Thursday, March 31, 2011

72. The Seventh Princess by Nick Sullivan

The Seventh Princess by Nick Sullivan (Canada) - (US) Out of Print

Pages: 107
Ages: 7-11
Finished: Mar. 19, 2011
First Published: 1983
Publisher: Scholastic-TAB Publications
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:
On a cold, foggy morning in the month of November Jennifer sat by herself in the big yellow schoolbus.
Acquired: Purchased a used copy at a book/garage sale or thrift shop.

Reason for Reading: This is another book from the Randomly Selected Bookshelf that I am reading from this year. I have not read this before but I have always had a copy of it. One of the purposes of reading from this shelf is to move books out of the house. This one will be sent off to Bookmooch.

Jennifer is on her way to school looking out the window at the forest, daydreaming when suddenly she is inside a horse drawn carriage, taken to a palace and everyone is calling her Princess Miranda. She quickly makes friends with the dwarf Jester, Samson, and it doesn't take her more than a few minutes to realize that the High Chancellor is an evil man. She finds out that her fate here is doomed, but also that the fate of Elandria itself is in peril and she is given the secret on how it may be possible to save not only herself but the whole country from evil.

This is what one might call a "first fantasy". It has all the ingredients needed for a fast paced fantasy story and is populated by Kings, Evil power hungry men, dwarfs, harpies, wicked witches and missing real prince and princess. The plot is quite simple. The "twists" were no surprise to this adult reader but I think they will be just enough for the young reader just discovering this genre. The characters are rather stereotypical of the parts they play but the two main characters Samson, the dwarf and Jennifer are fully fleshed causing the reader to root for them on their various dangerous outings. While not the best book ever written, this has a certain something to it that makes it endearing to the reader. I'm not sure just what it is but I think it may be Jennifer's spunk and pluck which she shows right from the beginning to the most evil man in the land, unbeknownst to her, and that lets the reader know what to expect from her for the rest of the book. This is obviously a girl's book. What little girl wouldn't want to suddenly find herself being called Your Highness, waited on hand and foot, then finding she is the heroine who must save the day! An action-packed story for youngsters just venturing into the genre.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

70. Flight, Volume 7

Flight, Volume 7 edited by Kazu Kibuishi (Canada) - (US)
Flight anthologies

Pages: 283
Ages: 15+
Finished: Mar. 17, 2011
First Published: July 20, 2010
Publisher: Villard Books
Genre: Graphic Novel, short stories, various genres (though mainly fantasy)
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

He is the Guardian-Shepherd of a life-giving technology that is said to have been left eons ago by a race of ancient gods.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Reason for Reading: This book was nominated for a Cybils '10 Graphic Novel, category and we judges didn't receive review copies and I wasn't able to find a copy in time for the judging. I have just now been able to obtain a copy.

I don't have an awful lot to say about this book. A graphic novel anthology of short stories by mostly people who as a collective haven't published many books but are in the industry on a freelance basis with much experience in animation work. I had previously heard of (and read two) of the author/illustrators presented here: Kibuishi obviously and Dave Roman. Then I came across a Jellaby story which I didn't know the author's name but have been wanting to read the books and very much enjoyed the short story. Some stories are very short, others quite long. There is no theme, rhyme or reason to the collection, just a presentation of beautiful art. That is where this book excels. The graphic presentation is beautiful. the artwork is stunning and it is pure joy to read through. The stories are hit and miss with me I really enjoyed a couple "Jellaby" by Kean Soo, "Live Bait" by Justin Gerard and Premium Cargo by Kostas Kiriakakis. The majority of the other stories were okay and a handful I just plain didn't get. I can't see myself reading another one of these books in the future, unless I had to.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

69. The Cay by Theodore Taylor

The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Canada) - (US)
The Cay series

Pages: 144
Ages: 9+
Finished: Mar. 16, 2011
First Published: 1969
Publisher: Avon Camelot
Genre: children, historical fiction, survival, shipwreck, WWII
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Like silent, hungry sharks that swim in the darkness of the sea, the German submarines arrived in the middle of the night.

Acquired: Purchased a used copy from a book/garage sale or thrift shop.

Reason for Reading: This is another book from the Randomly Selected Bookshelf that I am reading from this year. I'm pretty sure I've read this before but it must have been as a kid, because I didn't really remember the story. My son loves shipwreck/survival stories so this one will definitely be going in the bedtime reading pile for his dad to read to him.

Phillip is twelve and lives in the West Indies, has ever since he was four, on the island of Curacao. World War II is in full swing, the year is 1940 and the West Indies have refineries which are supplying gas, kerosene, etc. But the German U-Boats have finally come to strike this important part of the Allied War Effort. Phillip's mother has always hated it here and wanted to go back to Virginia; she also is very prejudiced against the black people and tells Phillip her racist thoughts frequently, though he has never seen her point. He enjoys going down to the docks and watching the West Islanders work and talking to them. After the bombing she insists that it is time she take Philip back home but their ship is torpedoed and Philip ends up on a raft with a "Negro", Timothy. Philip has been injured on the back of the head by something very hard and goes in and out of consciousness, though he soon gets better except for the sore head.

Part of the story tells of their survival on the raft, they have water and food which Timothy rations strictly. Their relationship is strained. Timothy doesn't talk much, works to keep them alive and is often blunt and to the point, though never rude. Philip takes this the wrong way, starts to think maybe his mother is right and blacks are different, which makes Philip take a haughty tone with Timothy.

The second part of the story deals with their survival on the uninhabited little island they drift upon. It has no fresh water and they depend on the rain, but food is plentiful. Philips eyesight starts to go grey until he is eventually goes blind but before this happens he and Timothy have an argument where Philip calls him racial names. Their strained relationship is at an apex. Philip's blindness creates an entire new meaning to the word survival and with the whole world dark he reexamines what black and white mean.

This is a fantastic story of survival, friendship, race relations, love and truth. The book has a few exciting moments when extreme events happen but mostly it is a more realistic, quiet, day in, day out, survival story where the relationship between Timothy and Phillip is as much what the story is about as how they manage to survive so long on that island. A good book. One that boys will especially enjoy. Also recommended for older reluctant readers because of its mature storyline and short number of pages.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday: Books in the Mail

Here is what my mailbox brought me last week:

From Random House Canada:

Over the past four decades, the landmark NBC hit television series I Dream of Jeannie has delighted generations of audiences and inspired untold numbers of teenage crushes on its beautiful blond star, Barbara Eden. Part pristine Hollywood princess and part classic bombshell, with innocence, strength, and comedic talent to spare, Barbara finally lets Jeannie out of her bottle to tell her whole story.

Jeannie Out of the Bottle takes us behind the scenes of I Dream of Jeannie as well as Barbara’s dozens of other stage, movie, television, and live concert performances. We follow her from the hungry years when she was a struggling studio contract player at 20th Century Fox through difficult weeks trying to survive as a chorus girl at Ciro’s Sunset Strip supper club, from a stint as Johnny Carson’s sidekick on live TV to tangling on-screen and off with some of Hollywood’s most desirable leading men, including Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, and Warren Beatty. From the ups and downs of her relationship with her Jeannie co-star Larry Hagman to a touching meeting with an exquisite and vulnerable Marilyn Monroe at the twilight of her career, readers join Barbara on a thrilling journey through her five decades in Hollywood.

But Barbara’s story is also an intimate and honest memoir of personal tragedy: a stillborn child with her first husband, Michael Ansara; a verbally abusive, drug-addicted second husband; the loss of her beloved mother; and the accidental heroin-induced death of her adult son, just months before his wedding. With candor and poignancy, Barbara reflects on the challenges she has faced, as well as the joys she has experienced and how she has maintained her humor, optimism, and inimitable Jeannie magic throughout the roller-coaster ride of a truly memorable life.

Irma Voth entangles love, longing and dark family secrets. The stifling, reclusive Mennonite life of nineteen-year-old Irma Voth - newly married and newly deserted and as unforgettable a character as Nomi Nickel in A Complicated Kindness - is irrevocably changed when a film crew moves in to make a movie about the community. She embraces the absurdity, creative passion and warmth of their world but her intractable and domineering father is determined to keep her from it at all costs. The confrontation between them sets her on an irrevocable path towards something that feels like freedom as she and her young sister, Aggie, wise beyond her teenage years, flee to the city, upheld only by their love for each other and their smart wit, even as they begin to understand the tragedy that has their family in its grip.

Irma Voth delves into the complicated factors that set us on the road to self-discovery and how we can sometimes find the strength to endure the really hard things that happen. And as Gustavo, a taxi driver, says, you go on, you live and you laugh and you are compassionate toward others. It also asks that most difficult of questions: How do we forgive? And most importantly, how do we forgive ourselves?

A bestselling author and prominent Catholic defends his faith.

Columnist, television host, author, and practicing Catholic Michael Coren examines four main aspects of Catholicism as they are encountered, understood, and more importantly, misunderstood, today. For some Catholicism is the only permanent, absolute body of truth, while for others it is the last permanent, absolute body that has to be opposed and stopped. Why Catholics Are Right opens with a discussion of the abuse scandal and the reality of what happened. Coren then traces Catholic history, with a discussion of the Crusades, Inquisition, Holocaust, and Galileo. He looks at Catholics and theology, explaining what and why Catholics believe what they do — Papal infallibility, immaculate conception, the Church rather than Bible alone. Finally, Coren outlines the pro-life position and why it is so important to Catholicism. In this challenging, provocative, and personal book, Michael Coren draws on history, politics, and theology to present the arguments for the truth of Roman Catholicism.

From Macmillan for Kids:

Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a vicious black dog, against Bodhi’s advice, she decides to cross him over. While following the dog, she runs into a young ghost named Rebecca. Despite Rebecca’s sweet appearance, Riley soon learns she’s not at all what she seems. As the daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is lashing out by keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca forgive and forget without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?

Purchased new from an online retailer:

The book that was the #1 reason for me placing this order didn't arrive with this shipment. I hate it when that happens.

The Story of a Soul conveys St Therese of Lisieux's Little Way of spiritual childhood-- her elevator to Heaven, as she called it. This method was approved by Pope Pius XI as a way of holiness for all, so we can grow in holiness through unfailing confidence and childlike delight in God's merciful love. Again and again in this book, St Therese shows us how Little Way of love and trust comes straight from Sacred Scripture. This book belongs in every Catholic home, for Pope St Pius X stated that St Therese of Lisieux is the greatest saint of modern times.

The Stand: Originally aired as a television mini-series, this all-star filmization of Stephen King's gripping epic of good versus evil chronicles the episodic adventures of a disparate group of people who struggle to reestablish civilization after a man-made catastrophe wipes out most of the world's population. The world abruptly ends when a deadly virus accidentally escapes from a government sponsored biological warfare laboratory. Soon people are dropping like flies from the plague, but a few survive and find themselves strangely compelled to head into the West. Good-hearted people follow the voice of an ancient black woman and head for Boulder, Colorado. Bad people follow the enigmatic Walkin' Dude to Las Vegas. It is only a matter of time before the two sides are forced into a climactic battle over the final fate of humanity. Golden Years: This made-for-TV mini-series from the notorious horror writer centers upon a hapless old janitor who begins undergoing incredible physical changes after he is accidentally covered with experimental chemicals following a laboratory mishap. Now the government will stop at nothing to get him back. The Langoliers: Ten passengers on a red-eye flight from L.A. to Boston discover that they are not the only people on the plane, but after making an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine, they discover that they are the only people on the planet. This film was based off the Stephen King short story Four Past Midnight.

OT: It's Election Time! It's Time for a Conservative Majority!

Nobody wants an election now, but the Leftists have brought one upon us. The Liberals are either living in a dreamworld or they expect Canadians to vote (or accept post-election) a coalition government. And Canadians already told them what we think of that!!

68. Travelers Along the Way by Benedict J. Groeschel

Travelers Along the Way: The Men and Women Who Shaped My Life by Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

Pages: 159
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 16, 2011
First Published: Oct. 15, 2010
Publisher: Servant Books
Genre: memoir, biography, christian, Catholic
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

For the believer life is a journey, a road laid out for us by the providence of God and guided by the divine law and the teaching of Christ.

Acquired: This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Travelers Along the Way . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy memoirs and taking a peek inside a Franciscan's life at the people he admired sounded like an inspiring read.

Benedict Groeschel is a Franciscan Friar, has been for more than fifty years now. He is also a psychologist, has written many non-fiction books for Catholics and has his own show on EWTN, the Catholic Network. In this book Father Benedict introduces us to only a sampling of the people who have made an impact on him as he has traveled this journey we call life. It is a collection of vignettes about these people as he tells us brief biographies of these individuals but also about himself as he tells the stories of how he met them and how he feels they affected him in a lasting way. Most of the people discussed are Catholics, but not all. There was his lifelong friend the Presbyterian minister Rev. Dr. Linn Creighton, the Jewish tailor he knew his entire childhood who told him on the day he left for the monastery, "Be a good boy" and there was the young man who shot himself with Fr. Benedict standing outside his apartment door. Among others.

From the Catholics discussed, most obviously are of the Religious themselves, but only a handful are well-known personages such as Mother Angelica, Mother Theresa and Cardinal Terrance Cooke. The others are lesser known on a world wide stage though certainly held in high regard by those around them. Aside from the Religious Fr. Benedict also includes lay people such as Judge William P. Clark, publishers Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward, nurse Ruby Davis and Karen Killilea. The book starts with the story of his second grade teacher, Sister Teresa Maria and ends with powerful words from a 90 year old Cardinal weeks before he died.

A truly enjoyable book. Full of inspirational stories, some serious, some not-so serious. All are told with a sense of humour, the author has an ability to laugh at himself and with others telling great stories from the past dating from the 1950s up to the present day. The author has crossed paths with saints who were the must humble and awe-inducing one can have the privilege to ever meet and he has seen the face of Jesus in unexpected persons. A very enjoyable book to read. One you can read a chapter a two and then pick up again at any time. I liked Fr. Benedict's voice and tone and will take a look at his other books in the future.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Random Reading Book Shelf Challenge

Goal #4 on my Goals for 2011 list is to read books from one of my bookshelves. On Feb. 18th I randomly picked a bookshelf. I decided to pick from my Juv/YA shelves to make the goal more realistic and I picked the bottom shelf on the left because I couldn't see what was on it. The shelf is in a dark spot. More surprise that way :-)The shelf is double stacked with books squeezed in for maximum use of space with no order, rhyme or reason to what is shelved together, though I do try to keep series books together.

The goal here is to read the entire shelf (or as close as possible) and move out of the house as many books as possible. I blindly grabbed a stackful of books and am working on those at the moment.

1. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (keeper)

2. The Cay by Theodore Taylor (put on Bookmooch)

3. The Seventh Princess by Nick Sullivan (put on Bookmooch & gave away!)

4.The Lady Grace Mysteries, Book the First Assassin by Grace Cavendish, Maid of Honor to Elizabeth I by Patricia Feeney (gave to my neice)

5. The Boxcar Children #1 by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I'm collecting the 1st 19 books. keeper)

6. Surprise Island BC#2 by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I'm collecting the 1st 19 books. keeper)

2011 - read 6, gaveaway 2

2012 Project Continues With New Enthusiasm

7. The Yellow House Mystery BC#3 by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I'm collecting the 1st 19 books. keeper)

8. Mystery Ranch BC#4 by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I'm collecting the 1st 19 books. keeper)

9. Into the Dream by William Sleator (gave to thrift shop)

10. Blue Bay Mystery BC#6 by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I'm collecting the 1st 19 books. keeper)

2012 - read 4, gaveaway 1
total read: 10, total removed: 3 = 30%

2013 Project Continues With Determination

11. Cezanne Pinto: A Memoir by Mary Stolz (gave to thrift shop)

12. The Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner ((I'm collecting the 1st 19 books. keeper)

13. Sugar Creek Gang #1: The Swamp Robber by Paul Hutchens (gave to thrift shop)

DISCARDED this Project

Plenty of Fish by Millicent Selsam

Plenty of Fish by Millicent Selsam. Illustrated by Erik Blegvad Out of Print
I Can Read Book
A Science I Can Read Book

Pages: 63
Ages: 7+
Finished: Mar. 15, 2011
First Published: 1960
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: children, easy reader, marine biology
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:
Here is Willy.

Acquired: Purchased a used copy at a book/library sale or thrift shop.

Reason for Reading: DS read aloud to me as his non-fiction reader.

This is a delightful easy reader, as are most of Millicent Selsam's "Science I Can Read Book"s which are sadly mostly out of print. This would be a wonderful one to bring back into print as the topic isn't out-dated at all. A little boy wants a goldfish, has saved up his money and asks his dad if he may buy one. So off he goes. From the moment he comes home with two goldfish in bags his father starts teaching him about fish, first they need a bowl and so forth. Willy is quite captivated by the way they breathe and does some experiments in the bathroom sink causing a watery mess but he just can't do it. He has to hold his breath. So Dad explains how fish breathe and later Willy is fortunate to find a fish for supper in the kitchen which he experiments on again to see the gills in action.

This book may also be one of the first to show a family consisting of a single father and son. No mention of the situation is made or what happened to the mom, either. They do have a woman in the house who is quite obviously the cook/maid. Blegvad's illustrations are wonderful. Simple tones of red and green but with minute details that are fun to catch looking through the book after the first read. It was just as ds was getting to the end of the book that he discovered that the pet cat was on every page, sometimes cleverly hidden. So we went back afterwards and found him on each page (well the inside the house scenes). I also started to notice things like one droopy sock, a picture of a woman in the dining room (is this mother?) and a dad who loves his boy so much that he throws his coat and hat in the chair to give him a big hug and doesn't care in the least that his hat landed on the floor. Delightful!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

67. Journey to America by Sonia Levitin

Journey to America by Sonia Levitin. Illustrated by Charles Robinson. (Canada) - (US)
The Platt Family Trilogy

Pages: 150
Ages: 8+
Finished: Mar. 15, 2011
First Published: 1970
Publisher: Atheneum
Genre: children, historical fiction, WWII, 1930s
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

That winter had been the coldest and the longest I had ever known.

Acquired: I'm pretty sure I Bookmooched this book.

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

This is a gentle, quiet story that is suitable for younger children (as a read loud) since it deals with the very early days of Hitler's Germany, making one aware of the need for escape in those early days and how fortunate were those who did manage to leave Germany before the atrocities began. The story is told from Lisa's point of view, the second oldest girl of three, perhaps 11 years old. Their father has decided that they will leave for America, so he goes first in order to get a job, a place to live and earn enough money for the tickets for boat passage for the others. Lisa, Ruth (the older sister), little Annie and mother must now fend for themselves until the time comes.

The reader learns what it was like in Germany for the Jews in those early days as their rights were slowly being taken from them. Then father tells them they must go to Switzerland for safety immediately and here the majority of the book takes place as the three girls and the mother are separated from each other as they are looked after by different refugee helper families. They don't loose contact though and life goes on through this tough and emotional time for them until finally just after hearing devastating news from Berlin, Father sends the boat tickets for them to join him.

An interesting story, full more of personal drama set against the background of a turbulent time rather than outside drama of the era since we are only at the very beginnings of Hitler's Germany here. A tale that tells the pressure of leaving one's home and becoming refugee status in another country, accepting help but really unable to do much for oneself, the waiting for the future to come and the worry for the loved ones left behind. A nice story, ds and I both enjoyed it well.

The art on the otherhand leaves something to be desired. I'll admit I've never been fond of Charles Robinson. His pictures are too hazy and blended together for my tastes; besides the main image, the other details are not meant to be focused on and it's just not my thing. This book is actually the first in a trilogy, which I did not know previously. I would be interested in following up with the other two books at some time.

DNF: Dork Diaries: Tales froma Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell (Canada) - (US)
Dork Diaries, Book 1

Pages: 55/282
Ages: 9+
Finished: DNF
First Published: Jun. 2, 20o9
Publisher: Aladdin
Genre: children, chic lit, girls, middle school
Rating: DNF

First sentence:

Sometimes I wonder if my mom is BRAIN DEAD.

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

Reason for Reading: This book was nominated for a Graphic Novel Cybils Award '09, we received our review copies and then the book was switched to another category (middle grade I think). I ended up with my copy but no desire to read it until this time.

I didn't really expect this to be my sort of book but after watching the Wimpy Kid movie and loving it, I thought maybe this would be along the same lines except from a girl's point of view. Boy, was I wrong! We start with some dorky girl, smart, good at art and new at school, attending the private school because her dad got the tuition as a bonus for winning the contract as the school's pest control man. Nikki, that's her name writes about how much she wants to be a popular girl and what she can do to get in the club, then she talks about how mean and stupid the popular girls are all the while talking about her parents like they are the stupidest people on planet earth. I am not impressed, but as I carry on, a bit of a plot starts to develop and Nikki tries to sign up for the art contest but the popular girl's presence there removes her courage and she ends up signing up for Library Shelving Club instead. This is where I quit reading. I was in the Library Club I'll thank you to know and it was fun! but any way... I could imagine that she would make friends with the other two dorky people in the library club and somehow eventually get signed up for the art contest. She'll probably win and realise in the end that she has more friends than she thought and so who cares about the popular kids. Who wants to be friends with those mean stuck-up girls anyway. Being a Dork is fun! That's my imaginary plot as to how the rest of the book transpires, if I got it all wrong so what, I don't care for these kinds of teenagers who care about clothes, popularity, having the next coolest thing and are being rude to their parents.

Friday, March 25, 2011

66. Slog's Dad by David Almond

Slog's Dad by David Almond. Illustrated by Dave McKean (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 57
Ages: 13+
Finished: Mar. 14, 2011
First Published: 2006 UK, anthology (FEB. 22, 2011 graphic US edition)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, magical realism, death
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Spring had come.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I have, some may call a morbid, interest in stories that deal with death. From a Christian perspective, but also how people of different beliefs grieve and deal with it and how that compares to the Christian experience.

First of all, this book was not what I had expected. The publisher's tagline "Do you believe in life after death?" and the book's summary had me expecting a story dealing with reincarnation. That couldn't be further from this book's theme. Also the publisher recommends this book for ages 10+ while myself, I can hardly recommend the book for children at all. It is very emotional, deep and profound. The discussion of death is brutally honest and I can't imagine a child not being either scared by it, or if they have experienced the death of a parent that it might reopen old wounds and make the child bitter as to why *their* parent didn't visit them.

Slog's family is Irish Catholic, though I believe the story is taking pacing in England, possibly Yorkshire due to the accent used. Slog's dad, Joe Mickley, is a garbageman, who continuously sings hymns while he works and always talks about Heaven. Whenever a problem in this life is mentioned he'll make a comment about it being better in Heaven. Everyone loves Joe. Then Joe gets a black spot on his big toe and next thing you know he's had his leg removed above the knee and been fitted with a tin leg. Time goes by and the other leg goes and eventually the neighbours see the doctor arrive at the house, then the priest, and finally the undertaker. But Slog's dad promised him on his deathbed that he would return for a visit in the spring.

The story is narrated by Slog's friend Davie and on this particular day in spring, Slog sees a homeless man on a bench and is convinced it is his father; he goes over to talk to him. Davie wants no part of it and goes into the store but when he comes out Slog is still there sitting on the bench chatting with the vagrant. When Davie joins them, the man talks to Slog as if he were his Dad. Slog is joyous. Davie is skeptical. Davie asks the man pointed questions to which he coldly looks at Davie and answers them correctly. Depending on what angle one looks at this encounter, one can believe, like Davie that the man is playing along with Slog for the sake of his belief and faith in his father's promise or one can believe with Slog that somehow, perhaps as an angel, his father was allowed one rare visit with him down from Heaven, just this once.

This story is eerie and the first half of the father dying is dark, though his faith in Heaven adds joyous light to an otherwise sad story. The second half is whimsical, perhaps supernatural, though my religion does not hold with angels walking on earth with human bodies, or perhaps just one human doing a good deed towards another in a time of need.

As far as illustrations go, they are amazing and an integral part of the book. While this story was originally commissioned as a short story for an anthology, this illustrated version adds a whole new dimension to the story. Rather than having illustrations depicting parts of the text, the book is divided into sections of text and then sections of graphic wordless illustration which also continue to tell the story. In this way the book can more likely be called a graphic novel or hybrid rather than a traditional picture book. Somewhat similar to "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" though on a much smaller, less grand scale. My rating reflects the publisher's recommended age compared to my own. Do picture books always have to be recommended for children? This story features a child as a main character but I think it will be most well appreciated by those old enough to contemplate death and their own personal beliefs in the afterlife.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

65. Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Canada) - (US)
The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 1

Pages: 358
Ages: 14+
Finished: Mar. 14, 2011
First Published: Mar. 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: YA, dystopia, science fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

I wait. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids.

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

Reason for Reading: I love dystopian novels and this sounded fantastic.

And fantastic it was! Absolutely fantastic! The first book in a trilogy hasn't excited me this much since The Hunger Games (not that this is anything like it). A brutal future world where an entire generation has been artificially conceived but they have cured disease, no more cancer, no more AIDS, no more heart disease. What this first generation didn't know, until 20 years later, though was that their own naturally conceived children were ticking time bombs. Females now only live until 20 years of age, and males to the ripe old age of 25 then they succumb to "the virus". For seventy years now the first generation, who also have conquered the rapidness of aging, have been trying to find a cure for their children but they have separated into two factions by this time: those who want to find a cure, and the pro-naturalists who say it's time to let nature take its course and want to stop the breeding of infants for the purpose of experimenting on them.

It is in this world that Rhine is kidnapped along with a van full of other girls by a wealthy father looking for wives for his son. The son chooses three and they are forced to marry the 20yo and become his wives. In their captivity the sister wives, form a unique bond with each other. Each comes from a different background and situation, dealing with their kidnapping/captivity and forced marriage in different ways. Rhine is the only one with a will to escape.

Wonderful. wonderful. wonderful. Right from the first chapter I was addicted to this story. It swept me up into a horrible possible future that is brutal and repugnant. The young either live in poverty as third generation orphans or as rich socialites in decadence with no moral values as life is literally too short to waste on virtues. The ethical questions give one much thought, especially about finding a cure vs. experiments on babies or the question of how terrible is it to kidnap street women and starving orphans so they live the rest of a short life in opulence versus leaving their freedom behind? My enjoyment of a dystopian novel always hinges on whether I believe the major situation is possible. While I don't believe that our current society is headed towards perfecting a genetically altered artificially conceived disease free generation. I do, however, believe the current dwindling replacement population crises will have many profound repercussions on the future generations even if something is done immediately, which is hardly likely. Women are already kidnapped for use in prostitution in today's world, it is hardly unrealistic to think they would be kidnapped for use as wives and breeders by the wealthy in this futuristic world with no religion or moral values.

DeStephano has created a fascinating concept with many layers, and even added a tiny touch of romance. This is a riveting book and I can hardly wait for the next book in the trilogy to be published.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

Truly the world has lost the last great actress of an era. An era of movies that will never be made again. An era of acting that will never be equaled. The most beautiful woman in the world in her youth, the girl with the violet eyes. Elizabeth Taylor died at age 79 today after a life filled with illnesses, and finally succumbing to congestive heart failure.

64. Stephen King's The Stand: Captain Trips

Captain Trips by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Art by Mike Perkins (Canada) - (US)
Stephen King's The Stand: Vol. 1

Pages: 160
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 13, 2011
First Published: Jan. 5, 2010
Publisher: Marvel
Genre: graphic novel, post/apocalyptic, horror
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Sally. Wake up now, Sally.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Reason for Reading: I re-read The Stand this year and heard about the comic adaptation, so of course wanted to check it out.

This is a very faithful adaptation of King's The Stand and I enjoyed it immensely. This first book covers the whole superflu leak. The government part of the story is taken care of pretty quickly, giving us enough information and background to know what happened but care has been taken to include the significant small things such as the man whose face is in the tomato soup. We meet most of our heroes in this volume and what they were doing at the time the flue, nicknamed Captain Trips, hit. We only meet one member of the dark side in this volume. We are introduced gently to the dreams of the cornfield as a couple of people have the visions and Randall Flagg is introduced here as well. We are given his background, what he knows of it, and we are in no doubt that he is the evil force.

I'm really pleased with how closely the story stayed to the book. Of course, things have been condensed. Whole situations have been summed up in a few scenes but the important plot points are there along with the small things that are important to character development. I really like how the characters have been portrayed as well. It's been a quick introduction in this volume so not all the characters have come into themselves yet, but so far I think Stu, Frannie and Randall have had the best characterization. All in all, well done. I'm really looking forward to continuing with the series but I'll take my time with it since it's only 4 volumes in so far.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

63. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (Canada) - (US)
Flavia de Luce Mysteries, 3

Pages: 378
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 12, 2011
First Published: Feb. 8, 2011
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre: mystery
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"You frighten me," the gypsy said. "Never have I seen my crystal ball so filled with darkness."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: next in the series

Oh what a welcome it is indeed to be back amongst Flavia's world, at Buckshaw, her ancestral home in the hamlet of Bishop's Lacey! The mature 11 year old chemist with a special fascination in poisons continues to dodge her two older sisters' tortures and seek revenge against them while once again unwittingly stumbling upon a crime. The gypsy fortune teller, whom Flavia has invited to park her caravan on their extensive property for the night, is found by Flavia in the middle of the night beaten to a bloody pulp but with the flutterings of a pulse. Flavia calls in the police and once again she and Inspector Hewitt run their own separate cases and Flavia outwits him in more ways than one. An 11 year old girl has much more access to villagers for covert questioning than the official police. This story turns into one that will unearth secrets of the past that have been buried for many years, Flavia's own family has secrets that are unearthed and before story's end their is a murder, unfortunately of Flavia's prime suspect, and Flavia rescues someone else from certain death.

Just as expected, Bradley brings forth a top-notch mystery. While it has all the makings of an Agatha Christie, Flavia's mysteries are by no means cozies. With her own macabre sense of character, fascination with poisons and death, she runs into the most unusual crimes with many eerie components. This story involves baby-stealing gypsies, crystal gazings of the future, a man hung from the trident of a huge fountain statue of Poseidon and a strange religious sect started during the 17th century called the Hobblers on account of how they shuffle when they walk. With a large cast of people, suspects, interviewees and witnesses, Bradley manages to make good character development all around. Even on the secondary characters. One thing I'm seeing now that we're into the third book, is some growth in the characters from a writer's point of view. Bradley has managed to flesh out all of the major characters and we really have a feel for them now.

There is only one thing that irks me about this book, and it is a publishing complaint. Nothing to do with the story itself. I have the book in my hands published by Doubleday Canada, written by a Canadian author, story set in Britain and for some ungodly reason we, here in Canada,have been given the American English version. This is a major pet peeve of mine. We speak and write English in Canada, not American. If Canadian publishers can't keep the English language alive in Canada, who will?

Monday, March 21, 2011

62. MAOH Juvenile Remix, Vol. 4 by Megumi Osuga

MAOH Juvenile Remix, Vol. 4 by Megumi Osuga (Canada) - (US)
MAOH Juvenile Remix

Pages: 200
Ages: 16+
Finished: Mar. 11, 2011
First Published: Feb. 8, 2011
Publisher: viz media
Genre: YA, manga, fantasy, science fiction, adventure
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Walking back to camp through the swamp, Sam wondered whether to tell his father what he had seen.

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The story pics up where we left off last time and once things are sorted out Inukae reveals he had gathered everyone here for a purpose anyway. He gives a speech to all the grasshoppers in the city via a live feed which will be picked up be television and the Internet. He incites them into believing that it is time to stop being passive and start being aggressive. On the top of a large building's helio pad he asks them to turn on the light and gradually the dark city buildings below have a light turned on over and over until it looks as if it were burning. Inuake has revealed his dark side now and he and his grasshoppers go after the sources of the building conglomerate. Unfortunately, one person gets get in the middle of this "Anderson" the boy who is the son of the CEO of the building company who does not justify what his father does. As well, assassins are populating this story each with different targets or duties. Thankfully "Ando" is no longer one of them. One, at least, has become a regular character.

It's never too long between reads with this series, but even if I do wait a bit longer I never have trouble picking up the new volume and diving into Nekota City, over run with vigilantism, and being turned into a business strip mall City. The story has a mafia-esque feel to it. One that I enjoy. Inuake is an enigma, even now that his dark side is front and centre, he still has a side that shows he is not entirely evil. Whether it is just in Inuake's head or actually the force behind this story, it seems that Inuake is fated to so something and only "Ando" is fated to possible stop him. Lots of excitement this volume, ending in a fabulous double-twist that leaves you wanting more. But I'm not too concerned since a major character is left in peril and I think they'll live to see another day, but that's just my opinion.

Monday: Books in the Mail

Here are my mailbox treats from last week:

From Simon & Schuster Canada:

While the day belongs to humans, the night belongs to yokai,supernatural creatures that thrive on human fear. Caught between these worlds is Rikuo Nura. He's three-quarters human, but his grandfather is none other than Nurarihyon, the supreme commander of the Nura clan, a powerful yokai consortium. So, Rikuo is an ordinary teenages three quarters of the time, until his yokai blood awakens. Then Rikuo transforms into the future leader of the Nura clan, leading a hundred demons.

From the author, Hasani Walker:

Winter has come to the world of Valiku sending a cold and powerful wind through the cities. However, the cold chill is the least of Saye's worries. She has just been moved to a new room with girls who seem crazy, she can't stop falling asleep in class, and the one kinth she may be in love with is only talking to her best friend. Can she pull her life together before things become worse? Visit the world of Valiku in Hasani Walker's highly anticipated continuation in the Saye saga.

From Grove/Atlantic:

A stunning first novel, both literary and thriller, about a retired orthopedic surgeon with dementia,Turn of Mindhas already received worldwide attention. With unmatched patience and a pulsating intensity, Alice LaPlante brings us deep into a brilliant woman’s deteriorating mind, where the impossibility of recognizing reality can be both a blessing and a curse.

As the book opens, Dr. Jennifer White’s best friend, Amanda, who lived down the block, has been killed, and four fingers surgically removed from her hand. Dr. White is the prime suspect and she herself doesn’t know whether she did it. Told in White’s own voice, fractured and eloquent, a picture emerges of the surprisingly intimate, complex alliance between these life-long friends—two proud, forceful women who were at times each other’s most formidable adversaries. As the investigation into the murder deepens and White’s relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown children intensify, a chilling question lingers: is White’s shattered memory preventing her from revealing the truth or helping her to hide it?

A startling portrait of a disintegrating mind clinging to bits of reality through anger, frustration, shame, and unspeakable loss,Turn of Mindis a remarkable debut that examines the deception and frailty of memory and how it defines our very existence.

From Penguin Group (Canada):

Danny Dragonbreath is hoping to see lots of cool bats when he and his best friend, Wendell, visit Danny's cousin, a bat specialist in Mexico. But he isn't expecting to get up close and personal with a giant bat monster, who kidnaps Danny and carries him off to her lair! Now nerdy Wendell will finally get a chance to be a hero . . . but only if he can hunt down the bat monster before she permanently adopts Danny as her bat monster baby.

From Random House US:

It is the last decade of the 19th century. The Wild West has been tamed and its fierce, independent and often violent larger-than-life figures – gun-toting wanderers, trappers, prospectors, Indian fighters, cowboys, and lawmen –are now victims of their own success. They are heroes who’ve outlived their usefulness.
But then gold is discovered in Alaska and the adjacent Canadian Klondike and a new frontier suddenly looms - an immense unexplored territory filled with frozen waterways, dark spruce forests, and towering mountains capped by glistening layers of snow and ice.

“Klondicitis,” a giddy mix of greed and lust for adventure, ignites a stampede. Fleeing the depths of a worldwide economic depression and driven by starry-eyed visions of vast wealth, tens of thousands rush northward.

Joining this throng of greenhorns and grifters, whores and highwaymen, sourdoughs and seers are three unforgettable men. In a true-life tale that rivets from the first page, we meet Charlie Siringo, a top-hand sharp-shooting cowboy who, after futilely trying to settle down with his new bride, becomes one of the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s shrewdest; George Carmack, a California-born American Marine who’s adopted by an Indian tribe, raises a family with a Taglish squaw, makes the discovery that starts off the Yukon Gold Rush – and becomes fabulously rich; and Soapy Smith, a sly and inventive predator-conman who rules a vast criminal empire.

As we follow this trio’s lives, we’re led inexorably into a perplexing mystery. A fortune in gold bars has somehow been stolen from the fortress-like Treadwell Mine in Juneau, Alaska, with no clues as to how the thieves made off with such an immensely heavy cargo. To many it appears that the crime will never be solved. But the Pinkerton Agency has a reputation for finding the answers that elude others. Charged with getting the job done is Charlie Siringo who discovers that, to run the thieves to ground, he must embark on a rugged cross-territory odyssey that will lead him across frigid waters and through a frozen wilderness. Ultimately, he’ll have his quarry in his sights. But then an additional challenge will present itself. He must face down Soapy Smith and his gang of 300 cutthroats. Hanging in the balance: George Carmack’s fortune in gold.

At once a compelling true-life mystery and an unforgettable portrait of a time in America’s history when thousands were fired with a vision of riches so unimaginable as to be worth any price, The Floor of Heaven is also an exhilarating tribute to the courage and undaunted spirit of the men and women who helped shape America.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chester by Syd Hoff

Chester by Syd Hoff (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 64
Ages: 5+
Finished: Mar. 10, 2011
First Published: 1961
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: children, easy reader, horses
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Chester was a wild horse.

Acquired: Purchased a used copy from a book/garage sale or thrift shop.

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

Chester is a wild horse who wants to be tame but when the men come to gather up the wild horses he just stands there so they will take him and they think he's not much of a wild horse, so they take the others and leave him. So Chester sets off to find somebody who wants him and will take care of him, he tries the farm, walking into town, perhaps a child's rocking horse, a statue, a merry-go-round horse and even has the opportunity to pull a fire engine when it's on the blink but they don't need him after it's fixed. Finally when the children challenge him to run, he runs and runs and runs and the cowboys finally want him where he meets back up with his old friends where they are all loved and taken care of.

This book follows Hoff's usual style of focusing on one creature and his exploits in the real world looking for a place for himself to fit in. It's a cute, often funny story with Hoff's classic illustrations. I'm not awfully fond of the story. It seems sad rounding up all the wild horses, when today there are only a few places left in North America with wild horses. I'm no animal activist, but still, I believe wild animals should be free rather than in captivity. Now I'm sure Syd Hoff's message here in the book is none other than that everybody (insert Chester the horse here to represent everybody) wants to be loved, and cared for and have a place to call home. Simple as that and shouldn't be taken beyond that. This book is still in print, but has a horrendous new cover which has been recoloured with solid bright inks. Syd Hoff uses light coloured pencil crayons and black outline ink in his illustrations and this new cover is a fright to see. However, fortunately the inside illustrations remain Syd's own original work.

61. There's a Wolf at the Door by Zoe B. Alley

There's a Wolf at the Door by Zoe B. Alley. Pictures by R.W. Alley (Canada) - (US)
Five Classic Tales

Pages: 34
Ages: 6+
Finished: Mar. 10, 2011
First Published: Sep. 30, 2008
Publisher: A Neal Porter Book
Genre: graphic novel, children's book, fairy tales
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Once upon a time, three little pigs -- Alan, Gordon, and Blake -- set off to make their way in the world.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: The sequel to this book was nominated for a Cybils '10 graphic novel award but the publisher didn't send us judges a review copy and none of us were able to find a copy to read in time. A couple of panelists, who had been judges since this book was nominated, expressed remorse since they had enjoyed this first book so much. I decided I'd give this a read while I wait until the other book is old enough (required by my library system) to have an ILL request put in for it.

A mixture between retelling and "fractured" fairy tales as the husband/wife team put into graphic format five popular classic fairy tales, each one featuring a wolf. And in this version, not just "a" wolf but the exact same wolf. The fairy tales start off quite true to form with the most popular ones "The Three Little Pigs", "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and then start to fracture with "Little Red Riding Hood". By this time the wolf has become the main character of the book and has quite a personality and while the last two tales resemble the originals they have become fractured by the pure largeness of the wolf's charisma. These are "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" and "The Wolf and the Seven Little Goslings".

The story is hilarious actually as each time the wolf who is a dandy, and happens to be hungry, is always outwitted by the food he tries to catch. Zoe has a wonderful sense of humour and just her little additions to these tales make you laugh, like the Pigs having names, as does Riding Hood who is a stuck up girl who loves the colour red and shopping, she and the wolf get along quite well until he dares to frighten her grandma. Then there's the time when the wolf in sheep's clothing, which he found as a rug at Grandma's because Red had ripped off his Grannie's nightie, decides to go back to the "Boy Who Cried Wolf"s flock and fit in under disguise so he can finally capture his supper. But as one of the sheep says "Does he think we all have wool between our ears?" they are onto him at once.

A wonderful presentation of common fairy tales/folktales with a twist and side order of humour make this a delightful book to read. I grinned from ear to ear as I read the whole thing through. I will say, though, that this book is huge!! It is not going to fit on a bookshelf. Too tall to stand up and if you put it spine up it will stick out so far you'll be bumping into it or it won't stay on your shelf if they are narrow. Just give the book to the kids and let them tote it around and find places to store it when it's not being read. I'm sure they will come up with better ideas than the grown ups! I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel now "There's a Princess in the Palace".

Saturday, March 19, 2011

60. Winter's Child by Cameron Dokey

Winter's Child by Cameron Dokey (Canada) - (US)
Once Upon a Time series

Pages: 175
Ages: 12+
Finished: Mar. 4, 2011
First Published: Sept. 8, 2009
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Many years ago, when the world was much younger than it is today, a king and queen dwelt together in a castle made of ice and snow.

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

Reason for Reading: I've wanted to read this series for ages and have just never got around to it. Finally, I brought this book out from my backlog and read my first book in the series!

I just absolutely adored this book! When I went to get my picture for my blog post I noticed that it didn't have a very high overall rating and looked at the ratings chart to see that the opinions were all over the place on this one, from horrible to terrific. Now I don't read other reviews before I've written my own but I'm going to guess the diverse opinions on this book are due to the ending. Personally, I liked the ending. I had expected it to happen, there were clues that hinted at this happening earlier in the book and I wasn't surprised. The author could have perhaps developed this extra character, or his relationship, a bit better, so that the ending scene isn't quite so shocking to the characters in the story but it really came as no shock to this reader.

Dokey has managed to keep a fairy tale quality to her story while at the same time creating two teen characters who don't feel any less modern for it. There are no cars in this world, Grace cannot wear pants, Kai is a watchmaker apprentice while Grace does fancy embroidery; all in keeping with some medieval fairy tale world. Ye the teens speak and act quite naturally as modern teens would, with an easy report between each other and natural modern day language but it does not feel out of place at all. Dokey has created her world well.

This retelling of The Snow Queen is much different from the original yet Dokey manages to keep many key ingredients present while turning the story away from Andersen's original dark tale into a true romance story. The Snow Queen is a good guy this time, being a young cursed 16 year old girl called The Winter Child. Kai is the one who follows after her and elements such as the broken mirror and Grace's visit with the old lady who tries to keep her forever and the thief girl are included. The story is told in alternating voices, mostly of Grace and the Winter Child, though Kai speaks up as well. I always enjoy books told from various points of view but did find Kai's chapters to be the weakest. The fairy tale atmosphere is kept alive throughout the story and I think that may be what some readers will find hard to believe when it comes to the ending. I think the ending was great, and expected but others may find it too sudden. However, it is a fairy tale after all, where anything may happen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

59. The Dragon Seer by Janet McNaughton

The Dragon Seer by Janet McNaughton (Canada) only

Pages: 324
Ages: 12+
Finished: Mar. 8, 2011
First Published: Jun. 8, 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: YA, historical fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

A single dragon swoops and glides above a ring of standing stones in the midnight-bright sky.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy dragon fantasy and this seemed like it might be a bit different, with a society centred around the dragons.

I have to admit I thought this book was going to be about the Celts but it's not and I won't tell you what group of people it is about as it isn't given away until the Historical Note at the end. Just in case you are not up on your early history. Set in the same time period though, that of the eight century in the Orkney Islands at the tip of Scotland. The book is firmly grounded in its medieval historical setting. While no famous personages make appearances except for a passing remark about St. Brendan, the monk that myth tells us sailed the seas in a coracle, the Vikings are the looming threat to these peaceful people of the dragons.

The book starts off immediately with Madoca, a slave girl, being chosen as the new Dragon Seer apprentice and going off to live in seclusion with a small group of people who look after the Dragons. But the Dragons are really there to look after the people; they have memorized the lore, history, laws of the ancients and all that came before and through them the people can have the knowledge of the past, as they are a people without a written language. Madoca learns from the dragons, and learns how to access and use the magic of earth. She is surprisingly a powerful receptacle for the magic, much more so than anyone has seen in some time. Danger threatens the dragons from one side and the life of the people is threatened from more than one side. After only a year of apprenticeship, can Madoca save the dragons.

This is a beautiful story! The dragons are not what one expects. McNaughton has made them long, slender, agile and yet ungainly when they walk on the land. They are much more like the dragons of the East as they fly in the air and form knots together, each with special meaning. They don't breath fire, but they can speak the language of the people when taught as hatchlings. They communicate with each other, and teach the dragon seers, by projecting feelings over any amount of distance. The writing is lyrical yet simple and there is a mystical atmosphere throughout the book. Madoca starts off at 14 years of age and grows as a person through the story as her character moves through the various stages of her life, maturing and at first doubting, then accepting the important role she is destined to play in the future. The book ends in a complete and satisfactory ending making it feel as if it could be a stand-alone book, but I see that this Fall a second book will be published whether it be a companion or the next in a trilogy I can't find any information. I'll definitely be adding it to my list though.

I'm very pleased to have found Canadian author Janet McNaughton this way. I'm afraid I've never heard of her before and she has an impressive backlist of books including historical fantasy, historical fiction and dystopia. I will be making her an author to read.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

58. Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker

Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker (Canada) - (US) Missile Mouse, 2

Pages: 146
Ages: 9+
Finished: Mar. 7, 2011
First Published: Jan. 1, 2011
Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic
Genre: Graphic Novel, Children, Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Freeze, or I blast you!

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

Missile Mouse is chasing a fugitive on the capital planet, has a bad run-in with the robot guards, is attacked by Blazing Bat and after mass destruction to the docks brings his man back to the GSA. Turns out the fellow was under the influence of a mind altering device which made him the living slave of the one controlling the device. Missile Mouse is sent with the victim back to his home planet along with a team of Security Robots, one of whom becomes his new partner, Agent 44. Here they find the evil King Bognarsh who has captured all able-bodied men and taken them to the other side of the planet to work as slaves in his mine. It's up to Missile Mouse to save the people of this planet but at the same time he has a bounty hunter, Blazing Bat, out for his head, literally.

I love Missile Mouse! This pure science fiction graphic story takes some common science fiction elements and rolls with them on a junior level without becoming a farce or a superhero story. Missile Mouse is kind of an anti-hero. He doesn't respect authority, does things *his* way, often makes a mess of things, but always gets his guy. It's hard not to find him lovable in certain ways. While Missile Mouse may be a rogue he is not stupid, he learns from his mistakes, and from this we see the real heart of the beast inside. The story is quite exciting. Typical of any sci-fi cartoon or TV episode with its battles, high tech gadgetry and moments of humour but the core of this book is MM's relationship with Agent 44. What starts as a commander who has nothing but disdain for his subordinate turns into a true crime fighting/military partnership where one must have the other's back at all times, where trust becomes an instinct. A wonderful story for only the second book in this series. Looking forward to what Book 3 brings. The ending here sets up how the next book will start.

DC Super-Pets!: Super Hero Splash Down

Super Hero Splash Down by Jane Mason. Illustrated by Art Baltazar. (Canada) - (US)
DC Super-Pets! series

Pages: 52
Ages: 6+
Finished: Mar. 7, 2011
First Published: Jan. 2, 2011
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Genre: Easy Reader, Superheroes
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"This is the life." B'dg exclaimed.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me for his reader. This is his first official "chapter book".

This new series "DC Super-Pets!" is a younger sibling to the already established "DC Super Heroes" series by the publisher. While the latter series is for established, and perhaps reluctant readers, this new series is for emergent or reluctant readers. All six books in the series are at a GR. 2 level with this one being the easiest at a RL:2.3. Following the same format as the established series, DC Super Pets uses colourful cartoon graphics for all the sound effect words. It goes on to make the books more appealing to younger readers by using different colours of text for each character's spoken words. There are also illustrations on every page, using a variety of formats from full-page to half-page to single illustrations amongst the text. This may sound crowded at first but the lines of text are double spaced creating a nice graphic display, easily read on each page.

This story features the Green Lantern's pet, a space alien chipmunk named B'dg. B'dg insists he is pals with GL, not his pet. B'dg is enjoying a day off from saving the universe at Waves O' Fun water-park when Red Lantern corps member Dex-Starr Kitty arrives and starts a fight with B'Dg. Their tousle takes them into outer space where they meet up with the 4 member group of Yellow Lantern Dogs, a bunch of thugs, who overhear about Waves O' Fun and decide to descend upon it. B'dg and Dex-Star must join forces if they are to keep the water-park safe from these oafs.

Ds had a hard time reading this book. He is a struggling reader and struggled with words he really does know. This is a continuing problem he faces. I helped him along quite a bit with the reading so that he wouldn't reach frustration level as he took to the book as soon as he saw it. He loved the action and the characters. He is a cat person, so found Dex-Starr to be his favourite character and thought his antics were funny. He thought the whole book was fun and enjoyed the action. Though he didn't appreciate the ending which implies that a superhero's work is never done. He wanted to see another battle (LOL).

Capstone's books always bring out enthusiasm for the story and reading in general in my son. Even though he struggled with the reading, my careful guidance at balancing his effort without it becoming frustration, along with his eagerness to read the captivating story brought about a pleasurable reading experience and he's looking forward to reading another book in the series.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

57. Vermonia #4: The Rukan Prophecy by Yoyo

The Rukan Prophecy by Yoyo (Canada) - (US)
Vermonia, Vol. 4

Pages: 208
Ages: 8+
Finished: Mar. 6, 2011
First Published: Nov. 9, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, manga, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Naomi, this way.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The book starts, as usual, with four gorgeous full colour pages of art and on each page is a very brief summary of something that has happened in the past volume, taken out of context. I must say that when I started reading this I was rather confused. I read Vol. 1-3 back-to-back so obviously followed the storyline then with no problem but with a break of 3 months between, the fact that this series does not contain the usual "The Story So Far" summary of most manga or the page of characters and their descriptions to refresh your memory was sorely lacking. I floundered my way through the first pages as the book opens right in the middle of an action sequence trying to sort out what was going on and who was who. Once that had happened for me, I settled into the book nicely and enjoyed the second half ever so much more. It reminded me again of why I had enjoyed the first three so much and why I like this series.

It's impossible to give a story summary at this point without spoilers so I'll briefly but somewhat cryptically say the three friends are still looking to save their fourth kidnapped friend, Mel. The reader has been with Mel and knows the turmoil she is going through as she gets to know the others controlled by Uro. This volume brings all the Tribes of the Turtle Realm together as we watch our warriors confront two major battles against Uro's dark Yami magic. A good story, some reveals are made, but I had guessed them already. Though now it shall be interesting to see where the story line goes. I am enjoying this series but do miss the usual manga summaries at the beginning. Before I read the next volume, I think I'll take a quick browse through this one to refresh my memory.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

56. Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 233
Ages: 14+
Finished: Mar. 6, 2011
First Published: Feb. 8, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA, horror
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Everything changes when Tiffany Quinn disappears.

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

Reason for Reading: I enjoyed the author's Wake trilogy so much there was no way I was *not* going to read her next book. However, the plot summary of this was so captivating I would have chosen to read it anyway.

I just love a good horror story and there really isn't that much available in the teen market these days in this genre. Good, old-fashioned, creepy horror story; that's what this is, forget about that paranormal romance stuff. This is the type of story that would have made a good X-Files episode. It starts with a missing teen girl in an extremely rural small town. It has a one room high school of 24 students. Then we meet and really get to know Kendall and Nico. They live on opposing farms and have grown up together; they are best friends, a couple and will everyone assumes will get married some day. Kendall is OCD and Nico is OK with that as he's used it. But then Nico disappears too. Kendall's OCD starts to act up worse because of the anxiety that she is under and she starts hearing voices, lots of whisperings, and is that Nico's voice crying out for help, to be saved? Then she finds messages scratched into his empty desk that only he could have left there and whether Kendall is going crazy or not she decides to try and help find the missing teens.

This is a really good, creepy story. Kendall's OCD is represented very well. We are given a look inside her mind and how it works, what it's like to be her. (As someone with an OCD diagnosis myself, I was pleased with her portrayal. I also enjoyed how her OCD became an integral part of the plot. The supernatural element to the horror story is a little confusing at first, but that's not a bad thing. We are made aware of this element before the characters and yet we can't understand what it really is. This eventually becomes clearer to us but both the reader and characters reach full understanding at the same time. The supernatural part is quite eerie and touches on one of those subjects that most people have nightmares about. Finally, the book ends with the expected creepy horror story ending.

I really enjoyed the book! I found it spooky, atmospheric and containing all the elements needed to create a gripping, fun horror story. Looking forward to Ms. McMann's next book which will be the start of a new trilogy, out in the Fall (2011).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baby Joseph Rescued!

Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! God is Good!

Baby Joseph is currently in a hospital in Missouri, US where he is finally receiving medical care and if is the case will be allowed to die naturally with dignity at home with his parents.

Doesn't he look happy?

Monday: Books in the Mail

My mailbox turned into a treasure trove last week, which was very welcome after the little break of two books the week before. So take a look at all the great reading I have ahead of me!

From the book's publicist (for a Book Tour):

After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.
A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

From Tundra Books:

The Boer War was disastrous for the British: 22,000 of them died. Close to 7,000 Boers died. Nobody knows how many Africans lost their lives, but the number is estimated to be around 20,000. This tragic, and little remembered, chapter in history is the backdrop for Trilby Kent’s powerful novel.

Corlie Roux’s father has always told her that God gave Africa to the Boers. Her life growing up on a farm in South Africa is not easy: it is beautiful, but it is also a harsh place where the heat can be so intense that the very raindrops sizzle. When her beloved father dies, she is left in the care of a cold, stern mother who clearly favors her two younger brothers. But she finds solace with her African maitie, Sipho, and in Africa itself.

Corlie’s world is about to vanish: the British are invading and driving Boers from their farms. The families who do not surrender escape to hidden laagers in the bush to help fight off the British. When Corlie’s laager is discovered, she and the others are sent to an internment camp.

Corlie is strong and can draw on her knowledge of the land she loves, but is that enough to help her survive the starvation, disease, and loss that befalls her in the camp?

Nasrudin Hoja was a mullah (teacher) in Turkey. He was a busy man – he worked in a vineyard, gave sermons at the mosque, and was sometimes even a judge. He did all of this with a nagging wife, a constant stream of uninvited visitors, and many animals. Although Hoja’s life wasn’t easy, his heart was always light and his observations about life held a witty twist. For instance, when his donkey got lost, his neighbors offered sympathy, but Hoja found the bright side: “Imagine if I were riding the donkey at the time. I’d be lost too!”

Though the ten Hoja stories presented by Rina Singh and richly illustrated by Farida Zaman are funny, each one contains such insight into human nature that Sufi teachers use them to illustrate their teachings. Traditional Turkish Hoja stories are much-loved throughout Asia, and Nearly Nonsense brings them to a North American readership sure to enjoy them and, through laughter, to learn from them.

For centuries, readers have been fascinated by the stories of the Arabian Nights. Perhaps the best-known is Sindbad the Sailor. He discovers an island paradise, but it is actually a giant whale. He sees a huge mountain. It is, in fact, the egg of the famous Roc, a bird so huge that she can carry an elephant in her talons. Sindbad manages to escape from Roc's nest by tying his turban to the bird's leg and is transported to the final adventure in this volume: the Valley of Diamonds. It is a story of high adventure and wit overcoming any obstacle.

In this stunning sequel to Sindbad: From the Tales of The Thousand and One Nights, Sindbad, now a rich sultan, recounts more of his adventures. On this voyage, Sindbad and his hapless crewmates are driven off course, and their ship is overrun by monkeys. They abandon the ship but row into more trouble, landing on an island inhabited by a man-eating giant. They are captured but devise a daring escape, and think they are almost away, when they encounter even greater obstacles. With his ingenuity and quick wits, Sindbad prevails, but there are yet more seafaring adventures in store.

Sindbad the Sailor has escaped death many times and is planning to live the rest of his life on dry land. But the sea beckons, and he sets out for one final adventure. As he sails from a beautiful far-off land where people drink scented tea, a storm destroys the ship. Sindbad finds refuge on an island, but it holds little safety for him. Ivory traders make him their slave. It seems that he will live out his days in servitude. But the power of love, and his compassion for a baby elephant, give him the strength he needs for survival. His voyage offers him the answer to life’s greatest secret, and finally he can rest.

Ludmila Zeman has retold these beloved adventures from the Thousand and One Nights in her gorgeous trilogy, Sindbad, Sindbad in the Land of the Giants, and Sindbad’s Secret, incorporating design details and maps that place the stories into their historical context

From Librarything's ER Program:

Sixteen-year-old Ani lives in the tiny Quebec town of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre, where her family runs Saintly Souvenirs, a tourist shop catering to the many pilgrims who come to the town seeking a miracle. The bane of Ani's existence is her hyperactive, over-sexed younger sister, Colette. Ani and her mother, Therese, are devout Catholics; Colette and her father are not. When Therese is paralyzed after a freak accident, Ani's faith is tested, but when she is confronted with something shocking in her mother's past, she has to rethink her whole existence.

Jenna and Andi Tikaani-Gray are hoping for a fresh start. Though twelve year-old Andi has long struggled with a rare medical disorder, she and her mother have finally received good news from out-of-town specialists. It's news they desperately needed, especially after the recent death of Jenna's husband (Andi's dad) in a car accident.

But as they are flying home to Alaska, ready to begin again, the unthinkable happens. The pilot sabotages their small plane and crashes into Sultana, one of the most remote and dangerous mountains in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Even worse, a winter storm is headed their way along with someone who doesn't want to save them, but to kill them.

Only one man can keep them alive: Cole Maddox, the mysterious last-minute passenger who joined them on their flight. But trust doesn't come easy to Jenna or Andi and they both sense Cole is hiding something.

A relentless tale of survival and suspense unfolds, involving military technology designed by Jenna's late husband that some would do anything to possess.

From Eureka Productions:

Where the West Began - Seven Classic Tales! Western Classics features an adaptation of Zane Grey's grand western prototype, "Riders of the Purple Sage", illustrated by Cynthia Martin. Plus stories by Bret Harte, Willa Cather, Gertrude Atherton, and John G. Neihardt, with art and adaptations by Trina Robbins, John Findley, Mark A. Nelson, George Sellas, Reno Maniquis, and Ryan Huna Smith. Also included is an early Hopalong Cassidy story illustrated by original "Hoppy" newspaper strip artist Dan Spiegle, and a comic western by Conan creator Robert E. Howard.

From Candlewick Press:

In a rainy town in the north of England, there are strange goings-on. Dad is building a pair of wings, eating flies, and feathering his nest. Auntie Doreen is getting cross and making dumplings. Contest barker Mr. Poop is parading the streets shouting louder and louder, and even Mr. Mint, the headmaster, is not quite himself. And watching it all is Lizzie, missing her mam and looking after Dad by letting him follow his newfound whimsy. From an inspired creative pairing comes a story of the Great Human Bird Competition - an exuberant tale of the healing power of flights of fancy, and a very special father-daughter bond.

From Harper Collins Canada:

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La,” a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s bestselling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals.

But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed. Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.

Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside—a journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man—or woman.

Drawn from interviews, declassified U.S. Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a survivor’s diary, a rescuer’s journal, and original film footage, Lost in Shangri-La recounts this incredible true-life adventure for the first time. Mitchell Zuckoff reveals how the determined trio—dehydrated, sick, and in pain—traversed the dense jungle to find help; how a brave band of paratroopers risked their own lives to save the survivors; and how a cowboy colonel attempted a previously untested rescue mission to get them out.

By trekking into the New Guinea jungle, visiting remote villages, and rediscovering the crash site, Zuckoff also captures the contemporary natives’ remembrances of the long-ago day when strange creatures fell from the sky. A riveting work of narrative nonfiction that vividly brings to life an odyssey at times terrifying, enlightening, and comic, Lost in Shangri-La is a thrill ride from beginning to end.

From Random House Canada:

Harry Hole is back and this time he's back from very, very far away. Another gripping instalment in this prize-winning and acclaimed series by the internationally #1 bestselling crime writer in Norway.

Two women are found murdered in Oslo — both of them have drowned in their own blood. What mystifies the police is that the puncture wounds in the victims' faces have been caused from the inside of their mouths. Kaja Solness from Homicide is sent to Hong Kong to track down a man who is the Oslo Police Department's only specialist on serial killings. The severely addicted detective has tried to disappear in the vast, anonymous city. He is on the run and haunted by his last case, the woman he loves, and creditors alike. His name is Harry Hole.