Welcome

A Bookaholic, Pro-life, Pro-Family, Catholic, with Asperger's, who reads and writes as her obsession. These are the ramblings of the books I read.

I sometimes go through stages of "genre love", I'm addicted to mystery thrillers, Catholic theology, memoirs, 20th century Chinese historical fiction & Victorian fiction and non-fiction, but you'll find I read an even wider variety of books than that, both fiction and non-fiction. I have a teensy fascination with macabre non-fiction books about death and anything about insane asylums.

I also tend to post a lot of reviews of juvenile/teen books, with a nod towards what parents can expect to find that might or might not be objectionable.

I also blog about graphic novels and manga on a separate BLOG.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

February Books in the House

Not a lot of book buying this month, comparatively speaking.

A thrift store stop resulted in some great children's lit. including All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, Rabbit Hill, several Newbery Honors, Moominland Midwinter, plus a couple of Josephine Tey, and Dandelion Wine by Bradbury among others.

I received a few ARCS this month: Black Ships, The Resurrectionist and The Monsters of Templeton.

Bookmooch brought me the last two Pern books I needed and Inkheart.

And another thrift store purchase included Elizabeth George, Barbara Hambly, two old Ginn Readers, some easy readers for the 7yo, Kenneth Oppel's first novel and other children's books.

45. The Glass Slipper: Charles Perrault's Tales of Times Past

The Glass Slipper: Charles Perrault's Tales of Times Past
Translated by John Bierhorst
Illustrated by Mitchell Miller



Pages: 114
Finished: Feb. 28, 2008
Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 7yo
First Published: 1981 (1697)
Genre: fairy tales
Rating: 5/5

First Sentence:

Once upon a time there lived a king and a queen who were extremely worried that they had no children, so worried it can't be described.


Comments: This is a recent translation of Perrault's Contes du temps passe published in 1697. The text has not been altered from the original except that the morals have been moved to an appendix at the back of the book. The writing is beautiful and flows as if a grand storyteller is weaving his spell over you as you read. These are wonderful tales. They are, however, not modernized, which is a relief to me but may be a concern for others. I found two instances, as noted below, where I found I needed to edit the text while reading this aloud to my 7yo. (Perrault has a habit of enjoying the gruesome details of bloodshed.) I really enjoyed the illustrations which are detailed black and white drawings with an old-fashioned air to them done in a style which reminds me of Maurice Sendak. The 7yo, however, commented a couple of times that he did not like the black and white illustrations. I highly recommended this to fairy tale aficionados and worth the search for this out-of print title.

#1. The Sleeping Beauty - I can't believe I am not familiar with the original story! The version I've always known ends with Sleeping Beauty waking up and marrying the prince. There is a whole lot more to the story. Turns out the prince's mother is an ogress and like to eat children so he must keep his marriage (and subsequent children) a secret. When he becomes king, his mother is finally told, and she waits for a time when the king is away. Both ds and I loved this!

#2. Little Red Ridinghood - Again I find I'm more familiar with a later variant of this story. In Perrault's original telling, the tale ends with the wolf eating both the grandmother and red ridinghood. The End.

#3. Bluebeard - A girl marries a man with a bluebeard. All is going well until Bluebeard leaves on a trip and forbids the wife to open one closet while he is gone. Of course, she does open the closet and must suffer the consequences. Ds really enjoyed this one, being a typical boy he loves stories where the good guys get the bad guy at the end and he always enjoys (as do I) a really good villain. I did edit this one while reading though as the paragraph that describes the wife finding the other dead wives in the closet was very gruesome with phrases such as "clotted blood".

4. Puss in Books - A youngest son inherits a cat when his father dies. The cat asks for a sack and some boots and sets off to make his master a rich man through trickery.

#5. Diamonds and Toads - The beautiful, kind sister goes to the well and gives an old woman a drink. The woman is really a fairy and she makes diamonds and pearls come from the young girl's mouth when she speaks. So the nasty, ugly sister goes to the well, but when a princess asks for a drink she is very rude to her. Of course, the princess is also the fairy and this time she makes toads and snakes come from the ugly sister's mouth when she speaks.

#6. Cinderella - one of the longer tales in the book. This telling is pretty much the standard version I've always known. The only difference to me was that the ball was actually held two nights in a row. The first night Cinderella caught the eye of everyone and the second night the prince paid attention to her before she ran off at midnight. Cinderella was also called 'Cinderbottom' by her meanest stepsister and 'Cinderella' by her not-quite-so-mean sister.

#7. Rickety Topknot - This one was new to me. A queen gives birth to the most ugliest baby ever who has a little bit of hair on the top of his head. A fairy comes along and says that although he will be ugly, he will also be one of the smartest people around. Seven years later, a neighboring queen gives birth to two daughters, one is extremely ugly and the other is extremely stupid. The same fairy comes along and grants the ugly one intelligence and the stupid one beauty, in fact she will be the most beautiful woman in the land. Once they've grown up, Rickety falls in love with the beauty, and eventually she returns the favour. Essentially, this tale shows that when we are in love we don't notice the other's faults, hence, love is blind.

#8. Hop o' my Thumb - This was the longest tale in the book and bares a striking resemblance to Hansel and Gretel. A woodcutter and his wife have seven sons but they are very poor and one day they decided, regretfully, that they must take the sons into the forest and leave them there because they cannot stand to watch them starve to death. Hop o' my Thumb, an unusually tiny boy, leaves a trail of stones behind and manages to lead the brothers back home. They are taken back to the forest and this time a bread crumb tale has been eaten by all the birds. The brothers eventually stumble upon a house in the forest but it is the home of an ogre who eats children. This one ends up having a very gruesome paragraph as some persons have their throats slit which I edited a bit when reading. Perrault certainly enjoyed describing bloodshed! I think this was my favourite of the book and ds certainly enjoyed it, too.

Fairy Tale Friday



Last week we skipped fairy tales as we had something else to do for school during that time but this week we have finished the last three tales in the book.

#6. Cinderella - one of the longer tales in the book. This telling is pretty much the standard version I've always known. The only difference to me was that the ball was actually held two nights in a row. The first night Cinderella caught the eye of everyone and the second night the prince paid attention to her before she ran off at midnight. Cinderella was also called 'Cinderbottom' by her meanest stepsister and 'Cinderella' by her not-quite-so-mean sister.

#7. Rickety Topknot - This one was new to me. A queen gives birth to the most ugliest baby ever who has a little bit of hair on the top of his head. A fairy comes along and says that although he will be ugly, he will also be one of the smartest people around. Seven years later, a neighboring queen gives birth to two daughters, one is extremely ugly and the other is extremely stupid. The same fairy comes along and grants the ugly one intelligence and the stupid one beauty, in fact she will be the most beautiful woman in the land. Once they've grown up, Rickety falls in love with the beauty, and eventually she returns the favour. Essentially, this tale shows that when we are in love we don't notice the other's faults, hence, love is blind.

#8. Hop o' my Thumb - This was the longest tale in the book and bares a striking resemblance to Hansel and Gretel. A woodcutter and his wife have seven sons but they are very poor and one day they decided, regretfully, that they must take the sons into the forest and leave them there because they cannot stand to watch them starve to death. Hop o' my Thumb, an unusually tiny boy, leaves a trail of stones behind and manages to lead the brothers back home. They are taken back to the forest and this time a bread crumb tale has been eaten by all the birds. The brothers eventually stumble upon a house in the forest but it is the home of an ogre who eats children. This one ends up having a very gruesome paragraph as some persons have their throats slit which I edited a bit when reading. Perrault certainly enjoyed describing bloodshed! I think this was my favourite of the book and ds certainly enjoyed it, too.

My next post will gather all these Friday posts into one place. Next Friday we will be returning to Geraldine McCaughrean as we read The Silver Treasure: Myths and Legends of the World.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

44. Lucinda's Secret

Lucinda's Secret by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 3


Pages: 108
Finished: Feb. 27, 2008
Reason for Reading: next in the series, read aloud to my 7yo
First Published: 2003
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Jared Grace took out a red shirt, turned it inside out, and put it on backward.


Comments: The story keeps progressing at breakneck speed! The book is too short and too plot driven to give a synapses without giving away any spoilers. I have to say that each book gets better and better. More secrets about Arthur and Lucinda Spiderwick are revealed and mention is made of the evil Mulgarath. These are perfect read aloud books and the 7yo is clamouring for more, as am I.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

43. Darkwing

Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel
Illustrated by Keith Thompson
Prequel to the Silverwing Trilogy


Pages: 330
Finished: Feb. 26, 2008
Reason for Reading: Last book in the series. series challenge. YA challenge
First Published: 2007
Genre: YA, animal fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

First Sentence:

The tree had never seemed so high.


Comments: The setting is the Paleocene epoch, the end of the dinosaur era and the beginning of many new forms of life. Dusk is a chiropter but he is different from others of his species. He does not have fur on his sails and he can 'see' in the dark. He soon learns that, unlike other chiropters who can only glide, he can actually fly. Dusk must face the others who in turn are amazed and disgusted. Dusk is shunned and ridiculed. But Dusk is not the only animal who is different, many other animals who were once herbivores have started to crave meat. The beasts can no longer live all together in harmony.

Having read the Silverwing trilogy I was expecting this book to be good and I wasn't disappointed. I must note though, that this book is only ever so slightly a prequel to the Silverwing books. Yes, it is about bats but it is not set in the same world or mythos as the other books. That said, this is a brilliant, fast-paced read. As with the others I found it quite dark but not necessarily in the events but more in the themes that were presented. The book asks many questions but does not attempt to answer them. Can the world ever live together in peace? Should it? When is aggression ok? Is it right to go against your personal beliefs because it is for the greater good? Should you be ashamed if you do?

Darkwing and his father were compelling characters and while they were similar to Silverwing and his father there were enough differences to make them feel fresh to this reader. Kenneth Oppel has not disappointed me yet. Another wonderful book that not only gives an exciting, unique story but also presents a thought-provoking plot. Highly Recommended!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

42. Peter Pan

Peter Pan by Sir James M. Barrie
Illustrated by Francis D. Bedford


Pages: 267
Finished: Feb. 25, 2008
Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 7yo. Decades challenge.
First Published: 1911
Genre: children's classic, fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5

First Sentence:


All children, except one, grow up.


Comments: This was a tough one to read aloud. I read the book, to myself, several years ago but didn't really remember it all. If I had, I don't think I would have chosen to read it aloud. The first few chapters were rather boring and very old-fashioned. Once Peter entered the picture, the story picked up and ds became interested. But then once again, the narrative would seem to just go on and on about nothing until something happened in the plot every once and a while. I found the writing very didactic, conceited and smug and just downright difficult to read out loud. I could just imagine the author chuckling at how witty he thought himself. I have to say the 7yo enjoyed this much more than I. I asked him twice (once near the beginning and once at the mid-point) if he'd like me to stop reading this book and he said no. So he, at least, got something out of it. I have always enjoyed reading the classics to my children but have to say this is one that has not stood the test of time very well.

Monday, February 25, 2008

41. A Great Deliverance

A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
First Lynley and Havers Mystery


Pages: 308
Finished: Feb. 24, 2008
Reason for Reading: First in a Series challenge. GRTB.
First Published: 1988
Genre: British mystery
Awards: Anthony Award, Agatha Award
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

It was a solecism of the very worst kind.


Comments: A very overweight 19-year-old is discovered in her family's barn along with her dead dog and her dead father who has been decapitated with an ax. Lynley is assigned to the case and he has been partnered with Havers as a last ditch effort for her to try detective work. This was an incredible mystery and brilliantly written. The story was oh-so-much more than just a mystery, it was also very much character driven. Both Lynley and Havers are very complex characters and their personal stories are a vital part of the book. I am much taken with Inspector Lynley, and Havers' character develops through the book with a revelation near the end. Very compelling reading! The mystery itself was well done and a page-turner for me. I stayed up late last night reading until I couldn't keep my eyes open any more, then woke up and finished the book in the morning. I have actually seen this episode of the TV Show, so I knew whodunit and why, but while that did spoil the shock value of the ending for me it did not interfere with my enjoyment of the book at all. Fortunately, I have only seen one other episode of the show (a more recent one, not based on a book) so that will not interfere with my reading of any other books. I am highly looking forward to reading the next one in the series. Recommended.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

40. The Random House Book of Mother Goose

The Random House Book of Mother Goose
(currently published as The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose)
Selected and Illustrated by Arnold Lobel


Pages: 173
Finished: Feb. 22, 2008
Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 7yo. We read a few pages every school day.
First Published: 1986
Genre: children, poetry
Rating: 5/5

Comments: Contains 306 traditional nursery rhymes. All the familiar ones are included plus many more lesser known ones. Also many of the popular rhymes have more verses than are usually included in most collections. This book must be the crowning glory of Arnold Lobel's work. Each rhyme, no matter how small, has a detailed illustration to accompany it. This book has been a pure joy to share to with my 7yo. He loves to look at it and read his favourites. This book proves that nursery rhymes are not just for toddlers and I'd recommend this for early elementary ages. This book is a keeper!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Books Read in 2004

1. Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz
2. Meet the Austins by Madeline L'Engle
3. The Moon by Night by Madeline L'Engle
4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
5. Bambi by Felix Salten
6. Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies
7. Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies
8. A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies
9, The Wizard in the Tree by Lloyd Alexander
10. The Cat Who Wished to be a Man by Lloyd Alexander
11. Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
12. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
13. The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
14. Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan
15. A Malady of Magicks by Craig Shaw Gardener
16. Unnatural Causes by P.D. James
17. An Unsuitable Job for Women by P.D. James
18. The Black Tower by P.D. James
19. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (re-read)
20. Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones
21. Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
22. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (re-read)
23. Animal Farm by George Orwell (re-read)
24. The Mother by Pearl S. Buck
25. The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
26. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
27. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
28. The Road from Home by David Kherdian
29. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (absolutely hated this)
30. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
31. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (re-read)
32. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
33. You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? by Jean Fritz
34. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
35. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (re-read)
36. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
37. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
38. Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
39. The Winter Players by Tanith Lee
40. White as Snow by Tanith Lee
41. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
42. Wish Upon a Unicorn by Vicki Blum
43. The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley
44. Perloo the Bold by Avi
45. Shadow of the Red Moon by Walter Dean Myers
46. Antar and the Eagles by William Mayne
47. The Prince in Waiting by John Christopher
48. Albert Eistein and the Theory of Relativity by Robert Cwiklik
49. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
50. Beyond the Burning Lands by John Christopher
51. Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
52. The Sword of the Spirits by John Christopher
53. The Seeing-Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland
54. The Doomspell by Cliff McNish
55. The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron
56. Wild Jack by John Christopher
57. The Scent of Magic by Cliff McNish
58. The Seven Songs of Merlin by T.A. Barron
59. Ascension by Kara Dalkey
60. The Wizard's Promise by Cliff McNish
61. The Fires of Merlin by T.A. Barron
62. Reunion by Kara Dalkey

39. The Night Tourist

The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh


Pages: 232
Finished: Feb. 21, 2008
Reason for Reading: I found it on display at the library and was intrigued.
First Published: 2007
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

It was just after dusk when the accident happened.


Comments: Jack is hit by a car but fortunately he escapes with only a few cuts and bruises. However, something is not quite right and Jack finds that he sees and hears strange things. When on a trip to New York he meets a dead girl who takes him to the Underworld of New York. Here he decides to find his mother who died when he was little. The plot is based in Greek mythology and uses many elements of the Orpheus and Eurydice story. I really enjoyed this. The story line kept me guessing, I was never quite sure where it was going. The Underworld and the co-mingling of the dead with the living was very intriguing. I was also really taken with the ending, which is somewhat bittersweet but felt like the right ending. This is the author's first book and I'll certainly be watching for her next. Recommended.

Friday, February 22, 2008

38. Lilttle Pear and the Rabbits

Little Pear and the Rabbits by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
Third Little Pear book


Pages: 125
Finished: Feb. 20, 2008
Reason for Reading: next in the series.
First Published: 1956
Genre: children, fiction
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:


Little Pear was a Chinese Boy.


Comments: First, I have to say how thrilled I was when this book came in through inter library loan. I didn't have my hopes too high that it would be available and then when it did come it is the exact same cover as what I read when I was little. All the Little Pear books I read had covers similar to this and it was like holding an old friend again after all these years.

In this episodic book, Little Pear is growing older. He will soon be old enough for school but he isn't quite big enough to make the long walk each day yet. Little Pear wants to grow up but he doesn't want to go to school, he wants to be a farmer like his dad. Little Pear continues to have adventures and though not as often as the other books he still does get into some mischief. This book doesn't quite have as much charm as the previous two but is still just as enjoyable. There is nothing particularly new here but the writing, the illustrations, the author's love and respect for the Chinese people is still just as enjoyable and evident. Dh read this one to the 7yo at bedtimes and the 7yo is anxious for the last book to come in from ILL. Here's hoping we get a copy!

The Grizzly Bear Family Book

The Grizzly Bear Family Book by Michio Hoshino
Translated by Karen Colligan-Taylor


Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Feb. 21, 2008
Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 7yo, one of his school books.
First Published: 1992
Genre: non-fiction, picture book
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

Imagine meeting a grizzly bear in the wild.


Comments: Hoshinio spent almost twenty years studying and photographing grizzly bears in the wilds of Alaska. Each page of this book is covered with up-close and personal photographs of grizzly bears. In the text, the author tells the reader about his passion for grizzlies and reminisces about a few particular incidents along with imparting information about grizzlies in general. Ultimately the photographs are more appealing than the text but they are so beautiful they more than make up for the shortcomings of the writing. If you or your child are interested in grizzly bears, this book will satisfy. Unfortunately, the author was actually killed by a grizzly in 1998.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Books Read in 2005

I didn't rate books back then but I will make a brief notation beside books that were exceptional and ones I hated.

1. Transformation by Kara Dalkey (absolutely loved this trilogy)
2. Coronation Street The War Years by Daran Little & Christine Green (loved it!)
3. Coronation Street The Complete Saga by Katherine Hardy
4. Mirror of Merlin by T.A. Barron (this whole series is fabulous)
5. Into the Land of Unicorns by Bruce Coville
6. Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville
7. Hail Hail, the Gang's All Here by Ed McBain
8. Jigsaw by Ed McBain
9. Fuzz by Ed McBain (not too impressed with these, probably won't ever read McBain again)
10. The Isis Pedlar by Monica Hughes (anything by Monica Hughes I love!)
11. Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes
12. Castle Tourmandyne by Monica Hughes
13. Space Trap by Monica Hughes
14. Antibodies (X-Files) by Kevin J. Anderson
15. Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card (loved it!)
16. Shadow Unicorn by Vicki Blum
17. Destruction of Illusions (Andromeda) by Keith DeCandido
18. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
19. Mister Monday by Garth Nix
20. Invasion (Animorphs) by K.A. Applegate
21. The Broken Places (Andromeda) by Ethlie Anne Vare
22. The Wings of Merlin by T.A. Barron
23. Suffer the Children by John Saul
24. Punish the Sinners by John Saul
25. Way Station (Andromeda) by Steven E. McDonald
26. Immortal (Buffy) by Christopher Golden
27. X Marks the Spot (X-Files) by Les Martin
28. Cry for the Strangers by John Saul
29. Earthblood by Keith Laumer
30. Goblins (X-Files) by Charles Grant
31. Andalite Chronicles by K.A. Applegate
32. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
33. Whirlwind (X-Files) by Charles Grant
34. Guinevere by Sharan Newman
35. Death by Sheer Torture by Robert Barnard
36. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
37. Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin
38. The Bookman's Wake by John Dunning
39. Death of a Perfect Mother by Robert Barnard
40. Death in a Cold Climate by Robert Barnard
41. Hornet's Nest by Patricia Cornwell
42. Death of a Mystery Writer by Robert Barnard
43. Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs
44. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
45. Hamilton by Catherine Cookson (this trilogy was fabulous)
46. Ground Zero (X-Files) by Kevin J. Anderson
47. Goodbye Hamilton by Catherine Cookson
48. Encounter at Farpoint (TNG) by David Gerrold
49. Harold by Catherine Cookson
50. The Never Ending Story by Michael Ende
51. The Lost World by Michael Crichton
52. Impressions (Angel) by Doranna Durgin
53. Jumping Off the Planet by David Gerrold (didn't like this)
54. Carson by Paul Corkery
55. The Peaceable Kingdom by Ardyth Kennelly

37. The Slave Dancer

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
Illustrations by Eros Keith


Pages: 176
Finished: Feb. 19, 2008
Reason for Reading: Newbery Project.
First Published: 1973
Genre: children, YA, historical fiction
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

In a hinged wooden box upon the top of which was carved a winged fish, my mother kept the tools of her trade.


Comments: Thirteen-year-old Jessie Bollier is kidnapped by sailors and taken to work upon their ship. Jessie learns that the ship is a slaver and is going to Africa to pick up slaves to take back to Cuba. Jessie's purpose on the ship is to be the 'slave dancer', he will play his flute, while the slaves are made to dance so as to keep their muscles fit. This was an okay book. The first half of the book is an intriguing look at life at sea and the characters are interesting. The second half of the book deals with the slave trade and the horrors of such are not sugar-coated and it is a compelling read. However, the writing just didn't grab me all the much. The characters lacked vitality. It was interesting but not one that will leave a lasting impression. Also, I must say I was not impressed with the illustrations at all. They are full of shadows, lack details and very vague. Ultimately, a good, but not great, book.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

36. Into the Woods

Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner
Illustrated by Mini Grey


Pages: 429
Finished: Feb. 18, 2008
Reason for Reading: It was on my tbr list. The fairy tale aspects appealed to me.
First Published: 2006
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:


At that moment a she-wolf slunk from behind a tree.


Comments: Aurora and Storm are left alone to look after their baby sister when their mother dies and their father leaves. With her dying breath, the mother bequests a musical pipe to Storm and tells her to use it wisely. Dr. DeWilde learns of the pipe and comes for it, forcing the children to run from him. As the children's flight progresses they learn what the Dr. is really up to and one of them is kidnapped. Now the remaining two girls must rescue their sister and stop the Doctor's evil scheme. On their journey the girls meet up with many fairy tale places and personages: the town where the Pied Piper played, a gingerbread house that enchants them, an ogress, wolves in the forest and more. This book was a lot of fun to read. It is also a quick read, even though it is thick, as it has large text and plenty of illustrations. The girls each have a distinct character and the baby sister is hilarious, rather like Sunny from Unfortunate Events. Ultimately, a good fun read with no deeper meanings that will appeal to the 8-11 crowd and anyone older who loves to read children's books.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Books Read 2006

Rhinoa has been entering some lists of books she's read in the past, before blogging, and I thought this was a wonderful idea. I have a notebook, in which I've kept lists of books read, off and on, for the last few years and thought I'd go ahead and add them to my blog in case my notebook ever gets lost and just to have everything in one place. So, I'm going to go backwards starting with 2006.

Unfortunately, this list only covers January to July. I didn't rate books back then but I will make a brief notation beside books that were exceptional and ones I hated. R/A stands for read-aloud.

Books Read in 2006 (January to July)

1. Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs
2. Good Morning, Young Lady by Ardyth Kennelly
3. Darkness Falls (X-Files) by Les Martin
4. Worf's First Adventure (TNG) by Peter David and James Fry
5. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John LeCarre (did not like at all)
6. The Book of Fours (Buffy) by Nancy Holder
7. The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury (R/A)
8. The McDuff Stories by Rosemary Wells (R/A) (wonderful children's books)
9. Coronation Street: Around the Houses by Daran Little
10. Call for the Dead by John LeCarre
11. A Hatful of Seuss by Dr. Seuss (R/A)
12. Adventures in Fern Hollow by John Patience (R/A)
13. The Angel Chronicles, Vol. 1 (Buffy) by Nancy Holder
14. Little Critters Read It Yourself Story Book by Mercer Mayer (R/A)
15. Collage Discovery Workshop by Claudine Hellmuth
16. Collage Discovery Workshop: Beyond the Unexpected by Claudine Hellmuth
17. Alphabetica by Lynne Perrella (my favourite collage book)
18. Artists Journals and Sketchbooks by Lynne Perrells (my 2nd favourite collage book)
19. A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith (R/A)
20. Smasher by Dick King-Smith (R/A)
21. Shade's Children by Garth Nix (excellent, my favourite book by Nix)
22. Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
23. Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne (R/A)
24. Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
25. The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne (R/A)
26. Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix
27. Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne (R/A)
28. Sir Thursday by Garth Nix
29. Magic Street by Orson Scott Card
30. Sabriel by Garth Nix
31. First Strike (Star Trek) by Diane Carey
32. The Soldiers of Fear (TNG) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith
33. Time's Enemy (DS9) by L.A. Graf
34. The Final Fury (Voyager) by Dafydd ab Hugh
35. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman
36. Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
37. Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home by Harry Kemelman
38. Collage Unleashed by Traci Bautista
39. The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery by Karen Michel

35. Triptych

Triptych by Karin Slaughter


Pages: 394
Finished: Feb. 16, 2008
Reason for Reading: I'm reading all of Karin Slaughter's work.
First Published: 2006
Genre: mystery, thriller
Rating: 4.5/5

First Sentence:


Detective Michael Ormewood listened to the football game on the radio as he drove down DeKalb Avenue toward Grady Homes.


Comments: A black prostitute is brutally raped and murder and found with her tongue removed. Detectives start to process the case when a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent is brought in to assist. Thus begins this intricately woven and masterfully crafted thriller. The characters are well-developed and the plot is intense. The narrative is not a linear one but instead is told from three different angles. We start with a 1985 newspaper clipping, then jump to the present, and then back a year to 2005. These different perspectives switch back and forth for a while until the 2005 narrative takes over and progresses through to present and continues on. I can see how this may bother some readers but I found it very intriguing. A major twist is unleashed around the middle of the book and then the whole plot takes a different turn. Another page-turner by Slaughter, but one that is quite different from her Grant County series. Slaughter also gives a nod to her fans when we realize that one of the characters appeared as a minor character in the fourth Grant County book, Indelible. I highly enjoyed this and will be eager to read Slaughter's future books whether they be part of a series or not.

Monday, February 18, 2008

34. Across the Wall

Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories by Garth Nix


Pages: 305
Finished: Feb. 17, 2008
First Published: 2005
Genre: short story collection
Rating: 3.5/5

Comments: This is a collection of 12 short stories and 1 novella by the author, each previously published in one format or another. The best of the collection is the title story, a novella set in the world of the Abhorsen trilogy and a direct sequel to the third book, Abhorsen. The other stories vary, some I really liked, others did nothing for me. Generally, Nix's writing is grim and dark and it is these stories that I enjoyed. The few stories that were light or humourous just did not entertain me at all. I highly recommend the reading of the title story for fans of the trilogy. The rest of the stories may be enjoyed others.

#1 - Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case - This 95-page novella starts shortly after the events of the book Abhorsen. Nicholas Sayre is recuperating in Ancelstierre at the home of an acquaintance of his father's. He soon finds that the body of a Free Magic creature is stored in the underground rooms. The creature is not dead though and soon finds the strength to return to life but he has a craving for blood. Nicholas must stop the beast before he kills them all. This was a wonderful, fast-paced read that gave the reader greater insight into Nicholas' character. An appearance by Lireal at the end is a delight. I don't think the story would make much sense to anyone who hasn't read the trilogy though.

#2 - Under the Lake - An Arthurian tale of the Lady in the Lake. A quiet, lyrical story that tells of how the lady, who is not really a lady at all, ended up in the lake. This was just ok, different but nothing special.

#3. Charlie Rabbit - This was a very grim story of children in wartime. A boy and his little brother, along with his toy rabbit, are alone when their house is bombed in the middle of the night. A chilling tale.

#4. From the Lighthouse - This was a bit strange and I'm not sure I really got it. A man arrives on an island and tells the residents that he has just bought the island and is now their new owner. His guide pretends to be happy for him but has other plans in mind.

#5. The Hill - A boy rushes off to tell his great-great-grandfather that his father is selling the family property. So the old man rushes off to prevent it. Another good one.

#6. Lightning Bringer - A man comes to town wielding a terrible power. He realizes that a boy can see his power and is just like him. He tells the boy he must use his power before he loses it. There is more to the story but it would give it away to say more. I liked this one, it was pretty cool.

#7. Down to the Scum Quarter - This was a lot of fun! A parody of the choose your own adventure books, you must rescue your beloved who has been kidnapped and taken to the seedy part of town. My first try, I made three moves and ended up dead. Then I started over and made it through to the end alive. I used to be addicted to these books as a kid so this was really fun for me.

#8. Heart's Desire - In this story we learn the reasons behind the Merlin/Nimue story of Arthurian legend. Merlin is my favourite Arthurian character and the Merlin/Nimue relationship intrigues me but this story fell flat with me. It was just overall, rather boring.

#9. Hansel's Eyes - A retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story with a modern twist. The witch entices children not with candy but with PlayStation games and systems, nor does she wish to eat the children but rather sells their parts for organ transplants. This was very good and one of my favourites.

#10. Hope Chest - This is one of the longer stories in the book and aside from the title novella, my favourite story in the book. This is set in a quasi wild west/alternate USA world. A baby is found abandoned in a small town. One family adopts her and she grows up to be a young lady. The baby was found with a large hope chest but no one has ever been able to open it. Upon the girl's 16th birthday, the chest opens for her and the girl's destiny starts to unravel as she must save the town from an evil that is taking over the world. This was really good and one of those stories you want more of and wish there were a whole book.

#11. My New Really Epic Fantasy Series - This is a humourous speech the author has given several times that is a parody of epic fantasy series. I didn't find it particularly funny.

#12. Three Roses - Very short, sweet fairy tale about a gardener who grows roses with the love of his dead wife.

#13. Endings - Another very short story. A vampire tells how, in the end, he was killed. The last two stories were short but I enjoyed them both.

Short Story Monday

#8. Heart's Desire - In this story we learn the reasons behind the Merlin/Nimue story of Arthurian legend. Merlin is my favourite Arthurian character and the Merlin/Nimue relationship intrigues me but this story fell flat with me. It was just overall, rather boring.

#9. Hansel's Eyes - A retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story with a modern twist. The witch entices children not with candy but with PlayStation games and systems, nor does she wish to eat the children but rather sells their parts for organ transplants. This was very good and one of my favourites.

#10. Hope Chest - This is one of the longer stories in the book and aside from the title novella, my favourite story in the book. This is set in a quasi wild west/alternate USA world. A baby is found abandoned in a small town. One family adopts her and she grows up to be a young lady. The baby was found with a large hope chest but no one has ever been able to open it. Upon the girl's 16th birthday, the chest opens for her and the girl's destiny starts to unravel as she must save the town from an evil that is taking over the world. This was really good and one of those stories you want more of and wish there were a whole book.

#11. My New Really Epic Fantasy Series - This is a humourous speech the author has given several times that is a parody of epic fantasy series. I didn't find it particularly funny.

#12. Three Roses - Very short, sweet fairy tale about a gardener who grows roses with the love of his dead wife.

#13. Endings - Another very short story. A vampire tells how, in the end, he was killed. The last two stories were short but I enjoyed them both.

This concludes my readings from Across the Wall. My next post will gather together all my posts concerning this book. I'll be taking a break from fantasy/horror with my next short story book. I'll be reading In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

33. Shadow of the Hegemon

Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card
Shadow Saga Book 2 (Enderverse Book 6)


Pages: 365
Finished: Feb. 14, 2008
Reason for Reading: next in series, series challenge, cardathon.
First Published: 2000
Genre: science fiction
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Nothing looked right in Armenia when Petra Arkanian returned home.


Comments: This book starts right after Ender's Shadow, the Formic War is over and the Battle School children have been sent back to their homes on earth. Earth is in a political turmoil, however, and the children are in danger. Shortly after arriving home all the members of Ender's Dragon Army are kidnapped, except one, who escapes. Bean. Bean and Peter Wiggin turn to each other for help. Bean wants to rescue his friends, especially Petra, and Peter wants to rule the world as Hegemon.

It has been a couple of years since I read the previous books in this series and, wow, I had forgotten just how great these books are. It is like meeting up with old friends reading about these characters again. Bean has always been my favourite and his secrets are revealed in this book. There is a lot of political and military strategizing in the story which I do not have a head for, but Card has a way of writing which kept me interested through those parts. An incredibly involved plot with lots of action and fabulous characters.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

32. Death at the Priory

Death at the Priory: Sex, Love, and Murder in Victorian England by James Ruddick


Pages: 203
Finished: Feb. 12, 2008
Reason for Reading: No other reason than it looked interesting. I do like most things Victorian
First Published: 2001
Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:


On a warm April morning in 1876, the body of a young barrister named Charles Bravo was carried out of a house in Balham, south London.


Comments: Less than six months after her wedding, Florence Bravo's husband died as a result of an extremely painful poisoning. The case became a highly public one and one of Victorian England's most sensational unsolved crimes.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part describes the life of Florence Campbell Ricardo Bravo before her marriage and the details of the crime. This part was very interesting. Florence was not your typical Victorian woman. She refused to put up with her lot as an abused wife and left her first husband, she had an extra-marital affair with a prominent doctor and after the death of said first husband became an independently wealthy woman. The case itself is quite intriguing and as the title suggests, includes all the ingredients for sensationalism.

The second half of the book is the author's attempt to solve the case. He provides evidence that he himself discovered during his own research. I did not enjoy this part as much. I found the author's logic not only faulty but amusing at times. For instance he makes statements such as someone could not be trusted because they were a free mason, someone could not be the murderer because he was heavily involved in charity. I also didn't find his conclusions necessarily very believable. It felt like he had his assumption and then made the facts fit to his liking. This part of the book also takes a look at what became of the major personalities after the inquest which was a very interesting.

Nevertheless, still an engaging read of a fascinating unsolved murder and a particularly appealing look at a non-typical Victorian woman.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fairy Tale Friday



This week we started a new book of fairy tales. The Glass Slipper: Charles Perrault's Tales of Times Past is a recent translation of Perrault's Contes du temps passe first published in 1697. The text has not been altered from the original except that the morals have been moved to an appendix at the back of the book.

#1. The Sleeping Beauty - I can't believe I am not familiar with the original story! The version I've always known ends with Sleeping Beauty waking up and marrying the prince. There is a whole lot more to the story. Turns out the prince's mother is an ogress and like to eat children so he must keep his marriage (and subsequent children) a secret. When he becomes king, his mother is finally told, and she waits for a time when the king is away. Both ds and I loved this!


#2. Little Red Ridinghood - Again I find I'm more familiar with a later variant of this story. In Perrault's original telling, the tale ends with the wolf eating both the grandmother and red ridinghood. The End.

#3. Bluebeard - A girl marries a man with a bluebeard. All is going well until Bluebeard leaves on a trip and forbids the wife to open one closet while he is gone. Of course, she does open the closet and must suffer the consequences. Ds really enjoyed this one, being a typical boy he loves stories where the good guys get the bad guy at the end and he always enjoys (as do I) a really good villain. I did edit this one while reading though as the paragraph that describes the wife finding the other dead wives in the closet was very gruesome with phrases such as "clotted blood".

4. Puss in Books - A youngest son inherits a cat when his father dies. The cat asks for a sack and some boots and sets off to make his master a rich man through trickery.

#5. Diamonds and Toads - The beautiful, kind sister goes to the well and gives an old woman a drink. The woman is really a fairy and she makes diamonds and pearls come from the young girl's mouth when she speaks. So the nasty, ugly sister goes to the well, but when a princess asks for a drink she is very rude to her. Of course, the princess is also the fairy and this time she makes toads and snakes come from the ugly sister's mouth when she speaks.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

123 Book Meme

Frogdancer has tagged me!

1. Pick up the nearest book. (Must be 123+ pages.)
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence, and post the next three sentences.
4 Tag 5 people.

So the nearest book is the one I'm currently reading, Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card.

"Kill me and you'll always wonder if I really sent out a message at all,"
said Petra.

"But at least I won't have to listen to your smug voice lying to me," said
Achilles. "That would almost be a consolation."

I've seen this one pretty much everywhere, so I won't tag anyone specific. If you haven't done this one yet then consider yourself tagged.

31. Wide Window

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Third


Pages: 215
Finished: Feb. 12, 2008
Reason for Reading: next in series, series challenge, read aloud to the 7yo.
First Published: 2000
Genre: children fiction
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

If you didn't know about the Baudelaire orphans, and you saw them sitting on their suitcases at Damocles Dock, you might think that they were bound for an exciting adventure.


Comments: The Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with their Aunt Josephine, who lives in a house precariously built on the edge of the cliff. Aunt Josephine has a penchant for grammar and a fear of pretty much everything. Count Olaf appears in disguise and the children must convince all the grown-ups that he is after them once again. With this third book the repetitive plot is established and I'm fairly certain each future book will have the same scenario. However, there is something charming about the repetition and the children as characters have grown dear to our hearts. This book is indeed the weaker of the three we've read so far. The grammar jokes and puzzles went over the 7yo's head and it grew old fast for me but we chuckled over the old lady's fears and the action-packed climax was an exciting read. There were several parts that sent the 7yo into giggle fits and we both felt a little teary-eyed leaving the orphans in their unfortunate circumstances once again at the end.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

30. Destiny

Destiny by Alex Archer
Rogue Angel Book 1


Pages: 346
Finished: Feb. 11, 2008
Reason for Reading: 1st in a Series challenge
First Published: 2006
Genre: action adventure, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:

Out of breath, feeling as though the hounds of Hell pursued him, Roux whipped his horse mercilessly.


Comments: Annja Creed is an archaeologist who works part-time for a TV show called Chasing History's Monsters. While on an assignment in France, tracking down information on the Beast of Gevaudan, she stumbles upon an artifact that others are also looking for. Thus begins a action packed race as Annja is chased by an ancient sect of monks, a 500 year old man and a local gangster involved with the Wild Hunt. Two things come to mind as I write this review. The first is that this is no literary work; it is plot driven and very cheesy. The second is that I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I like a little cheese. I loved the history of legends that served the basis of the story: the Beast of Gevaudan, Peter Stubb (werewolf or serial killer?), Joan of Arc and the Wild Hunt. The last two I knew about but the former were new to me and had me googling them as I read. If you enjoy shows such as Relic Hunter, Xena or Alias and love to see an independent, intelligent woman with mystical abilities kick some butt, you'll enjoy this book.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

29. Up to Low

Up to Low by Brian Doyle
First book of The Low Life


Pages: 116
Finished: Feb. 9, 2008
Reason for Reading: YA Challenge
First Published: 1982
Genre: YA fiction
Awards: CLA Book of the Year
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

We hadn't been up to Low since my mother died two years before.


Comments: This little book is more than that it seems at first glance. Ultimately it is the story of a boy's first love and his new understanding of death. Set in the 1950's Gatineau Hills country of Quebec, the book concerns an Irish family. Told in a tall tale format, the narrative is exaggerated and over the top until it takes a more serious tone near the end. At times funny, at others profound, I enjoyed this little book and will be trying more by the author.

28. Invasion of the Blobs

Invasion of the Blobs by Paul Stewart
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
The Blobheads, book 1


Pages: 63
Finished: Feb. 8, 2008
Reason for Reading: Dh read this to the 7yo and I didn't want to miss out.
First Published: 2000
Genre: children, science fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:



Billy Barnes stood in the bathroom brushing his teeth.



Comments: Billy is brushing his teeth one morning when out of his toilet pop three aliens. They are looking for the Most High Emperor of the Universe and, well, he turns out to be Billy's baby brother, who's not even a year old. His parents come home just as the aliens are trying to take the baby home with them and a major ruckus ensues. This is a delightful story. Very silly, and very funny. The illustrations are just as fun as the story. This would make a perfect first chapter book for a child to read themselves.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Short Story Monday

#3. Charlie Rabbit - This was a very grim story of children in wartime. A boy and his little brother, along with his toy rabbit, are alone when their house is bombed in the middle of the night. A chilling tale.

#4. From the Lighthouse - This was a bit strange and I'm not sure I really got it. A man arrives on an island and tells the residents that he has just bought the island and is now their new owner. His guide pretends to be happy for him but has other plans in mind.

#5. The Hill - A boy rushes off to tell his great-great-grandfather that his father is selling the family property. So the old man rushes off to prevent it. Another good one.

#6. Lightning Bringer - A man comes to town wielding a terrible power. He realizes that a boy can see his power and is just like him. He tells the boy he must use his power before he loses it. There is more to the story but it would give it away to say more. I liked this one, it was pretty cool.

#7. Down to the Scum Quarter - This was a lot of fun! A parody of the choose your own adventure books, you must rescue your beloved who has been kidnapped and taken to the seedy part of town. My first try, I made three moves and ended up dead. Then I started over and made it through to the end alive. I used to be addicted to these books as a kid so this was really fun for me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

27. Procession of the Dead

Procession of the Dead by D.B. Shan
The City: Book 1


Pages: 312
Finished: Feb. 8, 2008
Reason for Reading: ARC review copy
First Published: March 3, 2008 (Canada & UK)
Genre: urban fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First Sentence:

I'm not allowed to quote from this review copy.

Comments:
Capac Raimi arrives in the city to join his uncle's business, that of small time gangster. He quickly learns the ropes but soon finds himself brought to the attention of The Cardinal. The Cardinal is the gangster who runs the entire city and nothing happens in this city without the the knowledge or approval of The Cardinal.

Life is great for Capac; he may just be the heir that the Cardinal has been looking for. But Capac realizes all is not as he thought it was when people start to disappear and no one remembers them. It is as if they had never existed at all. Thus Capac is propelled forward trying to find these missing people, without The Cardinal's knowledge which is a very dangerous game to play, and at the same time find out just who he is himself.

This is such an intricate plot with twists and turns that kept me reading into the small hours of the night. I found myself gasping out loud at each revelation that the author threw at me. Each turn of the plot left me stunned and eager to read on. This is a wonderful read.

The book is peopled with an eccentric mix of characters. From The Cardinal, who has an almost superhuman rage when angered, to Conchita, an elderly woman with the face of a teenager, to the strange religious cult of blind men who only appear when fog rolls over the city.

This is a dark fantasy, set in a violent world and fortunately, the first in a series. I hope I don't have to wait too long to read the next one! Highly recommended!

Of note, you may not recognize the author's name, D.B. Shan, as he is most well-known as Darren Shan, the author of numerous Young Adult books of terror. This is his first adult novel.

Canadian Challenge Completed

This week I finished the Canadian Challenge. The goal was to read 13 books by Canadian authors or that take place in Canada. I did not make a starting list but rather chose books as I went along. This challenge came up just at the time I was personally committing to read more Canadian authors so it helped me to start off on the right foot. All of the authors I chose are either Canadian or have lived in Canada for a number of years. Most of the books I chose were fantasies so I didn't visit many provinces along the way. Even though I am finished this challenge my personal commitment to read more Canadian authors stands.

I enjoyed every single book I read for this challenge. Some were good, some great, and a few fantastic. I've found authors I will continue reading and I really enjoyed this challenge. Hopefully, there will be a Part 2 next year.

The books I read for the challenge and the province they take place in were:


1. The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy(Quebec)
2. The Alchemist's Dream by John Wilson(Arctic)
3. Elijah of Buxton by Cristopher Paul Curtis(Ontario)
4. Gemini Summer by Iain Lawrence (outside Canada)
5. Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock (outside Canada)
6. Kanada by Eva Wiseman(outside Canada)
7. Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel(North America)
8. Dust by Arthur Slade(Saskatchewan)
9. Sunwing by Kenneth Oppel (outside Canada)
10. The Serpent's Egg by J. Fitzgerald McCurdy (Ottawa, Ontario)
11. High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories by Robertson Davies (Ontario)
12. Empress of Asia by Adam Lewis Schroeder (BC)
13. Keturah & Lord Death the Martine Leavitt (outside Canada)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I Got an Award

Framed and Booked surprised me this week when she gave me the You Make My Day Award. This is the first award my blog and I have ever received and you really made my day. Thank you!

If you haven't read Framed and Booked before, go on over and take a look. She always has wonderful reviews and I've found many interesting books via her blog.

26. Keturah & Lord Death

Keturah & Lord Death by Martine Leavitt


Pages: 200
Finished: Feb. 6, 2008
Reason for Reading: YA Challenge, Canadian Challenge
First Published: 2006
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:


"Keturah, tell us a story," said Naomi, "one of your tales of faerie or magic."



Comments:
Keturah follows a hart into the woods and gets lost. Three days later Lord Death comes for her but Keturah is given a day of reprieve by telling Death a story. Each evening she returns and tells more of the story but a deadline does loom ahead of her, she may only escape Death if she finds her own true love.

This is a wonderful, original fairy tale. It has a dreamlike quality to it, almost ethereal. A beautifully written, dark romance, the plot slowly unfolds and comes to a shocking conclusion. This is a book that is going to keep me thinking about it for quite some time. I really enjoyed this. Highly recommended to those who enjoy dark fairy tales.

Friday, February 8, 2008

25. The Golden Hoard

The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World
by Geraldine McCaughrean
Illustrated by Bee Willey


Pages: 130
Finished: Feb. 8, 2008
Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 7yo.
First Published: 1995
Genre: children, fairy tales, short stories
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

There was once a fool.


Comments: This collection of myths and legends, the first in a three-part series, has been compiled and retold by the award-winning British author and storyteller, Geraldine McCaughrean. A fine assortment of tales that include a few of the more well-known along with a wide variety of lesser known ones. These stories are beautifully written with enticing language. The tales have not been watered down for children but rather are vivid in their retelling of battles, bloodshed and romance. I read this aloud to my 7yo and he was enthralled with the tales. I did find myself editing on the fly occasionally for either content or comprehension. To read on one's own, I would recommend this for ages 10 to adult. The illustrations are a gorgeous accompaniment to the text, dreamlike with bold, vivid colours. We really enjoyed this and will be reading the other two books in the near future. Recommended.

The stories included are:

#1 - The Golden Wish (A Greek Myth) - This is the story of King Midas, one of my favourite Greek myths. Does anyone not know the story? Midas wishes that everything he touches would turn into gold but when the wish comes true the reality is not what he expected. I loved the ending of this one which questions whether Midas really did learn his lesson.

#2 - Shooting the Sun (A Chinese Myth) - The god of the eastern sky has ten sons, or I should say suns. Each sun takes a turn walking across the sky but they get greedy and unruly and want to do it each day. As the world starts to burn up with ten suns shining every day and night the bowman of the sky is commissioned to shoot each sun down. At the last minute the earthly emperor realizes that one sun must be left to remain in the sky. This is a new one to me and an emotional tale as the god and his wife loose their children.

#3 - George and the Dragon (A Persian myth) - A dragon is terrorizing a kingdom and a lottery is held each day to find the person who will be sacrificed for the dragon's next meal. On the day that the king's daughter has been chosen a Knight of the Crusades is on the scene to save the day. This is the legend of Saint George.

#4 - Skinning Out (An Ethiopian myth) - Tells the story of why the snake can change his skin when it gets old but humans cannot.

#5 - Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow (An English legend) - Starts with very brief historical background of Kings Richard and John, and Robin of Locksey. Then tells the popular story of the day Robin Hood won an archery contest disguised as on old man.

#6 - Brave Quest (A Native American myth) - A young brave who has been scarred by eagles is in love with a girl who has been promised to the sun. The girl asks him to journey to the Sun and ask his permission to marry her. The brave has a long eventful journey and ultimately does the Sun a favour. We both really enjoyed this one and it was our favourite of the week.

#7 - Saving Time (A Polynesian myth) - Another tale of the Sun. In the days of long ago the sun used to speed across the sky making for very, very short days. One Polynesian boy decides to harness the Sun until he promises to slowly take his time across the sky so the Island People may have time to finish their work during daylight.

#8 - The Lake That Flew Away (An Estonian legend) - We really enjoyed this tale. Brigands and bandits were hiding in the marshes, searching for treasure and killing anyone who came near them. The lake flowed with their blood and was so sad that he decided to leave and find himself a place where he would be useful and appreciated.

#9 - Admirable Hare (a legend from Ceylon) - This is a tale of the Buddha and explains why, if you look closely, you can see the shape of a hare when you look at the moon.

#10 - All Roads Lead to Wales (A Welsh legend) - This is probably our favourite in the book so far. This post-Roman tale tells how Maximus Emperor of Rome found his lady love in Wales and how the Roman roads across all of Britain came to be built.

#11 - Rainbow Snake (An Australian myth) - The rainbow comes down to a dull, bland earth and leaves behind both tragedy, wisdom and colour.

#12 - Juno's Roman Geese (A Roman legend) - How a statue of Juno and her sacred birds, geese, saved Rome from the invading Gauls.

#13 - John Barleycorn (An American Myth) - This is a new one for me and quite a violent tale. Without telling us exactly who John Barleycorn is at first except that he is a 'he', we are told how he was killed and how he rose from the earth and at the end, his true nature is revealed. Not my favourite.

#14 - The Singer Above the River (A German Legend) - This was a spooky tale of a heartbroken woman who threw herself over a cliff only to return as a nymph. She become a siren who hated young men and would lure their ships to crash into the rocks below the cliff.

#15 - How Music Was Fetched Out of Heaven (A Mexican myth) - The Lord of Matter sees that the people are miserable as the earth is covered with either silence or noises. He sends Quetzalcoatl up to the sun to steal his 4 musicians and bring them back to earth so the world may be filled with music.

#16 - Whose Footprints (A myth from the Gold Coast) - Legba, the assistant of God, is tired of being blamed for everything, so he decides to play a trick on God himself and thus sparks the reason that God no longer lives on earth with the people. We really enjoyed this one, Legba reminded me of Loki from Norse mythology.

#17 - The Death of El Cid (A Spanish legend) - A tale of the hero El Cid's last conquest over the invading Moors.

#18 - The Man Who Almost Lived Forever (A Mesopotamian legend) - The god Ea is friends with a human priest and he shares secrets of the gods' powers with him. The priest uses this power and angers the other gods. Much shorter story than others in the book. This is another one that ends with a trick. The 7yo is enjoying the trickster stories.

#19 - Stealing Heaven's Thunder (A Norse myth) - I was pleased to see Loki appear in this story as I was thinking of him a few stories back. I love Norse mythology. In this story Thor's hammer has been stolen and Loki comes up with a plan to get it back. Again a trick is put into action and the 7yo enjoyed this as much as I.

#20 - Anansi and the Mind of God (A West Indian myth) - This is the first Anansi tale I've read to the 7yo so first I had to explain that Anansi is a spider man not Spiderman. LOL. This tale is told in verse in a slight vernacular so very different from the others here. Here Anansi plays a trick on God. Enjoyable, the 7yo asked me to read it a second time.

#21 - How Men and Women Finally Agreed (A Kikuyu myth) - The Kikuyu are a matriarchal tribe and this tale tells why they are and how the women did not let the men take over when they tried to rebel. Quite funny actually.

#22 - First Snow (A Native American myth) - The world was complete but Coyote had one more present to give the people, snow. They don't understand how the wet, cold stuff could be useful until Coyote explains how the people can use it.