Tuesday, August 31, 2010

7 Book Giveaway!!!! Contest!!!!

This contest will end Sept. 30

1. These books are all ARCs that I have read once; that is an advanced reader's copy, though they may be called by different names such as bound galley, advance uncorrected galley, uncorrected proof, etc. If you've never seen one of these before, they look like trade paperbacks.

2. TO ENTER leave a comment below. That's it! No hoops to jump through, but I'd sure appreciate it if you signed up over there in the sidebar as a follower if you aren't already :-)

3. Leave ONE comment with the name of the book(s) you'd like to be entered for to win. You can enter for more than one book, but you can only WIN one book. So we will have SEVEN individual winners, each receiving ONE book. Make sense? OK!

4. If you leave more than ONE comment, extras will be deleted. Winners will be picked randomly using random.org. Winners will be listed sometime after Sept. 30. Hopefully the next day :-)

5. Open to US/Canada residents only. Sorry, but I can't afford overseas postage.

6. Make sure you leave an email in your comment or already have it listed in your profile. You can't win if I can't email you!

Take Your Pick:

1. The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber
2. Trackers by Patrick Carman
3. Fisherman's Bend by Linda Greenlaw
4. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
5. Wolven by Di Toft
6. Manifest by Artist Arthur
7. The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt (ARC has different cover and title but comes with postcard announcing title & cover change)

172. Hail, Holy Queen by Scott Hahn

Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn. Foreward by Father Kilian Healy, O. Carm., (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 191
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 23, 2010
First Published: 2001
Publisher: Image Books
Genre: Catholic, Religion
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Mothers are the most difficult people to study.

Acquired: Bought my own copy.

Reason for Reading: Personal edification.

When I started my conversion process to Catholicism, I immediately felt the welcoming, warmth and peace of our Mother, the Blessed Virgin. Marian theology is something I really wanted to fully understand and this book is truly wonderful in describing Mary's place in the Bible, in the Church and in every Christian's life.

Hahn explains biblically why Mary is honoured by Catholics, and her central importance in the Christian Life (not just Catholic). First he goes through who Mary really *is*, then shows the parallels between the Old Testament and the New where references to and promises of Mary are made, he also explains Mary's role in Revelations. Using passages from the bible and quotes from early church writers we see how Mary was essential to Jesus' message. Scott Hahn calls Mary "the test" of Christianity. Jesus gave us his Mother!! What more proof do we need that He loves us? And how could we *not* honour her if we love Him.

Hahn has a wonderful narrative voice. He can speak clearly in layman's terms and often adds humour to make his book not only informative and inspirational but fun to read. The book does go pretty deep theologically and I did find myself reading passages twice or thrice to comprehend, but I am still new to studying theology. I had a lovely chat with our church Deacon about what I had learnt and had a few questions for him but it was wonderful to share the big lightbulb moments that went off in my head with him as I came to some realizations of Truth while reading the book. When reading this book (and possibly any book on Mary) one of the most powerful forces one realizes is just how much the Church respects women as a whole. One can see this every time one attends a Mass but when reading about the role of Mary, Mother, Bride and Queen in any Church teaching it is simply beautiful to find a place in today's world that still respects and honours women as women. An extremely enlightening book. No Catholic should go without reading it and Protestants with an inquiring mind will find it interesting to learn what Catholic beliefs really are from this ex-Presbyterian minister author.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck by Nathaniel Benchley

The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck by Nathaniel Benchley. Pictures by Arnold Lobel (OUT OF PRINT)

Pages: 64
Ages: 6+
Finished: Aug. 23, 2010
First Published: 1967
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: Children, easy reader
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Arthur Cluck was a very young chicken

Acquired: Bought my own copy secondhand.

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

Benchley and Lobel pair up once again for another book in this popular series. This is a cute story. Mrs. Cluck can't find her son, Arthur, one day and goes around asking all the farm animals if they've seen him. They are all absolutely useless until she comes to the cow who suggests she talks to Ralph the barn owl. Ralph tells her he can't help her in the daytime but when he goes out at night he'll look for Arthur. The story takes a turn as we follow Ralph as he searches the barn, farmyard and woods at night looking for lost Arthur Cluck. How he finds him is good for a giggle inducing ending. No need to comment really on the illustrations, they are just as wonderful as one expects from Arnold Lobel even though he has a limited palette of greens and yellows with black added for the night scenes.

It's strange that they've let this one go out-of-print with the popular author/artist combo and a story that is timeless. I do prefer these older books over the modern ones as they are more phonetically sound and a reader can decode new or large words easily enough more often than not, while the modern ones throw in impossibly non-phonetic words that leave a struggling reader frustrated.

Monday: Books in the Mail

A busy mailbox for me last M-W. It felt like it was raining delivery men! I was thankful Thurs & Fri. gave me some breathing room, though.

Here are the goodies:

From Harper Collins Canada:

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

MY COVER IS DIFFERENT and I can't find my cover online at all. If my scanner weren't broken I'd show you my non-"love story" cover (which they must have changed at the last moment to try and attract the twilight set, but the first one was such a "boy" book, I think the cover I have is excellent!!

Zachariah Thomson has spent the past year getting used to the idea that his best friend, Charlie, and the lovely Luna are now vampires, like him. As they learn to cope with the changes this brings, a mysterious creature appears. Likened to the Beast of the Apocalypse, it begins to dismantle the network of support around Zack, who discovers he is more than just an orphaned vampire – he is the subject of an ancient prophecy that relates to the End of Days. As friends and enemies, old and new, throw his world into chaos, he is forced to re-examine what it means to be good at a time when it seems that only the strong and ruthless can survive.

Where dreams turn into living nightmares! When twin sisters Amber and Jeanie are accepted into an exclusive Australian boarding school, their future looks bright. But the school's halls harbor a terrible secret: students have been known to wander into the surrounding bushlands and vanish...without a trace! No one knows where they went, or why. But as Amber and Jeanie are about to learn, the key to the school's dark past may lie in the world of their dreams... Omnibus collection of all 3 volumes.

From Scholastic Canada:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

From Belle Bridge Books:

The Blues were born out of need, anger and pride. Murder comes from those same dark places. Memphis has both. One of Memphis' most seductive and notorious socialites has vanished. Either she's off on another drunken escapade or the disappearance is something much more frightening. What begins as an ordinary day's work for Detective Billy Able quickly grows into a complex spider's web of tragedy, mystery, suspicion, and sordid secrets including a few of Billy's own. With the help of Mercy Snow, the estranged sister of the missing socialite, Billy follows a twisted trail of human frailty and corruption to disturbing truths that undermine everything he thought he knew about himself and the people he loves. "Memphis, the Mississippi River, and the underbelly of human nature they're all exposed in the dark brew of this fast-paced Southern Gothic suspense.

From Simon & Schuster Canada:

Meeting Sylvette SuedeLag almost breaks the record time on his Letter Bee test, securing a job as a Letter Bee! But his celebration ends with unwelcome news: the record holder, Gauche Suede, is no longer a Letter Bee! Shocked, Lag seeks out Gauche's little sister Sylvette to learn exactly what happened. But Sylvette has no answers, only memories and a broken heart. Gauche would never abandon his sister like that! Could it be he lost his heart...or his life?!

From Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze program:

This story is for everyone--but not everyone is for this story.

It is a dangerous tale of times past. A torrid love story full of deep seduction. A story of terrible longing and bold sacrifice.

Then as now, evil begins its courtship cloaked in light. And the heart embraces what it should flee. Forgetting it once had a truer lover.

With a kiss, evil will ravage body, soul, and mind. Yet there remains hope, because the heart knows no bounds.

Love will prove greater than lust. Sacrifice will overcome seduction. And blood will flow.

Because the battle for the heart is always violently opposed. For those desperate to drink deep from this fountain of life, enter.

But remember, not everyone is for this story.

From The Catholic Company:

Fr. Augustine Tolton (1854-1897) was the first black priest in the United States. Born into a black Catholic slave family, Father Tolton conquered almost insurmountable odds to become a Catholic priest, and at his early death at 43, this pioneer black American priest left behind a shining legacy of holy service to God, the Church and his people.
With the thorough scholarly research and inspirational writing by Sister Caroline Hemesath, the great legacy of this first black priest, and his courage in the face of incredible prejudice within the Church and society, will be a source of strength and hope for modern Christians who face persecution for their faith, especially black Catholics who still experience similar prejudices. In American history, many black people have achieved, against great odds, success and made distinct contributions to our society and their fellowman. But Father Tolton faced a different source of prejudice—an opposition from within the Church, the one institution he should have been able to rely on for compassion and support.

He endured many rebuffs, as a janitor spent long hours in the church chapel in prayer, and attended clandestine classes taught by friendly priests and nuns who saw in his eyes the bright spark of the love of God, devotion to the Church and a determination to serve his people. Denied theological training in America, these friends helped him to receive his priestly education, and ordination, in Rome. He later became the pastor of St. Monica's Church in Chicago and established a center at St. Monica's which was the focal point for the life of black Catholics in Chicago for 30 years.

And finally a box FULL of Stone Arch Books early reader graphic novels plus a few chapter books, from Capstone Press. Most of these my son will be reading himself, though there are a few too advanced for him which will be read to him. There are too many books to list or show here but you'll start seeing them in reviews soon.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

171. Jack of Fables: Americana

Jack of Fables: Americana by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges. Art by Russ Braun & Tony Atkins (Canada) - (USA)
Jack of Fables, Volume 4

Pages: 128
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 22, 2010
First Published: Dec. 16, 2008
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy, fairy tales
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Somewhere along interstate 10, in New Mexico.

Acquired: Received a copy through Inter Library Loan. This one actually came from "the city" we used to travel to from our small town when I was a kid, Guelph, ON.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The first four chapters, which covers the majority of the book, concern the title story arc, "Americana". Jack and Gary now have Humpty and Raven accompanying them on their travels and Humpty has just told them about "Americana" another land of Fables where all the American Fables live. There is a secret horde of gold there and Humpty has a map to the treasure and knows how to get there. Jack's greed readily accepts the journey and off they go to make there fortune. Little do they know that Hilary Page has been studying her maps and finally found the way to Americana herself. Bringing Paul Bunyan and Babe, residents of this land, along with her she secretly takes off from Golden Boughs but it doesn't take long for the two groups to meet up with each other. Using a little blackmail, they are stuck together as a group.

This was just a real fun issue with some new Fables to meet, most just briefly. Most of the story is to simply enjoy the bickering dynamics between the group of characters and we get to know Humpty and Raven a lot better. I like Raven, on the surface he isn't really much better than Jack, but he has his spirit bird who goads him into doing the right things and he does actually have a sense of decency that Jack lacks. There is a story arc that does move the overall plot along, though, that starts when the gang drop by a town inhabited by zombies. The guy in charge here has ulterior motives, causes problems and will be integral to the continuing story line.

The final chapter of the volume is a postscript story that goes back to the days of the Golden Bough before Jack arrived and Gary tried to organize a performance of Hamlet, with himself as the star. This is a fun interlude that stars previously shown but never featured Alice along with Wicked John and it also shows us a completely different side of Gary we've never seen before. All in all a humorous issue that is mainly for entertainment value but does have a small overall story arc that introduces a new bad guy to the series.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

170. A Family Affair by Caro Peacock

A Family Affair by Caro Peacock (Canada) - (USA)
Liberty Lane Mysteries, #3

Pages: 440 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 22, 2010
First Published: 2009 UK (Jun, 22, 2010 US)
Publisher: Avon A
Genre: historical mystery
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

London, June 1839

At one end of the lists the Knight of the Green Tree was fighting to control his horse, a raw-boned chestnut hunter of sixteen hands or so, over bitted- and nervous of the flags fluttering in the breeze.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

I like to think of the Liberty Lane series as one of my guilty pleasures. I know I'm in for a quick dip immersion into the Victorian era with a light mystery and an easy read. I also know Liberty is not going to get into a romance with anyone, though someone will probably be trying to play matchmaker for her but Liberty has more important things to do as a "private intelligencer", a name coined for her line of work by her friend and politician Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli also is in the habit of bringing work her way and that is how Liberty gets her case in this book.

A classic tale of the class system, the Lord is in a private asylum and close to death at which point the Lady announces that the eldest son is not the Lord's legal heir throwing doubt on his legitimacy and placing the younger son in line to inherit the estate. Thus, the Lady then retires from talking about it. Liberty is hired by the lawyer to find out if the Lady is lying or simply mad. He has no interest if she is telling the truth; it is simply not an option. But Liberty finds out much more than legitimate birthrights are being kept secret when she arrives on the scene and a servant is found dead packed away in a barrel and the eldest son has simply vanished. She takes it on her own initiative to solve the answers to the many questions, secrets and mysteries she encounters at Brinkburn Hall.

I have to say this has been my absolute favourite of the Liberty Lane mysteries by far! Liberty Lane is still written too far on the modern side to be entirely believable but having got to know the character through the three books, I don't really care anymore. She is a fun heroine, not afraid to go where the danger leads her and full of simple derring-do. I loved the mystery this time as well. I had all sorts of ideas wandering around in my mind; I did figure out one of the elements but so much was going on by the end it was a complete surprise when the shocking reveal came out. I read the first half of the book at a leisurely pace enjoying the new characters and setting which revolves around the Victorian love for all things medieval and includes the ill-fated joust, the Eglinton Tournament. Then the second half was quick paced as all the secrets started unraveling and danger threatened. I thoroughly enjoyed this book in the series and eagerly await the next. Historical mystery fans and lovers of cozy mysteries alike will enjoy this romp with Liberty Lane.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Have teens? Grab them now and watch this together! It should be required that every teen hear this guy speak. Amazing!

169. Death on the River by John Wilson

Death on the River by John Wilson (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 193
Ages: 15+
Finished: Aug. 18, 2010
First Published: Oct.1, 2009
Publisher: Orca Books
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I pull back the thin blanket and swing my legs over the edge of the bed.

Acquired: Received a review copy through LibraryThing's Early Review Program.

Reason for Reading: John Wilson is a Canadian author whom I have read a few books of and enjoyed. I also enjoy reading Civil War historical fiction.

This is a dark, merciless book which shows one side of war, its heinous toll on life, the bloody injured victims and those people whose characters will let them take advantage of the less fortunate in any situation. The story is that of a just turned 18 year-old, Jake Clay, who joins the Union Army because his brother whom he looked up to was killed in the war. Fresh in uniform he is involved in a battle in which he is taken POW and sent to the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, one of the worst in history. Thus the story goes on to tell the tale of the prison inmates and daily life, through the eyes of young Jake, as he is taken under wing of an immoral Billy Sharp who knows how to survive at any cost.

A page-turning story and almost too horrible to believe it is based on truth. The author pulls no punches and there are many brutal, disturbing scenes. Though the author does write them in a stark matter-of-fact way without becoming needlessly gruesome in the details. They are true to life and there is one scene in particular that I don't think I'll ever forget. Jake is a realistic character and one who not only suffers physically but also suffers with his morals and that he cannot always remain humane in an inhumane world.

Certainly a unique Civil War story for teens, told through the eyes of a POW. The publisher's recommended age is 12+, however I don't agree with that. I think the book is more appropriate for older teens. Along with all the violence I've mentioned, the protagonist is 18 years old, and the language includes continuous use of the sh- word, along with every conceivable rendition of taking the Lord's name in vain I ever thought possible. For older teens and grown-ups who like to read YA, I heartily recommend the book for an eye-opening look into a nasty piece of US history.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

168. Trackers by Patrick Carman

Trackers by Patrick Carman (Canada) - (USA)
Trackers, Book 1

Pages: 224
Ages: 10+
Finished: Aug. 18, 2010
First Published: May 11, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Children, science fiction, intrigue
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

How far back can you go Adam?

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: I became a huge fan of Carman's after reading the Atherton series and was excited to read another book by him.

A book entirely written as an interview, an interrogation. 15 year-old Adam is being questioned by someone to go back to the beginning and tell them what happened. We have no idea who is doing the interviewing, though the assumption is that is that it is high ranking officials, either military or government. Though whether that assumption is true I have not ascertained and part of me highly doubts. Right from the beginning we are teased with foreshadowing, told that something awful has happened and this foreshadowing continues throughout the book. Adam's three cohorts are used as bargaining chips to keep him talking as he does not know what has happened to them, if they are well and if these "officials" also have them, as they claim.

Through this Q&A format Adam tells the story of how he, a computer high-tech savvy expert with multitudes of invented gadgets and access to any computer in the world meets up with three other teens of various abilities who join together to help the world by tracking down online hackers and fixing weak security systems while leaving behind anonymous notes. They call themselves "Trackers" and they also physically go out on test runs with the gadgets Adam has invented while he stays back at the control room running the operation. They get pulled into a dangerous game when Adam is contacted by an attractive female teen who challenges him to a cyber game he can't refuse. Next thing he knows his system has been hacked, all his inventions and files stolen and now he is at the mercy of this young woman and a menacing man named Laslo who force him and his team to participate in criminal activities but Adam thinks he can outsmart them in the end. Obviously, due to the current interrogation, something drastically went wrong.

I loved this story. It was a page turner. Each of the four teens were exceptional individuals, from different backgrounds and each was extremely likable in their own unique way. I am very eager to get on with the story in book 2.

Trackers is very unique itself in that it combines video with text. Throughout the book, as the interview was progressing a file would be introduced and Adam would pull up a video that proved what he was saying was true. At this point the reader who has already been directed to a website inserts the password and has the opportunity to watch an actual video of the characters in action. There may also be other things for the reader to do such as examine items in evidence, schematics, etc. I must say this is extraordinarily cool. Unfortunately, I only have internet access on a PC shared with family members. I did watch the first couple of videos this way, but if I had had to read a bit then wait a turn on the computer before continuing to read on it would have taken me weeks to finish the book! Fortunately, for those not able to enjoy the instant gratification of the videos each is included as a written transcript as an appendix at the back of the book and this is the way I eventually ended up reading the book. It did not deter my enjoyment at all. A very exciting, unique, intriguing story!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

OT: Archbishop Chaput calls for resistance to intolerance of Christianity

"Nobody gets to dictate to Catholics how to exercise our religion, and if you try, you'll have to kill us. That is all."

*I'm only going to post comments from those interested in the topic. Those who want to debate can go to the link and do so.*

167. Revolver by Matt Kindt

Revolver by Matt Kindt (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 192
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 19, 2010
First Published: Jul. 20, 2010
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: Graphic novel, post-apocalyptic, magical realism
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I do the same thing every morning.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: Pure Plot. I love post-apocalyptic stories.

This is a dark, oppressive story from every angle and will not be for everyone. The art is done with stark, spidery sketches done in blue, black & tan which at first glance were quite different to what I'm used to but as the story progressed I felt they really added to the atmosphere of the plot and contributed to the stark, oppressiveness.

Sam is a lazy guy stuck in a dead end job, who is belittled by his domineering boss and is plagued by his materialistic girlfriend. One morning, on his way to work there is a 9/11 type attack on his office building in Chicago, in fact, airplanes are crashing into major cities all over the US. Later reports of 'dirty bombs' are reported and the US goes into a state of post-apocalyptic survival. Sam is busy that day helping others get out of the building and making himself useful ending up with his boss who is in a state of shock. Sam has also found himself capable of viciously standing up for his survival ... no matter what. The next day he wakes up back in his regular life where the attack hasn't happened. And so Sam continues to live opposing days (and whenever he has a nap) one in which he must fight for his life everyday but he feels he has purpose to his life and one in which the world is safe and his life is boring as dirt. He must eventually choose which world to stay in.

I quite enjoyed the story, there is a lot of deep thinking involved, philosophizing and reading between the lines but I enjoyed the brain stretch. The ending is surprising and comes with unsaid but understood conclusions. All 3 characters are cliched, and one could pick on the author for his representation of female characters but when 2 out of 3 characters are female it is unfair to say he chose to especially stereotype the women. However, these stereotypes may have been used on purpose as Sam is not a likable character and the cliched women types bring out his unlikable characteristics purposefully. I think the story is worth reading and quite clever in its eventual climax and ending. One is left with a lot to think about.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

166. Lukey Paul From Labrador by Adelaide Leitch

Lukey Paul From Labrador by Adelaide Leitch. illustrated by Joe Rosenthal (Out of Print)
Buckskin Books, 10

Pages: 116 pages
Ages: 7+
Finished: Aug. 17, 2010
First Published: 1964
Publisher: Macmillan of Canada
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Lukey Paul ran to the outer rocks of Rattling Tickle.

Acquired: Purchased my own copy.

Reason for Reading: Read-aloud to the 10yo to go along with our history curriculum.

This little chapter book is part of the "Buckskin Books" series. Early chapter books meant for those who have just started reading on their own. The type is large and the line and a half spacing is used between text lines. The stories are all Canadian historical fiction and some popular Canadian authors & illustrators of the time pop up on the list of contributors.

Ten year-old Lukey Paul lives in Labrador and has caught himself a silver fox. He is especially proud as this fur is rare and should bring in a full winter's supply of provisions for himself and Uncle 'Lige. He catches a ride with Wilfred Grenfell on the Princess May as the doctor/missionary goes along the coast tending to peoples who need his care. Lukey is proud and selfish thinking only of his silver fox most of the time and in the end gets swindled for his fox. Later on, he learns a lesson that makes both him and others happy and satisfied in the end.

The story is very well-written, full of adventure and dangerous escapades as they travel on the sea. My son is partial to sea-stories so really enjoyed that aspect of the book. We learn quite a bit about Wilfred Grenfell as we watch him on this expedition along the coast and see what it was he did to aid the peoples in this region. His doctoring and teaching the "Eskimos" to produce items for re-sale are the main focus, and while the book doesn't dwell on it also doesn't shy away from his Christian mission. The "Eskimos" are portrayed with respect and not written down to as one might wonder about a book written from this era. I found nothing objectionable in the book at all, except, perhaps, the use of the word "Eskimo" but then that is the word that was used at the time the book was written and historically would be the correct term used in the 1890s although it would have been spelt Esquimaux. Another enjoyable out-of-print find for us.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

I'm running behind schedule today so let's just get straight to it! Shall we.

My mailbox finds last week:

From Harper Collins Canada:

Before his death, Kazuki's father told many stories about Artemis, a magical star not unlike their own, Planeto. Now an orphan living with his brother, Kazuki daydreams constantly about Artemis, despite his brother's warnings that the planet doesn't actually exist. Then one day, Kazuki runs into a girl from Artemis...who disappears and is quickly replaced by another girl...who puts a curse on him that he can't remove unless he finds the witch of Artemis...who happens to be the first girl he saw! But when he finds her, he discovers she's much more than just your typical sorceress. Magic and the struggles of growing up intertwine in this tale of learning to follow your instincts in spite of your best - or worst - intentions.

From the author:

Fish--nicknamed for his incredible swimming abilities--is a twelve-year-old boy from a poor farming family. After taking a job as a courier for his uncle, Fish is waylaid by pirates, who steal the package he's carrying. He soon learns that it's the key to locating the Chain of Chuacar, a legendary treasure. As he works to earn the trust of Cobb, the fortune-hunting captain of the Scurvy Mistress, Fish learns of a mutiny headed by a nasty pirate called Scab. With time running out to find the Chain, Fish and some fellow shipmates still loyal to Cobb must thwart Scab's dastardly plan.

From Macmillan:

Riley has crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. She has picked up life where she left off when she was alive, living with her parents and dog in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. When she’s summoned before The Council, she learns that the afterlife isn’t just an eternity of leisure. She’s been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a possibly cute, seemingly nerdy boy who’s definitely hiding something. They return to earth together for Riley’s first assignment, a Radiant Boy who’s been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But all of that was before he met Riley . . .

From Scholastic Canada:

Imagine Garth Hale's surprise when he's accidentally zapped to the spirit world by Frank Gallows, a washed-out ghost wrangler. Suddenly Garth finds he has powers the ghosts don't have, and he's stuck in a world run by the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, who would use Garth's newfound abilities to rule the ghostly kingdom. When Garth meets Cecil, his grandfather's ghost, the two search for a way to get Garth back home, and nearly lose hope until Frank Gallows shows up to fix his mistake.

In this all-new graphic novel, George Beard and Harold Hutchins present the sensational saga of two silly caveboys named Ook and Gluk. Ook and Gluk have a pretty awesome life growing up together in Caveland, Ohio, in 500,001 BC—even though they’re always getting in trouble with their nasty leader, Big Chief Goppernopper. But Ook and Gluk’s idyllic life takes a turn for the terrible when an evil corporation from the future invades their quiet, prehistoric town. When Ook, Gluk, and their little dinosaur pal, Lily, are pulled through a time portal to the year 2222 AD, they discover that the world of the future is even worse than the devastated one they came from. Fortunately, they find a friend in Master Wong, a martial arts instructor who trains them in the ways of kung fu, so that they may one day return home and make things right again. And, like the other Captain Underpants books, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future features the world’s cheesiest animation technology, “Flip-O-Rama,” in every chapter.

From Atria's Alley Galley Promotion:

In the Highlands of 1950s Scotland, a boy is found dead in a canal lock. Two young girls tell such a fanciful story of his disappearance that no one believes them. The local newspaper staff—including Joanne Ross, the part-time typist embroiled in an abusive marriage, and her boss, a seasoned journalist determined to revamp the paper—set out to uncover and investigate the crime. Suspicion falls on several townspeople, all of whom profess their innocence. Alongside these characters are the people of the town and neighboring glens; a refugee Polish sailor; an Italian family whose cafÉ boasts the first known cappuccino machine in the north of Scotland; and a corrupt town clerk subverting the planning laws to line his own pocket.

Together, these very different Scots harbor deep and troubling secrets underneath their polished and respectable veneers—revelations that may prevent the crime from being solved and may keep the town firmly in the clutches of its shadowy past.

From Penguin Group (Canada):

Part epic adventure, part romance, and part true-crime thriller, Coppermine is a dramatic, compelling, character-driven story set in 1917 in the extremes of Canada's far north and the boom town of Edmonton.
The story begins when two missionaries disappear in the remote Arctic region known as the Coppermine. North West Mounted Police officer Jack Creed and Angituk, a young Copper Inuit interpreter, are sent on a year-long odyssey to investigate the fate of the lost priests. On the shores of the Arctic Ocean near the mouth of the Coppermine River, they discover their dismembered remains. Two Inuit hunters are tracked and apprehended, and the four begin an arduous journey to Edmonton, to bring the accused to justice.

Instructing the jury to "think like an Eskimo," the defence counsel sets out to prove the Inuit acted in self-defence. They hear how the hunters believed the priests were possessed by demons about to kill them, and how, acting on this belief, they killed the men and ate their livers. The jury finds them not guilty. The hunters become celebrities, a parade is held for them, they visit a movie theatre and an amusement park, and become guests of honour at socialite dinners. They are given new suits, fine cigars, and champagne. But Rome is outraged that the murderers of its martyred priests will go free. As secrets of Jack Creed's past in the trenches of Europe are revealed, Jack tries to save his two friends, and himself.

From :01 First Second Books:

Neither artistic, dreamy Jenna nor surly, delinquent Lucas expected to find themselves at an invitation-only summer camp that turns problem children into prodigies. And yet, here they both are at Camp Fielding, settling in with all the other losers and misfits who’ve been shipped off by their parents in a last-ditch effort to produce a child worth bragging about.

But strange disappearances, spooky lights in the woods, and a chilling alteration that turns the dimmest, rowdiest campers into docile zombie Einsteins have Jenna and Lucas feeling more than a little suspicious . . . and a lot afraid.

Walker Bean never wanted to be a high-seas pirate waging a pitched battle against the forces of the deep. It just worked out that way.

Mild, meek, and a little geeky, Walker is always happiest in his grandfather’s workshop, messing around with his inventions. But when his beloved grandfather is struck by an ancient curse, it falls on Walker to return an accursed pearl skull to the witches who created it—and his path will be strewn with pirates, magical machines, ancient lore, and deadly peril.

From CSN Stores:

An Office Chair in Blue

A Lovely Cup of Coffee

My lovely Bodum coffee press arrived for review a couple weeks ago from CSN Stores. I received an email that the item has shipped and it arrived three -four days later - in Canada - which is excellent delivery time.

The product arrived in perfect shape. The Bodum itself was packaged in box as it would be straight from the shelf but it had been packed into the centre of a large square box that was filled with those packing bags filled with air so that it virtually floated its way across the border to me. Simple enough packaging to dispose of and all recyclable as well.

No complaints about about the press itself. It makes a lovely cup of coffee as expected and the colour is as I had expected as well. Not shown in the picture is the coffee scoop that comes with it; one scoop per cup. Easy to use and easy clean up, as well. Pull off the lid and the works are attached to the bottom and unscrew with a simple twisting motion and the parts can be washed quickly in the sink and even easier the Bodum is dishwasher safe. Love it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

165. The Secret Fiend by Shane Peacock

The Secret Fiend by Shane Peacock (Canada) - (USA)
The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His 4th Case

Pages: 244
Ages: 12+
Finished: Aug. 17, 2010
First Published: May 11, 2010
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: YA, mystery, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

There have been many late knocks on the old apothecary's door.

Acquired: Received a review copy through LibraryThing's Early Review Program.

Reason for Reading: Next in the Series.

Shane Peacock has made it to the 4th book in this series and in my opinion the best one so far. I've been consistently rating the books a 4/5, knowing that Mr. Peacock had something more to give that was waiting for my full five rating and "The Secret Fiend" fits the bill. Oh, the case is a bit out there but then some of Doyle's cases were also so I won't hold that against an author who can hold it all together.

Sherlock, who has decided to wait until he has become a man to resume detecting, has been spending his time on his studies: academic, mental and physical, when a very close friend from childhood, Beatrice, arrives at his door saying she and a friend have been attacked. She tells a wild tale and will he come and help find her friend. One thing leads to another and Sherlock decides that this time the case has chosen him and he takes it on. Apparently, all over the East Side of London a figure who may be (or is just dressed like) the legendary character Spring-Heeled Jack is on the loose frightening women, leaving notes about chaos and finally seems to be the culprit in a gruesome murder.

Sherlock is older now, at 14 years-old his studies are quite academic and he sees his future ahead of him, but unfortunately feelings keep getting in his way, interfering with logical deduction. So he continues to struggle with giving up personal feelings. Holmes' character has grown very much over the four books where he is now poised on the edge of the Sherlock Holmes character we know from the source.

Peacock presents us with a fast-paced, action packed, atmospheric and at times dark mystery. The usual character's from the past books return but there are changing dynamics between friends and foes that are very different from earlier books. We get a good inside look into the political and social arena of the times as Disraeli, the first ever Jew, becomes Prime Minister. Peacock also throws a nod out to Robert Louis Stevenson in this book by having a secondary character known only as Louise for most part until eventually her last name is revealed to be Stevenson and further on we are told her father's name is Robert.

I really enjoyed the mystery and was so involved in all the activities going on between Sherlock and the various characters, that while I had the suspects listed in my head I never bothered to try to figure out whodunit as I was having too much fun being wrapped up in all the other story threads. Peacock gives a major clue (to the overall story arc of the series) in this book that Holmesian fans will have solved in a heartbeat, but will make no sense to those who haven't read (or watched) Holmes before. I was excited with this reveal as I had been guessing at it for the last couple of books now and it makes book five an even more eagerly anticipated read. This book (along with the others) is well-written and I don't hesitate to recommend them to adults as well as teens.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

164. Wilfred Grenfell: Adventurer to the North

Wilfred Grenfell: Adventurer to the North by Vernon Howard. (Out of Print)
Children's Missionary Library Book 2

Pages: 32
Ages: 8+
Finished: Aug. 17, 2010
First Published: no copyright info given (I'd say 50's/early 60's)
Publisher: Bible Memory Association International
Genre: Children, christian, biography
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

If you had lived a number of years ago near the River Dee in England, you might have seen two lively boys poling an awkward craft along the merry waters of the river.

Acquired: Bought my copy at a church sale.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 10yo as part of our history curriculum.

This is a brief biography written in a narrative story format of Wilfred Grenfell a missionary doctor who came to Labrador, Canada to help the fishermen but ended up primarily concerned with the Inuit. He lived the majority of his life in the region and ended up establishing hospitals, an orphanage, schools, teaching the people trades and he first established co-operatives in Newfoundland. He also considered it his duty to spread the word of the Lord wherever he went. He was knighted by King George V and became Sir Wilfred Grenfell. While his name lives on today in the name of the Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Newfoundland and I'm guessing possibly in names of streets and such he has largely become a forgotten Canadian hero who is worthy of being remembered.

The book is short and rapidly tells Grenfell's story in the limited number of pages which are also heavily illustrated on each opposing page, though no illustrator has been credited. The book met our purposes of reading about a significant Christian in Canada's recent past and is written in an engaging narrative format which kept us both interested. Of course, the book highlights the most exciting events keeping the story interesting. While the book is certainly from a Christian point of view, it does concentrate more on his other work in the area, medical etc., while reminding us that he always had a Bible in his other hand as he spread the Word as he went.

Pleasantly enough, from a book written in this time period it is completely respectful of the native peoples. There is no looking down upon them, or anything of that sort. The only thing that may offend today is the use of the word "Eskimo" consistently (instead of "Inuit") which was the historically correct term used both back in Grenfell's day (though spelt Esquimaux) and at the time of publishing. I found the book to be graceful and realistic in it's portrayal of the native peoples. I'm pleased to have come across this little treasure. The book is from an American publisher so keep your eyes open at church sales for others in the series!

Friday, August 20, 2010

163. Graphic Novel Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table

Agatha Christie: Cards on the Table by Frank LeClercq (Canada)
The Agatha Christie Adventures

Pages: 46
Ages: 12+
Finished: Aug. 16, 2010
First Published: 2009 France (July 27, 2010 English Edition)
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Genre: Graphic novel, mystery, YA
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

If it isn't Hercule Poirot!

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I loved my first read of these graphic novels and am now a big fan.

This is a tour-de-force classic Christie where Poirot gathers together at a dinner party with some of his regular friends. Here we have Superintendent Battle, Colonel Race and Ariadne Oliver joining Poirot all at the same table! Poirot has been invited to a strange little dinner where his host has bragged of collecting criminals who have gotten away with the perfect crimes. Although reluctant Poirot accepts the invitation but is not surprised when the evening ends in a murder. This is very similar to the "locked room" mystery that Christie was so clever with as we have five people in a room together where one of them kills another. While Poirot has his famous friends at the questioning table with him it really only takes his own little grey cells to put the clues together. The outcome is a fantastic twisting mystery with a last minute shocker of 'whodunit'.

I love holding these large oversized graphic novels in my hands; they feel so decadent and make me want to take the story in slowly. This one is quite a full story as the plot does get complicated with lots of twists and turns so there is a large amount of text bubbles and narrators. But that doesn't stop the artist from making use of the odd wordless frame and occasional larger sized frame to include the atmosphere of the story. I like this artist's rendition of Poirot very much; he has stuck with a "David Suchet" like portrayal though somewhat younger and with more hair. I really enjoyed this one, even better than my first read in the series a few days ago.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

162. Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (Canada) - (USA)
Fever Crumb, Book 1

Pages: 385 pages
Ages: 12+
Finished: Aug. 13, 2010
First Published: 2009 UK (Apr. 1 2010 US)
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: YA, Science fiction, post-apocalyptic
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

That morning they were making paper boys.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: The plot was intriguing and this is my type of book.

A foundling baby girl found by the Order of Engineers, a male society, is taken into the fold and raised to be one of them. The baby came with a note stating her name is Fever and since Dr. Crumb found her it was reasonable that he was the one who took the main caregiver role. 14 year-old Fever is now being sent off to assist an archaeologist, Kit Solent, in his home but when she arrives there she starts having memories of the place that are not her own. Kit seems to expect something from her and the memories become stronger. When riots hit the city, people come after her looking to kill her. She must escape but whose memories is she taking with her?

This is the first book I have read by Reeve and I wasn't aware that this was the beginning of a prequel series to another series he has already written until I had started the book. That information does not hinder the reading of this book at all, though I'm sure others who have read the Mortal Engines series will probably have insider information that I am unaware of that may make the reading experience more enjoyable.

I did enjoy the story. It is unique. Set in a future earth, so very far in the future in fact that our current time now is known as the Ancients and bits and pieces of our technology are traded and collected even when they are rusted pieces of junk. But anything that actually still works is highly prized and valued. Otherwise this future world is more or less of a medieval nature in culture and custom. Fever is a completely likable main character and I took to her right away. She grows as a person throughout the book starting off timid from a sheltered almost monk-like childhood. As she enters the world outside her boundaries she slowly gains confidence and a voice, strength, determination and becomes more in control of herself while shedding her timidity.

My main problem with the book was that the plot line was slow. It started off well and interesting and then just seemed to lag for me. It took me a lot longer than it should have to read the book. I never totally lost interest but I often wanted it to hurry up and "get on with it!" When the pace picked up and the plot was advancing I was hooked but my interest did come and go. The ending was fast paced and went in an unexpected direction. It feels to me that book two will take Fever to meet many new characters and I'm certainly interested in where all the threads that have been left hanging will continue so I will be reading book 2. I'm just hoping the pace will be more consistent.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

161. Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysart

Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysart. illustrated by Cliff Chiang. foreward by Neil Young (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 160
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 11, 2010
First Published: June 15, 2010
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, magical realism
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

On a warm spring day way back in 1985, two precious children were born to Edith O'Reilly and Earl Green.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: Long-winded reason follows. (LOL) When I heard that this graphic novel was based on an album I though that was so cool and I suddenly had imaginations of what could come next, the graphic versions of Pink Floyd's "The Wall", Queen's "News of the World", Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell". It is an awesome concept. Now I don't like Neil Young as a singer {sorry} and have never heard of this album but was so intrigued with the concept and thought "Neil Young is Canadian so the book would qualify for the Canadian Book Challenge"; I might as well read it.

So here we have the Green Family going back to a great-grandmother living in the town of Greendale, America, population 20 to 25,000. When Sun Green (the main character) was born her twin Luna died in infancy. She is now a 17 year old teen. Her great-aunt Ciela Oaks married both Green brothers, leaving one for the other and eventually one day simply disappeared into the Botanical Gardens forever. Her daughter, Sea Green, also disappeared one day as a teen into the forest never to return. Now Sun is feeling strange, thinking of the past Green women and being followed by a man who obviously represents Satan. Bad things happen. Strange things happen.

Sun becomes an activist. An anti-war, anti-meat, anti-hunting, anti-big electricity companies, anti-oil drilling left-wing mouthy irritant. At this point, I know this book is not for me. I quickly started skipping over all the bubbles full of the political ranting, which was a large portion of text. Honestly the whole political part of the book could have been removed and it wouldn't have made any difference to the story as the book really doesn't go anywhere. The two plots, the girl's political coming of age and the mysterious hippie, nature, environmentalist magical element of the Green woman and the fate of the Green women just kind of flop and end abruptly. And so will my review. Weird and so not my kind of story.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

160. Graphic Novel Agatha Christie: Dumb Witness

Agatha Christie: Dumb Witness by Marek. (Canada) - (US)
The Agatha Christie Adventures

Pages: 46
Ages: 12+
Finished: Aug. 10, 2010
First Published: 2009 France (English Trans. July 27, 2010)
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: mystery, Graphic Novel
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The events which I am going to narrate were not, of course, known to me until a long time afterwards.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: My 11yo niece introduced me to this series when I visited with her in Edmonton this spring and I'd love to read them all!

This is a typical Agatha Christie story in that the possible suspects is a small group of people. Old Aunt Emily invites her remaining family down for the weekend which include a nephew and two nieces, plus one respective husband. The house also contains two servants and lastly involved is the local doctor's assistant, who happens to be the other niece's fiance. Emily has never given the family any money or even loans always saying that they'll have time enough to spend her money when she's gone, but that of course doesn't stop them from repeatedly asking over the years.On this particular weekend Aunt Emily takes a header down the stairs, blamed on the cursed dog's ball, but all is well and Aunt Emily is taken to bed with nothing more than bumps and bruises. Aunt Emily hasn't been well for years though, often taking spells of jaundice as she has liver problems. Two weeks later she takes another turn and dies, cause diagnosed as liver disease.

Two months later Hercule Poirot receives a letter from Aunt Emily and rushes to her home to find that she has died and her housekeeper has inherited her entire fortune. With a letter in his hand written the day of the tumble down the stairs but not mailed until two months later, Poirot knows that liver disease was not Aunt Emily's fatal nemesis, but rather a murderer is walking loose and he sets out to find the culprit for the sake of old woman's plea for help called out to him unfortunately to late to save her.

A great little Christie story and a fabulous experience to read in graphic format. When I was a kid (13yo I think) I went through a phase of reading all Christie's books and I've only re-read a few of them since but, of course, I've seen all the various British TV adaptations numerous times so some of the stories remain in my head. This one, however, didn't so it made it even a little more fun not remembering the story. This is a beautiful book. Very large, oversized with a front cover that is very visually attractive. The simple graphic design is heightened by printing the colour on glossy paper while the black remains matte. I love Marek's rendition of Poirot. He makes him quite serious, and intelligent making him seem to have the whole case almost solved from the beginning while he's only tying up loose ends the rest of the story. Meanwhile, the reader and Hastings are still trying to put everything together.

The art is realistic and typical of the French style. The text leaves some of the little French quotes from the original books and there is a curse once or twice, this may or may not be something a parent would want to consider. I know this would be a good way to get reluctant readers interested in Agatha Christie, but I think these will be even more enjoyed by fans of Christie who've read and watched all her books and the shows. Here is yet another format to experience the classic whodunit.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

It's that time of the week again to report on what the mail brought me last week in way of books. I had an average week with most packages arriving early in the week. I also had one non-book item arrive for review. Here's what filled my mail box:

From Simon & Schuster Canada:

In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves---the Library Forces! When the director of the Kanto Library Base gets sick, a temporary replacement is assigned, according to regulations. But Iku and her roommate Asako discover a trail of missing books that lead back to the temporary Director. Has he betrayed everything the Library Forces stands for and handed books over to the enemy?!

From Candlewick Press:

Mary’s second adventure as an undercover agent forces her to relive some harrowing childhood experiences as she seeks the identity of a murderer.

Mary Quinn is back, now a trusted member of the Agency, the allfemale detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. Her new assignment sends her into the grimy underbelly of Victorian London dressed as a poor boy, evoking her own childhood memories of fear, hunger, and constant want. As she insinuates herself into the confidence of several persons of interest, she encounters others in desperate situations and struggles to make a difference without exposing —or losing —her identity. Mary’s adventure, which takes place on the building site of the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, offers a fictional window into a fascinating historical time and place.

From Scholastic Canada:

Heen's father and grandfather have brought their family in China to the brink of ruin with their gambling habits. To solve their money troubles, Heen and his father come to Canada to build the railway - a decision plagued by disaster. The living conditions provided for workers are wretched and work on the railway is excruciating. Transporting tons of gravel and working in tunnels about to be dynamited proves to be deadly for many of his co-workers. Soon the friction between the Chinese workers and the whites, who barely acknowledge these deaths, reaches a fevered pitch. As an added stress, Heen's father has found some men to gamble with, which puts all of their earnings at risk. Heen's only solace is his journal, where his chilling observations of the injustice and peril heaped upon the workers serve as an important testament to this dramatic era in Canadian history.

Alistair "Allie" Morrison lets his friend Mackie talk him into enlisting for WWII, even though he's only 18. After months of endless training Allie's eager for battle. But his first action is not just any battle…it's the disastrous raid on the German-held port of Dieppe. He and his unit are under orders to take one of the main beaches, but they disembark from their landing craft onto a killing ground. As Allie gets his bearings and makes sense of the horror on every side, he witnesses friends advance into a massacre. All told, almost a thousand Canadian soldiers died that day. In the resulting chaotic evacuation, Allie and Mackie are captured as POWs and sent to Stalag VIIIB in Germany. Still shell-shocked from their fighting, the soldiers struggle to maintain their courage. Others, like Mackie, are determined to plot an escape and outwit their captors, at any cost. Historian Jack Granatstein vetted Prisoner of Dieppe to ensure historical accuracy.

From LibraryThing's Early Review Program:

History has not been kind to Henry Hudson. He's been dismissed as a short-tempered man who played favorites with his crew and had an unstoppable ambition and tenacity. Although he gave his name to a mighty river, an important strait, and a huge bay, today he is remembered more for the mutiny that took his life. The grandson of a trader, Hudson sailed under both British and Dutch flags, looking for a northern route to China. Although none of his voyages led to the discovery of a northwest passage, he did explore what is now Hudson's Bay and what is now New York City.

Whatever his personal shortcomings, to sail through dangerous, ice-filled waters with only a small crew in a rickety old boat, he must have been someone of rare courage and vision. In Hudson, Janice Weaver has created a compelling portrait of a man who should be remembered not for his tragic end, but for the way he advanced our understanding of the world.

From Aquila Polonica:

This stunning new novel is drawn from a little known chapter of World War II history -- the brutal Soviet deportations of 1.5 million Polish civilians to forced labor camps in Siberia shortly after the Soviets occupied eastern Poland at the beginning of the war.

Beautifully written, lyrical and poetic, the author explores the impacts of this shattering experience on a family from four points of view. The adolescent son and daughter, and the mother and father, each take turns chapter by chapter in telling their story.

Slowly, delicately, the threads are woven together -- the father Andrzej's secret shame at not being able to protect his family; the son Henryk's need to grow up quickly; the daughter Helcia's descent into nightmares, seeking comfort in broken bits of poetry consigned to scraps torn from a precious salvaged dictionary; the mother Zofia's instant aging, her hidden fears and worry.

Their odyssey spans the map from Poland to Siberia, on divergent paths to Persia, Palestine and Italy, to Uzbekistan and Africa, before finally converge in England amidst shadows that will never vanish.

From CSN Stores:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Aug. 15: The Assumption of Mary

Gentle Woman, Silent Light

159. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (US) - (Canada)
The Hunger Games Trilogy, book 1

Pages: 374
Ages: 12+
Finished: Aug. 8, 2010
First Published: Sept. 14, 2008
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: YA, science fiction, dystopia
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

Acquired: Purchased my own copy.

Reason for Reading: A bit of a story, actually. We went for a day trip and just as we hit the city limits I realized I had forgotten my book. The day promised lots of reading opportunities plus the long drive there and back. Needless to say I was quite upset but dh said we'd gone too far and he wasn't turning back. So ... when we saw a Wal-Mart on the outskirts of the next town along the highway we made a quick stop while I ran inside to grab a book to read. The whole book case of Harlequins was out, that left me with one case to find a book. It was slim pickings. Every book there I had either read, had a copy at home to read or had no interest in reading. I had some thriller in my hand by someone I'd never heard of that only barely sounded like it might be decent when down on the bottom row behind the newest "The Dork Diaries" book I saw a book tipped out a bit and noticed THE HU GA. My heart beat a little faster and I thought, oh could it be! a book I actually am dying to read. I reached down to grab it and YES! "The Hunger Games" it was. This has been on my must read list since it came out but I was slow to the starting gate and have just never got around to reading the series. Until now.

With the thousands of reviews already online I'm sure I have nothing new to add so I'll talk about how the book affected me. I absolutely loved this book! It grabs you at page one and doesn't let go until the last page. Everyone has imagined that someday in the future game shows/reality shows might turn into life and death games where the last man standing is the winner. This isn't just new either. There were Stephen King's 1979 book "The Longest Walk" and later his 1982 book "The Running Man" and I remember watching a movie in the '70s (set in the future) where contestants were sent off running and then they were hunted down and killed until they had the last survivor, the winner, though I can't remember the movie's name.

This book really makes you think if this type of game is a possibility in the future. Reality/game shows are getting wilder. The main purpose of some is to simply watch people trip, fall, hurt themselves. My son and husband love watching "Wipe-Out" which is one of these shows. I believe MTV in the UK is looking for contestants for an abortion reality TV Show, that is scarily close to getting entertainment from death. Today's death culture, if it continues on it's current course, may certainly be capable of these live or die "game" shows at some point, imho.

The book is both brutal and emotional as our main character is thrown into these games that she does not believe in, yet she must play along or be killed. I absolutely love Katniss as a character, though I do think she is somewhat of a dunce for not figuring out Peeta's real feelings for her. I'm quite interested in where things will go romantically as we never really got to know Gale very much before Katniss is thrown in the game. At this point, I'm hoping Katniss will recognize her own feelings for Peeta but I bet there's going to be some love triangle action going on first. I'm very excited to read the next book.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

157-158. Hanako & The Terror of the Allegory Vol. 1 & 2

Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, Vol. 1 by Sakae Esuno (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 224 pages
Ages: 16+
Finished: Aug. 7, 2010
First Published: 2004, Japan (Mar. 2010 US)
Publisher: Tokyo Pop
Genre: YA, graphic novel, horror, manga
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Folklore. These tales are alive. These legends come into public consciousness and grow exponentially.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: Folklore and Japanese horror, couldn't pass up giving this one a try!

An allegory in this series refers to a story of the people, folklore, whether centuries old or a new urban legend that is popular and well-known but when certain people hear it they actually believe it for whatever reasons; it scares them, it touches their consciousness or their guilt. The the allegory becomes real and they are haunted/stalked by strange creatures. Daisuke Aso is an Allegory Detective, he's not fond of allegories, but since he is cursed by two himself, it makes him perfect for the job. Daisuke's allegories are that if he hiccups 100 times in a row he will die, unfortunately for him whenever he is in the presence of an allegory he starts to hiccup. His second curse is Hanako-san of the Bathroom, a technological whiz who pushes him to take the allegory cases and generally helps him out but is also a pain in the butt towards him. I can't tell if she is meant to be a little girl, or just significantly younger than the college age of the other characters. She's certainly not chibi. But from the way she talks she's not an innocent little child either.

This book covers three cases. "The Man with an Axe Under the Bed" and this story brings in the second main character, Kanae, who eventually stays on with Daisuke and works in his office helping him solve his cases. Then "The Slit Mouthed Woman" is an old Japanese folktale that is plaguing a young man and his new girlfriend and finally "Human-Faced Fish" which is slightly based on a hot news story that made the rounds once, But here it is much more eerie as a bus load of school children plunge into the ocean leaving only one survivor who is being haunted by the allegory of human-faced fish.

I really enjoyed this. Each story was like one of those old horror comics with it's own little mini-story but there is also an over arcing theme that keeps the three main characters together. Unfortunately there is quite a lot of s*x talk, and a bit of female nudity. The violence though is not over the top, more scary than bloody, which I think is the point here ... to scare. A fun, creepy read.

Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, Vol. 2 by Sakae Esuno (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 240 pages
Ages: 16+
Finished: Aug. 8, 2010
First Published: 2005, Japan (Aug. 2010 US)
Publisher: Tokyo Pop
Genre: YA, graphic novel, horror, manga
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Have you ever heard the legend about facing two mirrors toward each other?

Volume 2 starts right off with a new case in which Kanae finds herself in trouble once again with an allegory in "The Demon in the Mirror". Then teenage girls are committing suicide in a strange way when a girl gets pushed in front of a train, and then the girl who pushed her is next pushed in front of a train and so on until there is an epidemic of dead young girls and the train has been stopped for day while Hanako, Aso and Kanae work the case in a two part story called "Teke-Teke". Next comes a strange case "The Piercing Hole and the White Thread", where a little girl gets her ear pierced by a friend with a needle and when she pulls the needle out along comes some white thread which just happens to be her optic nerve. Laying in the hospital, blind, with many of her nerves reaching all over the room, the detectives must find the allegory hiding deep within her that is killing her. Finally, we end with "Kokkuri-san Part 1" which involves Aso, the Allegory Detective himself and his secret that he has kept hidden so far. The volume ends with an exciting cliffhanger that begs for volume 3 to come soon but I don't see it showing up anywhere yet so it may be a while.

Aso and Kanae start to form the beginnings of a relationship as she is saved by the detective twice in this volume. They both seem to be aware of these feelings within themselves but there is Aso's terrible secret between them and Hanako, who is jealous of Kanae, makes Kanae aware of it halfway through the book. Whether this will affect her ability to continue to care for Aso more than a friend remains to be seen.

I really love this series. The legends are wonderful and creepy and the three main characters are likable in their own way, though they all do have their problems as well. This volume did *not* have any of the s*x talk or nudity found in the first volume which was a plus for me, knowing it will not be an assured aspect of every volume. It still was s*xually suggestive at times but much toned down from Vol.1 But from an adult point of view this is a very fun series; I love the Japanese take on horror and at the end of each volume is a write up on each tale with the history, meaning, popularity or other interesting information on the legend in Japanese culture.