Tuesday, January 31, 2012

25. Shot at Dawn: World War I by John Wilson

Shot at Dawn: World War I, Allan McBride, France, 1917 by John Wilson (US) - (Canada)
I Am Canada series

Pages: 201
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jan. 22, 2012
First Published: Feb. 1, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Genre: YA, historical fiction, Canadian author, WWI
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I grew up on my father's ranch in the Nicola Valley in British Columbia.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan. 

Reason for Reading: I am reading this series plus I enjoy this author.

Publisher's Summary: "The reality of trench warfare is a shock to Allan McBride. Like many other young soldiers, he enthusiastically signed up for the chance to join the war effort and be a part of the fighting. But after months in the ravaged battlefields, watching men, including his friend Ken, get blown up by German shelling, something in Allan snaps and he leaves his unit, believing he is "walking home to Canada" to get help for his friend.

After nearly a week of wandering aimlessly, Allan is taken in by a band of real deserters — men who have abandoned their units and live on the edge of survival in the woods of northern France. Once Allan realizes what he's done, he is paralyzed by the reality of his circumstance: if he stays with these men, it's possible they will be found and have to face the consequences; and if he returns to his unit, he will be charged with desertion — a charge punishable by death.

In this outstanding new title in the I Am Canada series, acclaimed author John Wilson explores life in the horrific trenches of WWI and the effect of battle on a shell-shocked soldier."

Having read this author before I knew this would not be a book for young children.  John Wilson writes war stories that are gripping, horrific and page-turning.  He describes the death in graphic detail which is not for the faint of heart and yet he does so in few words without gratuitous adjectives.  The simple brief truth is enough to bring the reality of war home to the reader.  The "I Am Canada" series, while recommended for 8-12 year olds, is not consistently suitable for the age spread with each individual book.  Some books are OK for 8+ while others, like this one, are more for 12+ (as is suggested on the publisher's website).  So make sure you know the title will match your child's maturity when choosing. 

I found this book gripping and read it in one sitting which was only interrupted by a need to eat.  This is a brutal look at war and not very sympathetic to the soldiers' plight as we are only getting the point of view of one person.  Now, don't get me wrong, the reader is made sympathetic, terribly so, to the plight of the soldiers but the book does come across as harsh and slightly anti-war in its sympathies.  This is clarified though in the author's note which is very informative on the Canadian role in WWI and speaks particularly to Canada's pride and remembrance of soldiers who fought at Amiens.  I learnt quite a lot of information in this note about the shooting of British Empire soldiers for desertion.  A moving read which will appeal mostly to boys, and those who enjoy gripping and personal war stories.

Monday, January 30, 2012

24. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce & Laura Geringer. Illuminations by William Joyce (US) - (Canada)
The Guardians, Book 1

Pages: 228
Ages: 7-11
Finished: Jan. 21, 2012
First Published: Oct. 4, 2011
Publisher: Atheneum
Genre: children, fantasy, steampunk
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The battle of the Nightmare King began on a moonlit night long ago.

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Publisher's Summary: "Before SANTA was SANTA, he was North, Nicholas St. North—a daredevil swordsman whose prowess with double scimitars was legendary. Like any swashbuckling young warrior, North seeks treasure and adventure, leading him to the fiercely guarded village of Santoff Claussen, said to be home to the greatest treasure in all the East, and to an even greater wizard, Ombric Shalazar. But when North arrives, legends of riches have given way to terrors of epic proportions! North must decide whether to seek his fortune…or save the village.

When our rebellious hero gets sucked into the chaos (literally), the fight becomes very personal.  The Nightmare King and his evil Fearlings are ruling the night, owning the shadows, and sending waves of fear through all of Santoff Clausen. For North, this is a battle worth fighting...and, he’s not alone. There are five other Guardians out there. He only has to find them in time."

Not since "The Spiderwick Chronicles" have I read a children's fantasy aimed at the 7-11 crowd that is so engaging, quality literature with awesome illustrations to bring the story to life.  This book is not genre specific as it mixes fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, and fairytale retelling all together until one can't really categorize it.  It takes place on our Earth and yet includes creatures from Atlantis and the Moon.  As I was reading I often had a feeling of L. Frank Baum's writing style; the book looks and has a voice similar to a 19th/early 20th century children's fantasy, chapters have titles such as " In Which a Twist of Fate Begets a Knot in the Plan" and "Where the Impossible Occurs with Surprising Regularity".

The text is large and double-spaced with frequent illustrations so is much shorter than the page numbers would indicate and this does make character development suffer.  One never really gets a full sense or deep caring for the characters but I did find the little girl Katharine to be the most fleshed out character and the one I cared for the most.  The book ends with the story arc being concluded and yet the overarching story of the series has only just begun, thus it very much has a first in a series feel.

However, to clear a little confusion.  This is not the first book in the series, even though it is called Book 1.  This is a direct sequel to "The Man in the Moon" which is confusingly listed as "The Guardians of Childhood, Book 1".  The Man in the Moon is a picture book but characters and events from the book are present and crucial to the story in "Nicholas St. North", so do read it first.  Those over 11 may find the book lacking in depth, plot development and characterization as this is not  a heavy or detailed read.  What it is though, is a fun, whimsical, outlandish fantasy crossed with other genres written to especially appeal to the 7-11 age group and those adults willing to be a kid again.  I'm impressed and eager for the next book which will feature the Easter Bunny (excuse me, E. Aster Bunnymund).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Graphic Novels Challenge 2012 - FINISHED

NOTE:  I am officially finished this challenge having completed the required 12 books, however I will continue to record and post my books read for the rest of the year as the challenge encourages us to do just that.

I'm participating once again in this challenge but with one new difference I'M THE NEW HOST!  I'm so excited to be running this challenge which is dear to my heart and follows one of my favourite addictions.  I'm keeping everything the same as usual except I've changed the goal to read 12 books during the year.  If you read more than 12 you are more than welcome to continue posting to the blog throughout the year.

Come join the fun and sign up here.
Post reviews here.

My list of books:

1. Power at the Plate by Scott Ciencin
2. Riptide Pride by Brandon Terrell
3. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 5 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
4. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 6 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
5. MOAH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 7 by Megumi Osuga
6. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 8 by Megumi Osuga
7.Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen
8. Super Dinosaur, Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman
9. The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen
10. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 7 by Hiroyuki Asada
11. African American Classics (Graphic Classics, Vol. 22)
12. Jellaby by Kean Soo

13. Jellaby: Monster in the City by Kean Soo
14. Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll, Vol. 1 by Yumi Tsukirino
15. Dotter of Her Father's Eyes by Mary M. Talbot
16. X 3-in-1, Vol. I by CLAMP
17. Judge Anderson: The Psychic Crime Files by Alan Grant
18. Hades: Lord of the Dead by George O'Connor
19. When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs
20. Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
21. The Secret World of Arrietty, Vol. 1 by Studio Ghibli
22. Torso: A True Crime Graphic Novel by Brian Michael Bendis
23. Zig and Wikki in the Cow by Nadja Spiegelman
24. The Secret World of Arrietty, Vol. 2 by Studio Ghibli
25. The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans by Rick Geary
26. Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 7 by Kiiro Yumi
27.Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 8 by Hiroyuki Asada
28. Ethel & Ernest: A True Story by Raymond Briggs
29. Judge Dredd: Crusade & Frankenstein Division by Grant Morrison
30. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, vol. 9 by Megumi Osuga
31. Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks
32. Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll, vol. 2 by Yumi Tsukirino
33. Dante's Inferno by Joseph Lanzara
34. Salsa Invertebraxa by Mozchops
35. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 10 by Megumi Osuga
36. Voltron Force, Vol. 1: Shelter From the Storm by Brian Smith
37. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 7 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
38. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 8 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
39. Leviathan by Ian Edington
40. The Justice League (The New 52) Vol. 1: The Origin by Geff Johns
41. Tall: Great American Folktales, The Comics Anthology edited by Donald Lemke
42. X, 3-in-1, Vol. II (Vol. 4,5,6) by Clamp
43. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 9 by Hiroyuki Asada
44. Fluffy. Fluffy, Cinnamoroll, vol. 3 by Yumi Tsukirino
45. Spontaneous by Joe Harris
46. The Coldest City by Antony Johnston
47. The Avalon Chronicles, Vol. 1 by Nunzio Defilipinis
48. Crogan's Loyalty by Chris Schweizer
49. Hyena in Petticoats by Willow Dawson
50. Lone Hawk by John Lang
51. Vermonia 6: To the Pillar of Wind by Yoyo
52. The Griff by Christopher Moore
53. Jack of Fables #9: The End by Bill Willingham
54. Fables #16: Super Team by Bill Willingham
55. Yow! Drawn & Quarterly Presents A "John Stanley Library" Grab-Bag for Free Comic Book Day 2010 by John Stanley
56. Holliday by Nate Bowden
57. Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth by Gerry Finley-Day
58. Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf
59. Jack Vance The Moon Moth by Humayoun Ibrahim
60. Bloody Chester by JT. Petty
61. Reed Gunther,The Bear Riding Cowboy: Volume 1 by Shane & Chris Houghton
62. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Tim Conrad
63. Xenoholics, Vol. 1 by Joshua Williamson
64. Sunset by Chritos Gage
65. Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale
66. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan V.9 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
67. Voltron Force #2: Tournament of Lions by Brian Smith
68. Judge Dredd: When Judges Go Bad by John Wagner
69. Orchid, Vol. 1 by Tom Morello
70. The Occultist, Vol. 1 by Tim Seely
71. Monocyte by Kasra Ghanbari
72. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Brian Lee O'Malley
73. Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires
74. The Bionic Man Vol. 1: Some Assembly Required by Kevin Smith
75. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 05 by John Wagner & Alan Grant
76. Marathon by Boaz Yakin
77. Creepy Presents Richard Corbin
78. Victory, Resistance Book 3 by Carla Jablonski
79. Graphic Classics: Robert Louis Stevenson  edited by Tom Pomplun
80. Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll, Vol. 4 by Yumi Tsukirino
81. The Live of Sacco & Vanzetti by Rick Geary
82. Jiu Jiu Vol. 1 by Touya Tobina
83. Voltron Force vol. 3: Twin Trouble by Brian Smith
84. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan V. 10 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
85. Peter Panzerfaust: The Great Escape by Kurtis J. Wiebe
86. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, V. 10 by Hiroyuki Asada
87. Judge Dredd: Inferno by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar
88. Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 by Kiiro Yumi
89. Scott Pilgrim vs the World by Brian Lee O'Malley
90. Lost Dogs by Jeff Lemire
91. Fluffy, Fluffy, Cinnamoroll, Vol. 5 by Yumi Tsukirino
92. Adventure Classics edited by Tom Pomplun
93. Bucko by Jeff Parker
94. The Iron Spirit by Steve Niles
95. Leonardo da Vinci: The Life of a Genius by Atsuo Sugaya
96. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01 by John Wagner
97. Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf by John Wagner & Alan Grant
98.Scott Pilgrim (3) and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan O'Malley
99. Graphic Classics: Halloween Classics (V. 23) edited by Tom Pomplun
100. The Curse by Mike Norton
101. Finder: Talisman by Carla Speed McNeil
102. Dark Matter Vol. 1: Rebirth by Joseph Malozzi
103. Fables 17: Inherit the Wind by Bill Willingham
104. Thief of Thieves, Vol. 1: "I Quit" by Robert Kirkman
105. Broxo by Zack Gillongo
106. Prophet, Volume 1: Remission by Brandon Graham
107. Sailor Twain or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel
108. Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker Edited by Tom Pomplun
109. Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch
110. The Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk Volume 1 by Matt Wagner
111. August Moon by Diana Thung
112. The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson
113. Scott Pilgrim (4) Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley
114. Kirby: Genesis, Volume 1 by Kurt Busiek
115. Upside Down: A Vampire Tale by Jess Smart Smiley
116. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan V. 11 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
117. Tharg's Creepy Chronicles by Mark Millar et al
118. Last Days of an Immortal by Fabien Vehlmann
119. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 11 by Hiroyuki Asada
120. Volton Force v4: Rise of the Beast King by Brian Smith
121. Redakai Vol. 1: Invaion of the Gifreem by Aubrey Sitterson
122. Fantasy Classics v.15 edited by Tom Pomplun
123. Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
124. Scott Pilgrim vs the Universe by Bryan Scott O'Malley
125. 07-Ghost, Vol. 1 by Yuki Amemiya
126. Neon Genesis Evangelion 3-in-1, Vol. 1 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
127. The Ten-Seconders: The American Dream by Rob Williams
128. Iron: or The War After by S.M. Vidaurri
129. Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy A. Bastien

23. Jellaby by Kean Soo

Jellaby by Kean Soo (Canada) - (US)
Jellaby, Vol. 1

Pages: 144
Ages: 10+
Finished: Jan. 20, 2012
First Published: 2008
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre: children, graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Thank you for your excellent report, Jason, now if we can ... Portia? 

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading:  I've wanted to read this since I first heard of it, then I read a short story in a recent Flight anthology.  Somebody recently reviewed it in one of the challenges I'm in and that prompted me to finally read it. 

Publisher's Summary: "Quiet, brilliant Portia has just moved to a new neighborhood with her mom. Adjusting to life without a father is hard enough, but school is boring and her classmates are standoffish -- and even Portia’s mom is strangely distant. But things start looking up when Portia mounts a late-night excursion into the woods behind her house and discovers a shy, sweet-natured purple monster. Life with Jellaby is a lot more exciting, but Portia’s purple friend has secrets of his own; secrets that may even lead to the mystery of Portia’s father’s disappearance!"

A quick read with cute illustrations.  Certainly more serious than I thought it would be, which came as a surprise.  A cute purple monster just makes you think it's going to be a silly book but it's not and it's not for young children either as there are serious themes, mainly Portia's absent father and her friend Jason's obviously neglectful parents who are never home.  Portia also has nightmares which are disturbing and could be frightening to younger or sensitive children, so do pay attention to the recommended age of ten plus.  The book isn't silly but that doesn't mean it isn't funny.  It has it's moments and I did enjoy Jellaby as a character.  However, I just didn't connect with the book as other's have done.  The children felt much younger than they are supposed to be which was off-putting and the fact that Portia doesn't know where her dad is seems strange once it is apparent that he is somewhere.  I'm pretty sure I know what happened to him, but we will have to find out in the second book.  This book is also very much a "Part 1" as it ends with them going off on a journey and the words "to be continued".  I know most people love this book but "just OK" for me; the combination of cute and seriousness didn't work for me, plus I had a lot of unanswered questions.  I also questioned the nature of Jellaby, whether he was an "imaginary" friend, evidence points otherwise and yet still the question lingers.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

22. Out of Slavery by Linda Granfield

Out of Slavery: The Journey to Amazing Grace by Linda Granfield. Illustrated by Janet Wilson. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 40
Ages: 9+
Finished: Jan. 19, 2012
First Published: Aug. 11, 2009
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, YA, biography, history, 1700s, slavery,
Rating:  5/5

First sentence:

In the oppressive night-blackness, the horizon melted into the sea as the African moved towards the West Indies.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading: I love Linda's other two book's which are based on the stories of poems and the lives of the authors.  I was intrigued to hear the story of the man who wrote the legendary hymn "Amazing Grace".

Publisher's Summary: "The story of slavery, a man, and the world’s most beloved hymn.

John Newton led a rich life. He was a God-fearing man and a successful seafaring trader; his cargo was a lucrative business, for his wares were human beings. In 1748, Newton’s ship, the Greyhound, sailed the triangular trade route from Liverpool to Africa and on to Antigua as it had many times before. But on one journey, at the height of the slave trade, a storm raged. Feeling all was lost, Newton prayed that if he were spared, he would leave the cruel world of slave trading behind forever. That night, Newton’s prayers were answered, and true to his word, he turned his back on the slave trade. In fact, he went on to become an ardent abolitionist. Among Newton’s many achievements, his greatest legacy would be the most beloved hymn of all: “Amazing Grace.”

This is a beautiful book, both visually and the story it has to tell.  First of all, even though this is a picture book, it is not for small children.  The recommended age is 9-12 and I'd add anyone over 12 as well.  The story is intense.  John Newton lived in cruel times and he participated in them as much as anyone else did.  This book brought home to me how much we human beings are a product of our times, no matter how "good" one thinks oneself to be.  Ms. Granfield does not hold back on any of the cruelty of the slave trade, and we are talking the British colonial slave trade here, but she does not resort to graphic detail, she does not need to.  The simple truth and brief glances are more than enough to convey this horrid piece of history, while the haunting paintings only add to the reality. 

John Newton comes across as a "nice" man, even a "good man" of his era.  Here we see moral relativism in action.  He is certainly a "better" slave trader than most of his contemporaries, not crowding his ships, while others filled their ships with "cargo", he called them "men" & "women" and perhaps this had something to with his own fifteen months he spent kidnapped and serving as a slave himself in the West Indies or his own religious beliefs he was brought up with.  It was this life, his own suffering, the suffering he saw and the suffering he caused that turned him into an evangelical  minister and writer of hymns, including the most well-known hymn in the world to all denominations, Amazing Grace.  A poignant, hard-hitting story which will make the hymn even more meaningful to its singers once they know how it came to be.  This book will be a keeper for my shelves.

Friday, January 27, 2012

21. 101 Puzzle Quizzes by The Grabarchuk Family

101 Puzzle Quizzes by The Grabarchuk Family (Kindle Only)
Pages: 2753 KB
Ages: ALL AGES (best 10+)
Finished: ongoing
First Published: Aug. 22, 2011
Publisher: Grabarchuk Puzzles
Genre: puzzles, games
Rating: 5/5

Acquired: Received an ebook review copy from Grabarchuk Puzzles.

Reason for Reading: When I first took a look at what this puzzle book was all about, what made it unique, I was very intrigued; especially on behalf of my 11yo autistic son.

Publisher's Summary: "In this brand-new puzzle collection you will find 101 pictorial, hand-crafted puzzle quizzes in different themes: visual, spatial, counting, geometry, matchstick, coins, searching, and much more. You can interactively answer and check a puzzle quiz by clicking the respective answer button. Only the correct answer leads to the solution page. The collection is specially created for all kinds of solvers - beginners, skillful, and expert alike. The puzzles are arranged so that you start with the easy (*) puzzles and progress to the hard (*****) puzzles."

When I first saw this book I was thrilled that the puzzles were visual and spatial, involved counting and searching.  Most puzzle books are at least 50% word puzzles and therefore inappropriate for my son as he is autistic and has major learning disabilities when it comes to reading, writing and spelling.  These puzzles are the perfect thing for him.  First of all there is one puzzle per page, no clutter.   They are in colour which may mean colourful or simply the use of one or two colours on a page, pleasing to the eye but not distracting.  They are interactive.  Each puzzle gives you a multiple choice answer.  You pick the one you think is correct and if you are right you're taken to the solution page with a detailed explanation of how the puzzle was solved (in case you just guessed!)  But if you are wrong, you are taken to a sad emoticon and told to go back to the puzzle.  There is no way to cheat and peak at the answer!

The various different kinds of puzzles repeat themselves throughout the book so once you get the hang of it you actually get better at them as they get harder.  For example there are many pattern puzzles.  Finding the next one in a pattern, picking which one doesn't belong with the others based on pattern and picking which 2 match each other due to patterns.  Items can be rotated or flipped and while the first ones get you comfortable with the puzzle type you are ready for the harder ones when they eventually come along.

My son took to this book right.  Being autistic it is hard finding puzzles for him to enjoy, but he loved these.  One, he didn't have to use a pencil, two, it was almost like playing on the computer, three, he could actually figure them out and four, they were fun!  Using patterns, counting, visuals, spatials, etc. these have targeted his brain in the exact way that it likes to work.  At first I had to get him not to just guess which was the answer but stop and figure it out but he was thrilled that he could get them right.

Myself, I also am on the spectrum, having Asperger's and I've been having a ball with this book as well. I can figure out most of the puzzles, some take that extra thought but I've found that my weakness is in the geometry area.  I'm hopeless with the area puzzles once they became complicated shapes and also the paperfolding to create a certain shape.  Otherwise my son and I are complimenting each other well in finding the solutions and have found these to be perfect for the Autistic person who is not able to do traditional word puzzles such as crosswords, word scrambles, fill-ins, wordsearches, etc.  These books would also make a great morning exercise to get brains warmed up in the classroom of upper elementary to highschool.  The puzzles do get hard/tricky once you hit the mid-point!  I will certainly be going back to buy 100 Puzzle Quizzes after I've completed this one. You can't go wrong for $4.99!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

20. The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill

The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill (US) - (Canada)
Simon Serrailler Crime Novel, 6

Pages: 355
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 10, 2012
First Published: Jan. 3, 2012
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Canada
Genre: mystery
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The rain had been steady all afternoon as Simon Serrailler drove home from Wales and the wedding of an old friend.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Publisher's Summary: "A cold case comes back to life in this sixth book in the highly successful Simon Serrailler detective series "eagerly awaited by all aficionados" (P.D. James). Freak weather and flash floods all over southern England. Lafferton is under water and a landslide on the Moor has closed the bypass. As the rain slowly drains away, a shallow grave--and a skeleton--are exposed; 20 years on, the remains of missing teenager Harriet Lowther have finally been uncovered. The case is re-opened and Simon Serrailler is called in as senior investigating officer. Harriet, an only child, had been on her way home from a friend's house that night. She was the daughter of a prominent local businessman, Sir John Lowther. Cold cases are always tough, and in this latest in the acclaimed series from Susan Hill, Serrailler is forced to confront a frustrating, distressing and complex situation."

I love this series!  And eagerly await each new installment which, unfortunately only come out every other year, but boy! is it worth the wait!  Simon is working on the cold case of skeletal remains which were easily identified by a genetic abnormality but soon after the finding of this body more remains are found close by; this time in a shallow grave.  Simon must decide if they are related and how.  This time the victim is an unknown and proves difficult to identify.  A most intriguing and stimulating case with many twists, turns and avenues. 

As usual with Hill's books, while the case is the main focus of the book it does not take up the whole spotlight.  Simon's character and personal life, along with that of his family continues on in an established story arc throughout the books.  The other topic that permeates this book is that of the elderly/terminally ill and death.  Susan Hill explores this theme from many angles giving us characters who are doctors, nurses, caregivers and patients who are simply elderly, suffering from dementia or dying from terrible terminal illnesses.  She explores hospice care, private clinics, those who are content with their life and now death and those who are angry at the world for their illness and impending death.  She explores the controversial issue of self-assisted suicide from both sides , while making a sympathetic character who deals with the issue and at the same time dealing with the crime that it is in England and most of the civilized world.

A page-turning, thought-provoking, addictive read.  And a highly recommended series.  For some reason I started this one in the middle, so I have to keep reminding myself I have the first three books awaiting my reading pleasure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

19. It's a Snap! George Eastman's First Photograph by Monica Kulling

It's a Snap! George Eastman's First Photograph by Monica Kulling. Illustrated by Bill Slavin. (US) - (Canada)
Great Idea Series, 1

Pages: 32
Ages: 6+
Finished: Jan. 17, 2012
First Published: Aug. 11, 2009
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, picture book, biography, non-fiction, Canadian author
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

George Eastman left school when he was only fourteen.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading: I love the author's children's biographies, and this was the last book I still had to read in this series, wanting to catch up before a new one came out.

Publisher's Summary: "In 1877 in Rochester, New York, George Eastman couldn’t understand why picture-taking was so difficult. Having left school at fourteen to support his mother and two sisters, George decided to find out by making photography his hobby. He packed up glass plates, a plate holder, a tent, a heavy tripod, a thick piece of black cloth, a water jug, and chemicals and set off to take his first photograph.

George realized that not many people could own a camera — they were too expensive and the size of today’s microwave ovens! But how could he make picture-taking easier? Eventually, George created dry plates, and they were such a success that he opened his own dry-plate company in 1881. But this was only the beginning — George went on to invent film and the Brownie camera. The rest is history.

This is a fun picture book told in a storyteller voice.  There are no dates or dry facts; instead we have here an entertaining story of a man who was frustrated with how difficult (and expensive!) it was to take just one picture.  If he was going to do this as a hobby he really needed to figure out a better way to take pictures, and thus, he starts years of inventing an improvement upon the camera until he eventually comes up with the Kodak instant camera.  The tale is told with humour and George's mother is a great "sidekick".  It is she who first encourages him to take up a hobby, then to do something about it when he is frustrated with the cameras available to him, but later on as his inventing takes over her kitchen and a large part of George's conversation she humorously gets "fed-up" with it all.  Of course, I knew who Eastman was and what he accomplished (and little bit of useless info, I used to work for them.) but this brief children's bio introduced me to the man and what inspired him, information I previously did not know.  Children are going to be fascinated with the history of cameras presented here.  Slavin's illustrations are as usual wonderful.  They are detailed, capture the era, and his character's facial features are comic and lively.  Probably my favourite of the series so far.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

18. African-American Classics (Graphic Classics)

African-American Classics edited by Tom Pomplun & Lance Tooks (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Classics, Vol. 22

Pages: 144
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jan. 16, 2012
First Published: Dec. 1, 2011
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: graphic novel, anthology
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The village of St. Gervais was one of the first to feel the devastating fury of the Hun.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Eureka Productions.

Reason for Reading: I absolutely love this series of books and read each new one that comes out.  I hope to get around to reading more of their backlist this year.

Publisher's Summary: "African-American Classics presents great stories and poems from America''s earliest Black writers, illustrated by contemporary African-American artists. Featured are ''Two Americans'' by Florence Lewis Bentley, ''The Goophered Grapevine'' by Charles W. Chesnutt, ''Becky'' by Jean Toomer, two short plays by Zora Neale Hurston, and six more tales of humor and tragedy. Also featured are eleven poems, including Langston Hughes' ''Danse Africaine'' and ''The Negro'', plus Paul Laurence Dunbar's ''Sympathy'' (''I know why the caged bird sings... '')"

Usually when I read one of these collections of themed books I am familiar with a majority of the works but this time everything was new for me.  I do read Black authors but they are contemporary ones such as Toni Morrison, making this an introduction for me to these early Black authors.  I should say I was familiar with one writer and that is the poet Langston Hughes.  This book does contain more than the norm, for this series, of poetry which I thought would bug me (not a poetry person) but I rather enjoyed the poems especially "Danse Africaine" (which was new to me) by Langston Hughes. 

Grouping together a collection of stories based on author's race rather than a literary theme makes for a wide selection of genres to be represented (though I would say they all expressed the Black experience) and as such a few were not exactly my thing, but I enjoyed the majority of them and found several of them to be excellent.  My favourite story was"Lex Talionis" by Robert W. Bagnall, a creepy tale of revenge.  I also enjoyed "Two Americans" by Florence Lewis Bentley, "The Goophered Grapevine" by Charles W. Chestnutt.  I found "Sanctum 777 N.S.D.C.O.U. Meets Cleopatra" by Leila Amos Pendleton to be a joy and was deeply touched with "Becky" by Jean Toomer. 

The illustrations throughout the book are fantastic, presenting a wide range of styles and making for a visually stunning book.  But then isn't every book in this series!  It should be noted that the illustrators for this book are themselves all contemporary Black artists.  A great book to treat yourself for Black History Month, or well, just anytime!  I certainly appreciate the introduction to authors I've never read before.

Monday, January 23, 2012

17. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 7 by Hiroyuki Asada

Blue Notes Blues by Hiroyuki Asada (US) - (Canada)
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 7

Pages: 192
Ages: 13+
Finished: Jan. 15, 2012
First Published: 2006, Japan (English: Nov. 1, 2011)
Publisher: viz media
Genre: YA, manga, science fiction, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Yo! Zazie here! The Letter Bee?

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Publisher's Summary: "Lag has discovered that his long-lost hero Gauche Suede lost all of his heart, became tangled up in an anti-government organization called "Reverse," and is now known as "Marauder Noir." Noir’s trail leads Lag and Niche to the icy northern town Blue Notes Blues. It just so happens Niche was born here. Lag and Niche uncover her mysterious origins: a sacred underground lake...where her brethren still dwell."

This is a plot developing volume with major climaxes happening with two major story arcs.  First the story of Gauche Suede.  Lag already knows what he has become and what he is up to but as both he and Zazie are working in the same area, it is Zazie who has a major run in with Gauche and we finally see to what depths he has sunken.  Meanwhile, Lag himself has found something else of interest in this neighbourhood and the mystery of Niche is finally unveiled and is a unique fantasy story, one which makes her an even more interesting character.  A fast-paced read, this series is always very easy to jump into the next volume and get carried away with the story.  Rated T for 13+ I've always found this series to be very mild compared to others with the same rating, however, this volume does have almost complete female front nudity.  If you look at the girl on the cover, let's just say there is a whole lot more clothes on her there, than in the book!  But as I said it is *almost* and her scenes are not s*xual in any manner.  Just an FYI.  I can't wait for the next volume.  I wish they published this series more often!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

16. 14 Valentine Puzzle Quizzes by The Grabarchuck Family

14 Valentine Puzzle Quizzes by The Grabarchuck Family (US & Canada - Kindle Only)
Pages: 576 KB ebook
Ages: ALL AGES (approx 10+)
Finished: Jan. 15, 2012
First Published: Jan. 10, 2012
Publisher: Grabarchuk Puzzles
Genre: puzzles
Rating: 4/5

Acquired: Received a complementary copy from Grabarchuk Puzzles.

Reason for Reading: My son & I are in the middle of having a blast with the 101 Puzzles book, that when the publisher asked if I was interested in reviewing this book I was delighted.

Publisher's Summary: "Here is a special Valentine present for the lovers of the Top Rated Puzzlebook series. In this new puzzle collection you will find 14 holiday themed, pictorial, hand-crafted puzzle quizzes."

If you've ever played any of the Grabarchuk puzzlebooks then you know what a treat you are in for here.  If not, then here's your perfect sampler size try-out at a ridiculously small price of .99 cents.  These puzzles involve visual, spatial, counting, geometry, and much more; only one requires the ability to read & spell.  The puzzles are in full colour and interactive.  Once you think you have the answer, click on it and you will either be taken to a "You are wrong" page "go back" or you are taken to the solution with an explanation.  From this page you are directed to the next puzzle.  It's pretty impossible to sneak a peak at the answers.

I had a ton of fun with these quick puzzles.  Arranged in order from easiest to hardest, I zoomed through the first half lickety split then had to put on my thinking cap, the last few were doozies and the last one I couldn't figure out even after I'd read the solution!  If you are a Grabarchuk puzzle fan, pick this one up for that special one you love and play the puzzles together over a bottle of champagne this Valentine's Day.  If you haven't given these puzzles a try, this is a perfect one to get a feel for the play.  Kids and adults alike will be hurrying back for more!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2nds Challenge 2012 (FINISHED)

ETA: I'm officially finished this challenge as I signed up for the first level to read 3 books and have completed that.  I will now consider the challenge completed, however, I will continue on and see how far I can move up through the levels.  Books read listed below.

ETA: June 7 - I have finished all levels having read 20 books and will now continue adding the (and more) titles

This challenge is hosted by Katy and sign-ups are here.  A year long challenge to read either 2nd books in series or second books by authors you've only read once.  This easily fits in with my goals and I already see books on my shelves that fit the bill. 

These are the levels:
  • Just a spoonful - Read 3 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
  • A few more bites - Read 6 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
  • A full plate - Read 12 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
  • All you can eat - Read 20 books (or more) that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
I'll choose Just a spoonful to start with and read three as my main goal but we'll see if I can move up to higher levels.

Post reviews here.
Total Books read:

1. Dragon Seer's Gift by Janet McNaughton (2nd in series & 2nd by author)
2. No Such Thing as Dragons by Philip Reeve (2nd by author)
3. The Fathomless Fire by Thomas Wharton (2nd in series & 2nd by author)
(Just a spoonful: 3 books)

(FINISHED main goal - continuing on)

4. 101 Puzzle Quizzes by The Grabarchuk Family (2nd by author)
5. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce (2nd in series & 2nd by author)
6. Jellaby: Monster in the City by Kean Soo (2nd by author & 2nd in series)
(A few bites more: 6 books)

7. Irena's Jars of Secrets by Marcia Vaughan (2nd by author)
8. Horrid Henry's Underpants by Francesca Simon (2nd by author; 2nd in series)
9. Prisoners in the Promised Land by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (2nd by author)
10. When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs (2nd by author)
11. Zig and Wikki in the Cow by Nadja Spiegelman (2nd by author; 2nd in series)
12. The Secret World of Arrietty, Vol. 2 (2nd in series)
(A full plate: 12 books)

13. Salamander Smackdown by John Sazaklis (2nd by author)
14. Judge Dredd: Crusades & Frankenstein Division by Grant Morrison (2nd in series)
15. Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll, vol. 2 by Yumi Tsukirino (2nd in series)
16. Titanic: Disaster at Sea by Martin Jenkins (2nd by author)
17. Volcanoes! by Renne Gray-Wilburn (2nd by author)
18. Leviathan by Ian Edington (2nd by author)
19. Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity by Michael Coren (2nd by author)
20. X, 3-in-1, Vol. II (vol. 4,5,6) by Clamp (2nd in series; 2nd by author)
(All you can eat: 20 +books)

And More
21. Hyena in Petticoats by Willow Dawson (2nd by author)
22. Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Two by Tom Sniegoski (2nd in series)
23. The Puppet by Eva Wiseman (2nd by author)
24. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (2nd by author)
25. Cinderella #2: Fables are Forever by Chris Roberson (2nd in series, 2nd by author)
26. Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo (2nd in series)
27. The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey (2nd by author)
28. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2nd by author)
29. Butterfly Tears by Zoe S. Roy (2nd by author)
30. Voltron Force #2: Tournament of Lions by Brian Smith (2nd by author, 2nd in series)
31. Good Neighbors by Ryan David Jahn (2nd by author)
32. Disgrace by Jussi Adler_Olsen (2nd in series, 2nd by author)
33. Scott Pilgrim vs the World by Brian Lee O'Malley (2nd in series, 2nd by author)
34. Peg and the Whale by Kenneth Oppel (2nd in series, 1st actually but I read them backwards)
35. Cam Jansen and the Birthday Mystery by David A. Adler (2nd in the series, 2nd by author)
36. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01 by John Wagner (2nd by the author)
37. Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel (2nd in a series)
38. Thief of Thieves, Vol. 1: "I Quit" by Robert Kirkman (2nd by author)
39. Captain Awesome vs. Nacho Cheese Man by Stan Kirby (2nd by author, 2nd in series)
40. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot by Dav Pilkey (2nd by author)
41. Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories by Steve Niles (2nd by author, 2nd in series)

15. The Fathomless Fire by Thomas Wharton

The Fathomless Fire by Thomas Wharton (US:Kindle Only ) - (Canada)
The Perilous Realm Trilogy, Book 2

Pages: 379
Ages: 10+
Finished: Jan. 15, 2012
First Published: Jan. 10, 2012
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

He was leaving tonight.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Publisher's Summary: "The Perilous Realm is not just a world with stories in it. This world is Story. Whatever you might find in a story, you will find here. Adventures, strange encounters, riddles. Heroes and monsters. Bravery, goodness and terrible evil."

Will has returned from his exhilarating adventure in the Realm and is back at home with his family trying to go through the motions of ordinary life. But he is dogged by feelings of restlessness and is desperate to see Rowen again. It's not long before he obeys the irresistible pull to return to Fable and resumes his quest. Will is shocked to discover that in the time since he left he's become a legend. He is greeted as a returning hero. Soon enough, Will may have to test his true heroism: Rowen is missing and in great danger. Will must stop the evil Malabron before Rowen and all of Fable are swept up by his wicked scheme

The first book in this trilogy was published in 2008 and I read it at that time.  That book had ended with the conclusion of it's main plot although leaving it open for a next book to carry on with an overall arching plot.  I had basically forgotten about this series when I saw the second volume was finally out and vaguely remembering a fondness for the story decided to carry on with it.  I barely remembered any of the plot of book one as I went into this but that was ok because this book starts off with a brief page and a half summary of book one and then throughout the story mentions events from book one to refresh the readers' memory.  These bits certainly don't go into any great details, but are welcomed by a reader who was with the author four years ago for the first book.

I had some issues with the first book and they've been solved this time around.  Will is a much more fleshed out character and I've grown more fond of him.  Again this is a typical high fantasy story with a quest and a motley cast of travelling companions.  Joining Will is old friend Shade the wolf, and eventually Flinn Madoc the Dwarf but we have a new fun and interesting character in Balor the wildman.  Once again, even though I enjoyed the story and characters, I did find it a slow read, like the first one and I find it hard to explain way, except perhaps the writing style.  While I was hooked on the plot, I just didn't find it a page-turner.  Wharton has created a unique world here in which Will Lightfoot can travel from his own Earth with the convenience that weeks on Earth are equal to about a year in the Story Realm allowing him much time to complete his adventures. 

This book doesn't have quite as satisfying an ending as book one did.  Yes, the main subplot that runs through the volume is solved and comes to a conclusion but the over all story arch running throughout both volumes is more pronounced in this book and the final ending, while not being a cliffhanger, is indeed a foreshadowing of what is to come in the next volume.  With this kind of ending I can only hope readers do not have to wait another four years for the next book!  Recommended for those who like their fantasies to consist of a quest with evil vs good and a cast of characters such as dwarfs, wildmen, horsemen, mages, seers, etc.

Friday, January 20, 2012

13. The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen. Art by Rebecca Guay (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 144
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jan. 12, 2012
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Dark Horse
Genre: YA, fantasy, graphic novel
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

There is a spit of land near the farthest shores of the farthest islands known as Dragonfield.

Acquired: Received an egalley from Dark Horse via NetGalley.

Reason for Reading:  Jane Yolen is a favourite author.

Publisher's Summary: "A textured and lyrical tale of adventure, homelands, and heroism the hard way.  Two hundred years ago, humans drove the dragons from the islands of May. Now, the last of the dragons rises to wreak havoc anew — with only a healer’s daughter and a kite-flying would-be hero standing in its way."

A beautiful fantasy and original fairy tale of a couple, the man is the local healer, and their three daughters.  The youngest daughter takes after the father and will one day follow in his footsteps to take over as village healer.  As they are out one day they discover some herbs, dragonsbane, never found in these parts before.  The father explains the legend that it means a dragon is near by but of course he dismisses it as old superstition.  When the father disappears shortly afterwards, then followed by horses, sheep, cattle and finally an unattended babe in arms, the discovery of a dragon is not surprising to the villagers.  Three boys are sent off to find a hero, a dragonslayer, to rid them of their nightmare but looks can be deceiving and wits are often much more effective.

A fantastic story that kept me spellbound throughout my one sitting read.  I couldn't put it down until I'd finished.  The story is somewhat predictable in that it follows expected plotlines with no unexpected twists, but it is also a lovely romance and just a perfect tale to make one's heart sigh.  A gorgeous specimen of masculinity, and a beautiful and intelligent woman fighting and risking their lives; one for her village, the other for his love.  The artwork is truly gorgeous.  My only complaint is that I was reading from an egalley and the art is just too large and overpowering to enjoy to its fullest in this format (and I was reading from my computer screen); one must surely have the actually pages in front of one to experience their pure glory.  A must read for fans of fairy tales.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

12. 50 Underwear Questions: A Bare All History by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

50 Underwear Questions: A Bare All History by Tanya Lloyd Kyi. Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird (Canada) - (US)
50 Questions Series

Pages: 116
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 11, 2012
First Published: Jul. 7, 2011
Publisher: Annick Press
Genre: children, humour, history, Canadian author
Rating:  4/5

First sentence:
When you think of mummified bodies, you might picture their forms wrapped in long, Halloween-style linen strips.

Acquired: Received an egalley from Annick Press through NetGalley..

Reason for Reading: I love social history and I thought the history of this topic geared towards children could prove to be quite funny.

Publisher's Summary: "You are what you wear (underneath)!

Most of us take our underwear for granted, but throughout history our undies have revealed a lot about who we are (king or peasant), how we work (in fields or factories) or the shapes we value (manly calves or tiny waists).

The third book in Annick's 50 Questions series tackles questions such as "What's that smell?" (Medieval Europeans thought bathing made you sick) and "Did boxers arrive in the Nick of time?" (When blue jean model Nick Kamen stepped out of his denims to reveal his boxers, sales of the underwear soared.)

Underwear has played a role in ancient crusades, city sieges and even modern economic predictions. Obviously, it's time to uncover the facts about everything from loincloths and T-shirts to bloomers and lingerie. Young readers will laugh their pants off at the accompanying cartoons and get the bare, but fascinating, facts about the history of our unmentionables. "

A very colourful book written on blue pages which have the appearance of fabric.  This is a bright bold, attractive book that grabs your attention right away; the artwork is cartoonish and silly, some characters even felt a bit Simpsons-ish too me.  The information is highly interesting and unless you read a wide variety of historical fiction through all time eras, you are going to learn something here.  The book starts off with Adam & Eve and the proverbial fig leaf and Stone Age Men then goes forward through time reaching modern day boxer briefs and thongs.  To really enjoy the history and the humour of the history the reader must be mature enough to not be continuously giggling at the words "breast", "genitals", "private parts" and "family jewels".  Otherwise there will be just too much giggling to appreciate the books secret information that we've always wondered but never had anyone to ask before.  The pictures are clean, there is no nudity or copious amounts of flesh.  The book is family friendly as long as you don't mind seeing people in their underwear and remember, back in the day underwear was more modest than modern day's outerwear!   A really fun book that's sure to add not only laughter but real insight into past generations and what they thought of and used underwear for compared to modern society.  A great read for anyone interested in "how did they live back then?".

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

11. Super Dinosaur Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman

Super Dinosaur Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman. Art by Jason Howard (US) - (Canada)
Super Dinosaur, Vol. 1

Pages: 128
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 10, 2012
First Published: Dec. 6, 2011
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: children, manga, robots, dinosaurs, superheroes
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I know what you're thinking: Who the heck are these guys?!
Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher, Image Comics, through NetGalley..

Reason for Reading: Robert Kirkman wanted to write something his son could read and I wanted him too! So I was anxious to see what this would be like.

Publisher's Summary: "This is where it begins! The Evil Max Maximus wants to get to Inner-Earth! He wants the dinosaurs that live there! He wants the powerful DynOre mineral that originates there! SUPER DINOSAUR and DEREK DYNAMO are the only ones who can stop him! The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of a ten year-old kid and his best friend, a nine-foot tall Tyrannosaurus Rex who loves to play video games."

This was truly wonderful. We jump right in with battle scenes between genetically altered dinosaurs,  who are part robot, and Derek Dynamo. Then we are switched back to the lab where Super Dinosaur (SD to his friends) quickly starts talking about his machinery. This leaves the reader somewhat out of the loop but as the events and dialogue continue we are quickly brought up to par with the other members of the team and understand as much as they do, who they are fighting against and why.

Super Dinosaur is an awesome superhero, that will appeal to boys and dinosaur fans, as will the other various villains such as Terrordactyl and Dreadasaurus to name only a few. The evil genius is a typical protagonist along with his usual background story of how he became evil in the first place. But this makes him easy to understand. This book isn't really the place for deep characters, we already know what makes most of them tick. But new characters are introduced and they put a new swing on things, both good and bad. The volume then ends up with some things nicely wrapped up only to have a major twist in the story thrown at us on the last pages that will have you clamouring for more.  This will satisfy pre-teen male readers who are looking for something a little more involved than just Pokemon or Bakugan. However, the final pages of the story, really got me involved in the plot and I'll be sure to read on to Vol. 2 to find out what happens next with the continuing story arc.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

10. No Such Thing as Dragons by Philip Reeve

No Such Thing as Dragons by Philip Reeve (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 186
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 10, 2012
First Published: Sep. 1, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

So they went North, the man and the Boy, and the roads narrowed, and big slate-headed mountains reared up ready to eat the sky.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: I read one book previously by the author, Fever Crumb, and enjoyed it.  This one looked like it would make a good read aloud to ds.

Publisher's Summary: " Dragons don't exist...or do they? Ansel is a mute boy whose master, Brock, is a dragon slayer. Brock wears shining armor and has the scars to prove his heroic stories, but Ansel still suspects that there is no such thing as dragons. So what is the man-eating monster that haunts the crags of Dragon Mountain? Ansel and Brock must make a terrifying journey to the top of the mountain to find out!"

Set in the middle ages of presumably our world, the book is immersed in a religious Catholic society, with both bad and good people, but a society who presumes there is a God.  He can be found on all pages and while some characters use His name as a curse others use it as a cry for help.  I really enjoyed being sat down in this society.  We explore a real life event similar to St. George's infamous incident with the dragon, only when it comes down to just a handful of regular people, dragon fighting and maiden saving is not quite so heroic a deed as legend leads us to believe.  Ansel, the mute, and Else, the offered maiden, are wonderful main characters who grow in character both in maturity and spiritually as does the at first, somewhat villainous Brock.  Unfortunately, the antagonist is played by a Friar who is greedy, selfish and used his position and religion when it suits him best for his own purposes.  The dragon is the foe and always is but he is not the protagonist anymore than a bear in the woods would have been.

The book starts off slowly and does take time for the story to settle in and the action to take grip, but once all the characters are on the mountain we were hooked and ready by the time the dragon made his first appearance.  A few bits of gory scenes as a horse and man are eaten but nothing overdone.  DS wants a sequel but I've told him we have to enjoy books that are just a story all by themselves sometimes.  I'm glad it is a standalone and enjoyed it as a readaloud as well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

9. Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen. Art by Jonathan Case (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 239
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 8, 2012
First Published: Sep. 13, 2011
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Genre: graphic novel, true crime, non-fiction, serial killer
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

They got us surrounded.

Acquired: Received an egalley from Dark Horse through NetGalley.

Reason for Reading: I love true crime depicted in the graphic format.

Publisher's Summary: "Throughout the 1980s, the highest priority of Seattle-area police was the apprehension of the Green River Killer, the man responsible for the murders of dozens of women. In 1990, with the body count numbering at least forty-eight, the case was put in the hands of a single detective, Tom Jensen. After twenty years, when the killer was finally captured with the help of DNA technology, Jensen spent 180 days interviewing Gary Leon Ridgway in an effort to learn his most closely held secrets--an epic confrontation with evil that proved as disturbing and surreal as can be imagined.

Written by Jensen's own son, acclaimed entertainment writer Jeff Jensen, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story presents the ultimate insider's account of America's most prolific serial killer.

An outstanding insider's look into the Green River Killer case which took twenty years to solve and while detectives and officers came and went that participated on the case, one man was there from the beginning to the end, Detective Tom Jensen. This book is written by that detective's son who gives a unique perspective on the case.  The book concentrates mainly on how once Gary Ridgway was apprehended, how the current detectives and Tom Jensen, now retired, and working as a civilian analyst for the police got Ridgway to confess to the murders and prove beyond a doubt that he had information only the killer could know.  The book starts with the time of arrest and then goes back and forth to times in the past when Jensen was working the case and times when Ridgway was on his killing spree.  Thus we get perspectives from both the law enforcement and the serial killer himself.

I found the book flowed nicely, the date was always given so the reader knew whether it was past or present and both Ridgway and Jensen's character's appeared remarkable different from past and present as well.  Done in stark black and white ink, the artwork is a perfect match for this type of story and Case has captured the unremarkableness of the "ordinary guy" many serial killers appear to be to others.  A fantastic read, a great introduction to the case, and a great new media through which to experience the case for those familiar with it.  Recommended!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

8. MAOH: Juveile Remix, Vol. 8 by Megumi Osuga

MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 8 by Megumi Osuga (US) - (Canada)
MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 8

Pages: 192
Ages: 16+
Finished: Jan. 8, 2012
First Published: 2007, Japan (English: Dec. 13, 2011)
Publisher: viz media
Genre: YA, manga, science fiction, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Junya, are you gonna be able to go to school

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Publisher's Summary: "Still trying to recover from the shock of -----'s death, Junya decides to follow in -----'s footsteps. First on the agenda is revenge on the ones who caused his death. Can Junya succeed where ---- failed...?"
{edited to take out the spoilers)

Up to this point Junya has not been much of a character, so I was completely surprised with the way he has taken the death of a previous main character and is stepping up to the plate to fill his shoes.  This is an extremely action-packed, violent, raw emotion filled volume.  Taking the story to new places I hadn't dreamt of.  I had no idea Junya would enter into this underworld of assassins, dirty politicians and a god-complex vigilante with so much ease.  A new and very interesting character, nicknamed "The Pusher" has been introduced but my prediction of an old character coming forward based on his appearance in the last few scenes of volume 7 and the fact that he is on the cover of this volume proved false.  As Anderson is not even in this book!  Why is he on the cover?  The Pusher would have made a better cover pick, imho.  Two more books in the series to go and I can't wait to find out how this all plays out!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

7. The Translation of the Bones by Frances Kay

The Translation of the Bones by Frances Kay (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 227
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 8, 2012
First Published: (2011, UK) Jan. 3, 2012 US
Publisher: Scrbner
Genre: realistic fiction, Catholic, literary
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

It's beyond belief what you find between the pews, Mrs. Armitage was saying.

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

Reason for Reading: The Catholic plot intrigued me as well as the author being an Orange Prize winner.

Publisher's Summary: Mary-Margaret O'Reilly is seemingly a harmless enough young woman, ready and willing to help out Father Diamond in the Sacred Heart church in Battersea. She may not be very bright, and she is sadly overweight, but she can certainly clean. She is also very good with children, and helps out an Asian woman on her estate whose little boy Shamso is adorable.

It is the statue of Jesus on the cross Mary-Margaret is especially drawn to, and one day she decides to give Him a thorough and loving cleansing. But then something strange happens, and moments later she lies unconscious, a great gash in her head, blood on the floor. Word gets out that this strange happening is the opening of the statue's eyes and the flowing of blood from its head. Soon a full-scale religious mania descends on the quiet church, and everyone, from Father Diamond to his small but loyal band of parishioners, is affected by it. When she has recovered, Mary-Margaret returns to the church, and to her duties caring for her housebound and even fatter mother Fidelma. Among the parishioners, Stella Morrison meanwhile impatiently awaits the return of her son Felix from boarding school, and Alice Armitage the return of her much older son from Afghanistan.

Mary-Margaret goes back obsessively to the statue of Jesus. He has told her things, things she must act on, and urgently. But He has become remote and uncommunicative once again, and she is in despair. The act she decides on is a shocking one, and it will bring together the lives of the O'Reillys and the Morrisons in a way that will change their lives forever.

Francesca Kay's second novel, after the prize-winning AN EQUAL STILLNESS, is at once a profound meditation on the nature of faith and motherhood and a riveting story of passion gone tragically wrong.

This is a story of faith; of faith tested, lost, denied, renewed and tragically misplaced.  The story is dark and it is sad but it is not without hope and redemption.  A short book, it makes for a quick read and the book is more about characters than it is about action.  A couple of events take place and the majority of the book then ruminates on how the characters react to and deal with those events.  The characters are all wonderful. An assortment of Catholics, lapsed Catholics and non-religious. Each is an entirely real person with faults and each one the reader can find sympathy with. The story revolves around a young-ish priest who is undergoing a small crisis of faith at the time of the first event and he feels as if this state of his mind has made him unable to respond in the way in which he should have done thus making his personal crisis of faith feel even more burdensome to him. The characters all find themselves asking questions about their faith, or lack of it, without being able to come to an answer that is not found in the faith itself. I enjoyed the portrayal of a parish community and found some of the thoughts and ideas to be true, while others I quite disagreed with. But on the main, I wholeheartedly found the story to be thought-provoking and stimulating, sad and dark, yes, but redemptive and full of the mystery of the faith.
One does not need to share the faith of these characters to enjoy the book, but only wish to journey with them as they travel the paths that all people traverse when they put their lives in the hands of a power greater than them.

Friday, January 13, 2012

6. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 7 by Megumi Osuga

MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 7 by Megumi Osuga (US) - (Canada)
MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 7

Pages: 188
Ages: 16+
Finished: Jan. 7, 2012
First Published: 2007, Japan (English: Oct. 11, 2011)
Publisher: viz media
Genre: YA, manga, science fiction, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

D*mn ... Why does ... this stupid ... measly power have ... such nasty side effects?!

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Publisher's Summary:  "Weakened from fighting and overusing his powers, Ando heads for a final confrontation with Inukai. Ando will risk everything to stop Inukai from reaching his objectives, but is it enough? And when the dust settles, the world will be changed forever."

This is a pivotal book in the series.  The first half is dark, intense and disturbing.  We found out just how bad the bad guys are and the story arc that has been going since volume 1 comes to a conclusion.  In the middle of the book, we are faced with "End of Act One" and immediately "Act Two" starts,  wherein new characters pick up the pieces of the story arc.  This is not exactly startling as the last volume gave us a preview of what to expect in this volume but plotwise we have an entirely new perspective to follow which keeps the story fresh and exciting.  We also are now focusing on a new major character and it looks like a minor character up to this point will start to play a bigger role.  This is one of the most exciting manga's I'm reading at the moment and once the last volume comes out this year (at vol. 10) I'll certainly be giving this one a re-read in the near future.