Monday, April 30, 2012

110. Another Jekyll, Another Hyde by Daniel & Dina Nayeri

Another Jekyll, Another Hyde by Daniel & Dina Nayeri (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
Another Series, Book 3

Pages: 249
Ages: 14+
Finished: Apr. 13, 2012
First Published: Mar. 27, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, paranormal
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "A two-faced moon hung over the black-and-white city, in turns shining as bold as the sun and hiding, shamed, behind the veil of cirrus clouds."

Publisher's Summary: "When his billionaire father marries French governess Nicola Vileroy, high society is all abuzz - but Thomas, the most popular student at Marlowe, is just plain high. Ever since his girlfriend Belle dumped him, he's been spending less time with old friends and more time getting wasted at clubs. But after someone slips him a designer drug one night - and his stepmother seems to know way too much about his private life - things really start to get scary. As Thomas's blackouts give way to a sinister voice inside his head, and as news of a vicious hate crime has students on edge, Thomas comes to the sickening realization that Madame Vileroy has involved him in a horrifying supernatural plan. How can he muster the strength and will to stop it? The pulse-quickening climax revisits Jekyll and Hyde as a current-day cautionary tale laced with a heady dose of paranormal intrigue.   

An elusive stalker is targeting Marlowe kids - and something unearthly has gotten into its wealthiest student - as the Another series builds up to a fiendish finale."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: Next (and last) in the trilogy.

Before this book was published I heard it was going to be the final book, in what was now being called a trilogy.  I was quite upset to hear that this would be the last of the series but it was with great anticipation I looked forward to its publication and my reading.  I really loved this book and thought it was an entirely satisfying end to one of the smartest, intelligent YA paranormal trilogies I've read in years.

This series is quite different from the usual YA fare and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.  I've become quite tired of the vampire, werewolf, fairy and other supernatural creature storylines.  The Another series features a demon and her manipulation of teenagers for her own selfish means.  While the first two books' most common element was the school in which the teens attended, featuring different characters (for the most part), Another Jekyll, Another Hyde wraps both those stories together culminating in an unimaginable plot and conclusion.  All the characters from the previous two books return,with  some having small parts, others in major roles.  We learn how the events of those two previous books were leading up to the finale found here. 

I found this book quite an adrenaline rush and read it very quickly.  Mind, it isn't a very long book and this is another kudos I give the authors.  So many YA authors seem to think that the last book in their trilogy has to be a 500-800 page tome, but the Nayeri's didn't fall into that trap.  They wrote a book as long as it needed to be to tell the story they wanted to tell.

The most important thing about the last book in a trilogy is whether you feel satisfied with having invested in the three books as a whole and I can say this was well worth the time spent reading.  I really enjoyed all three books for their uniqueness, the cleverness of the plot and this final book is a most gratifying conclusion that leaves no open threads.

Having read Daniel's solo work "Straw House..." and this series, I really can't wait to see what the next book Daniel or the brother/sister team have in store for readers next.

Friday, April 27, 2012

109. Joker on the High Seas by J.E. Bright

Joker on the High Seas by J.E. Bright. Illustrated by Shawn McManus  (Canada) - (US)
DC Super Villains

Pages: 54
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 12, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, early chapter book, superheroes
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Even though his arms ached, the Joker couldn't help but grin."

Publisher's Summary: "When the JOKER hijacks a ship in GOTHAM HARBOR, no one is safe. The self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Pirates plans to attack the city by sea! Luckily, two brave and bold buccaneers, BATMAN and ROBIN, are on the case. Will the DYNAMIC DUO swab the deck with this seafaring super-villain, or will they walk the Prince’s plank?"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

Reason for Reading: We love the DC Super Heroes series and were excited to see this new companion series featuring the villains!

The Joker's ultimate plan here is to get Batman and he thinks he's got the perfect plan this time.  The book is written in the third person but from the Joker's point of view.  The reader has insight into his thoughts and state of mind but not into Batman or Robin's.  This really makes the story fun for superhero fans who love to hate the villains and the Joker is a nasty piece of business.  While in the last book read in this series Lex Luthor did have human qualities which make some fans, including me!, actually like the villain.  The Joker, on the other hand, is all nasty and it is fun to read as he over-confidently puts his plan in motion and then watch as the Dynamic Duo eventually bring him down to size.  But will the Joker get caught or does he have enough time to make a getaway?  Very pleased with this series which has all the qualities of its predecessor series with the added bit of extra fun in seeing things from the villains' side for a change.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

108. Lex Luthor and the Kryptonite Caverns by J.E. Bright

Lex Luthor and the Kryptonite Caverns by J.E. Bright. Illustrated by Luciano Vecchio  (Canada) - (US)
DC Super Villains

Pages: 54
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 11, 2012
First Published: Jan. 2012
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, early chapter book, superheroes
Rating:  4/5

First sentence:  "Lex Luthor, after all his years of trying, had finally discovered a foolproof method to destroy Superman."

Publisher's Summary: "Deep below a Southwestern desert, wealthy mogul and super-villain LEX LUTHOR constructs a top-secret device to destroy his top enemy, SUPERMAN. Unfortunately, radiation from the KRYPTONITE-powered weapon has leaked into the surrounding soils and turned scorpions, snakes, and other arid animals into super species! To stop the fearsome fallout, the MAN OF STEEL must travel into the kryptonite caverns, face his worst enemy, and overcome his greatest weakness!"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

Reason for Reading: We love the DC Super Heroes series and were excited to see this new companion series featuring the villains!

This was just as much fun as I expected.  The whole story is told from Lex Luthor's point of view as he puts his plan into action to finally finish off the Man of Steel.  Everybody loves a good supervillain and some of these all-time classics are more fun than the superheroes!  We watch with glee as Luthor's trap to weaken Superman works like a charm but at the same time Lex is being his usual over-confident self and ignoring a possible bigger problem.  It's fun watching Supe going down because we know that the end he'll find a way come out of this trap.  Laughs abound when Lex is caught by his own machine and yells for Superman's help, making the two of them team up at the end to escape Luthor's dangerous caverns.  Super hero (I mean villain!) fans are going to love these!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Clocks, Cogs and Mechanisms Reading Challenge 2012 FINISHED

eta: Officially Finished my level today but will continue to add books to the list until the end of the year, when the challenge ends.

eta: Well, I tried to update my fourth book read for the challenge and I'm getting a denied message that the blog is open only to invited readers only!

This is a good challenge for me as I always seem to read a few steampunk books every year, with that increasing yearly.  This challenge is hosted by Sarcastic Muse and again runs for the entire year of 2012.  Old and new steampunk is allowed.  Sign-ups are here.

These are the levels:

Brass Gears: Read 1-3 steampunk books
Flight goggles: 4-6 books
Button-up boots: 7-12 books
Clockwork Corset: 13+ books

I'll sign-up for Brass Gears (1-3 books) and then hope to work my way up the levels by years end.  But 1-3 will definitely be doable!

Here's my list of books read:
Post reviews here.
1. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce
2. The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby
3. E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core by William Joyce
Brass Gears (1-3) Finished

4. Circus Infinitus: Stories Vol. 1 by Ethan Somerville
Flight goggles (4-6)

107. E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core! by William Joyce

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core! by William Joyce (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
The Guardians, Book 2

Pages: 251
Ages: 7-11
Finished: Apr. 9, 2012
First Published: Feb. 21, 2012
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Genre: children, fantasy, steampunk
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "In the hinterlands of eastern Siberia was the village where Katherine, North, and Ombric called home."

Publisher's Summary: "Pitch, the Nightmare King, and his Fearlings had been soundly driven back by Nicholas St. North and company in the first Guardians’ adventure. But now Pitch has disappeared completely—and out of sight does NOT make for out of mind. It seems certain that he’s plotting a particularly nefarious revenge, and the Guardians suspect he might have gone underground. But how can they find him there?

Enter E. Aster Bunnymund, the only emissary of the fabled brotherhood of the Pookas—the league of philosophical warrior rabbits of imposing intellect and size. Highly skilled in martial arts (many of which he invented himself), Bunnymund is brilliant, logical, and a tunnel-digger extraordinaire. If the Guardians need paths near the Earth’s core, he’s their Pooka. He’s also armed with magnificent weapons of an oval-sort, and might just be able to help in the quest for the second piece of the Moonclipper."

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Another wonderful entry in this fabulous series which harkens back to the fantasy of L. Frank Baum, both in its whimsical early 19th century brand of fantasy and in its style of writing which includes chapter titles such as "Wherein the Friends Must Separate" and " In Which There Is a Fearful Discovery and a Whisper of Hope".  The story continues on from Book One which ended happily but left a quest unfulfilled.  All our old friends are back again as they search for the second artifact and it is this journey which leads them to Bunnymund and his steampunk world of egg-shaped machines.  A delight to read, this book (and series) is especially aimed at that special age of 7-11.  As I've remarked before, not since the Spiderwick Chronicles have I been so taken with the whimsy of a fantastical setting and story.  This would also make a great read aloud, though there is a touch of darkness that may frighten younger or sensitive children.  The illustrations continue to be superb and it is the combination of the text and artwork that makes this series so appealing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

106. The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849 edited by Andrew Barger

The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Ghost Anthology edited by Andrew Barger.  (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 200 +indexes
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 21, 2012
First Published: Sept. 23, 2011
Publisher: Bottletree Classics
Genre: short stories, anthology, ghost stories
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "All cats are gray in the dark."

Publisher's Summary: "Ghost short stories became popular in the first half of the nineteenth century and this collection by Andrew Barger, award-winning author, contains the very scariest of them all. As he has done with a number of other books, Andrew Barger has added his scholarly touch to this collection by including story backgrounds, annotations, author photos and a foreword titled All Ghosts Are Gray ."

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from the author.

Reason for Reading: I have a particular interest in the Gothic story and my favoured literature time period is the Victorian era, which admittedly doesn't start until 1837.  But both the time frame of this book and the life works of the included authors does fall within my preferred historical reading period.

This is a fine collection of ghost stories.  Andrew Barger has done an excellent job of combining the familiar with the obscure both in title and author selection.  He has written an interesting, engaging introduction to the topic and his choices of stories.  From this introduction the reader knows they have an editor who knows the literary time period and genre being presented.  Preceding each story is an introduction by the editor with background information on the story and the author in relation to the particular story.  This is invaluable reading and is a joy for the reader to have this contemporary insight before proceeding with the story.  I always appreciate an anthology that introduces each story.  Following the collection of nine stories, is a long list of stories from which Andrew Barger read to select those he called "best" for this collection.  This would make a great reading list for the enthusiast!  I found most of the stories very good, with several excellent, only a couple merely good and just one less than satisfying.  Mr. Barger has several other books which look like they would make excellent reading.  The stories included and my impressions:

1. Adventure of the German Student by Washington Irving - A depressed German student goes to "gay Paree" for his health, unfortunately it's just as the French Revolution gets underway.  Sickened by the blood of the guillotine he becomes a recluse and dreams of a woman.  One night as he takes a walk, the only time he'll ever leave his flat, he meets the woman of his dreams, and has an encounter that literally drives him insane.  Good, even though I'm not a huge Irving fan. 3/5

2. The Old Maid in the Winding Sheet by Nathaniel Hawthorne - Two women who loved the same man who dies young make a pact to meet up again in the room of his deathbed, in the distant future.  One to go on and make something of her life, the other to stay in the village, a recluse, following death.  This was pretty creepy and I enjoyed it a lot.  Hawthorne is hit and miss with me.  I don't like his novels but his stories usually win me over, as did this.  4/5

3. A Night in a Haunted House by Anonymous - This was an ideal ghost story.  A naysayer after hearing the story of a haunted house, from a parson no doubt, asks to spend the night in the abandoned house to prove there are no such things as ghosts, only overactive imaginations.  Needless to say he has an eerie evening and becomes a believer.  This is a long short story, clocking in at 30 pages and a very good read.  Really two stories in one, first the parson's story and then the other man's story; I can imagine how it would have hit the sensibilities of the public at the time it was written (1848) being quite creepy and containing the classic qualities of both the ghost and Gothic story.  For the modern reader it's not hard to guess the twist at the end fairly early into the second part of the story, but still it is an eerie, fun story and one I enjoyed a lot.  A classic ghost story of this era (5/5)

4. The Story of the Spectral Ship by Wilhelm Hauff - A new-to-me author, here with a Flying Dutchman type of ghost ship story.  The main characters are Muslim, making it rather unique for its time. A well-told eerie ghost tale.  I'd love to read more of the author.  (5/5)

5. The Tapestried Chamber by Sir Walter Scott - I wasn't looking forward to this story as Scott always brings to my mind his horrible historicals such as "Ivanhoe" and his wretched poetry.  I didn't know he was a fan of this genre as well, so was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this classic tale of an upstanding military General spending the night in an haunted room.  Tame by today's standard's but a disturbing story nevertheless. (5/5)

6. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving - Everyone knows this tale from one source or another.  I've read it before and didn't like.  It is long, Irving's writing is too old-fashioned for me and I just don't find the story scary or creepy.  It's been about 8 years, so I gave it another go, but found it just as boring as I previously always do. (2/5)

7. The Mask of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe - I've read Poe many times.  This is classic!  Extremely creepy, the images the words create in your mind are just impossible to render in visual media.  It is very debatable whether this is a ghost story, though.  I've never thought of it as such.  The character, to me, here is Death, or Disease manifested, not a ghost.  Nevertheless a fine story!  5/5

8. A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - With one short story left to go I don't think it's too early to call this long short story the "piece de resistance" of this collection.  A masterpiece of a story whose plot has been retold numerous times by now but as the original still manages to thrill and shock.  The plot follows a theme used in Jane Eyre and yet pre-dates that classic by 8 years prompting the editor to include an afterword to this story alone that convincingly suggests Bronte "borrowed" from it.  I'm not very familiar with Fanu's work but I would certainly like to explore him further!  5/5

9. The Deaf and Dumb Girl by Anonymous - This is another fine example of an eerie ghost story that tells the tale of a tragic used, spurned woman whose spirit waits for the return of her ruthless lover to exact revenge upon him.  This is an obscure story the editor says has not been published since its original appearance in 1839.  A chilling tale to end the volume with!  4/5

Monday, April 23, 2012

105. Voltron Force, vol. 1: Shelter From the Storm by Brian Smith

Voltron Force: Shelter From the Storm by Brian Smith. Art by Jacob Chabot (US) - (Canada)
Voltron Force, vol. 1

Pages: 96
Ages: 9+
Finished: Apr. 8, 2012
First Published: Apr. 3, 2012
Publisher: viz media
Genre: children, graphic novel, superheroes, science fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "My patience grows thin, Maahox."

Publisher's Summary: "The mighty robot Voltron is back! And three young cadets—Daniel, Larmina and Vince—are training to become defenders of the universe.
But King Lotor and his villainous minion Maahox have other plans. They’ve unleashed a horrifying storm, churning with evil energy. When Daniel, Larmina and Vince are sucked into the vortex, their worst nightmares come true!

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

Reason for Reading:  My eldest son and I used to watch Voltron, Defender of the Universe all the time in the '90s.  I had to give this title a go and thought my youngest would enjoy it.

Voltron Force takes the original Voltron cast and adds three new cadets who are being trained to become Lion pilots.  This first volume takes a couple of pages to introduce us to the pilots, cadets and villains and then jumps straight into the story.  No previous knowledge of Voltron is needed.  The background and scenario are unveiled in this first issue making sure one understands the basic plot.  The book does include some references to past villains which will be nods to big fans of the original.  It's been so long for me that I hardly remember much about the old story, except that I enjoyed it :-).  The story is very action heavy, lots of battling and on the dark side but not overly so that it is still rated "All Ages".  The tension is tempered with light-hearted humour.  During the battle against a bad guy the cadets get a lesson in team work and the reader is briefly introduced to each character's attitude.  The story ends with a complete solution to the plot but finishes off with a teaser about the future.  Looking forward to the next volume.  If you've never heard of Voltron, you'll enjoy if you are a fan of such shows as Power Rangers or Transformers.

The Original Voltron Intro:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

104. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 10

MAOH: Juvenile Remix, vol. 10 by Megumi Osuga (US) - (Canada)
MAOH: Juvenile Remix, vol. 10

Pages: 200
Ages: 16+
Finished: Apr. 7, 2012
First Published: Apr. 10, 2012
Publisher: viz media
Genre: YA, science fiction, manga, crime
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "H-her eyeballs ... I-I can't wait ... to scoop them out ... with my spoon ..."

Publisher's Summary: "As the world’s greatest killers assemble at the bowling alley for all-out war, the plan to assassinate Inukai begins. Can Junya fulfill his brother’s goals and stop Inukai from taking control of Japan? And when the dust settles, who will be the true Maoh?"

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

Reason for Reading: Next (and final!) in the series.

As the final book in the ten volume series, I'm going to keep this review short so as not to give away any events or final results.  We began this series with Ando wondering if Inukai was actually here to help the city/country or whether, indeed, he was the devil.  In this final volume, we understand the meaning of the title of the series "MAOH", and find out who the devil really was, if there was one.  This volume is intense and violent and ultimately what every reader of the series wants to know: "is the finale worth the getting there?"  I answer with a resounding "yes".  We are brought conclusion and some people may find the ending rewarding.  For myself I loved everything about this volume right up until the very, very final ending.  This series will be a keeper for me and I plan on reading it through again in the future, especially now that I can re-read it without having to wait between volumes.  This series is a fantastic and unique combination of urban fantasy, science fiction and crime.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

103. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Illustrated by Joe Berger.  (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (#2)

Pages: 213
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 7, 2012
First Published: Feb. 1, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, fantasy, magical realism, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Most cars are just cars."

Publisher's Summary: "When the Tooting family finds an old engine and fits it to their camper van, they have no idea what kind of adventure lies ahead. The engine used to belong to an extraordinary car . . . and it wants its bodywork back! But as the Tootings hurtle across the world rebuilding the original Chitty, a sinister baddie is on their trail -- one who will stop at nothing to get the magnificent car for himself.

Fueled by wry humor, this much-anticipated sequel to the children’s classic by Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond -- featuring a contemporary family and a camper van with a mind of its own -- is driven by best-selling, award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce and revved up by Joe Berger’s black-and-white illustrations."

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I love Fleming's original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang book and have read it several times. as a kid and as read-alouds to my own kids.  It's always been a favourite.  I've never been much of a fan of the movie, though, probably because of the drastic changes to plot.  I don't usually read these kind of sequels to classic books but this was commissioned by the Fleming estate and Fleming did only write the one book, so I decided to try this and see if it recaptured the magic of the original.

It certainly did!  I was particularly amused throughout the book.Mr. Boyce has done a very good job of maintaining the voice and atmosphere of the original while making the story completely his own.  This story takes place in modern times and involves the putting back together of the original Chitty car, which all starts with the Tootings family finding the engine and installing it in their Camping Van.  At this point, Chitty is able to take over the van and drives (or flies) the van all over the world (namely 'Paris, Cairo and below the ocean.)  The book is also very British, with spellings, word usage, slangs and humour.  A delightful little story which has  a bit of a slow beginning but gets better and better until the wonderful ending, which leaves us expecting a sequel.

Friday, April 20, 2012

102. My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories

My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories Compiled by Heidi Hess Saxton. Illustrated by Natalie Carabetta. (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 411 +indexes
Ages: 9+
Finished: Apr. 5, 2012
First Published: 2009
Publisher: Tommy Nelson
Genre: children, Bible, Catholic
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters." Gen1:1-2

Publisher's Summary: "My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories is a Catholic family treasure!
With almost 200 stories, this book is an excellent resource for children and families to grow together in their faith and knowledge of Catholic tradition. It uses selections from the actual text of the highly respected and readable New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, including stories from the Deuterocanonical Books.

Along with stories from actual Bible text, My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories includes additional elements. Each of these elements will help encourage the child to talk to God, to understand the meaning of new words from the passage, to learn quotes from saints and other important figures, and to go deeper in their faith by cross-referencing the CCC and applying the lesson to their lives. With its thorough teaching of Catholic faith, Bible stories, and classic art, this Bible Storybook will be a welcome addition to Catholic homes, schools, and churches.

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer..

Reason for Reading: We start our homeschool lessons with God. Including a reading from the Bible.  I had seen this book recommended on a Catholic mum's blog (she no longer blogs, I think) and was utterly taken by her review, so I checked the book out online and purchased it immediately.

I read a "story" to my son every school day and with almost 200 stories, we have been reading the book for about a year.  As is always important to me when using Catholic materials with my son, the book does have a Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur.  The book begins with a letter to children from Mother Teresa and then a 2 page introduction by the compiler explaining how the book is set up.

Each "story" is a two page spread, though the second page just includes the illustration and the extra interactive material.  I should now mention, that though this Bible is divided into "stories" they are not reinterpretations dumbed down for children; Instead what we have are actual passages from the NRSV Catholic text of the Bible, plus the Bible contains stories from the Septuagint, the Holy Canon. 

This is the best Bible Story book I have read aloud to my children ever.  Ds enjoyed our readings from this Bible and it will be a Keeper for our household.  Briefly how a reading is set up.  Each  reading starts with a title followed by the scripture reference where it can be found.  Then there is a blue box of text which introduces the background/people to be read about.  This includes either some instructional material or something to  think about.  Then we have the Bible "story" taken verbatim from the NRSV Catholic text.  This is followed by a prayer, which could be a traditional Catholic prayer, one taken to revolve around the scripture reading or a prayer from a Saint.  On the opposing page is an illustration along with a "Did you know?"  This can range from the definition of an  ancient word in the text, Bible history, modern related information or word origins.  Finally there is a Going Deeper section which includes two activities 1: Read it which directs one to a reading in the CCB and 2) Do it! which has a craft or , charity or thought discussion to perform.  Every now and then between the stories there comes to be the "big" Catholic prayers to be prayed that day: The Apostle's Creed, The Rosary, The Angelis, St. Francis & St. Patrick's prayers, etc.

Another thing I particularly enjoyed were the selections from Revelation.  Usually, childen' story books only include the one scene from Revelation of what the Kingdom of Heaven will look like.  This Bible has five readings taking one simplistically through Revelations main theme.  Highly recommended and as I said above, a Keeper for my shelves.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

101. Headhunters by Jo Nesbo

Headhunters by Jo Nesbo. Translated by Don Bartlett (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 265
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 6, 2012
First Published: Sep. 6, 2011
Publisher: Vintage Canada
Genre: psychological thriller
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "The candidate was terrified."

Publisher's Summary: "Roger Brown has it all: Norway's most successful headhunter, he is married to a beautiful gallery owner and owns a magnificent house. But he's also a highly accomplished art thief. At a gallery opening, his wife introduces him to Clas Greve. Not only is Greve the perfect candidate for a position that Brown is recruiting for; he is also in possession of The Calydonian Boar Hunt by Rubens, one of the most sought-after paintings in modern art history. Roger sees his chance to become financially independent, and starts planning his biggest theft ever. But soon, he runs into trouble--and it's not financial problems that are threatening to knock him over this time..."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading:   I read every new book by this author!

This is Jo Nesbo's first standalone thriller and I have to say the publisher's summary does not do it justice.  Headhunters in the title refers to Roger Brown's job as a corporate headhunter; someone who finds the perfect candidate for high position corporate jobs, such as CEO.  Going into this book, knowing I loved Jo Nesbo as an author, I didn't really know what to expect about a story that the publisher's back summary told me was about art theft and the corporate business world.  Two things not exactly up my alley.  As I read, the opening hook caught me and I knew I'd have to finish the book just find out what that was all about!  But as I read on the character of Roger Brown intrigued me and Nesbo had me, even though art theft was not my thing.  I was missing the serial killer aspect of his Harry Hole books.

However, at a certain point in this extremely short (for Jo Nesbo) book the plot takes a certain twist and art theft almost is forgotten, as the theme becomes one of a man hunted, running for his life, finding he has no allays, and turning his intelligence to new matters as he tries to outwit a master.  This part of the book is fantastic!  It should make an incredibly suspenseful movie.  Twist after twist keeps the reader on their toes and you never know how things will turn out in the end as both men must change their plans repeatedly.  The book is dark and violent, yet humorous with it's black comedy and some of the grossest moments have a certain comedic air to them.  A quote on the back of my book mentions "worthy of Quentin Torentino" and that is just exactly how I see this as well.

One thing I did not like was the ending,  there is, of course, a final twist, which left me a little cold.  I thought it was better if things had been left the way they were before this twist and would have preferred a different ending.  But overall, an exhilarating novel which lets me know Nesbo can write anything.  I've read his Harry Hole series, his children's Dr. Proctor trilogy and now this standalone thriller and will continue to read any book emblazoned with the words "by Jo Nesbo".  A little research shows he has an anthology of short stories which has not been translated into English yet.  This reader would look forward to the publication of that volume in the near future!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

100. Bears Beware by Patricia Reilly Giff

Bears Beware by Patricia Reilly Giff. Illustrated by Alisdair Bright.  (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
ZigZag Kids, #5

Pages: 80
Ages: 6+
Finished: Apr. 3, 2012
First Published: Apr. 10, 2012
Publisher: Dell Yearling
Genre: children, early chapter book, realistic fiction
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "School was over for the day."

Publisher's Summary: Mitchell really doesn't want to go camping with the other kids at the Zigzag Afternoon Center. Sleeping in the woods with creepy crawly things, coyotes, and bears? Yikes! But his best friend Habib is going, and it's Mitchell's birthday that weekend. He's just got to find a way to be brave, and scare the bears away!

Acquired: Received an egalley  from Netgalley.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me for his reader.  He is becoming fond of reading on the Kindle.

Giff is popular for writing several of this sort of early chapter book series featuring a group of children and their adventures.  This is our first time reading a Zigzag Kids book and we had no problem jumping into book 5.  Presumably, it is like her other series in which there is no continuous story and no need to read the books in any particular order.  I wish more books had the actual reading level on them so I could see how my reading disabled son is doing but this was somewhat hard for him, depending on the day.  He wouldn't have been able to read it without my help, but it was easy enough that he did not find it frustrating at all.  He enjoyed the story, though not overly much.  I think I enjoyed more than he did.  I know he related to the story since he is afraid of what camping will be like and is gearing up for his first sleep over, which he is not looking forward to at all.  The story did make these issues seem less frightening than he has thought them to be.  I enjoyed the camaraderie between the children and adults.  Everyone was pleasant and there was no backtalk, nor did the children have attitudes.  The group of children in this series is large and while Mitchell is the main character in this book, I can surmise that different books would feature different characters, though bringing everyone into play, even if only for small parts.  I like this as it keeps a series fresh and entertaining.  Ds says he's not interested in reading any other Zigzag Kids books, but I am going to go back and read the first few to get a better feel for the series as I think this could be one I would recommend.  I certainly recommend this one book.  It is entertaining and humorous at times, though not exactly exciting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

99. Fish by Gregory Mone

Fish by Gregory Mone. Illustrations by Jake Parker (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 241
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 3, 2012
First Published: Jun. 1, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: children, adventure
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "The rain had been falling heavily for weeks"

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

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher via the author.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my son. He loves seafaring tales, especially with pirates, while I, myself, am also a seafaring adventure fan, though pirates are not necessary for me.

Both the 11yob and I enjoyed this book very much.  It has everything you expect in a sea adventure.  Pirates, mutiny, treasure hunts, ship battles, a treasure map, walking the plank and oh so much more.  One element that is a lot of fun is that Fish, the main character, does not believe in fighting so to survive the pirate life he has a friend teach him the art of "non-fighting" which involves dodging the blows of someone intent on fighting *you* until they have exhausted themselves.  This makes for a non-violent, yet still action-packed read which is funny and makes for some great scenes of "non-fighting".  Fish is a well-rounded character and meets a small group of other young pirates, including one girl, who make a great team throughout the book.  The villains are nasty in a "boo-hiss" type of way, making them great fun to root against while the story stays light-hearted in its rip-roaring adventure.  A delightful story, that is a standalone book, with a satisfying end.  It will appeal especially to boys, but seafaring minded girls will find common ground with the two main pirate female characters.  Well written, plenty of action, with fun characters.  A rip-roaring good yarn!

Monday, April 16, 2012

98. Too Short for the Court by Amy J. Lemke

Too Short for the Court by Amy J. Lemke. Illustrated by Steve Harper.  (US) - (Canada)
My First Graphic Novel

Pages: 32
Ages: 5+
Finished: Mar. 28, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: graphic novel, children, easy reader, sports
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Morgan's favorite thing to do is play basketball."

Publisher's Summary: "Morgan feels like she is too short to be good at basketball. But all that changes when her friend Alexis helps her practice."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading: I am fond of these beginning readers.

This series of readers is for beginning readers. This one is at a RL of 1.4. The first couple of pages show how to read a graphic novel showing the direction the panels are read and then showing the direction text and balloons should by read. A book that is graphically well-designed for optimum reading experience and a story which is both interesting and applicable to young children's lives. Harpster's illustrations are bold and realistic.  While this story features girls, I think the theme of being the shortest kid on the court will resonate with boys just as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

97. Phantom by Jo Nesbo

Phantom by Jo Nesbo. Translated by Don Bartlett (US) - (Canada)
Harry Hole, #9

Pages: 452
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 1, 2012
First Published: Mar. 20, 2012 Canada (Oct. 2, 2012, USA)
Publisher: Random House Canada
Genre: Mystery, Thriller,
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "The squeals were calling her."

Publisher's Summary: "Summer. A boy, Gusto, is lying on the floor of an Oslo apartment. He is bleeding and will soon die. He is trying to make sense of what has happened. In order to place his life and death in some kind of context he begins to tell his story. Outside, the church bells chime.

Autumn. Former police detective Harry Hole returns to Oslo after 3 years abroad. He seeks out his former boss at police headquarters to request permission to investigate a homicide. But the case is already closed; a young junkie, Gusto, was in all likelihood shot by a pal in a conflict over drugs. Harry is granted permission to visit the accused boy in prison. There, he meets himself and his own history. It's the start of a solitary investigation of the most impossible case in Harry Hole's life. And while Harry is searching, Gusto continues his story. A man walks the dark streets of nighttime Oslo. The streets are his and he has always been there. He is a phantom."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Wow!  I hardly know what to say about the 9th Harry Hole book.  It is dark, gritty and goes to depths of unbelievable character with the main character in this series.  The story is action-packed, full of twists, and shocker upon shocker, one of which will leave you numb; it is so unexpected and incredible.  This book is equal parts personal story and the actual mystery case.  They are so intertwined that it's impossible to separate the two.  DO NOT read this book, if you have not read any other Harry Hole books.  These books are recommended to be read in order as Harry develops as a character and his life is part of  a continuing story that runs through the books.  That said I haven't read two of the earlier books, or the two not yet released in English, The Bat is coming in Oct 2012 to the UK (which means Canada, too!) but my recommendation is that at least "The Snowman" onwards must be read in order or you'll miss a great connection between the storylines.

This book is just absolutely fantastic.  At just over 450 pgs, I had the book read in 2 days because I just could not put the thing down.  If you are a Harry Hole fan, get yourself caught up with the series and READ THIS BOOK!  Tremendous!  Very dark throughout with a dark ending but this is what Harry Hole fans expect. 

Looking at Nesbo's website, he doesn't have any new titles in the works at the moment but fortunately, I have a few back titles left still to read and he has a few other books that have not been translated into English yet either including a short children's novel, a non-fiction title, and a short story collection (yes!).  Can we have these too please, Mr & Mrs Publishers?!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

96. The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World (a true story) by Mary Losure. (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 168  +notes, index, etc.
Ages: 10+
Finished: Mar. 29, 2012
First Published: Mar. 27, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, non-fiction, history, hoax
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "For as long as she could remember, Frances's parents had told her stories about England."

Publisher's Summary: "Frances was nine when she first saw the fairies. They were tiny men, dressed all in green. Nobody but Frances saw them, so her cousin Elsie painted paper fairies and took photographs of them "dancing" around Frances to make the grown-ups stop teasing. The girls promised each other they would never, ever tell that the photos weren't real. But how were Frances and Elsie supposed to know that their photographs would fall into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? And who would have dreamed that the man who created the famous detective Sherlock Holmes believed ardently in fairies - and wanted very much to see one?

Mary Losure presents this enthralling true story as a fanciful narrative featuring the original Cottingley fairy photos and previously unpublished drawings and images from the family's archives. A delight for everyone with a fondness for fairies, and for anyone who has ever started something that spun out of control.                                                       

The enchanting true story of a girl who saw fairies, and another with a gift for art, who concocted a story to stay out of trouble and ended up fooling the world."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I've read Joe Cooper's "The Case of the Cottingley Fairies" and have since been fascinated with this story and with Doyle's involvement.  This book for juveniles sounded like it would present the story from the girls' point of view and I was eager to read it.

This is a wonderful little biography, complete with all the "fairy" photographs and others of Frances and Elsie at the time, which tells the story of how the cousins came to be together in England at Cottingly, Yorkshire. When they first saw fairies and how the pictures came to be and how ultimately their worldwide sensation came around.  The story focuses mostly on the girls themselves and the story of how they came across the fairies and decided to take pictures to "prove" themselves, is incredibly interesting and takes up a good portion of the book.  We get a real feel for the girls and their innocence, even though they created one of the biggest hoaxes of the early twentieth century that fooled such eminent figures as Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle. 

One gets a sense for a lonely Frances, moved from bustling South Africa to dreary England to wait while her father volunteers to fight in the Great War.  Did she really see fairies and gnomes or was it just the daydreams of a lonely little girl?  One also senses Elsie's otherwise mundane life as a young school-leaver, working in a factory, trying to protect her young cousin and coming up with what at first seems an innocent ploy to stop the grown-ups pestering them.  Little did they know the world they lived in was chock full of spiritualism and the existence of fairies and other little people were on the minds of many such spiritualists of the day.  Once their pictures are seen outside the family, a flood of interest descends upon them which they cannot stop.  The two girls, turn into women and their frolic with fairies will forever haunt them.

I'd love to read Frances' autobiography in which she does continue to affirm that she did see some fairies in the beck behind her cousin's house but it is unfortunately not in print at this time.  The story is very compelling to me though, that I've decided to go a step further and have purchased the Kindle edition of Doyle's 1922 study entitled "The Coming of the Fairies".

Friday, April 13, 2012

95. The Quick Quarterback by Michelle Lord

The Quick Quarterback by Michelle Lord. Illustrated by Steve Harpster  (US) - (Canada)
My First Graphic Novel

Pages: 32
Ages: 5+
Finished: Mar. 28, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: graphic novel, children, easy reader, sports
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Andre loved football."

Publisher's Summary: "After his broken arm heals, Andre is nervous to play quarterback in the next football game. Will his arm be ready to throw?"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading: I am fond of these beginning readers.

This series of readers is for beginning readers.  This one is at a RL of 1.0.  The first couple of pages show how to read a graphic novel showing the direction the panels are read and then showing the direction text and balloons should by read. A book that is graphically well-designed for optimum reading experience and a story which is both interesting and applicable to young children's lives.  Harpster's illustrations are bold and realistic.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

94. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle) - (Audio CD)

Pages: 341
Ages: 10+
Finished: Mar. 29, 2012
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: children, humour, realistic fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it."

Publisher's Summary: "Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.."

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading:  The book is this year's (2012) Newbery Medal winner and I always read each new winner as I'm working my way through the entire list.  I had never read this author before.

Having never read Jack Gantos before, honestly I've never looked past the titles of the others, I didn't know what to expect from this award winning novel.  I was very pleasantly pleased.  While set in Pennsylvania (in the existing town of Norvelt) the book is written with a typical Southern flare including a cast of eccentric characters.  The book is suitable for those tween years (10-14) and made for a very engaging read.  Since the boy in the book is named Jack Gantos and the author bio on the back cover tells us Jack actually grew up in a town called Norvelt we can probably surmise that this tale contains some biographical elements of the author's own childhood.

A coming of age story, this book focuses on the summer a boy turns twelve, he has been grounded for a serious mishap for the entire summer.  The  motley cast of characters include his neighbour to whom his mother hires him out to help write the obituary's for the town's original settlers, Mrs. Volker is crippled with arthritis of the hands and has lived an exciting life which she shares with Jackie both through conversation and the obits.  There is crazy old man Spizz, who is like the town's by-line enforcer and he rides around town on a giant adult tricycle.  Jack's best friend, Bunny, a girl his age who is half his size and is meaner and tougher than almost any guy around is ticked off that Jack can't play at all this summer.  With being grounded to his room, Jack spends a great deal of his time reading, having an old set of Landmark History books, he quickly reads through those and imparts what he's read and thought cool back to the reader.  This really endeared him to me as I went through a period in my life in which I read all those books too. 

Another thing about Jack, which some readers may find odd, but also endeared me to him right away is that he has numerous nosebleeds.  His seem to come on whenever he gets uptight, nervous or scared.  Then his nose blows a gaskets and bleeds everywhere.  Medically the capillaries are too close to the surface in his nose and need to be cauterized but his poor family has to save up, very slowly, for this.  I too had constant nose bleeds as a child and right up into my mid-twenties, for the exact same reason!  Mine were brought on by climate changes.  Hot/sunny one day, chilly/damp the next and I was sure to have a nose bleed.  They occurred where ever I was: on the bus, in the movies, walking down the street, etc.  I was told about the operation but my bleeds just gradually stopped when I moved to a much higher altitude and they've never returned even though I've returned to the low altitude.

This was my type of book, along with the quirky characters, add in a running theme of death, wry humour, a possible murder going on, strange events going on in his Dad's workshop, and you have an exciting, never dull story of a boy coming of age, of a town trying not to die, a family that loves one another and a place where neighbours still care for each other.   A good read.  I'm enticed to at least take look at Ganto's other books, now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

93. The Hedgehog Boy by Jane Langton

The Hedgehog Boy by Jane Langton. Illustrated by Ilse Plume (US) - (Canada) Out of Print

Pages: 40
Ages: 5+
Finished: Mar. 25, 2012
First Published: 1985
Publisher:  Harper & Row
Genre: children, picture book, folktale
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "A long time ago, when pretzels still fell from the sky like rain, an old farmer and his wife sat by their doorstep at the edge of the great forest"

Publisher's Summary: "A long time ago, when pretzels still fell from the sky like rain, the Forest Mother gave an old childless couple a special basket. Inside, the farmer and his wife were surprised to find a baby covered with sharp prickles, like a hedgehog. But the lonely couple didn't mind the strange prickles. They loved the child as their own.

The hedgehog baby grows into a hedgehog boy tending his father's pigs alone in the great forest until, one night, he saves the life of a beautiful princess on a runaway horse.

From that moment on, the hedgehog boy can think only of the princess. But his love for her is without hope until he meets her father, the king. And suddenly he knows what he must do.

Jane Langton's lyrical retelling of this ancient Latvian folktale is illuminated by Ilse Plume's illustrations that capture the magic of a time long, long ago."

Acquired: Purchased used from the library's "for sale" table.

Reason for Reading:  I love fairytales/folklore and this one appealed to me first because Langton is a favourite author and I didn't know she had done a picture book and secondly, I was attracted to both the unique setting and subject, Latvia and a hedgehog boy.

This is a picture book that is written with full pages of text and opposing page illustrations, with occasional half-pages of text & illustration.  Since it is so textual, it may not hold the attention of a toddler and the publisher's recommended age is 5-8 which seems appropriate to me. 

This tale has some common folklore elements such as an elderly couple being gifted a infant in their old age, the child ends up being unusual, here the boy has the skin and hair of a hedgehog.  The child is good-mannered, helpful to his parents and well-loved.  Then one day he meets a princess, saves her from a small but life-threatening accident and then convinces to marry her.  Upon marrying him, her disgust turns to love and he turns into a real man.

Not so common traits are that the Hedgehog boy works to get what he wants, putting the king through a bad situation until he must agree to let him marry the princess thus Hedgehog gets what he wants.  The tables are turned around on him when the princess pulls the same trick on him by burning his hedgehog suit, thus getting the man she wants.  I'd say the moral of the story was "What goes around, comes around."

Ms. Plume's illustrations are realistic and very connected with the Latvian art style both in colour choices and in incorporating borders and designs into her illustrations.  Overall, an interesting fairytale which was new to me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

92. Salsa Invertebraxa by Mozchops

Salsa Invertebraxa by Mozchops (Worldwide)

Pages: 104
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 24, 2012
First Published: Oct. 31, 201
Publisher: Pecksniff Press
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, verse
Rating: 2.5/5

First verse:

"the forest is a silent witness,
a boundless muteness,
as silent as it is endless
along its
greencoat canopy"

Publisher's Summary: "Salsa Invertebraxa is the odyssey of two invertebrate companions, who journey through a vibrant world of imaginary insects and flora. By sunlight, new species of insect emerge to feed and flirt among surreal landscapes of gigantic flowers and gardens of terrestrial delights. By moonlight, this unearthly microverse becomes a nightmare shadowscape as the two
kleptomaniacs attempt to steal eggs from monstrous super-predators.  The tranquillity of eden trembles with war and rage, as a deadly game of survival plays out. Salsa Invertebraxa is for all readers, a magical window into a beautiful, dangerous and mysterious world."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Pecksniff Press.

Reason for Reading:   The book looked beautiful and sounded interesting.

First off, let me say that I was not going to give this book a rating as I was flummoxed as to what I should rate it.  This has never happened to me before but then when I thought about it, not giving the book a rating was copping out.  My rating is like giving the book a 50%; I kind of feel like the right person would enjoy this book much more than I did and could deservedly give it a higher rating.

The illustration is absolutely fantastic, stunning and what I appreciated about this book.  On illustration alone I would rate it a 5/5.  Each page is awesome and the book is printed in an over sized horizontal format to really emphasize the panoramic views.  Even though we are looking at insects here, they are up close and take on the aspects of an almost alien species.  If these were photographs, I'd be freaked out by the insects but these CG paintings are incredibly beautiful.

As to the book's story.  It is in verse and to tell the truth I was utterly confused.  Here my rating would be a 0/5.  You can read the publisher's summary but from reading the words I had no idea what was going on.  Certain phrases and groups of words appealed to my sense of literature, but I am not a poetry person and could not find a story within the verse.  All I could tell was the beginning was happy, then the story turned very dark in the middle and finally became exhilarating at the end.  However, I do not read a book to receive random emotions.  I think the right person for this book must first be someone who appreciates unorthodox verse, then secondly will appreciate the illustration of that verse.  This was not my kind of book.

Monday, April 9, 2012

91. Stegosaurus: Armored Defender by Kathryn Clay

Stegosaurus: Armored Defender by Kathryn Clay. Illustrated by Jason Dove (US) - (Canada)
First Graphics series

Pages: 24
Ages: 5-8
Finished: Mar. 21, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Capstone Press
Genre: children, easy reader, graphic novel, non-fiction, dinosaurs
Rating: 2.5/5

First sentence: "Something large moves through the trees."

Publisher's Summary: "Swoosh! Strong stegosaurus swings its tail like a club at its enemy. With bony plates on its back and a spiky tail, this big beast knows how to defend itself. Learn more about this armored dinosaur in Stegosaurus: Armored Defender."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy this publisher.

Basic easy reader focusing on what we know about how the Stegosaurus lived. Wonderful quality realistic illustrations are delightful and add understanding to the factual text. A simple graphic interface with four frames per two page spread, narrative text between frames, and since this is a factual book without talking animals there are no speech bubbles within the book at all, making it a mix between a picture book and a graphic novel. The detail in this book is quite basic and easy to understand. Not as in depth and detailed as I've found in the other non-fiction titles I've read in the "First Graphics" series. The reading level is at the higher end of the given spread (K-3) and because of the specific topic does contain a few harder words but this would also be perfect for little ones who are reading ahead of age level.  Not exactly "fascinating" but little dinosaur fans should enjoy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

90. Student Workbook: A Quick Journey Through the Bible

Student Workbook: A Quick Journey Through the Bible: An 8-Part Introduction to the Bible Timeline by Sarah Christmyer (US & Canada)
The Great Adventure: A Journey Through the Bible

Pages: 51
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 19, 2012
First Published: 2008
Publisher: Ascension Press
Genre: Catholic, Bible study
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Jeff Cavins developed The Great Adventure: A Journey Through the Bible in1984 when he realized that many Christians did not grasp "the big picture" of the Scriptures."

Publisher's Summary: "The Student Pack will guide participants through their study with thought-provoking questions about the fourteen narrative books of the Bible, helpful notes, and home study material. Each lesson is designed to accompany the corresponding talk from the DVD series.
A Quick Journey Through the Bible Student Pack Includes:
  • The 33" full-color Bible Timeline Chart A Quick Journey Through the Bible
  • Student Guide (51 pages)
  • Full-color Bible Timeline Bookmark
  • Memory Bead Wristband"

Acquired: Purchased a copy from a nearby Catholic Book Store.

Reason for Reading:  Used along with the accompanying Bible Study I participated in at my church.

The Student Guide accompanies the DVD study series.  The Student Guide comes with the book, a foldout timeline, a bookmark and a memory bead bracelet.  There is a chapter for each lesson on the DVD.  Each chapter in the book is set up similarly, though some chapters have maps and charts to illustrate what is being studied.  The lesson format is as follows: A page for notes with an outline of the major topics for you to jot down anything that comes up during your assigned reading and during the watching of the DVD session; Two pages of group discussion pages with room enough for you to make any notes you wish to make.  A closing prayer for the group.  A page called "Homestudy": here you're introduced to the next session's topic, the time period, the co-ordinating colour, it's meaning, key people, most important Biblical event and the current secular world power.  This is followed by the assigned reading from Scripture to complete before the next class session.

A brief description/opinion on the course:  A group of us at church used this program as a bible study. It teaches you to read the 14 main narrative books of the bible to gain the Story within the bible. It also corelates the other 59 books into the proper time sequence as to where they fit chronologically within the narrative story. Since the bible is not presented as one chronological story, this often makes it confusing to understand or make sense of to some who struggle with reading it. This course first gives you the main story of the Bible then leads you forward into reading through the Bible adding in the other books at the appropriate time in the story. We had a fantastic time with it and I enjoyed every minute of it! I would do a Jeff Cavins study video course again without hesitation.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

89. Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (US) - (Canada) Companion Novel to Stolen Child

Pages: 186
Ages: 9+
Finished: Mar. 22, 2012
First Published: Feb. 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Genre: children, historical fiction, WWII 
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "The room smelled of soap and the light was so white that it made my eyes ache."

Publisher's Summary: "Lida and her younger sister are caught by the Nazis and separated. Lida is sent to a slave labour camp, where she works from dawn to dusk on only bread and soup. clad in one thin dress and no shoes. Even if she manages to survive the war, how will she find her sister again?"

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading:  The author has become one of my favourite Canadian juvenile authors.

This book is a companion to 2010's Stolen Child.  Each book tells the fate of two Ukrainian sisters as they are separated in the middle of WWII.  The books need not be read in any particular order.  Making Bombs for Hitler details what happens to the eldest sister, Lida.  The first couple of pages describe her parting from the younger sister, which is told in much more detail in Stolen Child.  Lida is then sent to a Nazi slave labour camp where many Ukrainians were herded and sent to for the duration of the war.  Since the Ukraine, at the time was part of Russian territory, the Nazi's labeled all Ukraines as Russians and thus as enemies at this time in the war.  The Ukrainians (Russians) were the lowest of the low in prison camps and treated the worst of the worst. 

Skrypuch tells a compelling story that pulls no punches.  While keeping the book tame enough for the intended audience she manages to still tell of the horrors that went on in these camps.  The starvation, enforced labour under extremely dangerous conditions, the beatings and rough treatment and the "experiments" that went on at the hospital.  It is a brutal story of reality, yet as mentioned age appropriate, though not recommended for especially sensitive children.  Marsha is an author who writes as if she actually knew her characters and they become real as life to the reader.  This is a haunting story of how the Nazi's treated prisoner enemy children, and especially of the plight of the Ukrainians as an ethnic group during WWII as they were a people without a home, being divided between two enemies, the Nazis and the Soviets.  Excellent book, highly recommended, especially in conjunction with its companion, Stolen Child.

Friday, April 6, 2012

88. Tyranosaurus Rex: Mighty Meat-Eater by Sheila Hammer

Tyrannosaurus Rex: Mighty Meat-Eater by Sheila Hammer. Illustrated by Jason Dove (US) - (Canada)
First Graphics series

Pages: 24
Ages: 5-8
Finished: Mar. 121, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Capstone Press
Genre: children, easy reader, graphic novel, non-fiction, dinosaurs
Rating:  2.5/5

First sentence: "The ground shakes."

Publisher's Summary: "Roar! Mighty tyrannosaurus rex is on the prowl. With giant jaws and sharp teeth, this predator gets its way. Learn more about this massive dinosaur in Tyrannosaurus Rex: Mighty Meat Eater."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy this publisher.

Basic easy reader focusing on what we know text between frames, and since this is a factual book without talking animals there are no speech bubbles within the book at all, making it a mix between a picture book and a graphic novel. Thabout how the T-Rex lived and died. Wonderful quality realistic illustrations are delightful and add understanding to the factual text. A simple graphic interface with four frames per two page spread, narrative e detail in this book is quite basic and easy to understand.  Not as in depth and detailed as I've found in the other non-fiction titles I've read in the "First Graphics" series. The reading level is at the higher end of the given spread (K-3) and because of the specific topic does contain a few harder words but this would also be perfect for little ones who are reading ahead of age level.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

87. One Moon, Two Cats by Laura Godwin

One Moon, Two Cats by Laura Godwin. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 32
Ages: 2+
Finished: Mar. 20, 2012
First Published: Aug. 30, 2011
Publisher: Atheneum
Genre: children, picture book
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "One moon."

Publisher's Summary: "Across a great distance, but under the light of the same moon, a city cat and a country cat pounce and play, crouch and leap in a rollicking nighttime adventure. When morning comes, they are both back in their respective homes and finally, turn in to sleep.."

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

Reason for Reading:   I received this book unsolicited and don't have young children any more but have read this Canadian author before and personally enjoy a good picture book.

This is a bedtime story, showing the nighttime frolics of two cats while their respective child owners sleep.  It is also a variant on the city vs country lifestyles as one lives in the city and one in the country.  The paintings by Tanaka are beautiful, realistic and yet full of a dreamtime quality.  The cat's eyes have a sleepy, sly look to them.  Important to the story are the endpages which I didn't fully realize until the middle of the book.  The front endpages show us the setting of the story (though we don't realize it yet) in the moonlight and the back endpages show us the same scene as sun is dawning.  As we watch each cat frolic and play it is the centre page which brings it all together as the endpage scene is repeated and we see one cat on top of the bridge and the other under the bridge.  They live close to each other!  One in the town, the other in the nearby farm country.  A great delight as one slowly awakens to this realization.  Godwin's text is sparse and written for the very young.  Word choices are short and descriptive.  Sentences follow none/verb and noun/verb/object structure mostly.  What this amounts to is a deceptively simply, yet delightful picture book that will capture the heart of any cat lover.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

85. Volcanoes! (First Graphics) by Renee Gray- Wilburn

Vocanoes! by Renee Gray-Wilburn. Illustrated by Aleksander Sotirovski (US) - (Canada)
First Graphics series

Pages: 24
Ages: 5-8
Finished: Mar. 18, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Capstone Press
Genre: children, easy reader, graphic novel, non-fiction, geology
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "A mountain stands high above a quiet forest."

Publisher's Summary: "In graphic novel format, text and illustrations explain how volcanoes erupt, how they are studied, and how to stay safe during an eruption."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy this publisher.

Basic easy reader with detailed information for the minimal text that is provided. Wonderful quality realistic illustrations are delightful and add understanding to the factual text. A simple graphic interface with four frames per two page spread, narrative text between frames, but since this book's topic is highly scientific there are not many people speaking, therefore very few speech bubbles within the book at all. The detail in this book does go quite in depth, much more so than one would expect for such a short book at this reading level. I've found this to be true of all the non-fiction titles I've read in the "First Graphics" series. The reading level is at the higher end of the given spread (K-3) and this would also be perfect for little ones who are reading ahead of age level.