Sunday, February 28, 2010

33. Alexander Graham Bell : An Inventive Life

Alexander Graham Bell: An Inventive Life by Elizabeth MacLeod (Canada) -(US)

Pages: 32 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: Feb. 25, 2010
First Published: 1999
Genre: children, non-fiction, biography
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Next time you pick up the phone to call a friend or order a pizza, say thanks to Alexander Graham Bell.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my son as part of our history curriculum.

Comments: This non-fiction book tells the life story of Alexander Graham Bell, skimming the surface of his private life and concentrating on his life as an inventor. Each "chapter" is a two-page spread with one page of text and both pages profusely illustrated with captioned photographs which both illustrate the text and add more information to the text. Written in an engaging style the text is both informative and interesting to read. My son, who currently wants to be an inventor when he grows up, was of course very interested in the book and enjoyed it very much, as did I. I've promised we will take a trip to Brantford this summer to visit the Bell's first home in Canada. For a brief look at Bell's life you couldn't pick a finer book.

Two things did irk me though. One was the use of AGB, for his name after the initial full spelling. Yes, it gets tiring reading the whole name out for an entire book but I would have preferred variations such as Alexander, Bell, Mr. Bell. I substituted the name "Alexander" most of the time I came across AGB and occasionally said the whole name out loud to remind my son of his correct name as I read aloud. The other thing was that the word "deaf" has been replaced by the words "hearing-impaired" except in the name of associations and schools, etc. Deaf is not a bad word and saying someone is "totally hearing-impaired" makes no sense, that's like saying someone is a little bit pregnant. Plus saying that Bell founded an association for the hearing-impaired which *today* is called the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf is taking PC too far. I read the words hearing-impaired a few times when it felt appropriate but mostly I edited and used the word deaf when reading aloud. And just now I've googled it and deaf people actually take offense at being called hearing-impaired! (scroll down to labels)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

And the Winner is ......

Today's lucky winner of Flute's Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush by Lynne Cherry is ........

#12 ...... Mystica

Asked what her favourite bird was, Mystica replied "My favourite bird is the woodpecker." Congratulations! I will be emailing you shortly.

We had several woodpeckers and robins, cardinals, lots of hummingbirds, etc. and even *my* favourite the blue jay showed up a couple of times. What surprised me though was everyone stayed with birds indigenous to North America. When I asked the question I had envisions of toucans, penguins, kookaburras or peacocks! Does that mean that when it comes down to it we really appreciate more the small things which we already have at home than the grandeur to be found in far away places? Hmmmmm .......

You can read my review of Flute's Journey here. Or click on the picture to purchase.

Come back tomorrow for the chance to win another book!

32. A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz

A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz (Canada) -(US)

Pages: 128 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 26, 2010
First Published: 1953 (Bloomsbury Group reprint Dec. 2009)
Genre: realistic fiction, British cozy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"It was thanks to Mr. Kadinsky that Joe knew a unicorn when he saw one."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Group(Canada).

Reason for Reading: I love early 20th century British lit. and I'm enchanted by the entire line of The Bloomsbury Group reprints.

Summary: Joe is six years old, lives on a street near Whitechapel which seems to be the Jewish quarter. Joe and his mother live in a room above Mr. Kadinsky's tailor shop; he is a trousers maker and his assistant Shmule is a young engaged pugilist training to work his way through the ranks to becoming a champion. Joe's father has gone to Africa to make a life for them and will be sending for him and his mother sometime. Joe mostly spends his days with Mr. Kadinsky in the shop while his mother works all day and Kadinsky is a talker and storyteller. He's told Joe the story of unicorns and why they no longer live in England but since everyone seems to be wishing for something Joe decides to check out the market anyway. If he can buy a unicorn he can make everyone's wishes come true and on that day what does he find but a unicorn, now the owner seems to think he's a crippled goat but Joe knows a baby unicorn when he sees one. You can even see the nub of his magical horn starting to grow in the centre of his forehead so Joe brings him home and Kadinsky pays for him. Perhaps now Joe can see that all his friends' humble wishes will come true.

Comments: This is a touching heart-warming story, what I would rather call a novella than a novel coming in at 128 pages and only that because of the large font. At first one is puzzled whether this might be a story for children, with the large font and the six year old protagonist. But it is not. We are shown all the poverty of the immigrant living conditions and the hardships of working continuously just to get by. Sure there are parts a child would enjoy, but not overall. The book is told in the third person and though we see things through Joe, a child's point of view for the majority of the time we also see from Mr. Kadinsky's where the tone and subject matter become deeper. Discussions of trade unions, business dealing and wrestling matches put the book above a children's story. Joe himself is a wise little boy who has learnt a lot in his adult world and often speaks with a deep wisdom that can only come from a child who has been in the adult world. But Joe is a sweet, kind, loving boy with an innocence about him that his world has not touched. He believes in unicorns and magic and this belief may just be enough to enrich everyone's lives. Wonderful characters and an inspiring ending, this book will sure to please readers who like to read about simpler times and want a good, clean read.

Friday, February 26, 2010

31. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo in the Real World by Franciso X. Stork (Canada) -(US)

Pages: 315 pages
Ages: 15+
Finished: Feb. 26, 2010
First Published: Mar. 1, 2009
Genre: realistic fiction, YA, Aspergers
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"Marcelo, are you ready?"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: I have Aspergers and have wanted to read this book since I first heard of it.

Summary: Seventeen year old Marcelo has Aspergers (high functioning form of autism) though he doesn't like to label himself that way but when asked does say that the closest diagnosis for his condition would be Aspergers. He's lived a very happy life, going to an upscale private school for kids with learning or psychological difficulties. Here he is allowed to be himself, follow his interest and gently learn how to communicate with the "normals". Aspies have obsessions and Marcello's special interests (as he prefers to call them) are first and foremost God. His family is Catholic, he prays the rosary and memorizes scripture but he also reads theology from all sorts of perspectives and meets regularly with a Rabbi friend of his mother's for hour long sessions on discussing God. His other interest is Halflinger ponies which are raised at his school and used as therapy for autistic and other hard to reach children. He looks after them and has planned once again to work there this summer vacation but Marcelo's father has a different plan for him this time. His father refuses to believe that Marcelo has any sort of condition that (now that he's a man) getting out in the "real world" will not help him overcome and he has arranged for Marcello to work in his law firm's mail room for the summer with the stipulation that if he does well he can decide whether he wants to go back to his special school for his last year of high school or to public school but if he fails to meet all tasks assigned to him he will have to go to public school for his last year. Thus his father hopes a dose of "real world" will cure his son.

Comments: I loved this book! I have Aspergers myself and I was continuously turning page corners down because there would be sentences or groups of them that would ring so true for me. Being female my outward presentation is very different than Marcelo's (except for the eyes thing) but I found such a soul mate with his inner thoughts, fears and reasonings with the "real world". Marcelo does not want to go to the law firm at first and is very annoyed. This part of the book gave me great anxiety as I knew how Marcelo felt and I didn't want him to have to go either. But as it turns out Marcelo is very good at communication, yes he's blunt and forthright, not always saying the most appropriate things but he certainly did not let that stop him for speaking which was an inspiring trait of his for someone who rarely speaks unless necessary.

This is a coming of age story as Marcelo pushes his boundaries to experience new things in his life but he also end ups facing the same challenges we all do when we take that step from childhood to adulthood. Marcelo comes upon something in the law office that shocks him and he knows is not right, he is compelled to do something about it but when he has finally tracked down the information he needs and confronted with his choices of action he must decide between the good of his family over the good of the unjustly treated. Marcelo's Aspergers actually helps him a lot in making decisions, looking at things logically, putting his knowledge of God to the test, and in accomplishing routine tasks at work very efficiently.

The story is also a romance though Marcelo does not figure this out until the end of the book! Marcello has a lack of emotions. He feels them but does not recognize them for what they are when he has them nor can he show them outwardly very well without faking it on purpose because he believes it would be appropriate. This lack of emotion is an obvious sign of Aspergers in males but is not always found to this degree and it is much less common in females, at least at a visibly noticeable level. So when Marcelo becomes friendly with his co-worker Jasmine, he does not realize why he thinks of her so much and says poetical things to her about her eyes, etc. He tells her truths about herself which are so honest and innocent such as "Does Jasmine know she is beautiful?" that the reader can tell Jasmine (18 years old) is falling for him. What follows is a beautiful awakening of awareness of romantic feelings in Marcello.

I could go on and on writing about every individual aspect of this book! It's wonderful. A fantastic look inside the mind of a young adult male with Aspergers. Others with Aspergers will feel Marcelo's anxieties as they read, the writing is that good. I was worried for a while as the book started to near the end that things wouldn't end the way I had envisioned they should but happily for me everything swung into position at the last moment and the ending was the best one possible. You are missing a treat if you don't read this book.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big Max by Kin Platt

Big Max by Kin Platt; pictures by Robert Lopshire (Canada) -(US)

Pages: 64 pages
Ages: 6+
First Published: 1965
Genre: easy reader, mystery
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Big Max was the world's greatest detective.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: My son read the book to me as his reader.

Comments: The King of Pooka Pooka calls in Big Max to find his missing elephant, Jumbo, who was kept in a locked courtyard with no possible way out. Big Max, who travels by umbrella, takes the case and follows the clues to solve the mystery and find the beloved Jumbo, as today is his birthday. Big Max is an adorable character! Very helpful and clever in following the trail of clues, not letting a false clue steer him wrong for long. My son really enjoyed this book! He found the mystery aspect exciting and tried to guess what was happening ahead of Big Max. He also thought the story was very funny and we had some laugh out loud moments. A huge success as it had ds wanting to read more than was required of him at almost every sitting! Robert Lopshire's illustrations are priceless and Big Max is a comical pastiche of the old-time detective with his deer stalker Sherlock Holmes outfit, hat pulled down so low that his magnifying glass seems to be his only sight and his diminutive size challenges him to live up to his name, Big Max. A well-written story, with plot that is sure to please young readers. This is still in publication and is now being published as a Level 2 reading level in the current series.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

30. An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor (Canada) -(US)
Irish Country Doctor series, Book 4

Pages: 298 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 21, 2010
First Published: January 5, 2010
Genre: historical fiction, magical realism, cozy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"Run along, make your calls, and enjoy His Lordship's hooley," said Mrs. Maureen Kincaid, "Kinky" to her friends, as she knelt in the hall and sponged Ribena black-currant cordial from a small boy's tweed overcoat.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the books publicist.

Reason for Reading: The Irish Country Doctor series has been on my tbr list for a while and when I had an offer to read this fourth book, which can also be read as a stand-alone, I jumped at the chance to get my feet wet with the series.

Summary: This fourth book in the series takes a different direction than the other books by centering on Maureen Kincaid, housekeeper/cook for two country doctors in the 1960s. The book actually takes place during a few hours near the end of Book Three while Maureen is at home preparing Christmas dinner and the doctors have gone out. During this time Mrs. Kincaid reflects back on her earlier life in the 1920s, specifically following the years she was fourteen to eighteen years-old. The book tells the story of Maureen's biggest characteristic, being that she has "the sight" and how she first became that way, when she first saw the fey and had her first visions of the future. Her story also answers questions such as why she came to be called "Kinky", how she became a Mrs., and how she finally ended up as the doctors' housekeeper.

Comments: First, I'll say the book was not what I had expected. Not having read any of the other books in the series I did not know Mrs. Kincaid had "the sight" making the story a lot more whimsical than just the cozy village story I had expected. I thoroughly enjoyed the book from start to finish and since this book is so different from the others, as a newcomer to the series the only character I had to get to know was Maureen herself. A wonderful story, with exceptional characters, that tells a tale full of romance and heartbreak, life and death, religion and folklore at a time when people spoke of God in the same breath as they warned away the spirits.

Maureen is a lovely, spirited girl with such a bittersweet story. I took to her right from the first page. Actually the rest of her family was just as real and enjoyable that they all felt like people I knew by the end of the book. I wonder if any of them ever came to visit or vice versa in the previous books or if they may pop up again in future books now that they have been introduced. I am now even more eager to get started reading the first book, meet the doctors and read the type of story I was more expecting in the first place but now I will have a familiar face to greet me when I open its pages. Charming tale for those who enjoy cozies, but also appreciate a good dose of Irish folklore.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete. Pictures by Shane W. Evans (US) - (Canada)

Pages: unnumbered
Ages: 5+
Finished: Feb. 19, 2010
First Published: Mar. 16, 2010
Genre: picture book, autism
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

We've always been together - even in Mommy's tummy - my twin brother, Charlie, and me.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: My 9yo is autistic.

Comments: Actress Holly Robinson Peete writes this picture book along with her twelve-year-old daughter, Ryan, who is the fraternal twin of a brother with autism. The story mirrors their real life and is told from the point of view of a little girl whose brother, Charlie, is autistic. She describes how they are alike in looks and likes, then how they are different in looks and likes with the major difference being that Charlie can get very quiet and sometimes not talk. She then goes on to explain how her parents found out Charlie was autistic and what it is like to have an autistic brother accentuating how he is like everyone else, but there are times for her when it is difficult to have Charlie as a brother and other times when she wishes she could help him be more like her. But then there are unique things about Charlie that make him who he is, like his special way with animals and his shell collection.

The book does a very good job on an elementary level of describing an autistic child, showing that though they may be very quiet at times or sit and play by themselves they are not different than other children. They have things they love to do and want to play and have fun. They just need time for both. This book will help others relate to the autistic child whether they be the parent, relative or friend by getting an inside glimpse into the daily life of said child. Most of all the book celebrates family, togetherness and the many ways to say "I love you" without always using the words. The book is well written bringing acceptance and dignity showing this condition is not an illness but only a way of being.

The artwork must be mentioned. Shane W. Evans has created big, bright bold paintings that are pure joy to look at. The primary colours are used effectively. I love the facial expressions and the shape of the eyes make unique characters. The painting is textured, the brush strokes can be seen in the background and I love how he shows the curly hair on some characters by filling in the area with spirals.

My Brother Charlie will be greatly enjoyed by families with an autistic sibling and should be shared in elementary classrooms to bring awareness and acceptance of autistic children they meet on the playground and away from school.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week brought me two eagerly awaited seconds in a series for review.

From Viz Media via Simon & Schuster Canada:

Umi and Sora are not alone in their strange connection to the sea. Forty years ago, Jim met another young boy with the same powers. As penance for letting the boy die, Jim has been searching the world for other children with those same ties to the ocean.

Anglade, a wunderkind who was once Jim's research partner, lures Sora away with the promise of answers. This leaves Umi severely depressed, and it is up to Ruka to help her new friend find his brother. But time is quickly running out..
(US) - (Canada)

From Random House Canada

Ruth Galloway is called in to investigate when builders, demolishing a large old house in Norwich to make way for a housing development, uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway - minus the skull. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain straightforward murder? DCI Harry Nelson would like to find out - and fast. It turns out the house was once a children's home. Nelson traces the Catholic priest who used to run the home. Father Hennessey tells him that two children did go missing from the home forty years before - a boy and a girl. They were never found. When carbon dating proves that the child's bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the scent by frightening her half to death... (Canada) - available US late summer

29. Rome Sweet Home by Scott & Kimberly Hahn

Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism by Scot & Kimberly Hahn (Canada) -(US)

Pages: 183
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 21, 2010
First Published: 1993
Genre: non-fiction, religion
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The Late Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote: "There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Roman Catholic Church; there are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church."

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Popular Catholic theologian Scott Hahn has written many books and I would like to read several of them. Before I started those, however, I thought I would start with this, his conversion story.

Comments: What can I say? An absolutely, inspirational story of a very difficult, journey that Scott and his wife found themselves on that ended with them coming home to the Church. Scott was a Presbyterian minister, self described as vehemently anti-Catholic, to the point where he didn't believe Catholics were even Christians and wouldn't go to Heaven. His wife's feelings were not so strong. She allowed Catholics a place in Heaven but was against everything she thought they taught.

It was from this mindset that Scott Hahn delves deeper into his own personal Bible studies to find himself coming up with truths that echo Catholic beliefs. Scott reaches out to many highly regarded professors, theologians and friends in the ministry for help to counter the Catholic beliefs that scripture is leading him towards, but none can adequately do so. In fact, several of them end up on their own journeys to conversion!

The book is a beautiful, inspiring and exciting read as the Catholic beliefs and doctrines are biblically explained with scripture. As a Catholic myself I found it wonderful to see Scott's light bulb moments, to see the truths of the Catholic Church come rushing forward when he and others looked at them with open hearts. The first part of the book is hard to read as Scott pulls no punches in letting the reader know just how anti-Catholic he was but this serves to show how far he had to travel on his journey. The book also shows the wonderful devoted relationship through Christ he and his wife Kimberly share as he gets closer to conversion she pulls further away yet their marriage holds together even when others interfere with the suggestion of the "D"-word.

An amazing book and a must read for people in the process of conversion, any Catholic who hasn't already read it and for any Protestant who thinks Catholic faith is not based on scripture.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

28. Angel: After the Fall Vol. 2: First Night

Angel After the Fall: First Night by Josh Whedon & Brian Lynch (Canada) -(US)
Angel After the Fall, Vol. 2

Pages: 104
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 19, 2010
First Published: Nov. 25, 2009
Genre: graphic novel, 2009
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Man. I bet there's total excitement out there and I'm missing it all.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Summary: After the shocking ending of Vol. 1, Vol. 2 leaves us hanging and backs up in time to the first night after the ending of the television series. This book is smaller containing only 3 comics that contain vignettes of all the characters showing us where they ended up that first night, why they are no longer all together and how they came to be in the situations we find them in Vol. 1. Angel himself is not in this volume at all, which is a little odd at first but this book's purpose is to re-establish the other characters, whom we knew so well, with the new turns their character's have taken in Vol. 1. There is also a surprise return of an old character from the series. I was never fond of this person on the show but their introduction here was very exciting and I look forward to Angel's response to seeing this person back in town. The book ends with an art gallery of covers and work by various artists, then an article by Lynch on a few stories they thought of putting in the issues but didn't for one reason or another and then finally ends with a page by page run through of notes for each issue with thoughts on what ended on the page or the ideas behind it. Very interesting stuff. First Night is a quick read and while not quite as OMG exciting as Vol. 1, definitely a great read with wonderful art especially some work by Nick Runge of Amy Acker (stunning!)

Friday, February 19, 2010

27. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman (Canada) -(US)

Pages: 306
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 18, 2010
First Published: Jan. 12, 2010
Genre: southern fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

Momma left her red satin shoes in the middle of the road.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Group (Canada).

Reason for Reading: I love southern fiction with eccentric characters, then throw in mental illness to boot and you've so got a book I have to read.

Summary: 12-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt lives with her mother who is crazy. She relives the glorious day that she was crowned the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen often donning her winning dress, sash and tiara, blowing kisses to cars that pass by. Always wearing ballgowns and forever going to Goodwill to purchase more. CeeCee looks after her mom as her dad has virtually left them on a traveling salesman job, rarely returning home and refusing to deal with the situation. Then tragedy strikes as her mum dies and CeeCee is picked up by her great aunt and taken to Savannah, Georgia to live.

Comments: An immensely entertaining book! Very much character driven, CeeCee enters a totally new world seemingly controlled by women of charm, etiquette and manners but also the most eccentric people she has ever met. There is Miz Goodpepper who dresses in exotic clothing and skinny dips in an old bathtub in her backyard each evening, Miz Hobbs the busybody nobody likes who secretly entertains a married policeman in a see-through yellow peignoir, Oletta Jones the cook at CeeCee's aunt's a firm yet loving black woman who becomes the mother CeeCee always wanted and CeeCee the daughter she once had. And this is only to mention a few!

Along with CeeCee's encounters with these women she must come to terms with her past, the childhood she was denied and it takes the length of the book for her to do so. That in itself is the plot of the book. Taking place in the late sixties events do occur which spar with elitism, snobbery, racism, adultery, negligent fathers, the possibility of the heredity of mental illness but all are neatly solved and tucked away, as the book once quotes Scarlett O'Hara, for "tomorrow is another day". This to me is the book's minor downfall. It's too sugary, sweet with a "Care Bear" ending that left me needing to brush my teeth.

For me the book's gold lies in it's study of character. While I simply adored the white women on Gaston Street with their parties and eccentricities, I particularly loved the black women that the cook, Oletta, introduces to CeeCee. Another complete set of eccentric characters from Aunt Sapphire in the nursing home who swears up a storm to her friend who can't talk and likes to put small things in her brassier while everyone pretends not to notice and the one who looks like a man and tells fortunes with carved stones that come from several generations back to Africa.

A really, wonderful, delightful read of southern fiction with great characters you'll love but I wish the author had taken on one of the issues presented to add a bit of tension that could have been resolved in the end to a plot that otherwise lacked any.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Here is Nick Alexander, the Catholic version of Weird Al with fun song about Ash Wednesday (today) and Lent which starts today and lasts for 40 days.

This Time of Forty Days:

26. Gone by Lisa McMann

Gone by Lisa McMann (Canada) -(US)
Wake Trilogy, Book 3

Pages: 214
Ages: 15+
Finished: Feb. 16, 2010
First Published: Feb. 9, 2010
Genre: YA, paranormal
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

It's like she can't breathe anymore, no matter what she does.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next (and last) in the series.

Summary: Janie has been left with a decision to make about her future and concentrates on making that decision. However, a wrench is thrown into her contemplations when her never before known father shows up in ICU causing her alcoholic mother to go off the deep end and add a twist to her previous choice. Now she must decide which is lesser of two evils.

Comments: Right of the bat I'll say this was rather disappointing. For a good portion of the book, from the beginning, the story mostly concentrates on Janie's dealing and coping with her alcoholic mother. Which would have been fine if this was just another teen dysfunctional family novel (which I abhor) but it was supposed to be the final book in a, so far, exciting paranormal trilogy. Janie has become very good at blocking out dreams unless they hit her out of nowhere, so during this part of the book there is barely any semblance of paranormal activity.

The introduction of Janie's father and his story that Janie learns through his comatose dreams was an interesting plot move and was certainly the highlight of the book. I enjoyed the twist it brought to the story and the extra dimension it added to Janie's decision. In the end though, I thought her decision lacked logic and I came up with a different way in which she could have possibly solved her dilemna.

I won't go into any details about what I thought of the casual, s*xual relationship between Janie and Cabel, except that I was not impressed. In general I was not impressed with Gone much at all; I read the book very quickly, I was already committed to the characters and enjoyed the previous two books *very much* but Gone just did not share an exciting plot with them. The father's part was good but not that exciting and I didn't pick up this book to read about the trials, tribulations and effects of an alcoholic on a family. Readable, but disappointing for the last book in a trilogy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

25. Fables: The Good Prince

Fables: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham (Canada) -(US)
Fables, Volume 10

Pages: 228
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 14, 2010
First Published: 2008
Genre: graphic novel
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

A mess! A great big filthy mess!

Acquired: Received a copy through ILL.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Comments: This is a big issue and I mean that literally and metaphorically. It's a nice, hefty book containing ten issues with nine of those continuing the title story. In the middle there is a one issue intermission that centres on the cubs. The main story, though, without giving anything away, focuses on a minor character who has been around since Vol. 1: Flycatcher, whose real name is Ambrose, and is better known to mundies as the prince who was once turned into a frog. Prince Ambrose takes centre stage and the action switches between him and the resident Fables as he undertakes a very important journey and mission. This book is a turning point in the series. Things will not be the same from the point forward. This was a fabulous issue! I loved it and am more eager than usual (if that is possible) to get my hands on the next volume.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

First of all, Happy Family Day! to my fellow Albertans, Saskatchewanians, Manitobans and Ontarians. Alberta has been the only province in Canada to enjoy Family Day for many years and we were fortunate enough to move to Ontario the year before the holiday spread to a few other provinces. And the greatest thing is that Family Day is not a Federal holiday so we still get mail delivery. Yeah!!

Fabulous mailbox week for me this time around. I knew I'd be getting a box of books because I had a late night date with amazon one night. I also got a BookMooch and won a book from Janet at Along the Way. So as far as I knew no review books; until the day a box from Scholastic Canada appeared on my doorstep! They sent me the most amazing box of books to review out of the blue. Needless to say I was thrilled!

Here's what I got:


I love this book, which unfortunately is out of print and online sellers ask terrible prices for it.

Won from Janet at Along the Way

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. (US) - (Canada)


Spike Omnibus (includes 3 single issue comics plus Spike vs Dracula, Asylum and Shadow Puppets)
Spike: After the Fall by Brian Lynch
Angel: After the Fall, Volume 3 by Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch
The Dreamland Chronicles Book 2 by Scott Christian Sava
The Dreamland Chronicles Book Three by Scott Christian Sava
Yokaiden 2 by Nina Mastsumoto

Review Copies from Scholastic Canada

Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear--part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify--and he's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "the real world." There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.

He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it's a picture he finds in a file -- a picture of a girl with half a face -- that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

Reminiscent of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary novel is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside. (US) - (Canada)

When a frightened girl and boy arrive on the Twiss family’s doorstep to escape the Blitz, Charlotte wonders how she will keep her war guests from missing their parents back home, or from cowering every time a plane flies overhead. Though the war is being waged across the Atlantic, Charlotte begins to feel its danger, as her brother George defies their parents and enlists in the Navy. After months of receiving letters from overseas, suddenly there is no word from him--has the unthinkable happened and George's ship been sunk by a German submarine? Charlotte Twiss’s diary shows her innermost feelings about her life on the Canadian homefront, as she helps her war guests "settle in" and wonders whether her brother is safe from harm. (Canada) only

Stolen from her family by the Nazis, Nadia is a young girl who tries to make sense of her confusing memories and haunting dreams. Bit by bit she starts to uncover the truth--that the German family she grew up with, the woman who calls herself Nadia’s mother, are not who they say they are. Beyond her privileged German childhood, Nadia unearths memories of a woman singing her a lullaby, while the taste of gingersnap cookies brings her back to a strangely familiar, yet unknown, past. Piece by piece, Nadia comes to realize who her real family was. But where are they now? What became of them? And what is her real name? This story of a Lebensborn girl--a child kidnapped for her "Aryan looks" by the Nazis in their frenzy to build a master race--reveals one child’s fierce determination to uncover her past against incredible odds. (Canada) only

Callie is very proud of her brother Charlie. He’s good at so many things -- swimming, playing the piano, running fast. And Charlie has a special way with animals, especially their dog, Harriett.

But sometimes Charlie gets very quiet.

His words get locked inside him, and he seems far away.

Then, when Callie and Charlie start to play, Charlie is back to laughing, holding hands, having fun.
Charlie is like any other boy – and he has autism.

In this story, told from a sister’s point of view, we meet a family whose oldest son teaches them important lessons about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love. (US) - (Canada)

Copper is curious, Fred is fearful. And together boy and dog are off on a series of adventures through marvelous worlds, powered by Copper's limitless enthusiasm and imagination.

Each Copper and Fred story in this graphic novel collection is a complete vignette, filled with richly detailed settings and told with a wry sense of humor. These two enormously likable characters build ships and planes to travel to surprising destinations and have a knack for getting into all sorts of odd situations.

Copper's good cheer always smoothes the way---and Fred can usually be won over if there's food involved. (Canada) - (US)

Like it or not, global warming is a hot topic, and it will affect the younger generation the most. So why not turn to the teacher kids like the most, Ms. Frizzle! Only the Friz can boil all the hoopla down to the scientific facts in a fun and informative way.

With trademark simplicity and wit, Joanna Cole explains why the earth is getting warmer, and Bruce Degen's bright, action-filled illustrations make the science easy to understand and fun to learn. This team brings a new, improved understanding to climate change, engaging kids and empowering all. Teachers will cheer!

Kids already love the Magic School Bus, and the love to do what's right by the planet. At last, a way to teach the curriculum and make an impact! (Views shared in product summary are not necessarily endorsed by blog owner) (US) - (Canada)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

24. Saint John Bosco by Catherine Beebe

Saint John Bosco and the Children's Saint, Dominic Savio by Catherine Beebe. illustrated by Robb Beebe (Canada) -(US)
Vision Books, #1

Pages: 157
Ages: 8+
Finished: Feb. 13, 2010
First Published: 1955
Genre: biographical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"He can pick coins right out of your ears!" shouted an excited eleven-year-old boy.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 9yo as a combination of religious studies/history.

Comments: Written in a story format this book tells the life of 19th century John Bosco, one of, if not the first, person to take an active interest in the welfare of the delinquent street children. John's desire to help came to him as a child and as such he devoted himself to helping boys first by simply performing magic tricks, which he laboriously studied to perform, outside church for the payment that the boys watching must attend the Mass. As he grew older his commitment to helping stray boys who came from very poor homes or were homeless became stronger and stronger and Bosco knew as a child that he must become a priest to accomplish everything God had in mind for him.

Bosco himself was from a hard working family with only a mother to support him and two brothers, the eldest who had no compassion towards John's calling. Bosco had not even been to school and yet he wanted to become a priest which required much schooling! It was impossible to envision a means to his end, but through the grace of God he always just managed to move forward along the road until he eventually became a priest and throughout it all he never stopped recruiting boys, making a clubhouse for them, a place where they could play and pray together that kept them off the streets and out of trouble.

As an adult he built his first school and became parish priest to his boys. This was just the first of many schools and churches he built and organized that became the Salesian Society. He later on encouraged a godly woman to take up the vows and become the head of another branch of his society which would aim at helping girls from poverty stricken homes. During the book we are also told the short, inspiring, sad story of Dominic Savio, a young boy who was deeply spiritual and took after Don Bosco's heart and yet he was sent home to be with the Lord at only 14 years old.

This is a deeply moving, spiritual story, full of the wonder and mysteries of the Catholic Church. Written well in a narrative style that will keep children engaged, there is an equal focus on the adolescent as well as the adult Bosco. The book also shows Don Bosco's tremendous sense of humour and his easy going demeanor. A truly inspiring story that is relevant today. While we read the book we celebrated January 31, the Feast of Saint John Bosco and we've also since bought prayer cards for each of us of Saint John Bosco. The 9yo was very inspired by the story. Once John Bosco grew up and became a priest ds said that the book was getting much more exciting now "but" he said "I don't want to be a priest." That's ok, I told him, you can do God's work in many other ways without becoming a priest. Inside, I was thinking, I don't want you to be a priest either honey because I'm hoping for some grandbabies in my old age! And upon completion of the book, which ends with John Bosco's canonization ds's final words were "That was really good, Mum!". I concur.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

23. Defenders of the Scroll by Shiraz

Defenders of the Scroll: History, Legend and Lore by Shiraz, illustrated by Steve Criado (Canada) -(US)
Book 1

Pages: 317
Ages: 12+
Finished: Feb. 12, 2010
First Published: June 29, 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

In a different time, in a different place, Mornak ruled the realm of Mythos from the city of Aspiria.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the author.

Reason for Reading: The combination of members who joined the quest in this fantasy is what initially intrigued me enough to want to read the book.

Summary: Alex is your typical high school teen with one major obsession, playing rpg/mporg video games and a secondary fixation as the leader and lead guitarist of a band called the Axemen. Alex's biggest dilemna in life is whether to skip a history exam to go to a real studio audition with the band. Meanwhile, in another realm of existence , Mythos, the dark forces have started to take over. Kidnapping and torturing the king to get the source of all his power, the magical scroll which is in possession of his 11 year old daughter, Dara. The King's army, aptly named the Axemen have become lost in an ensorcered wood with no way out. When Dara summons the leader of the Axemen, Alex appears before her and he is stuck in her world until he has completed his mission, protect her until her father is free. As they search for the Hall of Shadows where her father is imprisoned and try to stay clear of the Shadow Warriors as they track Dara in search of the scroll they call upon teen warriors to join them in their quest: Scorpius, a Roman legionnaire, Genjuro, a Japanese samurai, Bantu, an African warrior, Maya, an Amazon archer and Tenzin a Shaolin monk.

Comments: First off this book is unique in that the pages have been designed with a scroll background which makes for a very attractive presentation. However, this left the reading page a very light grey with black text which I think did interfere with my normal reading speed as it did take me longer than it should have to read this book and I know it was not from lack of enjoyment. While the story follows the basic 'group of companions on a quest' format, a lot of originality has been brought into play making this a very enjoyable treat. They must follow many mini quests on the way to their larger goal and they face many dangers from the elements, monstrous creatures and their pursuers. At the beginning of the book, I did find it a bit confusing as it jumped back and forth between Alex in the modern world and Mythos as the trouble started. I had this lost feeling as to who were these people and what was going on but rather than distracting from the story it made me determined in the beginning to keep reading until the two sets of characters merged, as I knew they would. I started reading the book in bed and my dh asked me to turn the light off so he could sleep and I told him plainly, "No, not until this Alex guy somehow gets to Mythos so I can figure out what's going on!"

I loved the group dynamics of the various races and cultures of the group members. Each person comes from such a strong ethnic group/profession that they all must also learn to get along with each other. As they struggle to flee from the enemy they also struggle to reject some of their own bias along with accepting other's different ways. Each of the characters has a very strong character and their background life is developed enough that I formed great feelings for each of them even though I liked them in varying degrees. Bantu, the African teen who was a very strong warrior in this group but who had just gone out on his mission to prove his manhood in own real time, was my favourite of the bunch. Young Dara was characterized very well. While she needed protecting, she was still portrayed as a strong character with smart ideas who added to the group's overall success, yet accepted when her role as child meant she had to obey the others or stay away from the danger.

The creatures (good and bad), the adventure, the fighting, the excitement, and the general theme were all very entertaining and I really enjoyed the story very much. My only complaint here is the the ending. If you read my reviews regularly you'll see it coming. The book ends by letting us know it is the end of book one and has no proper ending. In fact, it ends mid-story, mid-action, a cliff-hanger if you will and I am not fond of such endings. I much prefer books in a series to contain individual mini-plots that have a resolution within the book while still remaining a part of the overall story arc. But at least this leaves you wanting more!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Contest: Flute's Journey, The Life of a Wood Thrush

This time I'm giving away a gorgeous hardcover picture book, Flute's Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry. This is a slightly used copy, we bought it new and read it once.
This is the type of picture book with gorgeous paintings and quite verbose making it suitable for all ages, up to perhaps 11. Click the picture to take a look inside. You can read my review here.

Contest will run until Feb. 26, with the winner randomly chosen and announced on Feb. 27. This contest is open to US and Canada only. Sorry, but International postage is too expensive for me.

To enter:

Please try to leave all your responses in one comment.

1) You must be a follower (over in the right bar) and let me know you are in your comment.

2) Leave your email address (if it is not already in your profile.)

3) +2 Tweet and +2 blog (no sidebars) about this contest and leave me the link.

4) +1 What is your favourite bird?

Here is the Publisher's Summary:

This is a reverent environmental story of a wood thrush's first year and his arduous first migration -- across thousands of miles -- from his nesting ground in the Belt Woods in Maryland to his winter home in Costa Rica, and back again. During his journey Flute encounters many perils, including natural predators and devastating habitat loss.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

22. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker

Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker (Canada) -(US)
(The Bloomsbury Group)

Pages: 317
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 8, 2010
First Published: 1940, (this US/Can Bloomsbury Group re-issue Dec. 2009)
Genre: British farce, fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

When I wrote essays at school I was always told to begin at the beginning and end at the end.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Group (Canada).

Reason for Reading: I love British literature written during the first half of the 20th century and all the books reprinted in The Bloomsbury Group sound delightful.

Summary: Norman Huntley and his friend Henry are visiting an old church and while speaking to the keeper, on a lark, they invent an eighty-plus old woman, Miss Hargreaves, giving her quite an eccentric character, a cockatoo, and a bath she takes with her everywhere. Still having a good laugh they write a letter to this fictional character at the hotel where they've got her staying on her travels. The lark takes a downward spiral when they receive a reply back and shortly afterwards Miss Hargreaves arrives in the village complete with cockatoo and bath. She latches onto Norman like a dear, long lost friend and Norman's once sedate life as choir member, organist and bookstore helper turns upside down with the havoc created by the imaginary but very real Miss Hargreaves.

Comments: This book is simply put, a pure delight! Though written in 1940, the story is set sometime prior WWII and with an offhand remark about WWI we can surmise the story takes place in the 1920s or early 30s. The wonderful British village life filled with a variety of characters is a joyful story. Miss Hargreaves is a most eccentric character and her appearance turns the conventions of the town topsy-turvy. She descends upon Norman and completely takes over his life with her devotion. Creating episode after episode within the village and church community Baker's novel starts off as a hilarious farce. But when Norman can't take it anymore, close to losing his girlfriend, he tells Miss Hargreaves he's done with her and she can do as she like. This causes Miss H. to disappear for some weeks and Norman realizes that he's become a bit fond of the old girl. When Hargreaves returns she's not the woman she was before, she snubs Norman, puts on airs and her former escapades are completely forgotten as she becomes the new centre of the village's society.

Norman and Miss Hargreaves's relationship is a wonderful story. I often felt it compared to that of a parent and a child, with Norman taking the parental role since he 'created' Miss Hargreaves. Miss H. starts off as the doting child thinking Norman is the centre of her universe then after an argument she turns into the defiant teenager who ignores Norman and does what she wants. At this point Norman realizes the feelings he has for Miss H. are genuine and he loves her as a parent; he tries to make her see reason and is forever turned away, banging his head against a wall, and yet he keeps returning for more as his love is coupled with responsibility. While the story is filled with whimsy, there are also to be found great moments of pathos and the ending will tug at your heart strings.

Both Norman and Miss Hargreaves are astounding characters. While they appear to be at odds for the majority of the book, there are profound moments that they share together sometimes through speech and other times simply through a shared look. They are very compelling characters not soon to be forgotten. The secondary characters are also full of life from Norman's little sister Jim, who taunts him frequently, to the church's righteous Dean, who is a bit too full of himself, to Norman's scatterbrained bookstore owner father, to Henry, the one who helped Norman create Miss Hargreaves yet can't quite believe it isn't all some trick.

A delightful book, highly recommended to fans of British cozies. The author wrote fifteen novels and I certainly wouldn't mind trying another.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

21. The Dragon Book

The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois (Canada ) - (US)

Pages: 433 pgs.
Ages: 15+
Finished: Jan. 7, 2010
First Published: Nov. 3, 2009
Genre: short stories, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

Comments: This collection of 19 previously unpublished short stories by mostly well-known authors is written for an "all ages" audience, meaning for adults but an acceptable cross-over for older teens. The book is entirely language and s*x free, though the themes keep the book form being suitable for anyone younger. There were a couple of stories I didn't appreciate but for the most part I rated the others 4s or 5s. I really enjoyed that this book of short stories contained one longer almost novella sized story along with several lengthy 30 page stories along with the shorter short stories, making for a wide range of reading, with the longer stories letting the reader become quite involved in the story. I certainly had my appetite whetted for some of the authors here I hadn't read before, which was shamefully quite a few. Of the 19 authors, I had heard of 12 (even owning books by most of them), of those 12, alas, I had read only 8. A very engaging collection of stories with an amazing array of dragons: good, bad, those who fly and those who swim, with wings and without, those who breath fire, those who breathe ice. Plus the stories are told from all sorts of points of view including that of the dragon itself. A very enjoyable collection of stories. Recommended!

1. Dragon's Deep by Cecelia Holland - I really enjoyed this story of a fishing village that the Duke visits one day and tells them their taxes are now doubled. Not knowing what else to do they venture into the dangerous waters called "Dragon's Deep" to fish where they are attacked by a dragon and one girl, Perla, is accidentally taken away by the dragon. The story shows that a beast can learn to love through human tenderness and that humans can turn to beasts when they forget human tenderness. 4/5

2. Vici by Naomi Novik - An enjoyable and funny story with a quirky ending set in Ancient Rome of a man presumably sentenced to death when his punishment is to single handedly kill a dragon. Pure luck makes him successful and he comes home rich with the dragon's hoard and an egg, presumably is dead. When the egg hatches the man's life takes a turn for adventure and will never be the same again. Quite humorous while rather violent at the same time. 4/5

3. Bob Choi's Last Job by Jonathan Stroud - A dragon hunter goes out on a hunt has an encounter with a couple of dragons. Didn't really get this one. Well, I "got" it but wasn't that entertained. 2/5

4. Are You Afflicted with Dragons? by Kage Baker - This was a fun, clever romp of a man who owns a seaside hotel and has a bunch of small dragons come to roost on his roof. After trying the usual pest control measure for ridding oneself of these wyrmin pests he encounters a man who specializes in the job and promises to rid him of his troubles forever. A clever, humorous tale. 4/5

5. The Tsar's Dragons by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple - Much longer than the other stories at 35 pages this is the story of the beginnings of the Russian Revolution and the repeated attempts to kill Rasputin. Dragon's are in the story but don't really come into play until the end, when the Tsar's black and the revolutionaries red dragons are leashed upon the world. The dragons have a more metaphorical place in this story of empire vs communism. 3/5

6. The Dragon of Direfell by Liz Williams - I really enjoyed this story of a mage who has been hired by a small Dukedom to rid itself of a worm-like dragon wrapped around a mountain. The mage undertakes what should be a routine job and finds more than he expected. Deeper magic is at work and as he tries to expose the hidden dark mage things are even more complicated than they had appeared. 4/5

7. Oakland Dragon Blues by Peter S. Beagle - A Police Officer gets called to a traffic hold-up to find an old, sad-looking dragon sitting in the middle of the intersection. Not wanting to deal with all the hoopla that capturing a dragon is going to cause him he convinces the dragon to move out of the way and out of sight where the officer will see if he can fix his problems for him. Turns out the dragon is a remnant from an unfinished story and he wants to find the author, to have his revenge. Absolutely loved this one. Very humorous and we get to see a dragon's life from his point of view. 5/5

8. Humane Killer by Diana Gabaldon and Samuel Sykes - at 55 pages this started to feel more like a novella than a short story and contained a lot of plot. I really enjoyed it though very much. Two pairs both set off to kill the fierce dragon unbeknownst to each other. One pair is the weakling son of a recently deceased valiant hero who must return with his father's mace to prove himself and joins up with a heartless warrior woman wearing a full body leather thong. The other pair is a half heathen girl, therefore a sorceress, but a nice girl who has reanimated a dead soldier to be her protection and strength as she needs to kill the dragon to rescue a precious spell book. Obviously they meet up and the story is quite hilarious. But it was confusing when it first started with the jumping back and forth between these people without the reader knowing who they were or what was going on. 4/5

9. Stop! by Garth Nix - A short, interesting story that doesn't seem to have anything to do about dragons until the strange ending. 3.5/5

10. Ungentle Fire by Sean Williams - The author has written ten books set in the same world and this short story is also set in that world. A young man is bound to apprentice a warrior until he is deemed fit to go on a quest for his master. After five years his master sends him off to find and slay a dragon plus to bring back proof of the dragon's death, then he will set the man free to return to his homeland and marry his intended. The story starts on the 23rd day of that quest. I really, really enjoyed this story! I've never heard of this author before and this is the first story in this book that makes me want to read more by a new-to-me author. 5/5

11. A Stark and Wormy Knight by Tad Williams - A funny story in which a mother dragon tells her children a bedtime story of the days of old when there were big bad knights who slayed dragons and relates a time when their great great great grandpap pulled one over on such a knight. Humorous story, told with lots of word play in the vein of "Jabberwocky" with Williams creating his own fun words but also adding a "snicker", "beamish" and "uffish" here and there. 4/5

12. None So Blind by Harry Turtledove - Set in some time and world of an explorer's age with magic, a group of explorer's and sorcerers set out to explore a part of the map that has always been labeled "Here Be Dragons". The go to find if these dragons are real and also to find any other unusual flora and fauna. An ok story but I figured out the surprise ending and just didn't enjoy this more than ok. 2.5/5

13. JoBoy by Diana Wynne Jones - DWJ is one of my fav. authors and I loved this one! Can't really tell much without giving anything away but it's about a boy who experiences adolescence with both joyful and painful revelations. 5/5

14. Puz_le by Gregory Maguire - One rainy afternoon, a boy works on an old jigsaw puzzle picked up at a garage sale with strange results. Can't say much as this is short and has a twisty ending. Really enjoyed it! 4/5

15. After the Third Kiss by Bruce Coville - May Margaret is cursed and turned into a dragon by her wicked stepmother and only three kisses from her sea adventuring brother will return her to her rightful form. He unexpectedly does arrive home after hearing his homeland is threatened by a dragon. May Margaret gets her three kisses and the stepmother is punished and you would thing all would be well. But this is just the first few pages! No, this fairy tale-like story has much more to it and May Margaret finds that though she no longer breathes fire, there is a yearning fire burning in her blood. I loved this one! 5/5

16. The War that Winter Is by Tanith Lee - In a land where winter lasts 9 months of the year, and may well last longer as time goes by, the tribes have learnt to cope in this harsh land but one thing they have no control over is the dragon, Ulkioket, who can blast a village with it's breath of of ice and freeze everything and everyone glass-like ice that will shatter. Until one day, a small group of scavengers find a frozen city with a pregnant women near the edge, when they touch her she shatters and a live baby is born, one with pale skin and white hair. This, they believe is the hero who has come to rid them of the dragon. At 29 pages, this short story has a lot of space for a well developed story that I just loved. I've only read a few books and stories by Lee but I've never been disappointed yet. 5/5

17. The Dragon's Tale by Tamora Pierce -This story is set in Pierce's fictional universe of Tortall, which I haven't read before. At 39 pages, this one felt like a novella and really had plenty of time to be a well-developed tale. Told through the point of view of a young dragon who is on a trip with an entourage visiting the Emperor's villages, he gets bored and watches a group of boys through stones at a lady scrounging in the garbage who then runs away. Feeling magic in the air, the dragon follows her and discovers magic and a whole lot more. He keeps his secret and comes up with a plan to keep him occupied with big results. I loved, loved, loved this story!! 5/5

18. Dragon Storm by Mary Rosenblum - Tahlia's eyes are different from every one else in the grove and the other children call her "bad-luck eyes". But she does have a special closeness to the surf dragons and one day when she finds a dragon egg a bit different than usual and it hatches, the dragon does not appear to be a surf dragon. In fact it starts to grow at an alarming rate, protects her against any harm, talks to her and reveals the truth that has been kept secret from her for so long. Another fabulous story that I just loved, just shy of 30 pages making it long enough to really develop some character along with the plot. 5/5

19. The Dragaman's Bride by Andy Duncan - It's the 1930s, in the Virginia mountains and every so often when the sheriff's men are around a few of the adolescents will go missing. At first this caused great concern but they all eventually came back after 6 weeks with tales of a hospital, being treated well, and fed well. The girls all had small scars as they'd had to have their appendix out. The boys, well, they had tiny scars a bit lower down, but after finding out everything worked fine they had no complaints. That is until Allie Harrell goes missing for 3 months causing the mountain folks to rile up against the sheriff and his men. Then one day Pearl Sunday follows an old Fire Dragaman down a hole and discovers a lot of answers. Another longer story just shy of 30 pages that combines some historical fiction with a shapeshifting giant/dragon that reads a lot like a folk tale. Really enjoyed this as well 5/5

Monday, February 8, 2010

Books in the Mail

Seems to be a trend going on here, last Monday I had no post as I had an empty mailbox all week again. But this past week I had a couple of days with parcels galore. All review copies this week. Some of these, my son and I will be enjoying together. He loves it when review books for him come in! I think it's a pretty good guess which of these books I'll be reading first though!

One thing I found quite amusing was I got a LT Early Reviewer book but hadn't been sent an email that I'd won. So when I got the book, I didn't recognize it but read the back and thought wow this sounds fun. Wondered why I hadn't been notified, had I accidentally been sent the book perhaps, and then later in the day I got the email telling me I had won the book! LOL.

From Simon & Schuster Canada

Janie thought she knew what her future held. And she thought she’d made her peace with it. But she can’t handle dragging Cabel down with her.

She knows he will stay with her, despite what she sees in his dreams. He’s amazing. And she’s a train wreck. Janie sees only one way to give him the life he deserves: She has to disappear. And it’s going to kill them both.

Then a stranger enters her life — and everything unravels. The future Janie once faced now has an ominous twist, and her choices are more dire than she’d ever thought possible. She alone must decide between the lesser of two evils. And time is running out. . . .

Frankie Pickle returns for another imaginative adventure and this time it all comes down to race cars. Well, not quite race cars, but the Pine Run Derby for scouts. Frankie is in danger of not advancing to the next ranking with the rest of his troop unless he can win the Pine Run 3000. But Frankie wants to do everything on his own so he imagines himself as a world-class sculptor, a mad scientist, and of course, a pro-racecar driver. In the end, Frankie learns that team work is the only way he won't get left in the dust.

From LibraryThing Early Reviewers:

Treat yourself to a visit to the wackiest restaurant ever!Ten-year-old Shoshi and her eight-year-old brother, Moshe, arrive in New York in 1898 from Russia with their mother and Snigger, the baby dragon that saved them from an attack by Cossack soldiers. Five years earlier, their father had also come to New York to make his fortune, but no one has heard from him since. Through a series of adventures and misadventures, Shoshi and Moshe use their wits to navigate through New York City's Lower East Side, making new friends and even a few foes: Salty, the seaman who helps the family smuggle Snigger through Ellis Island; Aloysius P. Thornswaddle, carnival barker extraordinaire; Dingle Hinglehoffer, pitcher for the Brooklyn Slobbers; and the mysterious Man in the Black Cape. With the help of Snigger, they set out to solve the mystery behind their father's disappearance, helping to free the Lower East Side from the tyrannical rule of gangster Nick the Stick along the way. Mrs. Kaputnik's Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium is a colorful tale that blends history and fantasy with a journey of discovery, adventure, and fun.

From Random House Canada:

Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

In this tense, mesmerizing thriller by Linwood Barclay, critically acclaimed author of Fear the Worst and Too Close to Home, a man’s life unravels around him when the unthinkable strikes.

A warm summer Saturday. An amusement park. David Harwood is glad to be spending some quality time with his wife, Jan, and their four-year-old son. But what begins as a pleasant family outing turns into a nightmare after an inexplicable disappearance. A frantic search only leads to an even more shocking and harrowing turn of events.

Until this terrifying moment, David Harwood is just a small-town reporter in need of a break. His paper, the Promise Falls Standard, is struggling to survive. Then he gets a lead that just might be the answer to his prayers: a potential scandal involving a controversial development project for the outskirts of this picturesque upstate New York town. It’s a hot-button issue that will surely sell papers and help reverse the Standard’s fortunes, but strangely, David’s editors keep shooting it down.


That’s a question no longer at the top of David’s list. Now the only thing he cares about is restoring his family. Desperate for any clue, David dives into his own investigation—and into a web of lies and deceit. For with every new piece of evidence he uncovers, David finds more questions—and moves ever closer to a shattering truth.

From Penguin Group (Canada:

Danny Dragonbreath knew girls were trouble. But the new foreign exchange student, Suki the Salamander, is beyond trouble. Not only has she reduced his best friend, Wendell, to a blithering, lovesick tadpole, but she’s apparently the object of an elaborate ninja frog kidnapping plot. Danny is never one to pass up an adventure (especially one involving ninja frogs), and so he and Wendell and Suki set out on a dangerous quest through the mythical Japanese bamboo forests to find out what these fearsome frogs want. Danny may not be able to breathe fire like a normal dragon, but he and Wendell have watched lots of kung fu movies and can totally take on a bunch of ninja frogs. Or, um, so he hopes . . .

Using her trademark hybrid style of comic-book panels and text, Ursula Vernon has packed this second book in the hilarious Dragonbreath series with lots of kung fu, a little bit of loooove, and plenty of everyday school drama.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

And the Winner is ......

And the winner has been randomly selected using After counting up all those +1s and +2s came up with the winner...

#2 ...... lilly

Who is very lucky she took the time to answer the question for an extra entry! What one colour would lilly choose to see if she could only see one? Her answer: "And if I had to choose only one color, it would definitely be blue."

I was really surprised with how many answered blue! Way more than half of you answered blue. I guess you would always see some colour in the sky! I loved The Celebrated Author's answer who figured since she was going to be seeing grey all the time as the other colour, did some colour combining and came up with her favourite colour combo of yellow & grey.

Personally, I was thinking the answer to this question while I was reading the book and while it would be great to see a bright colour like red, purple or orange that would mean everything would mostly be grey with just pop's of that colour every now and then. So I, personally, decided on green because it is the colour of nature and I would see it every time I was outside in the grass and trees, of course I would be restricted to living within a certain distance of the equator. But, hey, no complaints to that!

Congratulations Lilly! I'll be send you an email shortly.

For those who didn't win, look out tomorrow for another chance to win another great book!

20. Angel: After the Fall, Vol. 1

Angel: After the Fall, Volume One by Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch. Illustrated by Franco Urru (Canada) -(US)
Angel: After the Fall series

Pages: 192
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 4, 2010
First Published: Aug. 4, 2008
Genre: graphic novel, paranormal
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

It all started with a girl.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: I love "Angel" to the nth degree!

Comments: I usually start my reviews with a brief summary but I can't with this book which picks up some time after the fight at the end of Season 5 of the television series Angel. The show ended with the end of the world and "the gang" taking on an epic battle against a horde of demons, including a dragon, which the viewer would assume continued until the bitter end. Well things are not exactly as they seem and the first five comics gathered here contain shocker after shocker about pretty much everything, especially about each individual member of the cast. And everybody is present and accounted for, except of course for dear Cordy. But we do have the return of three characters who had limited story lines in the show Groosalugg (from Pylea), Nina (the werewolf girl) and Gwen (the electricity girl).

This is a perfect continuation of Angel. I am completely satisfied with the direction that has been taken. The characters retain their sense of voice from the show. You can hear the actor's voices in your head, the humour and sarcasm, plus the interaction between the various characters is all perfect. The artwork is delicious. It is aptly dark and broody but the use of colour has been wisely placed to make a stunning book to just look at.

My book doesn't have a rating on it but I'd assume the comics were rated Teen. There is the typical violence of the TV show, that is the slaying of demons and beasts, nothing that would deserve a Mature rating. There are a few bits of language that wouldn't have made the show but nothing terribly profane or frequent. The only thing that could be of concern is the plenitude of women in barely there thong bikinis or bikini-like costumes, shown from various scintillating points of view.

The book itself has bonuses. I have the hardcover which comes with a ribbon bookmark (fancy shmancy!). The book starts with a note from Brian Lynch, then once the five volumes are over there is an art gallery which includes the covers of the comic books, artwork by various artists and photos of Angel and Spike. Next comes the original proposals for each of the five volumes, these are textual short stories and not exactly how the finished comics turned out. Then comes a Sketch Gallery by Franco Urro and finally the book ends with an annotated script of chapter one. I actually read through the annotations right after reading chapter one and gained a lot of insight before continuing on with the story.

If you have watched all five seasons then you must continue on with the story by reading this and be prepared to be shocked over and over as each chapter ends with a stunner. I can't wait to read the next one!