Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mo Hayder's Next Book

Oooooh, I'm so excited. According to Euro Crime, Hayder's next book is scheduled for release in Feb. 2010. So that means here in Canada I'll probably have to wait a few months more, but at least I know it's coming and it's going to feature Jack Caffery and Flea, yeah!

But what am I supposed to do for all of 2009! I wish she'd write faster.... sigh

148. Starclimber

Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel
Third in the Airborn series

Pages: 356
Finished: Aug. 29, 2008
First Published: Sept. 2, 2008 (Canada) / Feb. 24, 2009 (US)/ March, 2009 (UK)
Genre: YA, science fiction/fantasy
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada

First sentence:

Rising into the wind, I flew, Paris spread before me.

Comments: This time around Matt and Kate are on a special mission for the Canadian government. The space race is on and Paris is supposedly winning but Canada has a secret plan and they've gathered together a crew which includes our two protagonists.

This book is quite different from the previous two as it is mostly set in outer space rather than aboard an airship. The genre is also difficult to pinpoint as it is certainly science fiction but from a Victorian point of view, making it seem more fantasy. The world Matt and Kate live in is an alternate earth reality where society is similar to a mannered Victorian age yet they have a growing technology that it is very different from that developed on our Earth. It very much feels Jules Verne-ish.

Again, I enjoyed the book. This series is superb. This book is not as dark as Oppel's others but there is death and taut suspense making this (as his other books) more appropriate for a YA audience. Oppel's vision of an alternate reality's version of outer space was incredibly intriguing. Well-written, a page turner and wonderful characters familiar and new. Especially Miss Karr and her pet monkey Haiku, who are a nod to the Canadian painter Emily Carr, and her monkey, Woo.
The books in this series each has its own plot and can be read in any order but there is a relationship that develops throughout the books and mention of previous events so I do recommend reading them in order.

I've read all of Oppel's YA novels now except his first two books which are stand alones. I will be going back to read them but can't wait to see what Oppel comes up with for his next new book.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Monday - New Review Books in the Mail

Last week I received one review copy in them mail directly from the author. Saye by Jeremy H. Walker, which looks very intriguing and it's signed, too!

Receiving one book last week has really helped out my towering arc tbr pile. I had one book come in and read and reviewed 3 books making the pile 2 books shorter! Yeah me!

I will once again be concentrating on arcs for September. If I can get back into my regular reading habits after lazy August, I should be able to read the majority of them already in possession.

Rip III Challenge

I really want to join the RIP III challenge and have been trying to avoid signing up but everywhere I turn it hits me in the face and I find I.MUST.JOIN.

So I'm going for Peril the Second, read 2 books, so I don't feel any pressure but I'm sure I'll end up with more than 2 by then end of the challenge which is Oct. 31st.

I won't be writing up a list but will pick the books as they appeal to me along the way. I read a book this week that fits the theme so I'm hoping I can count it as book number one.

The Vampire Prince by Darren Shan.

Decades Challenge - Complete

I have completed the Decades Challenge hosted by 3m. This was one of my favourite challenges this year. I gave it a twist and made every book on my list a read aloud to my 7/8yo. This has been very helpful in making sure I read a wide variety of literature throughout the ages to him.

These are the 8 books I read aloud to my son for the challenge. Five of them are from my original list and then I realized every book I originally picked was a fantasy so I chose a switched a few out to widen the genre a bit. The 8yo loved every book I read to him but his favourites were probably Five Children and It and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. I loved them all except Peter Pan which I'm really not fond of at all. All the books were re-reads for me personally some for the third time.

If this challenge is on next year, I'll definitely be re-joining with the same twist. It was really helpful in picking good literature to read to my child.

1900s - Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
1910s - Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
1920s - The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
1930s - Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
1940s - Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
1950s - Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
1960s - James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
1970s - Abel's Island by William Steig

147. Homer Price

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

Pages: 160
Finished: Aug. 29, 2008
First Published: 1943
Genre: children, realistic fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 8yo. Decades Challenge

First sentence:

About two miles outside of Centerburg, where route 56 meets route 56A, there lives a boy named Homer.

Comments: This is an episodic children's book, typical of the time period in which it was written. There is no plot running through the story but instead each chapter (there are 6) describes an adventure of Homer's. Homer's life in the 1940s is one of freedom and childhood naivete. His escapades border on the outlandish and that makes them all that much more fun, but a little less believable. I've read this book three times now and I never get tired of it. I love the episode where the suburb is built with identical houses and no one can find their own homes and the 8yo loved the doughnut maker goes out of control episode. The 8yo thoroughly enjoyed this book and I think he's going to be a fan of other books in this same genre. He already loves Henry Huggins, and I have yet to introduce him to The Great Brain, Soup and Henry Reed. This book is similar to the others I mentioned and will be enjoyed by those who enjoy these stories of old-fashioned boyhood. While I really enjoy this book I think it just misses the mark to being great instead of good.

Monday, August 25, 2008

146. The Vampire Prince

The Vampire Prince by Darren Shan
Cirque du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan Book 6

Pages: 192
Finished: Aug. 24, 2008
First Published: 2002
Genre: YA, horror
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Next in the series. And the book is due back to the library tomorrow!

First sentence:

Be careful who you trust.

Comments: I'm beyond the point in this series where I can give a plot summary without giving away spoilers from previous books. The story arc that has been building since book 4 comes to a close in this volume and a stunning ending sets up a new direction for book 7. I say this every time but this is a wonderful series that any vampire fan of YA is going to enjoy. No new characters are introduced in this volume but there is a setup for a new villain to come and I'm excited to read the next book, as usual! I'm just really hoping some of the characters from the Freak Show come back before the series ends.

145. Johnny Appleseed and the Planting of the West

Johnny Appleseed and the Planting of the West by Gina Ingoglia
Illustrated by Charlie Shaw
Disney's American Frontier Series Book 5

Pages: 75
Finished: Aug. 23, 2008
First Published: 1992
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: My 8yo asked who Johnny Appleseed was so I gave him a brief version of the story but said I'd see if I could get a book out of the library for dad to read to him at bedtime. This was the only children's chapter book available at the library. I usually read the books after they have finished reading but this time I said I'd pass as I had a lot of books to read already but the 8yo said it was so good I had to read it. "pleeeeease". So I did.

First sentence:

"Listen to this, Nat", said Johnny.

Comments: The true story of John Chapman, usually referred to as Johnny Appleseed. The story has often been exaggerated and the author's note states that she used fact but mixed in a bit fiction. This is an alright book. The writing isn't particularly brilliant but it isn't dry and boring either. My 8yo enjoyed the story very much and found it very exciting. Being a Disney book I was afraid they would have removed the Christianity of the story but kudos to them that they did not. Johnny felt called by God to help plant the apple trees for the early settlers and he also ministered to the people along the way. A decent biography for young readers.

144. The Gargoyle

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Pages: 468
Finished: Aug. 21, 2008
First Published: Aug. 5, 2008
Genre: Magical realism
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: I received this ARC from Random House Canada. Qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.

First sentence:

Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.

Comments: I think that is an amazing opening line. How could you not read on after that? The process of reading the book was pure joy from the first page. The writing exquisite and the details of description superb. This is a difficult book to summarize. I've heard the book termed "a fantasy love story" but I'm more apt to calling it magical realism. The story starts off with a class one b*stard. He's in the pornography business, started in front of the camera and now owns his own company. He leads a life of debauchery: women, cocaine, alcohol and sex. He crashes his car (completely his fault) and suffers a severe burn all over his body. He ends up in the hospital in the burn ward and the detailed treatment suffered by burn victims was disturbing. This section of the book was incredibly difficult to read the description of the man being burnt alive was amazingly excruciating to read, as was the medical treatments which these victims must endure.

An on again off again psychiatric patient visits the man and starts telling him stories of medieval times that eventually turn into stories of the two of them. He in a previous life and her still living after all these seven hundred years. She must spend this time giving away her twenty-seven hearts until he can except her last heart.

I loved the medieval stories. They started off fairy tale-ish but turned into a side story that was just as compelling, perhaps even more so, than the main modern time plot. The man eventually leaves the hospital and moves in with this woman, Marianne Engel. She is a sculptor of gargoyles and a love story of sorts progresses.

The narrator deals with his own personal demons in the form of a metaphorical snake of pain living in his spine. While the woman he lives with and cares for pursues her centuries old quest by carving gargoyles with little regard to her health. In my mind the author leaves the story open to personal interpretation. Is Marianne really seven hundred years old, are her tales true and do she and the narrator share a love of centuries or is she simply insane, a psychiatric patient whose condition continues to worsen. While I admit I enjoyed never really knowing whether Marianne was sane or not, I did form my own opinion of the answer and must say the ending left me feeling underwhelmed. Hence my 4.5 rating. The ending is plausible and the author is certainly entitled to choose such an ending but it did leave me feeling let down after the wonderful journey through the rest of the book. I had hoped things would end differently. A simply delicious read which certainly deserves the current hype and I would not be surprised to see this on this years Governor General's Award shortlist.

Monday: New Review Copies in the Mail

Wow! What a week for arcs/review copies to arrive in the mailbox last week. I had the mailman deliver, the CanPar truck, UPS and FedEx all arrive last week! I even had one book tell me I couldn't read it until publication day (tomorrow). Bet you can guess which one that is! So that makes 6 new review copies in but unfortunately I only read one ARC last week which I'll be reviewing in my next post. So that means the towering ARC pile has increased by 5!

My reading really slowed down last and really for the whole month as we had relatives from out west visiting us from the 8th until the 24th (yesterday). I have managed to read but nowhere near as much as normal and it's been pretty sporadic getting around to the blogging. I finally have use of the computer for the day so I hope to post reviews for the 3 books sitting next me here.

I've also decided I'm going to try and stick to mainly reading arcs next month as well. I'll be back to normal reading time and should be able to read most of what is in my stack if I am persistent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

143. Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Pages: 170
Finished: Aug. 12, 2008
First Published: Sept. 16, 2008
Genre: YA, realistic fiction
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: I received this ARC from Simon & Schuster. At the time I requested it I was reading Say Goodbye which deals with the same topic from the victim's point of view, only it is a boy instead of a girl. I was intrigued in what a YA book on the topic would be like. I do not usually read teen realistic fiction. My YA tendencies are more towards fantasy, sci-fi and historical.

First sentence:

This is how things look: Shady Pines Apartments, four shabby buildings tucked off the road near the highway.

Comments: This is an immensely powerful and disturbing story told from the point of view of a fifteen-year old who was abducted by a pedophile at the age of ten. It describes in detail what her daily life is like and the brief memories she has before abduction. The book is brutal and graphic The graphic detail does stop at the point that would push it into adult reading, so while events are described very clearly so there can be no mistake as to what is happening, much is left to the imagination.

This is a book I would recommend every adult read. It is a difficult book to read but it makes one aware of the signs displayed by an abducted child. I don't know the statistics but we are all aware that many children are abducted each year, no body found, lost to their loved ones forever. This book makes you aware of the signs to watch for. The girl in the book, renamed Alice by the abductor, walked around in public with the man as well as on her own and could have been saved many times had someone recognized and acted upon it. In this situation, a false accusation can be cleared up quickly, while if suspicions are proved true, a life can be saved and a family reunited. For this I think the book serves it purpose.

As stated it is a difficult book to read but compelling and a page-turner. However, I am concerned that it is marketed to teens. The book says ages 16+, yet the book is going to be available on the shelves to YA's much younger and I would not recommend the book be read by any teen who is not s*xually active as the details are too blunt and brutal. Even though the book is short, easy to read and contains a teen main character I do not think that necessarily makes the book appropriate to teens.

The book is disturbing but true to life, the writing is brilliant, the pace is fast and the whole book beginning to end is deeply sad. I highly recommend this book to adults.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday: New Review Books in the Mail

Two new review copies arrived in the mail last week and I am extremely excited to read each of them. The first is a first-hand account of the Cultural Revolution (a special interest of mine) and the second is a serial killer thriller that sounds like it is going to be right up my alley.

So just to keep the tally going, last week I got 2 new arcs in and read 3 but have only reviewed 2 so far. Next one should be up today or tomorrow. That means my arc tbr pile is down 1 book!

I also received one more book in the mail last week and that was a Mooch. A bit of a beat-up paperback but it is the original unedited text which is what I'm looking for. No illustrations though.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

142. The Fatal Bullet

The Fatal Bullet: The Assassination of President James A. Garfield by Rick Geary

Pages: unnumbered
Finished: Aug. 16, 2008
First Published: 1999
Genre: true crime, graphic novel, American history
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: next in the series and this library book is due back tomorrow.

First sentence:

The President's mortal remains lay in state for two days in the great rotunda of the Capitol...

Comments: I have to say I wasn't too thrilled with this one before I even started it. An assassination doesn't seem like the same thing as murder to me, there's no detecting for a start. I had also never heard of this American president before (I'm Canadian) so I at least looked forward to learning something new.

The book follows the lives of both James A. Garfield and Charles J. Guiteau (the assassin) from childhood to death. Garfield is presented as a good president loved by the people and Guiteau is shown as a man who slowly lost his sense of reason and sanity and eventually plotted the death of Garfield to save the country. I found it quite interesting that a few people involved were at the assassinations of both Garfield and Lincoln.

As always with this series the artwork is tremendous. Very detailed black and white line drawings that use light and darkness to purvey the feelings of hope and gloom. This is my least favourite of the series so far simply because the story told was not in line with the murder theme of the previous volumes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Shooting of Dan McGrew

The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert W. Service
Illustrated by Ted Harrison

Pages: unnumbered
Finished: Aug. 14, 2008
First Published: text: 1907; this edition 1988
Genre: children's picture book, poetry
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: read this aloud to the 8yo. Qualifies for the Canadian Challenge and I won this signed copy (Ted Harrison) as one of the grand prizes for last years Canadian challenge so it only seemed appropriate to read it for 2nd challenge.

First sentence:

A bunch of boys were whooping it up
in the Malamute saloon;

Comments: One of Canada's greatest poets combined with one of Canada's greatest living painters produces a beautiful and wonderful presentation of this famous Canadian poem. It is hard for me to review a poem but this is the type of poetry I like. One that tells a story and has a rhythmic cadence and is fun to read aloud.

The story takes place in the Yukon during the gold rush and involves a love triangle with a jilted lover causing a shoot-out. At the end the girl wins what she's wanted all along -- the gold. A truly beautiful over-sized picture book and poem most people (even those who do not like poetry much) will appreciate. My rating of 4.5 is only based on the fact that I like poem The Cremation of Sam McGee better and I have to save the 5 for that book.

141. Admit One: A Journey into Film

Admit One: A Journey into Film by Emmett James

Pages: 197
Finished: Aug. 14, 2008
First Published: 2007
Genre: memoir
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: A signed Review Copy sent to me by the book's publicist.

First sentence:

If I could tell you just one thing about my life it would be this: My alter
ego was once a very famous man.

Comments: This is actor Emmett James' memoir of his childhood growing up in south London, England and his following career as an actor in Hollywood. The life story is told chronologically but rather than the usual memoir this is very different. James picks movies he has seen during his lifetime and relates them to his life. Sometimes there is a direct revelation from movie to life such as the first movie he remembers going to see, The Jungle Book, when he was about four, showed him how much people are affected by movies as he saw his older brother dancing around singing and acting like an orangutan after the movie. Other times the movie simply brings back memories such as the time he saw Ghostbusters, which was the first time he took a girl to the movies and he tells of his thoughts on his puberty.

The book was not what I had expected. I was thinking it would be more of a group of movies and the author's thoughts of the movies. Instead Emmett James takes that list of movies and tells his life story through how they related to his life. I loved the first half of the book about his childhood in England. The second half tells of his career as a working actor in Hollywood and mostly is opinionated on Hollywood itself and I found it quite egotistical. James takes pride in distinguishing himself as an "actor" rather than a "celebrity". The first half was definitely very enjoyable to read and those who grew up in the '80s will enjoy the tale.

Friday, August 15, 2008

140. Newton and the Time Machine by Michael McGowan

Newton and the Time Machine by Michael McGowan
Illustrated by Shelagh McNulty

Pages: 211
Finished: Aug. 12, 2008
First Published: May 13, 2008
Genre: Children's fantasy
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: Review Copy sent to me by Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.

First sentence:

Newton was having serious, serious doubts that his latest invention - a time
machine - was ready to be field-tested.

Comments: This is a sequel to Newton and the Giant, which I haven't read. Newton needs someone to test out his new time machine and his friends, the giant King and Queen of Merriwart, volunteer. The machine seems to be a success until suddenly there is a smoky explosion and it disappears leaving nothing behind but a 4 leaf clover. Sure that the treacherous Leprechauns are involved Newton, his best friend Max, Commander Joe (his talking plastic soldier) and Witch Hazel all help to recover the missing King and Queen, not to mention the time machine.

A fun romp that the younger set, 8-11 yo, are sure to enjoy. With non-stop action and humour of the toilet variety, this is definitely going to be enjoyed by boys mostly. The plot and action are fun but the characters are flat and one-dimensional. Newton's quintuplet soccer-fiend brothers are simply a nasty nemesis for Newton possessing no other human qualities. But sometimes a book is just meant to be silly and fun and this fits the bill.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday: New Review Books Received in the Mail

Last week I was lucky enough to receive four fabulous review copies! All very different from each other, a true memoir of a female French resistance fighter in WWII, the first volume in a new YA fantasy series by a Canadian author, a very intriguing South African story and .... the latest Karin Slaughter! This is a stand alone. I loved her first stand alone "Triptych" so much I'm really looking forward to this. So that makes 4 new arcs in and I read and reviewed 3 last week making it only a total of 1 more book to the towering arc tbr pile. But it's all good!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

139. The Horseman's Graves

The Horseman's Graves by Jaqueline Baker

Pages: 432
Finished: Aug. 10, 2008
First Published: 2007
Genre: Canadian literature, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Review Copy sent to me by Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.

First sentence:

They had always been haunted, those hills.

Comments: This is a story that takes place in Southern Saskatchewan approximately in the 1920s. A small rural town with a Catholic church as its centre and German immigrants as its inhabitants. The people are poor, the town is isolated and the citizens live a life of Christianity mixed with old-country superstitions. This tale of a town focuses mainly on two families, both outcasts from the others for very different reasons. The narrative switches focus from main character to main character propelling the story along quickly. Ultimately this is a tale of loneliness, superstition, coming of age, murder and love.

This is a difficult book to summarize plot-wise as the plot unravels layer by layer and there is no way to talk about it without giving away spoilers. My opinion, on the other hand, is easy to summarize. I absolutely loved it! One of the best books, I've read this year. The story and the characters are haunting, the plot is many layered but it is the characterization that propels the story along. Nothing can compare to living on the desolate prairies in the early 1900s and to see how the early settlers, especially the women, managed and survived, though not always happily, makes for a riveting read. There are always eccentric characters found in this type of setting and many abound in this book. Baker's characters are full of life and all of them, nice and nasty alike, are developed to a point where they are real people with actions one can understand and showing feelings with which one can sympathize. These characters will haunt me for a very long time. This is one I plan on reading again someday and I greatly look forward to reading her next book. Highly recommended!

Friday, August 8, 2008

138. Abel's Island

Abel's Island
Written and Illustrated by William Steig

Pages: 119
Finished: Aug. 7, 2008
First Published: 1976
Genre: children's, animal fantasy
Award: Newbery Honor book
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 8yo. Decades Challenge

First sentence:

Early in August 1907, the first year of their marriage, Abel and Amanda went to picnic in the woods some distance from the town where they lived.

Comments: While on a picnic, a storm rises and Abel and his wife, Amanda, along with others find shelter in a cave. Amanda's scarf blows off and Abel chases after it, but the storm is too much now and he is blown down the hill, into a river, over a waterfall, and eventually lands on a small deserted island. Abel, who has led a quiet, work-free, rich life up to this point now must work for his survival in an unknown landscape.

This is a beautiful story. Abel learns so much about life from being on his own and having to work to survive. At first he desperately tries to escape but the swift flowing river stops him every time. He logically devises ways to cross but as time goes by his ideas become more outlandish until he realizes the only way off is to survive and wait for help. As this dandy rises to the challenges of his new life he begins to actually enjoy his life and starts to wonder what he will do when (he never loses hope) he gets back home as he does not want to give up this new found life of labour.

I found the story heart-warming, with a message to never give up and to keep your faith even in the hardest of times. The 8yo loved it as well and he thought it was hilarious and exciting.

I read this as child but this is the first time I've re-read it and it makes me want to re-read some more of Steig's books.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

137. Say Goodbye

Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner
Sixth book in the Quincy/Rainie series

Pages: 360
Finished: Aug. 4, 2008
First Published: July 15, 2008
Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: I received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

First sentence:

He was moaning, a guttural sound in the back of his throat as his fingers tightened their grip in her hair.

Comments: Kimberly Quincy, FBI agent, is told a strange tale by a prostitute of a very scary man who is taking and killing prostitutes and has been for years. Another agent finds an unmarked envelope under his car wipers with driver's licences for 6 young women. When a few names match the prostitute's story Kimberly believes the tale. But with no missing persons reports and no bodies the word of one hooker does not make a case. As the story progresses we are introduced to one of the most vicious serial killers I've read about recently. There is more than just the one story here though, a child who has been abducted and leads a life of fear and degradation enters the scene and this thrilling thriller takes the reader on a roller coaster ride.

This is my first Lisa Gardner book and I can't believe I've waited this long. I enjoyed this thriller just as much as any by my other favourite authors (ie. Slaughter or Gerritsen). This read is fast-paced, very disturbingly gruesome, with a plot that twists and shocks. You can't ask for more when it comes to a serial killer thriller. As a first-timer with this series I found it very easy to jump in with this sixth book, enough past details are given to explain what drives the characters and also to make me want to go back and read the other books. I will definitely be reading more Lisa Gardner.

Monday, August 4, 2008

136. Queen of the Road

Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22 000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion

Pages: 289
Finished: Aug. 4, 2008
First Published: June 10, 2008
Genre: Travelogue, Memoirs
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: I was offered a review copy and accepted.

First sentence:

When my long-dreaded thirtieth birthday arrived, I really wasn't as upset as I imagined I'd be, for I had achieved a much more important milestone: my sartorial centennial.

Comments: Doreen and her husband, Tim, are both psychiatrists in their mid-forties. Tim is a dedicated workaholic with a demanding practice. Doreen has given up practice and works filing insurance claims from the comfort of her bed in her pajamas and is proud of the fact the she hardly ever leaves the house. Out of the blue, Tim convinces her that they will take a year off and drive around the United States in a converted bus. This book details that journey.

At first I wasn't sure whether I would like Doreen's narrative as her rich, material world lifestyle is the exact opposite of my own lifestyle but I couldn't have been more wrong. I found myself relating to her throughout the whole book. Doreen is simply hilarious, an outspoken person who will say just about anything. I was chuckling joyously chapter after chapter and even found myself reading parts aloud to my husband quite often, which rarely happens around here as he is a non-reader.

Humour aside, the journey they take was very interesting and informative to me. As a Canadian my knowledge of US geography is middling but even those who are experts on the topic will find Ms. Orion's journey of interest. While they do go to some famous tourist spots, Doreen chooses mostly to talk about lesser known tourist attractions, RV parks, the automotive challenges they experienced and the people they met on the way.

This is the type of book one can pick up and read a chapter at a time and pick up again later and not loose the flow of the narrative. Highly recommended, especially for summer beach reading or winter armchair travelling.

Monday: New Review Books in the Mail

Two new review copies arrived last week. I haven't read a John Saul book in years and am really looking forward to reading him again. The other is a GG nominated Canadian author's first foray into YA, which looks like a very intriguing fantasy.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Plans for August

I mentioned this before in a post a few days ago but I'm making this an official post. As of yesterday, August 1st I am only reading ARCs/Review Copies to help me get caught up and get back to my regularly scheduled alternating routine (read an arc, read an old book, etc). I will be taking the month off from reading challenge books, but hopefully I'll be able to use some of my arcs to fill challenge requirements.

There are a couple of exceptions. I have an ILL book due back Aug. 18, so I will be reading that around that time, it's a graphic novel so will be a quickie to squeeze in. I also have one library book at home that is due back in a few days but I plan on renewing it which will make it due on Aug. 26 so I will have to read it around that time. It is a short YA novel, so again will be a quickie.

Also, of course, I will continue reading aloud to my child so there will be the occasional review of those books as well. But except for the above noted minor infractions I hereby declare that during the month of August to only read books sent to me for review. I've got a lot of fabulous books in that pile of arcs so you can look forward to hearing about some great new books. As you can see in my sidebar I am currently reading Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion (I never imagined this book was going to be as enjoyable as it is!) and Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner (a fabulous thriller which is going to get me hooked on a new series! Just what I need!)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Garth Nix: A Retrospective On His Work (to date)

With the posting of my last book review I have completed reading all of Garth Nix's published works. I thought I'd make this a bit of a celebration post by going through my reading of him. There will not be any book reviews but simply my reflections on how I started reading him and the progress I made. Any text links will take you to my reviews on this blog.

The first Garth Nix books I read were The Seventh Tower series of 6 books. I was captivated from the first book and read all six books back to back, something I don't often do with series. This is a YA fantasy series with a very unique premise and wonderful world building. I was pretty sure I was going to be hooked on this author.

Oddly enough, the next book I picked up was Shade's Children which is unlike any of Nix's other books. Not his usual fantasy fare, this is a dark post-apocalyptic novel which I would say is just as much an adult book as a YA book. This is my absolute favourite of Garth Nix's books. I don't know why, but this is one of those books that people either hate or love. For me, I think it is his best book to date.

Next book I read was Sabriel, which is the first book in The Abhorson Trilogy (sometimes referred to as The Old Kingdom Trilogy). This is a very dark YA fantasy series that is Nix's most famous work and the most widely read. I loved Sabriel but must admit not as much as the previous books had I read to date.

At this point I decided to try the Keys to the Kingdom series and started with Mister Monday. It was 2004 and only this and Grim Tuesday had been written so I've been following along each year reading the new installment as it comes out. I absolutely love this series! I've read up to Lady Friday but have found that, especially with the last two books, that with reading one book a year I'm forgetting the original plot and not enjoying them as much as I could be if I had the flow of reading them close together. Superior Saturday is being published this month (August 2008) but I have decided that I will not read it now. Instead I intend to wait until the final book about Sunday is published (hopefully in 2009) then at that time I will go back and re-read the entire series before completing the last two books.

Last year I decided to go back and finish The Abhorsen Trilogy and finished Lirael and Abhorsen. Lirael is my favourite of the three books and I think that is a common feeling among other fans of the series as well. I also read Across the Wall which contains a novella that continues the Abhorsen trilogy and a collection of short stories Nix has had previously published throughout his career. The short stories are good, some better than others but overall a good book and the Abhorson novella is a must for fans of the series.

Next up was The Ragwitch, which was Nix's first published novel. It is typical YA fantasy fare and I did not enjoy it much and will say it is my least favourite book of his.

And finally the last book I read was a collection of short chapter books for younger children, One Beastly Beast (Two Aliens, Three Inventors, Four Fantastic Tales), which I thoroughly enjoyed.

At this point I will mention that Garth Nix did also write a YA adaptation of an X-Files TV Show in 1997 called The Calusari. I did read this book when I was reading all the X-Files books and didn't realize it was written by Nix until a much later date.

So that takes us to the present where we have Superior Saturday coming out this month (today, Aug. 1, to be exact!), then the last book of the Keys to the Kingdom hopefully will be published in 2009. Also there are two more Old Kingdom books in the works with tentative publishing dates within the next few years.

Keep writing Mr. Nix and I will keep reading!

135. One Beastly Beast

One Beastly Beast (Two Aliens, Three Inventors, Four Fantastic Tales) by Garth Nix
Illustrated by Brian Biggs

Pages: 158
Finished: July 31, 2008
First Published: 2007
Genre: children's, fantasy, humour
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: I am reading the author's books and this is the last one I haven't read.

First sentence:

"Take these videos back to the store, please," said Peter's mom.

Comments: This is a collection of four novellas for younger children ages 7 to 10. Three of the stories were previously published in Australia as short chapter books and the fourth is new to this collection. Each story is delightful. Silly, over-the-top fantasy or fairy tale stories that made me chuckle and I'm sure will make children laugh out loud. Simply put, each story is just a whole lot of fun. The accompanying illustrations are also delightful. Done in a modern cartoonish manner they are perfect for the humour of the stories. The following works are included in this collection:

Blackbread the Pirate (1999) - A goofy tale that starts off as a play on the words "video piracy". A boy meets some pirate rats who steal his DVDs, then the rat navy comes along and shrinks him down to size so he can come along to the Neverworld and help them defeat Blackbread the scourge of pirates.

The Princess and the Beastly Beast (2007) - Poor princess, her father is a wizard and her mother is a retired warrior princess. She's bored because there are not ogres, dragons, monsters, moat monsters, beasts or other creatures anywhere near so she decides to run away. On her journey she meets a huge beast who promptly eats her and the princess finally has an adventure.

Bill the Inventor (1998) - Bill is an orphan who was left on the steps of the orphanage wrapped in a large banana peel. For many years no parents come to adopt him so the owner, a kindly lady, starts to seek out parents for him and he is presented with a chorus of pirate parents, wizard parents and alien parents.

Serena and the Sea Serpent (2000) - A sea serpent keeps smashing into ships out in the bay and the towns along the shore leave a little girl on a rock in the middle of the bay to appease him. One day the event has happened again and Serena Smith volunteers to be the sacrifice. You see Serena had an accident as a baby in her inventor father's laboratory. It was a freak accident and she ended up having the knowledge of 57 encyclopedias in 12 languages. Serena thinks that if she just talks to the serpent maybe she can solve the problem. This was my favourite story in the book.