drugs and surgery are extending life well into the 100s.  However, America is dead broke, and health care is almost impossible to pay for (unless you are an “old” and have savings and social security).  The younger generation is fed up with paying for and taking care of an older generation that simply doesn’t seem to be dying.  And then a monster earthquake hits California — completely destroying Los Angeles, and leaving millions of Americans homeless, jobless, and miserable.

The President reaches out to China for a loan to help rebuilding LA, but China refuses, and has another plan for the rebirth of the greatest city in the USA.

The book jumps between 8 or 9 main plots and characters — some old and some young, some wealthy and some barely scraping by, some American and some Chinese.  And for the most part, Brooks does a nice job and bringing the characters to life and making their stories interesting and sometimes funny.  Brooks certainly isn’t re-inventing the wheel here, but for an actor/comedian, I thought it was pretty good.

PS — if you appreciate a certain type of British humor (BlackAdder, Stephen Fry, etc.), I recommend Ben Elton’s novels.  He does a great job skewering celebrity in a very tongue-in-cheek manner.  Here he is from one of my all-time favorite bits from the Young Ones…


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