Monday, October 20, 2014

Fake Mustache By, Tom Angleberger

Fake Mustache

By Tom Angleberger

Recorded Books (2012) ISBN-10: 1464046093
Narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross and Jessica Almacy
An Audio Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman

I often like to read books that are within my son’s age group. It is not very often that one can find an audio book that everyone in the family enjoys listening to. Tom Angleberger has crafted a creative, off-the-wall, wacky, and comical book. “Fake Mustache: or, How Jodie O'Rodeo and her wonder horse (and some nerdy kid) saved theU.S. Presidential election from a mad genius criminal mastermind” is a four star adventure for any child ages 9-12 and their slightly middle aged parents.

A great book trailer by Michelle Harclerode
7th grader, Lenny Flem, Jr. has an average life and every night his family watches the Jodie O'Rodeo show together by a democratic vote. Casper Bengue is Lenny’s best friend and he doesn’t even have a television. However, Casper’s grandmother sends him $400.00 to purchase something unpractical on his birthday. Casper has the perfect idea. Instead of a video game system or even a television, Casper decides to purchase a fake mustache. Not just any mustache, a Heidelberg Handlebar #7. Yet first, he must purchase a “man about town suit.” After borrowing $10.00 from Lenny, Casper’s transformation begins. 

The mustache is firmly attached with an extra year supply if spirit gum for safe measure. This is when Casper becomes the evil Fako Mustacho. Fako takes over the local toy company then the local town council. Casper (Fako Mustacho) also robs a bank, hires a mob of strongmen to protect him, and sets about to steal the US presidential election! Nevertheless, Lenny and the preteen cowgirl queen Jodie O'Rodeo are on a mission to reveal that Fako Mustacho is just a kid with a fake mustache. 

Will the adults believe them? How will they save the day, and who is the mystery man with a “somewhat of a French” accent? 

If your child likes Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate, they will enjoy Tom Angleberger’s wild adventure. The plot is fast-moving with enough suspense that kids will not want to stop the CD or stop reading the book. 

Tom Angleberger takes you deep into the zany world of Hairsprinkle, USA. Ridiculousness is the theme, and plausibility is not even a topic. After all, I have been told by several preteen readers that a kid sometimes just wants to read a funny, light book without a deep message or emotional topics. 

Jonathan Todd Ross
Jessica Almacy

The narrators, Jonathan Todd Ross and Jessica Almacy are both full of energy and take great attention to the voice of a preteen child. With yodeling and a bit of taking turns this cd makes for a great listen to on a road trip or while inside during a rainy day. Both narrators display an appropriate level of expression for the book and avoided falling into melodrama. I also liked the speed and pauses created by them. 

Overall, I recommend this audiobook to anyone that wants a fun three hour adventure. Oh, if you are a mad preteen that was sent to clean your room, the audio book Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger is highly recommended by “anonymous” and “it is better than hearing a mother nag.”

About this author:Tom Angleberger artist-turned-writer. He is a columnist for the Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Virginia, and began work on his first book while in middle school. Tom is married to author-illustrator Cece Bell. He lives in Christianburg, Virginia. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Beautiful Ruins By, Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins

By, Jess Walter

Harper Collins Publishers Reprint edition (February 20, 2013)
Pages 337, ISBN-10: 9780061928123
A book review by, Ginger Dawn Harman

David Porterfield "Our Book Club Leader."
Our local library book club, chose Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter as our October discussion. This is the first book that I have read by the author and was pleased with the opportunity to gather with others that give their reading insights. Jess Walters writes with a good narrative voice that had our book club leader David purchasing the epic film Cleopatra directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. David wanted to see if there actually was a blonde slave girl in the film, as the author implies in the book. It is Walter’s talent that created a “this could be true” plausibility that makes Beautiful Ruins such an interesting read. I found that the book was engaging with enjoyable characters.

The beginning of Beautiful Ruins was rather slow to start. Taking place on the fictitious Italian coastal village Porto Vergogna or the “Port of Shame”, Pasquale’s quiet hotel has been greeted with scandal by heartless, ego driven producer Michael Deane and actor Richard Burton. A twenty-two year old actress named Dee Moray has arrived to the “Hotel Adequate View” with the news that she is dying from cancer.   Pasquale is overcome with her beauty,
"Pasquale fell in love, and he would remain in love for the rest of his life- not so much with the woman, whom he didn't even know, but with the moment."   Yet, this is an engaging story after page 44 with so many twists, turns, and complexities that a reader cannot help but continue reading. The most shocking part was the murder toward the late middle of the book. 

My favorite characters were Paquale, Aunt Valeria, and Pasquale’s mother. The aunt and mother add much of the satirical humor to the story line. For example, I had a good chuckle with the line:

 “In the kitchen Valeria was making breakfast, his aunt never made breakfast even though Carlo insisted for years that a hotel hoping to cater to French and Americans must offer breakfast. “It’s a lazy man’s meal.” she always said. "What laggard expects to eat before doing any work?” 

 I also enjoyed the alternate combination of story of past and present. Once Claire (Michael Deane’s assistant) meets Shane Wheeler, the novel becomes rather fast paced. Moreover, I enjoyed the thought provoking wisdom that was subtly incorporated in the novel.  The line: “All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character-what we believe-none of it is real; it's all part of the story we tell…” is a prime example of this wisdom woven throughout the book.

Jess Walter weaves an intriguing tale about a scandal, personal choices, and the turmoil left in its wake. It all ties together neatly at the end but I just didn't find the book that earth-shattering. It was a mediocre read. I also would have chosen a different cover. Incorporating the paintings Dee and Pasquale found in an old WWII bunker would have been a nice idea for the cover. However, if you are looking for a story that is the typical Hollywood drama and enjoy characters who have baggage and life experiences, then this book should be at the top of your reading list.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House
By, Kathleen Grissom
 Blackstone Audio, Inc.; MP3CD Unabridged edition (May 8, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1441761276
A Book Review By, Ginger Dawn Harman

I borrowed this audio version of The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom from my local library after a book club member insisted that I listen to this novel. Books on CD are a must for me while organizing, pulling weeds in the garden or performing other quiet household tasks. After waiting several weeks for my turn on the list, I finally was able to enjoy the book.  Kathleen Grissom has written a heart capturing novel of the human condition on slavery without trying to reassure you that it will all be all right. The story started off strong and grabbed my interest right from the beginning.  The imagery of a Tidewater, Virginia tobacco plantation named Tall Oaks and owned by Capt. James Pyke, was rich in detail. 

Kathleen Grissom:  author of The Kitchen House
I had an immediate connection with the character Lavinia, who is Irish and almost seven. She is brought to the kitchen house by the Captain as an indentured servant. There she meets Mama Mae and Papa, the matriarch and patriarch of the house slaves. Lavinia soon meets the captain’s second wife, Martha, and their two children, Marshall and Sally. The story at this point begins to form with class differences, betrayal, scandal, and personal redemption.

 Kathleen Grissom is very talented with her emotional connections with the reader. I as a reader experienced the early sickness of Lavinia, an apprehension of Rankin, jealousy between the women, and the horrid discovery of who is hanging in the tree at the end of the novel. I was very touched during the scenes that Lavinia had with Martha in the “mad yard.”  Additionally I was affected, when Lavinia had a moment of insight as she stated,  

“I wondered why Marshall did not at least attempt a kiss. In many ways, his treatment of me reminded me of the way I had behaved toward the doll that Mamma Mae had given me as a child. I favored it so that I had refused myself of the joy of playing with it, daring to love it only with my eyes. But in doing so, I had denied myself its very purpose.”  

OrlaghCassidy and Bahni Turpin exemplify what makes a great audio book. It is for their narration of The Kitchen House that I have made this a five star instead of a four star book. Both have an authentic accent which adds to the historical era of this novel. A good accent is important because it pulls you even further into the story, adding dimension to both character and setting. Furthermore, there were no irregular gaps in time between sentences or chapters. Both readers were also masters at gender and age voicing. Several times throughout the recording were the voices of Marshall, Papa, Ben, and several younger children. To pull this off with plausibility and convey the words in an emotional balanced way is pure talent. 

Bahni Turpin
Orlagh Cassidy
“...but like Mama 
 say, sometimes we got to live it out before we learn.”
Kathleen Grissom,
The Kitchen House
I was disappointed with how the story did not bring any closure to the Madden Family, I wanted to know what happens to them and I wonder if this might come about in a sequel or another novel by the author. Moreover, I was flabbergasted that this was a debut novel.  I look forward to what the author will be writing next and will purchase her next novel. I can understand now why there is a wait list at our library for others to listen. I highly recommend the audio version of The Kitchen House by KathleenGrissom.


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