Saturday, April 30, 2011

DC Super-Pets!: The Fastest Pet on Earth

The Fastest Pet on Earth by J.E. Bright. Illustrated by Art Baltazar. (Canada) - (US)
DC Super-Pets! series

Pages: 52
Ages: 6+
Finished: Apr. 12, 2011
First Published: Jan. 2, 2011
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Genre: Easy Reader, Superheroes
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Jumpa carried Wonder Woman through the jungles of Paradise Island.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

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

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 at a RL:2.9. 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 Wonder Woman's steed (not pet) Jumpa who is a Kanga (similar to a Kangaroo) but endowed with a super powered tail and mighty jumps. Kangas are only found on Paradise Island. Unlike the others in this series we have read so far Wonder Woman actually is a character in the story for the first chapter and returns at the final third chapter. Kanga and WW find a nest of tortoises but amongst them is a golden tortoise which is very rare and revered on Paradise Island. A golden Tortoise can enhance the powers of whoever is holding him. Wonder Woman goes off to the temple to tell the others and figure out a way to protect the golden T. while Jumpa is left behind to guard the nestlings. Meanwhile Chauncey the Cheetah has been snooping around Paradise Island looking for a prize to present to his owner Cheetah Girl and he snatches the golden tortoise right from under Kanga. Thus now his super speed is increased by the Golden T.'s powers and the chase begins. But Kanga will have to do more than quick jumping to save the golden T. This is also going to take some quick thinking.

I enjoyed this book as much as the others we've read. The quality is on par and the story is fast-paced and just what you expect from this set of readers. My son says he did not like this one much though. When asked why, he didn't really have a reason. It's not because it's about Wonder Woman. He has a WW action figure with all his other superheroes. After thinking about it, I think perhaps that the super powers of Chauncey Cheetah (running fast) and Kanga (jumping high and fast) were underwhelming to him. He's a superhero fanatic and he has seen way more cool superpowers than to be impressed by running fast and jumping high.

But seriously, not every book is going to impress every kid but I'm still pleased with the quality, content and presentation of this early chapter book series for emergent or reluctant readers.

Friday, April 29, 2011

95. Dragonbreath: Lair of the Bat Monster

Dragonbreath: Lair of the Bat Monster by Ursula Vernon (Canada) - (US)
Dragonbreath, Book 4

Pages: 204 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 14, 2011
First Published: Mar. 17, 2011
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: children, fantasy, action, graphic hybrid
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

The deepest jungle. The dark heart of the rain forest. The brave explorer fights his way through the undergrowth.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Group Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This is the fourth book in the series and Ms. Vernon is still going strong. I'll say this was not my favourite of the bunch but it is still a worthy entry in the series. Danny and Wendell save a tiny bat from drowning and true to the form that the series ventured from in book three, Danny asks him mom for a relative who can help them save the bat's life. So she sends them off to visit cousin Steve in the rain forests of Mexico as he is conducting research on bats there. Whilst there, the three come upon the existence of a new giant species of bat that kidnaps Danny.

Fortunately Steve and Danny get along amazingly well from the beginning because, as Wendell notices, they share the same attitude and humour. This helps carry the story and keep the dynamics rolling along as the reader is used to when Wendell and Steve are partnered up for a good portion of the book searching for Danny. Of course, as expected, the plot is full of action from start to finish in this part text, part graphic novel chapter book. The humour is off-key and as hilarious as ever with Danny/Steve and Wendell's character's being so completely different.

Perhaps I've gotten used to the silliness of these stories and that is why this one didn't quite thrill me as much as the last two. Another difference is that this book does manage to add quite a lot of actual scientific information about real bats into the story. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just different for a Dragonbreath book. The end of the book warns us that next time Danny will have a "Haunting" adventure, which sounds promising as the fifth book will be released in August is called "No Such Thing As Ghosts".

Thursday, April 28, 2011

92. Dragonbreath: Curse of the Were-Wiener by Ursula Vernon

Curse of the Were-Wiener by Ursula Vernon (Canada) - (US)
Dragonbreath, #3

Pages: 204
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 3, 2011
First Published: Sept. 16, 2010
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: children, hybrid graphic novel, humour, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Daring Danny Dragonbreath hiked through the dark and creepy woods.

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series. Actually I was sitting down to read #4, when it dawned on me that I hadn't read #3! Somehow I'd missed it amongst all the books, so getting my priorities in order I'm reading #3, then #4!

Well, the storyline for this book is just plain silliness, but I have to say it is my favourite one so far! Wendell always brings his own lunch to school, but Danny notices that the hot dogs in today's cafeteria lunch are an incredibly bright red colour. He passes it to Wendell for him to see and the hot dog bites him! Needless to say Danny passes on hot dogs that day. A few days later Wendell shows Danny that he has hair growing on his back and they figure it is from the hot dog bite. It is really itchy and as they look around, about half the school student body and staff are itching like crazy. They set off to find out what was in those wiener's and find a package in the cafeteria. They are not regular wieners but "were-wieners" that have gone feral! It's up to Danny and Wendell to kill the Alpha-wurst, thus saving them all from lycanthropy.

A totally out there plot that is absolutely hilarious! One of the fun things is that since Wendell has been bit, every now and then he goes under the spell of the call of the moon and tries to bite Danny. This total role reversal of their characters is a great laugh and the humour in the book abounds as well as being carefully timed within the graphic panels. As usual this book is part text and part graphic panels, usually called a hybrid. What more can I say? Danny Dragonbreath fans are going to love this addition to the series and it will have them clamouring for more. Thankfully, there is book #4 to look forward to, Lair of the Bat Monster!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

90. High Flight: A Story of World War II by Linda Granfield

High Flight: A Story of World War II by Linda Granfield. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 32
Ages: 9+
Finished: Apr. 8, 2011
First Published: 1999
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, non-fiction, biography, poetry
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

How old do you have to be to leave your mark?

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: real aloud to ds as part of our history curriculum.

This is a "picture book" biography for older kids of the short and tragic life of John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Living only a short 19 years many countries claim him as one of their own. Born in Shanghai, China to missionary parents he was sent to boarding school in England at nine years of age. He returned to live with his parents, now in the US, in time to start college. An American citizen by birth , his British accent set him apart from others his age and he thought of England as home. When World War II broke out newspapers reported of air attacks on his beloved England. The United States was not in the the war yet, nor would it be for several more years, so John went to Canada and signed up with the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) where he knew he would be fighting on Britain's side.

John was not a very mature 18 year old when he entered the army and had troubles with his superiors in following orders and was often called on for dangerous flying. He was otherwise, an all around well-liked kid by his peers and those who had dealings with him. John liked to try his hand at poetry, often going to the extreme romantic side but one day after writing a letter to his parents he turned it over and wrote a "ditty" he had composed in his head while out practice flying on his own one evening. This was the poem he called "High Flight". His parents were impressed and took it to church with them where they shared it and his Aunt sent it in to the local paper. From there it caught on with the papers world wide and "High Flight" became the most famous poem to come out of World War II. Three months later John would be dead after his plane crashed into another during flying formation manoeuvres.

This book is the short story of his tragic life, the story of how a famous poem came to be written, and the story of the wasted youth who die in war. This is a good book, entertaining but not exactly exciting as Magee didn't really have that exciting of a life but he left his mark and it is a bittersweet tale. Ds, who is ten and autistic, even realized the youth of John and commented on it many times. Ds has a 21 year old brother and he just couldn't comprehend an 18/19 yo fighting and dying in a war. Good lesson learned. Unfortunately neither of us are very crazy for this poem but Martchenko's illustrations are as wonderful as expected being one of the foremost children's illustrators in Canada.

Interesting tidbit of info: When this book was first being published, I was working on a kidlit Canadian historical fiction/biography project online for the homeschool community (though it became popular with other educators) and Linda emailed me asking for my address. The aforementioned 21yo brother (turning 22 this month!) who was 10 at the time, was thrilled to receive a postcard from Linda Granfield of this book with a personal note to him on the back. We still have it, though for some reason it is tucked inside our copy of "Flanders Fields".

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

93-94. Grandma's Attic Series by Arleta Richardson Book 1 & 2

Grandma's Attic Series by Arleta Richardson

Publisher: David C Cook

Publication Date: originally published in the seventies. These editions are re-published April, 2011 with new illustrations by Patrice Barton.

Acquired: Received review copies from the books' publicist.

Reason for Reading: I've read book three of this series and have always wanted to read all the books but just never got around to it; so when I was offered an opportunity to review the first two books I jumped!

Ages: 7+

93. Book One: In Grandma's Attic, 1974, 2011, 144 pgs. (US) - (Canada) Wonderful, wholesome tales of farm life in Michigan in approximately the 1870s. Arleta Richardson was actually brought up by her grandmother, but in the books she comes for extended visits and finds many objects in Grandma's attic and just around the house that provoke Grandma into telling Arleta the story surrounding the object from her own childhood. Or Arleta and Grandma are doing something together and by asking a question or simple conversation will bring about another tale of Grandma's childhood. The stories in this book centre around when Grandma was between about four and nine years of age. They tell of a wonderful, harder yet simpler life, when items such as a water pump made life so much easier. These are tales of a little girl or her older brothers getting into mischief, being downright naughty or simply becoming caught up in embarrassing moments. Some of the stories have what could be called a lesson to teach (or a moral) but they are gentle and not the emphasis of every story. The books in this series are classified as Christian fiction, and while the family believes in God, mentions their beliefs, and acts accordingly this book is no more Christian than any other mainstream story that features a Christian family, such as the Ingalls family. Rather than telling one cohesive story the book is more of a collection of vignettes with each chapter telling a new reminiscence from Grandma's childhood. There are small details that recur from time to time in later chapters that hold the book together well. Lots of fun and humour which I thoroughly enjoyed. Rating 5/5

94. Book Two: More Stories From Grandma's Attic. 1979, 2011. 144 pgs. Another wonderful wholesome book of stories about Grandma's memories of when she was a little girl on the farm back in the late 1800s in Michigan. Her age is not mentioned often this time around but six and nine years old are mentioned, with the majority of the stories taking place with her best friend Sarah Jane at around the age of nine. This makes the time frame compatible with book one. The short prelude stories of Grandma and Arleta have become a bit more involved and Arleta herself has become a character. The stories are just as fun as in book one, though all are not just fun, some have a more serious side as well. I'd say the stories this time around focus more on learning a lesson (though by no means are they didactic) and this book is definitely more from a Christian world view than the first. This time around Grandma and Arleta are staying at Grandma's old farm house for several months, this is where Uncle Roy lives now, and Arleta will be going to school here for a time. A joy to read by little girls, to little girls and for the little girl in you. Will be enjoyed by those who like the Little House or Betsy-Tacy books but with a more prominent Christian element. 5/5

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday: Books in the Mail

Just a couple of books arrived in my mailbox last week. Which I'm glad about because it sure was an extra busy week around here with the holidays!

Here are the goodies that did arrive:

From Simon & Schuster Canada:

"As crazy as your ideas might be, as long as you believe in yourself and tackle the issue head-on, you can even change the world." Ando is a high school student who has the power to make others say out loud what he's thinking. Inukai is the mysterious leader of a vigilante group called Grasshopper, which is at odds with the city's redevelopment plan. In this chaotic city, these two will come together to weave a story of courage, determination and confrontation.

When an angry mob goes after his friend, Ando has no choice but to fight back with his limited powers. Can ventriloquism actually stop violence? And while Semi is a skilled assassin, he's never met an opponent like this.

From the books publicist:

In this fast-paced story full of adventure and romance, Cinderella is more than just a servant girl waiting for her prince—she's a tough, fearless girl who is capable of taking charge of a dangerous situation. Seeking to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother, Cinderella perfects her ninja skills and magic talents in secret, waiting for the day when she can break free and live happily ever after. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Cinderella and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!

In this thrilling story full of adventure and romance, Sleeping Beauty is more than just a lonely princess waiting for her prince—she's a brave, tenacious girl who never backs down from a challenge. With vampire-slaying talents that she practices in secret, Sleeping Beauty puts her courage to the test in the dark of night, fighting evil as she searches for a way to break the spell that has cut her off from her family. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Sleeping Beauty and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is an entirely new type of fairy tale–one that will keep today's kids guessing and offer them hours of magical fun.

89. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 2

Riku vs. Gyuki by Hiroshi Shiibashi (Canada) - (US)
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 2

Pages: 191
Ages: 13+
Finished: Apr. 7, 2011
First Published: 2008, Japan (Apr. 5, 2011 English)
Publisher: viz media
Genre: YA, manga, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Squee! Seiya you finally came over -
Geez, we waited for you forever!!

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This book isn't quite as good as the first one, being much shorter and taking place mostly away from the Yokai Clan's house. Only a handful of the enormous cast introduced in volume one is carried over into this volume as main characters, with small cameo spots from some others. Story wise the plot is wrapped up from book one with the rat-like yokai Kyuso clan. Now the Gyuki clan are after Nura. He goes along with his friends as they go into the mountains where Kiyotsugu, the wealthy boy, and head of the "Paranormal Patrol" takes them to his family's lavish home. Here they leave the girls in the hot springs while they go exploring for yokai. Of course Nura is just along to make sure no one gets hurt. The Gyuki clan plan to wipe them all out then Gyuki himself will take out Nura. Lots of battling and excitement follow along with humour. There are some tense moments and what Gyuki's actual plan *is*, reveals itself at the end as he goads Nura on. Great series with humour, action, great characters and a never ending supply of 'bad guys'. Ending mid-action, the wait for vol. 3 is close enough (June) to keep me excited.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prospera Pascha sit!

With the Triduum upon us (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday) and then on Sunday the most Holy Day of the year, Pascha (Easter), I will not be posting any reviews during this Holy time.

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

88. Nearly Nonsense: Hoja Tales from Turkey by Rina Singh

Nearly Nonsense: Hoja Tales from Turkey by Rina Singh. Illustrated by Farida Zaman. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 48
Ages: <10
Finished: Apr. 6, 2011
First Published:Mar. 8, 2011
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, picture book, folktales
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Long ago in Turkey, there lived a man named Nasrudin Hoja.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading: I love legends, folklore and the like. This was an area completely unknown to me so I was intrigued to read these tales.

These stories come from Turkey and are Muslim tales of a wise man, a trickster and a fool all wrapped up in the same person. Hoji is a Muslim teacher, some respect him others don't. Historically, Nasrudin Hoja (who goes by a host of different spellings) is considered an actual man who may have lived in the 1200s, his funny tales with messages have been handed down and built upon all over the middle east and across Asia, even reaching as far as China. But this book sticks with the tales told in Turkey, centered on the then village of Aksehir.

There are ten folktales presented here, each is short (only a few pages long) and Hoji while being a wise man is really very silly indeed. Children should find these stories humorous and laugh at the solutions Hoji comes up with to his, or others, troubles. He is always fair and stuck-up people will get pulled back down to reality. Hoji is a winner for the common folk and isn't afraid to take on a man of much greater status than himself. Hoji is also a trickster and likes to cause a little trouble by bringing someone back down to earth and showing him he is not above other people just because he has money or position. Then there is Hoji the fool, who will listens to what people tell him and in the end it is he who has been made a fool of, but still a lesson is being taught. Most of the stories have a lesson attached to them though they are not always blatantly obvious and do require you to think what the message of the story is. A couple, I think were just silly stories, as I could not find a message hidden in them at all.

The book is told in simple language and as I said the stories are short so I'm recommending this for lower elementary children or as a read-aloud to younger children of any age. The illustrations are beautiful. Capturing the art of Turkish design in bold, bright cartoon-ish style pictures which seem to be done in a mixed-media format and, if I'm not mistaken, that includes a tad of collage as well. This is a fun introduction to a new cultural folktale that kids are sure to have fun with.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

71. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 272
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 18, 2011
First Published: Apr. 12, 2011
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: women's fiction, food, Asperger's, magical realism
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Bad things come in threes.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from the book's publicist.

Reason for Reading: The main character has Asperger's, as do I, and I make it a habit of reading books that portray Aspies.

First, I'd like to mention that this is as far from my regular type of reading as it gets. I don't *do* women's fiction; no matter what the topic I stay very, very far away from it. But when I was introduced to this book I saw the protagonist was Asperger's and I didn't really pay attention to anything else. I just wanted to read it.

I loved this book with a passion. I read it in an evening, staying up to 3:30 am in the morning to finish it; I just couldn't put it down. Ginny Selvaggio was my kindred spirit. The first chapter really introduces her to the reader focusing a lot on her quirks, foibles and what goes on in her mind. I found a lot of myself there in that first chapter, that I knew I was going along for the ride with her. Ginny has Asperger's but has never been officially diagnosed, she doesn't even know herself, which I found odd throughout most of the story seeing as her father was a doctor, well a surgeon technically, but this works itself out by the end. She has unfortunately been overprotected by her parents, her mother virtually taking care of her, leaving the house with her but at the same that same mother does manage to have a wealth of coping strategies for Ginny, insisting she go to school and also insisting she learn the niceties of social discourse. Ginny is now in her early 30s and living at home with her parents, really incapable of dealing with the day-to-day of the outside world as she's never been given a chance.

Then tragedy strikes (this is all in the first chapter, btw) and her parents are killed in a tragic accident leaving Ginny to her own defences. Except her younger sister Amanda completely takes over her mother's role and starts to arrange a new life for Ginny where she, Amanda, will now look after her. But Ginny eventually finds her voice and stands up for herself, she finds a friend, she starts venturing forth into the world. All this causes extreme stress upon her, but she has coping methods and one of them is food, not eating but cooking. Other reviewers will write about the food element of this book which has a major role, but I am not a cook nor do I like foreign, fancy foods, in fact the only recipe that interested my was the hard boiled egg (LOL). So I'll leave that to other reviewers. But thinking about food and cooking are calming forces on Ginny. This is when she realizes that she can bring back ghosts of people. If she follows a recipe of someone dead in their own handwriting they will appear in her kitchen for a short time and Ginny starts talking to these ghosts to unravel a deeply hidden family secret.

I found the story utterly charming! The ghost part was fun, this magical realism added another layer to the story and as a fan of magical realism it probably added to my enjoyment of a "women's fiction" book. The story of how Ginny tentatively makes a friend was interesting to watch and the fact that it was a member of the opposite sex is telling as well. I, myself, do not relate to women very well and find it much easier to talk to men than women. The story of two sisters, is wonderful, and realistic. Both are trying to please, worried about each other, offended by the other's behaviour and have a major falling out in this time of stressful need when they should be supporting each other.

But most importantly, to me, is the portrayal of Asperger's syndrome in a female. I think Ms. McHenry has done a fine job, especially considering she has no personal experience and received all her information through research from some renowned writers on the topic and through the Asperger's network online. I found Ginny entirely believable and a fine voice for the community of aspies in the real world. Personally I found many similarities between Ginny and myself: the use of the closet as a place to get away from it all, the many obsessions, not being able to look people in the eye, not liking to be touched (for me it's just my head/face) but I do need a personal space of an arm's width around me, not seeing the purpose of social chit-chat, performing social niceties because they are expected not because they have a logical reason.

Ginny learns to accept who she is an aspie, as we all do at some point, and begins a process of asserting herself and living with herself, as she is. The book has a positive portrayal of Asperger's and one thing I really appreciated was when she went to see the psychiatrist this was her final discourse with Ginny:

"Everybody struggles with this stuff, you know. With social discomfort and grief and fitting in. People with syndromes, people with disorders, people with diagnoses and without. People who would be classified as neurotypical. Idiots and geniuses, maids and doctors. Nobody's got it all figured out."

"Not even you?"

"Not even me."

"So ... it doesn't actually matter whether I have it at all?"

"I didn't say that," she says. "But you want my personal opinion? It matters a lot less than some people think it does."

Well done, highly recommended read for an insight into Asperger's in an adult just learning she has a "syndrome".

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday: Books in the Mail

Look what the mailman/delivery guy brought me last week:

From Simon & Schuster Canada:

Final Volume!

Once a loner, Hikari "Picasso" Hamura has helped so many people that he finds himself surrounded by friends! Picasso's going to need them as he faces his most difficult "portrait" yet. It's easy to deal with other people's problems. But when you have to face your own...

Amberground is locked in darkness. A man-made star casts only a dim light over the land. The pitch-black wilderness is infested with Gaichuu--colossal insects with metal exoskeletons. The Gaichuu make travel between the cities of Amberground extremely dangerous. But thankfully the Letter Bees, a brave corps of messengers, risk their lives in order to keep the hearts of Amberground connected.

The Man Who Could Not Become Spirit In the town of Honey Waters, Lag seeks out “the Man Who Could Not Become Spirit,” who might have information on the missing Gauche Suede. Lag’s disappointed to find out that he’s a charlatan. However, the heart of this strange man in this strange little town yields a surprising clue. Lag might be closer than he ever imagined.

Contains Volumes 5 and 6 of Death Note!

Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects--and he's bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. Will Light's noble goal succeed, or will the Death Note turn him into the very thing he fights against?

From Harper Collins Canada:

It’s the Depression, but Red’s family is managing better than most on their Prince Edward Island farm. Hard working and resourceful, they have enough to eat and to help others, even if at times they are mocked by their neighbours for putting education ahead of farm work. Eleven-year-old Red has plenty of chores around the farm, and the days can be long, but he still gets the odd break to go swimming or fishing, provided his homework is done. Red’s older sister, Ellen, teaches at the local school, and if Red doesn’t shine, she will not only punish him, but also make sure their parents hear about it.

But then Red’s father’s hand is seriously injured and the family’s situation looks dire. Red steps up to the challenge, finishing the tobacco boxes that his father makes and helping shovel out a train stuck in the snow. Stubborn and even pigheaded, Red does make mistakes along the way (such as pretending to be dead so that his younger sister will stop following him), but his heart is always in the right place.

All new tales from the blockbuster team of Jesse Blaze Snider and Nathan Watson! Andy’s mother is taking him on a cruise, but he can only take a few of his toys…and all of them are jockeying to make sure they’re one of the chosen few! But will new room additions Jessie and Bullseye make the cut…or be left behind in the toy chest?

1873. Arizona.

An era when all a man could count on was his horse and his six-gun, and Indians fought a losing battle with European settlers.

Until somebody else entered the fight—an invader who saw all humans as slaves, and was determined to conquer our world.

From Random House Canada:

In 1930, a school principal in Saskatchewan is suspected of abusing a student. Seven years later, on the other side of the country, a girl picking wild cherries meets a violent end. These are only two of the mysteries in the life of the narrator's charismatic aunt, Connie Flood. As the narrator Anne pieces together her aunt's lifelong attachment to her former student Michael Graves, and her obsession with Parley Burns, the inscrutable principal implicated in the assault of Michael's younger sister. Her own story becomes connected with that of the past, and the triangle of principal, teacher, student opens out into other emotional triangles -- aunt, niece, lover; mother, daughter, granddaughter -- until a sudden, capsizing love changes Anne's life. Alone in the Classroom is Hay's most tense, intricate, and seductive novel yet.

From Library Thing:

The tiny fishing community of Deeper Harbour is in deep trouble—and so is fourteen-year-old Roland MacTavish. Roland’s mom wants to move with him to Ottawa, away from his father, his weird friend Dulsie, and his even weirder grandfather, Angus. So Roland does what any sane teenager would do: He invents a sea monster. Unfortunately, the scheme quickly spins out of Roland’s control, and he has to go to greater and greater lengths to keep up the illusion. And then Roland must deal with a situation far more terrifying than any sea monster. As moving as it is irresistibly funny, Steve Vernon’s portrait of Roland and Deeper Harbour is perfect for anyone who’s ever been stuck badly enough to do something awesomely, brilliantly, heroically stupid.

87. Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum

Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 368
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 6, 2011
First Published: Feb. 8, 2011
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 2/5

First sentence:

Dick is dead.

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

Reason for Reading: I loved Madapple. In the three years since that was published I have been periodically checking to see if Meldrum had a new book coming out and I was thrilled when I saw she finally had a new title out. The plot sounding enticing and the cover was gorgeous; I was an eager reader!

First off, I know I am going to be in the minority with my opinion of the book. I didn't like it and I'll keep my review brief because I could get carried away otherwise.

Christina Meldrum's writing is exquisite. It is a pleasure to read and that is what kept me reading this book to the end. Unfortunately, I could not stand the main character, Seena, nor most of the plot. The Slepys are a dysfunctional "Catholic" family; well the father is Catholic and one of the daughters has gone overboard pious. Everyone in the family is very disrespectful of the father's faith and it is obvious the pious daughter is only seeking attention. I was disgusted with some of the plot turns in the Catholic aspect of the story. What bothered me the most, though was Seena, the mother. She was selfish and caught up in her own world, using Greek mythology as her escape route. She stopped loving her husband early in the marriage (which caused the him to gradually become a hardened, unable-to-show-his-feelings man). She blamed her husband for marring her! If "he" hadn't married "her", she wouldn't have left college to become a wife and mother. At the same time she stops loving her husband she stops being an active mother, paying little attention to nor being there with motherly support for her three small daughters. Then she "stalks" and seduces a man, one she has no right to do so, which then starts a short affair ending in the birth of her last child. This child receives, not attention, but the mother's protection and extra bit of effort that it is obvious to the other daughters that she is loved best. A horrible woman, I never grew to like even with the supposedly "redemptive" ending. It was too little, way too late.

Anyway they all go to Africa. The father dragging them there as a bush doctor. Most of them end up liking Africa and getting something out of the experience. I really had a bad taste in my mouth during this book. I felt bad for the father, who had no one, after his wife took everything from him. The book felt very feminist in general and not my cup of tea at all.

I do appreciate the author's writing style though and having loved Madapple and hated Amaryllis, both to such extremes, I will certainly read her next book. (Hoping, of course, I will like the story.) Her writing makes me feel strongly and that is the sign of a good author.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Holy Week Celebration

Today is Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. My favourite time of the year! Ending in my favourite holiday of the year, Easter Sunday. So much to do, so much to celebrate. All in anticipation of the Resurrection! Don't understand the Catholic Holy Week? Here is a cute video that explains "Holy Week in Two Minutes"

Now my family is off to go watch a Passion Play! Enjoy your week!

86. My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond

My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond. Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 121
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 4, 2011
First Published: 2007 UK (2008, US) Mar. 22, 2011 US PB
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, magical realism, grief, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

An ordinary spring morning in 12 Lark Lane.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I am quite fond of David Almond as an author. He reminds me of Roald Dahl with his mixture of humour and darkness but he isn't so obvious as Dahl.

This certainly is a quite a beautiful story. Using metaphors and imagery of flight and birds to help a father and daughter overcome the grief from the death of the mother makes for a touching story. On the surface we have a silly, whimsical, humorous story of a dad who is turning into a bird so he can win the Great Human Bird Competition, right down to living on bugs and worms and building a huge nest in the middle of the kitchen floor. Underneath the story is about a man who literally looses his mind when his wife dies and becomes obsessed with birds while the daughter takes on the parental role of looking after him, to see him through this rough patch.

The story is hilarious with the antics of dad; then enter Auntie Doreen and her baking dumplings as a cure for everything that ails one and throwing them when it doesn't work. There is a riot of colour and silliness when the Great Human Bird Competition begins and we see and watch all the other contestants as they try to fly over the river to win money in all sorts of contraptions and get ups. But there is a small darkness beneath everything that gradually lightens throughout the story. The mom's death is only barely even referred to; the words death and die are never used. Underlying the dad's silly behaviour is his grief, to the astute reader, and underneath the daughter's looking after her dad is the need to know he is still there for her. They both need to know that though mom is gone they still have each other. Through the use of birds, flight, metaphors and other references to going up they let their grief go and one can even feel a religiousness in the upward/skyward theme if one's thoughts turn that way. A touching, yet hilarious story.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

85: Excalibur, The Legend of King Arthur: A Graphic Novel by Tony Lee

Excalibur, The Legend of King Arthur: A Graphic Novel by Tony Lee. Art by Sam Hart (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 144
Ages: 15+
Finished: Apr. 4, 2011
First Published: Mar. 8, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, graphic novel, folklore, legends, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Long ago, Uther Pendragon was king, and the land of Albion was in disarray.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I had read Lee's earlier book Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood and was anxious to read this one.

This book, surprisingly, takes very different angles of the King Arthur legend to focus on than the usual run-of-them mill retelling aimed at children/teens. The story of Camelot and the knights' adventures is not a focus here. Camelot is briefly in the story but the main focus is on Arthur's early years, obtaining the sword in the stone and his early years as king. All the major plot points are there: the sword in the stone, Guinevere & Lancelot, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, Morgana & Mordred, and The Lady in the Lake. Major focus is put on the Fairy Realm in this retelling. On Morgana's background story that made her hate Arthur so much, the seelies and the unseelies, the Realm of Avalon, the love story of Arthur and the Lady of the Lake and, of course, Merlin's part in all this.

I especially enjoyed this version of King Arthur's tale. There are plenty of battle scenes but more than anything it is the coming of age story of Arthur as a great king and the coming to pass of the vision he has seen since his early childhood of his dying for his kingdom. The unique focus brings a fresh presentation of the story forward to even die-hard Arthurian readers. The artwork is exquisite using various monochromatic colour schemes throughout to match the mood of the story with an emphasis on golden yellows and browns. A masterful new retelling of an ancient legend.

Friday, April 15, 2011

84. Lewis & Clark by Nick Bertozzi

Lewis & Clark by Nick Bertozzi (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 138
Ages: 12+
Finished: Apr.2, 2011
First Published: Feb. 15, 2011
Publisher: First Second
Genre: biography, history, explorers, non-fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Go awayyy...

Acquired: Received a review copy from First Second Books.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy Western history.

I've read a few books on Lewis & Clark before (children's books) and read many books on the expansion of the west where the Lewis & Clark story would take up a chapter so I am familiar with this story. This book is recommended for ages 12 and up but it isn't written down to a young audience, adults will enjoy it as much or more. The book of course tells the story of their epic journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean, in search of a viable water route. That journey was fraught with accidents, bad luck, aggressive Indians, injuries and setbacks from nature itself. Bertozzi manages to tell a fine introductory tale of this expedition and these adventurers who were full of their success before they had even started.

Bertozzi also brings to life the personalities of Lewis and Clark in a way that I haven't encountered in my previous reading. Captain William Clark is shown as the level headed partner and thus is not the one that stands out. He is always reasoning with Lewis about there plans, calming him down, and putting out the flames of discord with others. He is shown as a quiet, intelligent, reasonable, respectful man who probably kept the expedition from becoming a mess, in more ways than one. Though he was willing to have as much fun as the next guy and went along easily enough with Lewis' more thrill-seeking adventures. On the other hand, Captain Meriwether Lewis was a man with a volatile temper, quick to anger, and if not for Clark's levelheadedness may have caused some serious trouble on their adventure. Lewis was obsessed with the expedition and finding a water route to the Ocean. When coming first upon a huge waterfall and eventually hitting the Rocky Mountains he took these hits deeply and went into deep depressions, took to drink, and could not be reasoned with. When they finally made it to the Pacific Lewis was not happy as they had not made it entirely be a water route and their stay at the end dragged on because he entered a deep depression. Bertozzi also plays up a story involving Lewis, his reactions and feeling which along with many other factors may have lead to his final act of ending his life.

Done in black and white, which I always think suits historical non-fiction well, the art is kept simple without a lot of background within the frame by frame discussions of characters. Lovely backgrounds are used but when necessary and are never added clutter. The one problem I did have though, was that at times we are supposed to read horizontally across both pages and this was not always made evident. Sometimes it was obviously clear, other times the reading went down one page and started up again at the top of the other and then there were those times you were reading along and realized you should have read horizontally across both pages once you got to the top of the second page. A minor annoyance that happened to me more times than it should have. A good, interesting story, which Bertozzi has written with a fine sense of humour but not exactly a page-turner.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

DC Super-Pets!: Royal Rodent Rescue

Royal Rodent Rescue by John Sazaklis. Illustrated by Art Baltazar. (Canada) - (US)
DC Super-Pets! series

Pages: 52
Ages: 6+
Finished: Mar. 30, 2011
First Published: Jan. 1, 2011
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Genre: Easy Reader, Superheroes
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

High above the city of Metropolis, Streaky the Super-Cat zoomed through the air.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

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

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 at an RL of 2:8. 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 Super Girl's pet cat, Squeaky, who through an experiment accidentally acquired all of Super Girl's abilities and thus is called Super Cat, Cat of Steel by his peers. It also features Catwoman's pet, obviously a cat, but not just any cat, a Siamese cat named Rozz who has no superpowers but is extremely sly, quick footed and has all the talents of a cat burglar. Rozz sees on the TV News that Super Girl and Bat Girl are fighting a monster robot. Living in Gotham City, she doesn't travel much and had never heard of Metropolis before so she decides to take off for the beautiful clean city to cause some havoc. She finds that immediately upon her arrival, the King and Queen of Kardamyla have also arrived in town and are staying at a hotel. With them is their precious pet, Prince Zouli, a hamster. Rozz decides that kidnapping Zouli will make for a handsome ransom reward. Eventually Super-Cat and Rozz will have to battle it out.

Ds has a hard time reading these books. He is a struggling reader but I helped him along as needed with the reading so that he wouldn't reach frustration level as he loves this series of books! He can't wait to read the next one! He loved the action and the characters. So far of the two books he's read, he is preferring the villains over the superheroes. He just loved the sly and sneaky Rozz. He also enjoys the page at the back that shows all the super-hero pets on one page and all the villain pets on the back. Then looking for the ones he's met so far. He only wishes this page also told him who the owner of each pet was.

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 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, April 13, 2011

83. The Mystery of Ireland's Eye by Shane Peacock

The Mystery of Ireland's Eye by Shane Peacock Out of Print
A Dylan Maples Adventure, Book 1

Pages: 179
Ages: 10
Finished: Mar. 31, 2011
First Published: 1999
Publisher: Viking
Genre: children, mystery, ghost story
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

When we pushed off from the shores of Random Island the water was calm and friendly.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: I was visiting the author's website and looking for news on his Boy Sherlock series when I took a look at his list of books written and saw that he had a short but interesting backlist of titles. One being this four book mystery series that sounded very Canadian and very interesting so I immediately decided to read it.

Dylan Maples is twelve. His dad is what one would call an extreme outdoors man or adventurer. He's always off somewhere mountain climbing or kayaking across some lake "in the Yukon or Alaska or Timbuktu". If he's not doing it, he's either immersed in reading or planning it. In real life he's lawyer. At this point in time Dylan's dad (and mum, as where he goes she goes) is planning to kayak across to a tiny island called Ireland's Eye, which is off the coast of Newfoundland and Canada's most eastern point. This Island is actually a ghost town that once industrialization hit the mainland in the fifties the government basically forced the inhabitants off the island and the population went from 200 to 16 in a few short years; and then there were none... The trip is planned for next summer and Dylan intends to go with them but doesn't say anything. Instead he spends the whole year 100% committed to swimming lessons, the swim team at school, running, working out, kayaking with his dad in a pool *and* studying hard to get the best grades he's ever had. His parents realize how mature he's grown and OK the idea when Dylan finally broaches the subject of coming with them when the time for the trip nears.

What follows is an adventure story taking place over several days of kayaking along the coast of Newfoundland to a certain point. Then kayaking across the Atlantic Ocean on what starts off as a beautiful sunny day but turns into a heavy rain storm. Once finally on the Island, as they explore the ruins Dylan feels something is not quite right. There is a small element of the supernatural involved as Dylan has dreams that he sees his grandfather who recently died and wonders if the eerie feeling he has about the Island is connected to him in anyway. And why did the old fisherman on the mainland warn him not to go to Ireland's Eye.

This is a fast-paced adventure with plot running the story from the opening chapter which foreshadows events to come. It's a good kid's adventure with all the ingredients of a "Scooby-Doo" mystery. The mystery is summed up quite interestingly but there is still a tickle in the air about what exactly can be explained away. I really enjoyed that Dylan's partners in this mystery were his parents. Dylan has a typical tween's feelings about his parents, which he expresses in his thoughts but he has a good relationship with them and respect is shown by all towards each other while the parents remain in the parental role.

Finally, this book had me so curious about Ireland's Eye. There is a map of the Island at the front of the book and for some reason that made me think it was a fictional place. I read too much fantasy I guess, they often have maps at the front. Obviously, I'd never heard of the island before but I hadn't been reading long before I had to stop and find out the truth about Ireland's Eye and see it for myself. Indeed, it really is a true ghost town island and you can visit a great site about it at the Maritime History Archive. If I ever make it to Newfoundland for a trip, I know I must plan a trip out to this island. I'd love to read a book that took place in the heyday of the island's history.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Merci Mister Dash by Monica Kulling

Merci Mister Dash by Monica Kulling. Illustrated by Esperanca Melo (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 32
Ages: 3-7+
Finished: Mar. 19, 2011
First Published: Apr. 12, 2011
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, picture book, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Mister Dash was unlike any hound in town.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading: I've read quite a number of the author's books, but they've been mostly her biographical works and I thought I'd take a look at what else she does.

Mister Dash is a darling! He is a very cultivated dog. He may be a mixture of this and that and certainly has no pedigree but that hasn't stopped him from honing his sense of a stylish wardrobe and manners fit for civilized company. The only problem is that the company he and his owner Madame Croissant get regularly is every Sunday, her granddaughter, who is more wild beast than civilized company. Mister Dash doesn't like Daphne and usually escapes before her arrival to spend the day reading the paper in the park but today Daphne arrives and grabs him before he's even had a chance. And so Mister Dash must spend the day in the clutches of a rambunctious little girl all day.

This is a cute story. First, there is a small opportunity to learn a bit about France and French; Madame Croissant owns a little boutique that sells all things French and there are a couple of French words in the story. Plus if the reader knows French they can explain why Madame calls Daphne her "little cabbage". But most of all the story gives plenty of opportunity to talk about manners and behaviour. Daphne is not a bad child, she is simply full of zest, yet she certainly takes all the energy out of poor Mr. Dash after one day. The story is funny too and this is really brought to life with the gorgeous illustrations by Ms. Melo. The look on Mr. Dash's face as he has to suffer the indignity of popcorn landing on his head is priceless. A story that will really appeal to dog lovers and owners of rambunctious little girls.

Monday, April 11, 2011

91. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 351
Ages: 10+
Finished: Apr. 3, 2011
First Published: Oct. 12, 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: I am reading all the Newbery winners.

Simple perfection. When I see that Newbery sticker on a book, this is what I expect. A book that truly is a wonderful story that will appeal to kids. A story that catches your attention from the first chapter. One with characters who are interesting, unique and you either love from the start or they eventually win you over at some part. I truly enjoyed every minute of this book and was sad when it came time to close the book on Abilene, Jinx, Miss Sadie and all the rest of the characters in Manifest, Kansas.

Set in 1936, Abilene Tucker, who has grown up as a vagrant train rider with her father, is upset when he sends her to Manifest, a town he spent a spell in his youth to stay with a friend for the summer while he supposedly works a job, not appropriate for a young lady to be around, now that Abilene has turned twelve. Here Abilene makes two friends and finds a hidden cigar box with mementos and letters from 1918 under the floor boards. One is a map of Manifest, there is mention of a spy and the girls set about to find out who the spy was in their town back during WWI and if they are still here. They also come upon the legend of "The Rattler" who wanders the dark forest at night. Is the Rattler the spy, or someone/thing else?

As the girls read the letters we are transported back to 1918 on the war front in France as the letters are from a local boy to a friend named 'Jinx'. We also are taken back to 1918 on the home-front through Miss Sadie, a diviner, as she tells Abilene stories when she comes over to work her garden to repay a large pot she broke snooping about one night.

The story switches perspective between the present, 1936, through the first person narrative of Abilene and the past, 1918, through Miss Sadie's stories, a newspaper column and the letters. A rich engaging story that while not directly linked to any historical events does place one smack dab in the past and creates a good vision of living in a small town during the depression and during World War I, along with an impression of what it was like for a young soldier in the trench warfare of France. Topped off with a large cast of eccentric characters this is a gem of a story. This will be one of the rare modern Newbery's that I think will still be read decades down the road like perennial favourites "Caddie Woodlawn" and "Sounder".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Monday: Books in the Mail

Busy mailbox for me last week. Review books, a bookmooch and an online purchase. Here's what books arrived at my house:

From Hatchette Book Group:

Two abandoned souls are on the hunt for one powerful man. Soon, their paths will cross and lead to one twisted fate.

Danny Hansen is a Bosnian immigrant who came to America with hopes of escaping haunted memories of a tragic war that took his mother's life. Now he's a priest who lives by a law of love and compassion. It is powerful men and hypocrites who abide by legal law but eschew the law of love that most incense Danny. As an avenging angel, he believes it is his duty to show them the error of their ways, at any cost.

Renee Gilmore is the frail and helpless victim of one such powerful man. Having escaped his clutches, she now lives only to satisfy justice by destroying him, regardless of whom she must become in that pursuit.

But when Danny and Renee's paths become inexorably entangled things go very, very badly and neither of them may make it out of this hunt alive.

Judge not, or you too will be judged.

From Capstone Press:

A violent storm strikes the Gulf of Mexico, damaging a drilling rig off the Louisiana coast. Only one man can stop millions of barrels of oil from spilling into the ocean . . . Aquaman, the King of the Sea! Without delay, the super hero and his underwater friends surge toward the disaster. Suddenly, out of a black plume of oil, an even greater darkness emerges. The evil Black Manta is siphoning oil into his submarine. The Sea King can't believe the villain could sink to such terrible depths! Before the gulf is destroyed, Aquaman must convince his enemy that a threat to the sea is a threat to them both.

From the book's publicist (for a book tour):

Remember when you were a child—when all the world was new, and the smallest object a thing of wonder? Arleta Richardson remembers: the funny wearable wire contraption hidden in the dusty attic, the century-old schoolchild's slate that belonged to Grandma, an ancient trunk filled with quilt pieces—each with its own special story—and the button basket, a miracle of mysteries. And best of all was the remarkable grandmother who made magic of all she touched, bringing the past alive as only a born storyteller could.

Here are those marvelous tales—faithfully recalled for the delight of young and old alike, a touchstone to another day when life was simpler, perhaps richer; when the treasures of family life and love were passed from generation to generation by a child's questions...and the legends that followed enlarged our faith

If you are young enough to love a story—and just about everyone is—here are more stories from Grandma's attic. Magical pieces of a day gone by . . . told by that natural storyteller of all loving families—Grandma, the one who never forgets the fun and laughter of a simpler, perhaps richer time.

Stories of an old rag doll that seems to come alive . . . of a newborn goat dancing stiff-legged in the old farm kitchen . . . and of a faith that gives life meaning.

From Globe Pequot Press:

When do you watch a wild animal suffer and let nature take its course, and when do you intervene? In his more than twenty-five years as an African vet, Dr. Roy Aronson has seen and done some remarkable things. He has tracked lions and cheetahs, anesthetized rhinoceroses and king cobras, collared rogue elephants, performed eye surgery on a lion out in the bush, been attacked by a puff adder, come face to face with an angry hybrid wolf, and nearly lost a foot to a crocodile. Dr. Aronson has also worked with some of Africa’s most dedicated conservationists and wildlife veterinarians. He has witnessed their passion and bravery and been with them when hard decisions had to be made.

Tales of an African Vet brings together Dr. Aronson’s adventures in a rare behind-the-scenes look at those who treat wild animals in their natural habitat. For those drawn to outdoor adventure stories, African wildlife, or the veterinarian’s trade, it is a riveting book replete with rich insights into both the animal and human cultures of Africa.

From Penguin Group (Canada):

'And so, in a trice, he came into the garden that has haunted all his life'. H.G. Wells was a pioneer of science fiction, its first and greatest influence. Here his boundless invention creates three very stories: a poignant parable of a mysterious door, a thrilling account of be-tentacled sea creatures and the darkly comic chronicle of an academic rivalry taken too far ...This book includes "The Door in the Wall", "The Sea Raiders" and "The Moth".

From Bookmooch:

In 1903 a mysterious young woman flees alone across the West, one heart-pounding step ahead of the law. At nineteen, Mary Boulton has just become a widow—and her husband's killer. As bloodhounds track her frantic race toward the mountains, she is tormented by mad visions and by the knowledge that her two ruthless brothers-in-law are in pursuit, determined to avenge their younger brother's death. Responding to little more than the primitive fight for life, the widow retreats ever deeper into the wilderness—and into the wilds of her own mind—encountering an unforgettable cast of eccentrics along the way.

Purchased from an online retailer:

You don’t have to become a biblical scholar or a theologian to be an effective spokesman for the Catholic Faith. In fact, even though you don’t know all the answers and can’t explain every aspect of the Faith, you can begin winning souls to the Church right now . . . using prayer, friendship, and common sense.
It sounds almost too good to be true, but in Search and Rescue Patrick Madrid explains why these are among the most effective, time-tested methods for bringing family and friends into — or back into — the Church. As the publisher of Envoy magazine, author of many apologetics books (including Surprised by Truth 2), and a veteran defender of the Faith, Madrid himself has used these methods successfully for years.

But Madrid doesn’t give you only the benefit of his own considerable experience: in Search and Rescue he also includes simple and genial advice from St. Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine, and other great lovers of God. Get Search and Rescue — the book that shows you how you can start winning souls for Christ today!

The Acts of the Apostles -- for children Marigold Hunt, author of A Life of Our Lord for Children, here continues the tale of Jesus and His Church by retelling for children the events reported in The Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke s account of the dangerous early days of the Church. Focusing on the deeds and experiences of Sts. Peter, Paul, Luke, and Barnabas, author Hunt shows children that the Catholic Church which today seems so ancient and established was born in turbulent times, when merely professing belief in Christ could get you killed -- and not by rowdies and brigands, but by public officials carrying out their sworn duty. Time and again, the apostles wind up in jail (some for years), and time and again God frees them by miracles of one sort or another. With Christian hope and great good cheer, they take up again the task with which Christ charged them just before He ascended into Heaven: Go forth and teach all nations. By foot, on horseback, and on frail craft tossed in stormy seas, they do just that, preaching and teaching their way across much of the known world, winning converts and establishing churches in Palestine, Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Phoenicia, the lands that are now Turkey, and even in Rome itself, the pagan capital of the anti-Christian Empire. Along the way, the apostles heal the sick, cast out devils, and work other miracles. They face down mobs, evade murder plots, and defend themselves in courts in city after city. In the midst of it all, Peter -- whose authority as the first Pope was accepted by all of the apostles - settles disputes that arise among the Christians and between the new Churches. All this and more is told in The First Christians, the thrilling -- and true -- saga of the lives and works of the first apostles of Jesus.

For your children:
An old-fashioned “Retreat-in-a-Book” . . . to help them ponder the truths of the Faith and live lives of holiness in accordance with those truths

Based on the traditional St. Ignatius retreat (trusted by Catholics for centuries) and adapted for children, this clear, simple, thoughtful presentation of the Faith is invaluable for parents seeking to form their children in holiness.

My Path to Heaven covers such essentials of the Faith as God’s will, angels, Heaven and Hell, the Fall of man, the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Nativity, the Passion, salvation, the sacraments, faith, hope, love, and contrition, and it teaches children the relevance of these truths in their lives and in the decisions they make.

82. Mystify by Artist Arthur

Mystify by Artist Arthur (Canada) - (US)
A Mystyx Novel, Book 2

Pages: 245
Ages: 13+
Finished: Mar. 29, 2011
First Published: Jan. 18, 2011
Publisher: KimaniTRU
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

I don't want to like him.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the book's publicist.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

I really enjoyed book one of this series but wasn't too taken with the angsty attitude of the main character and narrator, Krystal. My favourite character had been Sasha, who had an "attitude" but the fun, take no nonsense from anyone kind of 'tude. Imagine my delight to see that this book was written from Sasha's point of view.

Unfortunately, the change in character views really changed the plot of the story and it took me a while to get into this book. Sasha is not only the narrator, but the main character of the book, Krystal has a minor part. But the fun Sasha I loved from the first book is changed in this book, because the girl's rich, never present parents have returned with a new project for the community and they want Sasha to play a vital role. This is all about the "Richies" and Sasha is vehemently told off by her overbearing father about her choice of 'questionable' friends and told she will do what she has been told to do. This causes a riff between her and the other members of Mystyx who think that Sasha has become uppity about her social status when a hated rich girl starts hanging onto Sasha through her father's doing.

This is absolutely not the time for this to be happening to Sasha as her powers are becoming stronger and she is gaining new ones, learning much more about who they are and what their purpose is. The strained relationships make it hard for them to work together when the Darkness returns and bodies of missing teenagers start turning up.

Not as strong a story as Manifest; I didn't enjoy it as much even though I like Sasha as a character more. I missed the ghosts from book one and the book just had a totally different feel. I liked it but it wasn't a page-turner for me at all at. Hoping that the next book will be more exciting and wondering whose point of view it will be from now that a 4th member has joined there team, another girl.

Added: I just saw the cover of the third book and, yeah!, it has Jake on the front and thus, I'm assuming will be from Jake's point of view. Looking forward to it more now!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

81. Taro and the Terror of Eats Street by Sango Morimoto

Taro and the Terror of Eats Street by Sango Morimoto. (Canada) - (US)
The Adventures of Taro , 2
Pages: 96
Ages: 6-10
Finished: Mar. 28, 2011
First Published: 2008, Japan (Mar. 1 2011, US)
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: children, manga, humour, fantasy
Rating: 2/5

First sentence:

It was a lazy Sunday morning and Taro was sleeping in. But not for long.

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The first book in this series is absolutely adorable. I just had to continue on with this next book but unfortunately I was disappointed with it. It didn't have the same sense of fun or that gamers type of plot, in fact there really wasn't much of a plot at all and it was just plain silly. Now this may be a cultural thing as the theme of the book does centre around food. King Crossout has taken over Eats Street, where all the restaurants and eating places are found in Doodledum and the Wise Magician comes for Taro's help, giving him his magic pencil and turning him into Terrie. Once there, his sidekick Hippity is waiting for him and they go to Eats Street where all the chefs and owners are being mind controlled by King Crossout to make horrible food instead of delicious food. They don't realize this at first and aimlessly wander into eating establishments where they are forced to eat the food before they can leave. Taro does a few tricks with his pencil until King Crossout himself shows up and you can figure out the rest.

Really I didn't find it funny at all, all the sushi and Japanese food sounded gross to me whether it was the good stuff, carrot curry, or the bad stuff, garbage tea. Not up to par with the first book at all, which was hilarious. There are some puzzles to work your way through during the book, things that you use your mind for such as match-ups or you use your finger to work your way through a maze-like puzzle, so no need to mark the book with a pencil. Now I'm not six years old, the intended audience for this book and I think it will probably go over well with those who fell in love with Taro in book one as a host of familiar characters are back. This one also has just the tiniest bit of toilet humour which is always sure to get a laugh from that age group. There are two separate instances where "poop" is mentioned. I'm not ready to give up on the series yet. I'll try book three when it comes out and if it's like book one then I'll be more than happy to give the series a go and continue on but if it's like this one I'll have had my fill of Taro and Doodledum.

Friday, April 8, 2011

80. Death Note: Black Edition, Vol 2 by Tsugumi Ohba

Death Note: Black Edition, Vol II by Tsugumi Ohba. Art by Takeshi Obata (Canada) - (US)
Death Note, Vol. 3 & 4

Pages: 396
Ages: 16+
Finished: Mar. 27, 2011
First Published: 2003, Japan (Mar. 1, 2011, this edition)
Publisher: viz media
Genre: YA, manga, paranormal, crime, thriller
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Ready, Ryuk!!

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The Black Edition of Death Note are omnibus reprints which collect two volumes together. Black Edition, Vol. 2 here contains Volumes 3 and 4 of the original series. From the outside the books are completely black including the fore edges.

What a ride this manga is! What I love about it so much is the detection part of the plot. The way that "L", the mastermind detective is matching wits with the serial killer Kira, who of course only wants to make the world a better place by ridding it of the criminal element. Light Yagami is under suspicion of being Kira and has been asked to join the task force both because he is the chief's son, is so intelligent and because he is under suspicion. This is just what Light wants as he feels he can manipulate the case better from the inside. These two minds going up against each other is so much fun. One will think he's outwitted the other, only to turn around and be one-upped.

The main plot of these volumes includes the introduction of a second human receiving a Death Note as a higher up Shinigami wants to see why the other is playing this game with the human. The new human is a follower/fan of Kira and enters into the case by broadcasting videos stating that he is Kira, in order to meet the real Kira. This really throws a wrench in the investigation and nearly gets Light caught. We learn a lot more information about how the Death Notes work. In fact, also about the Shinigami themselves. Ryuk's character wasn't explored much in these volumes, so far we pretty much know where he stands. Light and "L"'s characters were focused on the most (outside the new characters) and while we know Light is the bad guy (that isn't a spoiler) and his character is losing more and more human traits, feelings, becoming more evil; we now question whether "L" can really be trusted to solve this case. Has he finally met his match in Kira?

I so cannot wait for the next volume to come out and the great thing about this series is that it is a reprint. It has already been published! So no waiting! The publishers have a regularly scheduled release date for each volume in the series. Volume 3 (containing Vol.'s 5&6 will be out in May '11)