Tuesday, September 29, 2009

174. Wild West by Mike Stotter

Wild West by Mike Stotter

Pages: 57
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sep.25, 2009
First Published: 1997
Genre: children, non-fiction, American history
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Native Americans had lived undisturbed throughout North and South America until the European discovery of the "New World" in 1492.

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

Summary: A very oversized book published by Kingfisher Books with profusive illustrations on every page, a main text in larger print and smaller text print sections that expound on the main text and/or go into further depth by illustrating the point with text and pictures. The book starts with the arrival of the white man on the Western frontier and hits upon some major historic events but mostly concentrates on daily living of the western indians, of life on the trail in a covered wagon, of ranchers and cowboys, of building a frontier home, town and forts. Then we enter the exciting days of outlaws and lawmen, stagecoach and train robberies. Finally the coming of the train, the finding of oil and the end of the West with a conclusion on the legend of the west being reborn with rodeos, books, TV Shows and movies.

Comments: A very enjoyable book to both read and look at. We spent our time reading the book slowly, doing about 4 pages a day, as there is so much information in both the text and illustrations and this is a book to be savoured. The 9yo loved it, but then I think most boys would enjoy this topic when given such a good presentation. Lots of interesting information, not just your typical stuff. I certainly learnt plenty myself as we read. The book is brief and doesn't go into a lot of depth so not what you would want if you're looking for a meaty book on the subject. However, just the thing for a brief introduction, or a quick dive into the topic. The text would be readable by the average fourth grader.

PS - Don't forget to enter my contest for Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda! And please vote in my poll on the sidebar, for which book I should read in October!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Quiet week for the mailbox. I received one review copy that sounds like it's going to be a great read and it's page design is fabulous. Hope it's as good as it looks! One review book in and two read last week makes mount arc one book smaller. Don't forget to vote in my poll to pick which book I should read next month!! (over in the sidebar - it was a tie last time I looked, we can't have that!)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

173. The Rapture by Liz Jensen

The Rapture by Liz Jensen

Pages: 296
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sep.23, 2009
First Published: Aug. 11, 2009
Genre: apocalyptic, science fiction, eco thriller
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

That summer, the summer all the rules began to change, June seemed to last for a thousand years.

Reason for Reading: Apocalyptic fiction is one of my favourite sub-genres. I received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Summary: It is the not too distant future and the world has entered a new phase, one where global warming has happened and temperatures, weather and climates are no longer what they used to be. Gabrielle Fox is a wheelchair bound art therapist who has started a new job at a Psychiatric Hospital, home to Britain's most dangerous children and she has been assigned the most dangerous of all, Bethany Krall, who brutally stabbed her mother to death with a screwdriver when she was 12. Bethany also predicts the future, not just any future but future natural disasters (storms, earthquakes, etc.) and as Gabrielle realizes each one comes true she begins to believe her patient and feels guilt for not warning the thousands of people who die. A strange bond develops between therapist and patient with the position of authority often switching.

Comments: I'll start by saying I neither believe in the evangelical concept of the Rapture nor that global warming has anything to do with human produced carbon dioxide. These are the two main controversies presented in this book. I will also say that ultimately, I did enjoy the plot; the story of the Gabrielle and Bethany, the predictions and the ultimate race for survival as the apocalypse approaches.

Within this world there are two extremist groups; one The Planetarians who know humans are but a blip in the age the Earth and our time is over as dominant species and nature is taking its natural course as it has over millions of years in the past and a new organism will take our place as dominant species. On the opposite end there is The Fifth Wave, a mass convergence and conversion to Christianity who believe The Rapture is at hand. They strive to bring their friends and loved ones to the Lord so they to may rise above the clouds in the rapture. These people happily await the coming of the rapture. Neither of these extremist groups take a major part in the story until well into the book but near the beginning, being a Catholic, I wondered "well, what about Catholics? The author must know we don't believe in the rapture?" My answer came by page 75 when the main character states during a discussion of disparaging religion is general:

" I was taught by nuns," I tell him. " They couldn't see how tribalistic they were. Or how pagan. As for the traditions, it seems to me that the Catholic Church enjoys just making things up as it goes along. You could almost admire its creativity."

Right, anti-Catholic view expressed, noted and understood. Catholics are not ever referred to again in the book. I was not impressed with the overall anti-religion attitude carried on throughout the whole book. Though I don't share the same convictions as the Christians portrayed here it was insulting the way they were shown as smiling, happy, ignorant people joyfully walking to their probable deaths. No respect was shown when conversation turned towards this group. The reveal that comes out about the leader is cliched and unoriginal. While on the otherhand the leader of the Planetarians is treated with respect, while professional people scoff at his ideology, he is, afterall, a man of science.

I was also underwhelmed by a love affair that happened and felt completely out of place within the story and otherwise out of character for the strong roll Gabrielle was playing elsewhere. There were pages and pages of this romantic misunderstanding drivel that I just wanted to shout "Get over it already!".

Otherwise, the book is well-written, it reads fast. The momentum is there slowly picking up and ending with a crash. Bethany was an outstanding character, the one who really shines through and kept me reading. Even with the religious problems I had, I realized the slant very early on, and accepted it as part of the story. It is fiction after all. I liked the book but didn't love it. I think other reviewers will say they have felt emotional over the book; it didn't affect me emotionally at all. I couldn't see myself as plausibly being in this world Jensen created. However, I do think this book will appeal to many people. The topic of climate change is one many readers will want to explore in this visionary apocalypse of our planet's downfall from human doings.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

The Winner Is ...

And the Winner of The Demon's Lexicon by Sheila Rees Brennan has randomly been chosen using random.org and that lucky contestant is:

Surprisingly, she noted when she entered she had just become my 50th follower, so thanks Tynga for that honoured position and congratulations on winning this book. I'll be emailing you shortly for your snail mail address.

For the rest of you, stay tuned for tomorrow when I will have another book up for grabs! I've got a bunch here and I think I'm going to make this contest a regular thing for while!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cybils 2009

I am pleased to announce I will be a Panelist this year Judging in Round 1 of the Graphic Novels category! I'm thrilled to be a part of the awards this year and take a look at the great company I'll be keeping:

Panel Organizer: Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books

Panelists (Round I Judges):
Alyssa Feller, The Shady Glade
Maggi Idzikowski, Mama Librarian
Liz Jones (see panel organizer)
Nicola Manning, Back to Books
Kim Rapier, Si, se puede! Yes we can
Gina Ruiz, AmoXcalli
Alysa Stewart, Everead

Judges (Round II):
Walter Biggins, The Quiet Bubble
Justin Colussy-Estes, Guys Lit Wire
Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots
Sarah Stevenson, Finding Wonderland
Casey Titschinger, Bookworm 4 Life

Contest: The Demon's Lexicon (Sticky)

I am giving away my hardcover copy of The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. Contest will run until Sept. 24, with the winner randomly chosen and announced on the Sept. 25. This contest is open to US and Canada only. Sorry, but International postage is too expensive for me.

To enter:

leave a comment below with your email (if it is not in your profile). You can't win if I can't email you back.

+1 Blog about this contest and leave a link to the post.

+2 become a Google Follower (over in the right bar) or let me know that you already are a Follower.

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole -- a charm that keeps her alive -- and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

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172. The Kid Who Saved Superman

The Kid Who Saved Superman by Paul Kupperberg
Illustrated by Min Sung Ku and Lee Loughridge

Pages: 51
Ages: 8-12; RL: 4.3
Finished: Sep.23, 2009
First Published: Aug. 2009
Genre: children, action-adventure
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Hakeem Bennett carefully climbed up the highest peak of the Adirondack Mountains.

Reason for Reading: My son is a superhero freak, and don't tell anyone, but I am too. I read this short chapter book aloud to him. We received a review copy from the publisher, Stone Arch Books.

Comments: Hakeem's class is going cave exploring; when he takes a few steps off by himself he unknowingly goes further than he thought and gets separated from his class. There is an earthquake and he becomes stuck in the cave but no need to worry because Superman is nearby. Superman can see him with his X-ray vision but there is another tremor and Hakeem falls to another level and lands next to a piece of kryptonite. How will Superman help him now?

I'll admit it, I didn't exactly expect this to be great literature but I was put in my place by the quality of the writing. A very well-written, exciting, short chapter book with artwork by original DC illustrators that will have any Superman fan reading under the covers with a flashlight. Each chapter ends on an exciting note just begging for the next chapter to be read. The story steers clear of pushing any lesson on the reader but it does have a focus on the boy's science knowledge, geology in particular, which leads to him being able to save the day. Thus, indirectly, stressing the importance of having an education. One fun thing during the reading is that all the sound effects have been drawn in large coloured comic-book style lettering within the text, giving the story an extra comic book feel, even though it is a chapter book.

At the end of the book, the reader is introduced to an interesting story behind this book about a real life Hakeem Bennett who won a national writing contest where the topic was to write about a real hero at their school. The prize? To be named the kid who saved Superman in this book! after which follows his winning entry. This is very inspiring and caused a discussion about the differences between lotteries where you only 'put your name in' and contests where you have to do something and be chosen a winner. Here is real life proof that if you work hard you can win! The 9yo was quite impressed that such a possibility existed.

The book was a lot of fun and has quality in writing, plot and illustrations. The 9yo was thrilled with the story and I'll admit mum thought it was great too! This is part of a series called Super DC Heroes which contains quite a lot of books to date; they feature either Superman or Batman and Robin. These would be perfect for reluctant readers!

PS - Today is the last day to enter my contest for The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan! There's still time to get your name in! Then stay tuned for a new contest on Saturday!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

171. The Drunken Forest by Gerald Durrell

The Drunken Forest by Gerald Durrell
Illustrations by Ralph Thompson

Pages: 203
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sep.22, 2009
First Published: 1956
Genre: non-fiction, memoir, animals
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

As the ship nosed its way into port we leant on the rail and gazed at the panorama of Buenos Aires gradually curving around us.

Reason for Reading: I've read several of the author's books as a teenager and loved them. Except for a few, though, I can't remember, by title, which ones I've read until I start reading them. This one I had not read before and is my first foray back into Gerald Durrell since that time. I also used to watch a show he had on TV at the time and really enjoyed the man's love for his animals and his sense of humour.

Comments: The Durrells, Gerald and his wife Jacquie, travel to South America, namely Argentina and Paraguay, to collect birds for a Bird Sanctuary and animals for their own zoo on the Island of Jersey. Ultimately this trip is a failure in their eyes according to their mission but the animals and people they meet along the way make a fun book to read. The core of the book takes place in Paraguay where the Durrells stay in the out of the way Chaco territory during one of the country's civil wars.

It is written in a somewhat episodic format, though it does hold a continuous story line, as most of Durrell's book often are. Durrell has an amazing way of seeing animals as people and describing their behaviour and antics comparably that it is a delight to read. There are many laugh out loud moments. He also has the same comic descriptive attitude when describing the people he meets or befriends on his trip. He really is brilliant at this comic characterization which brings people to life before your eyes. Unfortunately, since he is in a foreign country most of the people he meets are not white people and his descriptions could be taken the wrong way by the ultra sensitive. His descriptions are far from racist (though this is 1954) and one will see that he characterizes white people in the same way. In this book neither his wife nor an American living in the jungle escape his keen eye.

But the main focus is the animals. Durrell's love for the animals is pure and overabundant. It is a lot of fun to read about all the different species he meets in this book such as a burrowing owl, a crab eating raccoon, a horned toad, orange armadillos, seriemas, a baby giant anteater, an anaconda and many, many more. Very interesting story to read. Also interesting to see the methods used with the animals back in the fifties which seem a bit barbaric by today's standards but were probably the leading standards for the times. This book is not as funny as I remember Durrell being, but I think that may be due to the hardships of this particular journey. A book fans will enjoy but probably not the one to start with if you haven't read the author before.

PS - Don't forget to enter my contest for The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan! It ends tomorrow!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Asperger's Contestant on Britain's X Factor

This is amazing!! Like many of us with Asperger's Syndrome, this young man (21 yo) has spent a large portion of his life in his home and now he has made it through to the next stage on Britain's X Factor. Embedding has been disabled so I can only provide you with a link. This young man can sing! Identified as Autistic on the clip, symptoms observed and further investigation do reveal he is Aspergers. He is such an inspiration to all of us. When I don't want to go out of the house, Scott, I'm going to think of you up there up on that stage!

Scott James singing on X Factor (MUST SEE)

Monday: Books in the Mail

Great week for books, last week. I received 3 review books. One is for my very first Book Tour! The other two are previous read authors that I am anxious to read. Finally a 4th book arrived that I was fortunate to win over at Joystory. This is the sequel to another book I've been meaning to read and nothing like spurring you on to read a book when you have the sequel sitting there waiting to read! Stats don't work out too good this time with 3 review books in I only read one review book last week (not counting 2 kids graphic novels) that means my arc tbr pile increased by 2 books this past week.

My review copies:

The book I'll be featuring during it's Book Tour. Drop by Nov. 15th for my review!

And lucky book winner me! Thanks Joystory!

PS - Don't forget to enter my contest for The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan! It end's on the 24th!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

170. The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed

The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed by Heather Vogel Frederick

Pages: 213
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sep.18, 2009
First Published: 2002
Genre: historical fiction, children
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"Absolutely, positively not!" roared my father in a voice meant to be heard through the teeth of a Cape Horn gale.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 9yo to go along with our history studies.

Comments: When 13yo Patience and 6yo Thadeus's father returns from sea he is determined to take them along with him when he next sets sail. Patience's mother has died while Father was away and being Captain of a Nantucket whaler means he spends more time on sea than land, and now Captain Goodspeed is determined to keep his family together. An extremely reluctant Patience and exuberant Tad soon set sail for a 3 year trip. Patience's reluctance mainly stems from her mother's promise that she may continue her mathematical studies with Maria Mitchell, but her father denies her this for the sake of family unity. What follows is a rip-roaring, seafaring adventure filled with storms, nasty and friendly crew members, whaling, mutiny and sorrow.

This was a fabulous book! At first I wondered whether my son would enjoy it, wondering whether it would be a "girl's" book, but I heartily say "Nay!". This book appeals strongly to both boys and girls. The book is written in Patience's voice with occasional entries from her diary. The author has used an authentic mid-1800's speech pattern and vocabulary which truly brings the setting to life though does take a chapter or two to get used to at first (especially when reading out loud). This is one of the best books my son has enjoyed as a read-aloud; he was so involved in this story: hanging on the edge of his seat, yelling out to the characters, coming up with plans for what was going to happen next.

Also, my son is on the Autistic Spectrum and this is the very first book that has made him cry. I was tearing up a bit myself at the same part and when I finished the chapter and looked up there he was with his face in the pillow, he looks at me with tear stained face and says "That's so sad!" It is hard for him to feel other's emotions but this part (I won't give it away!) struck him as a feeling he could have, and thus he felt for the characters. It was quite a moment!

Patience is a strong female character. Though probably not typical of the era, she is not utterly unusual either, i.e. the references to Maria Mitchell. In private she fights about her limitations as a girl but in public she is respectful of her superiors as a female (especially a well-bred child) would be in that day and age. The rest of the characters are a colourful lot with the bad bad and the good good and no grey characters or showing sympathy for the bad ones, which I do prefer to see in books for this age group. The book also contains a fair dose of humour and when we weren't caught up in the action we were having a good laugh. Highly recommended for both boys and girls!

There is a sequel, The Education of Patience Goodspeed, which I intend to read sometime but from it's summary it appears to be coming-of-age story partially set in a girl's boarding school, making it not something the 9yob would enjoy. So I'll save it as a read-alone for myself later.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Recon Academy Graphic Novels for Kids

Recon Academy: Shadow Cell Scam by Chris Everheart, illustrated by Arcana Studio, 2009, 59 pgs, RL: 1.7 - Each member of the Recon Academy has been sold a fantastic new laptop but soon they discover they are ticking bombs. At the same time the Navy is launching a secret spy satellite nearby and the team has been too busy to provide any security but now they rush to save themselves and the satellite from the Shadow Cell. This book features on the lone female in the four member group, Emmi, whose special skill is martial arts. Very intricate, exciting story with an involved plot which is suitable for the publisher's recommended ages 8-13. The artwork is well done and reminiscent of what one finds in cartoon shows of this nature. The book is much harder to read than the 1.7 RL would have you believe with such phrases as "they're only prototypes", "time to decrypt their code" and "heat detection monitor". With my son's reading level we had to do shared reading, with me reading the harder words but the story was definitely a hit with him. He wants to read all four books. Fortunately we have one more at home, then we'll be off to the library!

Recon Academy: Nuclear Distraction by Chris Everheart, illustrated by Arcana Studio, 2009, 55 pgs, RL: 1.9 - This book features Hazmat whose special skill is forensics but as we start off he participating in a karate tournament which Emmi has been training him for. They soon receive a call that there has been a security breach at a nearby nuclear power plant. The four member group is on their way and who do they find on the scene but the Shadow Cell. Here they are all put to the test, but Hazmat is put front and centre as he rushes straight into the danger alone where he uses his forensic skills, new found karate moves, faces close death and ends up with a date. A very exciting installment in the series. My son is anxious to read the other two books in the series. Once again though the book is much harder to read than the 1.9 RL would have you believe and with my son's reading level we had to do shared reading, with me also reading the harder words. I enjoyed the way the 'date' was handled. My son is 9 so this idea creeped him out. While the one boy with the date smooth talks about his upcoming evening there is an opposing character who "oh brother's" him all the time adding a comic relief for kids who are younger. This series is very suitable for a wide range of ages and would be perfect for older struggling readers. I'd recommend this right up to Grade 6.

169. A Pioneer Story: The Daily Life of a Canadian Family in 1840 by Barbara Greenwood

A Pioneer Story: The Daily Life of a Canadian Family in 1840 by Barbara Greenwood
Illustrated by Heather Collins
Pioneer Story series

Pages: 237
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sep.18, 2009
First Published: 1994
Genre: historical fiction, pioneer life, crafts, non-fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The Robertsons are a pioneer family living on a backwoods farm in 1840.

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

Comments: Follows the daily life of a pioneer family, the Robertsons, living on a backwoods farm in Southern Ontario in 1840 from spring to New Years. Along with Ma and Pa, the family consists of two elder children (brother & sister), two younger children (brother & sister), a baby and Granny from Scotland. Told in the third person, the story is given alternately from the younger sister and brother's points of view making the book accessible to both boys and girls. The story itself is very quaint and charming, told in episodic format and can be compared to one of the early Laura Ingalls Wilder books. The illustrations are very detailed drawings done in dark brown and sepia tones; very complimentary to the text.

What makes this book a little extra special is that between each chapter is a non-fiction section which describes some of the topics brought up in the story such as maple sugaring, shearing sheep, house raising, threshing, guns, the traveling preacher, etc. Also in this section are crafts to make using either pioneer techniques or making items similar to what the pioneers used. These are simple to do but will take a trip to the store to purchase not necessarily just laying around the house items.

An excellent book. This is the second time I've read it and it is one of the better Canadian history books out there. Thankfully the publishers recognise this also and have kept this book in print for so long, not an easy feat for a Canadian kids' history book. Certainly worth buying if you have more than one child and a must for a homeschool library. There are two sequels which follow the Robertsons through the holidays:

A Pioneer Thanksgiving
A Pioneer Christmas

The book has also been given an American work over (the setting has simply been changed to upstate New York and any Canadian references and spelling Americanized) and a new title A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840.


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Friday, September 18, 2009

168. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Pages: 349
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sep.17, 2009
First Published: May 5, 2009, paperback May 4, 2010
Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.

Reason for Reading: The plot sounded like this would be the perfect read for me, but I haven't read her first book which has been widely praised. I received a review copy from Random House Canada. I also selected this book for the Random Reading Challenge. Qualifies for the RIP IV Challenge.

Comments: The book first opens with a woman, Libby, young thirties, only survivor of her family's brutal slaying, her mother and two older sisters, when she was seven years old. Her brother, Ben, fifteen at the time, was convicted and sentenced to life for the murders. Libby has now used up the "fund" that accumulated for her through her childhood as people donated to her plight. Now a mixed-up woman with no means of support, and no real desire to work, she is approached by a fan club of true crime fanatics who will pay her to get in touch with people who have first hand information about the crime and also are willing to buy any 'memorabilia' she may have. Libby figures this is better than working but when she attends her first convention of this underground club she is startled when she realizes they all have ideas as to who the real killer is, no one believes Ben is guilty, but she was there, she knows he is, doesn't she?

Told from several different viewpoints we follow Libby as she traces back her family history, while at the same time in alternating chapters we are returned to that fateful day and shown the events from both Ben and Libby's mother's point of view. Other participants of that day occasionally tune in and tell an incident in their own voice, as well. Very well-written, with a tension that continues to rise slowly through the book to the final reveals which are stunning. I did find myself managing to stay ahead of the plot, but just by a few paces, and it still did have a few surprises for me in the end.

The story follows three teenagers, all of very different backgrounds, yet all neglected in different ways. These are kids in rural America with little entertainment and the trouble that they can find themselves participating in without considering the consequences. Drugs, sex and a bit of satanism (this is the '80s when that topic was "cool" in certain teen crowds) are all present in one form or another. There are a few brutal scenes that may be difficult for some to read, but it's about average compared to the usual murder thrillers I read.

Ultimately, I found the book asking the question, "Are some people inherently born evil?". It is dealt with in many ways throughout the book and while the two main characters indirectly have their answers, the reader is left pondering the question themselves. A great read for thriller fans! I keep hearing her first book is even better, so I'm definitely going to add that to my reading and anxiously await what Ms. Flynn has in store for us next.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

OT: Michael Belk

Fashion photographer Michael Belk has put together an absolutely amazing collection of work called "Journeys with the Messiah" where he has photographed Jesus in Biblical settings participating in modern day re-inactments of the Parables. They are simply stunning!!!

Even if you are not Christian check this out for the art's sake.

Journeys with the Messiah

Then click on "The Collection", then "Parable Collection".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

167. Larger Than Life: True Stories of Canadian Heroes

Larger Than Life: True Stories of Canadian Heroes by Janet Lunn
Illustrated by Emma Hesse

Pages: 78
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sep.10, 2009
First Published: 1979
Genre: children, non-fiction, Canadian history
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The morning was beautiful.

Reason for Reading: I read this aloud as part of our history curriculum this past year.

Comments: Janet Lunn is one of Canada's best children's historical fiction writers, starting writing in the 60's we are fortunate that the majority of her work is still in print. Unfortunately, this book is a bit of a rarity, no longer in print, and I could only find a few copies available on line at prices that were exorbitant simply because the book is hard to find.

This is a collection of short stories featuring true Canadian heroes, some of famous people and others of once briefly well known people who have now been forgotten to the ages. Short stories to be read in one sitting, of only several pages that jump right into the action and tell an exciting or proud moment in a person's life as they perform an act of heroism, selflessness, bravery, courage or simply doing the right thing. Well-written, Janet Lunn can be counted on to grab your attention right away and tell an interesting story. These short tales will let your children know that Canada has some very interesting people in her past. Ten stories are included in all concerning the likes of John A. MacDonald, Madeleine de Vercheres, Crowfoot, Elizabeth Roblin, Cornelia di Grassi and the Harvey children and their Newfoundland dog and others. Simple, realistic black and white drawings accompany the text, one per story allowing children a peek at the the clothing, houses, etc. of the era each story takes place in. I've only one complaint and that is the stories are not in chronological order, so I had to pre-arrange them in order so we could match them up with our studies and I just think it would make better sense for anyone to read them in chronological order anyway. A great little book and a goldmine find if you happen to chance upon it but I wouldn't recommend paying exorbitant online prices for a copy. In my mind the book's worth around $10 (and I used to deal in used books myself). So keep your eyes open at school/library sales and used book stores.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week saw a reasonable three new review copies arrive at the door, two of them next in a series and one a first time author. My son is over the moon about the next Beastly Business book, and I can't wait to read Catherine Banner's sequel to last year's amazing The Eyes of a King, while The Midnight Charter sounds truly unique. A good week of books. Let's see I received three review copies and last week I read one and had to DNF another which makes the ARC pile only 1 book larger. I had a very hectic week last week so here's to getting back to good old routine this week and accomplishing a good bit of reading!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

166. If You Lived with the Sioux Indians

If You Lived with the Sioux Indians by Ann McGovern
Illustrated by Jean Syverud Drew

Pages: 76
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sep.11, 2009
First Published: 1974, updated 2006
Genre: children, non-fiction, history
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Indians were the first people to live in what is now the United States.

Reason for Reading: I read this aloud as part of our history curriculum this past year.

Comments: Presented in a Question and Answer format this book focuses on the daily life of the Sioux Indians in the years 1800 to 1850 after the white had arrived but before they had fully settled in the west. These are the years in which the Indians rode the prairies on the horses introduced to the New World by the white man. As with previous books in this series (here and here) that we have read the information is very interesting; dealing with every day life aspects of the Indians such as food, clothing, living arrangements, differences of expectations between men and women/boys and girls, how children played, religious beliefs, hunting and so on.

Originally written in the 1970's this book has been "updated" for the 2000's. No specifics are given other than the new illustrations were added in 1992. The whole book deals with Indian life excluding any contact with the white man until the final chapter which asks "What happened to the Sioux when the white people came?". The answer is all gloom and doom making statements with no explanations. I did read this part but changed the PC language and adding explanations myself after each statement. The book ends with an author's note about the Sioux Indians of today and is written with a set political agenda. This I do not appreciate, whether I agree with the author or not. Children's books are not the place for an author to tell what he/she thinks the government "must" do, unless that is the book's focus and topic to begin with. I did not read this section aloud. The illustrations are standard fare and nothing much to mention.

Overall, we were pleased with book, as we have been with other Indian books in this series. The Q&A format works very well for reading aloud and the text is written in an engaging voice. They are very informative and by reading a few of these books, it is a great way to see the vast differences in various Indian tribes.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

News: Canadian Teen Book Community

Just found out about this new site for Canadian teens! Looks cool!

Are you a teen who loves to read books; books big and small, fictional or otherwise? Do you find yourself thinking “I would so rather be reading right now”?

Then you are Bookurious.

Bookurious.com is a community designed especially for avid Canadian readers aged 13 to 17. Join today to talk to other teens about your favourite books and discover new authors. You’ll also find fun challenges, cool giveaways and tons of reading suggestions.

If you love books, you’ll love Bookurious.com

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Random Challenge Pick of the Month

Well, my last post shows that my Random Challenge pick for this month did not prove to be a winner so I've had to go over to random.org and select a new book for this month (which I did last night). The book it chose for me was:

#78. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

And, I'm happy to report that I started it last night and it has me hooked already! Plus since this is a thriller involving a mass murder it too will qualify for the RIP challenge so it's a great pick! I've been wanting to read this one too, just never got around to squeezing it in.

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DNF. The Demon's Lexicon

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Pages: 322
Ages: 14+
First Published: June 2, 2009
Genre: YA, urban fantasy
Rating: DNF

First sentence:

The pipe under the sink was leaking again.

Reason for Reading: The plot sounds fascinating and just like my type of book. I received a review copy from Simon and Schuster Canada.

Comments: I couldn't finish this book. I made it to page 94. I admit it's been a busy week for me but to struggle with one book and read only 94 pgs in a week, for me, is unreal. I really did give this the extra effort because I wanted to like it but it just never captured me. I couldn't get a hold on the plot. I couldn't connect with the characters. Finally, the parts about demons and magic that should have captured my imagination (I wanted it to!) just didn't. It has received very good reviews from others, though. It's average rating on Amazon is 4.5. I wish I was one of them but sadly this book and I just could not connect with one another. I will leave you with the publisher's jacket flap.

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole -- a charm that keeps her alive -- and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

165. O Canada! by Isabel Barclay

O Canada! by Isabel Barclay
Illustrated by Cecile Gagnon

Pages: 95
Ages: 6-8
Finished: Sep.9, 2009
First Published: 1964
Genre: children, non-fiction, Canadian history
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Once upon a time, long ago, nobody lived in Canada.

Reason for Reading: This was our main text on Canadian history for our homeschool curriculum over the past year. Qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.

Comments: I'll start by saying this is *the* best book ever written for Grades 1-3 covering Canadian history from the beginning up to Confederation. There is nothing like it in print today, nor do I expect there ever will be as history books are not written like this anymore. As one can tell from the beginning sentence this book is written in a narrative, story telling mode and meant to be read aloud for this age group. The original intent would have been for older children to read the book themselves but today there are many other books for older children to choose from; it is the younger children for whom books are sadly not available today at this level of entertainment and information.

Starting with a brief two paragraph semi-evolutionary beginning (meaning they describe such a world without using the word) the book starts with the major distinct Indian groups pre-white man and moves chronologically through Canadian history hitting all the major points and including much detail in a book aimed at this age group. New France through the Seven Years War is extensively covered through a large portion of the book. Intertwining American history where it is relevant, the Loyalists, pioneer life and the War of 1812 come next. The Rebellion of 1837 and Confederation wrap up Canada's story nicely. It's at this point that the book takes on a choppy feel for the last nine pages. It honestly feels as if Ms. Barclay had intended to end her book here plus a conclusion and the publishers required that she include Western Canada before publishing. So the book finishes with quick scenes jumping to the settling of the west, the building of the railway, the populating of British Columbia and it's joining of Confederation, the Cariboo Gold Rush and finally a conclusion.

I always recommend this book to homeschoolers looking for something to use for Canadian history at this level as it just can't be beat. I wish someone would reprint it for the homeschool market with some editing to the conclusion which speaks of our 20th century (1960s) Canada. The main reasons I love this book are that the text is entertaining in a story-telling format, the history is not revisionist, none of today's re-thinking of whether history was right or wrong is presented, just the facts from both sides. I find the book to be very unbiased which is very refreshing and a joy to read. I've always had a copy of this book. When I was a kid I read it, I read it to my 20yo when he was the right age and now with my 8/9yo.

Unfortunately my current copy doesn't have a dust jacket to show the illustration technique which is something to be mentioned. It's the type often popular in the sixties and seventies using black and two other colours. Almost every page is illustrated, there are a few two page spreads here and there with no pictures though. The illustrations alternate; on one two page spread the colour theme is black, grey, blue (almost turquoise) and then the next spread is black, brown and orange. Something only a former child of the era will love but the drawings themselves have a folksy, primitive style to them that I enjoy.

Overall, I can't recommend the book highly enough if you are wanting a book to read to your primary level child about Canadian History, look no further. This is not a hard book to find. Copies are easily found online and if you go to enough library/school book sales in a row it won't take long to come across a copy. As soon as I moved out here my goal was to find a copy and I found one at the first annual book sale the city had that I went to.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kate Bush

Pat at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist just posted a video of one of my all time favourite singers of all time that this planet will ever see, Kate Bush. He posted what he feels is her best song ever, Running Up that Hill. Good song, of course, but I just had to go looking for what I think is her best ever song, and one of the best ever story videos.

And then I couldn't stop and had to post some more of my favourites:

I could go on forever as I haven't met a Kate Bush song I don't like!

164. Fables: The Mean Seasons

Fables: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham
Fables, Book 5

Pages: 166
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sep.7, 2009
First Published: 2005
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Say what you will about our mutual ex-husband.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Comments: The book starts off with a single issue that features Cinderella. It feels purposeless at first but a little secret is revealed that later comes into play with a slight significance. Next is a two-issue story line featuring Bigby which flashes back to his World War II days and an ultra secret mission that he participated in. This was a great story line that introduced a new character who is living in Fabletown but I'm not sure whether he'll show up again. Then comes the meat of this volume with the continuation of the main storyline as the rest of the book follows "The Mean Seasons". Snow White gives birth and the election takes place. Both events cause a slew of fallout and meanwhile those in charge decide it is time to prepare to take on The Adversary.

Not one of my favourite issues what with the jumping around. Cinderella is not a character I like, but I love Bigby and his feature storyline was a lot of fun. The main plot was mostly sideline stories, which I enjoyed, but I am hoping to see the main story arc move forward in the next volume. (And I've received info that it does. So I am really looking forward to Volume 6). Overall, a fun volume. I enjoyed all the storylines except the first isolated story about Cinderella.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

163. 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs

206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
Temperance Brennan, Book 12

Pages: 308
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sep.7, 2009
First Published: Aug. 25, 2009
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:


Reason for Reading: I read every new Kathy Reichs book. I received a Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Comments: Tempe wakes up to realize that she is tied up and trapped within a small brick structure within complete darkness. Chapters alternate between her present situation and some relative distant past and a case she's been working where the skeletal remains of an elderly woman are recovered and linked to 2 other violent deaths of elderly women and 1 current missing persons case that fits the same descriptors. Tempe is also experiencing difficulties at work in the Quebec office with a new staff member added to the crew and each other person in a gloomy mood; then she receives a nasty note and confirms someone has tried to discredit her recently. Tempe works this second personal case to get the guy who's after her reputation behind the scenes while working on the 'grannies' case.

This was a great entry in the series. I spent my holiday Monday basically doing nothing but reading the book and read it in a day. (Well I read a bit the night before in bed, too) A very exciting, compelling read. The elderly woman case was a good one and different but I did find that the book lacked Reichs' usual flare for the gruesome details. I absolutely loved the switching back to a trapped Tempe, her memory is all hazy and she can't remember the immediate past, so the reader also has no idea how she ended up this way. These bits where she mentally tries to survive and talk herself into physically surviving and trying to escape were really my favourite parts of the book.

While the mystery centres around the main case of the elderly women there are also a few side stories and mysteries going on as well. And while the main case proves to be a solid mystery, one of the other mysteries that ran the whole book was rather transparent and very easy to figure out from the beginning. I was quite surprised with that. Reichs usually holds up very solid mysteries. I wish she had advanced Brennan's personal life a little further in this book but instead she kept the Tempe/Ryan relationship pretty much business only and briefly let us see into where her thoughts were with anything further, we are fully aware of where Ryan stands on the issue. The book does end on a note that lets the reader know which direction the relationship will certainly go in the next book, though.

On a final note, fans will devour this one and not be disappointed. It's a solid, all-nighter read and will keep us waiting for the next book.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week was a quiet mailbox week for me. I received two books, one review copy ... and one book I was fortunate enough to win from bookfool last month! So the results for last week are 1 arc in and 4 arcs read and reviewed making Mt. ARC 3 books smaller. If this trend continues for this week, I'll take an overall percentage of arcs read for the year versus those received, again.

The review copy:

And my win from bookfool:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

162. My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
Soul Screamers, Book 1

Pages: 282
Ages: 14+
Finished: Sep.4, 2009
First Published: Aug. 8, 2009
Genre: Teen, Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

"Come on!" Emma whispered from my right, her words floating from her mouth in a thin white cloud.

Reason for Reading: Even though I do not like romance books, I am getting into Paranormal Romances and Harlequin's new Teen books intrigued me. I received a Review Copy from Harlequin Teen.

Comments: Kaylee can feel when someone near her is going to die. In fact she sees a dark shadow surrounding them. But then Kaylee has an overpowering urge to scream, a loud piercing, almost ear splitting screech that once starts she has no control over. The only way she can stop it is to get far enough away from the person then her urge dies down. Her best friend Emma helps her, thinking they are panic attacks. Her aunt and uncle, whom she lives with, have already sent her to the psych ward once so now she keeps the attacks secret. All her life the attacks have been years or almost a year apart but suddenly three girls in town drop dead in as may days and Kaylee is a witness to two of them. Something is not right. At the same time she meets a boy, Nash, who is able to calm her urge to scream without removing her from the 'pre-deceased'.

This book was amazing! I won't tell you what Kaylee eventually finds out about herself but Ms. Vincent uses a very seldom used creature from folklore as characters in this novel. She has created a whole new wonderful mythos to work with that was pure joy to read. The story was compelling, very hard to put down. Kaylee is a strong female character, independent, yet respectful where it is due. It really is the story and the plot that kept me so hooked, though. Very well-written and unique to say the least.

For a teen book, I was pleased with the portrayal of the romance aspect. Both Kaylee and Nash are smart, intelligent teens. Kaylee knows when to back off and not let things go to far and Nash is very respectful to notice Kaylee's body language and never take more than has been offered.

Personally, I am not a big romance fan so the girl sighing over the boy in the beginning did have me rolling my eyes quite heavily but once the plot got going full steam the drooling over his various body parts took a back seat to the paranormal part. I mention this so that paranormal fans won't be afraid to pick up a book by Harlequin, thinking it will all be romance with a capital "R". Instead what you get is an incredibly unique paranormal story that is too good to miss, even if there is a bit of romance.

I am very anxious to read Book 2. This one ends nicely with the plot being wrapped up, but there are some character threads left open that will transition nicely into the next book. Highly recommended!

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Friday, September 4, 2009

161. A Child's First Book of Poems

A Child's First Book of Poems with pictures by Cyndy Szekeres

Pages: 44
Ages: 3+
Finished: Sep.2, 2009
First Published: 1981
Genre: children, poetry
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

An elephant's nose is the handiest nose, the handiest nose of all -

Reason for Reading: I read a poem or 2 to my son every day M-F.

Comments: This is a cute little book. Of course, wonderfully illustrated with Szekers' darling pictures which mostly feature animals both realistically and anthropomorphically, but there is the occasional real boy or girl. The poems are suitable for all ages but have been chosen for their simplicity so that even the youngest ears will appreciate the rhythms and words. Though this is no baby book, there are no nursery rhymes, no mother goose to be found here. What we have is a collection of the wonderful children's poets such as Aileen Fisher, A.A. Milne, Eleanor Farjeon, Dorothy Aldis and Christina Rossetti alongside a few of the greats: Emily Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Walter de la Mare. Plus, our good friend Anonymous shows his hand maybe twice. A well thought out collection; we read a lot of poetry collections and there were many new-to-us poems found here. Of course, there were a handful of the famous ones but it was nice to see a collection of some lesser known poems as well. An enjoyable read for all ages. A great introduction to poetry for children.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

160. The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein

The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein
The Haunted Mysteries, Book 2

Pages: 322
Ages: 10-14
Finished: Sep.2, 2009
First Published: Aug. 11, 2009
Genre: children, horror, ghost story
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

There's this thing about ghosts: Once you've seen one, you can basically see them all.

Reason for Reading: The sequel to The Crossroads. I received a review copy from Random House Canada. Qualifies for the RIP IV Challenge.

Comments: Zack and his step-mom, a famous children's book author, are spending the summer at the Hanging Hill Theatre where, for the first time, one of her books is being turned into a musical. The Theatre has been around for well near a century while both the building and the land have quite a chequered past. So it comes to no surprise to Zack when he starts to see the occasional ghost. But when the ghosts start talking of demons and Zack meets ghosts with bloody weapons who can affect things in this world he starts to take notice. Before long he's racing against time to save the life of a sacrificial child and several others taking part in the play.

This was fabulous! One exciting read that never stops from start to finish. So much better than its predecessor. I had some problems with The Crossroads and the author has not repeated those concerns making The Hanging Hill a phenomenal horror story for the middle grades. The story does have its bloody bits and some gruesome descriptions so I wouldn't recommend it for the squeamish but nothing is overboard and certainly acceptable for this age group in my (conservative) opinion.

The chapters are very short making it hard to put the book down. The characters are an eccentric lot making for a fun story while Zack and the other couple of main characters are down to earth, likable, characters with real dialogue. I'm recommending this for ages 10-14, though I rarely give an ending age, I feel that teens will find the characters young, even though no age is given this time around, the children are obviously middle graders, and anyone under ten I feel would find the horror parts a bit to much, unless they are used to that sort of thing.

A great read! I was hooked from the beginning and am hoping this is not just a sequel but will continue as a series. I'd love to follow Zack and Judy on another ghostly adventure!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

159. Mercy Watson Something Wonky This Way Comes

Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Mercy Watson, Book #6

Pages: 86
Ages: 6+
Finished: Aug. 31, 2009
First Published: Jul. 14, 2009
Genre: children, humour
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

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

Reason for Reading: Next and newest (2009) in the series. I received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Comments: The Watsons are off to the Drive-in to watch a movie but Mercy is more concerned about the strong smell wafting about. Butter! Her favourite smell because where there is butter there is often toast. So she quietly slips out of the car and walks through the drive-in putting her snout in everyone's popcorn and while it is deliciously buttery she is looking for the ultimate taste of buttered toast. Unfortunately for Mercy both Officer Tommilello (and wife) and Animal Control Officer Francine Poulet (and date) are taking in a movie that night as well. And thus we have another fun adventure of Mercy and the cast from previous books.

Another cute story about Mercy as we've come to expect. There are some really good laugh out loud moments in this book. A handful of new characters, one with a name that, for the life of me, I couldn't wrap my tongue around without trying two or three times! Along with the few new characters every single character ever introduced in the series is found within this story and the usual toast party at the end has them all. If you've read all the books in the series you can try and name them all as we did! This book does have a feeling of being the last in the series. First with all the characters gathered together, it seems impossible for the author to continue the tradition since she has a nice fine large cast as it stands now. Second the last several pages speak of happy endings, while this pertains to the story I had a feeling this was also a way of wrapping up the series. Finally, this last book is at a higher reading level than the previous books, it is longer at 86 pgs, there are whole two page spreads without pictures found throughout the book (which never occurred in previous volumes) as if pointing the child in the direction of moving onwards with their reading abilities. (Of course, I have no insider info. This is just my humble opinion.)

Another fine entry, though not our favourite, in the Mercy Watson series, which is perfect reading for kids who are at the age where they can read but are not ready to move away from large print or still want to have colourful pictures. While there is no need to read the books in order, there is a benefit. One being that #6 here is a higher reading level than the others but more importantly starting with #1 new characters are introduced with each book and occasionally reappear until the final few books where we have every old character making appearances and it's just a whole lot of fun to see them showing up again this way. If read out of order, you'd miss this fun.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

End of the Month Wrap-Up

August is over! Boy, it seemed like a really long month to me but on the other hand I can't believe summer's over and fall is just around the corner. My favourite season of the year is soon upon us and we can feel it in the air the last couple of days, though they've been forecasting warmer weather for the rest of the week. I'm happy to say I read 21 books again this month, same as July. I like to keep it at 19+, so am pleased with the results.

First thing I'm going to do for the end of August is tidy up my challenges and officially close up two challenges that have ended that I'm still signed up for and that would be the Christopher Moore Challenge which never really had hardly anyone sign up for it in the first place and it is way over now. I do intend on working on reading all his books myself anyway. Secondly, is the Cardathon, I had intended on reading the rest of the Enderverse books which I hadn't read yet and I did read two books First Meetings in the Enderverse & Shadow of the Hegemon but in that time Mr. Card also published two new Ender books so I'm hardly ahead of the game. The Challenge is over and no one is posting to the blog any more so I'm officially calling it a day and will get to the rest of Ender's books on my own time along with the rest of Orson Scott Card's backlist some day in the future.

That leaves me with 3 challenges on the go Canadian, RIP and Random plus the perpetual ones as seen in my side bar. So now it's time to pick September's Random Reading Book. I am using random.org to pick a book from my backlog of arcs. Off I go to select my book .... and the winner is ..... #89. The Demon's Lexicon by Sara Rees Brennan. Oooo. Great random pick! With a theme of demons, it qualifies for the RIP challenge too! Yeah!

My movie/dvd watching this month was zilch again. What can I say? I just don't watch TV in the summer.

Now finally onto the list of books read this month.

August: 21 (not counting DNF's or XXX's)
DNF. Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
139. Undone by Karin Slaughter (5*****)
140. The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine (4.5 ****)
xxx. Billy Blaster: Ice Caves of Pluto by David Orme
xxx. Billy Blaster: Mind Thief by David Orme
141. Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck by Dayle E. Basye (3.5 ***)
142. Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham (5*****)
143. The Dragon's Pearl by Devin Jordan (4****)
144. Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan (5*****)
145. Free Agent by Jeremy Duns (4.5****)
146. Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo (5*****)
147. Catholicism for Dummies by Rev. John Trigilio Jr., PhD, ThD (4.5****)
xxx. A Ghost Named Fred by Nathaniel Benchley (3.5***)
148. The Last Dickens by Matthew Pear (3.5***)
149. Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Great Stories of Greek & Roman Mythology by William F. Russell (5 *****)
150. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (4****)
151. Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy (4.5****)
152.Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo (5*****)
153. Mercy Watson Fights Crime by Kate DiCamillo (3***)
154. Mercy Watson Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo (4****)
155. Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig by Kate DiCamillo) (3.5***)
156. The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan (5*****)
157. Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard (4.5****)
158. Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay (4****)
159. Mercy Watson Something Wonky This Way Comes by Kate DiCamillo (3.5***)

158. Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay

Pages: 399
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 31, 2009
First Published: Aug. 11, 2009
Genre: mystery, suspense
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The morning of the day I lost her, my daughter asked me to scramble her some eggs.

Read the first five chapters for free!

Reason for Reading: Last year I read and enjoyed Barclay's Too Close to Home so much I just had to read his newest book. I received a review copy from Random House. Qualifies for the Canadian Book Challenge. Qualifies for the RIP IV Challenge.

Comments: One day Tim Blake's 17yo daughter Syd goes off to work her summer job as per usual but she doesn't come home. Since they had a spat that morning he gives her some leeway thinking she's angry and not calling to say she's working late but once plenty of time has gone by he drops by the hotel she's been working at all summer to find out that they've never heard of her, she hasn't worked there at all. And thus begins the worst journey of Tim's life as he searches for his missing daughter finding out about a dark and dangerous world he'd never known existed and also finding out that the police are not always on your side.

Wonderful book. First, a very different type of story than Too Close to Home, which is closer to my usual murder mystery genre. This one would be classified more as a suspense and I could very much see it as a being made into a movie. The plot isn't exactly fast-paced as it is pretty much one theme all along, the search for Sydney, or rather the chase. However, there is so much action happening all the time that the book does move along at a fast past. The twists and turns and reveals that are thrown regularly at the reader at any point in the story keeps the suspense and tension high, as one doesn't know what is going to happen next or who is not really whom they seem to be. From the two books I've read, I'm seeing this as Barclay's forte as an author. I look forward to reading more of his books.

I enjoy Barclay's writing. He keeps a tight, taut thriller with plenty of possible chances for the reader to figure it out but with all the twists from start to finish you'll be lucky to completely solve the intricate plot on your own. I had my eye on a suspect from the beginning but what they were guilty of I hadn't a clue, I was right in the end, but not very proud of simply picking out a guilty person. The only thing I'm not pleased with is the ending. The mystery plot itself is wrapped up nicely but it ends with the characters and it's a "what the?" ending. It's very abrupt and seeing as where the characters' plot was going, disappointing. Not a nice note, for me at least, to end a book on. If you've read the book you'll know what I mean. If you haven't don't let that stop you reading the book. Books don't always have "happily ever after" endings and this one is worth the ride. Looking forward to dipping into Barclay's backlist and hopefully a new book in the new year (2010)!

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