Thursday, May 31, 2012

138. Battle of the Zombies by The Beastly Boys

Battle of the Zombies by The Beastly Boys. Illustrated by Jonny Duddle (US) - (Canada)
An Awfully Beastly Business, #5

Pages: 180
Ages: 7+
Finished: May 14, 2012
First Published: July 8, 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (UK)
Genre: children, fantasy, paranormal, ghosts, zombies
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "It was the dead of night and high in the sky a hot-air balloon was drifting through the darness.

Publisher's Summary: "In the RSPCB's most dangerous mission to date, Ulf the werewolf visits a haunted castle to investigate some very spooky goings-on. But little does he know that he's heading into a trap: the evil Baron Marackai is lying in wait with a beastly plan - and this time he's got help from the dead! Can Ulf unravel the ghostly mystery, or will he end up as zombie food? The future of the RSPCB depends on him..."

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

Reason for Reading:  Next in the series.

My son absolutely loves this series of books but as I noticed that the last two books had been printed in the UK and weren't coming out here in North America, I decided to purchase them directly from the UK instead of waiting any longer and gifted them to ds for Christmas last year.  The UK books are now available from NA retailers.  My son was first annoyed that the covers didn't match his first 4 books, but did think it was cool that these 2 have a hologram on the front.  So they took some getting used to before he warmed up to them "belonging" with the others.

Anyway, he and I loved "Battle of the Zombies"!  This is our favourite book of them all.  Everything we expected is here.  The whole cast of characters is present and accounted for and everyone gets involved in the caper, even previously second tier players who've only had cameo roles got to participate in the main adventure this time.  Ds and I never seem to get enough of Druce the Gargoyle and this time he comes along for the ride to visit with the gargoyles at the castle they are traveling to!  Lots of silly Drucey jokes.  Plenty of action and humour as we have an epic revival of middle ages warfare with ghostly knights and zombie warriors.  These books are very tame but when the topic is zombies it seems perfectly ok to add severed body parts and that extra little gruesome yet fun element.  A real winner in the series which makes us both excited to read the last book, which we already own, but a little sad that it will be the end of the series.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

31. The Coldest City by Antony Johnston

The Coldest City by Antony Johnston. Illustrated by Sam Hart. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 172
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 29, 2012
First Published: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Oni Press
Genre: graphic novel, spy thriller, historical fiction
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:  "Wir wollen raus!  Well, old boy, I suppose that's it for us."

Acquired: Received an egalley from Oni Press through NetGalley.

Reason for Reading:  I love cold war spy thrillers.

Publisher's Summary:  "November 1989. Communism is collapsing, and soon the Berlin Wall will come down with it. But before that happens there is one last bit of cloak & dagger to attend to. Two weeks ago, an undercover MI6 officer was killed in Berlin. He was carrying information from a source in the East - a list that allegedly contains the name of every espionage agent working in Berlin, on all sides. No list was found on his body. Now Lorraine Broughton, an experienced spy with no pre-existing ties to Berlin, has been sent into this powderkeg of social unrest, counter-espionage, defections gone bad and secret assassinations to bring back the list and save the lives of the British agents whose identities reside on it."

An enjoyable spy thriller that takes place during the weeks that lead up to and follow the breaking of the Berlin Wall.  Told from a British point of view, this has all the makings for a good espionage tale.  MI6, CIA, KGB and East German agents all play a part.  The story is told backwards through a debriefing of a female agent who was sent to Berlin on a mission where she meets up with an old-timer misogynist agent who is none to happy to have her arrive.  Twists and turns move the plot to an unknown destination as the agents look for missing vital documents, we meet up with possible double agents, assassins and a shroud of doubt surrounding everything.  A final surprise twist ending brings a satisfying conclusion and fans of the genre will have a gripping read.

I'm on the fence about the artwork.  I appreciate that it is done in black and white as it suits the atmosphere and story well.  The large panels are well executed but I find I'm just not a fan of the artist's style which is very shadowy and indistinct.  Incredibly so, for the regular size panels, at times I had no idea what I was looking at.  This, of course, is a reflection on my taste in art, ymmv.  Though not to my tastes I do grant that it worked with the story it told.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DNF: Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World by Stefan Bechtel

Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World by Stefan Bechtel (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 272
Ages: 18+
Finished: 49%,
First Published: May 15, 2012
Publisher: Beacon Press
Genre: biography, non-fiction, conservationist, hunter, Victorian
Rating: DNF

First sentence: "On the fair spring morning of May 6, 1886, an intense-looking young gentleman with eyes that burned like meteors and jet-black beard vaulted up the stairs of a Pennsylvania Railroad westbound train, which was steaming at the platform in Union Station, near downtown Washington D.C."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss.

Reason for Reading: I particularly enjoy reading biographies of Victorian personalities, especially those who run counter to our modern day perceptions. I was particularly looking forward to the world-wide specimen hunting part of the story and the controversy surrounding his life.

I was not able to finish this book.  It's not that I did not like or enjoy it but that I found that it plodded along very slowly.  I found myself reluctant to pick it up and it took me an inordinately long time to reach the 49% mark I did read to before deciding to put the book down.  It certainly was interesting and I may very well pick it up and finish reading it one day but for now, I've grown tired of the book.  One reason I can think of is that the book starts halfway through Hornaday's life and tells his great story of calling attention to the imminent extinction of the buffalo and his hand in saving them from said extinction.  Then part two goes back to his early life as an explorer, museum specimen hunter.  The buffalo part, while interesting, just went on way too long for my liking and got boring fast, feeling like it would never end, leaving me exhausted by the time the book was finally picking up and becoming much more than just interesting.  I just didn't want to open the book anymore.  But don't be surprised if at a later date you see me picking it up to finish.

Here is the publisher's summary so you can make your own opinion on the book:
Publisher's Summary: "He was complex, quirky, pugnacious, and difficult. He seemed to create enemies wherever he went, even among his friends. A fireplug of a man who stood only five feet eight inches in his stocking feet, he began as a taxidermist and an adventurer who tracked tigers in Borneo with friendly headhunters, lead crocodile-hunting expeditions in the Orinoco, and scouted the last remaining bison in the Montana territories.

William Temple Hornaday (1854-1937) was also a man ahead of his time. He was the most influential conservationist of the nineteenth century, second only to his great friend and ally Theodore Roosevelt. When this one-time big-game collector witnessed the wanton destruction of wildlife prevalent in the Victorian era, he experienced an awakening and devoted the rest of his life to protecting our planet's endangered species. Hornaday founded the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., served for thirty years as director of the renowned Bronx Zoo, and became a fierce defender of wild animals and wild places. He devoted fifty years to fighting gun manufacturers, poachers, scandalously lax game-protection laws, and the vast apathy of the American public. He waged the "Plume Wars" against the feathered-hat industry and is credited with having saved both the Alaskan fur seal and the American bison from outright extinction.

Mr. Hornaday's War restores this major figure to his rightful place as one of the giants of the modern conservation movement. But Stefan Bechtel also explores the grinding contradictions of Hornaday's life. Though he crusaded against the wholesale slaughter of wildlife, he was at one time a trophy hunter, and what happened in 1906 at the Bronx Zoo, when Hornaday displayed an African man in an "ethnographic exhibit," shows a side of him that is as baffling as it is repellent. This gripping book takes an honest look at a fascinating, enigmatic man who both represented and transcended his era's paradoxical approach to wildlife, and who profoundly changed the course of the conservation movement for generations to come."

Paul Levine's Solomon Vs Lord Series




Award-nominated author Paul Levine has re-released his series Solomon vs Lord on Kindle.  This is a four book acclaimed series of thrillers featuring lawyers Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. Originally published in the 2000's by Bantam. Books from this suspenseful and humorous series were nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller and James Thurber awards. I've been hearing them compared to the old TV show "Moonlighting" and am very excited to give these books a try.  I currently have the first two books in the series.  Check these out!  Each one is under $5!

Trial lawyer Victoria Lord, who follows every rule, and Steve Solomon, who makes up his own, bicker and banter as they defend a beautiful young woman, accused of killing her wealthy, older husband.

Solomon and Lord come together – and fly apart – defending Victoria’s “Uncle Grif” on charges he killed a man with a speargun. It’s a case set in the Florida Keys with side trips to coral reefs and a nudist colony where all is more –and less – than it seems.

Just what did Steve Solomon do to infuriate ex-client and ex-con “Dr. Bill?” Did Solomon try to lose the case in which the TV shrink was charged in the death of a woman patient?

It starts with the kidnapping of a pair of trained dolphins and turns into a murder trial with Solomon and Lord on opposite sides after Victoria is appointed a special prosecutor, and fireworks follow!

Looks like a great series!  And I do wish more published authors would get the rights to their old backlists and make the books available again at affordable prices on ebook.

Visit Paul Levine's website to find out more about the Solomon vs Lord series, his current Jake Lassiter series and his standalone thrillers.

Monday, May 28, 2012

137. Spontaneous by Joe Harris

Spontaneous by Joe Harris. Art by Brett Weldele (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 144
Ages: 14+
Finished: May 12, 2012
First Published: Feb. 7, 2012
Publisher: Oni Press
Genre: YA, paranormal, mystery, conspiracy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Case File #3. Your average shopping mall food court."

Publisher's Summary:
"Phenomenon, conspiracy or delusion? "Kelvin" Melvin Reyes was only three years old when Spontaneous Human Combustion took his father from him. He's since devoted his life to exploring the mystery behind the phenomenon, searching for a pattern and predictors that he might save others from that same fiery fate. But the closer he gets to his goal, the further things lead down a well of secrets, horrors and terrible truths. Is SHC real? And, if so, can it be stopped?"

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: Once upon a time when I was a wacky teenager, I was really into spontaneous human combustion and read lots of stuff about it.  Couldn't get over the creepy photographs!  I couldn't pass this one by.

This novel didn't really do too much for me.  It was ok, good ok. But that is all.  The artwork is not a style that impresses me much.  Simple sketching and pages done in monotones, with the colours changing to reflect the atmosphere, emotion of the scene being played out.  What bothered me the most was that the story couldn't seem to decide whether it was going to be paranormal or not.  So it hovered between having a rational explanation and going off on a paranormal twist which just didn't work for me.  I would have liked the story much better if the old guy's powers had been omitted, then it would have been a satisfactory combination of paranormal into the ordinary.  I'd pick this one up at the library for a quick read, unless maybe you collect SHC stuff.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

136. Yellow Submarine by The Beatles

The Beatles Yellow Submarine Adapted by Charlie Gardner. Artwork by Heinz Edelmann (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 40
Ages: 5+
Finished: May 11, 2012
First Published: Apr. 24, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, picture book, fantasy, based on a song
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Once upon a time or maybe twice there was an unearthly paradise called ... Pepperland."

Publisher's Summary: "The animated classic now a spectacular midi storybook!

Once upon a time (or maybe twice), some 80,000 leagues beneath the sea, there lay a colorful land of song and laughter called Pepperland, where Sergeant Pepper's Band was always playing your song--until the Blue Meanies burst on the scene and chased all the music and magic way. So began the classic 1968 film Yellow Submarine, inspired by a song and quickly hailed as a visionary masterpiece -- an avant-garde amalgam of Heinz Edelmann’s pop art, Beatles music, and groundbreaking animation techniques.

Now, just in time for an exciting new 3D version of the beloved film, comes a midi hardcover edition of YELLOW SUBMARINE, showcasing the film’s dazzling images and its lighthearted, witty tale in a glorious picture book to be savored by fans and readers of all ages."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I love The Beatles and couldn't resist this homage to the fantastic film and song "Yellow Submarine".

Well, what can I say.  If you loved the animated film you'll delight in this picture book.  The plot of the book is a very condensed version of the film's plot, keeping the main idea but leaving out many sideplots.  It *is* only 40 pages.  The book's main glory is in it's illustration taken from/based on that of the film.  I think parents/grandparents will be buying this one for the fun of reading it to their little ones who will certainly marvel at the illustrations and the fantastical world presented to them.  The main plot centres around ridding Pepperland of the Blue Meanies but the central idea in the book to vanquishing them revolves around the theme/song "All You Need is Love".  Grown ups will delight at the multitude of Beatles song titles thrown into the text such as: "Do we need a ticket to ride? asked George. "Only if we're taking the mystery tour," Ringo joked." and there is plenty of tongue in cheek Fab Four humour that adults will chuckle over such as "Frankenstein's a friend of yours?" Fred asked. "Oh, yeah.  I used to go out with his sister ... Phyllis."  A delightful picture book kids and adults will enjoy, both on different levels.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

135. 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad. Translated by Tara F. Chace (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 359
Ages: 14+
Finished: May 11, 2012
First Published: (2008, Norway) Apr.17, 2012 US
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Genre: YA, science fiction, horror
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: ""That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Mia Nomeland said, giving her parents an unenthusiastic look."

Publisher's Summary: "It's been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever.
Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune.

Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan.

Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.

It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space... no one is coming to save them.

In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Hachette Book Group Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I'll admit the cover caught my attention first, then simply the plot intrigued me and finally the fact that the author was Scandinavian sealed the deal.

I love YA science fiction, but never seem to read much of the genre.  I was totally enthralled with this book.  An intriguing and unique premise makes for an exciting read.  The characters are perhaps not fully fleshed out and I would have liked to know them better as people but the main character (I won't tell you who that ends up being) does get the most attention developmentally.  The book does focus more on plot than character development.  This is not a problem though as the plot is totally engaging!  At first, I thought it was going in a typical direction but things took a strange twist and threw me for a loop.  The science fiction plot takes a turn towards horror as the unknown element lurks in the background and then confronts those who journeyed to the moon.  The ending is unpredictable and a shocker.  It's  not all spelled out for you and I had to think back about how events went down at the end to realize just what exactly happened.  Some readers may find this frustrating, while others, including me, will find this exhilaratingly clever.  A well-written and eerie sci-fi/horror for older teens who can handle the tension and some slightly violent scenes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

134. The Amazing Mini-Mutts by Donald Lemke

The Amazing Mini-Mutts by Donald Lemke. Illustrated by Art Baltazar. (Canada) - (US)
DC Super-Pets! series

Pages: 49
Ages: 6+
Finished: Mar. 10, 2011
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Genre: Early chapter books, Superheroes
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Welcome to Bowwow Boot Camp!" said Krypto.

Publisher's Summary: On planet Earth, KRYPTO, ACE, SWIFTY, and other SUPER-PET pooches visit the Bowwow Boot Camp, a school for up-and-coming pups with powers. They're ready to show this new breed of heroes a few old tricks. Unfortunately, Brainicat, an evil cyborg kitty from the planet Colu, wants to teach these canine cadets a lesson as well. Using his hyper-forces, the villain shrinks the Bowwow Boot Camp to microscopic size and traps the mini mutts inside a glass bottle. To escape, these prep-school pups must step up and discover their own super hero identities.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

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

Ds loves this series and we have three new books from this year's releases.  This book lived up to our expectations and ds particularly enjoyed the book being populated with several super-pets that we have met in past books.  A fun story with lots of action even though the "bad guy" Brainicat doesn't do much except kidnap the super dogs.  We did find this book at just a slightly higher reading level than usual causing ds some problems and we employed shared reading where I would take a turn reading every now and then when he needed a breather.  However he once again loved the story and the over visuals and graphic design of this book (and whole series) and has chosen another Super-Pets book for his next reader.  This series is a great incentive for reluctant readers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

133. Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll Vol. 3 by Yumi Tsukirino

Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll Vol. 3 by Yumi Tsukirino. (Canada) - (US)
Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll, Vol. 3

Pages: 179
Ages: 5+
Finished: May 10, 2012
First Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: viz media
Genre: children, manga, fantasy, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Cinnamoroll brought a treasure chest with him from the sky."

Publisher's Summary: "The Cinnamon Friends read about the Land of Sweets on a stone tablet they discover in Cinnamoroll's treasure chest. They set out to find this mysterious place and come across a new candy shop with a long line of people in front. Could this be the place they're looking for?"

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

Reason for Reading:  Next in the series.

The third volume in this delightful kids' manga aimed at girls brings about some subtle changes.  The first is the entire exclusion of the former nemesis of the pups, Cavity.  He does not appear in this volume at all, nor is he mentioned; it is as if he never existed.  This is no loss to the story as he was a bit lame of a bad guy.  Instead the pups' nemesis is now themselves as they get along as a group of friends having to deal with each others feelings such as jealousies, competition, anger, etc.  They do run into random "bad guys" though.  Also while maintaining the short story presentation of the former volumes, the "sections" are much more related to each other creating mini story arcs that are joined together (some more so than others).  This book ends with a final section called "We're the Cinnamon Angels" where the girl pups have made themselves a clubhouse and they have their own adventures without the boys.  These are cute and deal with more girl subjects such as fashion and cute boys.  Only thing that bothered me is a new character is included here, making a group of three girls, who has never appeared in the series before; an introductory story first would have made sense.  Overall, this volume is the best of the three so far and I hope the others continue with this new form.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

132. Behind Enemy Lines by Carol Matas

Behind Enemy Lines: World War II, Sam Frederiksen, Nazi-Occupied Europe, 1944 by Carol Matas (US) - (Canada)
I Am Canada series, 1944

Pages: 200
Ages: 10+
Finished: May 8, 2012
First Published: Feb. 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Genre: historical fiction, WWII, occupied France, Canadian author,  POWs
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "From my rear turret I got a glimpse of our attacker, a twin-engine Ju88, coming in for the kill."

Publisher's Summary: "Eighteen-year-old Sam Frederiksen has come a long way from the Prairies. Trained to be a gunner in a Lancaster bomber during WWII, he is shot down over France. Battered and bruised, he does survive, and joins forces with the French Resistance... only to be betrayed by one of its members. He and other flyers from various Allied countries are rounded up by the Gestapo and held in Fresnes prison just outside of Paris.

Treated as spies, rather — than POWs, these men are beaten, some tortured — then sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp in eastern Germany. It is here, in these wretched conditions, that Sam witnesses the darkest side of humanity — gas chambers, torture and starvation. Yet it is also here that he comes to understand the true resilience and unfathomable courage of the victims…"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: I'm reading every book in this series, I love WWII historical fiction and I've enjoyed other books by the author.

Another fantastic book in this series. is keeping this series in top-form by (so far) only using well-known literary award-winning writers of children's literature.  By the list of authors included one can tell the quality of writing is going to be top-notch. Carol Matas writes various genres but she is most well known for her Holocaust historical fiction and this book can be added to the list.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Though the topic was known to me, this is the story of 168 British Commonwealth Airmen who were captured by the Germans and sent to the death camp Buchenwald Concentration Camp and only days before their scheduled extermination were they then taken to a POW camp.  This is a powerful story, based on real life true events, though the characters included are fictional Matas holds no punches when describing the pure evilness behind Hitler and his vision and the atrocities carried out by those under his command, especially at the Concentration camps.  Graphic to a point but suitable for the mature 10+ age range without venturing into a YA book.  Though teens will enjoy the story as well.

I was familiar with this story but this series of books always manages to teach me something new in each and every single book.  I hadn't known about Canada's refusal to take in Jews during the war, nor about Denmark's extraordinarily brave response of non-compliance to the German occupiers.  Other smaller pieces of information were like new found trivia for me and I enjoyed the history learnt from this gripping, dark, horrendous story of what people are capable of doing to each other, but also of what people are capable of doing *for* each other and how some can rise to the occasion even under the most severe conditions.  A great boy's book!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

86. Snivel by Dale E. Basye

Snivel by Dale E. Basye. Illustrations by Bob Dob (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
The Fifth Circle of Heck

Pages: 448
Ages: 9+
Finished: Mar. 20, 2012
First Published: May 22, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Genre: children, fantasy, paranormal, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Milton Fauster - eleven years old at the time of his untimely death - looked outside past the marble balcony jutting over the crater, stunned as he took in the dreary spectacle of Snivel."

Publisher's Summary: "Dale E. Basye sends Milton and Marlo to Snivel, the circle reserved for crybabies, for their latest hilarious escapade in Heck. Snivel is a camp—a bummer camp—a dismal place where it's always raining, and Unhappy Campers are besieged by swarms of strange mosquitoes that suck the color right out of them. Soon the Fausters discover that some Unhappy Campers have been disappearing. So after Marlo gets chosen for a special project and never comes back, Milton makes up his mind to find her and all the missing children.

Can Milton find his sister and get the heck out of Snivel? With the help of some new friends, his pet ferret, and Vincent Van Gogh's ear, he just might have a chance."

Acquired: Received an egalley from Netgalley.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Snivel continues on with more of the same of what we've come to expect from this series by this time.  Book Five is not as good as the last book but stands strong along with the others.  The plot will really be a lot of fun for kids as the majority of the action takes place with Milton & his new group of friends inside a video game version of "Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go".  This time Milton and Marlo start out together and are quickly separated.  The narrative switches alternately between each of them as they each have their own individual adventure.  There are not so many famous people that they run across this time but more plays on words such as at the monastery they meet Abbot Costello.  Probably more recognizable by mom and dad than the intended audience.  Likewise the two main antagonists are Edgar Allan Poe and a dude named Provost Marshal Tesla.  Now most will know who Poe is, the other took me some research.  I knew from Bayse's technique that he had to be based on a real person.  His character was a foreign mad scientist heavily involved in electricity experiments and he was behind this whole video game scheme.  It is not until near the end of the book that Tesla's first name is mentioned and a simple google lead me to the real "mad scientist".  But this is all likely to go over the intended audience's head.  But again *I* enjoyed the detective work!

The story is fun, kids are going to enjoy it, the new characters introduced are a wacky bunch and will be appreciated though it is disappointing not to have the return of any old classmates.  This is slightly made up for by the return of Milton's pet ferret, Lucky, who has either been missing or played an insignificant role in the last few books.  Lucky is back in the limelight in Snivel and he is a warm welcome back.  The author himself is back as a main character, which I'll admit is a bit strange but Basye makes it work and this seems to be the end of it.  I don't think it would hold up well as a long running joke, but over the two volumes it was a fun side story.  There is a very brief return of two old teachers who have popped up several times now and it appears this may just be the last of them.  A fun story with lots of action, especially in the Milton story arc.  Religion plays a very small part in this volume and both Satan and the Big Guy Upstairs make small appearances, as do the archangels.  Marlo and Milton finish up being sent to Precocia, which we will have to wait until next year to read in Precocia: the Sixth Circle of Heck.

Monday, May 21, 2012

131. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 9

The Dead Letter Office by Hiroyuki Asada (US) - (Canada)
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 9

Pages: 200
Ages: 13+
Finished: May 7, 2012
First Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: viz media
Genre: manga, fantasy, YA
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Number 13, Yasoumichi, Central Yuusari. The Beehive. This is the headquarters of the National Postal Service couriers, better known as the Letter Bees."

Publisher's Summary: "Lag’s hero, Gauche Suede, has returned to the Beehive–but not in the way Lag had hoped.While Gauche lies injured and unconscious, two mysterious government operatives show up to take him away, arousing the suspicions of the Beehive staff. What is the Amberground government trying to hide from the Letter Bees?"
Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Plenty of action and plot movement in this volume as we finally return to the capital.  Two new characters are introduced who move things around in the government, firing someone and giving many of the Bees reassignments.  Reverse's plans to foil the government may have been delayed in the past but they are once again on track to bring them down.  Several characters from the past reappear in new places, both good and bad.  This is always fun.  Niche has an episode with her underpants once again which is a running joke and quite hilarious (one of the very few things that make this series T-rated).  Finally Lag's reassignment to the Dead Letter office takes him on an exciting sidestory as he sets out to deliver a large stack of refused mail to one address.  The sidestory was well-written and an entertaining diversion.  A good volume that makes one eager to continue with the series.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

130. Into the Dream by William Sleator

Into the Dream by William Sleator (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 154
Ages: 9+
Finished: May 6, 2012
First Published: 1979
Publisher: Apple/Scholastic
Genre: children, horror, science fiction
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "The first dream did not seem strange to him."

Publisher's Summary: "Paul has a recurring nightmare, about a small boy in awful danger. When he learns that his classmate Francine has it, too, the two of them join forces to solve the mystery and save the boy--before their bad dream becomes a terrifying reality."

Acquired: Purchased a used copy at a thrift store.

Reason for Reading: This is from the random bookshelf that I am currently reading from for my own books and random bookshelf challenge I created for myself.  William Sleator is my favourite YA horror writer.

I thought I'd read this one before but could not recall the story at all while reading it and now don't believe I have.  This book is atypical of the usual Sleator book.  It is written for a younger audience, not his usual teen audience.  The two protagonists are twelve and the writing is simple, probably on about a Gr. 4 level.  I wasn't duly impressed with the story either which was disappointing as it has been a while since I've read a Sleator and I was looking forward to this quite a bit.  Keeping in mind the book is for younger children, the plot is quite simple and the story follows a normal increasing plotline with lots of forward motion and excitement.  The story is one whole run  towards the end.  It does, however, end with Sleator's trademark that's not really the end-ending, what I like to call the Twilight Zone ending.  As long as the reader is not too sensitive the youngster will have fun with the story which involves esp, UFOs, telepathy, telekinesis and men in black.  No where near Sleator's best but a suitable introduction to the author for pre-teens.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

129. X, 3-in-1, Vol. II by Clamp

X, 3-in-1, Vol. II by Clamp (US) - (Canada)
X/1999, Vol. 4,5,6

Pages: 192
Ages: 16+
Finished: May 5, 2012
First Published: 1993, 1994 (omnibus Apr. 17, 2012)
Publisher: viz media
Genre: manga, fantasy, YA
Rating: 2/5

First sentence: "Kamui...

Publisher's Summary: "Hinoto, Japan's greatest seer, has foretold the end of the world. At the center of her prophecy is a young man named Kamui Shiro, who possesses startling psychic powers. But Kamui is far from alone in this destiny. Armies are gathering, other people with unique powers: the “Seven Seals,” who seem to be Kamui's allies, and the “Seven Angels,” who might be his enemies. All are somehow linked to the destruction to come, and all are now coming to Tokyo to choose sides in the upcoming battle."

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

Reason for Reading:  Next in the series.

This omnibus edition collects volumes 4-6 of the previously published series.  The first Vol. (collecting vol. 1-3) left me intrigued but very confused, this being my first read by Clamp I didn't know what to expect.  While I agree the artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the inclusion of the colour pages will certainly satisfy fans, I am underwhelmed by the series in general and will not be continuing.  The story is still rather confusing, though this volume does get into the back story attempting to explain the whole plot so I did end up somewhat understanding the general concept.  However, the characters really bothered me.  One minute they are all serious about saving the world and the next they are acting like complete goofs.  One guy is more interested in getting a girl to like him, one of the main female characters is so subservient and whiny it is painful and I can't get a grip on the main character Kamui.  What's up with this guy who has major attitude and can't decide if he should follow his destiny of saving the earth or help destroy it?  Tough choice to make, huh?  There are also brief overtones of BL in this volume which is so not my thing that I do not want to go any further down that road.  So, this story is not winning me over and I won't be continuing with the series.  I don't know if it is typical of Clamp or not.  I've always had xxxholic on my want to read list and am now not too sure.

Friday, May 18, 2012

128. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 278
Ages: 18+
Finished: May 4, 2012
First Published: Apr. 3, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: suspense, historical fiction
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "The first day in the lifeboat we were mostly silent, either taking in or refusing to take in the drama playing itself out in the seething waters around us."

Publisher's Summary: "Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

The Lifeboat is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Hachette Book Group Canada.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy survival-at-sea stories and this immediately brought to my mind both the Titanic and the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name.

I enjoyed this book.  It is short and a quick read and yet I found it didn't live up to my expectations or perhaps its full potential.  I found the plot very predictable and kept waiting for a twist or shock to come into play but every time anything of consequence happened it was already something I expected to happen.  I kept reading though because I couldn't believe that was all there was to the story and that some startling reveal was going to made at any point, but it failed to come.  The story followed its expected outcome and ended quietly on that note. 

As stated I did enjoy the story; it is an interesting study in personalities when they are confined together in peril and how they will react.  Grace herself, I found to be an unlikeable character from the beginning.  She is rather cold and calculating in her motives even before the shipwreck.  She is an unreliable narrator and yet her true character easily shows through which is one point which makes the book so predictable.  I haven't read any other reviews of this book yet but I have a feeling that this is a book some people will absolutely love, while others not so.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

127. Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk by Megan McDonald

Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk by Megan McDonald. illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds  (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
Stink, #7

Pages: 145
Ages: 7+
Finished: May 1, 2012
First Published: Mar. 13, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, humour, realistic fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Guts! Brains! Eyeballs!"

Publisher's Summary: "Guts! Brains! Eyeballs! There's only one week before the new book in the Nightmare on Zombie Street series comes out. Of corpse Stink will be first in line at the Blue Frog Bookstore to buy his copy and join the town's Midnight Zombie Walk! Until then, Stink and his friends keep busy making ketchup-stained zombie costumes, trying to raise money to buy the book, and racking up points for Virginia Dare School's race to one million minutes of reading. But with all that talk about the undead, Zink - that is, Stink - starts to wonder: is he being hunted by zombies? He does have a very delicious - er, superb - brain, after all. Readers will just have to open ze book and zee! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!                                                       

Reading is UNdead - and everyone has zombies on the brain - as Stink's school and a local bookstore cook up a frightfully fun Main Street event."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading:  Next in the series.

Ds loves this series of books.  This is the first time he did the reading aloud as his reader.  They are a little hard for him and halfway through a chapter I'll take over and read a few pages for him to take a breather, then he'll finish up the chapter himself.  This one was a lot of fun with the zombie theme but not having any actual supernatural events.  The reading theme and the excitement over a new book in a popular series was fun as well.  Not a lot to actually say in this review as we happily received everything we expected in a Stink book and enjoyed it to the max.  These books are keepers on ds's shelves, which is a very highly coveted spot indeed; only a select few make the cut.  Looking forward to the next book.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

126. Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones

Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 352
Ages: 14+
Finished: Apr. 30, 2012
First Published: Mar. 8, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, crime, realistic fiction
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Look up at the Plaza Regent, Blink, in the shivery morning light."

Publisher's Summary: "Boy, did Blink get off on the wrong floor. All he wanted was to steal some breakfast for his empty belly, but instead he stumbled upon a fake kidnapping and a cell phone dropped by an "abducted" CEO, giving Blink a link to his perfect blonde daughter. Now Blink is on the run, but it’s OK as long as he’s smart enough to stay in the game and keep Captain Panic locked in his hold. Enter a girl named Caution. As in "Caution: Toxic." As in "Caution: Watch Your Step." She’s also on the run, from a skeezy drug-dealer boyfriend and from a nightmare in her past that won’t let her go. When she spies Blink at the train station, Caution can see he’s an easy mark. But there’s something about this na├»ve, skinny street punk, whom she only wanted to rob, that tugs at her heart, a heart she thought deserved not to feel. Charged with suspense and intrigue, this taut novel trails two deeply compelling characters as they forge a blackmail scheme that is foolhardy at best, disastrous at worst - along with a fated, tender partnership that will offer them each a rare chance for redemption.                                                       

Two street kids get tangled in a plot over their heads - and risk an unexpected connection - in this heart-pounding thriller by Tim Wynne-Jones.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I've always wanted to read this Canadian author but I've never got around to it.  I just recently heard he'd been awarded the Order of Canada and thought it was time I read him and had this book on hand.

A fairly decent book, not really my usual thing as it deals with two runaway teens.  One from a dysfunctional family, the other running from a life-changing event that is easy to guess, revealed too soon and would have been a better plot point if it had been kept as a secret to shock later in the book.  The plot is quite interesting and the teens are well developed, both, though having problems, are likable from the beginning and the reader is invested in their well being.  A tight crime thriller for this age group that mainly keeps the plot together though their are a few holes.  I especially wondered why Alyson, as a character was left dangling.  The thing that most annoyed me about this book though was that part of it is written in the second person.  Chapters alternate between Blink & Caution's stories.  Caution's tale is told in the third person, but Blink's is in the second person.  The continual referral to you are doing this and you are thinking that was extremely annoying to me and I kept wondering *who* was talking to Blink and telling him/us his story.  It is never explained and I, personally, do not like the literary device at all.  However, a decent YA thriller.  I will try another of the author's books ,having one more on my shelves, but I am in no rush.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

125. Tall: Great American Folktales: The Comics Anthology

Tall: Great American Folktales: The Comics Anthology edited by Donald Lemke (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Spin

Pages: 144
Ages: 8+
Finished: May 2, 2012
First Published: 2010 (collection Jan. 1, 2012)
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: anthology, tall tales, folklore
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Have you ever read a Tall Tale?."

Publisher's Summary: "Four larger-than-life American folktales come alive in this collection of comics from award-winning creators and rising stars! The tall tales include Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Johnny Appleseed."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading:  I love folklore and I love the Graphic Spin series put out by Capstone Press.

This is an omnibus collection of four previously published single volumes in the series, gathered together in this affordable trade paperback edition.  An attractive, sturdily bound volume, this will make the perfect purchase for the home while the individual  volumes are more suited to libraries and classrooms.  I enjoyed all the stories and really have never been disappointed with anything from this line.  Capstone uses top quality authors and industry experienced artists.  Recommended for those who enjoy the genre.  The following describes each book included as I read it, which were originally published as separate volumes in 2010:

1.  The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan by Martin Powell. art by Aaron Blecha.  General retelling of the usual stories associated with Bunyan and Babe: the making of the 10,000 lakes, Lake Superior, the Grand Canyon, his fight with Old Man Winter, etc.  Starts off with a cute scenario of what his childhood and parents must have been like.  A good, fun introduction to the folk hero.  The artwork is splendid in a fun, modern comic style with a bit of the grossness factor added.  A delightful addition to any collection.  4/5

2. Pecos Bill, Colossal Cowboy by Sean Tulien. art by Lisa Weber. Honestly this is not a folktale I'm very familiar with.  Of course, I've heard of Pecos Bill but the tale was not that familiar to me at all.  I found it quite silly actually, more so than other tall tales and this may be because it is believed that Pecos Bill is a modern invention rather than a true folk hero.  Apparently Pecos Bill created the Grand Canyon also.  However, the story was great fun and I love Lisa K. Weber's art.  She is also found quite often in the Graphic Classics series. Another fun story. 3/5

3. John Henry, Hammerin' Hero by Stephanie Peters. art by Nelson Evergreen. Wonderful retelling of the John Henry story which is based on some truth with a lot of legend mixed in.  I really enjoyed this one and so far find it the best one in the collection.  The author is on staff with the publisher and I've enjoyed some of her other books; the illustrator is new to me and has a wonderful style which really captures the African-American experience of this tale without actually making much of a deal about the man's race, except for the slavery/freedom issue.  A more realistic tall tale since John Henry was only a larger than normal man, not a giant or super-powered like the previous two in the collection.  The final two pages present a newspaper format historical overview separating fact from fiction and giving details on where one can visit to see memorials to this folk hero.  5/5

4. The Legend of Johnny Appleseed by Martin Powell. art by Michelle Lamoreaux. Another fun folk tale with art that is slightly manga-esque.  A good story that starts off with the tale of the real John Chapman before venturing off onto the tall tales that grew surrounding him, thus making him a folk hero.  Manages to cover all the popular tales of Johnny from his walking across a rainbow to helping the giant catfish.  The tale ends with a timeline of the real John Chapman's life.  A good ending to the collection with a familiar tale.  4/5

Monday, May 14, 2012

124. The Justice League (The New 52) Vol. 1: The Origin by Geoff Johns

The Justice League (The New 52) Vol. 1: The Origin by Geoff Johns. Art by Jim Lee & Scott Williams (Canada) - (US)
The Justice League (The New 52), Vol. 1

Pages: 192
Ages: 13+
Finished: Apr. 26, 2012
First Published: May 8, 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Genre: graphic novel, super heroes
Rating:  5/5

First sentence: "There was a time when the world didn't call them its greatest super-heroes."

Publisher's Summary: "As a part of the monumental DC Comics—The New 52 event, comics superstars Geoff Johns and Jim Lee bring you an all-new origin story for the Justice League!
In a world where inexperienced superheroes operate under a cloud of suspicion from the public, loner vigilante Batman has stumbled upon a dark evil that threatens to destroy the earth as we know it. Now, faced with a threat far beyond anything he can handle on his own, the Dark Knight must trust an alien, a scarlet speedster, an accidental teenage hero, a space cop, an Amazon Princess and an undersea monarch. Will this combination of Superman, The Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Aquaman be able to put aside their differences and come together to save the world? Or will they destroy each other first?"

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss.

Reason for Reading:  I was interested in checking out this "new 52" event  and have always enjoyed the super-hero teams including The Justice League.

I enjoyed this immensely!  I am coming at this as an occasional comic reader.  I love DC's universe and grew up reading secondhand comics and today read the occasional graphic novel when the mood suits me though I haven't read any series for some years now.  My review is from this "occasional reader" point of view. 

I just loved coming into all these familiar characters anew, with a fresh start in the modern world joining up together for the first time.  I found the story exciting and a thrill to read.  The villain in this volume is Darkseid and his first appearance in the book is stunning.  The artwork throughout is fantastic.  The story not only gives us the origin story of how the Justice League came to be but also gives us the origin story of Cyborg which is very satisfying.  As usual I also enjoy the humour and an ongoing theme was Green Lantern's taunting Batman that he has no super powers.  To paraphrase:  You're just a guy in a bat suit?  What, are we going to talk to them in a deep voice?  A lot of fun and I enjoyed the team's interactions with each other.  No one is really thrilled to be joining together as a group, except Batman.  He is the only one who sees the need for them to make a joint effort to show the citizens of Earth that they (super-heroes) are the good side.  This is a great way to get back into the universe and find your favourite characters fresh without previous baggage.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

123: Rudyard Kipling's How the Leopard Got His Spots: The Graphic Novel

Rudyard Kipling's How the Leopard Got His Spots: The Graphic Novel by Sean Tulien. Illustrated by Pedro Rodriguez (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Spin

Pages: 39
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 24, 2012
First Published: Jan. 2012, 2012
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, graphic novel, folktale
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Back in the days when everybody started fair..."

Publisher's Summary: "In this graphic retelling of Rudyard Kipling's classic tale, a leopard finds a way to hide when the Ethiopian covers him with spots."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading: Graphic Spin is my favourite series from this publisher!

Loved this one even more than the Camel book!  In this book the narrator tells the story, and the animals & Ethiopian can hear him.  They talk back to him quite often and it's quite hilarious.  It doesn't mention who the illustrator has worked for in the past as an animator, but these animals facial expressions had me thinking Dreamworks' "Madagascar" big time.  They are that personified.  Though nobody dies in the book don't get too attached to the game animals, the leopard and Ethiopian are the heroes of this story.  A wonderful retelling, in keeping with the mood of the original.

Would love to get the other two books in this set for Keepers.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

122: Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity by Michael Coren

Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity by Michael Coren. (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 231 +notes
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 24, 2012
First Published: Apr. 24, 2012
Publisher: Signal
Genre: non-fiction, Christian
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "In the summer of 2011, a horrendous mass murder occurred in Norway, with more than ninety people, most of them teenagers and even children, being slaughtered in a co-ordinated bomb and gun attack."

Publisher's Summary: "Michael Coren explores why and how Christians and Christian ideas are caricatured in popular media as well as in sophisticated society. He takes on, and debunks, ten great myths about Christianity: that it supports slavery, is racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-intellectual, anti-Semitic, provokes war, resists progress, and is repressive and irrelevant. In a climate that is increasingly as ignorant of Christianity as it is good at condemning it, Coren gives historical background, provides examples of how these attacks are made, and explains the reality of the Christian response, outlining authentic Christian beliefs."

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading:  I'm a fan of Michael Coren both in print and on TV, I enjoyed his last book and the topic is of interest to me. 

Reading this book is like sitting down and having an intelligent conversation with someone who  shares all your interests but happens to have quite a bit more knowledge on the subjects than you do.  Totally fascinating.  Awe-inducing.  I have basic information on these topics to begin with but Mr. Coren goes deep into the historical background of Christianity on many varied aspects and this book is a goldmine of inspiring information.  Coren proves all his conclusions with samplings from the words of great thinks throughout the ages and my list of authors to read in the future has multiplied: from ancient sources, to saints, theologians from the middle ages up to scientists, newscasters, medical professionals and so on. 

Coren's purpose in this book is to provide the Christian with "logical ... self defence." "A handbook for followers of Christ who want to intellectualize the instinctive and provide a solid response to the increasingly malicious anti-Christian propaganda campaign...."  This book is certainly for the intellectual but also for the person wanting to put their thoughts together more intellectually with the right materials.  It's all here, everything you could possibly want to know to defend ten common misconceptions about Christians (regardless of denomination), but it is also simply terribly informative to someone who doesn't know his own Christian heritage, our heroes, how we shaped the world, how we changed the world, what the world would look like today without the advancements made by Christians whose Christianity made them seek out to better the world.  Fascinating reading!

Friday, May 11, 2012

121. Rudyard Kipling's How the Camel Got His Hump: The Graphic Novel

Rudyard Kipling's How the Camel Got His Hump: The Graphic Novel by Louise Simonson. Illustrated by Pedro Rodriguez (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Spin

Pages: 39
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 23, 2012
First Published: Jan. 2012, 2012
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, graphic novel, folktale
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "In the beginning of years, when the world was new, and the Animals were just beginning to work for Man, a family made its home on the edge of the Howling Desert ..."

Publisher's Summary: "When a camel refuses to do his share of work, a djinn punishes him by giving him a hump in this graphic retelling of Rudyard Kipling's classic tale."
Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading:  Graphic Spin is my favourite series from this publisher!

How delighted I was to see Stone Arch Press had added four of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories" to their Graphic Spin series of fairytales and folktales! Pedro Rodriguez's illustrations are comical and full of expression.  The book is set up a bit like a field guide as "explorer" Kipling, introduces us to the animal pre-change and then after the tale, he again presents the new animal post-change.  The story is fun and while it's been 5 years since I read the original it seemed to be as I remember it.  That is one thing I enjoy about this series, that they replicate the original versions without watering them down.  Lovely book, looking forward to reading the other one we have on hand!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

120. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 306
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 23, 2012
First Published: Mar. 27, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt
Genre: Christian, religion, magical realism, miracles, bullying
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence: "In the beginning there was an empty room, a little bit of space, a little bit of light, a little bit of time."

Publisher's Summary: "In Grace McCleen's harrowing, powerful debut, she introduces an unforgettable heroine in ten-year-old Judith McPherson, a young believer who sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith. Persecuted at school for her beliefs and struggling with her distant, devout father at home, young Judith finds solace and connection in a model in miniature of the Promised Land that she has constructed in her room from collected discarded scraps—the Land of Decoration. Where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility and divinity in even the strangest traces left behind. As ominous forces disrupt the peace in her and Father's modest lives—a strike threatens her father's factory job, and the taunting at school slips into dangerous territory—Judith makes a miracle in the Land of Decoration that solidifies her blossoming convictions. She is God's chosen instrument. But the heady consequences of her new found power are difficult to control and may threaten the very foundations of her world.

With its intensely taut storytelling and crystalline prose, The Land of Decoration is a gripping, psychologically complex story of good and evil, belonging and isolation, which casts new and startling light on how far we'll go to protect the things we love most."
Acquired: Received a review copy from Henry Holt & Company.

Reason for Reading:  Very intriguing plot captured my interest.

This is a tough book to review.  I loved parts of it and disliked other parts of it.  Mainly, I adored the main character, 10yo Judith, in whose voice the narrative is written.  She is naive and not always a reliable narrator but we are given events from her point of view as she sees them happen.  I read the book very quickly over two days and had a hard time putting the book down.  Parts of it were just lovely, other parts I heartily disagreed with.  As a Christian, I don't feel the author is making a grand statement one way or the other about Christianity as a whole.  I do think she is using this powerful message of father/daughter relationship, a mother's death, a girl's bullying because of her religion to show that bad things happen, even when we have the best intentions.  That fanaticism of anything is never good.  That God does not "let" bad things happen, we make our own choices and suffer the consequences of them, as rightly we should.

Judith carries this book.  She and her father belong to this unnamed religious fringe group (never named, but disclaimed to be Mormons) which is obsessed with the End Times.  Otherwise they seem harmless enough, much of their Christian doctrine can be found in true Christian denominations but then it has been twisted in a way to make it what it is in this book.  This may offend some Christian readers, but I take it that it is fiction and that these kind of kooky Christian sects do does exist though they are not the norm.  This group for the most part follows Christ; it is its obsession with Armageddon which removes it from the focus of Christ.  Non-Christians may find the book too full of Christian references, Bible quotations and simple plain Christian living; this may annoy them or unfortunately make them think this fringe group is somehow representative of "normal" Christianity.

These are the things I didn't like about the book; the constant fighting in my head with the representation of these "Christians".  Something profound would be said and then something equally laughable would be said.  As to the story otherwise, it was very good.  Judith is a naive girl who asks big questions of her father, the grown-ups at church, about religion and life.  She is always asking "why?" and she is respected for her clever questions.  At school it is the same, except with the other children, and one boy in particular, who bullies and teases her relentlessly because she is an outcast from them.  Not allowed to attend morning assembly, wearing plain clothes, and talking easily about God, Armageddon and the Den of Iniquity of the modern world.  No matter what is happening in this world around her; her being bullied, her dad being a scab, boy's taunting their house in the evening's Judith does believe in God and talks to him.  He has started to answer her back and miracles have started to happen.  Perhaps this is all in the confused girl's head or perhaps she is a real mystic.  But you will fall in love with Judith and root for her as she tries to cope with a sad life that left her motherless and alone with a father who does everything he can  for her but does not know how to show love and affection. 

This book is going to take some time for me to ruminate on before I really decide whether I think it was just OK or Good.  I did like it; I'm just not sure how much.  The ending was underwhelming and with all the religion/God emphasis throughout I expected something more uplifting than what we were given.  The book did have some moments of sage wisdom and at other times I was left shaking me head.  The instructions for making a hot air balloon, I do understand their significance but as an ending it leaves one dumbstruck.  If you love stories about people pondering the purposes of God in their lives this will be the book for you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

119. Leviathan by Ian Edginton

Leviathan by Ian Edginton.  Art by D'Israeli (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 112
Ages: 16+
Finished: Apr. 22, 2012
First Published: (2203-2005) Apr. 17, 2012 collected
Publisher: 2000AD
Genre: graphic novel, paranormal, horror, crime, historical fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "The Lowenstein's killed themselves today.  Issac and Julia."

Publisher's Summary: "In 1928 the largest cruise liner the world has ever seen is launched. With a crew and passenger complement totalling nearly 30,000 people the Leviathan is bound for New York. However, it never reaches the Big Apple and simply… disappears!

Twenty years later – with the Leviathan stranded on an unearthly sea – Detective Sergeant Lament begins to investigate the mystery at the liner’s heart. What he discovers will change his world forever — but it might just bring the Leviathan home…"

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

Reason for Reading:  I love the lost ship, The Flying Dutchman, type of ghost story.  Obviously there is a "Titanic" feel to it and I liked the appeal of a cross between crime and horror.  Pretty much just had to read it after seeing the book!

One of my favourite graphic novels of the year and quite apropos that I read it shortly after reading an anthology of early 19th century ghost stories.  This just fit my mood at the time so well.  First of all the book contains the main story "Leviathan" which ran in over 10 issues of "2000AD" plus also includes 3 later published graphic short stories which take place sometime during the original main story.  An absolutely fantastic, creepy, haunting, paranormal tale of a ship lost in Limbo for twenty years and the discovering of what has been keeping it there.  The investigation by a former Scotland Yard detective of a series of atrocious First Class murders brings to a head the evil that is hiding (well-not really hiding anymore, eh?) deep inside the ship.  This story is first-rate.  The illustration, done in black & white is outstanding.  This type of horror, for me, needs the finesse b/w adds to the grotesquerie when our minds are allowed to imagine the colour of the blood and gore rather than being blasted with it in full-colour.  The demon's first appearance in the book is an amazing feat of awesomeness.  One is stunned.  I am so glad I've found this team of writer/author; they have done other work together which I want to explore.  The three short stories are also fine examples of horror stories and take us back to the days when the ship is lost and introduce a few tales of events that happened, now that we know what was really going on there.  I loved this and will probably read it again in the future.  A Keeper for me!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RIP - Maurice Sendak dies

'Where Wild Things Are' author Maurice Sendak dies

A legend.  One of the best. 

He was younger than I thought.

118. The Reeducation of Cherry Truong by Aimee Phan

The Reeducation of Cherry Truong by Aimee Phan (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 368
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 21, 2012
First Published: Mar. 13, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: historical fiction, family drama
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Cherry releases the grip around her brother, steadying her trembling feet onto the hot, bright concrete."

Publisher's Summary: "Cherry Truong’s parents have exiled her wayward older brother from their Southern California home, sending him to Vietnam to live with distant relatives. Determined to bring him back, twenty-one-year-old Cherry travels to their homeland and finds herself on a journey to uncover her family’s decades-old secrets—hidden loves, desperate choices, and lives ripped apart by the march of war and currents of history.

The Reeducation of Cherry Truong tells the story of two fierce and unforgettable families, the Truongs and the Vos: their harrowing escape from Vietnam after the war, the betrayal that divided them, and the stubborn memories that continue to bind them years later, even as they come to terms with their hidden sacrifices and bitter mistakes. Kim-Ly, Cherry’s grandmother, once wealthy and powerful in Vietnam, now struggles to survive in Little Saigon, California without English or a driver’s license. Cherry’s other grandmother Hoa, whose domineering husband has developed dementia, discovers a cache of letters from a woman she thought had been left behind. As Cherry pieces their stories together, she uncovers the burden of her family’s love and the consequences of their choices.

Set in Vietnam, France, and the United States, Aimee Phan’s sweeping debut novel reveals a family still yearning for reconciliation, redemption, and a place to call home."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the book's publicist.

Reason for Reading:  I love Asian historical family generational dramas!

This was an immensely satisfying read and will appeal to readers of Lisa See and more so Amy Tan.  Dealing with a South Vietnamese family who escapes after the Americans leave and they've had enough of Communist rule.  The refugee family ends up in Malaysia and then is split when the patriarch and entire family but one son and his expectant wife emigrate to Paris.  The other goes to America.  The book moves from past to present as it examines how this one episode had lasting effects on the family down to the third generation.  As the granddaughter, Cherry, of the patriarch discovers deep hidden secrets about individual family members the whole truth of that one incident becomes revealed.  The story focuses on family relationships between various members (brother/sister, cousins, grandmother/granddaughter, parents/eldest son, etc), generational relationships, cultural differences between the generations and the immigrant experience.  The story is not American centric either which makes it unique for this type of story.  Yes, one family experiences life in the US, but we also see the perspective of the Vietnamese immigrant in Paris at the same time.

There are many characters to keep track of and they are all intriguing in their own way.  I didn't really find many of them lovable as they, mostly, all, at some point show character flaws, some quite terrific, that made them hard, for me, to really like as people, but I was extremely invested in them and how their lives would work out in the end.   I love how the choices of the first generation end up affecting the third in ways that are traced back to those choices.  Could whole lives have been lived differently if selfish decisions had been set aside many years ago?

This was a quick read for me.  It took a little bit to get going as the story does switch back and forth through time, telling one person's story, then another's but once I got used to this I was turning the pages as fast as I could read.  Though the book is named after the American granddaughter, Cherry, it was the French grandmother, Hoa, who was the most intriguing character to me and I enjoyed her storyline the most.  The abrupt ending startled me, but otherwise I very much enjoyed this sometimes dark and always unforgettable story of familial ties, love and betrayal.  Aimee Phan is an author to watch for in the future.