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Showing posts from March, 2009

68. The Werefox

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The Werefox (originally published as Pure Magic) by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Illustrated by Ingrid Fetz

Pages: 73
Ages: 7+
Finished: Mar. 27, 2009
First Published: 1973
Genre: children, paranormal
Rating: 2.5/5

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 8yo.

First sentence:


Johnny Dunlap woke and lay on his back in his narrow bed listening.
Comments: Set in a very rural area, a new family moves onto the farm nearest Johnny's place and he becomes friends with the eldest son Giles. Turns out they are French Canadians and Giles looks just like his mother while the two younger children are spitting images of the father. This is because Giles and his mother are Werefoxes, similar to werewolves, only much more gentle creatures. Giles and Johnny are typical boys during the day but at night Giles the fox takes Johnny on his midnight runs with him. Everything comes to a head when a new man moves into the area bringing with him a host of hound dogs and gives a portion of the local men the fever for fox hunting.

2 Mini Reviews of Catholic Books

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#67: Believing in Jesus: A Popular Overview of the Catholic Faith, Fifth Revised Edition by Leonard Foley, O.F.M. (2005)215 pgs. - This is the book we have been using for our RCIA classes this year. It is not the type of book you would want to sit down and read cover to cover in one go as it is a little dry for that approach to reading but it was perfect reading a few chapters every week or two over a long period of time. I also found myself browsing through certain topics and will certainly refer to it in the future. Starting with a summary of the books of the Old Testament and ending with message that Jesus will come again, this book covers every Christian topic about Jesus for those new to Him and those who have already found Him. It then expounds on topics by introducing the Catholic viewpoint which may differ from the Protestant view, pointing out views which cause misunderstandings from Protestants and explaining these misunderstandings away. Then totally Catholic practices, be…

66. Drood

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Drood by Dan Simmons

Pages: 775
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 29, 2009
First Published: Feb. 9, 2009
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Received review copy from Hachette Book Group.

First sentence:

My name is Wilkie Collins, and my guess, since I plan to delay the publication of this document for at least a century and a quarter beyond the date of my demise, is that you do not recognise my name.

Comments: Where to start with a book of over 700 pages? If I were to have written this review immediately after finishing the book, and closing my hanging jaw, one word would have sufficed, "Wow!"

Wilkie Collins is the narrator of this book, being a memoir of his life from the time of The Woman in White's end of serialization to minutes before his death. Written in an authentic Victorian sensationalist novel voice the book is incredibly brilliant. What starts off as a simple tale of Collins' life and his friendship with Dickens takes a wild turn into murde…

65. Who Was Thomas Jefferson?

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Who Was Thomas Jefferson? by Dennis Brindell Fradin
Illustrated by John O'Brien

Pages: 103
Ages: 8+
Finished: Mar. 25, 2009
First Published: 2003
Genre: children, biography
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 8yo as part of our curriculum.

First sentence:

Thomas Jefferson is pictured on U.S. nickels.

Comments: A quite detailed biography of the third President of the USA for children. Large type with a space and a half between lines makes reading easier on the eyes of young readers. Many comic-type illustrations on virtually every page along with illustrations that are labeled and drawn maps. The book is very even-handed, on the one side siting Jefferson's accomplishments as a great American while on the other keeping in mind he was a slave owner and had his own family of children from a slave woman. The book also does not presume the reader is an American which certainly makes the book reader friendly to non-Americans. So many books about the US use the words "our…

64. Unpolished Gem

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Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me by Alice Pung


Pages: 282
Ages: 18+ (though entirely suitable for teens)
Finished: Mar. 20, 2009
First Published: Jan. 27, 2009
Genre: memoir
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: I received a review copy from the publisher, Penguin USA.

First sentence:

In 1980, my father, mother, grandmother, and Auntie Kieu arrived in Australia by plane.
Comments: A Chinese family escapes communism by moving to Cambodia, only to find some years later that the next generation must escape from the dictator Pol Pot. This Chinese-Cambodian family of grandmother, brother, sister, and brother's eight-month pregnant wife are given a choice of Canada or Australia. Knowing nothing of either country they chose Australia because the father does know it doesn't snow in Australia.

This is a story of three women from three different generations with very different life experiences and especially the life of a second-generation immigrant. Alice, the daughter born shortly aft…

Homeschool: All About Spelling 1

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All About Spelling: The Multisensory Program for Spelling Success by Marie Rippel
Level One

First of all, I will not take time to thoroughly describe the components and philosophy of this program as the information can be found in detail at the website. Working from an index card box and a Teacher's Manual this is the best spelling program I have used and after homeschooling for 16 years I've tried them all. Spelling is taught phonetically by first learning all the sounds of each letter; the majority have only one sound but many have more going up to four sounds each. The student is both taught to say the sounds of the letters and to write the letter upon hearing all the sounds. It is due to this reason that I would recommend any student starting this program to start with the initial volume. An older student will work quickly through this volume but it is the basic core that other levels are built upon. I also recommend that this spelling curriculum not be started until the chi…

63. Bloodsucking Fiends

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Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
Bloodsucking Fiends, Book 1


Pages: 300
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 18, 2009
First Published: 1995
Genre: paranormal, humour
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: I am reading all of the author's works.

First sentence:

Sundown painted purple across the great Pyramid while the Emperor enjoyed a steaming whiz against a dumpster in the alley below.

Comments: Jody wakes up one evening, under a dumpster, with a burnt hand, and an awful lot of money. It takes a bit of figuring out but she soon concludes that she is a vampire. She also realizes quick quickly that she is going to need a human to watch over her when she loses consciousness at daybreak and to help her need for blood. She meets C. Thomas Flood, writer by nature, night crew manager in reality. Jody finds him attractive, pleasant and his hours are perfect so she convinces him to move in with her. Flood being new to the city figures why not. As Jody and Tommy explore what she can and can't …

62. Fade

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Fade by Lisa McMann
Wake Trilogy, Book 2

Pages: 248
Finished: Mar. 16, 2009
First Published: Feb. 10, 2009
Genre: YA, magical realism
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: I received a Review Copy from the publisher, Simon & Schuster, Canada.

First sentence:

Janie sprints through the snowy yards from two streets away and slips quietly through the front door of her house.

Comments: Janie has found out that she is not the first to experience her ability to enter other people's dreams. She and Caleb start researching dreams and she begins to learn to gather some control over her blackouts and the dream events themselves. The nightmares are the worst they make her totally helpless and she begins to experience a classmate's terrifying nightmare over and over as they share study hall together. Caleb and Janie become aware of a horrible situation taking place at Fieldridge High between teachers and students but no one will talk. Janie tries to find the truth, and stop the terrible event from h…

61. Wake

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Wake by Lisa McMann
Wake Trilogy, Book 1

Pages: 210
Finished: Mar. 13, 2009
First Published: Mar 4, 2008
Genre: YA, magical realism
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: I received the second book for review purposes, so just had to read the first one first.

First sentence:

Janie Hannagan's math book slips from her fingers.

Comments: Seventeen-year-old Janie gets sucked into other people's dreams. It's been happening since she was eight. Now that she is getting older things are getting worse. More and more students in high school fall asleep at their desks and Janie blacks out and enters the dreams more frequently. She blacks out at school, on the job at a seniors home, and shortly after buying her first car, while driving. This is getting out of hand and she must learn how to take control of the episodes. So far all she knows is that distance or a closed door will prevent the dreams.

I'm going to say it straight off. I loved this book so much, I could gush about it on and on. Page one…

60. Sins Past

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Sins Past by J. Michael Straczynski
The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 8

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Mar. 13, 2009
First Published: 2005 (compilation of comics #509-514)
Genre: graphic novel, superheroes
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

First sentence:

"...and I said to him, I said why are you touching me like that?"


Comments: Volume 8, collecting issues #509-514, has an intense plot with one main story arc running throughout. Spider-man has always been haunted by the death of Gwen Stacy, his former "love of his life". Now that day has come back to haunt him in the present as two people arrive determined to kill both Peter Parker and Spider-man for their respective parts in Gwen's death. The events of the past, his relationship with Gwen, are relived as Peter discovers the connection between that relationship and the two would-be assassins. There comes a time when the fateful day of Gwen's demise is relived in the present as Peter determines not to let…

59. The Secret Soldier

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The Secret Soldier, The Story of Deborah Sampson by Ann McGovern
Illustrated by Harold Goodwin

Pages: 64
Finished: Mar. 13, 2009
First Published: 1975
Genre: children, biography
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 8yo as part of our curriculum.

First sentence:

Deborah's mother looked down at her five sleeping children.

Comments: This is a brief, easy to read (RL3) biography of Deborah Sampson, a young woman who disguised herself as a man so she could fight in the American Revolution. The story is told quickly but in an entertaining, interesting way. While being a biography for children I think the proper term would be "biographical fiction" as much dialogue and feelings are used which couldn't possibly be known as fact, plus there is no index. But that is no reason not to read the book, as far as I know the facts are all true. Sampson was a remarkable woman for her time, who defied social conventions and led the life of adventure that she so yearned for. …

Saint Patrick

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Saint Patrick by Ann Tompert
Illustrated by Michael Garland

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Mar. 13, 2009
First Published: 1998
Genre: Christian
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: We read this on Friday, the last day before March Break, as Saint Patrick's Day was coming up today.

First sentence:


Long ago in the fourth century, a boy was born in southwest Britain near the Irish Sea.

Comments: This is a wonderful picture book! It was the only one available in my library system so I was just hoping it would turn out to be ok. But instead it was great. Everyone knows the story of how St. Patrick got rid of the snakes in Ireland, but this book does not relate that story. This book tells the story of St. Patrick's life as a boy, his days of slavery in Ireland, how he escaped, went back home and was called by God to go back to Ireland and convert the pagans to Christianity.

The book is from a secular publisher so it is suitable for both Christians and non-Christians alike. The artwork is divine. Each…

58. The Golden Phoenix

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The Golden Phoenix: Eight French-Canadian Fairy Tales by Marius Barbeau
Retold by Michael Hornyansky. Illustrated by Arthur Price

Pages: 144
Finished: Mar. 12, 2009
First Published: 1958
Genre: fairy tales, folklore
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: As many of my regular readers will know I always read a tale (fairy, folk, myth, legend, etc) to my 8yo each school day as a part of our homeschool day. We are currently learning North American history and the French-Canadian tale is appropriate to read at this time.

First sentence:

There was once a King renowned for his wisdom.

Comments: This is a collection of eight tales collected by Marius Barbeau (b. 1883) during the first half of the 20th century. He set out in Grimm fashion and collected fairy tales and folklore, from the French-Canadians, that had been passed down generation to generation since the 1600s. His entire collection is housed at the National Museum of Canada. When he wrote these tales he wrote in the words of the people telling the …

57. She Always Knew How: Mae West

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She Always Knew How: Mae West, A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

Pages: 303
Finished: Mar. 11, 2009
First Published: Feb. 10, 2009
Genre: biography
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

First sentence:

My first thought was, women need a Bill of Rights. "And then I thought, no, what women need is -- a Bill of Wrongs."

Comments: A very interesting biography of Mae West written by an author who interviewed West extensively near the end of her life. Mae West was a feminist before the word was invented, and a very racy character, who created herself an image based on sex that she always upheld in public. The book covers Mae's entire life from her parents up to and including her death in 1980. Mae lived through most of the 20th century and is a legend today for her risque work both on the stage and as a playwright and her movies that pushed the boundaries of 1930s/40s morals. Mae had a way of saying the tamest thing in su…

56. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go

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Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye
Illustrations by Bob Dob
Heck, The First Circle of Heck

Pages: 288
Finished: Mar. 11, 2009
First Published: July, 2008
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Random House Canada, in anticipation of the second book coming out this summer.

First sentence:

As many believe, there is a place above and a place below.
Comments: Milton's sister Marlo is a lot of trouble; a Goth girl always pulling off pranks and often dragging her younger brother along for the ride. When Milton and Marlo are killed in a marshmallow-bear explosion at the local mall they slide down to a place with big sign "Heck". Seems children aren't fully responsible for their earthly actions and Heck is the place where they go until they are 18 or eternity whichever comes first. At that time their soul will be re-weighed and their final destination (up or down) will be determined.

Heck is not a nice place. They have to go to sch…

55. The Fighting Ground

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The Fighting Ground by Avi

Pages: 157
Finished: Mar. 10, 2009
First Published: 1984
Genre: children, YA, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 8yo.

First sentence:

It was in the morning when Jonathan first heard the bell.
Comments: Taking place during the span of only two days this is a vivid story of a young boy who rushes off to fight a battle during the American Revolution against a troop of Hessians. When news comes of a Corporal's arrival at the town tavern, Jonathan anxiously asks his father's permission to go, as they work together in the field. His father, who has a badly damaged leg from fighting in the war himself earlier on, says he may not and to get back to the house to help his mother. When he arrives home he tells his mother of the news and urges her that he should go to town and investigate, the mother reluctantly agrees to let him go after Jonathan lies to her that his father has said he can go. At the tavern where there is a call for men…

Two more Spider-man and Fables

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Here are two short reviews of two graphic novels I have read.


53.The Book of Ezekiel by J. Michael Straczynski.
The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 7

This series is really getting better as it goes along. This is a brilliant volume. We start off with a story arc continued from the last book. Seems that when Spider-Man came back from The Void an evil goddess came back with him. She has now taken over the body of a human and the god Loki comes to help Spidey fight this villainess. Then we move on to the series about Ezekiel. So far he has appeared off and on and we are not sure whether he is a bad or good character. Now we find out his true colours and fights a vicious battle of souls and true character. Very gripping plot and a quick read as it's certainly a page-turner. 4.5/5


#54. Storybook Love by Bill Willingham
Fables, Volume 3

Wow, in volume three this series really picks up with a bang! First we are presented with a few tales of Jack during the Civil War and how he often beats Death. Th…

The Dangerous Alphabet & A Dog Came, Too

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Here are two short reviews of picture books I've been reading.


A Dog Came, Too by Ainslie Manson. Illustrated by Ann Blades

This picture book is a wonderful telling of Alexander Mackenzie's voyage to find a Northwest Passage through Canada to the Pacific Ocean. He was the first white man to do so and left a message upon a rock which can still be seen today. What makes this picture book unique and so enjoyable for kids is that it is told from a dog's point of view. From Mackenzie's journals we know that a dog was included in his party and Mackenzie's voyage is told here through the eyes of that dog. It is very well done and not anthropomorphic at all. Very enjoyable, gripping text suitable for all ages. I read it aloud to my 8yob as part of our curriculum. Beautiful water colour illustrations by the award winning Ann Blades. 4.5/5


The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Gris Grimly.

Virtually a poem written in rhyming couplets this alphabetical (A is for.…

52. Dandelion Fire

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Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson
100 Cupboards, Book 2

Pages: 466
Finished: Mar. 8, 2009
First Published: Feb. 24, 2009
Genre: children's fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: I received a review copy for the publisher, Random House Canada.

First sentence:

Kansas is not easily impressed.

Comments: In the previous book Henry finds out a secret about himself and now with only two weeks left before his parents come to take him home from visiting his uncle and cousins, Henry decides to enter the cupboards again and find the truth. His cousin Henrietta finds out and is annoyed at not being included so she secretly follows behind him. Henry is kidnapped almost immediately and Henrietta soon finds herself in similar circumstances only with different kidnappers.

The evil witch who is now roaming free is taking over the world with her power of death that kills every living thing that touches the ground. Henry is one of her prime targets. Once Henry finds out his truths the battle to stop evil is wel…

A Trio of Reviews

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#50. Better Days by Joss Whedon (Serenity, Vol.2) - This graphic novel takes place sometime during the regular time frame of Firefly. The crew finally have themselves a heist that ends up in uncovering a huge amount of cash. As they daydream what they will do with all the money, someone is chasing them down coming to kill Malcolm Reynolds, but little does he know that it is in fact another member of the crew who he wants. Fun romp with the wonderful Firefly/Serenity characters. Nothing too special but a bit of fun to read. The artwork is fun and an introduction by Adam Baldwin (Jayne) is an added bonus. 3/5






#51. Happy Birthday by J. Michael Straczynski (The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 6) - This is my favourite volume so far. While engaged in a battle, Spidey (with the help of many other superheroes, including the Fantastic Four) finds himself called by Doc Strange. Seems they've made a big mistake and the world is now about to end. As Doc fights the ultimate bad guy Spider-man step…

49. The Vagrants

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The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

Pages: 337
Finished: Mar. 4, 2009
First Published: Feb. 3, 2009
Genre: literary fiction, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: I received a review copy for the publisher, Random House Canada.

First sentence:

The day started before sunrise, on March 21, 1979, when Teacher Gu woke up and found his wife sobbing quietly into her blanket.
Comments: This book is a story of ordinary Chinese citizens in 1979, China. A year in which people are still getting used to the Communist regime after the break-up of the Cultural Revolution. Those who were staunch Red Guards during the rule Mao have been take care of and anyone still harbouring those or any feelings other than communism are antirevolutionists. The book opens upon the day that the Gu's daughter, Shan, now 28 after spending 10 years in prison for her actions during the rule of Mao is to be executed for her writings found in her diary in her cell.

The story is mostly one of the characters who knew Gu Shan, t…

48. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

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The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore
Pine Cove, book 2

Pages: 304
Finished: Mar. 2, 2009
First Published: 1999
Genre: humour, monsters
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: I am reading the author's works.

First sentence:

September in Pine Cove is a sigh of relief, a nightcap, a long-deserved nap.
Comments: Oh, how does one begin to summarize the plot of a Christopher Moore book. This time let us not even try but instead let's take a glimpse into the characters in this novel. First and foremost, we have Steve, sea monster, who has recently woken from a long sleep and has come ashore in Pine Cove. Steve has an unusual way of catching prey, he sends off pheromones that make any nearby mammals "horny" and they seek him out. This plays particular havoc on Pine Cove's population as the local shrink, Valerie, has just decided to take all her patients off antidepressants (about 1/3 of the population) and try talking to her patients instead of just medicating them. T…

47. Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe

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Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe, 3rd edition edited by Tom Pomplun
Graphic Classics, Volume 1

Pages: 144
Finished: Feb. 28, 2009
First Published: 2006
Genre: graphic novel, short stories, poetry
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: I noticed my library had just shelved a quite a few of the books in the series and I also noted that Rick Geary was one of the contributors in several of them. My interest was piqued by that and the looks of the book.

First sentence:

True I have been nervous ... very nervous.
Comments: An anthology of graphic adaptations of some of Edgar Allan Poe's works, both short stories and poems. Each story is written/illustrated by a different person such as Rick Geary, Matt Howarth, Lisa K. Weber and many more. Most of Poe's works collected here are his most famous but there are a few lesser known ones as well. A wide variety of styles are present, mostly the familiar cartoon bubble but also frames with narrative written beneath and even simply illustrated. For ex…