Thursday, December 31, 2009

Movies/DVD's Watched in 2009

I tried to do this last year and failed miserably. It took all the fun out of keeping the list when I tried to review each movie. So I'm just going to keep a running list for the year. The list will include the movie and indicate whether it is a re-watch otherwise it can be assumed it was my first time watched (the year)(owned/rental/library/borrowed/theatre) and a brief review which could be just one word such as good, great, just OK, whatever. If I feel like expounding on the review I will. No rules here just a list with a bit of extra information. I will also note which ones I watched with my 8yo/9yo by starting off with a red (#).

January: 8

1. (#)Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: re-watch, (1984) (library) - great, my favourite of the three original movies because the plot is so dark. 8yo is so into Indiana at the moment.

2. Fargo: (1996) (library) - wonderful. very quirky. Lots of violence but incredibly funny. We will be saying "Oh yah" "yah" to each other for quite a while, I think.

3. (#)Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: (re-watch) (1989) (library) - #2 is my favourite because I love the dark plot, but this is really just as good but because it is so funny. We were all laughing a mile a minute and Sean Connery is just so darned good in this movie. He's hilarious.

4. Millennium: The Complete Third Season: (1998/99) (own) - Love this show! Season 1 is still my favourite but I wish it hadn't ended here. The Fourth season would have proved interesting. Also includes the X-Files episode with Frank Black.

5. Firefly: The Complete Series (2002/2003) (borrowed) - Sigh! It doesn't get any better than this. I want more Firefly!!!!!

6. (#)Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) (library) - Not as good or as funny as the others but all round fun movie. We all felt satisfied and loved the scene at the end where he does not pass the hat on to his son. I love everything Harrison Ford does, but he'll always be Indiana Jones to me, even more so than Han Solo.

7. (#)Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008) (own) - I love this so much. I watched it at least once a day the whole time it was on the Internet and bought it as soon as it became available on If you like Joss Whedon you must watch this. Commentary! The Musical was fun, had a couple of really funny songs but wasn't anything compared to the original show. I preferred the actual real commentary which included all the stars and producers and provided lots of interesting info. Plus the Making of ... documentary was a wonderful behind-the-scenes look.

8. Serenity (2005) (library) - Wow,wow,wow! Brilliant, fabulous ending to Firefly. I was crying at the end. I know, I should have expected it by now. Josh Whedon always kills characters at the end but I was shocked and really sad with who died. There are still so many questions left unanswered though. I want more! Hurry up and make another movie, even if it is just direct to DVD.

February: 6

9. The Dark Knight (2008) (library) - Very good. Better than the first one. Very dark; this is how I like my Batman! From all the talk I certainly knew that The Joker was the villain in this one but I was pleasantly surprised to see Two-Face show up as well.

10. (#)Attack on Canada: The First Civil War (2000)(library) - One hour documentary on the American Revolution from a Canadian-British point of view. Specifically focuses on the Rebel attack on Canada trying to bring us into the original American colonies. Lots of footage of war re-enactments and interviews with "common people in the field" such as infantrymen and drummers from both sides, the Rebels and the Redcoats. Watched with the 8yo as part of our curriculum to bring a Canadian focus to our study of the American Revolution.

11. Alias: The Fourth Season (2005) (own) - It's been a while since I watched Seasons 1-3, so it took me a couple of shows to get back into the storylines but once I did I was addicted again. Everything that happened was so fabulous. From the 3rd (of 6) disc on every episode made me want to watch just one more! And I stayed up late two nights in a row watching 5 and 6 because it was just so amazing. I'm glad Sydney's sister won't be in the final season much because I've never liked her. Every time she's out in the field without Sidney is a time Sidney could be on screen. I just love her outfits and watching her fight is amazing. Any way, the last episode was an amazingly astonishing cliff hanger that makes me want to pop Season 5 in right away. But because it will be the last season AND only has 17 episodes I'm going to make myself wait just a teeny tiny little while first. I hate it when shows are over :-(

12. The Day the Earth Stood Still (re-watch) (1951) (own) - classic sci-fi movie. Made just before the 50s mutant monster movies took over. This is a character-driven, emotional story. A must watch for sci-fi fans. Will be watching the new re-make later when my library gets a copy.

13 (#)WALL-E (2008) (own) - very cute movie. The whole family enjoyed it. Loved the extra cartoon shorts on the DVD especially "Presto", that was hilarious.

14. Alias: The Complete Fifth (Final) Season (2005/2006) (own) - Oh how I hate it when I finish a series. This was a real stunner! Plot twists all over the place. Lots of people die and my favourite character at that! Also lots of old faces pop up again from the past, like Will. Lots of fun seeing him again. Every episode ended with me gasping and dying to watch the next one and since this season only had 17 episodes it makes for a quick viewing. It's so sad to let all these characters go. I just love this show, absolutely outstanding. It is one that I will watch again some day.

March: 7

15. Stargate SG-1 Season 8 (2004/2005) (own) - Love, love, love Stargate! I've seen a large portion of these episodes on TV but not all of them and it was enlightening to follow the story in order. Not much more to say. One of the best shows ever and a great season with some really cool episodes. Loved the ending when the nerdy alternate Sam & Daniel travel back in time and also love the first episode that introduces Vala. Last season with Jack O'Neill as a regular though. I'm gonna miss him, but as long as Daniel Jackson is around I'm happy!

16. Hancock (2008) (library) - I basically had no idea what this movie was about when I took it out. I knew it was something superhero-ish and that it had Will Smith in it was enough for me. At first I wasn't quite sure whether I was going to enjoy it or not but once one sees where the plot is going (or at least thinks one knows) I started enjoying it. In fact, I really enjoyed it. As a fan of superhero movies this was very unique and I actually loved the story behind his powers. Not the best movie in the world, or even Smith's best but I have to say it was a winner for me. My dh, on the other hand, has no more comment than "It was ok" but then he only watches superhero movies for my benefit.

17. (#) The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones Volume 1, The Early Years (1992) (library) - The 8yo and I really enjoyed this series. I just barely remember watching some episodes when they first came out on TV. Seven movie length episodes show Indy's adventures as a ten year old and the last two episodes have him grown to about 18. 8yo loved these, found them very interesting and loved seeing Indiana when he was the same age as him. He liked the last two episodes the best though, with the older Jones as they were more like Indy from the movies, ie. swashbuckling action. The series also includes a ton of documentaries on all the real life people and events Indiana Jones meets in the time period from 1908-1918. We both enjoyed this series very much. There are two more volumes but we will be holding off on them for a few years as the next one covers WWI and is too mature for my 8yo. Lots of fun and informative.

18. The Number 23 (2007) (owned) - As I looked for the amazon link for this movie I noticed the average review was not good for this movie. I didn't even bother to read why because we actually enjoyed the movie. It started out great, got very weird in the middle, and slowly started to answer my feelings that the route the plot was taking was full of inconsistencies. I didn't figure out what was happening and once I knew, I didn't believe it, but my reservations were proven to be wrong and the plot proved itself consistent and very well done. I love a movie that has me stumped as I figure out how they will end quite easily most times. Jim Carey is at his best, imho, when playing serious roles and I loved him in this. I also enjoyed the actor who played his son. Let's see imdb says his name is Logan Lermon. While probably not for everyone, if you like weird you may just enjoy it as much as I did.

19. (#) Madagascar 2 (2009) (live viewing at the library) - not bad, has some funny bits but not that many. Sure kids will like, they all seemed to be enjoying themselves in the theatre. But nowhere near as good as the first, which I loved. I suggest you rent, not buy this one.

20. Stargate SG 1: Season 9 (2005/2006) (own) - What can I say, with all the cast changes this season I thought it wouldn't be as good now. But man, was I wrong! This is the best season ever; it's almost like a brand new show starting it so fresh and new. All the story arcs from the previous seasons have ended and new bad guys, worse than the Guaols (sp?), come along. Ben Browder, Claudia Black and Beau Bridges are awesome additions to the cast and while I loved RDA as Jack O'Neill so much, I didn't even miss him! Bridges is as good a leader as Hammond was and the relationship between Daniel (my fav. character) and Vala is so funny and electric. I hope it goes somewhere with them next season. Mitchell is just as eccentric a character as O'Neill was but in no way tries to replace him. Mitchell's character is very different but terribly humorous in his own way. Bravo season 9! I can't believe there is only one more season to go. But I console myself that I also have two movies to watch after that.

21. Stargate SG 1: Season 10 (2006/2007) (own) - Oh wow! I just loved the final season. It was truly brilliant and so fresh. There was so much more they could have done with the storylines it's sad to see them end here with season 10. I'm sure they could have easily gone to season 14 without losing any integrity of the story, The new characters had so much more to offer. I was surprised at the number of times that Richard Dean Anderson showed up as a guest star and also surprised that they didn't make it known that he and Sam were together now. It was indicated that they were on his last full time episode and when she was asked if she was single now and she said she wasn't but when they were on the screen together not a single look, touch or electricity whatever. But who cares, there was plenty of that between Vala and Daniel and the last episode was truly wonderful. The relationship between them was everything I had hoped it would be, just too bad they had to go back in time to before it started. {sigh} I hope the movies finish off the relationships for us. But I absolutely loved the Ori as the new bad guys, the lingering Ba'al causing trouble and the new Arthurian legend as opposed to the Egyptian ones which were indeed getting old. Love this show and will indeed sit down someday in the future and watch them all over again. But I still have two movies ahead to watch first!

April: 1

22. (#) King King (2003) (re-watch) (own) - First saw this in the theatre when it first came out and enjoyed it very much, this is the first time I've re-watched it. This time we let the 8yo watch it and only had to have him close his eyes a couple of times when people were getting killed, otherwise the violence was monster movie violence and nothing worse than cartoon violence. Anyway, I am what you would call a King Kong aficionado. I've seen every King Kong movie at least twice and yes that includes (Godzilla vs. King Kong), the original King Kong many times and even Mighty Joe Young, and I think they did a very good job with making making it and keeping it essentially as a love story. I only think they made a very bad choice in choosing Jack Black as the lead. He can't do drama and he played the part way over the top. A much more serious take on the part would have put the movie up another notch onto a much more serious playing field. But other than that the casting was good and I enjoyed the movie and will watch it again.

May: 7

23. The Clearing (2004) (watched at my dad's - he owns) - I read the back and this sounded like a great thriller. Plus I know that if Willem Dafoe is in a movie he makes a wonderful bad guy. I didn't think I'd ever heard of it before though but about half way through the movie I started to remember seeing commercials where they showed the scenes of them walking through the forest. I really enjoyed this. Not a "y'all gotta go see this" movie but I really did like it. I kept thinking it would end the way it did, but I also kept thinking "nah, they won't end it that way". So, I was surprised that my ending did happen after all. It's a slow movie with mounting tension. My dad found it a bit boring, mentioned it was a slow mover, but that's what I liked about it. I compared it to a Hitchcock movie, where the story just kept mounting and mounting to a point you just weren't quite sure of. If you're in the mood for a thriller without the action scenes and just the suspense, give this one a go. Redford, Mirren and Dafoe all give superb performances.

24. Saving Private Ryan (1998) (watched at my dad's - he owns) - Unbelievably, my first time to watch. Always wanted to but never got around to it. My dh does not like war movies so we seldom watch them together. What can I say, this was awesome. Loved every second of it. I had no idea what the true events were, nor had I learnt the plot so it was completely new to me. Lots of war violence, terribly so, but it is needed to really bring home the reality of full scale war. No words can really express how a movie like this makes you feel. It is truly a fine movie. I did enjoy Band of Brothers better though, but then that was a whole mini-series.

25. The Rainmaker (1956) (watched at my dad's on TV -TCM) - Kate Hepburn and Burt Lancaster star in this wonderful movie set in about 1920s rural mid-west America about a girl who is getting to the age where she is going to be an old maid if she doesn't marry soon and her two brothers and father are desperately trying to marry her off while she dreams of having a man fall in love with her. I'm a big fan of Hepburn's and hadn't seen this one before and really enjoyed it. It's a comedy and full of deliciously funny moments. The topic could offend feminists of today but it really is a beautiful love story of how a girl brought up in a house of men learns to be a woman and how a man hurt by a woman learns to love again. I really enjoyed it and am glad I was able to add it to my list of Hepburn movies I've seen.

26. Arthur (1981) (watched at my dad's - he owns)(re-watch) - I saw this originally when it came out at the movies; I would have been 13. I have never seen it again. I was in the mood for something fun and remembered laughing during this so hoped it would live up to my 13 year old's experience and boy, did it ever. A hilarious movie! This is Dudley Moore at the prime of his career. A really funny, "feel good" movie that you should see, if you've never watched it before. Liza Minnelli is at her most beautiful in this movie, too. I think this is probably when I became a fan of hers. Loved it!

27. The Brothers Grimm (2005) (watched at my dad's he owns) - ummm....... weird. Can't really say I liked it, but didn't necessarily hate it either. Let's just go with weird. Not likely to re-watch it ever, either.

28. The Story of Three Loves (1953) (watched at my dad's on TV - TCM) - never heard of this but when I saw the cast I had to watch, James Mason, Leslie Caron, Ricky Nelson, Kirk Douglas, Farley Granger, Agnes Moorehead and others. But those are the ones that caught my eye. Strange really as it was just three short stories about love. Tragic, yearning and true love. I liked it. But would not have watched it unless by chance this way. Glad I did.

29. National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007) (watched at my dad's, he owns) - not a lot to say about this one. I loved the first movie and I loved this one! It was just as good as the first. In fact it was pretty much the same as the first. On a treasure hunt to find something important to American History and then finding an underground "world". Anyone who loved the first will love this and the movie ends with a set-up that could be made into a third sequel. I'd watch it. Great bit of fun!

June: 3

30. Seven Pounds (2008) (borrowed from library) - not really a lot to say. They take an awful long time to getting around to letting you know what's going on but as soon as they give a hint we had the whole thing figured out and basically it's a pretty slow story that I never connected with any of the characters. I don't know how we're supposed to feel for Smith's character but suicide is never admirable and I had no sympathy for him whatsoever. Dh enjoyed the movie more than I did, though not much more . Won't say I hated it but don't go running out to buy this one.

(#)31. Facing the Giants (2006) (live viewing at a church) - an absolutely inspirational movie! A down and out football coach at a Christian High School has lost 6 years in a row and finds out he is going to be fired. His home life is full of problem after problem as well, mostly money related, as his marriage is strong but is being tried as they have not conceived in 4 years of trying. Well things just keep going down from there until the one day he hits personal rock bottom and decides to give his life to the glory of the Lord and he convinces his team to do this to. They start playing games, not just to win, but for the Lord. They decide to praise Him when the win and praise Him when they loose. From there on the mystery of the Lord is at work and what a feel good movie this is. I felt myself saying Amen throughout. If you've ever been down and out and had one of those moments when you've prayed and given it up to the Lord, you'll know exactly how hard that is to do and how beautiful it is to see Him at work in your life.

32. The Dark Half (1993) (borrowed from eldest son) - I don't think I've seen this movie before, at least it didn't seem familiar as I watched it. Of course, I've read the book which is better by far. Kind of a cheesy movie. Kept me entertained but nothing special, certainly not scary, but kinda fun. Fun to watch Timothy Hutton again. Reminds me of wanting to see Taps again some day (oh how I loved that movie) but my library doesn't have a copy of it.

July: 0

August: 0

September: 0

October: 1

(#)33. The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967) (borrowed through Interlibrary Loan) -We watched this right after reading By the Great Horn Spoon upon which the movie is loosely based. Many liberties have been taken with the book but the major plot points and action scenes are included. We all enjoyed watching the movie. Pleshette's character was an add on so I never really took to her; I would have preferred they added on one of Jack's sisters to go with them but then of course the big love story would have been missing. Still, Roddy McDowell is a fine actor and loads of fun in this part and Karl Malden is perfect for his part as the dastardly, yet cowardly Judge. The highlight of the movie though is the famous fight scene which uses a lot of pre-Matrix camera trick moves. My 9yo thought that was quite funny!

November: 1

34. Julie and Julia (2009) (live showing at the library) - Loved it! I haven't read the book, nor did I really know what it was about before I went. I simply knew it was about some woman named Julie who had a thing for Julia Child. The movie was great. Meryl Streep was fantastic in the part of Jullia Child. She played the character as eccentric as she was without going over the top which would have been so easy for an actress not of Streep's calibre. Personally, I loved the Julia Child portions much more than the Julie parts but that part was ok, too.

December: 2

(#)35. A Christmas Carol (2009) (at the theatre) - this cgi animated version starring Jim Carey was fabulous. The whole family loved it. My nine year old who saw a play this year was familiar with the story and because of that he wasn't too frightened because it is a quite frightening movie at times. Do not take little kids to see this. He did hide his face and peak through his fingers at times but it wasn't more than he could handle and he loved it! We all did. I was quite surprised at the amount of Dickensian language used within the film, especially during the first half. Also the film was very true to the original story, another surprise coming from Disney. And the big question on my mind would Tiny Tim say the famous words "God Bless us, everyone", Disney couldn't mess with Dickens, could they? .... No, they could not! Timmy says it twice in the movie, which goes to prove just how much they stuck to the original story. Now it's been ages since I actually read the story, so someone may pick bits and pieces here and there but I was perfectly satisfied. A very well done job. Satisfied 3 adults and a 9yo.

(#)36. Spider-Man (2002) (own) (re-watch) - 9yo got this for Christmas (the whole trilogy actually) as we decided he was finally mature enough to watch it. I loved it just as much the second time as the first, though I didn't laugh as I remember laughing the first time through. As usual you can't go wrong with Willem Dafoe as the bad guy. And I just love the upside down kiss! {sigh}. 9yo loved it even though parts of it went over his head and we had to explain what was going on quite a bit but that didn't matter, all he was really interested in was the Spider-Man action scenes anyway. Lots of fun, I love Spidey in the comics, cartoons and movies!

Top Ten Books of 2009

OK, so I couldn't pick just ten! Shoot me. I read 270 books (see my complete list here) in 2009 and most of them were great to amazing so it is virtually impossible to narrow a list down to my top ten favourite books. Sooo ... my official Top Ten Books Read in 2009 list contains 14 titles. These are in the order I recommend them.

14. The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

13. Far North by Marcel Theroux

12. Wake by Lisa McMann

11. American Rust by Philipp Meyer

10. Free Agent by Jeremy Duns

9. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

8. Hell's Horizon by D.B. Shan

7. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

6. Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue

5. The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

3. The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert & Didier Lefevre

2. Drood by Dan Simmons

1. The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

269. Twisted

Twisted by Andrea Kane (Canada ) - (US)
Sloane Burbank, book 1

Pages: 376 pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Dec. 29 , 2009
First Published: Mar. 2008
Genre: romantic thriller
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

She was a true warrior.

Acquired: Received as a 'bonus book' from the publisher along with another book I had requested at the time.

Reason for Reading: Honestly, the cover put me off this for some reason. So it has taken me a while to get around to reading it.

Summary: Sloane Burbank is a former FBI agent who was injured in the line of duty and instead of taking a desk job decided to leave the Bureau until her therapy made her fit for active duty once more. In the meantime she is working as a private consultant for corporations and the police. She is contacted by the family of a childhood friend as a last resort that their daughter has been missing for close to a year and hired to look into the case for them. This one missing person case takes her into a series of related missing women cases, all having even the remotest link to herself, leading officials to believe Sloane is the ultimate target. At the same time the FBI agent in charge is involved in a case of a series of brutal prostitute murders down in Chinatown which may somehow be related to the missing women.

Comment: Wow! This was a stunner! I wish I hadn't waited so long to read this as I would have read the sequel by now too. Two things initially put me off, the cover and the description on the back as a "romantic thriller". I'm not a romance reader and the word had me thinking this might be a bit of fluff, but boy was I wrong!

A very creepy, unusual serial killer is the focus of this book which shifts focus occasionally to the criminal's first hand point of view and then back to the third person narrative of the main plot. This person is very freaky and the whole story of motive that the author has created is very unique and fantastic. I quickly had my eye on a suspect and played into the author's hands all along as I followed her red herrings and was joyfully surprised how wrong I was at the reveal.

Usually, in these thrillers with male/female partners we have s*xual tension or a relationship going on, but the 'romance' writer in the author comes out in this area of the book and there is quite a bit of descriptive s*x in the book that I would rather have done without. Some people would consider it quite graphic, though in the whole realm of what I've read I'd say it gets very close without quite getting to full fledged graphic. For this reason I can't give the book a full rating. I've read a lot of thrillers and this type of 'romance=sex' doesn't sit right with me. Save it for the paranormal romances, I say.

Otherwise, Ms Kane has crafted a taut, unique and very satisfying page turner of a thriller. I will be reading the sequel soon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

268. The Great Turkey Walk

The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr (Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 199 pgs.
Ages: 10+
Finished: Dec. 28, 2009
First Published: 1998
Genre: children, YA, historical fiction, humour
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

I've always been fond of birds, poultry in particular.

Acquired: Received a copy through ILL.

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

Summary: Set in 1860, the book starts with 15-year-old Simon Green being politely graduated from school and told to go find his place in the world. Simon is quite taken aback, as he has just finished third grade for the fourth time and he'd figured on being in school quite some time to get the rest of the grades completed. Simple-minded Simon comes upon a plan to walk a flock of a thousand turkeys from his hometown in Missouri, where he can purchase them for two bits a head, all the way to Denver where they say turkeys will go for five dollars a head. The story follows him on his Wild West adventure across the country making friends and escaping dangers along the way.

Comment: This was a fun book to read aloud! Written in Simon's voice: a frontier, uneducated drawl with most of the other character's following suit. While Simon may be simple-minded he isn't as stupid as the folks back home think he is. He's a quick judge of a man's character and he's got a lot of honest to goodness common sense and these prove him well on his business venture. I enjoyed the book, the adventures they got caught up in were a riot and the runaway slave boy they meet up with and take with them as they head north also adds some varying points of view of the time period covered in the book. The author's note at the end explains how she based her story on similar events that really happened.

My son on the other hand was only so-so about the book. He even said at one point that he didn't like it, but whenever we were reading it he was laughing and having a good time. The story just didn't hold with him when we were away from it. I think it would have benefited from illustrations, even just one line drawing per chapter. Ds usually likes these wild west types of stories and it's hard for me to pinpoint exactly what he didn't connect with in this one but I'm thinking the age of Simon had something to do with it, even though Simon was mentally younger than his age. So, I'm thinking the most appreciative age for this book is going to be ten and overs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week was a fabulous week for my mailbox. I started the week with the last couple of Cybils review copies, then came a bookmooch and just before Christmas we got 2 books for review, one had me screaming and the other had my son screaming!

This is what the Beloved Mailbox brought forth:

Cybils Award Review Copies:

I've already read and reviewed this one here.

Alexander Carter has found a key that takes him back to the land of his childhood dreams. Now every night he enters Dreamland...a magical world filled with Dragons, Fairies, and Giants. Re-united with his childhood friends Paddington, Kiwi, and Nastajia...Alexander now embarks on a quest to save Dreamland from war with the nightmare realm.

I've already read and reviewed this one here.

Creator Lora Innes writes and illustrates the tale of 17-year-old Beatrice "Bea" Whaley, a student who begins having vivid dreams about a brave and handsome soldier named Alan Warren... a member of an elite group known as Knowlton's Rangers that fought during the Revolutionary War. Prone to keeping her head in the clouds, Bea welcomes her nightly adventures in 1776; filled with danger and romance they give her much to muse about the next day. But it is not long before Beatrice questions whether her dreams are simply dreams or something more...

A Bookmooch for our history studies this year:

Eleven-year-old Margo Bandini has never been afraid of anything. Her life in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with Mama and Papa and her little brother, Charlie, has always felt secure. But it's 1933, and the Great Depression is changing things for families all across America.

One day the impossible happens: Papa cannot make the payments for their house, and the Sheriff Sale sign goes up on their door. They have two weeks to pay the bank, or leave their home forever. Now Margo is afraid--but she's also determined to find a way to help Papa save their home.

Review Copies:

The one that made me scream!

Jack likes to think of himself as a criminal mastermind…with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, plotter, planner, trickster, swindler...maybe even thief? One fine day Jack picks a target a little more giant than the usual, and one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk.

With help from Rapunzel (and her trusty braids), a pixie from Jack’s past, and a man with inventions from the future, they just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of good people ....while catapulting themselves and readers into another fantastical adventure.

The one that made the 9yo scream!

Ulf the werewolf is training to become an official Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Beasts (RSPCB) agent. His mission takes him to the jungle in search of a legendary jungle vampire. But the evil Baron Marackai is hot on his trail. Can Ulf and his friends find the vampire first? The future of the RSPCB depends on it....

267. Fables: Wolves

Fables: Wolves by Bill Willingham (Canada ) - (US)
Fables, Volume 8

Pages: 159pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Dec. 27, 2009
First Published: 2006
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, fairy tale
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

By late November I reach the small port town of Provideniya.

Acquired: Received a copy through ILL.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

Comment: A very good issue! Lots of secret missions involving action, adventure and revenge. The tying up of an old plot and the introduction of a new fairy tale realm sets the stage for the focus to shift in a new direction come the next volume. As the title obviously tells us this volume concentrates mostly on Bigby, Snow and family. We start with a 2 part issue with the titular name that focuses on Mowgli's mission to find Bigby. Then comes a larger than usual issue, issue #50 in fact, which doesn't give it's title until the end. This issue has Bigby following his mission he was called home for and then brings Snow and the family into play with a big ending. In this issue we also get a brief glimpse of a new fairy tale realm. Finally we end with one issue of Cindy on a covert mission to the new realm which involves lots of life and death situations but unfortunately for her mostly depends on diplomacy. From here the reader assumes that the addition of this realm will be of help in the future fight against the adversary.

An interesting addition to the volume is the 48 page script for Issue #50. I did not read any where near the whole thing but I did start to read it and then flipped through and read bits and pieces and found it quite interesting to see how much like a play script a graphic novel starts out with and how much the author visualizes the finished pages, yet can also leave vague ideas for the artists to follow up on.

Great story. Popping over to put an ILL request in for volume 9 right away!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Little Mouse Gets Ready

Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith (Canada ) - (US)
A Toon Book

Pages: 32pgs.
Ages: 5+
Finished: Dec. 23, 2009
First Published: Sept. 21, 2009
Genre: graphic novel, easy reader
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Little Mouse!

Acquired: Received a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: book is nominated for a cybils award. plus my son and I have read all the Toon Books and read each new one as they come out.

Summary: This book is in the first level of Toon Books aimed at very early beginning readers. The style is mostly one frame per page, sometimes two. A basic story of Little Mouse dressing himself as his mother calls him to hurry up. But Jeff Smith adds a fun little twist to the "how to dress myself" book by adding a hilarious ending to the story that is sure to have kids roaring with laughter. The book contains all the usual trade marks one has come to expect from any Toon Book. Funny yet quality written story with fabulous illustrations by award-winning artist Jeff Smith. A book that is entirely kid friendly and while the plot may sound a bit babyish for older reluctant readers I'd say you could go up to age 9 with it due to the ending. Also this book has a higher vocabulary than the other two Toon Books at this level, while there are lots of short little bubbles with easy phonetic words to read, there are also some quite challenging bubbles with longer text and harder words such as "brothers", "underpants" and "through". Another top-notch entry in the Toon Books series, not our favourite at this level which would still be Jack and the Box, but a quality addition to the Toon Book family. Having a child with learning disabilities, I really appreciate this series. Ds often forgets he is struggling reading as he is having so much fun with the story. Recommended!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


John 3:16
For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life.

266. The Dreamland Chronicles

The Dreamland Chronicles, Book 1 by Scott Christian Sava (Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 300 pgs.
Ages: 10+
Finished: Dec. 23, 2009
First Published: Oct. 29, 2008
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Tell me about the last dream you remember having...

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: book is nominated for a cybils award.

Summary: When Alexander was a little boy he used to dream every night that he was in Dreamland with his friends: Nastajia the elf girl, Kiwi the fairy and Paddington Rumblebottom the third, a rock boy. Ah, the adventures they had but after a particularly frightening episode the dreams stopped until one day in his college dorm Alexander receives a care package from his mom with a necklace of a sword, he mysteriously brought back from Dreamland that fateful night, and when he puts it on his dreams start again and not only he but his friends have grown up and things are not as peaceful in Dreamland anymore.

Comment: This is a brilliant graphic novel. Touted as being for all ages, I certainly agree, though not for the very young because of the love story angle. Dreamland Chronicles is a breath of fresh air in the graphic novel format. The plot is exciting, fun, cute and humourous, while this volume lets us get to know all the characters it also sets up the great quest typical of mainstream fantasy tales and ends with a shocker leaving you ready to buy book two. And buy the books I want to indeed! The cgi illustrations are absolutely fabulous. I forgot I was reading at times and felt like I was watching a movie or playing an RPG. I haven't seen anything like it in all the graphic novels I've read this year (which is a LOT). It introduces an exciting new medium to graphic novels and will appeal to the gamers out there who may be otherwise reluctant readers. I will most certainly be continuing on with this series. Up to Book 3 are available with Book 4 coming out in the Spring of 2010. For those who like this sort of thing this is a webcomic that can be found here, Book 1 covers Chapters 1 to 4. While it is tempting for me to continue reading online I much prefer reading from paper pages so will treat myself to the books instead. Simply loads of fun!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

265. Shadow of Colossus

Shadow of Colosus by T.L. Higley (Canada ) - (US)
A Seven Wonders Novel, Book 1

Pages: 386 pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Dec. 21, 2009
First Published: Aug. 1, 2008
Genre: historical fiction, christian fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

In the deceitful calm of the days preceding disaster, while Rhodes still glittered like a white jewel in the Aegean, Tesa of Delos planned to open her wrists.

Acquired: Received an unsolicited review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: I had been wanting to read it anyway. The Ancient Greece and Seven Wonders angle appealed to me.

Summary: Set in 227 BC on the Greek island of Rhodes, Tesa was sold into bondage by her mother ten years ago and has been a courtesan ever since. She holds quite a high position in society as the hetaera of a wealthy politician, but still she must meet his every need in the privacy of his home. When her patrician is accidentally killed Tesa comes up with a plan to finally escape this island and its bondage but at this time she also meets a young man different than all the other men whom she has grown cold towards, this man actually seems to care. And all the while brewing deep beneath the earth the tectonic plates are coming together in what will be an immense earthquake that will destroy not only the Greek town and Jew village but also bring the Colossus statue of Helios to it's knees.

Comment: I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. I have to say I wasn't particularly in an Ancient history mood when I sat down to read it but the book grabbed me from the first chapter onwards. Tesa is a strong character caught in an ugly life of slavery and prostitution from which she is determined to free herself. Though to have survived so long in this lifestyle she has set aside her joy for life and become a cold, unfeeling person, impossible to reach. When she finds love it is extremely hard for her to set aside the control she has placed on her feelings for so long.

The book has an exciting political plot, with people plotting behind one another's backs to become the most powerful one. With three deaths and a near mass murder, one cannot help but be carried away by the fast-paced, exciting plot. Part love story, part political thriller and part examination of the Old Testament Jewish faith this engaging read was a page-turner for me.

From a Christian publisher I feel the label "Christian fiction" is a bit of a misnomer as the story takes place 227 years before Christ. Yet one can't quite call it "Biblical fiction" as the events are fictional, not from the Bible. I'm more apt to call this simply "historical fiction" or "historical romance" that mainstream readers would most likely enjoy. There are Jewish characters who believe in God and they introduce Him to a couple of Greek characters. There is one sentence near the end of the book where a Jewish character mentions the coming, one day, of a Messiah. I'd recommend to anyone, regardless of creed, who is interested in the time period. I'm looking forward to reading other books in this series.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

264. The Dreamer Volume 1 The Consequence of Nathan Hale

The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale by Lora Innes
The Dreamer, Volume 1
(Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 160 pgs.
Ages: 13+
Finished: Dec. 21, 2009
First Published: Jul. 28, 2009
Genre: historical fantasy, YA
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

Beatrice ... I thought you were dead.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: this book is a cybils award nominee.

Summary: Bea Whaley, 17, wakes up one morning after having a dream where she meets and kisses a young man. They are both dressed in old-fashioned clothing and when Bea awakes the dream feels so real. So real in fact that she can't get it out of her head all day. The next night she picks up her dream where she left off and figures out that she is in the American Revolution and the man is Allan Warren part of a military group called the Knowlton Ranger's. They have rescued her from kidnap by the British and are trying to get her home. Though she isn't helping matters as she has become fascinated with the handsome, God-fearing, courageous Allan Warren who seems to be in love with her, only they've had some fight he won't tell her about as she remembers nothing prior to her entering the dream. When she wakes into her own real life she tries to go on with things as normal but the guy she's had the hots for, for four years suddenly asks her out and she's not that into him all of a sudden. All she can think about is Allen. She falls asleep in class, she can't get to sleep at night and takes her mother's sleeping pills missing a day of school as she oversleeps. The dreams are not simply dreams to her anymore they feel so real ... and perhaps they are.

Comment: This is a fabulous story! The relationships between the high school kids is real, their dialogue is spontaneous and true to life. Bea is a character we get to know very quickly; she's friendly, kind, perky, one of the popular girls at school. But she has a temper and sense of indignation that comes out when her cousin's teasing goes too far. As she enters the 1776 era, she takes her 21st century girl attitude with her by refusing to be shuttled around by the men and 'taken care of'. She takes charge of her situations and at the same time she is quite charmed by the gentlemanly behaviour of the men towards her as a woman, and the chivalry unheard of in the 21st century does help warm her heart to these men of yesteryear.

I have one slight problem and that is with the cover. Why the obvious cheesecake pose? The illustrator does love to draw cleavage in the story, but this female on the cover is not a character in the book, nor does our main character ever dress up in full military uniform. The art isn't even characteristic of what can be found inside which is much more realistic and angular. It just seems to be a cheap shot at a cheesecake illustration to get men/boys to pick up the book, which feels strange coming from a female author/illustrator.

Otherwise ......

A rollicking good, fun book with lots of adventure and derring-do. Action all the way through. The dream sequences fill most of the book, but there is also enough of a parallel story going on in her 'real' world to bring a cohesive two part plot to the table. This is a book that will appeal to all, the strong spirited female character will satisfy girls and the military action of the war will satisfy the boys. While ultimately a love story, this is not a soppy romance, but oh so much more. Highly recommended.

For those who like to read online this is a webcomic available at Volume 1 covers chapters 1-6. I don't like reading these things a chapter at a time, so I'll be waiting until Volume 2 comes out in hardcopy before I continue on with the story.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Two books in the mail this week. Both from the authors. Both Canadian authors!

A Cybils nominee.

The road to god knows... is the story of Marie, a teenage girl coming to grips with her Mom's schizophrenia. As a result, she's struggling to grow up fast; wrestling with poverty, loneliness, and her Mom's illness every step of the way. Betty, Marie's Mom, can't help; she's living with an illness that's slowly getting worse and increasingly frightening, and she just doesn't have the resources left over at the end of the day to help Marie. With her Mom absorbed in her own problems, Marie is essentially alone while she learns to deal with the chaos in her young life. Marie's youth makes it that much harder for her to cope - as a teenager, she just doesn't have the life experience to feel confident about her decisions. At the start of the story, we see a scared young girl, uncertain and overwhelmed, but as Betty collapses into a full nervous breakdown, Marie is forced to examine herself and her life and come to a decision: does she continue to be a child, reacting to what's happening around her? Or does she take control of her life, come what may?
I've already read and reviewed this here.

And a review copy. I have been eagerly anticipating this sequel to The Third Eye, review here.

What if the only way to get rid of your worst enemy was to sacrifice your brother?

When hyenas snatch Tara’s brother, Suraj, and two other children from the local fair in Morni, Tara and her new found companions decide to rescue them on their own. Tara soon discovers that Zarku, her nemesis with the third eye, is back and intent on revenge.

A deadly game of hide and seek ensues, and Tara and her companions must work together to survive. But it is soon clear that Zarku is only after Tara; the others are dispensable.

Should Tara risk the lives of her friends? Or can she once again defeat Zarku and save her brother, armed only with belief in herself and a silver anklet?

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel (Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 64 pgs.
Ages: 6+
Finished: Dec. 18, 2009
First Published: 1975
Genre: easy reader
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Owl was at home.

Acquired: We own this book.

Reason for Reading: My son read this aloud to me.

Comments: I'm very familiar with this book but had never actually read it before! This contains four chapters, each its own individual story. Owl, himself, is not the brightest bulb in the package and while very polite and considerate he ends up in the silliest situations because of his own misunderstandings. Three of the stories follow this theme, while the third is a simple tale that shows his simple ways of making tea.

Owl is a dear you can't help but love because of his simple yet good-natured ways. My son was laughing joyously at the antics Owl ends up in and Lobel's illustrations of course add volumes to the simple easy reader text. Arnold Lobel is well known for his illustrations but he was also a master of the easy reader. His books contain both phonetic and common sight words making them appropriate for readers who have passed the basic phonics level. A fun book to read aloud to youngers and a perfect easy reader.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

263: Matchless, A Christmas Story

Matchless, A Christmas Story: An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's Classic The Little Match Girl by Gregory Maguire (Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 112 pgs.
Ages: 10+
Finished: Dec. 19, 2009
First Published: Oct. 27, 2009
Genre: fairy tale
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

On an island so far north that it snowed from September to April, a boy named Frederick kept himself warm by keeping a secret.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I have several of the author's books but haven't read any as of yet plus The Little Match Girl is one of my favourite fairy tales.

Summary: The story of a young boy who lives with his widowed mother. They may be poor, but they have just enough to get by and that is enough for them. Their lives very briefly cross paths with a little match girl who dies in the night cold one evening. Then due to that crossed path they are brought together with her distraught family.

Comments: A bittersweet, little story that is really much more than a retelling of The Little Match Girl. Macguire uses Andersen's tale as a starting point to expand upon and from which to create his own tale. Chapter 2 of the book does retell Andersen's tale pretty much keeping to the original though he does make it clear that the little girl is hallucinating and it is her dead mother she sees at the end instead of her grandmother.

Set in the past, in a time of horse and buggies, there is a sentimental ambiance that floats throughout the story. One feels that things are not going to go particularly well and after the death of the little girl any small act of joy becomes poignant. Macguire shows how the small things in life can (and maybe should) mean so much. As in the original tale there is that heavy feeling in the heart but there are bright moments and humour added by Frederick's mom. The fairy tale aspect comes into play when Frederick and his mom meet up with the little match girl's widowed father and two other young daughters and there is a special magical ending on Christmas Eve. At the very ending I think the book went one page too long, for I had just finished reading the end and felt happy with a sweet ending when I turned the page and one more sentence was written that I just didn't get. Perhaps it's just me, but I couldn't make sense of it, I turned back and re-read the second last page and for me that is where the story ends. A charming little story. Not for young children but more for adults and older children who don't mind a bittersweet story.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

262. BoneMan's Daughter

BoneMan's Daughters by Ted Dekker (Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 401 pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Dec. 17, 2009
First Published: Apr. 14, 2009 (paperback Feb. 23, 2010)
Genre: thriller, christian fiction?
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The day that Ryan Evans' world forever changed began as any other day he'd spent in the hot desert might have done.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Hachette Book Group.

Reason for Reading: The publisher's description of this serial killer thriller was right up my alley.

Summary: The BoneMan kidnapped and brutally murdered six girl's by breaking every single bone in their body. He was arrested and sent to prison but there was always a feeling by some that the wrong man had been convicted. Two years later on a technicality the prisoner is released and at the same time Ryan Evans, Intelligence Officer, returns home from a gruelling POW capture in the desert. The murder's start again and when Ryan's own estranged daughter is kidnapped the FBI start seeing all evidence pointing towards Ryan himself but Ryan has received a message from the real BoneMan and Ryan must do what he says to save his daughter's life.

Comments: All I can say is wow, wow, WOW! An amazing serial killer thriller. I loved it! A page-turner with gruesome details that never quite goes over into goriness used by some other authors. The back of the book tells me this is Ted Dekker's 23rd book and I ask myself "Why am I only reading him now?" In fact, I'd never heard of him before this book came out. I feel like I've just discovered a treasure chest, if Dekker's other work is anywhere near as engrossing as this one is I've got a lot of reading ahead of me!

The story is fast-paced and never lets up, some of the scenes are a little beyond believability but I chalked it up to an Intelligence Officer being overly intelligent and perhaps overly lucky. There's no sense picking apart a thriller like this when you are on a wild ride of tension. Ryan's character is fully fleshed out and we come to understand and feel for him. The secondary characters are less realized though they do not play emotionally integral parts to the plot. The bad guy is bad, pure evil, and this is one thing I particularly like in thrillers. There are no grey areas as to who is evil. The fight of good vs evil is very clear, as in a Dean Koontz novel.

And mentioning Dean Koontz, I'd like to comment on the Christian Fiction aspect of this novel. Never having read anything else by Dekker I can't comment on him yet, as an author, but on this book alone, if that tag bothers you, don't let it. Likening this book to Christian Fiction would be the same as likening Dean Koontz to Catholic Fiction. (Koontz is Catholic and his books contain many Catholic themes, if you know to look for them) There is a Biblical theme behind the killer's motive (very common in thrillers) and the main character believes in God, thus there are some Christian elements/quotes in the story. Of course, I am a Christian and none of this stood out to me but I had no idea I was reading Christian Fiction until I looked up the amazon link and saw all the CF tags and checked out his other books and found that he was a popular CF author!

A fabulous book, thriller readers should not miss out on this one, and you can be sure you will be seeing more Ted Dekker reviews from me in the future.

Friday, December 18, 2009

261. A Pioneer Christmas

A Pioneer Christmas: Celebrating in the Backwoods in 1841 by Barbara Greenwood. illustrated by Heather Collins. (Canada ) - (US)
Pioneer Story, Book 3

Pages: 47 pgs.
Ages: 7+
Finished: Dec. 15, 2009
First Published: 2003
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Sarah picked up an apple and pushed a clove into its shiny, red skin.

Acquired: Borrowed from my local library.

Reason for Reading: next & last in the series. Obviously the appropriate time of the year to be reading this.

Summary: Tells of how the Robertson family spends a typical Christmas and yet this year is not so typical as they are awaiting the arrival of family members. Their aunt and uncle (who are expecting their first child) are on their way to come buy land in the area and start their own homestead. This makes the family extra anxious as they not only prepare for Christmas but also await the arrival of their guests.

Comments: It's hard to review this book without comparing it to the first two previous books in the series. This book is identical in set-up as the Thanksgiving one being shorter and having small non-fiction sections and a few crafts or activities between the chapters of the fictional story. We didn't do any of the crafts but they are very simple (though you will need to buy/find the not-just-laying-around-the-house items ahead of time) activities include games, baking and singing. The story is somewhat weaker than the others in this series which switch points of view from sister Sarah then to brother Willie. A Pioneer Christmas keeps Sarah as the main character and we follow her around as she joins the various members of the family doing their tasks and sometimes lending a hand though hardly mentioning the two brothers at all. In my opinion the book looses its boy/girl appeal because of this. Instead of letting Christmas itself be the climax of the story (as she did with the Thanksgiving book) Greenwood has instead woven a plot into this book about the coming relatives and their baby which obviously symbolizes the coming of the Christ Child.

While presenting a secular book, Greenwood has managed to keep this a Christian pioneer celebration of Christmas. There is a one page introduction of how the various European immigrants to Canada brought their customs to Canada and how, to this day, our Christmas celebration is an amalgamation of those traditional customs. Halfway through the book the Christian component first appears in a Scottish carol that is song and finally in the last chapter the family sits down and reads the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible, while using the words 'babe' and 'child', though "Jesus" is finally spoken as well as "Christ". Acceptable enough, I think, for both believers and non-believers to feel comfortable with. The weakest book of the three "Robertson Family" books but still an enjoyable read at Christmas time.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

260. the road to god knows ...

the road to god knows ... by Von Allan (Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 141 pgs.
Ages: 15+
Finished: Dec. 16, 2009
First Published: Oct. 2009
Genre: YA, graphic novel, realistic fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

"Has it b-been only a few days..?"

Acquired: Received a review copy from the author and passing it on to the next panelist.

Reason for Reading: A Cybils Award nominee.

Summary: I think the author's own sub-title pretty much sums up the story: "an Original Graphic Novel about Hope, Friendship, Mental Illness, Schizophrenia, and a Young Teenage Girl Coping with Her Life and Coming of Age in a Broken but Loving Family".

Comments: This is Canadian Von Allan's first published book. It is an incredibly powerful story. Marie is a young teenager, 13 or 14, dealing with poverty, being teased at school, having only one friend (though a true best friend), parents who do not live together, and a mother who suffers from schizophrenia and keeps going into the hospital after breakdowns. Von Allen has captured this girl's immense range of feelings and especially shows it in his detailed b/w drawings. While the speech lacks a certain natural flow, especially between the two girls, it does tell the story well. The mother's love for her daughter comes through between her very different behaviours and there are two especially frightening scenes that shock the reader into seeing the full extent of this disease. It's hard to put a suitable age range on the book; there is some foul language and a nude scene plus of course the intense subject matter thus I would say 15+ but the book could be read by mature 13+ or those from similar backgrounds. The language and nude scene are not gratuitous but integral to the story.

The book really has no other plot than the day to day life of Marie coping to live with her mom and then being sent to stay with her dad when her mom is in the hospital. It's a look at a severe reality. But all is not bad as Marie does have a wonderful, understanding friend and the book explores the role of even just one friendship in such a harsh life. The book does come to a very abrupt ending which is rather jarring but upon reflection one can see why it ends where it does. A worthy read.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

259. Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation

Orientation by Thomas Siddell (Canada ) - (US)
Gunnerkrigg Court, Volume 1

Pages: 291 pgs.
Ages: 14+
Finished: Dec. 15, 2009
First Published: 2008
Genre: YA, graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

My name is Antimony Carver.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: A Cybils Award nominee.

Summary: Antimony's mother has recently died and her father has sent her to a remote British boarding school where she soon makes a best friend, Kat. Strange things happen right from beginning as she finds herself with a second shadow who asks for her help, she meets a friendly robot, finds a room that contains an entire outside meadow, meets up with demons, ghosts and the like all during her first year at Gunnerkrigg Court.

Comments: A delightful book! First off, the book itself is beautiful: a small, thick hardcover with glossy full colour pages. The artwork is gorgeous, having an animation feel to it. The story itself has it's obvious Harry Potter similarities but they are only alike superficially, and let's not forget JK did not invent the British boarding school fantasy. The book starts out with each chapter being rather episodic and I was wondering if that was all there was to it, but at a point previous characters start to show up and an overall plot began to develop and slowly unravel, hence my brief summary above. It's better not to know too much going into this book. Antimony is a fabulous main character. I found her somewhat over precocious at the beginning but as she becomes close to her friend she becomes more likeable and Antimony is a character that truly grows and develops from start to finish. The magical/fantasy elements of the story are a lot of fun and as the plot reveals itself become mysterious and hint at dangerous things to come. The book is infused with plenty of humour but there are also moments of brilliant pathos in some of the individual encounters Antimony and Kat experience along the way. One note of caution: there is some textual s*xual innuendo, not a lot but enough that I would be remiss in not mentioning it to those who are concerned about that sort of thing. I do highly recommend this book and am looking forward to Volume 2 which will be released in January, 2010.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Gospel Song

This morning at Mass we sang this song, one of my favourite gospel songs and I've been humming it ever since. Our Priest may not be the best singer in the world but he's no slouch either as he is a Newfie (so he continuously reminds us) and Newfoundlanders are known for their musical talents. (Great Big Sea, anyone?) On Daily Masses he sometimes leads us in an acapella hymn just before Mass is over. And today we showed that Catholics have soul as we sang this! LOL

258. Any Given Doomsday

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handerland (Canada ) - (US)
The Phoenix Chronicles, Book 1

Pages: 343 pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Dec. 13, 2009
First Published: Nov. 4, 2008
Genre: paranormal romance
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

On the day my old life died, the air smelled of springtime -- budding trees and just-born flowers, fresh grass and hope.

Acquired: Won through LibraryThing's Eary Reviewer's program.

Reason for Reading: I was intrigued by the ex-cop, psychic demon hunter aspect of the plot.

Summary: Ex-cop Elizabeth Phoenix has always been psychic but she's tried to keep it under control and under wraps most of the time. But when her beloved foster mother is killed by monsters she visits Lizzy in her mind to tell her that she is now the seer over all the demon killers and she remains with Lizzy to teach her to recognize non-humans. It is in this way that she learns her boyfriend Jimmie is half vampire and one of the demon killers. She is sent out into the desert with a mysterious Navajo shape-shifter to awaken her psychic powers to their fullest and learns that learns that the prophetic Apocalypse is well underway unless she and her demon killers can save humanity.

Comments: The plot is based upon the Book of Enoch, a Jewish writing which is non-canonical (not part of) either the Bible or the Torah. This book has many scholarly interpretations and Handeland has gloried in the literal interpretation, allowing her to tie her paranormal world to a Biblical mythology. I'll admit right up front that I quite enjoyed the book; it's what I would call a guilty little pleasure. It was a fast read, exciting, lots of action and very Buffy-like that it kept me reading. The dialogue was cheesy at times but so what. The book is supposed to be paranormal romance though I wouldn't call it as much romance as I would plain s*x. The first half of the book is all action, but the second half introduces some quite explicit s*x scenes. While this isn't what I normally read, I found myself going with the flow and basically having a fun read. I'm a grown-up, married woman and while I am deeply religious, I'm not a prude and don't mind a bit of a romp when it's aimed at adult women. So, no literary winner here. Definitely not to everyone's tastes. Just a fun little read that would make a good plane or beach read. I'll be continuing the series.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nightschool Vol. 1 & 2

Volume 2 of this series has been nominated for a Cybils Award, so as usual I started with Volume 1.

Nightschool: The Weirn Books by Svetlana Chmakova. Ages 14+

#256. Vol. 1 - Apr. 2009. 195 pgs. The book jumps right into the story which takes some time to figure out exactly what is going on. (I highly recommend reading the summary on the back first otherwise you may not completely understand the story until you do!) This high school takes on a completely new set of students and staff each evening where teens of the night take their lessons. The story focuses on two sisters, one much older who is a teacher at the school and her younger sister, Alex, a Weirn, (a certain type of witch) who for some mysterious reason has been unable to attend school, so is being homeschooled instead. The majority of the plot though focuses on a class of vampire hunters, though they are not hunting the lame good-looking suck a little blood here and there vampires. They hunt the real thing, Rippers, who maul and kill their victims. The climax comes when a few hunters and Alex meet up with disastrous results. I admit I just dove into the book and was a bit confused until I turned the book over and read the synopsis on the back. That gave me some useful information not found in the story itself and made me more comfortable and able to enjoy the story. Artwork is typical of American manga, mostly realistic representations but uses plenty of manga techniques without overdoing it. The portrayal of homeschooling is negative and , of course, I would have preferred to see it handled in a more realistic way. I found the story very intriguing and am very interested in Alex's character and her secret. The book ends with a cliffhanger and I'm anxious to read book 2 to learn what will happen to Alex now. 3/5 (Canada ) - (US)

#257. Vol. 2 - Oct. 2009. 193 pgs. Alex's sister has disappeared and Alex goes to the Nightschool to find her. Getting in proves difficult and she ends up enrolling, but once inside everybody denies ever having even heard of her sister. Alex does make a friend, one of the hunters, a girl her own age and Alex has an astral attached to her which is mostly visible but can disappear when required, very cute. The hunters from book one are still in comas but no one knows Alex's connection in any way, including herself. The story progresses we find out a little more about Alex, and the hunters end the book with a cliffhanger leaving us to wonder if lives are at stake. Plenty of excitement and the tension is growing but there is also an equal amount of humour thrown in to lighten the otherwise dark tone of the story. Again we have a disparaging comment about homeschooling, which I didn't appreciate and hope not to see in the next volume. Fun series I will be continuing on with. 3/5 (Canada ) - (US)

Monday: Books in the Mail

The last Cybils nominees are trickling in and I received a few last week plus I bought myself something.

Cybils nominees sent by the publishers:

Antimony Carver is a precocious and preternaturally self-possessed young girl starting her first year of school at gloomy Gunnerkrigg Court, a very British boarding school that has robots running around along side body-snatching demons, forest gods, and the odd mythical creature. The opening volume in the series follows Antimony through her orientation year: the people she meets, the strange things that happen, and the things she causes to happen as she and her new friend, Kat, unravel the mysteries of the Court and deal with the everyday adventures of growing up. Tom Siddell's popular and award-winning webcomic ( is here collected in print for the first time.

I've already read this one and will not be reviewing it. I haven't read the novels and I was completely lost with this graphic novel. It is definitely aimed at those who know the story/characters from the novels and while I got a feel for the story, I was baffled for the most part not knowing whether I was supposed to know who someone was or not. It could be interesting. I might read the first book.

I've already read and reviewed this one here.

And finally, not a book, but I treated myself and bought a DVD from Ignatius Press.

In a world torn apart by persecution, war and oppression, 3 children in Fatima, Portugal were chosen by God to offer an urgent message of hope to the world. Based on the memoirs of the oldest seer, Lucia Santos, and many thousands of independent eye-witness accounts, The 13th Day dramatizes the true story of three young shepherds who experienced six apparitions of Our Lady between May and October 1917, which culminated in the final prophesied Miracle of the Sun on October 13th. Abducted from their homes, thrown into prison and interrogated under the threat of death in the government’s attempt to silence them, the children remained true to their story about the crucial messages from Mary of prayer, repentance and conversion for the world.

Our Lady gave a secret to the children told in three parts, from a harrowing vision of hell, to prophetic warnings of future events including the advent and timing of the Second World War, the spread of communism, and the attempted assassination of the Pope.

Stylistically beautiful and technically innovative, the film uses state-of-the-art digital effects to create stunning images of the visions and the final miracle that have never before been fully realized on screen. Shot on location in Portugal and in the UK, the film has a cast of hundreds to re-create the scenes of the 70,000 strong crowds, with 3 young Portuguese actors play the iconic roles of the Seers.

Witness the greatest miracle of the 20th Century, and experience the incredible, emotionally-charged and harrowing world of three young children whose choice to remain loyal to their beliefs, even in the face of death, would inspire thousands.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Advent!

Happy Advent! Rejoice! We light the pink candle today!

"Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shatner Gets Upstaged by Palin!

This is absolutely hilarious! Since I've read Shatner's bio, I know where the bits she reads come from too. I love Shatner, I think he's fabulous but Sarah Palin has an awesome television presence as well.

Yeah, Sarah! You go girl!

(Please keep disparaging comments to yourself. I'll delete them. This is a for fun post.)

Bride of the Water God Vol. 1 & 2

Bride of the Water God by Mi Kyung Yun. translated from the Korean by Heejong Haas.

Reason for Reading: Vol. 3 in this series has been nominated for a Cybils Award but I so far have been unable to find a copy anywhere and according to Canadian online stores the book won't even be published here in Canada until the end of this month even though book 4 is already available. Very strange... Anyway, I thought I'd at least read the first two to get a feel for the series.

#254. Vol. 1 (2006 Korean) (2007 English) 184 pgs, Ages 14+ - This is the story of a Korean village girl who is sacrificed to the Water God in exchange for rain to end the village's five year long drought. Soah is that girl and she is set adrift where she eventually ends up on the island of the Water God who is an insufferable child. But he is keeping a secret from her, at night her turns into a full grown man and Soah meets this man and has feelings for him. Wonderful drawing, beautiful features on the women. A mixture of art styles are used, while most of it is realistic portrayals (which I prefer) there are times the people are reduced to miniature (chibi?). The story is promising; I'll admit to being a bit confused at times but I enjoyed it more as it went along and I'm interested to see where the story will go with Volume 2. (Canada )-(US) 2.5/5

#255. Vol. 2 (2006 Korean) (2008 English) 174 pgs, Ages 14+ - The man at night has told Soah that his name is Mui and he is the Water God's cousin. They are falling in love but neither will admit it to each other or themselves; there is much antagonism between them. Soah is given the opportunity to return home and yet she refuses. She learns of Mui's secret (that he is really the Water God by night) but from an unreliable source and this volume concentrates on her trying to find out the truth. I found the wordless panels quite hard to figure out exactly what was going on in them, and as in the first volume I was a bit confused at times but the story is much easier to follow this time around. Though this volume mostly centres on romance, the secondary characters are fleshed out and many now seem to have a secret past or ulterior motives. Halfway through the book I was pretty sure I didn't want to read any further in the series but then that's when things got interesting with the secondary characters, including some scheming from the Water God's mother and finally with the cliffhanger ending I know I'll have to read the next volume. (Canada )-(US) 3/5

Friday, December 11, 2009

252. Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome

Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome. illustrated by Faith Jaques (Canada )-(US)

Pages: 253 pgs.
Ages: 8+
Finished: Dec. 9, 2009
First Published: 1916
Genre: children, folk tales
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Outside in the forest there was deep snow.

Acquired: We own this book.

Reason for Reading: read aloud to the 9yo, a story a day, every other week.

Comments: One of the wonderful aspects about this collection of Russian folk tales is that they are centred around Old Peter who looks after his grandchildren, a boy and a girl, because their parents are dead. Old Peter is known for his storytelling and the children are always clamouring for another story and sometimes Old Peter will start to tell one all on his. So at the beginning or ending of each story we have a little scene with Old Peter, Vanya and Maroosia that ties the whole book together.

Russian folk tales (or fairy tales) are absolutely splendid. This is the first time I've read this book, but I've run across a few of the tales in other compilations and in picture book format so not all were new to me but many were. The Russian folk tale is built upon some basic elements: more often than not the story is about peasants or the hero will be a peasant, they often involve the three sons or three daughters with the third less witty or most plain being our hero and finally repetition, repetition, repetition. The same scenario will repeat itself over and over and over until someone or something (perhaps an animal character) is smart enough to change the scene.

Another wonderful thing about Russian tales is that you often get three or four stories wrapped up into one tale. With common titles such as "Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby and the Little Sister of the Sun" the story will start out one way and just when you think it's ended it takes a turn on a new plot and just when that has been solved the tale up and finds another plot to follow. It's all wonderful great fun and a delight to read!

Some things to consider; these tales are not politically correct. Women are often spoken to/of in a demeaning way which is expected of 15th-17th century Russia but that doesn't mean there aren't some feisty women characters in some of the tales. There is also implied violence, people die if they have to whether it be quietly or by the edge of a sword. And finally, the tales are written with the Eastern Orthodox religion obviously being an everyday part of any self-respecting peasant's life with God being thanked and blessed many times.

I've always been fond of Russian tales (yes, there is a Baba Yaga tale here, as well as the famous "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship") but I'm ever more so now having read this collection. Oh, I suppose I should mention, since I did read the book aloud to my son, that it was a big hit with him as well. It is actually rather sad now that we have finished this book, since we've had such a grand time together with it.