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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Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week saw the arrival of 4 Review Copies in my mailbox and I have to say I am extremely excited to read each and every one of these. I read 3 Review Copies last week making my ARC pile only 1 book larger. Plus I actually have 2 ARCs I'm going to finish today so it's been a good week.

I also received a book on Friday that I'm going to keep a surprise as it is kind of a part of a secret I will be revealing in October, or hopefully near the end of Sept.

The Books:


Saturday, August 29, 2009

157. Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard


Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard

Pages: 273
Ages: 14+
Finished: Aug. 28, 2009
First Published: Aug. 18, 2009 (Canada only)
Genre: paranormal, thriller, mystery, magical realism
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

Dee spread feed over the ground, calling, "chick, chick."



Reason for Reading: I love a good ghost story. I received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Canadian Book Challenge. Qualifies for the RIP IV Challenge.

Comments: Set in the Bruce Peninsula area of Ontario at the time that the soldier's had returned home from WWI, Dee and her Grandmother live in a small cabin at the outskirts of a rural town. Grandmother is the town's midwife and also the one people come to for "medicines" when they are sick. The town does have a doctor, has for some years and business isn't what it used to be but some folks still would rather trade goods with Grandmother than pay cash to the doctor. Fourteen year-old Dee has been raised by Grandmother as her own mother ran off with a travelling show when Dee was only a few months old, her father is unknown. Otherwise the only special thing about Dee is that she sees dead people.

Her 'gift' which she keeps secret even from her Grandmother tests her endurance when a former friend of hers' bones are found up on the mountain approximately four years old. Everyone thought she'd run away with a boy at the time and now people are remembering other girls who 'disappeared' in the past. It isn't until a new girl is found dead that a Detective from Toronto is sent for to find this serial killer in their midst.

This is the first book I've read by Barbara Haworth-Attard, though she's written many juvenile and YA novels. I highly enjoyed it. I found the serial killer mystery to be tightly written and fast paced with plenty of clues but not easy to figure out at all. I had it narrowed down to two suspects from the start but wavered between them for a while. I think the intended audience will have a great time with this mystery.

The supernatural element was an added bonus to an already strong straight-forward thriller plot. The spooky ghostly episodes certainly added to the sense of fear surrounding the plot. This brings about a second theme that runs through the book of Dee wondering why she sees these spirits and wonders about her Grandmother's special gifts and why her mother ran away and has never come back. Overall, a very intricate plot that carries many threads and combines the paranormal with reality with the ease of an accomplished writer.

I enjoyed everything about this book. Dee is a fun character, fully developed, as is her Grandmother who has a hard shell that Dee occasionally cracks and sees underneath. The only thing I found disappointing is the stereotypical use of a mentally challenged character (which appeared to be downs syndrome to me), who was called "retard" by the nastier folks in town. This character is introduced first but as soon as the girl's bones are found it's obvious that stereotypically the "retard" is going to come under suspicion of the murders. I expected it from the get go. And indeed the author fell into that trap. It's typical of the time period but something a little less obvious would have been more original.

Otherwise, I read this book throughout a day, thought it was a brilliant serial killer mystery for this age group and loved the paranormal aspect. Recommended!


Visit my 10yo niece's new movie blog. Thanks!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Life According to Literature

A fun meme, I swiped from read_warbler.

Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It's a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: Anything But Typical - Nora Raleigh Baskin

How do you feel: Undone - Karin Slaughter

Describe where you currently live: Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Lost City of Z - David Grann

Your favorite form of transportation: The Dragons of Ordinary Farm - Tad Williams

Your best friend is: The Redeemer - Jo Nesbo

You and your friends are: Angels of Destruction - Keith Donohue

What's the weather like: Relentless - Dean Koontz

You fear: The Meanest Doll in the World - Ann M. Martin

What is the best advice you have to give: Believing in Jesus - Leonard Foley

Thought for the day: Don't Call Me a Crook! - Bob Moore

How I would like to die: Meeting Jesus in Holy Communion - Roger Marchand

My soul's present condition: Wanting - Richard Flanagan

156. The Day the Falls Stood Still



The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Pages: 305
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 27, 2009
First Published: Aug. 25, 2009
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:


The stone walls of Loretto Academy are so thick I can sit curled up on a windowsill, arms around the knees tucked beneath my chin.


Reason for Reading: The book takes place in Niagara Falls, Canada and that is where I live plus the historical time 1915-1923 is a favourite period I like to read about. I was excited to read a book set in my city and the cover is beautiful and actually blew me away when I saw it in real life. I received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Canadian Reading Challenge.

Comments: I'll start off by admitting I may be a little biased. There is something captivating about reading a book when you recognize the street names, know the buildings mentioned, have been to the natural landmarks and live a block away from the church the family attended. But when I also find myself reading a brilliant epic love story I think my insider knowledge is more of a bonus than a bias.

Bess and Tom come from different classes. Bess is the 17yo daughter of an influential man at Niagara Power and lives in Glenview Mansion. She attends a Catholic Girls Academy (even though the family isn't Catholic) and leads a sheltered life. Tom is about 22 and is the local riverman. He catches fish for pay, pulls dead bodies out of the river, works a few nights in the saloon he has a room over and is always on hand when help is needed down at the river. When these two meet each other it is love at first sight but many things stand in their way including themselves.

While the beautiful love story is the main plot there are many other themes running through the book. The plight of women during this period is masterfully woven into the story with unwed pregnancy, suicide, women working during the war, and women being given the vote during WWI if they had a husband or son overseas. The effect the war had on the women as they stayed home and wondered if their husbands would ever come home and the plight of the men who did come home who were wounded beyond repair and others who had unseen wounds, those of the mind that don't heal so easily.

It is also a story of the environment as the whole history of the harnessing of the power of the Falls for electricity takes place during this time period. Sir Adam Beck, the government, the big business and everyone else it seems is so excited about more and more electricity at less cost that nobody seems to know what it is doing to the river itself, nobody but Tom that is, who knows the river like the back of his hand, and what he sees scares and saddens him. The characters all stand out wonderfully but it is Tom, a true hero, who captures your heart.

A riveting book. I could hardly put it down and read it very quickly. It is emotional; there is sadness. I almost cried at the end, with a lump in my throat, mad, for a moment, at this tragedy we call life. An astounding first novel! Ms. Buchanan is a talented writer with a future ahead of her. I will be interested to see where she goes with her next novel. Highly Recommended! This one is certainly going to make my top ten list this year.

Glenview Mansion Then


Glenview Mansion Later in the '80s



For a picture of it now visit the website where you can see it has been turned into executive tourist apartments. Blah! I wish it was turned into a museum the public could visit!


Visit my 10yo neice's new movie blog. Thanks!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A New Blog

Hi Everyone!

My 10yo niece has just started her own blog about movies. Please drop by and say hi or leave her a comment or two. She's already got several posts up and she just started blogging yesterday! You can find her here at Movies4You.

Thanks!

Mercy Watson Mini-Reviews

The Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, I've been reading these aloud to my son over the last weeks. Book 1 has its own review here.

#152 - Book 2 - Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride (2006), 73 pgs - Mercy loves going for a drive in the car but she always wants to sit in the driver's seat so every time it's always the same routine of pushing and coaxing her into the passenger side. Next door neighbour Baby Lincoln is looking for some adventure and decides to stow away in the back seat and so begins an ordinary drive that later involves the police and Mercy driving the car herself and Baby must come to the rescue. Hilarious follow-up to the original!! The scene where the policeman sees Mercy driving the car had my son in stitches he was laughing so much. A truly original story that kept me smiling and had my son on the edge of his seat with excitement and practically on the floor with laughter. 5/5

#153- Book 3. Mercy Watson Fights Crime (2006), 70 pgs - Mercy wakes up one night hearing noises, the screech of the toaster being moved and the clank of the toaster being pushed down. Someone must be making toast! So off she goes but instead she discovers a tiny little man, Leroy, who wants to be a cowboy but has become a thief instead. Mercy and Leroy end up having fun together in the middle of the night but the neighbours don't agree and the police and firemen are called out to the disturbance. Another cute story but this time we just didn't seem to feel the exuberance of the previous two books. No complaints, it just didn't have any laugh out loud moments for us. Perhaps because this one goes a little too far overboard by bringing a human being into Mercy's antics, just a thought, as we didn't find Leroy an enjoyable character at all. But still cute, just not up to par with Books 1 and 2. 3/5

#154 - Book 4 Mercy Watson Princess in Disguise (2007), 71 pgs - It's Halloween and Mercy is not impressed with being dressed up in clothes but when promised treats she complies. But of course, to Mercy, the word treat makes her think of buttered toast and when she's first offered treats she can't find any toast in the plate full of candies but she does smell butter. After making a complete mess searching out a Butter Barrel candy she plays a racing game with a cat who ends up in a tree and Mr. Watson declares it's time to bring in the fire department. And this time we learn which fireman goes with which name as they've always been referred to as "Ned and Lorenzo". This fourth installment was back to what we expected from Mercy. Lots of fun in a cute story. Mercy's facial expressions are adorable. Several new characters are added in this book and we can see we've collected quite a large cast already at this point when all characters set down to hot buttered toast at the end. 4/5

#155 - Book 5 Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig (2008), 73 pgs. - Mercy is in a lot of trouble this time when she ventures over to the Lincoln sister's yard and starts to eat the pansies that Eugenia has just planted. Well, Eugenia has finally had it and calls the Animal Control Officer to come collect this menace of pig. Another cute story that had a few really funny moments but didn't make it as one of our favourites. Though we really did enjoy Eugenia finally blowing her top big time. The other books seemed to lead us to thinking that one day she would just have had enough. Characters introduced in the last book return and the familiar faces are always a joy to see. Though their were a few really funny bits, mostly this story just didn't tickle our funny bone as much as other in the series have. A good chapter in Mercy's life, just not a great one. 3.5/5

These books were all borrowed from the library. Just one more book in the series to read and I have a review copy of Book #6, so that one will get a review page all of it's own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

151. Wisconsin Death Trip


Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy
Preface by Warren Susman

Pages: 268
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 25, 2009
First Published: 1973
Genre: history
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

The pictures you are about to see are of people who were once actually alive.

Reason for Reading: In the book A Reliable Wife by Roderick Goodwin, the author mentions in a note that this book gave him the idea for the atmosphere to set his own book in. His characters read from the newspaper regularly and his description of this book made want to read it. So I put an ILL request in for it right away.

Comments: This is a very unusual book. It is a collection of both photographs and newspaper clippings from the period of 1895 to 1900 from a newspaper called the Badger State Banner which covered local Jackson County news as well as having access to state wide news. During this period, the author contends that a certain presence of death, and tragedy loomed over the agricultural towns of the American Midwest. What became a mundane part of their everyday lives as reported in the newspapers, now, to us looking back, seems to be a macabre era of history.

The newspaper articles which run from one-liners to several paragraphs report on suicides, diphtheria deaths, baby deaths, insane declarations, window smashers, arsonists, found dead bodies, deaths, funerals, charges of obscene letters sent through the mail and much more plus repeated instances of the same over and over with each one different and many the same. Suicides are rampant, men shooting themselves in the head, hanging themselves in the barn and one guy blew his head off with dynamite. Women poisoned themselves with the plenty of rodent killers found on the farm, drowned themselves in barrels and rivers or set themselves on fire, one lady in a bath of kerosene. The asylum must have been filled to the rafters with all the reports of committed people. How many times I read of women with 8 to 13 children being committed as insane with symptoms of despondency and men who lost their jobs and wouldn't do anything were declared insane. Of course then there were also the usual religious insanity, the tobacco insanity, the "thinks the neighbours are after him" insanity, too. All this and the other topics make for absolutely fascinating reading of a time when life must have been a hard road to travel.

Then along with the text between each year, are sections of photographs which were taken by a local studio photographer, Charley Van Schaick. It was the finding of the glass negative slides that prompted the compilation of this book. None of the photos are snapshots, they are all photos taken because someone wanted them taken. They are very striking and range from the morbid dead babies in coffins and old women who are scary to look at to studio shots of people but whose eyes are strangely lifeless and there are even some photos of picnics and local businesses. The way they have been arranged though is not just a sequence of photos but is an artistic presentation. I almost felt as if I were watching a silent movie at times.

The combination of the text and the photos together presents an unusual artistic viewing of social history in a manner not likely to be seen again. I think this is only something to come about from the mindset of the seventies. Both the preface and the authors ending thesis (this was originally presented as his thesis at Rutgers) suffer from a lot of seventies psycho-babble but the history presented is unblemished and fascinating ... and macabre. This is the type of book that would be a pleasure to own and dip into or just to come back to over and over for the pictures alone. While not for everyone I highly recommended it for those who, like me, enjoy this sort of thing.

Here are a few of the photos from the book:






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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

RIP IV Challenge

I was a bit worried whether I would be able to join the RIP Challenge this year as I have a set group of books I have to read from but I joyfully noticed that the books I would be reading in Sept. mostly all could be described with words such as paranormal, scary, mystery, terrifying, spooky. So I'm set. The challenge only calls for four books to be read over Sept and Oct which I can easily pull off so I will definitely be in on this one again. Here are the pool of books I will be working from for Sept. only. I may or may not read all of these but I will certainly read more than 4 RIP related books over 2 months.

1. Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard
2. Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay
3. The Rapture by Liz Jensen
4. My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
5. Meridian by Amber Kizer
6. The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein
7. The Hollow People by Brian Keaney
8. Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri
9. The Child Thief by Brom
10. A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

150. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dance


The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Pages: 371
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 24, 2009
First Published: Jun. 9, 2009
Genre: historical fantasy,
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Peter Petford slipped a long wooden spoon into the simmering iron pot of lentils hanging over the fire and tried to push the worry from his stomach.


Reason for Reading: The Salem witch trials have always been a favourite reading topic of mine so this book obviously piqued my interest. I received a review copy from Voice, Hyperion.

Comments: It's summer break and Connie has just finished her orals for her PhD. She intends on spending the summer coming up with a dissertation topic but her mother has asked her to clean up the ancient family home (which Connie knew nothing of) so she can sell it. Connie says yes against her better judgement and ends up spending the summer in an early 18th century home with no electricity or phone. Upon her arrival she finds a mysterious key with the name Deliverance Dane attached and so begins her research which will take her back to the 1690s and the Salem witch trials as she follows through the 18th century history of mother and daughter passing along a book of utmost importance to the family. But Connie's research also turns deadly as she falls in love with a young man who has a terrible accident and her research becomes obsessively important to a superior at school. Connie ultimately must face a shocking question when she is asked to ponder whether some of the Salem witches might actually have been real witches.

When I first started reading this book I had no idea it contained such a strong supernatural element. Fortunately, I love fantasy and to find the book delving into witch lore was a pleasant surprise on my part. I really enjoyed this book. It was a really fun read. The narrative switches back and forth from the past, 1690s and early 1700s, to Connie's modern day 1991 and also includes her reading from journals and newspapers as she researches the past. Connie herself is a likable character whose straightforward, no-nonsense character is compromised when she meets up with events that challenge her beliefs. The two storylines, past and present, are easily connected and I enjoyed them both equally well, I just wish Deliverance Dane's character had been given more background as she remains rather a vague character.

The plot itself is on the predictable side. I had several things figured out at the start of the book and always seemed to be one step ahead of the plot but, nevertheless, I did still enjoy the whole story and read the book eagerly. I also found Ms. Howe's idea of a Christian witch rather fascinating and entertaining. A unique mythology of witchcraft blended with excellently researched Puritan New England. This will be enjoyed by fans of historical fantasy.



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Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week I received 4 new review copies and 1 bookmooch. Unfortunately, I only managed to read one review book bringing my bundles of arcs to a total of 3 books larger. It was just too hot to live last week. So I must confess I spent much of the week either having a cold shower or falling asleep. This is what the mailman brought me:

Review Copies



And a Bookmooch:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

149. Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Great Stories of Greek & Roman Mythology

Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Great Stories of Greek & Roman Mythology, Specially Arranged for Children 5 and Up by an Educational Expert by William F. Russell, Ed.D

Pages: 264
Ages: 5+
Finished: Aug. 21, 2009
First Published: 1989
Genre: mythology
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The biggest mistake that parents and teachers make when helping children to read is that they stop reading aloud to them once the children have begun to read for themselves.


Reason for Reading: I first read this book to my eldest son approx. ten years ago and it became my favourite retelling of myths to read aloud to children. I had always planned to read it to my 9yo and I've been reading a story a day to him every M-F.

Comments: This is the best book of Greek and Roman myths especially written for reading aloud to children that I have come across and we've read a lot in our household. This book is written in the storyteller format. Each story starts with a brief synopsis for the storyteller and a list of words with phonetic pronunciations. These words also are shown with phonetic pronunciations the first time they appear in the story. After each story is a short paragraph or two called "A Few Words More" which is for the benefit of the storyteller and tells the Greek or Latin roots or word history of certain words that come into play in this particular story. This is not meant to be read aloud but gives the storyteller options to weave them into a post story discussion if time permits.

The book is divided into two sections. Part I is recommended for ages 5 and up and concentrates on the well known Greek Myths such as Athena, Echo, Marathon, Damocles, Pegasus, Io, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Theseus and Jason. Part II is recommended for ages 9 and up and primarily tells in chapters three tales, The Trojan War, Ulysses and Aeneas.

Do not let the age recommendations fool you into thinking this is a baby book. Five year olds listening to these stories are five years old who have grown up on Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Hans Christian Andersen (the originals, not Disney-fied versions). The vocabulary used right from the beginning is rich literature, as you would expect to find in Hawthorne's own tales of the myths. The violence of the original tales remains, in the first half perhaps the blood is not quite so red yet gruesome death does abound and in Part II the blood and gore flow freely. The only 'watering down' found in these tales is in the s*xual aspects of the original tales. Words like 'lover', 'friend' 'maid' and 'met' are used instead of the actual s*xual situations that occur when reading from original Greek sources.

I'm being quite blunt here as I do want readers to beware that these are very real renditions and don't expect a tenderhearted Teletubbies five-year-old to have a cutesy fun time with these tales. But then, this is exactly why I love this book so much. When your child is ready to really meet the Greek Myths this is my recommended book to start with. We've met some of these tales in our reading before but these versions really bring out the glory of the Greeks' mythology and the final Trojan War and Ulysses chapters are amazingly well told for this age group. The author even makes Aeneas (in a brief retelling) exciting.

I sold my original copy of this book and had to buy another copy to read it this time. You can bet I'll be keeping my copy now and saving it for the day I (hopefully) can read it to my grandkids.


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Must Read YA Fantasy

Last year I had the pleasure of reading an amazing YA fantasy novel called Saye by Jeremy H. Walker. It was the best YA novel I read in 2008 and it made #6 on my Top Ten list last year. I couldn't understand why the blogging world was not raving about this truly unique book.

From email with him I learned Mr. Walker was having problems with the publishing industry, agents, etc. and he sadly had to take his book off the market as it was costing him money to sell it. I knew he was writing a second book and had earlier asked to be kept up to date on its publication. I received an email this Thursday from Mr. Walker with very exciting news!

I wanted to let you know that Saye is available in stores again. Once I took it off the market due to financial issues I received some letters from kids who read Saye. They told me they loved it and wanted to share it with their friends. After that I tried to find a way to put it back into stores and keep it there. Recently I found a direct way to Ingram catalogue which made the process so much easier. hopefully I can bring out the paperback copy and soon give you some information on the second book, which still needs a title.

Here's to a book that has actually grown fans thanks to the reviews!

Jeremy W.
(reprinted with permission)

Please read or re-read my original review of Saye which I wrote on Nov. 8, 2008. Then do yourself a favour and read this book.


Saye by Jeremy H. Walker
Saye, Book 1

Pages: 206
Finished: Nov. 7, 2008
First Published: 2007
Genre: YA, science fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reason for Reading: Received a Review Copy from the author.

First sentence:


In the Earth's night sky near the constellation Cepheus and by the brightest star to the east, there lies a number of planets.

Comments: On a desert planet inhabited by humanoid beings there has been a long war between the land beings and those of the five great lakes who are water beings living under the water. Once the war has been declared over and the water people believed to have been annihilated, along comes Saye. She is found by a member of the temple city and taken back there to be accepted into their protective fold; for it is obvious that Saye is a child of both races. However, the emperor of the land has vowed the war is not over until every one of the water people has been destroyed, including Saye.

What an absolutely delightful book! In just over two hundred pages Walker has managed to create a fully developed planet and two races of beings. The writing is beautiful and the narrative is almost like that of a fairy tale, weaving one under its spell. The main character is a strong female who is orphaned, alone and yet full of fighting spirit; not letting anyone take advantage of her.

The supporting characters are equally realistic and this book was a complete joy to read. I was swooped down into life on Valiku right from the opening page and became fascinated with the world and peoples Walker introduces us to. The book also contains illustrations by the author which are haunting pencil sketches that really add to the beauty of this story. Whether you call it fantasy or sci-fi, this is one of the best YA books of this genre I've read in the last couple of years. I haven't read any other reviews of this book on other blogs to date and I can't help but wonder why all the YA fantasy fans out there are not reading this book. Bring on Book 2 Mr. Walker! I am anxiously awaiting the continuation of this very unique story.

UPDATE: Nov. 25, 2008 - This book is no longer available online at amazon, etc or at bookstores. The author is having a hard time finding a literary agent or a more mainstream publisher. If you can help him out, just send an email to Jeremy. Believe me, this is a book series that deserves to be published and read! Good Luck Jeremy!

UPDATE: Aug. 20, 2009 - The book is back in print! Hooray!

Available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
(these links are free of associate referrals, meaning I get no compensation. I just want you to buy the book!)

Friday, August 21, 2009

148. The Last Dickens

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

Pages: 386
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 20, 2009
First Published: mar. 17, 2009 (paperback coming Oct. 6, 2009)
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery, literary thriller
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Neither of the young mounted policemen fancied these subdivisions of the Bagirhaut province.




Reason for Reading: I'm always interested in Victorian historical fiction plus I've read two other books this year that concerned Charles Dickens: 'Drood' by Dan Simmons and 'Wanting' by Richard Flanagan. Therefore I thought why not add a third to the mix especially since this concentrated on Dickens last novel as did 'Drood'. I received a review copy form Random House Canada.

Comments: Dickens has just died leaving his last book "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" only half-finished. But one of the partners of his American publishing house James Osgood is certain he may be able to find clues to Dickens' intentions for the story's ending if he travels to England which leads him into a much deeper, darker and dangerous mystery than he had counted on. The book also flashes back a few years to a plot line that follows Dickens' final book tour of America and the trials and tribulations that accompanied him on that last trip. And finally, the book follows a third less frequent plot line of Frank Dickens, Charles' son, who is an officer stationed in India. The time period being consistent with the recent death of his father.

This is a much researched and historically accurate tale as far as Dickens and his family and acquaintances go. Many small real life incidents of his life are included which adds authenticity to the period. I found the characters and the setting to be spot on with regards to Victorian attitudes and ambiance. While the book is populated fiercely with a motley crew of characters, two do stand out as the main characters and I found both James and Rebecca to be both truly believable and completely compelling. Rebecca never stepped out of her place as a woman of her times but as a divorced woman working as a bookkeeper she took no nonsense from anyone as regards her sex. I loved her stinging, yet witty remarks, that kept her completely within her confines as a Victorian woman.

The plot follows many clues and red herrings sending James and (sometimes) Rebecca all over London's shadier sides and to the East End and finally to the dregs of opium dens and thieves quarters. While certainly an interesting read that did keep me reading, I found the pacing slow. It was a book I could put down and not be in a hurry to pick up again. Not because I wasn't liking it but just that it didn't have that certain intensity to it. The ending does increase in pace and there is a typical high energy rush in the final chapters as the mystery is solved, which is all rather cleverly done on the author's part.

One thing I did find fascinating was the description of the the cut-throat world of American publishing at the time. The underhanded dealings, the nefarious goings on, the blatant disregard for international copyright, and in particular the way in which the Harper Brothers were portrayed. If the beginnings of Harper & Bros. and the characters of the brothers themselves have been portrayed realistically here an historical fiction on their family would be an amazing read.

This book would be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a good literary mystery but I also think it will satisfy all the people who did not like 'Drood' by Dan Simmons very much because of the supernatural elements. Now I loved that other book, but for those of you who didn't, I think you'll love 'The Last Dickens' more than I did.


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Ghost Named Fred


A Ghost Named Fred by Nathaniel Benchley
Illustrated by Ben Shecter
An I Can Read Book

Pages: 62
Ages: 5+
Finished:Aug. 18, 2009
First Published: 1968
Genre: childrens, easy reader
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

George had nobody to play with.


Reason for Reading: Ds read this one aloud as his daily reader.

Comments: George has no one to play with so he comes up with imaginative games to play on his own. One day while playing astronaut he ventures far from home, it starts to rain, and he enters an old spooky looking house. Here he meets Fred the ghost who is guarding the treasure only he doesn't know where the treasure is, so George agrees to help him find it.

This book has not been reprinted lately so it has not been given a 'Level' but I'd say it was Level 1 as it is mostly an easy reader with 'astronaut' and 'treasure' being the only truly hard words to phonetically sound out. The story is enjoyable. Ds looked forward to reading it each day. He had looked through the book so knew the ending and was anticipating coming to the part where the characters found the treasure. Myself, I found the story somewhat slow and not all that exciting. I also found the storyline of allowing the child to roam so far from home and enter a strange building not something that would be encouraged in today's day and age. However, I love Shecter's illustrations. He was a popular children's illustrator of the day and he always reminds me somewhat of Maurice Sendak. The book is still in print as a library edition but not in any other forms. A cute book especially for its illustrations, but just keep your eye out for a used copy to pop up at a book sale somewhere.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

147. Catholicism for Dummies


Catholicism for Dummies by Rev. John Trigilio Jr., PhD, ThD and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti, PhD
Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur

Pages: 394
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 16, 2009
First Published: 2003
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion, Catholic, Theology
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

Being Catholic means living a totally Christian life and having a Catholic perspective.



Reason for Reading: I bought this book when I decided to convert to Catholicism last year. I never did read it but used the index frequently, looking up topics, especially during RCIA classes and now that I've been Catholic since last Easter I've decided to devote some time to reading about my religion and thought this would be a great place to start.

Comments: This book is a great big overview of what it means to be Catholic from the basics, to the rituals, to the Sacraments, to the most sacred beliefs, to the most misunderstood traditions and ends with brief bios of famous Catholics and Saints and a whirlwind history of the Church. Chockful of all sorts of information! Written in a easy going narrative, open to any level of reader, even when the topics take a turn towards the theological easy everyday analogies are made to reach the understanding of the layperson. The authors also have a sense of humour which turns up every now and then causing a smile and each Part is started with a Rich Tennant "The 5th Wave" comic.

A blurb on the front states the book is for "all ages and beliefs", but honestly I don't think this is the type of book that just anyone would want to pick up and read for the fun of it. While it does cover basic Catholic believes it also does get quite deep into Catholicism and controversial subjects and is written from the point of view of Catholics, thus, that the truth is being presented. So, if you have no real interest in the Catholic faith this book will not be of use to you. However, it is the perfect book for someone who is considering converting, someone already taking RCIA classes, a new convert or someone who has a close friend or family member who either is Catholic or is converting and you seriously want to understand their faith and finally I would also recommend the book for cradle Catholics who have left the Church and are returning or thinking of returning, as a refresher.

Personally, I read a lot of things I already knew. I also finally saw the light on several subjects that I never truly really understood before such as why exactly the real *need* for infant baptisms among others and while I've always believed in purgatory (even as a Protestant {gasp}! now I *really* get it). I discovered many new things, particularly concerning the history of the Church. We don't learn this in RCIA and they certainly don't teach it in public education. Truly fascinating stuff! Not only the history of the Church but the history of the Sacraments themselves and the traditions that come straight from Jesus and the disciples. One of the most fascinating things I learned of was the Incorruptibles which I've been googling ever since and will certainly read more about later on.

The only negative remark I have is that this book was printed in 2003. I bought my book last year (2008) and received the 10th printing. It's certainly more than time to update to a 2nd edition as there are many instances in the text that could do with updating and of course Pope Benedict XVI needs to be included.

Now that I'm finished with this book I am left with many page corners dog-eared because they reference topics or writers that I want to read about in the future, a short list of theological questions that I'll be taking to my priest and a great desire to continue reading. Highly recommended for that "first" book you pick up on Catholicism.


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Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week was fun! I received a book in the mail everyday, not often it happens that way. It was like a little unexpected treat waiting for me everyday. A book everyday, well that makes five books in you say and I couldn't possibly have read five review books last week could I? No. No, I didn't. I did manage 2 though, so 5 in and 2 out makes the ARC pile 3 books larger. I have to say the summer run of reading more than comes in is definitely over but it was nice while it lasted. Any hoo .... onto the books. They are all brilliant this week. Four out of five are Canadian authors and one I have been anxiously awaiting.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

146. Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Mercy Watson, Book 1

Pages: 69
Ages: 5+
Finished: Aug. 14, 2009
First Published: 2005
Genre: children, humour
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Mr. Watson and Mrs. Watson have a pig named Mercy.


Reason for Reading: I was waiting until my son could read this series on his own but he's not there yet and if we wait any longer the stories will be too young for him. I have the newest book (#6) to review, so I thought we might as well start the series now from the beginning as a read aloud.

Comments: Mercy is the pet pig of the Watson's and they treat her just as if she was their child. One night as they are all sleeping in bed together, (Mercy is afraid of the dark) the bed starts to fall through the floor. The Watson's are stranded on the bed as it slowly sinks through the floor. Mercy jumps out of bed looking for her breakfast (or maybe to get help?) causing a rumpus as she goes and eventually the fire department is called out.

A delightful story! Really, I expected this to be fun but Mercy more than met my expectations. A really cute, funny story for up to about age 8 or 9. Perfect for children who can read but still need colourful pictures. The illustrations are wonderful! My son was especially taken by the facial expressions and laughed away with the story. My favourite character was Eugenia Lincoln, one of the elderly ladies who live next door, she believes pigs belong on farms. Ds liked her sister Baby Lincoln, simply because he couldn't get over the fact that an old lady was named Baby! Lots of fun. Don't let your kid's miss out on this series.

We'll be reading the rest of the series over the week but I'll only be doing one post with mini reviews of #2 through #5, then I'll give a full review of the newest book out.




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Saturday, August 15, 2009

145. Free Agent by Jeremy Duns

Free Agent by Jeremy Duns
Paul Dark Trilogy, Book One

Pages: 338
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 14, 2009
First Published: June 23, 2009
Genre: espionage, thriller, historical fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

As I edged the car onto the gravel, the front door of the house swung open and Chief's steely grey eyes stared down at me.



Reason for Reading: I don't typically read modern spy novels as I'm not interested in today's political climate. However, I used to be quite addicted to them in the eighties when I read the likes of James Bond, Robert Ludlum and Gorky Park. When I read the synopsis that this was set in the middle of the Cold War, the plot really intrigued me. I received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Comments: Paul Dark is an MI6 agent, has been since World War II and still is now in 1969. Since the War, the various British agencies have found KGB double agents within its ranks and every now and then another one comes to light but it's been years now since they've uncovered any. Now a Russian wants to defect and he says he has information on a British double agent who has been working for the KGB since WWII, that's 24 years of leaking information to the other side! MI6 wants to know who this agent is and Paul finds himself one of the agents whose been around that long and thus, falling under suspicion. Paul starts to find out that his whole life is starting to unravel and as he becomes cornered he decides to fight back.

Set first in London, then quickly moving to Nigeria amidst the fighting of the Civil War in 1969, this is a fast-paced, exciting and shocking thriller. Filled with just the right amount of historical and political information to make the reader knowledgeable without *ever* going overboard into boredom territory. The book has obviously been heavily researched. After reading the final paragraphs of Chapter One it is impossible not to be completely hooked on this book. In fact, I dare you to read *just* the first chapter. With so many twists and turns in the plot one never really knows who the bad guy(s) is or are. Paul knows more than the reader does so we are often shocked rather nonchalantly by a sudden action of the main character. But there are also many secrets that Paul is not aware of and those reveals are brilliantly crafted by the author. This book will keep you guessing right up to the last page where the ending is not what you think it's going to be.

Paul Dark's character is well written. He's one of these ambiguous sorts who is not really a likable character, he can be downright nasty and cold hearted at times, but the author has made him human and Paul grows on you and by the end of the book I actually liked the guy, well as much as you can like that type. Secondary characters were hit and miss. Some really stood out whether they lasted one chapter or several, such as a female journalist and Chief. While others seemed rather two dimensional, Paul's superiors, and others were rather stereotypical, the lazy, drinking, fat, colonial office head just putting in his time. But whether the characters were fully fleshed or not I will say they were all very colourful.

A very satisfying read. A cleverly crafted thriller. I will definitely be reading the next two in the trilogy. I've also been reminded how much I enjoy reading Cold War spy novels and will have to make sure I read one every now and then.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

144. Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan
Illustrated by Brian Selznick

Pages: 138
Ages: 8+
Finished: Aug. 12, 2009
First Published: 1998
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

In the mid-eighteen hundreds, when the East was young and West was yet to be settled, a baby was born, named Charlotte.


Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 9yo as part of our history curriculum.

Comments: This is a fictionalized biography of the life of Charley Parkhurst , a renowned stagecoach driver who eventually settled in California to run a way station. Charley's greatest claim to fame however is that he is probably one of the first women to vote in the US and certainly, if not the first, then close to the first woman to vote in California in 1868 a full 52 years prior to any woman being allowed to vote in United States. If you haven't guessed already Charley was really Charlotte, a woman, this book tells her story and of how an orphaned infant became a respected man about town and stagecoach driver whose secret was never found out by the public until after death.

This was a joy to read. Not only was the subject matter utterly fascinating but the story is told in a well-written, exciting novel. Biographies aren't usually the place to find so much action, but Charley's story supplies a plot with plenty of it and she wasn't called "One-Eyed Charley" for nothing. She is a fully realized character that the reader cares for. Being a book for children, much time is spent on her childhood years in the orphanage and what drove her to do the things she later did in life. The dialogue is spot on with the ambiance of the setting and since I was reading aloud I couldn't help but speak the parts with a cowboy drawl.

The 9yo hung on to every word of this story. This book will appeal equally to boys and girls. Charlotte is no girly-girl and is tougher than nails. The 9yo was concerned for her future though as the book ends in the middle of her life and he hoped that she got to be a lady again some day. This, of course, brought on a final discussion of how she couldn't, in that day and age, have everything she wanted because she was a lady and she made the choices that made her happiest, but yes, it would have been nice if she could have been a lady and work with horses like a man at the same time.

I can't leave without discussing the illustrations. One word, (well actually two) Brian Selznick. This man can draw! Beautiful, detailed, black/white pencil drawings, one per chapter, enhance the text dramatically, especially seeing Charlotte as a young man. He has captured her essence perfectly. She looks like a young man and yet, around the eyes, since we know, we can tell she is a girl. I haven't read a book illustrated by Selznick yet (and I've read a few) that I didn't love. I think this man must know a book something special before he agrees to illustrate it.

Highly recommended! While different than the usual fair I think this would be enjoyed by girls who like horse books, and boys will love the ranch hand, cowboy action.


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OT: Comparing US Proposed Health Care to Canada or UK

If you are left-wing, liberal, pro-abortion, you may wish to skip this post.

The Americans are using Canada as an example of universal health care and others are using it as an example of what not to do. The UK is fed up of hearing the "lies" being told about its National Health Service by opponents of the proposed Health Care reform in the US.

Let me tell you one thing, in my opinion, don't use either Canada or the UK as an example of Universal Health Care. Why not you ask?

Canada's Health Care pays for approx. 100,000 abortions a year. The UK's National Health Service pays for over 200,000 abortions a year.

With the US's population can you just imagine how many abortions would occur and be payed for with public monies? It's terrifying. God Save the USA.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

143. The Dragon's Pearl by Devin Jordan


The Dragon's Pearl by Devin Jordan

Pages: 341
Ages: 10+
Finished: Aug. 11, 2009
First Published: Jul. 7, 2009
Genre: YA, historical fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Marco Polo glared at the menacing knight standing at the other end of his family's trophy room.




Reason for Reading: An historical fantasy featuring Marco Polo is an ideal theme to tickle my fancy. I received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Comments: 16yo Marco Polo's father, Niccolo, has been kidnapped on his last exploration and through a rather round about way Marco, along with his best friend Amelio (son of the family servant), journey to Constantinople, where they will start a rescue mission. Traveling across Asia, through the desert, into the Unknown Lands where Marco is being followed by the minions of a sorcerer who has harnessed so much evil power that he may no longer be human. These are then the early unrecorded adventures of Marco Polo.

This was a riveting read and caught me from the first chapter. Very well written, the language and dialogue flow naturally and I often enjoyed scenes simply because of the writing. Impressive for a first novel. Sometimes books create pictures in your mind as you read, and for me this was such a one. Best described as an Indiana Jones-type plot we have adventure after adventure all over the Asian continent, from small market towns to travel across the burning desert to the courts of Kublai Khan. Swordplay abounds wherever they are. Throw in the magical element of the East, sorcerers, the reverence of dragons, the elementals, and we have a plot that doesn't stop. I really enjoyed the mixture of historical content, the Asian aspects with the fantasy elements.

With the book being plot driven this does cause characterization to suffer. Most characters are not fully realized except for Marco, whom I felt had a well developed character. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the other characters but just wanted to know more about them and care for them more. While the book is wrapped up nicely and seems to be a stand-alone, there is a feel to it that this may be the first in a series. Amazon seems to think so, labeling it as "The Adventures of Marco Polo" but I can find no official information. Guess, we'll just have to wait and see! If another book does come out, will I read it? You betcha!



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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Graphic Novel Challenge Completed

With my last post I have officially received my Doctorate in Graphic Novology. This Challenge has its own blog where you can go for all sorts of inspiration if your looking for graphic novels to read. I intend to keep posting over there even though I'm officially a PhD. It's just such a great resource and if the challenge is on next year, I'll be there "with bells on" as my mother used to say.

Here's my list of 24 GN's read.


1. Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown
2. The Amazing Spiderman: Coming Home by J. Michael Straczynski
3. Laika by Nick Abadzis
4. The Case of Madeleine Smith by Rick Geary
5. The Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski
6. The Saga of the Bloody Benders by Rick Geary
7. Legends in Exile
8. Until the Stars Turn Cold by J. Michael Straczynski
9. Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon
10. The Life & Death of Spiders by J. Michael Straczynski
11. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon & Dean Hale
12. Animal Farm by Bill Willingham
13. Unintended Consequences by J. Michael Stracsynski
14. Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe edited by Tom Pomplun
15. Serenity: Better Days by Joss Whedon
16. Happy Birthday by J. Michael Straczynski
17. The Book of Ezekiel by J. Michael Straczynski
18. Storybook Love by Bill Willingham
19. The Amazing Spider-Man: Sins Past by J. Michael Straczynski
20. Graphic Classics: Arthur Conan Doyle edited by Tom Pomplun
21. Watchmen by Alan Moore
22. Science Fiction Classics edited by Tom Pomplun
23. The Lindbergh Child by Rick Geary
24. March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham

142. March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham


March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham
Fables, Volume 4

Pages: 231
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 9, 2009
First Published: 2004
Genre: graphic novel
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

I take it you've landed an audition tonight.



Reason for Reading: Next in the series. Last book needed to complete the Graphic Novel Challenge.

Comments: This whole volume deals with one complete story arc from beginning to end. I don't want to give away any plot points as it's too much fun to have it all unfold as you read it yourself so I'll stick with characters and the main theme. We start with a flashback of Little Boy Blue telling his last days and hours in the Homelands with Red Riding Hood. I love it every time time there is a flashback to the old days and I always get a little excited when I see one so this was a great way to start off the book. This flashback later on will prove to be relevant to the events of the main story.

The characters are all dealing with their lives and many are featured and given spotlights but this volume concentrates on Snow White, Boy Blue and Pinocchio, a character we've seen but haven't got know up to this point. Fabletown is under attack by a menacing force and it takes the combined forces of all the residents both of the town and the farm to come together and do battle with a possible unbeatable enemy. As usual, the stunning death of characters is to be expected and many new characters are introduced while on the final page we are left with several story arcs that remain hanging.

This is one of my favourite volumes to date. I really love how intricate the plot is with this series. There are so many story arcs going on within an often overarching main plot per volume that it really just sweeps you away as a reader. This volume has it all from romance to battles from familiar characters to introducing new ones and both touching moments and shocking moments. Volume four is a real winner in the series!





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Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week was a bad mail week. We got hardly anything at all that wasn't junk mail! Not even bills, but can't complain about that. I'd just about give up hope that I'd receive a book at all when Friday's mail finally brought me one. But at least that brought up my stats from last week, and once again I read more ARCs than I received with 1 new ARC in and 3 ARCs read and reviewed which makes my ARC pile 2 books smaller!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

141. Rapacia by Dale E. Basye


Rapacia by Dale E. Basye, Illustrations by Bob Dob
The Second Circle of Heck

Pages: 362
Ages: 10+
Finished: Aug. 8, 2009
First Published: Jul. 28, 2009
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

As many believe, there is a place above and a place below.


Reason for Reading: Next in the series. I received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

Comments: Marlo has been moved to the second circle of Heck, Rapacia, where the greedy children go. This is a place where they are tempted with all sorts of things they could want but of course they can't have it. All their courses at school are business classes run by the likes of pirates and world class fences. The vice-principle here is a very strange metallic rabbit that speaks in rhyme called the Grabbit. Marlo is joined by a couple of her nemesis classmates from book one and a handful of new female classmates making for a unique class of characters. Marlo makes friends with the girl called Normal (Norm for short). Marlo falls under the spell of the Grabbit doing his dirty work. On the Surface Milton tries to find a way to communicate with Marlo.

This book proved to be quite different with the first and much better in my opinion. Especially since all the toilet humour from book one was gone. This book concentrates mostly on Marlo and her female classmates in Rapacia, but Milton's story and unique problems turn up about every third chapter or so. Several characters from book one return and a host of new characters are introduced, while some characters from book one are referred to. This leads me to believe that each book in the series will focus on certain characters leaving a large host of characters to pop up here and there. I like this idea and hope it proves true.

The story this time around is much more in-depth by means of plot and characterization of Milton and Marlo. Which really means to say, the problems I had with book one were not present this time around. The book and characters are simply a whole lot of fun, there are no themes to discover or hidden symbolism; it's just a whole lot of fun with plenty of action, humour and adventure. Tweens are especially going to enjoy this series, as will anyone else who just wants to read for some silly fun.

The book leaves us with plenty of threads hanging, a funny yet evil little cliffhanger and a guess as to who the next book will be about with the announcement of Blimpo: The Third Circle of Heck available July 2010 at the end. After the first book I wasn't sure if I'd continue with this series but now I've grown fond of the characters and enjoyed this book so much more than the first (which I did enjoy) that I will certainly be back next July with the Third Circle of Heck.




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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Billy Blaster Graphic Novels


Billy Blaster: Ice Caves of Pluto by David Orme, illustrated by Peter Richardson, 33pgs, RL: 1.1 ~ My reluctant reader just finished this easy reader graphic novel and to date he hasn't met a Stone Arch book he didn't like. This one is very easy to read and he flew through it. A wonderful, fun science-fiction story Billy and his complaining cohort, Wu Hoo, land on Pluto and find friends buried in the ice below the surface. Billy comes to their rescue only to need Wu Hoo to come to his rescue at the end. Great big, bold, almost (but not quite) anime-like illustrations. Ds loved it and I agree. Good quality plot for the limited number of pages and Wu Hoo's dry sense of humour is a laugh. This series will appeal to boys especially.

Billy Blaster: Mind Thief by David Orme, illustrated by Peter Richardson, 33pgs, RL: 2.1 ~ Billy Blaster, superhero, and his trusty but sarcastic sidekick, Wu Hoo are back in full form with this science fiction caper. The evil Wizard of Edo is capturing the minds of intelligent men right out of their bodies and as Billy and Wu Hoo fight this evil they each become next on the list. Wonderful comic book superhero story, especially aimed at boys. The story contains a detailed quality plot that my 9 yo ds was eager to continue reading. These graphic novels put out by Stone Arch Books don't intimidate him at all, even though as a struggling reader he needs some help at this reading level. Drawings are a fun not-quite-anime style and Billy's friend Wu Hoo is a laugh with his sarcastic (I'd rather be anywhere but here) humour.


There are already many books out in this series, too many to list. So pop on over to the publisher's for a detailed listing here. We received review copies of these books from the publisher and my ds is very glad we did.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

140. The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine


The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine

Pages: 210
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 6, 2009
First Published: Jul. 7, 2009
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

I have a break now.



Reason for Reading: Honestly, I simply felt compelled to read this, even though it's not my usual type of reading. I do however enjoy books written in diary format, books with an Indian viewpoint and books written from a child's point of view. I received a Review Copy from Random House.

Comments: This is a heart wrenching book to read. Set in modern India, the story of a nine-year-old girl who is sold by her loving father into prostitution (to pay off his debts) and is presented to us in the first person through her diaries. We are given her story from her present timeline at the age of fifteen as well as from her past as she tells how she came to be in her present circumstances, until past meets present and we only can go forward with her.

This book is going to be a hard read for some people. A child prostitute leads a brutal life and the author leaves no stone unturned nor holds back on any details. Yet, Batuk, the main character, is many things. She is a victim, she is a part of her world, she is a survivor, she is an innocent child, she can be devious, she can experience pure child-like joy and she experiences terror no child should ever have. She is a character that the reader feels both great outrage and compassion for and also admires for her own strength and spirit.

One thing that really struck me as I read was how amazingly real the voice of the fifteen-year-old girl is, while realizing that the book is written by a man. For a man to project this teen's feminine multi-layered personality so beautifully is a sign of a brilliant author. I look forward to his next novel.

The only thing that disappoints me some is the ambiguous ending. The only thing that stops me from giving a 5* rating. We are left to sort things out for ourselves and decide what happened. It ends in such a way that one can assume that it ended a certain way but if your not happy with that there is plenty of ambiguity to perceive your own ending. I prefer my books to tell me how it ends.

There is a lot of graphic s*xual detail, though none of it is gratuitous. It is necessary for such a story to show what really goes on in this world. This is a book that will open your eyes to something that you may not wish to have opened to you but how can you *not* go on without knowing these truths about your world.




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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Random Book Challenge Book Pick

Well, the first book selected for this challenge, Pygmy, ended up a DNF so I need to choose another one to be my first. So picking from my backlog of ARCs, using random.org my next, or I guess I should say first book for the Random Book Challenge will be ........


#62. The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl


OK, good pick, looking forward to reading it. Just gotta see where I can sqeeeeeze it in!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

139. Undone by Karin Slaughter


Undone by Karin Slaughter
Special Agent Will Trent, Book 3

Pages: 436
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 4, 2009
First Published: Jul. 14, 2009
Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

They had been married forty years to the day and Judith still felt she didn't know everything about her husband.


Reason for Reading: Karin Slaughter had a new book out! I received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

Comments: A victim of unspeakable torture is found on the highway as she is hit by a car. Convinced she must have escaped from somewhere close by Special Agent Will Trent relentlessly searches until a second, dead, victim is found. An all available manpower hunt continues looking for the crime scene when Will unearths a hidden cellar dugout in the forest floor, a horror room of unimaginable violence. Agent Will Trent and his partner Faith Mitchell plow ahead through local police territory looking for information to make this a case for the GBI. It is in the hospital that they first meet the attending ER physician, Dr. Sara Linton, who works on the first woman who was hit by the car. Soon enough, two more woman are reported missing and time is running out.

Karin Slaughter is back in top splendid form. This is an incredibly crafted novel. What an amazing crime, one of the most unique crimes I've ever read in a thriller. She combines a lot of typical serial killer elements with some very unusual aspects and themes that create a downright creepy case. Karin gives her fans everything they've come to expect from her: a gruesome intriguing crime, a difficult to solve mystery (I had my eye on the wrong person the whole way through!), a page-turner, read late into the night book that you wish you could just inhale. Splendid.

The only thing I didn't like is the direction the main characters' personal lives are taking. Reading the series in order, you find the personal lives of Will and Faith are a little soap opera going on in the background and I'm just not pleased with the direction each of them seems to be headed. Guess, I'll have to wait for the next book! Sara's character is nicely wrapped up from the dangling ending of her last appearance in Beyond Reach and I'm pleased with the author's resolution with this character although I'm rather annoyed with some of her Grant County opinions, which also leads me into my last statement. I still want more Grant County, Ms. Slaughter! I like Lena Adams (better than Sara to tell you the truth) and want to know what's happened with her and the rest of the folks at the Grant County Police Station.

Karin Slaughter is at her best with Undone. No fan is going to be disappointed with this one.

If you haven't read Karin Slaughter. Please do read her books in order. This one book is both a sequel to Will Trent Book 2, Fractured and Grant County Book 6, Beyond Reach. Plus Sara, introduced as a character in this book, was one of the major characters in all the Grant County books to date. Also both Will Trent and his boss Amanda (can't find the last name right now) both first made appearances in Grant County books before moving onto their own series. You will get much more enjoyment if you read her books in the order in which they were written.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week saw a good number of books arriving on my doorstep. Some Review Copies from publishers and I actually bought some books from Chapters online. Not such a good week for my reading arcs though. Somehow I only managed to read 1 arc which means my summer run of reading more arcs than I receive is over, or perhaps this is only a speed bump. I guess next week will tell. So..... last week I read and reviewed 1 arc and received 6 making the arc tbr pile 5 books larger!




These are the books I purchased. You'll notice a theme, these are for my further proposed Catholic reading I mentioned in an earlier post.


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