Friday, September 30, 2011

221. The Clockwork Girl by Sean O'Reilly

The Clockwork Girl by Sean O' Reilly* & Kevin Hanna (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 128
Finished: Sept. 27, 2011
First Published: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Harper Design
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction, steampunk, romance
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
In a land far, far away, these fantastic castles were built as monuments to two very different and very important sciences.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I've enjoyed other books by Sean O'Reilly and this one sounded wonderful, plus I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie (which doesn't have a release date as of yet).

First of all, an absolutely beautiful book.  Illustrations are gorgeous and the book is just pleasure for the eyes to read.  It's book like this I'd never trade for an ereader.  The story centres around two scientists who live next door to each other, one who is a technical scientist building robots and automatons, whilst the other works with biological science creating new forms of life.  They are enemies.  Last year Dendrus won the annual fair with his "mutant boy" named Huxley.  This year he has come with Huxley and to watch his students' presentations but without an entry himself.  But The Tinkerer has finally created his masterpiece "The Clockwork Girl" who later names herself Tesla.  Tesla and Huxley meet at the Fair and develop a friendship later secretly meeting between their respective castles, though their fathers are warring with each other, ala Romeo & Juliet.

The robot and the mutant like each other but it isn't anything more than platonic, there is a third child involved who it is unclear but I think is either Dendrus' assistant or own son.  I'm glad the story doesn't enter into a romance as I'm not fond of that sort of thing, though the plot does enter the dramatic and intensiveness of a life and death situation such as is found in Romeo & Juliet.  The plot actually has quite a few Shakespearean elements and is honestly, just a wonderful story to read.  The characters are all quirky and fun, from the children to the adults to the creatures.  The fair is a wonderful chapter with all sorts of weird and wacky inventions being displayed and causing trouble.  But ultimately it is a story of lonely people, finding happiness in friendship and the despair one will only find in feuding with others.  An adorable story suitable for all ages, some scenes may be too intense for little ones but otherwise young and old alike with love this wonderful story.

*Sean O'Reilly is a Canadian.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

220. Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs by Marcia Williams

Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs by Marcia Williams (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 48
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sept. 26, 2011
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, graphic novel, mythology, Ancient Egypt
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
In the beginning, there was only the deep, dark water of Nun.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I love mythology, Egyptian Mythology, and this series of books by Marcia Williams.

Typical of Marcia Williams' books this is set up in a comic strip format with the narrative told underneath the strips and funny, comical asides coming from the characters depicted in the cartoons.  The most popular tales are told here in a fairly linear order so that one story leads onto the next with the exception of jumping many years to Cleopatra at the end.  The book begins with the mythology of Ra, Isis, Thoth, etc and goes on to tell the tales of famous pharaohs Hatsheput, Thutmose, Tut, Cleopatra, etc.  So the book isn't entirely mythology, though myths do surround some of the Pharaohs.  Williams' artwork is beautiful as usual and the book includes two spreads where the pages unfold outwards to create large panoramic scenes.  One thing that is missing, from her other books, is the usual detailed framed artwork around each page; here she has simply framed each piece with what look like papyrus plants.  An added plus though, is along the bottom of each page is a continuous ticker where a cat tells a running commentary on interesting facts about Egyptian life: the role of cats (of course), agriculture, mummies, inventions, etc.  A gorgeous book when all said and done; the tales are a good selection for an introduction to Egyptian mythology and pharaohs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

219. Construction Zone by Cheryl Willis Hudson

Construction Zone by Cheryl Willis Hudson. Photography by Richard Sobol.  (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 32
Ages: 5+
Finished: Sept. 26, 2011
First Published: 2006
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, non-fiction, photo-essay, architecture
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

What do you see at the construction zone?

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my library.

Reason for Reading: I am reading Richard Sobol's entire backlist with my son and discussing the life of a photographer/photojournalist as a career option while doing so.

Construction Zone is the only one of Richard Sobol's children's books which he did not write himself.  Sobol spent 3 years documenting the building of MIT's Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences.  Much of that work can be found in a book published by MIT itself.  This book includes photos Sobol took during that assignment.  The writing itself is written for a younger child than Sobol's own books and describes the work on a construction zone from architect to carpenters to masons to electricians and so on.  It has a very easy to read narrative with definitions at the bottom of each page that will delight the youngest of readers, especially boys who love to hang around when they see local construction at work.

Sobol's photography is absolutely brilliant and makes the book suitable for browsing by anyone of any age.  The Stata Center is one strange example of architecture and Sobol's fantastic photography make this the type of book to lay upon the coffee table for browsing.  Ds especially enjoyed this book, compared to Sobol's other nature books.  Since we are talking about career opportunities we were able to also discuss all the various construction related jobs depicted in the pictures.  An excellent picture book for young children and a fun book to browse through for any age.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

217. Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery

Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery edited by Tom Pomplun (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Classics, Volume 21

Pages: 144
Ages: 12-Adult
Finished: Sept. 24, 2011
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: graphic novel, short stories, poetry
Rating: 3/5

Acquired: Received a review copy from Eureka Productions.

Reason for Reading: I read every new volume that comes out.

First sentence:

Residing in Paris during the spring of 1882, I became acquainted with a Monsieur Auguste Dupin.
A graphic anthology of short stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe.  This is the second volume in the series to feature Poe as Volume 1 did as well.  The crowning glory of this volume is the adaptation of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Antonella Caputo and Reno Maniquis.  Very much in keeping with the original story, they have brought the classic story to a new medium and shown this first detective story in all its gruesome delight.  I also enjoyed "The Facts in the Case of of M. Valdemar" which is a creepy story to begin with and Michael Manning's illustrations really bring a new essence to the story that words alone cannot convey.  I'm happy to see Hop-Frog back in its original form by Lisa K. Weber only with added colour, this time.  Not one of my favourite Poe stories but a wicked little tale of revenge nicely done in the graphic format.  "The Masque of Red Death" is back also in colour and I'm not sure whether I appreciate this one as much in colour as I did in black and white.  There are a few lesser known tales represented here and they are not ones that really do much for me though I enjoyed the artwork completely, throughout the book this time.  "Berenice" was particularly a favourite of a story I hadn't remember so well.  There is only one story I did not like and that was a new rendering of "The Tell-Tale Heart", which had been turned into a modern story with the antagonist portrayed as a female punk rock neo-nazi type. Didn't work for me at all.

There are quite a few poems in this volume, short poems.  It felt like more than usual but I'm not holding another book to actually compare, perhaps it's because I'm not exactly a poem person and had been hoping that "The Bells" would be represented.  Overall, a good read.  Poe is good material to work with graphically, but I'll honestly have to say I preferred the b/w volume to this new colour volume.

Monday, September 26, 2011

216. Breakfast in the Rainforest by Richard Sobol

Breakfast in the Rainforest: A Visit with Mountain Gorillas by Richard Sobol. Afterward by Leonardo DiCaprio (Canada) - (US)
Traveling Photographer series

Pages: 44
Ages: 9+
Finished: Sept. 24, 2011
First Published: 2008
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, non-fiction, photo-essay, travel, gorillas,  Africa
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Getting close enough to photograph some of the few mountain gorillas alive on our planet today is a real challenge.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: I am reading the author's entire backlist with my son and discussing the life of a photographer/photojournalist as a career option while doing so.

This is the first book in the author's "Traveling Photographer" series and the one we least enjoyed.  For a book about gorillas it takes until well past the middle of the book for a gorilla to be seen.  This caused my son to loose interest in the narrative, which I found to be interesting but hardly that entertaining.  Sobol certainly talks about the mountain gorillas a lot giving the reader plenty of information and we are led with him through his uncomfortable trip through the rainforest to find them; with lots of pictures of his guides in the rainforest and panoramic views of the scenery.  The pictures near the end of the book when we finally meet the gorillas have been laid out in photo album/scrapbook style with brief captions so as not to take away from the photos themselves.  This is a unique visual presentation, especially since by this time the reader is more than ready to see a gorilla.  Overall, an interesting book, which I found more to my liking than did my son, who lost interest quite early, even though he does like gorillas.  The other thing that perplexed me was the afterward by Leonardo DiCaprio.  It's content is a repetition of the mountain gorilla's need for conserving its species (found in the book) and then reads like an advertisement for the book.  There is no call for this afterward and that it is written by an actor hardly adds credibility.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

215. Small Pig by Arnold Lobel

Small Pig by Arnold Lobel (Canada) - (US)
I Can Read Books (Level 2)

Pages: 64
Ages: 6+
Finished: Sept. 19, 2011
First Published: 1969
Publisher: Harper Trophy
Genre: children, easy reader
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The small pig lives in a pigpen on a farm.

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

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

Even though labeled a Level 2 this reader is very easy to read.  I find the "Levels" are very inconsistent with this series anyway.  A really cute story of a small pig who lives on a farm where the farmer and his wife love him very much and think he is the best pig in the world.  Pig loves to wallow in mud of course, but one day Mrs. Farmer is fed up with the mess of the farm and she cleans up the whole thing including small pig's mud puddle.  He can't stand the cleanliness and runs away.  He finds several muddy, dirty places to settle down but none work out until he finds the perfect place in the city.  Unfortunately he can't read and when he wakes up in the morning he is stuck in the cement of a new sidewalk.  A funny story; Ds and I both enjoyed it very much.  I really enjoy Lobel's earlier work the best!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Have a New Weight Loss Blog

I've had plans to start a new blog for some time now, but I've been waiting for the right moment.  The time has come and I'd like to invite you to join me as I chronicle my journey of weight-loss surgery which I will undergo Oct. 31st, though I have been in the program for the last 11 months.  Here is my new blog:

Weight Loss Surgery & Me

Friday, September 23, 2011

213-214. Grandma's Attic Books 3 & 4

Grandma's Attic Series by Arleta Richardson

Publisher: David C Cook

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

Acquired: Received review copies from the books' publicist.

Reason for Reading: next in the series

Ages: 7+

#213. Book Three: Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson (Canada) - (US) 1980. 2011. 159 pgs. - Continuing along in the same format as the first two books, Arleta is living with her Grandmother and Uncle Roy.  Each chapter is an individual story which starts off with Arleta in the present and her grandmother ends up telling her a tale of when she was a little girl in the 1880's.  The time frame has moved ahead a little bit from the previous two books though Mabel (Grandma) does go back as far as being six years old; she is mostly 12/13 and the majority of the stories involve her and her best friend Sarah Jane and their life in rural Michigan on a farm.  Mabel and Sarah Jane are good girls but they always manage to get themselves into trouble with their fancies and mischief.  This time their adventures include a home-made wrinkle cream, trying to get by without wearing their long underwear under their stockings, a week's trip to the city, a surprise birthday party where no one invites the birthday celebrant and eating windfalls (apples) from a neighbours orchard.  Wonderful, wholesome stories that will appeal to fans of the Little House or Betsy-Tacy books.  These are wonderful examples of Christian fiction, but no religion is no more excessive than that being the way of life for the folks back then.  Some stories have no indication they could be classified as Christian while others may have the parents teaching their children a behaviour lesson through scripture.  It is all very low key.  Think of the Christian element used in the LHOTP TV show.  Rating: 4/5

#214. Book Four: Treasures from Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson (Canada) - (US) 1984. 2011. 159 pgs. - With book four comes a change in format. The book no longer has Arleta listening to stories from Grandma but rather is a story told in the voice of Grandma (Mabel) herself. Each chapter is still an individual vignette unrelated to the others, though mention is occasionally made of past events not only from previous chapters but from previous books. In this book, Mabel talks about the year she and Sarah Jane were in Grade 8 and now that they are growing up, they still manage to get themselves into scrapes from mischievousness but they are more apt to have done something wrong that sits badly on their conscience and their Christian values. This book is a little deeper in the Christian aspect as many of the stories (though certainly not all) the girls are learning where the Gospel and scripture fit into their own lives. I still think these books are laid back enough that non-Christians will accept the characters' religion as part of the story rather than feel as if it is being preached to the reader, as they are not preachy at all, simply wholesome. I really quite enjoyed this one, especially with the new format of a straight story of Mabel reminiscing about her childhood, rather than the back and forth of present to past as in the first 3 books. Rating 5/5

So far I can't find any information on the rest of the series, but I certainly do hope the publisher continues with all ten volumes in the series.  Next up from the publishers seems to be a boxed set of these first four books due out in Feb. 2012.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

212. Jeannie Out of the Bottle by Barbara Eden

Jeannie Out of the Bottle by Barbara Eden with Wendy Leigh (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 263 +index
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 19, 2011
First Published: Apr. 5, 2011
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Genre: non-fiction, memoir, television, entertainment
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Whenever I hear the blare of a foghorn or see a picture of a mermaid or a young couple madly in love, I feel as if I've been Jeannie-blinked back into my childhood, happy and secure.
Acquired:  Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I loved "I Dream of Jeannie" as a kid and really knew nothing else about Barbara Eden, other than the Harper Valley, PTA movie and brief series.  I enjoy actor's memoirs from the '70s on back in time and was intrigued to see what Barbara Eden had to say for herself.

Barbara Eden comes off as a very classy, non-Hollywood-type, of lady who has lived a rich and rewarding career, meeting many famous celebrities and enjoying enough success to satisfy herself.  She loves to work for the joy of it but she has also suffered some tragedies in life namely the death of her only child at his age of thirty-five.

Barbara tells the whole story of her life, briefly from early childhood, but mostly starting with her life in Hollywood as she tried to make a career for herself as a singer, got side-tracked as a model and ended up an actor, until she reached the stage when she could be both sing and act, whether on Broadway, TV or in the movies.  Barbara was married to the same man for most of her career on through the Jeannie years and though she has many tales to tell, she does tell all in a certain way.  She doesn't have that much to tell as she was in a faithful marriage and respected her colleagues even when they were difficult to deal with.  So we get a lot of stories of who tried to pick her up and who she turned down along with the tumultuous backstage antics of Larry Hagman on the set of Jeannie.  A classy book about TV and movies in the 1950s and 1960s with no s*x or vulgar language.  A very interesting look into this time period of the entertainment business from someone who wasn't dragged down into the drug scene.  And an insightful look inside the exciting and tragic life of an iconic woman who will always be remembered as "Jeannie".

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

211. The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan

The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan (Canada) only

Pages: 192
Ages: 9+
Finished: Sept. 18, 2011
First Published: Sept. 1, 2011 (Canada)
Publisher: Dancing Cat Books
Genre: juvenile, realistic fiction, India, Bombay
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

April 1982

My dearest A,
I'm so scared!  You have to meet me tonight...

Anahita stared at the note.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Cormorant Books.

Reason for Reading:  I am a fan of the author.

The city of Bombay, India has a 150 year old tradition of delivering hot lunches to business workers in metal tins called tiffins.  This is a complicated business and yet it has a reputation of losing only one box per every six million.  The opening chapter is a flashback to a story of one such lost box and the rest of the book comes back to the present to show the consequences that lost lunch had for one person.  Kunal, who was left with the Seths as a baby, has been raised as their slave working in their restaurant with no wages, beat by the owner and shown no love by either him or his wife.  He has one customer, an old man, who is in charge of the tiffin business at the nearby rail station who eventually takes him in and gets him a job at a nice restaurant.  Now Kunal makes some friends and can devote his time to finding his real mother and finding out why she never came back for him.

Beautifully written book, with a easy going third person narrative that catches your attention right away.  The story takes one down into the underbelly of Indian life where the poor, the orphaned, the down-on-their-luck work and survive and where the mean, nasty and or criminal prey upon them.  At times I thought I was reading about Victorian life, but no I had to remind myself this was life today for the poor and just getting by in Bombay today.  The story is full of pathos, Kunal has been dealt a hard life and he lives on dreams for a brighter future, for a family.  As he goes looking for that family he ends up finding it in the least likely of places.

Not only a wonderful, heart-wrending story but also one with plenty of insight into Indian daily life and culture.  I found it very interesting and entertaining.  I loved Kunal as a character and rooted for him right from the beginning, hoping for the ending that eventually came to pass.  I still find the idea of the tiffins strange.  Maybe 150 years ago it was a good idea, but now?   It seems a pretty complicated way to get a hot lunch.  They must have thermoses and microwaves in business districts in India.  Why can't people take their lunch to work with them like the rest of us?  If they want it hot, put it in a thermos or microwave it.  Tiffins are a very strange concept to this Canadian!  A great read and certainly both unique and different from the usual fare available for juvenile readers these days.  Well done.  Recommended!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

210. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin (Graphic Novel)

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin. Adapted by Daniel Abraham. Illustrated by Rafa Lopez (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 256
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 17, 2011
First Published: Aug. 9, 2011
Publisher: Avatar Press
Genre: graphic novel, horror, vampires
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

April 1857
St. Louis

Why Cap'n Marsh!

Acquired:  Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I received a review copy in the mail and while I hadn't requested it; it was a gorgeous looking book and I'm always up for a good vampire story.

I have not read the original novel which this graphic has been adapted from nor have I actually read anything by the author, George R.R. Martin, so this was new territory for me.  A unique story set in 1857 along the Mississippi River during the heyday of the huge passenger steamboats.  A down-on-his-luck, though widely respected captain, is met by a stranger who offers him a deal he cannot pass up.  The man will give him the money to build the finest ship on the river, in exchange the man and a few of his friends will live on board and though they may be odd and will keep strange hours Captain Marsh is not to question them and while he will not interfere with the running of the boat he will occasionally give orders to dock and again he is not to be questioned.  Captain Marsh agrees.  Little does he know what he has got himself into!

This is a great vampire story.  We have one small group of "good" vampires whose leader has managed to find a cure for the "red thirst", thus allowing them to live decent lives by night.  There is also a much larger group which revels in its killing and slaughter, wanting to take over the world, keeping humans as their cattle.  When the two groups find each other, it is a long fight between the Alpha's of each group with Captain Marsh caught in the middle.

I found this to be a page turner.  Captain Marsh is an intriguing character, one who values honesty and loyalty.  The art is beautiful, dark and even sensuous at times.  This book is very much 18+ though, there are incredibly violent and gory scenes aplenty, along with full frontal female nudity, and some simply disturbing scenes, language oddly enough though, is mild.  A fun, creepy horror story.

Monday, September 19, 2011

209. Monster in the Mountains by Shane Peacock

Monster in the Mountains by Shane Peacock (Canada) - (US) (Out Of Print)
A Dylan Maples Adventure, #4

Pages: 207
Ages: 9+
Finished: Sept. 17, 2011
First Published: 2003
Publisher: Puffin Canada
Genre: children, adventure
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Walter Middy tossed and turned.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: next in the series

After the terrifying incident in the last book instead of taking Dylan home to Toronto his parents decide to take him to a resort in the BC wilderness to wind down and relax. He is introduced to his Great-Uncle Walter Middy, who used to be an all around circus performer but whose specialty was tight-rope walking. Dylan becomes fascinated with the Sasquatch tales and being in Sasquatch Provincial Park only flames his fires. The next thing he knows he, his Uncle and his new found friend Alice have sighted one up close. They decide to track it and the uncle brings along a video recorder to get the evidence on tape. Of course, along the way they meet bad guys who want evidence of the monster too, but they won't be happy with a video tape. That's why they include a group of snipers who have no intention of bringing the beast back alive.

Another action-packed adventure for Dylan and his new found "girl" friend, nothing remotely romantic as usual but this guy seems to attract girls like flies to candy! Having all the usual aspects I've come to expect from these stories, Shane introduces us to another area of Canada. This time the Harrison Lake area from the Harrison Hot Springs all the way along the Fraser River to well past Hell's Gate to the tiny town of Boston Bar. This is all new territory to me, though I did see a sign for Sasquatch Provincial Park on a drive to Vancouver once. Unlike the other books, this one did not inspire me to want to visit the area as I am not an outdoorsy mountain-type of girl, but still the descriptions of the area are wonderful and could certainly entice certain people to want to visit.

A fast, fun, thrilling read. But I will say that out of the four this is my least favourite as Peacock ventures into the fantasy world here in this book. While the others have all been fairly straight forward realistic fiction this one ventures off into the "unknown" for want of a better word. The author does deal with this and we have our feet firmly planted in reality by the end, but it does make this book a bit of an oddball in the series. Still a joy to read though and I'm sorry to see an end to Dylan Maples as this was the last book.

I have two non-fiction books left to read now. One Young Adult and one for adults, then I will have read Peacock's entire backlist!  And I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of his latest Boy Sherlock book due out in Oct. '11

Sunday, September 18, 2011

208. The Life of Rice by Richard Sobol

The Life of Rice: From Seedling to Supper by Richard Sobol (Canada) - (US)
Traveling Photographer series

Pages: 37
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sept. 16, 2011
First Published: Sept. 28, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, non-fiction, photo-essay, travel, agriculture, Thailand
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

My life as a photographer involves a lot of fast-paced travel followed by slower times at home as I review and edit my photographs.

Acquired:  Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: I was so impressed with Sobol's photography and writing style when reading his newest book "The Mysteries of Angkor Wat" that I decided to read his entire backlist with my son and discuss the life of a photographer/photojournalist as a career option while doing so.

The author had previously been to Thailand on assignments but this time he received an official invitation to the "Royal Plowing Ceremony" from the King of Thailand and decided that while there on his own time, for a change, he would spend it on photographing the lush rice fields, which he had found fascinating on previous trips, and the role rice has on Thai society.  We learn just how ingrained rice is in Thai culture as virtually all their holidays are centered around rice, it's bi products and it's growing/harvesting seasons.  Rice is grown everywhere there is flat land including people's own backyards.  We learn how the rich farmer will use extravagant machinery in his work while the average farmer uses the same techniques that have been used for thousands of years.  Groups of neighbours get together and work each others paddies one after another to share the work and make the rice a community thing.  Rice is the staple food of Thai people, paddies cover the countryside and festivals are frequent reminders of this staple of their life.

Richard Sobol has told a fascinating story as he travels the country, stopping to help work in the paddy, going to festivals and showing the daily life of small children as they accompany their families through all stages of the rice farmer from planting seeds to taking the 100 pound bags of rice to the mill where they are paid.  Fantastic photography and a storytelling narrative brings this most abundant world-wide crop to life, shows us the people behind the food and the how a crop can be so essential to a country's way of life.  Beautiful book!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

207. Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the U.F.O. by David Adler

Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the U.F.O. by David Adler. Illustrated by Susanna Natti (Canada) - (US)
Cam Jansen, Book 2

Pages: 58
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sept. 14, 2011
First Published: 1980
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: children, early chapter books, mystery
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

One cold November afternoon Cam Jansen and her friend Eric Shelton were walking through town.
Acquired: Purchased a used copy for a garage/book sale or thrift shop.

Reason for Reading:  Ds read aloud to me.  This is a more harder book than he's used to and I had him read it as a challenge while being there to readily help him along so he wouldn't get frustrated.

This was both my son's and my first Cam Jansen book.  I had expected Cam to be a boy and so was of course surprised and delighted with the story of how Jennifer came to be known as "Cam".  Cam and her friend Eric are interesting, bright and responsible fifth-graders whom I enjoyed reading about.  Eric is trying to enter a photography contest at school but he comes across some ne'er-do-well who must cheat at everything and Cam and Eric set out to figure what he is up to and honesty wins out in the end.  Ds seemed to be enjoying the story as he read, he had no complaints and laughed along with the story, but he's at that stage where if you ask him if he liked a book he'll just say "no" for the mere fact that he had to read it.  I'll pick up a few more of these if I run across them at thrift prices.  They certainly would have entertained my mystery gene when I was a kid!

Friday, September 16, 2011

206. Hamlet & Ophelia by John Marsden

Hamlet & Ophelia by John Marsden (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 228
Ages: 14+
Finished: Sept. 14, 2011
First Published: 2008 Australia (Aug.2009 US)(Sept. 2009 CAN)
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Genre: YA, ghost story, tragedy
Rating: 2/5

First sentence:

"Do you believe in ghosts?" Horatio asked him.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I enjoy Shakespeare retellings and Hamlet is probably my favourite Shakespeare.

The book tells the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet.  The plot is there and all the major points are present.  The author uses some of the original language while modernizing it yet keeping all the most famous quotes such as "to be or not to be".  So to read this book one does get the plot of Shakespeare's Hamlet without having to read or experience the original.  But I was not impressed with this retelling at all.

The darkness, brooding atmosphere of the original is missing.  The time period is vague, it could be the recent past or timeless ages past. But most of all the portrayals of Hamlet and Ophelia are nothing as they are in the original.  Ophelia is shown as nothing but a wanton sex-craving girl who dreams of nothing but mentally luring Hamlet to come to her.  Her suicide is all matter of fact and hardly anyone seems to even care, least of all Hamlet who has much larger problems to deal with.  Of course, as in the play, major plot point, it is Ophelia's brother who is upset at her death.

My greatest joy in the original plot of Hamlet is the question of his sanity.  The movie starring Kenneth Branagh is a fabulous adaptation portraying this.  Has Hamlet really gone insane or is he only pretending?  This whole issue has been removed from Marsden's version.  People around Hamlet speak of his madness as they would today of a teenager's rebellious stage.  Hamlet himself speaks of his madness as if it were a cold.  This version lacks passion and the intricacies of the original plot.  And on top of all that, the appearance of Hamlet's father's ghost is a very brief single episode which, of course, plants the seed of revenge but is hardly an experience that could cause madness in anyone.  All to say this is rather boring if you already know the plot of Hamlet and I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction; there must be something better out there.  Not recommended.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

205. Nola's Worlds Trilogy #3: Even for a Dreamer Like Me

Even For a Dreamer Like Me by Mathieu Mariolle. Art by Minikim. Translated from the French by Erica Olsen Jeffrey & Carol Klio Burrell (Canada) - (USA)
Nola's Worlds trilogy, #3

Pages: 136
Ages: 12+
Finished: Sept. 11, 2011
First Published: 2009 France (Nov, 2010 English trans.)
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Genre: Graphic novel, manga, YA, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: 

All my life, people have never stopped telling me...

"You daydream too much, Nola."

Acquired:  Purchased a new copy via an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: Next & last in the series.

Wow.  A fantastic ending to this charming, whimsical trilogy!  I'm not going to give away too much on plot but previous events have lead to Alta Donna being in serious risk of survival and Nola finds out that her daydreaming has lead her to become a good storyteller thus the one who may be able to save not Alta Donna but the world where her friends Damiano and Ines have come from as well.  I'm still not letting on what the ferrets are all about but they are major characters in this final volume and everything is all finally brought together.  One can simply believe the ending as it is or one can ponder on the events and wonder, if anything, is really real. 

The characters are wonderful and one falls in love with them right away.  During the course of the three books they grow, develop and mature.  There are believable, real, faulty characters.  Nola is a terrific heroine but I think my favourite overall character was Damiano.  The strange boy from another world who has super agility abilities, so obviously has a crush on Nola (which is is mutual) that it is cute! A darling trilogy that will be a keeper on my shelves!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

204. Nola's World Trilogy #2: Ferrets and Ferreting Out

Ferrets and Ferreting Out by Mathieu Mariolle. Art by Minikim. Translated from the French by Erica Olsen Jeffrey & Carol Klio Burrell (Canada) - (USA)
Nola's Worlds trilogy, #2

Pages: 128
Ages: 12+
Finished: Sept. 9, 2011
First Published: 2009 France (Nov. 1, 2010 English trans.)
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Genre: Graphic novel, manga, YA,fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

You'd think I'd have had enough...
but why do I always get myself into these kinds of situations?

Acquired:  Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: Next in the trilogy.

Nola was right about the new kids, Damiano and Ines.  There is definitely something strange going on with them and now they have started to avoid her and she is determined to find out just what is going on.  Otherwise Nola continues to live her ordinary hectic life, being late for school all the time, living with a mother who is never home, a workaholic, and acting like a teenager, while Nola keeps getting herself into all sorts of troubles with her daydreaming.  Then Nola gets caught up in the action as strange people are after D. and I. and she finds herself in a dangerous situation and finally learns the truth about the brother and sister.  And while you may be wondering, yes, there are ferrets.  But I can't tell you about them, that would reveal too much.

Again, I just loved this book.  The French artwork is fabulous.  I love how it uses many manga techniques and yet it is decidedly its own style.  The facial expressions, the clothes and the limb contortions are all very dramatic and add to the distinctive style which makes this very unique from Japanese or North American artwork.  The plot is unique and fairly strange, one just goes with the flow and watches the story as it unravels for us.  I appreciate how the author manages to make just the right mix of weird action plot and everyday life.  We watch Nola as she gets up in the morning, eats breakfast, does schoolwork, goes shopping, etc. leading her usual every day and in amongst it all she makes time to stalk the strange kids, gets taken hostage by the men who are after them, has near death accidents and is remarkably saved, etc.  Even when she is bored Nola is never dull.  And the ferrets are an interesting concept.  Very briefly and confusingly inserted in book 1, we get a much bigger explanation and view of them here.  Just what is the story here?  Damiano and Inez or the ferrets?  Are they related?  Some questions running through my head as I anticipate reading the final volume.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

203. Shimmer by Alyson Noel

Shimmer by Alyson Noel (Canada) - (US)
Riley Bloom, Book 2

Pages: 176
Ages: 9+
Finished: Sept. 9, 2011
First Published: Mar. 15, 2011
Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: children, paranormal, ghost story
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"Go on, Buttercup - go get it boy!"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Macmillan for Kids.

Reason for Reading:  Next in the series.

Riley and her guide, Bodhi, are enjoying a vacation after their first mission of leading a soul home in book 1.  While playing with her own dog, Buttercup, she comes across a Hellhound and is determined to find it and send it home but what she finds is much more than she expected.  She meets the ghost Rebecca, who is very angry for having been murdered during a slave revolt in the early 1700's.  She has created a bubble in which she has captured all the other souls who died after her where each one relives there most frightening moment during life over and over.  Against Bodhi's wishes, Riley uses her own free will to take on this monumental mission of sending home all the ghosts trapped here by Rebecca, but can she do it without becoming trapped herself?

I think I enjoyed this second book in the series even more than the first!  A very quick page-turning afternoon's read for me.  I really like both Riley and Bodhi as main characters and even though they are at odds much of the time in their teacher/student relationship I find myself agreeing with each one's point of view.  When not paying attention to their official relationship they have managed in this book to become somewhat closer to each other as people, not exactly friends yet, but they've seen a side of each other they hadn't known about before and now they must get over there own stubbornness.  The story did get a bit gruesome with some of the depictions of the treatment of slaves and there was one source of torture that the author seems to have fixated on and repeatedly mentions; when just the once was plenty barbaric enough to lay uncomfortably in the reader's mind.  It is a good ghost story; Rebecca is an evil ghost who is also caught in her own trap without realising it.  When we learn the full story of her death it is supposed to redeem her in the reader's eyes but I wasn't going to let her off quite so easily!  Lots of fun!  Readers of the first book will enjoy this second adventure.  My only real complaint is the cliffhanger ending where the characters literally walk through a door. The End.  I prefer my books to end with a satisfactory conclusion even when they are parts of a series.

Monday, September 12, 2011

202. Canada, Our History: An Album Through Time by Rick Archbold

Canada, Our History: An Album Through Time by Rick Archbold. Introduction by Christopher Moore (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 155
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sept. 8, 2011
First Published: 2000
Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Out of Print)
Genre: children, non-fiction, Canadian history
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Tomorrow we land in Canada, at the great port city of Quebec.

Acquired: Bought a new copy from a book store probably back in 2000.

Reason for Reading:  I've been reading a chapter here and there out of this book out loud to ds all year long as we studied 20th century North American history.

This is a fabulous book, which unfortunately didn't stay in print for very long.  Starting with a chapter about an immigrant arriving in Canada in 1903 and ending with the Y2K Millennium this book presents various events from Canadian 20th century history as seen through the eyes of young Canadians (ages 10-17).  The narrators themselves are fictional but the events they describe are factual.  Each chapter is loaded with photographs and the text is larger than usual making it aesthetically pleasing and easy to read.  The book itself is larger than usual and is almost square in shape, close to a coffee table sized book.  The first hand account narratives make for very interesting reading and both my son and I enjoyed the book very much.  The topics covered are quite unique as well, not just what you would expect.  In all there are 15 episodes from our past including such topics as:  The Halifax Explosion, The Calgary Stampede, Dionne Quintuplets, Hurricane Hazel, Expo '67, FLQ Crisis, Canada/USSR hockey game, and the Oka crisis.  Everything was wonderfully portrayed and surprisingly my son was very caught up with the FLQ Crisis which I thought he wouldn't understand at all.  But he's all boy, that one.  Call in the army and he's on the edge of his seat. LOL.  The only thing I wasn't impressed with was the portrayal of the Oka crisis which was purely from the Indian perspective and highly biased.  However, this is a keeper on my shelves!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

201. The Floor of Heaven by Howard Blum

The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 426
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 8, 2011
First Published: Apr. 26, 2011
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Genre: non-fiction, history, 1890s, gold rush, Alaska
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

As the millionaire's steamboat chugged north against the current, up the Yukon River, and sidled past the distant Mackenzie Mountains that late-summer day in 1882, the river remained smooth and wide, easy to navigate, but the water had suddenly turned gray and opaque.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Crown Publishers.

Reason for Reading: I've never consciously thought about this before but I do seem to have a penchant for reading about the Klondike/Yukon gold rush.  I'm even reading aloud a fiction book to my son on the topic at this moment!  This was a must read for me.

This is a true story told in narrative form which really reads like a novel and thus a quick page-turner.  The book focuses in on three people: George Carmack, AWOL Marine who "ignites" the biggest gold rush the world has seen; Soapy Smith, conman, bamboozler, thief and murderer who starts off by taking control of Denver's underworld but eventually end's up in Alaska running the lawless boom town of Skagway; and finally, Charlie Siringo, a former cowhand turned Pinkerton detective who is sent to Alaska to solve a crime no other has been able to solve and Pinkerton's name itself is on the line.

The book of course is about the gold rush but it is first and foremost about these three men.  The narrative shifts from one to the other telling their stories in detail from early adulthood until they all end up in various parts of Alaska, making each others acquaintance, though never on friendly terms.  The book concentrates on the American side of the story, all three men have eventful lives in the States before they head North.  Main events are centered in Skagway, Dyea and Juneau.  It isn't until quite close to the end of the book that the story crosses over into Canadian land and the actual accumulation of gold in the Bonanza Creek.  This book is more about the getting there, the life the prospectors lead, the mindset of these people and specifically the lives of the three main characters.

A truly brilliant, riveting read that would make a great novel if it weren't all true!  A fascinating time in history when the lust for gold took over man's sense of reason and turned a barren land into a small collection of roaring last stop boom towns.  I have of course previously read all about Skagway and also Soapy Smith as well as a bit about George Carmack but only in the context of the gold rush.  Finding out about their backgrounds was fascinating and made for great reading.  Charlie Siringo was relatively new to me, I've heard him mentioned briefly, but his fascinating story was fresh.  A great read for anyone interested in the harsh, rough and tumble life of the gold rush days, whether you've read much on the topic before or not.  The narrative story telling voice is so captivating to read that I am very interested in reading more of Mr. Blum's previous works.  He has a very interesting backlist!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

200. Nola's Worlds #1: Changing Moon

Changing Moon by Mathieu Mariolle. Art by Minikim. Translated from the French by Erica Olsen Jeffrey & Carol Klio Burrell (Canada) - (USA)
Nola's Worlds trilogy, #1

This is a re-read for me and I'm not going to re-review it here.  My purpose in re-reading is that I am finally going to read the other two books in the trilogy and I read this again to refresh my memory and read all 3 books together.  I think I probably enjoyed this even more the second time around as I probably would have given it a rating of 5 this time instead of the 4 from last time.  It has not been quite a year since my first read and review.  You can read my review of this volume here:  My Review.

Friday, September 9, 2011

199. The Midnight Charter by David Whitley

The Midnight Charter by David Whitley (Canada) - (US)
The Agora Trilogy, Book 1

Pages: 319
Ages: 11+
Finished: Sept. 6, 2011
First Published: Sept. 22, 2009
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Being dead was colder than Mark had expected.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I was actually under the impression the story was dystopian however the plot itself was intriguing, dystopian or not.

While this book is labeled as dystopian on many book sites, there is no indication that this world is our future earth at all.  In fact, it is almost certain to be an alternate world somewhere, unless revelations are made in the following books I would label the story as fantasy or science fantasy.  Agora is a walled-in city, people are told that beyond Agora there is nothing and this is the excepted truth.  Agora is run on the barter and trade system where everything is available for trade including people's emotions and people themselves.  Upon ones' 12th birthday one becomes a free person and must sell themselves into service, marriage, etc. to whatever advantage this may bring.  This is a society that cannot run well as since everything is available for trade, everything is only worth what someone is willing to trade for it and an artist's work can be fashionable one day, worthless the next.  Keeping one's best appearance in society is very important so as not to loose favour and thus your status.  Wealthy merchant one day could easily become worthless pauper the next.  The book features two young 12 year old's who have gone out into the world.  Mark was sold by his father to a doctor as the boy had the stone plague and the father thought he might have a chance with the doctor.  Lily, an orphan, was sold to a book binder's but tossed out on her 12th birthday.  Since she had been working in the astrology section she managed to secure a place for herself as servant to a well-know astrologer in the city.  The doctor is the son of the astrologer and this is how they meet.

The book was a bit slow to get into, but once it got going I was quite intrigued with the unusual storyline.  The two teens end up being thought as possibly the ones mentioned in an ancient prophecy, the Antagonist and the Protagonist, who will eventually either bring about the ruin of the city or prove the city's worth.  Lily is obviously watched closely as she starts a charity house looking after all the poor debtors who roam the streets homeless and starving.  Charity and compassion are something never heard of before in Agora and both she and the rising astrologer Mark bring great attention to themselves by the unseen Director himself.

Lily and Mark are both well-flesh, faulty characters who one likes right away.  Though on opposite sides politically, they are friends and the reader roots for both of them.  The story is quite compelling with certain unexpected twists and turns.  The only let down is the cliff-hanger ending which leaves one anxious for the second book which fortunately at this time has already been published.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

198. The Mysteries of Angkor Wat by Richard Sobol

The Mysteries of Angkor Wat: Exploring Cambodia's Ancient Temple by Richard Sobol (Canada) - (US)
Traveling Photographer series

Pages: 44
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sept. 4, 2011
First Published: Aug. 23, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, non-fiction, photo-essay, travel, ancient history
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
Nestled within the steaming jungle and terraced rice fields of Cambodia is the largest religious monument in the world: the temple of Angkor Wat.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I am fascinated with architecture and this looked like it would be a beautiful book.

The author, a photo-journalist, takes a short trip to Cambodia to visit and take pictures of Angkor Wat.  While there he meets up with an excited group of local children who agree to be his guides and show him around the vast temple ruins which the children have literally grown up using as their backyard playground.  The author is quite confident that he is getting a much lessor known tour than one a paid tour guide would have given.  In fact, he's sure tour guides probably don't even know about some of the places the children took him.  Written in the author's voice, as a travelogue to children but never down to them, the book has a very interesting and fun narrative.  But more engaging than the text is the photography.  Just stunning, with some unique views and a book that makes one linger on each page looking closely before wanting to turn to the next page.  A must have book for libraries and now I'm eager to take a look at Sobol's other books (some he's just the photographer), but especially the other books in this Traveling Photographer series.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

197. After the Challenger by Robert Marsh

After the Challenger: A Story of the Space Shuttle Disaster by Robert Marsh. Illustrated by Marcelo Baez. (Canada) - (US)
Graphic Flash

Pages: 53
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sept. 1, 2011
First Published: Jan. 2009
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, historical fiction, space travel, astronauts, disasters
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Cocoa Beach, Florida.
January 28, 1986.

Hey guys! Sorry, I'm late.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

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

Dustin is fascinated with space travel and spends all his time keeping up to date with the space program.  His father wishes he would spend more time with the family and show an interest in the family scallop boat.  Dustin goes with his class to watch the Space Shuttle Challenger launch and witnesses the following tragedy.  Later his dad gets a contract to look for debris and Dustin and his sister come along.

First this book is a cross between a graphic and textual novel.  Every chapter starts with a one page graphic sequence and there are the occasional one page that show up during chapters also, but the majority of the book is a regular textual chapter book.  The story of the Challenger tragedy is handled very well for the pre-12 age group.  The first chapter is quite long and details the set up of the launch, the teacher in space program, and the final explosion.  It is quite intense and detailed but age appropriate.  The rest of the book concentrates on the story of the family but also releases more information about the disaster and the recovery of the pieces, as well as the investigation. At the end of the book there is a short essay "More about" which goes into greater factual detail with the scientific explanation of what went wrong with the shuttle. The book does leave one with the impression that the astronauts died in the explosion, which was what was first thought. Thus keeping other more horrifying images out of young heads.  A very good book for this age group about this sensitive topic.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

196. Vermonia, Volume 5 by Yoyo

The Warrior's Trial by Yoyo (Canada) - (US)
Vermonia, Vol. 5

Pages: 208
Ages: 8+
Finished: Aug. 30, 2011
First Published: Aug. 9, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: manga, children, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Jim, help me! I'm drowning.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: next in the series

Briefly, the warriors are attempting to protect the Pillar of Thunder in this volume.  They must face battle in the Lake of Wishes and finally against Uro's Henchman, the mighty Rodvel.  So what we have here is a battle scene that starts on page 1 and continues straight through until page 137.  The remainder of the book brings back some slight character development and moves the plot forward as we get to see what Mel is up to and Satorin is kidnapped.  We also get a flashback to the past learning more of the background story of the brothers and what created the fall of Vermonia in the first place.  Good information and intriguing story advancement in the last pages but the long strung out battle had me less than underwhelmed, but then I'm not 8.

Monday, September 5, 2011

195. Sinking Deeper or My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster by Steve Vernon

Sinking Deeper or My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster by Steve Vernon (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 160
Ages: 11+
Finished: Aug. 230, 2011
First Published: Apr. 15, 2011, Canada (Sep. 1, 2011, USA)
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Genre: YA, realistic fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

My first jailbreak began when a coarse-toothed mechanic's file crashed through the window of the Deeper Harbour Police Station at two in the morning.

Acquired: Received a review copy through Library Thing's ER Program.

Reason for Reading:  I love reading great new Canadian Kids' fiction and who could pass up a title like that!

14 yo Roland MacTavish has lived in the sleepy little Nova Scotian town of Deeper Harbour all his life.  His father is the police chief and his mother is the mayor and they've been getting divorced for the last two years.  He lives back and forth between the two of them, and also spends time with his two best friends: his grandfather, Angus MacTavish, and Dulsie, a self-proclaimed "punk-goth-freakazoid" who desperately wants a tattoo but whose father won't let her so instead she paints a different tattoo on her face everyday with face paint.  Roland thinks Deeper Harbour is the pits until he finds out his mum is moving him and her to Ottawa at the end of the summer because it is a dying town and she wants to see a bit of the world while she's young enough to enjoy it.  Roland comes up with an idea to attract tourists to the town, so that it can get revitalized and change his mother's mind and what would work better than for the town to have its very own sea monster.  And with the help of his friends and an extra unexpected pair of hands, that's just what he sets out to do.

This is one of the funniest books I've read in some time.  The humour is so witty and the circumstances so hilarious I was tittering out loud.  Roland is the narrator and he has a wonderful voice and way with words, he tells events in a straightforward manner but with tongue in cheek and a certain sarcasm that his wit makes the scenes and events incredibly funny.  While a deliciously witty book the book also deals with some serious issues.  Divorce, single parent family, anxiety, living life to the fullest, expressing your individuality in a very small town and, death.  There are a few small hints of first novel-itis but the book's excellent plot, characters and humour more than make up for that.  A great new Canadian read!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

194. Crisis in Space: Apollo 13 by Mark Beyer

Crisis in Space: Apollo 13 by Mark Beyer (Canada) - (US)
Survivor High Interest Books

Pages: 48
Ages: 10+
Finished: Aug. 29, 2011
First Published: 2002
Publisher: Children's Press
Genre: Children, non-fiction, space, space travel, tragedies
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Apollo 13 blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 11, 1970.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

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

This is an accounting of the infamous Apollo 13 mission from the weeks leading up to the launch until the final results of the investigation afterwards. There are plenty of photographs and diagrams and the book's graphical design is highly pleasing to the eye. Divided into chapters, these are also divided into subheadings with a distinct graphic feature. Since this is a hi-lo reader the book passes on all the features needed to grab the attention of an older (high school) reader who still reads at a low level. The book is of course readily readable by an average 10 yo as well. Unfortunately, we weren't too terribly thrilled with the narrative. The first half of the book was the best. The build up to the disaster was tense and the information on how the mission took shape was entertaining. Once the flight experienced its troubles though the narrative took on a, sad to say, more monotonous, boring narrative that just didn't keep our attention well. Ds thought the incident was interesting but the book just didn't bring the intensity of the situation to life for him. We have the movie on hold at the library and will give that a try. I watched it years ago and enjoyed it, but I'm not sure how ds will react. We'll just have to wait and see!

PS - We've watched the movie now and ds loved it!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

193. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 221
Ages: 14+
Finished: Aug. 28, 2011
First Published: Jun. 7, 2011
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: YA, graphic novel, ghost story, paranormal
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

What's for breakfast?

Acquired: Received a review copy from First Second Books.

Reason for Reading:   I love a good ghost story!

Brilliant creepy ghost story!  Anya is a Russian immigrant highschool student.  She's been in America since she was 5 so she's pretty much Americanized except for her name, but she doesn't see it that way.  She feels as though she has to struggle to fit in at school, that her mother and her Russian cooking and ways are embarrassing, that she's expected to be friends with the new Russian nerdy kid is beyond endurance, especially since she only has one friend herself who is also an outsider.  What with normal teen issues such as body image, a crush on the school's cutest guy and embarrassing herself in gym; it's not like she doesn't have enough on her plate.  But then one day she falls down an open well in the woods and finds a skeleton and its ghost.  The ghost comes along with her and becomes her new best friend, but what at first seems a sad, kind, helpful ghost turns into something much more sinister and Anya realizes she's put her whole family at risk.

Absolutely loved this!  The pace was perfect; it just slowly got creepier and creepier and watching the ghost's true self come out was a lot of fun.  Anya was a great heroine; someone easily relatable to, with issues similar to all of us at that age.  Do take note of the age recommendation (14+), the book is written about teenagers and contains material or references to topics that will not be appropriate for youngers.

Friday, September 2, 2011

192. The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles

The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles* (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 346 +bibliography
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 28, 2011
First Published: Mar. 23, 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: historical fiction, biographical fiction, western, Texas history
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

When they first came into the country it was wet and raining and if they had known of the droughts that lasted for seven years at a time they might never have stayed.

Acquired: Received a review copy Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I love historical fiction that takes place in the late 1800's Wild West.  The Black man/Indian perspective was also intriguing.

This is the story of Britt Johnson, a true-life black man, and the story of his life just after the Civil War.  Britt was a freedman with a wife and 3 three children.  Not much is known of him in hard facts, though his story has lived on in oral tradition throughout the ages.  When he was off with the other men of his homestead area getting supplies in town, the Comanche and Kiowa came in a raided their homesteads.  Killing, raping and taking captives.  Britt's wife was raped and suffered a major head wound, his eldest son was killed, while his wife and two younger children were taken captive along with a neighbouring white woman and her two little granddaughters.  We see this story from Britt's side, from Mary's side, from the children's side, and from various Indian character's sides as well.  There is also introduced a Quaker man who becomes the agent of Indian Affairs for these two violent Native groups and he wrestles strongly with his peaceful Quaker ways and the violent kidnapping of children & women by the Indians as he becomes the only man with enough power to help those being violated but he must go against his religious philosophies to do so and yet his moral self will not allow him to not help stop the atrocities.

A fine book that brings deep perspective to a dark period of American history.  Indians are being sent off their land and made to live on reservations to learn to farm when it is not their way, but in return their way is raiding and war, scalping, raping, enslaving others.  Many wrestle with the morality of it all.  Britt is a hero on the white man's side as he risks his life to find Indian captives and bring them back home to their own culture, but what to do with the ones taken as babies who know no other way of life.  It is wrong that they have been stolen and yet they do not want to leave what they consider there homes.  While Britt is a respected man for what he does, he's never allowed to forget the colour of his own skin as he enters city centres and must use back doors or cannot even enter certain establishments at all.  A gripping, thought-provoking book peopled with real life figures from history.

*Paulette Jiles was born in America and lives there now, but she lived a large part of her life in Canada and retains dual citizenship.  She's won many Canadian and Commonwealth Awards and since she's eligible for those, I am considering her eligible for the Canadian Book Challenge, too.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

191. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 6

MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 6 by Megumi Osuga (Canada) - (US)
MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 6

Pages: 192
Ages: 16+
Finished: Aug. 27, 2011
First Published: Aug. 9, 2011
Publisher: viz media
Genre: YA, manga, science fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
What's this?
Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This is a very exciting volume.  Things are building up to a vital showdown between Ando and Inukai.  The Grasshoppers have become widespread throughout the city now and Ando has very few people he can trust left.  Ando's life is in danger again as the enemy tries to take him out before Inukai's next public meeting with which he intends to take over the city.  This assassin is the worst he has had to face yet.

As said, an exciting volume.  The action is almost totally centred on Ando and his problems.  Inukai is only shown briefly as the force behind the secret plot that the Grasshopper's are setting up with the upcoming meeting.  There is the death of a recurring character. This was a fast read for me as the action was non-stop from the beginning.  The end advertising pages let us know that the next volume will wrap up this story arc, which, of course, makes me eager to read the next volume.  This will not be the end of the series though.