Friday, April 30, 2010

DNF: Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth

Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 211 pages
First Published: Mar. 2010
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: self-help, inspirational
Rating: DNF

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

I read 117 of 211 pages and could not continue to read any further. The book was not what I had thought it would be. I have not read anything by this author before and going by the publisher's summary and the title I had expected this book to incorporate the Judaeo-Christian God into women's struggle with weight loss and food relationship. That surmise was incorrect, the author's concept of the word "God" could be more clearly stated as "whatever supreme deity, power or feeling you happen to believe in". This was not what I wanted. The book is divided into three parts: Principles, Practices and Eating. I managed to read through the Principles section and found the information on emotional eating and loving yourself as who you are informative but not anything I hadn't read before. Only one religion is actually mentioned and quoted from and that is Buddhism. Again, not what *I* was looking for. The Practices section became too new-agey for me and I could not continue to read. I will say though that the writer has a fun, upbeat, humorous voice.

Publisher's Summary:

If you suffer about your relationship with food -- you eat too much or too little, think about what you will eat constantly or try not to think about it at all -- you can be free. Just look down at your plate. The answers are there. Don't run. Look. Because when we welcome what we most want to avoid, we contact the part of ourselves that is fresh and alive. We touch the life we truly want and evoke divinity itself.

Since adolescence, Geneen Roth has gained and lost more than a thousand pounds. She has been dangerously overweight and dangerously underweight. She has been plagued by feelings of shame and self-hatred and she has felt euphoric after losing a quick few pounds on a fad diet. Then one day, on the verge of suicide, she did something radical: She dropped the struggle, ended the war, stopped trying to fix, deprive and shame herself. She began trusting her body and questioning her beliefs.

It worked. And losing weight was only the beginning.

She wrote about her discoveries in When Food Is Love, her first New York Times bestseller. She gave huge numbers of women their first insights into compulsive eating and she changed huge numbers of lives for the better.

Now, after more than three decades of studying, teaching and writing about what drives our compulsions with food, Geneen adds a profound new dimension to her work in Women, Food and God. She begins with her most basic concept: The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. Your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation and, yes, even God. But it doesn't stop there. Geneen shows how going beyond both the food and feelings takes you deeper into realms of spirit and soul to the bright center of your own life.

With penetrating insight and irreverent humor, Roth traces food compulsions from subtle beginnings to unexpected ends. She teaches personal examination, showing readers how to use their relationship with food to discover the fulfillment they long for.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

73. Potter's Field by Mark Waid

Potter's Field by Mark Waid. Art by Paul Azaceta. Introduction by Greg Rucka (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 112 pages
Ages: 15+
Finished: Apr. 25, 2010
First Published: Mar. 9, 2010
Publisher: Boom! Stuidos
Genre: graphic novel, crime noir
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Marker 36905 belongs to a drug mule who wanted out.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I've become a fan of Mark Waid.

John Doe is a mysterious vigilante who fights to name the unnamed in Potter's Field, a graveyard in New York City where the unidentified bodies are buried. He has an underground network of agents working for him from coroners to street people and he'll never give up until he's chiseled a name on a gravestone. John himself is just as mysterious as those he tries to help. No one knows his real name, where he comes from, his background or why he does this; the man doesn't even have any fingerprints!

This bind-up consists of the original three-volume mini series and a one shot issue plus a script & sketches for an unpublished story. The book also begins with an introduction by Greg Rucka and ends with a few pages of character sketches of John Doe by the artist. This is also a very attractive hardcover book with a matte finish dust jacket and an attached ribbon bookmark; when the jacket is removed the plain black boards reveals "JOHN DOE" etched on the front as if on a cemetery plaque.

A fabulous read! Compared in the introduction to Raymond Chandler this is classic crime noir set in the modern world. All together from the four issues we get three separate episodic stories. These are dark, gritty, nighttime tales of a guy walking into a bar looking for someone and creeping into dark hallways with a flashlight. Quite a lot of violence, but though everyone carries guns they are more likely to hit someone across the head with it than shoot them. The violence is more physical, punching, clobbering with foreign objects, heads in toilets, face on a hot grill, and so on. I really enjoyed the stories which each was very different from the other; the first involved a missing girl, the next was mob related and the last was cops gone bad. Great action-packed story telling. The artwork is also suitably matched, very dark and urban. I really enjoyed this and will be looking for further crime graphic novels as well as continuing to read Mark Waid.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

72. The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 338 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 24, 2010
First Published: June 22, 2010
Publisher: Henry Holt
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Light from April's full moon swept over the Museum's facade and down the building's marble veneer.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, Henry Holt.

Reason for Reading: I'm a fan of the time period and as macabre as it sounds, old-time circus "freak" shows.

Set in 1865, the year that Lincoln was killed, New York, this story takes place in The American Museum an establishment of Oddities and Curiosities run by one Phineas Taylor Barnum (P.T. Barnum). It was here on the fourth floor that his Curiosities lived: the fat lady, the giantess, the strong man, the conehead, the rubberman and Bartholomew Fortuno, the World's Skinniest Man. Late one night Barthy sees Barnum leading a woman totally covered in wraps into the building. Mystery surrounds this woman, she is to be a new show but Barnum is slow to let out what her "talent" is and the others all gossip and slowly find things out until it is finally revealed. Barnum himself is totally infatuated with this woman, bringing Mrs. Barnum, the senior partner, onto the scene causing problems for everyone. But Bartholomew has also become enamoured of her and become her friend and likewise she has befriended him. This is ultimately a story of love, how deep love can run, and can it survive extreme divisions.

I was hooked on this book from the beginning. I have a (what some may call macabre) interest in the old circus side-shows (freak shows, if you will) and this book is set in my favourite time period so there really was no doubt I was going to like it. The story is not based on any actual real historical incident but the background historical details are real. Barnum ran The American Museum for many years before he went into the circus business in his 60s. The story is very compelling and is more about the side-show performers than it is about Barnum. The narrative is told from Bartholomew's point of view; he has a unique sense of his strangeness and is quite proud of it but he becomes challenged as to whether he is truly one of the Curiosities, who is that way by nature as he claims to be, or a Gaff (a fake) who has chosen to be the way he is. This becomes a big theme in the book as does a love triangle that develops, well in reality two love triangles consisting of the same two people with different thirds.

The book is certainly well-written, attention grabbing and page-turning. I read the book withing 24 hours. There are two big reveals, obviously the secret of the new performers oddity as I've mentioned and another which isn't revealed until the end of the book. My problem was that I guessed the first as soon as the character was introduced and the second shortly afterwards so my race to the finish was not to find out what the reveal was but simply to see how the characters would react. It was fun getting there and I did enjoy the book but I can't say the ending pleased me much. I would have liked it to have gone a little further with two specific, separate characters before ending. But that's me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

71. The Texicans by Nina Vida

The Texicans by Nina Vida (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 296 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 22, 2010
First Published: 2006
Publisher: SOHO Press
Genre: Historical fiction, Western
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Oscar Ruiz, born in Mexico, came to Texas when he was fourteen.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the author.

Reason for Reading: I love reading about the time period and the subject matter.

This is an epic drama of settlers struggling to settle in Texas during the years 1840 to 1854. What makes this book stand out from the rest is the characters. Rather than the usual group of white European settlers Vida has cast her tale with peoples who make an unusual yet enthralling story. Each having their own story, until they come together as a group of settlers, are a Polish Jew, an Alsace German, a runaway slave, a paid for slave family, a Mexican woman who may be a witch and her half white daughter. This group of people join and grow together in an emotionally strong bond and face the brutality of the Comanches, Rangers, weather and racism.

I was truly hooked with this book from the first chapter. Each character is introduced separately before becoming part of the group and while the story is told in the third person we are shown the story from various character's perceptions along the way. This is one of the most amazing group of settlers I have read about and I appreciate the insight into the story of the peoples often overlooked in telling of the settling of Texas. Character was everything for me in this book. I felt as if I knew them and certain events were emotionally disturbing because of that.

The plot itself is tremendous. What starts out as one man's journey, and a selfish man at that, turns into an almost Christian allegory of the downtrodden following the Jew believing he will save them and lead them home. He does ... partially, but he is *not* the Saviour. Instead it becomes a voyage of many souls and it is the weak and downtrodden that bring the selfishness out of the man, though unbeknownst to him, and very slowly, by the end of the book, he has been changed, just enough, by the events of his journey and by the people who love him, those whom he met along that journey. I could not put this book down! I even read at the table! Ultimately, a fierce new version of the Western with a bittersweet ending.

Monday, April 26, 2010

70. Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess by George O'Connor

Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess by George O'Connor (US) - (Canada)
Olympians, Volume 2

Pages: 77 pages
Ages: 10+
Finished: Apr. 21, 2010
First Published: Apr. 13, 2010
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: graphic novel, Greek mythology
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

All of us are born naked, helpless, and defenseless. Not so Pallas Athena.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, First Second Books.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This second book starts off with a one page summary of volume one. It also introduces The Fates who are the storytellers of this issue. Different from Zeus, this volume is not one singular story but a collection of vignettes of Athena's creation and birth story and her other adventures. Each story, in the end, tells how Athena added to her Aegis, which became her most powerful weapon. Plus there are two versions of why she took the name Pallas Athena and of course no collection of Athena would be complete without the story of Arachne.

A superb follow-up to Zeus and I'm definitely hooked on this series. The myths are brilliantly told, following mostly exactly as I expect them to with a few exceptions plus I'm also finding a few new-to-me tales as well along the way. One thing I didn't mention in my review of Zeus, which became an invaluable resource in this issue is the Genealogical Chart on the inside cover which starts with Gaea goes straight through to the Olympians and then ventures off to show the lineage of the gods and demi-gods who one presumes will be seen in future volumes. Many characters are introduced in this volume from The Fates and The Gigantes to Pallas and Medusa and I loved being able to flip to that chart to see where everyone fit in!

I'm loving the artwork. I really appreciate the facial expressions and the uniqueness of the creatures, it really brings the myths to life in a way that an all-text version just cannot accomplish. There is a lot of violence in this volume, considering Athena is the Goddess of War, but there is no bloodshed shown, (unless you count a puddle of green Medusa blood) in keeping with the age appropriateness of the series. The only thing I'd consider of concern to parents would be their comfort level with the word "lover". Looking forward to the next volume which will concentrate on Hera.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

69. Grease Town by Ann Towell

Grease Town by Ann Towell (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 232 pages
Ages: 8-12
Finished: Apr. 20, 2010
First Published: Feb. 9, 2010
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

I live in a swamp.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Library Thing's Early Review Program.

Reason for Reading: I'll pretty much read any juvenile/YA Canadian historical fiction on topics which are new or interesting to me.

Summary: Loosely based on a true incident in the Sarnia area of Ontario, Canada, this book tells the story of an oil boom town, the people who fled there and focuses on the friendship between a white boy and a black boy. The book's main historical event is a race riot which left the blacks homeless and very little actual information survives of it today.

Comments: I really enjoyed this book aimed at pre-teen children set during the 1860s. The descriptions of an oil boom town and both the shady and eccentric characters it attracted are wonderfully described. The atmosphere is not unlike that of the Goldrush towns. What makes Oil Springs different is that it is populated by both whites and escaped American black slaves. The author shows how the practice of the times, paying the blacks less money than the whites, became easy fodder for insurgents to come in and stir up dangerous feelings with the less desirable characters in town. While not only describing the horrifying results of a senseless race riot the author also shows how easy it is for someone determined enough, in this case a pair of American bounty hunters, to create a mob mentality and control it by preying on their insecurities. Very insightful and at a level that the targeted audience will understand.

The narrative voice is very intriguing and works very well, also. At first the narrative seems to cross over the line and speak directly to the reader, which is a little unsettling but then the reader realizes that the narrator is not speaking to them. The narrator is speaking to someone else, whom he eventually starts calling sir and we realize that what we are reading is a written account of the main character's experience in Oil Springs, perhaps a journal or a letter or something else but written directly to someone. Finding out in the end the purpose of this written narrative makes for a great realization. An enjoyable book which I will definitely be passing on to my 9yo for his bedtime reading.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

68. Zeus: King of the Gods by George O'Connor

Zeus: King of the Gods by George O'Connor (US) - (Canada)
Olympians, Volume 1

Pages: 77 pages
Ages: 10+
Finished: Apr. 20, 2010
First Published: Jan. 5, 2010
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: graphic novel, Greek mythology
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

In the time before time, there was nothing, Kaos.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, First Second Books.

Reason for Reading: I am a huge fan of Greek mythology.

This tells the tale of creation from the Greek mythological point of view up to the birth of Zeus. Then it follows Zeus's story, how he battles his father Kronos to become King of the Gods and the founding of the home for the Olympians on Mount Olympus.

Fantastic first book in a new ongoing series retelling the Greek myths. The story here is very well represented going right back to the beginning with Gaea, The Cyclopes, The Hekatonchieres and the Titans even before the birth of Zeus. This part of Greek mythology is often confusing to children (I never could understand it as a kid) and the graphic representation, especially of the Titans and the Hekatonchieres with their fifty heads and one hundred hands, is the ideal format for telling this myth. This story is also hardly ever included in children's Greek Myth collections and I've read many such collections over the last 16 years to my children. I feel quite confident in saying the author has done a brilliant job of re-telling Zeus' story in an exciting format. The illustrations are dark and unusual as to fit the subject matter from Kronos and the eating of his children to Zeus' final battle with his father. The book ends with the final destinies of those who came before Zeus and looks forward with a frame of Zeus with his Queen, brothers and sisters, and his children preparing us for the next volume. There is also some extra info at the end with an Author's Note, Fact pages on four characters, a Notes section referenced to pages and panels and finally a further reading section both for younger and older readers. I'm very impressed. This is a keeper for me and I'd highly recommend it as a library purchase.

Friday, April 23, 2010

67. The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Reckoning by Kelly Armstrong (US) - (Canada)
Darkest Powers, Book 3

Pages: 391 pages
Ages: 14+
Finished: Apr. 20, 2010
First Published: Apr. 6, 2010
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre: YA, paranormal, fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

After four hours on the run, I was finally safe, tucked into bed and enjoying the deep dreamless sleep of the dead ... until the dead decided they'd really rather have me awake.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next and final book in the trilogy.

Summary: The four supernatural teens finally arrive at a safe house only it may not be as safe as it seems. In this concluding book of the trilogy they prepare for the final showdown with The Edison Group and try to rescue those who are still in their clutches.

Comments: One can't give much information on what happens in this conclusion as it is all so dependent on the previous books with everything finally all coming together. What I can tell you is that it is a brilliant, satisfying conclusion! A fast-paced read with plenty of reveals and shockers throughout. While Ms. Armstrong has kept the high octane action fore and centre, she has also managed to fully develop Derek, Simon, Tori and Chloe's characters and relationships. They have all changed so much from the characters we first met in "The Summoning".

This is one of the best supernatural YA trilogies I've read in some years. The Reckoning is a worthy conclusion that fans will appreciate having had the wait. The ending is quite interesting. Leaving us with a complete, finite finish and yet also leaving a few dangling threads and foreshadowing the upcoming future of the characters. This leaves the reader satisfied that the story is over, yet also leaves room for one to hope we may yet see these characters again. Which brings us to Kelley's next YA book due out next spring, "The Gathering". A visit to the author's website reveals it described as continuing the series while giving the current characters "a well-deserved break". From this I could envision this series continuing on indefinitely as sets of trilogies which really makes me excited.

Now if I could only find the time to start her adult series, which is set in the same world!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Reviews

Farm by Elisha Cooper (US) - (Canada)

(48 pages, Apr. 1 2010, Orchard Books, Age 5-9)

This book follows a family farm, consisting of a man, wife, boy and girl, from early in the spring until late in the fall. Unlike most cutesy-wutesy farm picture books, this one shows the real life running and operation of cultivating the fields, chores, livestock, weather and daily life found throughout the year on a farm. It shows the agricultural lifestyle of a family that lives in a rural area and what the children's lives are like, doing chores before and after school and spending time playing outside and with the animals. The book is quite textual, while not actually having a lot of text per page, there is certainly enough text that little ones may get squirmy listening to this book. Grades 1 to 3 will find the book most useful and entertaining with the higher end finding the most enjoyment. The book is well-written with an engaging voice. My only complaint is the illustrations. I just can't say I'm a fan of Cooper's work. I enjoyed the landscapes and scenes of the buildings but the people with no facial features and animals are not my cup of tea being tiny squiggles that look like they are missing parts and just barely recognizable. Cooper, however, has won awards so obviously I'm in the minority. A good book to celebrate agriculture, rural life and living off the land.

Vanishing Habitats by Robert Bateman with Nancy Kovacs (Canada)

(48 pages, Oct. 1 2009, Scholastic/Madison Press, Ages 9-12)

This book is an absolutely beautiful to look at, every page is filled with glorious paintings by renowned Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman. One could simply browse through the book looking at pictures. The text focuses on habitats, all habitats from the common ones you'd expect, rainforests and lakes, to less common ones such as old-growth forests and bogs. Each habitat is a two page spread, a couple are four pages. The text is generally brief and to the point. It does well to describe the habitat and the animals found there but then degenerates into a doom and gloom presentation telling all the gloomy so-called facts from hundreds of years ago to modern times as to what people have done to destroy every single habitat on earth and leaving us with a picture of doom, as frequently no solutions are given as to how to fix the problem (eg. in the entire section on forests, reforestation is not even mentioned once) and if solutions are mentioned it is worded in defeatist language (ie. "...there is *some* hope that what *remains* of the rainforest can be saved.") (emphasis is mine). While telling the doom that is coming to these habitats I also found that there were a lot of "if"s, "maybe"s, "might"s and "probably"s. Not something I'd want to take as fact with language like that. Global warming is also interchanged with the phrase "climate change", using whichever suits the author's purpose best in a given situation. Most people who pick up this title will not have a problem with my concerns. But if, like me, you are looking for environment books without an agenda I wouldn't go so far as to not recommend the book. Knowing what one will find in the text will help to provide discussion. Plus as already stated the information on the habitats and wildlife is very interesting and informative.

The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole. Illustrated by Bruce Degen. (US) - (Canada)

(40 pages, Mar. 1 2010, Scholastic Press, Age 7-12)

Despite a title which could lead one to believe this book will explore the recent revelations about climate change on a level kids can understand, this book is solely a primer on global warming. It is written specifically to proponents of global warming, using the phrase "global warming" exclusively and that group of people will be very happy with all the information presented in this book. However, if you are on the other side of the fence of this issue you will find nothing usable in this book.

All books provided courtesy of Scholastic Canada.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

66. Crush by Alan Jacobson

Crush by Alan Jacobson (US) - (Canada)
A Karen Vail Mystery
, Book 2

Pages: 392 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 16, 2010
First Published: Sept. 9, 2009
Publisher: Vanguard Press
Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"So the dick says to the woman, 'I got nothing.'"

Acquired: Received an ARC from the publisher via the author.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Summary: FBI Profiler Karen Vail and her boyfriend Detective Robby Hernandez, both of Virginia, take a much needed vacation to Napa Valley, California. On their first evening out at a classy winery tour/tasting/dining establishment fashioned out of a cave, a dead body is discovered and Karen immediately is drawn to the obvious signs of a serial killer's work. With the local police's request she becomes part of the task force set up to catch this brutal murderer who is unlike anyone Karen has every seen before and defies all the usual profiles based on the crime s/he commits. Robby spends his time trying to enjoy a vacation mostly on his own while Karen deals with multiple grisly murders and ultimately certain task force members become targets, even victims, and Karen's life is also at stake.

Comments: I LOVE Karen Vail!! Crush is an even better read than the first in this series, The 7th Victim. Alan Jacobson knows how to write a thriller. Starting off with a grizzly crime that hooks the reader immediately he weaves a very complicated mystery with twists and turns that split into two directions and once the serial killer mystery is solved there are even more reveals that finally leave the reader breathless on the last page. With this only being the second book in this series, Jacobson took quite a risk to take his main character away from her established setting and introducing us to a whole new cast of characters but it worked very well. Karen maintains some contact with her boss, son, and a friend/co-worker back in Virginia reminding the reader of book one's character development while making Crush feel completely fresh and new, yet still familiar.

Karen is a wonderful main character. She's just what one would assume a female law enforcement agent would be like. She never compensates for being a woman, she fits in and is treated as one of "the guys" and is naturally all woman when not on the job. She's tough, confident, feisty and very clever. I can't wait to read the next book in this series. I am a bit miffed at the ending which is a blatant cliffhanger, something that rarely happens in the mystery genre. I'm not even quite sure I feel satisfied that the "case" has been closed even though a new case has been introduced by the end. My regular readers know I'm not a cliffhanger fan but this book was just such a fabulous thriller I can't let that bother me too much this time.

Jacobson should appeal to a wide audience. He does present quite gruesome murders but he doesn't go into gory details. When I finished reading this, I said to my sister, who happened to be sitting next to me also reading, that "This author (Alan Jacobson) is almost as good as Mo Hayder!" That is the ultimate compliment I can give a thriller author. Jacobson writes a smart, tight, thriller full of shocks and gasps. Add him to your list.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

65. Afraid by Jack Kilbourn

Afraid by Jack Kilbourn (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 346 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 13, 2010
First Published: Apr. 1, 2009
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: horror
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

The hunter's moon, a shade of orange so dark it appeared to be filled with blood, hung fat and low over the mirror surface of Big Lake McDonald.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Library Thing's Early Review Program.

Reason for Reading: The plot intrigued me.

Summary: A small town in Wisconsin which has so far only needed a sheriff and a drunk tank to keep the peace is going to find itself sorely lacking in defences. A helicopter crashes into the backwoods and unleashes a terrible horror that absolutely no one in town is safe from. It unrelentlessly attacks in the method it knows best: Isolate, terrorize, annihilate. The town is cut off from the rest of civilization but a few find out that the terror does have a purpose and they try, against all odds, to fight back.

Comments: This book is all action. Right from page one to the end terror and horror continue non-stop with lots of blood, gore and page-turning excitement. This is the type of horror that uses science for its basis making the possibility of its reality not entirely beyond reason. The book also plays upon modern society's fear of terrorism, creating quite a heart thumping reading. The actions of our heroes are a bit over-the-top at times and the characters are two-dimensional with little depth or the ability to capture the reader's emotion. But in all reality this book doesn't try to be anything it isn't. It is simply a non-stop horror story which is worth the ride if you enjoy that sort of thing. This would make a good beach or plane read. I would read another book by the author.

Monday, April 19, 2010

DNF. In the Fabled East by Adam Lewis Schroeder

In the Fabled East by Adam Lewis Schroeder (Canada)

Published: March 2010 (Canada only)
Rating: DNF

Unfortunately I was unable to finish this book. I made it to page 129/408 and just couldn't push myself to trudge through the whole book. I had really wanted to like the book as I loved Schroeder's first book, Empress of Asia, and was eagerly awaiting his second book. Upon finding out the time period of this book Paris, early 1900's and 1930's French Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.) I was very excited to read the book. But for some reason I didn't make any connection with the characters at all and found myself putting the book down often and only reluctantly picking it up again and I hate to say it but found boring is the only word that comes to mind. Perhaps it was just the wrong time and place for this reader, I certainly wouldn't advice anyone *not* to read the book based on my humble opinion. I will still be keeping my eye out for Schroeder's next book, as I am not ready to give up on him this soon.

Publisher's Summary:

From one of Canada’s best young voices comes a sweeping literary adventure set against the backdrop of French Indochina.

Paris, 1909: Adélie Tremier, a young widow suffering the final stages of tuberculosis, flees for French-occupied Indochina, through the lush forests of Laos, to seek out a fabled spring of immortality that might allow her to return to her nine-year-old son.

Laos, 1936: Pierre Lazarie, a young academic turned Saigon bureaucrat, is sent by Adélie’s son, now an Army captain, to find his longlost mother. Although his assigned quest fulfills Pierre’s fantasy to travel up the exotic Mekong, he is saddled with his colleague Henri LeDallic, an Indochina old-timer who would rather glory in his loutish past than hunt for ghosts in the jungle. Yet what this mismatched pair discovers forms the mysterious heart of Adam Lewis Schroeder’s brilliant and compelling new novel.

Bridging history from 1890s Aix-en-Provence to American involvement in 1950s Vietnam, In the Fabled East is a rich and sensual depiction of Southeast Asia, charting the loss of innocence of both individuals and the world at large. Echoing Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad, this is historical fiction written with wisdom and panache.

Friday, April 9, 2010

64. Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000

Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 by Eric Wight (US) - (Canada)
Frankie Pickle, Book 2

Pages: 87 pages
Ages: 7-10
Finished: Apr. 7, 2010
First Published: Feb. 9, 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: children, humour, graphic novel hybrid
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Preeeesenting...The Prince of Peril...The Sultan of Suspense...The Duke of Danger...The Amazing Piccolini!!

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series, read aloud to my son.

Summary: Frankie Pickle is the only member of his Possum Scout group who didn't earn enough points to move up to the next level so he decides to participate in the annual model car derby. If he can win he will earn enough points to move up with everyone else.

Comments: My son is really enjoying Frankie Pickle! Being a cub scout himself and participating each year in the cub car rally, he knew exactly what Frankie was facing. He laughed out loud when he saw the race tracks they had to run and found plenty of other moments to laugh as well. This book is a combination of text with graphic panels interwoven throughout. Frankie's imagination often runs away with him and in these instances the format will turn into a graphic novel as he becomes a magician, superhero, artist, race car driver, etc.

The story is a lot of fun from a kid's point of view but what I also like as a parent is the family dynamics of the Piccolini's. Frankie's parents are a vital part of the story, especially the dad this time, and Frankie is a respectful kid with no backtalk or whining. Frankie learns a lesson in the end about asking for help and being a good sportsman. This is a great follow up to Closet of Doom and we look forward to book 3 due out later this year, The Mathematical Menace.

The Sword in the Stone (Early Reader)

The Sword in the Stone by Grace Maccarone. Illustrated by Joe Boddy (US) - (Canada)
(Hello Reader! Level 2)

1992, 32 pgs.
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Long ago, there was a land without a king.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me as his reader.

A very basic bones representation of the King Arthur story telling the part where Merlin claims whoever can remove the stone from the sword will be the king. All kinds of princes try at no avail and then Merlin tricks the boy Arthur into pulling the sword form the stone. We picked this one up this week as we needed a quick read for ds and I'm rather more impressed with the story than I thought I would be. He laughed and certainly enjoyed the story and the pictures, though he already knows parts of the Arthurian legend. Reading level was spot on for him, mostly easy with a few harder words to make the book a learning opportunity as well. A fun easy reader.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

63. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson (US) - (Canada)
The Mrs. Tim Quartet, Book 1

Pages: 331 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 6, 2010
First Published: 1932 (Apr. 13, 2010 US Bloomsbury Group re-issue)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: fiction, epistolary, British cozy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

First January

Tim wakes up very peevish after last night's celebrations in Mess (how strange the after effects of enjoyment on the human frame!).

Acquired: Received a review copy from Bloomsbury USA.

Reason for Reading: I have been reading all the Bloomsbury Group series of books.

Summary: Mrs. Tim is the wife of Captain Tim, they have two children a boy and a girl and live with the Regiment in England. Mrs. Tim writes in her diary from the period of January to June detailing the daily life she lives paying particular attention to the eccentric characters surrounding her and the humorous events that can happen in simple village life. Then Mrs. Tim's life is unsettled as the Captain is transferred to a posting in Scotland to work away from the Regiment and Mrs. Tim finds herself living within a civilian community in a new country where she must start all over again (as is the way in army life) meeting new people and learning new ways.

Comments: This book is a treasure! I've read five of the six books in this publisher's series to date and this is by far my absolute favourite! The book was written in 1932, the time period of the story is never given and it is easy to assume the book is to be read as contemporary. Mrs. Tim is a wonderful character in her early thirties, friendly, caring, happy to get into innocent mischief and wonderful at bantering between the sexes with her husband. Captain Tim, himself, doesn't play a large part in the book. He is there often enough to be a fully defined character but he's off to work each day leaving Hester time to get up to her escapades or be caught up in someone else's.

Not too far into the book the move to Scotland is made and this is where the main plot of the story takes place. Hester meets all sorts of eccentric characters who are not too keen on befriending service people. She does make great friends with her next door neighbour, an elderly lady with a lot of spunk, whom she tells of her strange encounters with the villagers. Then Hester is invited to stay with her neighbour at her cottage by the sea for a fortnight and finds they've been followed by the dashing Major Morley who delights in spending his time courting Mrs. Tim. She takes this in her stride but when her friend's Navy son also visits and vies for her attentions the hilarity ensues but Hester will let the men make fools of themselves charmingly a they know she is a devoted wife.

Truly wonderful writing, with real people that one can imagine. Though full of eccentricities they are not overdone and one can simply imagine people one meets in real life having a few of these foibles. D.E. Stevenson brings every single one of the people you meet on these pages come to life and love them, whether they are likable are not. Some of them are lovable because they are so unlikeable. I'd love to see this played out as one of those British television series. I'll say the first 70 pages were the slowest read for me then after that I spent a whole day and stayed up late that night until I finished the book. I love epistolary books, this one being a series of diary entries, one point being they are so fast to read. It is so easy to just keep reading one more entry until the next thing you know time has slipped away from you. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is laugh out loud hilarious and if I had to choose one Bloomsbury Group book for you to read this would be the one. If you like British cozies, don't miss out on this book!

I am so thankful that this is the first in a quartet, hopefully Bloomsbury intend to publish the rest of the books eventually as none of the others are still in print. I'll wait a bit and see what happens before otherwise trying to hunt them down through the Inter-Library system.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

15. Book Tour: The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 432
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 29, 2010
First Published: Apr. 13, 2010
Genre: thriller, Christian Fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"Thank you, detective. We'll take it from here."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Hachette Book Group and agreed to participate in this Book Tour.

Reason for Reading: I loved my first Dekker book, The Boneman's Daughters, and *had* to read this.

Summary: FBI special agent Brad Raines is called onto a case where women have been found posed and glued to the wall of abandoned barns, wearing a bridal veil and having the blood drained from them. The serial killer has been nicknamed The Bride Collector and things get personal when Raines finds a note taped to living room window of his high rise apartment. Raines' investigation takes him to an upscale rural psychiatric hospital that only treats those with high intelligence. It is here he meets Paradise a young woman who barely escaped from her father's murder of her family. Though a diagnosed schizophrenic Paradise has a talent that Brad is willing to enlist, when Paradise touches a dead body she sees the ghostly images of the deceased's last sights and sounds.

Comments: This was a thrilling, incredibly fast page-turning read for me. I had each page poised for turning at just the right moment so there would be no interruption in the flow of my reading. I loved this book. Two things in particular really grabbed me: one being the serial killer aspect, the other being the psychiatric angle. I have a special fascination for books that take place in psychiatric wards, hospitals or asylums and this aspect of the book was very well done. The patients were carefully chosen to suit this upscale hospital and were treated to learn how to focus on and express their intellectual or artistic "talents" with a minimum of medications. Whether there is any veracity to this method, does not really interest me to dig any deeper. However, I am deeply interested in exploring the high functioning intelligence of persons with mental disorders and I really enjoyed the motley crew of characters Dekker presented with various extreme disorders and while giving each full respect.

Brad Raines is an intense, likable, fully developed main character who carries his own dark psychological pain. Often in stand-alone thriller/mysteries characterization is thrown out the window in favour of plot but Dekker manages both equally well. Brad has a complete back story and range of emotions. He is a character the reader can relate to and feel for from the beginning.

The plot is top-notch thriller entertainment. A gruesome serial killer, driven by religious delusions is pure evil. The third person narrative switches back and forth from the investigation to the killer, making the identity of the killer known to the reader from the beginning and putting the emphasis on the detecting and the motives. There are many twists and shocks along the way, including a main character becoming a victim to the serial killer. Differently from The Boneman's Daughter, this book does contain quite a bit of Christian material. The killer is delusional and rants about his God given reason for the killings and at one point Brad uses this against the killer by theologically answering each of his statements. It becomes heady stuff, which I quite enjoyed but may not be to everyone's tastes. Dekker certainly does have a taste for the macabre when it comes to serial killers as evidenced by The Bride Collector and his previous book. I really enjoy that he hasn't fallen into the series trap yet and hope he brings us another standalone for his next thriller, which I anxiously await. In the meantime I have some of his more mainstream Christian Fiction to read.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Random Reading Challenge Pick for April

At the beginning of this month I used to pick a number for me then I went to the piles of books I have on my bedroom floor and counted out that book. It's been a few days now and I've forgotten what number came up, but my April book for the Random Reading Challenge is.............

The Texicans by Nina Vida

When cholera strikes San Antonio in 1843, Aurelia Ruiz discovers that she might have the power to heal—and also to curse. Meanwhile, Joseph Kimmel, a schoolteacher in Missouri and the son of a Polish Jew, learns of his brother’s death in San Antonio and sets off for Texas. On his way, a runaway slave steals his horse. After being rescued by Henry Castro, a man who is importing immigrants to populate his planned city, Castroville, Joseph agrees to marry a young Alsatian girl to save her from a Comanche chief who has demanded her. Then Joseph encounters Aurelia and becomes enamored with her.

Comanches, Tonkaways, Mexican vaqueros, immigrant farmers, and runaway slaves all play a part in Joseph’s rebirth as a rancher, but when a renegade band of Texas Rangers descends upon the ranch, everything changes.

Monday: Books in the Mail

The books keep rolling in. I'm strapped for time today so will just post a list. This will be my last books in the mail post until May as I will be visiting my family in Calgary for the month of April. But I'll still be reading lots and posting my reviews as I go out there twice a year for my health, to take it easy and basically do nothing. So I get lots of reading time. I pack a few clothes, toiletries and then fill my suitcases and carry on luggage full of books and I'm ready!

For Review:
The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon by David Almond
Potter's Field by Mark Waid
The Passage by Justin Cronin
The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson
In the Fabled East by Adam Lewis Schroeder
Lamb Bright Saviors by Robert Vivian
Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo

From Marcia at The Printed Page
Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo

62. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (US) - (Canada)
Forest of Hands & Teeth, Book 2

Pages: 407 pages
Ages: 14+
Finished: Apr. 3, 2010
First Published: Mar. 9, 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: YA, post-apocalyptic, horror
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The story goes that even after the Return they tried to keep the roller coasters going.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Summary: Gabry lives a safe, secure life in a village beside the ocean and behind a Barrier to protect them from the Mudo (zombies). She lives in the lighthouse with her mother who is the lighthouse keeper whose main job is to kill the occasional Mudo who washes ashore each morning. Gabry loves her life and has no wish to ever leave the safety, as from what she has learned in school, the stories her mother has told her and what she can see with her own eyes from the top of the lighthouse the world beyond is anything but safe. But one night a group of her friends bring her along with them as they breach the Barrier and go to the old amusement park. It is there that all there lives will forever change and Gabry will ultimately leave the village never to return.

Comments: I loved this book! Contrary to early reports that Carrie Ryan was writing a parallel novel and the misleading "a companion novel" printed on the front cover of the book this is indeed a direct sequel to the first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The book takes place many years later, with a new generation of teens, in a different village but there are a couple of return characters from book one. It's difficult to review without giving away anything from either book but the main character, Gabry, in Dead-Tossed Waves is a complete contrast to the first books' main character, Mary. In fact, I'd say that the two books themselves are contrasts.

Gabry's village is part of the Protectorate: the group of surviving villages. Gabry's world is real; she knows what is out there beyond the barrier; she knows how likely it would be to become infected by the Mudo and become one herself. Gabry's mother has knowledge of the outside world and she helps Gabry feel safe in her village by reinforcing in her how deadly it is out there. This turns Gabry into a scared, weak character that must grow as the book progresses as she is thrown into that world and must deal with the challenges she faces. From one who has read the first book, we can see this is all in contrast to the circumstances and the personal character of that book's main protagonist, Mary.

I must say I deeply felt for Gabry as a character. Her whole world is turned upside down and it is a pleasure to watch her grow from the reluctant, scared girl to a worthy, decision-making, fighting member of her group. There are some twists which were fun as I did not guess them. In fact from early on, I had figured one thing out in my mind as being so obvious I wished the book would hurry up and reveal it, but when it finally did I was sooo wrong! Ha on me! I love it when that happens! Great book, I loved it just as much as the first one. Lots of zombie action, though not as violent as the first book, but certainly a very dark plot, characters die and characters do bad things. Don't expect any happy endings for anyone. The next book, which I'm presuming will be the last, trilogy anyone?, should prove to be very intriguing in whether the author gets the characters together for the best and one wonders how it will all finish in the end. Eagerly awaiting the next volume!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Wow! What a Commercial!

What a compelling, emotional seatbelt commercial!

61. The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Catholic Catechism

The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Catholic Catechism by Mary DeTurris Poust with Theological Advisor David I. Fulton, STD, JCD (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 296 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 31, 2010
First Published: Mar. 4, 2008
Publisher: Alpha
Genre: non-fiction, religion
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

In truth, reading the entire official Catechism from cover to cover would be monumental project.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Personal edification.

Comments: After making sure the book had an Imprimatur (which declares the book free of doctrinal error) I was eager to read this book. I have been a convert for one year now and don't see myself reading the official Catechism from front to back anytime soon, though I do intend to tackle that project one day. I have also never purchased a "Complete Idiot's Guide" to anything before but the general good reviews convinced me to purchase the book.

The book follows the same order of the Catechism and has all the numbers referenced and actually quotes from at times. The book is written in an easy to understand layman's voice but that doesn't stop it from getting into some deep theological issues. I often read some parts over more than once to truly grasp the truth.

I feel like I have learned so much just by reading this book. I'm certainly much more informed, am able to answer non-Catholic's questions, have much more insight into the commandments, the apostle's creed and the Our Father. Many of my questions were answered and many things I wasn't quite sure what exactly the Church meant when it said something I would have big light bulb moments. I've also had some truths brought to my attention that I hadn't considered before and feel greatly rewarded for that alone. The book can be read quite quickly but I spent some time with it, reading a chapter at a time, taking it slowly. A fabulous book for details on the teachings of the Church.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Friday Hymn

The Good Friday service at Catholic Church is one of the most Holy and emotional services we have. When the Father prostrates himself, the veneration of the cross, the special prayers and the hymns, I am crying equal measures of sadness and joy that I can't explain. The tears just flow. Here is the last hymn we sung yesterday afternoon. Tonight we finish the Holy Triduum with Easter Vigil, which will mark our one year anniversary as Catholic converts. Peace be with you.

Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker (Toon Book)

Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker by Geoffrey Hayes (US) - (Canada)
A Toon Book

Pages: 32 pages
Ages: 6+
Finished: Mar. 31, 2010
First Published: Apr. 6, 2010
Publisher: Toon Books
Genre: children's easy reader, graphic novel
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Benny? What are you making?

Acquired: Received a review copy from Raw Junior, LLC.

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

Summary: Benny and Penny have just got everything all prepared to play pirate treasure map when their mom announces that cousin Bo has arrived to play. Cousin Bo wrecks everything so Benny and Penny quickly hide all the toys they can see, including their newly made treasure map. At first B & P don't want to play with Bo, then Bo finds a few toys, breaking them, then he finds the map and takes off with it and a chase pursues with everyone becoming rather rude to one another, both sides end up with troubles, apologies are made and then they find a game to play where nothing can get broken.

Comments: This book is just at the level for my struggling reader where he almost has no problems at all. He can pretty much fly through the reading with only a few stumbles. Even though he is a bit older that the intended age he finds the antics of Benny and Penny comic and doesn't feel like the book is too young for him at all. He has read the other Benny and Penny books and I think this one may just be his favourite as he certainly had a lot of fun with the story. Myself, I can't say enough good things for any Toon Book. I've never been disappointed yet. This, like all the rest, is engaging, funny, and entices my struggling reader to want to read more than I ask of him in a sitting. A good read and a fun story.

Friday, April 2, 2010

60. Bite Me by Christopher Moore

Bite Me by Christopher Moore (US) - (Canada)
A Love Story, Book 3

Pages: 309 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 31, 2010
First Published: Mar. 23, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: humour, vampires
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The City of San Francisco is being stalked by a huge, shaved vampyre cat named Chet, and only I, Abby Normal, emergency backup mistress of the Greater Bay area night, and my manga-haired love monkey, Foo Dog, stand between the ravenous monster and a bloody massacre of the general public.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series and I read every new book Moore publishes.

Summary: The first sentence pretty much covers the plot.

Comments: Christopher Moore manages to bring back everybody (that isn't really dead) from the previous books, adding a new character, and inserting a couple of characters from previous books for extra measure. Abby, Foo Dog and Jared have much bigger parts this time around leaving some of my favourite characters from the previous books with much lesser page time. The Animals don't even go turkey bowling once! That said the story is hugely comical with plenty of typical Moore laugh out loud moments. I love all the characters in this series and really enjoyed the Emperor and the two cops having bigger roles in this book. As to Jody and Tommy, I won't say much but I will say the ending is surprising and I didn't like it very much as someone who really cares about these characters. One thing I love about Moore's books is that he manages to reward his constant readers by bringing in past characters for cameos and this time Lily the Goth girl from A Dirty Job shows up and there is a certain white Rastaman Kona who pilots a ship who has got to be Rastaman Kona from Fluke (especially with the "Bite Me" connection). I love his character! In all, a whole lot of insane hilarity with vampyre cats, an old samurai Japanese guy, and the usual main crowd of eccentric characters. A definite read for Moore fans. If you haven't read the other books in the series I suggest you start at the beginning with Bloodsucking Fiends for the most enjoyment.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

59. Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

Shen of the Sea: Chinese Stories for Children by Arthur Bowie Chrisman. illustrated by Else Hasselriis (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 221 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: Mar. 31, 2010
First Published: 1925
Publisher: E.P. Dutton
Genre: short stories, folktales
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

"A shamelessly rainy day, my honorable Brother Chi."

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 9yo son. We always have a book of folktales, fairy tales, myths, etc. on the go, reading one story every school day.

Comments: I have read this book once before to myself some time ago, as an adult, and came away with the impression that it was OK (maybe 3 stars) but now I think I've found out the problem with that first reading. This book is meant to be read aloud! The stories are told in a storyteller voice that just rolls of the tongue when reading out loud and brings them gloriously to life. The stories are hilarious and I can't say that my ds or I didn't like even a single one the tales. I'm not convinced these are traditional Chinese stories (I've read a lot of folktales in my life and never heard any of these before) but would guess that Chrisman wrote them himself based on the style of Chinese tales. The tales often rely on repetition, some are origin stories and they cover a wide spectrum of characters from peasants to princesses and Kings. A number of the stories are about someone who is not too bright or is incredibly lazy or stubborn. While the great majority of tales are folktales a few pass over into fairytale territory with the appearance of a few dragons and other Chinese mythical creatures. Every single time this book came out my son's face lit up, he thoroughly enjoyed it! I also had a ton of fun reading it. This book has a habit of getting mixed reviews and to those who give it low ratings, I ask you to read aloud a couple of stories to a child or group of children. Then see if you don't change your mind! I've found in my 21 years as a mother that some children's books just beg to be read aloud and don't do the trick when read silently. The only thing I'm not too keen on are the silhouette illustrations. Yes, they add to the ethnicity of the book but detailed drawings would have been more fun to look at.