Saturday, June 30, 2012

Titanic Challenge Links Apr - June

This is the place to link your reviews for the 2nd quarter of the Titanic Reading Challenge. To see what people have been reading for the first quarter check out the links here. Sign up for the challenge anytime HERE.

167. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. Illustrated by William Joyce & Joe Bluhm (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 56
Ages: ALL
Finished: Jun. 17, 2012
First Published: Jun. 19, 2012
Publisher: Atheneum Book for Children
Genre: children, picture book, fantasy, books about books
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Morris Lessmore loved words."

Publisher's Summary:  "The book that inspired the Academy Awardwinning short film, from New York Times bestselling author and beloved visionary William Joyce.

Morris Lessmore loved words.
He loved stories.
He loved books.
But every story has its upsets.

Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds.
But the power of story will save the day.
Stunningly brought to life by William Joyce, one of the preeminent creators in children’s literature, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a modern masterpiece, showing that in today’s world of traditional books, eBooks, and apps, it’s story that we truly celebrate—and this story, no matter how you tell it, begs to be read again and again."

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

Reason for Reading: Like everyone else I was enchanted with the short film when it came out and linked it on my blog and FB right away.  When I saw the book was out I just had to read it!

An absolutely wonderful, whimsical story for book lovers of all ages.  A delightful story that just lets one become enraptured with the celebration of books and the story they tell.  And even though this "book" is available in true book form here, as a movie, on an ereader and originally as an ipod app, it truly honours the traditional book form in all its ancient glory.  The story is joyous and yet slightly bittersweet, leaving one with the feeling that no matter what happens in the future, true books will always be with us in our heart of hearts.  We just won't let them go!

And for your viewing pleasure please watch the Academy Award winning short:

Friday, June 29, 2012

166. Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo

Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Tony Fuclie (US) - (Canada)
Bink & Gollie, Book 2

Pages: 96
Ages: 6+
Finished: Jun. 16, 2012
First Published: Jun. 12, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, easy reader, picture book, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Gollie, do you think we should go to the state fair?"

Publisher's Summary:  The state fair is in town, and now Bink and Gollie - utter opposites and best friends extraordinaire - must use teamwork and their gray matter while navigating its many wonders. Will the energetic Bink win the world's largest donut in the Whack-a-Duck game? Will the artistic Gollie wow the crowd in the talent show? As the undaunted duo steps into the mysterious tent of fortune-teller Madame Prunely, one prediction is crystal clear: this unlikely pair will always be the closest of pals.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series

An entertaining and easy-to-read picture book which one could call the author's answer to the "Mercy" books which she has now finished.  For approx. the 6-9 age group, though olders with enjoy the humour as did this oldster reviewer.  As in the first volume the book centres around three short stories which occur during a day's outing between the two friends.  This time they decide to go to the state fair.  The first story involves Bink playing a carnival game trying to hit a duck with a baseball, not succeeding but causing quite some damage to the old barker.  Secondly Gollie is all thrilled to enter the Talent Show but once she's on stage she gets stage-fright and clams up.  A lovely story of friends being there for each other.

The last story is an unfortunate choice as it involves a fortune teller and this may turn off some Christians, however, she is not taken seriously and I honestly see this as a great opening to discuss the topic.  The girls first go in kidding, not believing and having funny remarks for the seer.  But as she tells them of their past, it is easily explainable as to how the girls visual clues gave the seer her answers.  Finally while she is telling the future, again we are shown how she does it with prompts from Bink & Gollie.  On top of that the girls run out of there very quickly without their fortune being told in full.  Saying they don't need it.  They have everything they could want already.  An uplifting view of this topic, and as a Christian, I'd recommend it to others of the same mind.
A delightful book with lovely illustrations, that shows how friendship and a true friend is there for you no matter what!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

165. The Long March Home by Zoe S. Roy

The Long March Home by Zoe S. Roy. (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 270
Ages: 18+
YA Interest: Yes (nothing unsuitable)
Finished: Jun. 15, 2012
First Published: Nov. 22, 2011
Publisher: Inanna Publications & Education Inc.
Genre: historical fiction, 1960s, China, Cultural Revolution
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "I'm having a baby! Meihua Wei was hoping for a girl; she already had two sons."

Publisher's Summary: The Long March Home is a saga of three generations of women. Agnes, a young Canadian goes to hina as a missionary from the United Church of Canada and falls in love with a Chinese medical student. Growing anti-western sentiment forces her return to home to Nova Scotia, where she discovers she is pregnant. Meihua, their American-born daughter, travels to China in search of her father and winds up marrying a Chinese man, but the Cultural Revolution tears their lives apart. With both parents imprisoned, it falls to the family's illiterate maid, Yao, to shield their daughter, Yezi, and her brother, from family tragedy, poverty and political discrimination, negotiating their survival during the revolution that she barely understands. Only after her mother is released, does Yezi, learn about her foreign grandmother, Agnes, who lives in Boston and has lost contact with the family since Yezi's birth. Curious about her ancestry, Yezi joins her grandmother, Agnes, in the U.S. and learns about her life in China with the man her mother still longs to find.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the author.
Reason for Reading: I love books set in 20th century China and the Cultural Revolution is of particular interest to me.

First, I'd like to say I don't like the publisher's summary of this book.  The summary tells the story backwards and gives away way too much information; it's almost as if it were written by someone who only read the last half (or third) of the book.  What the book *is* about is Meihua, a woman living China, her heritage is that of an American mother and Chinese father.  She knows nothing of her father.  We know she came to China in her early twenties fell in love with a Chinese man and stayed their for the remainder of her life.  As she finds out about her third pregnancy Mao's Cultural Revolution is well underway.  The two child policy is introduced, both she and her husband are teachers and thus in need of re-education.  Her husband is sent to a work camp for many years, after she gives birth Meihua is sentenced to prison for thirteen years for being an anti-revolutionary because she is half-American.  Her children are subsequently raised by their housekeeper/cook who is more like a member of the family. 

For more than half of the book we experience the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of Meihua as she struggles to survive in a prison labour camp for the simple crime of her parentage; also through the eyes of her children who grow up without their parents for around 7 years.  We see how this scary regime affected both the once middle-class and the peasant class people in such a manner that everyone was controlled by the government and the whims of a charismatic leader.  The story is well-written and I enjoyed the author's voice.  This is a slow novel, without much fast action, yet it has its series of major plot points.  Having lived through the Cultural Revolution herself the now Canadian resident author shows us how ordinary people, villagers, peasants, teachers and a doctor's family are affected by this system that no longer respects education or personal success, yet still keeps the weak and poor just as bad off as they ever have been. 
Towards the three-quarter mark the story progresses into a family generational saga as Mao dies and the new leader opens relations with the West.  Mei's mother comes to China to visit for the first time and Mei's daughter Yezi becomes interested in the American/Chinese history of the family, searching out clues and answers to why the family is split between America and China and whatever became of her mother's father, whom Mei herself never met. A lovely story that will appeal to women readers who like multigenerational stories, historical tales of China and those who want to explore the real evils of Communism and especially the consequences of an all powerful charismatic leader such as Mao Zedong.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

164. Cinderella: Fables are Forever by Chris Roberson

Cinderella Fables are Forever by Chris Roberson. Illustrated by Shawn McManus (US) - (Canada)
Cinderella of Fables, #2

Pages: 160
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jun. 14, 2012
First Published: Apr. 24, 2012
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fairy tales, spies
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence: "Ask anyone who has lived through one and they will tell you: a Russian winter is no kind of fun."

Publisher's Summary: Fabletown's favorite secret agent and bon vivant Cinderella is back on the job in this title collecting the hit miniseries! Someone is killing sorcerers out on the Farm, and all signs point to Cinderella's archnemesis from the old days. The only problem is, Cinderella has always believed that her nemesis has been dead for years.

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Cinderella is a spin-off from the Fables canon, but this particular volume's storyline takes its plot from the pages of Jack of Fables.  It is not necessary to have read either series as all the background is filled in for you, but loyal fans who read everything Fables will be tickled with the return of a Jack of Fables character and a flashback to further explain some lose ends from the beginning of that series.  I just love Cinderella!  Ever since we found out her secret identity, she has been a really fun character for me and this volume focusing on her exploits is no exception.  Full of action, especially cat-fights.  I always enjoy watching two powerful women duke it out (Alias, anyone?).  There is a big surprise reveal when the nemesis is shown to be a certain person we've assumed out of the picture since early Jack of Fables days and then the theme carries over tones of their fairytale homeworld. 

This volume gives us a lot of background on Cinderella's past adventures, helping flush out her character's alternate life, not just the princess we see often in Fables.  Only one thing bothered me and that was the inclusion of Fables issue #51 stuck onto the end of this volume.  It had nothing to do with the Cinderella plot.  Yes, it was a story that featured Cindy, but it goes waaaaay back to the time before the Fables had even fought against the Adversary, this is ancient history by this point in the Fables sequence and really dredges up some old times and I found it hard to put myself back into the past for just this one short story!  It was a cute story but really should have been used in the Fables volumes sequentially where it would have fit in.  This is the reason I give the book a 4.5 rather than the full 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

163. Fables #16: Super Team

Super Team by Bill Willingham. Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Eric Shanower, Terry Moore, Andrew epoy & Richard Friend  (US) - (Canada)
Fables, Vol. #16

Pages: 160
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jun. 12, 2012
First Published: Dec. 20, 2011
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, fairy tales
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "What am I going to do next?"

Publisher's Summary:  Now why would we saddle a FABLES book with a title like "Super Team"? And why does snotty little Pinocchio think he needs to design tight-fitting costumes for a carefully selected group of Fables? Find out in these stories from FABLES #101-107, including a special story illustrated by Terry Moore (Echo, Strangers in Paradise).

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online store.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This was a strange volume that felt like a cheesy outtake.  It settles the main story arc but in a rather tongue in cheek manner which didn't really seem to take the Dark Man story line seriously in the end.  First we start with a short episode involving Bufkin, Mirror and Frankie who are trapped inside the ruins of the office.  I enjoyed this short episode which is totally unrelated to the rest of the book but does either set up a new story arc or finish off one character.  We'll have to wait and see.  I found it quite ticklish to see that Eric Shanower had guested as the artist for this volume which ends up in Oz.  Then the main section of the book centres on the Super Team storyline which deals with several characters storylines and the overarching Dark Man story is concluded.  I just wasn't impressed with this turn of events and found everyone involved in it especially Pinocchio and Ozma incredibly irritating, I usually enjoy Pinocchio.  And the superhero theme incredibly fluffy and not very funny.  Finally, the volume ends with another non-related one story arc which brings a new character (or one who hasn't been seen for a long time, I can't remember) into play.  The volume leaves off with several new story arcs to follow and the title of the next volume, due out this summer, gives us a clue as to where the story will be going.

Monday, June 25, 2012

162. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 193
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jun. 11, 2012
First Published: 2006
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Country noir
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Ree Dolly stood at break of day on her cold front steps and smelled coming flurrie and saw meat."

Publisher's Summary: The sheriff's deputy at the front door brings hard news to Ree Dolly. Her father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn't show up for his next court date. Ree's father has disappeared before. The Dolly clan has worked the shadowy side of the law for generations, and arrests (and attempts to avoid them) are part of life in Rathlin Valley. With two young brothers depending on her and a mother who's entered a kind of second childhood, sixteen-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive. She has grown up in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks and learns quickly that asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake. But along the way to a shocking revelation, Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: I enjoyed The Death of Sweet Mister so much I wanted read another book by the author right away.

Brilliant!  A dark tale of a dirt poor Ozark family.  Ree Dolly is 16, with hopes of escaping this life by joining up with the army when she comes of age, but her future plans are turned around when her meth lab running father skips out on his bail with his house and land as collateral leaving Ree alone with two young brothers and a mother who lost her sanity years ago.  Ree must find her father before his court date and this takes her over to the other mountain clans who are by blood distantly related but more separated by clan than having any feeling as kin.  Her entrance into this ruthless world where secrets to her father's whereabouts lie bring her as close to the ugly, scary truth she's ever been.  Beaten and broken with the court date past, Ree has thirty days left to prove her father is dead and couldn't attend the trial, bring forth in her a country girl warrior she never knew she possessed. 

A book written with beautiful, lyrical words as it describes a life of brutal kill or be killed life.  A life where children (especially the boys) are groomed to become criminals from their earliest days with no chance to ever become anything more.  In a way this book is a companion piece to The Death of Sweet Mister, where that tells the story of a boy's coming of age in these circumstances without any hope "Winter's Tale" tells the story of a girl's coming of age  in more or less the same sort of circumstances and yet she does have hope as her femaleness gives her an edge over her male peers and even though her world is brutal and violent there is also a close family love that exists within that framework which Sweet Mister never got to experience.

A sad, dark story of a world where one lives by the unspoken code; where the consequences are to kill or be killed.  A gut-wrenching ending that takes some characters down the road to the point of no return while giving others redemption and a chance to break the mold.  A tale that is both ugly and beautiful at the same time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

161. Jack of Fables #9: The End

The End by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges. Art by Tony Akins & Russ Braun (US) - (Canada)
Jack of Fables, #9

Pages: 144
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jun. 8, 2012
First Published: Jul. 19, 2011
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fairy tale retellings, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Alexandria, Virginia. Too many years and too many miles of hard road later..."

Publisher's Summary: Jack Frost has just set upon the greatest quest in a long and distinguished career of great quests: To kill a dragon. Of course, he is not aware that the dragon in question is in fact his own father. Meanwhile, the Page Sisters find a new purpose in life: restoring the Great Library.

Acquired: Purchased new from an online retailer.

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

What I like about this (and any Fables series) is you can just pick up where you left off and not have any trouble getting back into the story.  I can't believe I put this book off for a year, I did pre-order it!  Anyway as I start to write my review I see this volume has a very low overall general rating.  Without having read other reviews yet, I can't be sure why, but I think people are being overly hard on it.  I actually enjoyed this volume and had a fun time with the last of the series.  I've really enjoyed this series for the last few books, ever since Jack Frost appeared on the scene, but it has never been up to the original Fables quality.  Still, I've had fun with it and this volume continued that.  Four stories were on going to wrap up everyone's story arc, all to be culminated at the same place at the same time.  The Page Sisters trying to restore the Great Library and regain immortality, (the sisters are my favourite characters), Jack Frost having decide to retire comes out of retirement for a final quest to slay a dragon. Jack Horner (now the dragon) and Gary wait in there cave for their destiny to arrive. And the rest of the Golden Boughs community, headed by Raven, are sent on a mission to go help Jack (the dragon).  Oh wait, there's one more story: Wicked John, currently impaled with Excalibur goes nuts and is drawn towards the final battle.  I had a lot of fun seeing all my favourite characters, thought the story was wrapped up nicely, though not how I would have wished!, and we are left with a possibility that someone may show up in the Fables universe again.  Not the greatest volume, but not the worst, and certainly a fun and humorous ending.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

160. Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 416
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jun. 7, 2012
First Published: Apr. 3, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: magical realism, 1890s, Paris, time travel, humor, art
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "On the day he was to be murdered, Vincent van Gogh encountered a Gypsy on the cobbles outside the inn where he'd just eaten lunch."

Publisher's Summary:  A rollicking tale that features special printed map endpapers and more than two dozen masterpieces of art throughout the book, Sacré Bleu is better than a day at the museum!

It is the color of the Virgin Mary's cloak, a dazzling pigment desired by artists, an exquisite hue infused with danger, adventure, and perhaps even the supernatural. It is . . .

Sacré Bleu

In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he? Why would an artist at the height of his creative powers attempt to take his own life . . . and then walk a mile to a doctor's house for help? Who was the crooked little "color man" Vincent had claimed was stalking him across France? And why had the painter recently become deathly afraid of a certain shade of blue?

These are just a few of the questions confronting Vincent's friends—baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec—who vow to discover the truth about van Gogh's untimely death. Their quest will lead them on a surreal odyssey and brothel-crawl deep into the art world of late nineteenth-century Paris.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I read every new book by the author.

Christopher Moore brings us another fun satire this time taking place in 1890's France in the demimonde of the Parisian Impressionist artists.  A good dose of historical fiction is mixed with plenty of the fantastical and paranormal to present a totally new view of the history of art.  As is to be expected with Moore the story is very raunchy and won't suit everyone's sensibilities.  Moore has a habit of poking fun at pretty much everyone making for some humorous reading.  I didn't find Sacre Bleu as laugh out loud funny as some of his older work, but it did have its moments when my chuckles became audible.  Moore inhabits his stories with large casts of eccentric characters and here he has risen to the challenge once again with a large number of real-life characters, painters from the time period, especially Toulouse-Lautrec who is one of the main characters. The lead male role is an unassuming man who is easily lead into this exotic adventure  and the two antagonists are other-worldly and strange. 

The story revolves around a mystery involving the colour blue and it takes the motley crew of characters to gypsum mines, brothels, bakeries, underground passageways and catacombs.  It also takes them through time to Ancient Rome, Britain of the Picts, Prehistoric man and eventually the 21st century.  I had fun reading this.  It's not Moore's best work.  I enjoyed it more than Fool since it wasn't quite so vulgar, though, it is racy!  I already knew a bit about this period, had heard of and was familiar with the artists and their work and I know that added to my enjoyment of the book.  I'm not sure how it would go over with someone totally unfamiliar with this topic or time period.  A fun read, what one expects from a Christopher Moore book and one sure to please fans but personally, I'm still waiting for one to match the excellence of A Dirty Job.

Friday, June 22, 2012

159. Pirates vs Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum by Nikalas Catlow

Pirates vs Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum by Nikalas Catlow, Tim Wesson & You (US) - (Canada)
Mega Mash-Up, #4

Pages: 96
Ages: 7+
Finished: Jun. 1, 2012
First Published: Apr. 24, 2012
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Genre: humour, art, doodling, drawing
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "At 30 Plank Street, a band of bloodthirsty Pirates is getting worried."

Publisher's Summary: Who will steal the priceless Golden Howler Monkey from the museum: the bloodthirsty pirates or the crazy Ancient Egyptians? These hilarious books take great subjects for boys and combine them in very short, wacky stories with bold illustrations that are incredibly easy and quick to read. Best of all, there's plenty of space left on each page, together with suggestions for how to fill it, so that kids can add their own drawings. These are chapter books - but they're doodle books as well!                                                       

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: My son enjoys doodle books.

There are a number of different doodle books out there these days.  Most have partly started pictures with suggestions for you on how to finish the drawing.  The Mega Mash-Up series is unique in that it presents a humorous fun adventure story in an easy to read format and incorporates the doodling aspect into the illustration.  This simple silly story is about a group of pirates and a group of ancient Egyptians who both for various reasons have gone poor.  They both come up with the idea of stealing the Golden Howler Monkey statue from a local museum which is about to be demolished so that they may become rich.  Along the way the pages have been half illustrated and it is up to the reader to finish the illustrations.

The drawing assignments include finishing an already started picture, drawing your own pictures and adding texture to certain already drawn items.  There are instructions on what to draw and they range from quite specific to generally broad.  Such as draw a parrot on the ledge to who is peeking out of this window.  There is also a little bit of writing involved with empty signs for you to label and speech balloon with ideas of what sort of thing to fill in, most often sound effects.  A fun book aimed at boys that anyone with an interest in drawing will have a load of fun with.

Mid-Year Musings on This Years Goals

Now that the year is half-over I thought I'd go back for a looksy at the goals I set up for myself at the beginning of the year.  I've kept these vaguely in my mind but have not bothered to re-examine the list, keeping goal #8 (Go With the Flow) every present in my mind.  However, let's get serious for a minute and see how I'm doing.  First of all I started off by making this statement

This is not a goal but a pledge:
I will not start any new series this year, unless it is a 2012 release by an author I keep up to date with.

Surprisingly, I have done well with this.  The only new series I've started are virtually all graphic novels or manga and I didn't really have those in mind when I wrote the above statement.  I had intended to allow them, anyway.  The only series I started was Cinder by Marrisa Meyers and that was by accident because I didn't know it was the first in a series when I requested it, but since it's been one of my favourite books this year this is perfectly more than acceptable.  And has not been as hard as I thought it would be, I just have to skip over books that say book 1 very quickly without stopping to read the synopsis, no matter what.

Goal #1 was to finish Kenneth Oppel's backlist, which I have failed miserably at.  I have not even read his latest book and he has a new one coming out soon.  This really is deplorable, because I love the author and I don't have that many books left to read by him, with most of the backlist being picture books and an easy reader!  I think I'll remedy this right now by going to the library website and requesting all his picture books they carry (4 books put on reserve).  This will also help me complete the Picture Book Challenge and get me on track to finishing Oppel.

Goal #2 was to finish off series I've already started, and to work on First Second's backlist.  Finished series are: MAOH: Juvenile Remix; Good vs. Evil by Stone Arch Press, Rick Geary's 21st Century (My library has the last one on order and I'm first in line for it) and I'm up-to-date with the Fables series, just waiting for the pre-ordered books to be published and arrive. I have not had a chance to read any of 1st2nd backlist it's just enough to keep up with the arcs I'm reading.

Goal #3 was to continue my Reading Around the World project and to finish the two Canadian provinces I have left.  I've made a bit of progress on States and Countries but still have not read the two provinces, even though I have one book right here on my table.  I'm going to make it my next read aloud to my son, since he likes the author, and that will take care of this goal.

Goal #4 concerned my Stephen King project and I am half-way to completing it.  I started the year off with The Dead Zone and I've been thinking recently about when I should start reading Firestarter and I'm thinking I will read it for RIP in October, if I don't get to it earlier.

Goal #5 so far is continuing to be the flop that it is every year!  Concerning my Newbery Challenge, I have read this years winner but not a single other backlist title.  I have The Wheel on the School in my read aloud pile.  I love this book, so let's see if I can get to it this year.

Goal #6 was to work on my personal Random Reading Bookshelf Challenge and make some progress.  So far I've read 3 more books and given away 1 of those.

This is Goal #7:

"7) I started two non-fiction chunksters in 2011: "Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul by Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska" and "Catechism of the Catholic Church". Quite heavy reading in these tomes, though I'll say Saint Faustina's diary is easy going, though spiritually exhausting. The Catechism is something I expect to be reading my whole life, just like the Bible, so I'm in no hurry for this once through from beginning to end, but would like to make some decent headway this year. I am currently on page 61/756. I would like to set the "Diary" as my chunkster of the year to finish and will read at least a few pages each evening so that I can complete it by the end of 2012. It has 692 pages of small print."

Not much progress, Divine Mercy is a slow read.  A book one picks up every now and then when they have peace and quiet and gets lost in for an hour or so.  I will not finish it this year.  I have not read any more of the Catechism but now that I realise I won't finish St. Faustina I think I may work on alternating the books and take a couple of years reading them.

Goal #8!  The best goal just got better!
8) And finally! This year I'm going to try and go with the flow. This is what is missing in my reading. If a book makes me want to read something else I will go down that rabbit trail and not let any of the above "goals" get in my way. Sometimes one book leads to another, leads to another, leads to another (whether they be by the same author, about the same topic, mentioned in the book, whatever) and it is fun to let yourself get carried down these trails and I've been writing the books down as tbr but not getting to them lately. So goal number 8 is to throw caution to the wind and give myself permission to chill and ignore the previous 7 goals if I 'wanna'! So there!

I've been following this goal with glee.  I've been and continue to read the works of Daniel Woodrell, have said yes to some author/publicist/book tour arc requests just because the topics tickled me, have read some graphic novels out of the blue because they were recommended or just caught my eye and am reading the "Boxcar Children" series for fun.  Another thing I plan to do because of this goal is to set July aside for ebook reading.  I'm going to ignore all the arcs and my own shelves for 31 days and read nothing but books from my ereader.  We travel a bit in July and it will be so much better carry my Kindle around with me than a stack of books.

Not exactly following my goals , but not doing too shabby either!

Happy Blogoversary to Me!

I've never celebrated on my blog, but I just realized today, that Back to Books turned 5 YEARS OLD YESTERDAY! Now I've been blogging since blogging began and have various abandoned blogs, but this is the longest I've ever stayed dedicated to one blog and there is no sign of me stopping!  So a little round of applause and with a little humilty I pat myself on the back.

My Favourite Anniversary Song!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

158. The Griff by Christopher Moore

The Griff by Christopher Moore & Ian Corson. Illustrated by Jennyson Rosero (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 160
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jun. 1, 2012
First Published: Jul. 19, 2011
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction
Rating: 2/5

First sentence: "That's got it, Skipper."

Publisher's Summary:
The mayhem begins when an ancient alien beacon is unwittingly activated, summoning behemoth spaceships from the far reaches of the galaxy. Hovering in Earth’s atmosphere, they release a biblical stream of pods that transform into minivan-size, people-eating, flying lizardy things that look like mythological griffins. Destroying communications, emergency, and military infrastructure, they systematically kill everyone on the planet. Well, almost everyone.

A pesky trio of New Yorkers isn’t about to roll out the red carpet—or roll over and die—for these unwelcome intergalactic marauders. Unlikely heroes Mo, a snarky, Gothy game-goddess; Steve, a skateboard-punk schwag whore; and Curt, the obligatory buff commando expert in weaponry (and a genius with cosmetics), are going to take it to the aliens—and Florida is where the fight is. Armed with M-16s, a BFG (big f**king gun), and a surplus of guts, they’ll battle their way from the Big Apple to Orlando, where a downed spacecraft is the most awesome new attraction.

And in the Sunshine State another pair of courageous (and pretty damn lucky) humans who have outwitted the toothy überlizards await: Liz, a babelicious killer whale trainer at Ocean World, and Oscar, a chain-smoking middle-aged professional squirrel (seriously—he’s paid to wear that squirrel costume).

Once united, the intrepid warriors will attempt to infiltrate the alien spacecraft, defeat the spacer invaders, and save (what’s left) of the world—and, if Steve plays his cards right, begin the fun of repopulating Earth all over again.

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online retailer

Reason for Reading: I read every new book by the author and was quite excited about his first foray into the graphic novel.

The publisher's description of this book pretty much tells the whole story and makes it sound a lot more fun than it really is.  Moore is well-known for his eccentric characters and I just didn't have any fun with those in this graphic novel.  I found the story quite predictable, the usual run-of-the-mill, alien invasion story.  There weren't any surprises and it just fell really flat for me.  Moore is a writer and he just didn't get to use his craft with this medium.  Yeah, there are a few moments when his witty, wry sense of humour show up in a text bubble here and there but otherwise the story was hard to keep track of since there wasn't much of it and it jumped back and forth between characters that just didn't make the cut for me.  A big disappointment.  Moore had better stick to his natural medium, the novel, and perhaps let his already successfully published novels be adapted into graphic novels instead.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

157. Puppet by Eva Wiseman

Puppet by Eva Wiseman (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 243
Ages: 11+
Finished: Jun. 1, 2012
First Published: Apr. 2009 (Ppbk: Mar. 13, 2012)
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, YA, historical fiction, Jewish history, Canadian author
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Leslie the Brave grasped the handle of the frying pan and held it high in the air, ready to smite the black-hearted Devil cowering at his feet."

Publisher's Summary:

The year is 1882. A young servant girl named Esther disappears from a small Hungarian village. Several Jewish men from the village of Tisza Eszvar face the ‘blood libel’ — the centuries-old calumny that Jews murder Christian children for their blood. A fourteen-year-old Jewish boy named Morris Scharf becomes the star witness of corrupt authorities who coerce him into testifying against his fellow Jews, including his own father, at the trial.

This powerful fictionalized account of one of the last blood libel trial in Europe is told through the eyes of Julie, a friend of the murdered Esther, and a servant at the jail where Morris is imprisoned. Julie is no stranger to suffering herself. An abused child, when her mother dies her alcoholic father separates her from her beloved baby sister. Julie and Morris, bound by the tragedy of the times, become unlikely allies. Although Puppet is a novel, it is based upon a real court case that took place in Hungary in 1883. In Hungary today, the name Morris Scharf has become synonymous with “traitor.”

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading:  Many reasons: this is set within my preferred historical era, I enjoy Jewish history, I enjoy 19th century court/trial cases and finally I've read and enjoyed this author before.

Throughout time immemorial until the not so distant past, parents have kept children under control with stories of monsters, evils or persons who enjoy kidnapping and eating children.  When I was young the remnant of this survived in the story of the "Bogeyman".  This is a sad and horrific story where that fabled evil turned onto a real group of people in a small town in Hungary when a scapegoat was wanted and the villagers turned with a vengeance a mass racism towards the Jews to explain the disappearance of a local Christian girl.

A riveting, spellbinding story based on a true case.  One can hardly believe that such mass hysteria can turn once seemingly placid people into violent racists.  The author has extensively made use of the actual trial records giving authenticity to the dialogue found within the book.  While no one is innocent of bigotry in this story, we see how an initially small group of instigators easily rile up the masses and the methods they use to fuel the fire until it reaches epic proportions and everyone is beyond seeing reason.  Examining this type of case can help one see how modern atrocities reach the frenzy they sometimes do. 

A brilliant story, with a fantastic main character in the fictional Julie who though she sometimes has doubts, does see beyond the facade and triumphs even against great harm to herself.  A page-turning book, as one keeps muttering to oneself how people could actually behave in this deplorable way (and still do) and yet the rays of hope shine through in Julie and a few other characters.  A unique look at historical Jewish persecution, that is not about the Holocaust.  Recommended.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

156. Hey Canada! by Vivien Bowers

Hey Canada! by Vivien Bowers. Illustrations by Milan Pavlovic (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 68
Ages: 7+
Finished: May 30, 2012
First Published: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, nonfiction, geography, Canada
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "I'm Alice, nine years old, reporting from the backseat of the car."

Publisher's Summary:
Gran has decided that she is taking nine-year-old Alice and eight-year-old Cal on a road trip across Canada “before she’s old and creaky.” With a sparkling combination of poems, silly songs, tweets and blogs, the trio records the trip for readers everywhere to share. Starting in St. John’s Newfoundland, where they have a “find-it” list that includes a moose and an iceberg and going all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the gang in Hey Canada! offers a delightful way to learn about vast, varied, and surprising Canada.

The book combines narrative, poems, photos, comics about historical events such as the battle at Fortress Louisburg, maps (including provincial flags, birds, and flowers), in a lively, easily accessible format. Not only great fun to read, this is a valuable resource for young Canadians and for visitors across the country.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading: Always on the lookout for good books about Canadian geography.  There are plenty around these days, but not many I'd label much better than just OK.  This book's format and artwork attracted me.

I've read several children's Canadian geography books and while they get the job done,  dull is usually the optimum word.  Either that, or they become pages of factoids with no narrative to carry the book.  Bowers' "Hey Canada!" manages to avoid these pitfalls and brings to elementary children and interesting, entertaining and educational tour of our country province by province.  Divided into chapters which each are devoted to a province or territory, the story is told in a narrative from the girl, Alice's point of view.  She is purportedly recording all this on a blog of their adventure.  Her cousin Cal, who is younger than her, but also the brainy one, will come up with interesting factoids to Tweet as he is the official Twitter poster of the group.  In this way the journey across each province is told in a fictional story of the family, with humour, Gran is a fun young grandmother and they've got their pet hamster traveling with them by supposed accident. 

As the story is told the facts are presented about each province and area concentrating on all things a tourist would like to know about: the wildlife, the land, the history, the peoples, the customs and specifics unusual to each area.  Some provinces are given more page space than others; of course Ontario has the most pages devoted to it and Saskatchewan is lucky to get three but I think a fair shake has been given to all the p's and t's outside of over-represented Ontario and Quebec.  Plenty of interesting, positive information has been given leaving the reader with a sense of wanting to really visit these places.  While the main characters are 8 and 9, I think the book will hold the interest across the elementary grades of 1-6, certainly as an introduction to Canada as a whole and the provinces/territories singularly.  I'd recommend this as a quick brush through the topic or as a starting point, using other books to branch out into deeper study.  The most entertaining Canadian geography book out there at the moment, that I've seen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

155. Vermonia 6: To the Pillar of Wind by Yoyo

To the Pillar of Wind by Yoyo (US) - (Canada)
Vermonia, Vol. 6

Pages: 207
Ages: 8+
Finished: May 27, 2012
First Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, manga, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Jim's been hit!"

Publisher's Summary:
In part six of the Vermonia series, the Blue Star Warriors must find a way to infiltrate Uro's most fiercely guarded headquarters as they fight to save the Pillar of Wind from destruction. They must use all of their resources, including the warship Vleste, now powered by the magical crystal they found in the Lake of Wishes. As Doug is captured by a band of Uro's soldiers, Naomi and Fly are inadvertently transported back to the planet of Blue Star- revealing the mysterious pathways connecting the galaxies while exposing some of Uro's weaknesses. 

The future of Turtle Realm hangs in the balance as the epic manga series charges forward.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This volume really picked up for me.  I found I had a bit of trouble with the last two getting back into the story, but with this volume I quickly got up to par as I was thrown head first into the middle of the excitement.  The fight for the Pillar of Wind is on in this volume and all the tribes join together, so we have pretty much all characters we've met at this point popping in and out, some very briefly, others stay around longer.  The hunt is also on to find Mel and Satorin and the teen warriors are determined to find them before the ultimate battle with Uro.  So, in a nutshell, this volume has a lot of travelling to various places in their quests and is heavy on the action as they battle Uro's force of evil along the way.  The book also starts with the finishing up of the second half of Jim's memory dive into the history of how Uro became so evil in the first place.  An overall exciting and refreshing volume.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mini Movie Review: Shutter Island

Not watching many movies this year but dh and I did watch one last year.  So here's my unrated, mini-review (aka rambling thoughts)

Shutter Island - (2010) - (Netflix)

Hubby and I watched this while having a quiet night at home. I've never read the book, nor have I read any Dennis LeHane books at all. We enjoyed it, lots of twists and suspenseful. Neither of us are huge Leonardo DiCaprio fans, but he was good in this movie. Dh found it a bit too long, would have liked something just under the 2 hours. That doesn't bother me but I was expecting a final twist. I'd already assumed the ending would be the way it did end and couldn't believe there wasn't one more twist thrown in to stun the audience, otherwise it was a fairly typical plot which has been done before. Good, not great. However, I think this may have made a better book than movie and it has inspired me to finally getting around to read a Dennis LeHane in the near future. 

Any suggestions with which book I should start with?

154. Man Overboard! by Curtis Parkinson

Man Overboard! by Curtis Parkinson (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 152
Ages: 10-12
YA Appeal: reluctant male readers
Finished: May 27, 2012
First Published: Mar. 13, 2012
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: YA, children, historical fiction WWII, homefront, spies, seafaring
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "At a blast from the ship's horn, the lines were cast off."

Publisher's Summary:
During World War II, a German agent landed in Canada from a U-boat. Curtis Parkinson has used this true historical event to tell a fast-paced, exciting story. Sixteen-year-old Scott and his friend Adam find summer jobs as deckhands on the Rapids Prince, a ship that plies the waters between the town of Prescott, on the St. Lawrence River, and Montreal. Scott overhears convincing information that a German agent is actually on board the boat. He has a good reason for not telling anybody, but his silence eventually leads him into more trouble than he can imagine, including a possible murder and a kidnapping. It is up to the boys to expose the agent in order to save the Rapids Prince and the innocent passengers on board.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading:  Sounded like a book my seafaring adventure loving son would enjoy.  Plus I had not heard of this Canadian author before and yet he has written a handful of books!

A very satisfying book!  This book is mostly going to be enjoyed by a specific audience.  Boys from the ages of 10 to 12.  However the main characters are around sixteen, with girlfriends, thus it will also appeal to reluctant teen readers.  The plot is an action-packed adventure without too much time for character development but enough to get a sense of where these teens come from, what type of families, the kind of upbringing they've had and their character.  No time is wasted with introductory passages.  The reader is set right into the story as Scott overhears information about a German spy aboard the ship upon which he works.  What ensues is typical action/adventure as he and his friend Adam get involved.  Sneaking around at night, getting kidnapped, blindfolded, lives threatened, hearing plans of a bombing and a daring escape to save not only their ship but the future of the war effort at home.  A patriotic story with some fascinating WWII history for teens who may not have learned just how close the Germans came to Canada during the war.  It is a matter of record that German U-boats landed German spies on Canadian soil on at least three separate occasions.  I'm saving this one for a bedtime read for ds; it will be right up his alley and have him on the edge of his seat.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

153. Captured By Pirates! by Agnieszka Biskup

Captured By Pirates! An Isabel Soto History Adventure by Agnieszka Biskup. Illustrated by Roger Stewart (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Library

Pages: 32
Ages: 8+
Finished: May 26, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Capstone Press
Genre: children, graphic novel, non-fiction, history
Rating:  4/5

First sentence: "What a great assignment!"

Publisher's Summary: "In graphic novel format, follows the adventures of Isabel Soto as she learns about pirate life during the Golden Age of Piracy."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading: I've enjoyed other books in this series.
Great introduction to the world of pirates and privateers in the 1700s.  Isabel's time travel is more believable than in the Egypt book I just read, as her popping up does startle the natives, so to speak.  Isabel is aboard a British merchant ship when it is attacked by pirates, then she and the ship's doctor are kidnapped and taken aboard the pirate ship.  Explains the life of a pirate, how the sailors became pirates in the first place, the difference between pirates and privateers and the fact that pirates still exist today.  Interesting and exciting.

Friday, June 15, 2012

152. Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Two by Tom Sniegoski

Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Two by Tom Sniegoski. Illustrated by Jeff Smith.  (US) - (Canada)
Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Two

Pages: 234
Ages: 8+
Finished: May 26, 2012
First Published: Feb. 1, 2012
Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Tom Elm had always known the Valley was big, but now, as he gazed out over the side of the Queen of the Sky, it seemed to stretch forever."

Publisher's Summary: "The Nacht, the evil dragon that threatens to destroy both the Dreaming and the Waking Worlds, is growing stronger, and twelve-year-old Tom Elm is the champion the Dreaming has chosen to defeat it. Along with Roderick the raccoon, Percival Bone and his nephew and niece, Randolf, Lorimar, and the two stupid Rat Creatures, Tom must race to find the missing pieces of the Spark. This leg of the journey introduces him to a trio of scheming bears and takes him into the depths of a dangerous beehive. And, on top of everything else, a traitor might be among them... "

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

An enjoyable follow-up to the first book in this series.  The main plot centres around our group of heroes as they continue on their journey and quest to find the second piece of the Spark.  Everyone from Book One appears in this volume, both good and evil characters, with the inclusion of a few more characters joining them in the quest, possibly temporarily for this book only.  I enjoyed the new characters and continue to love all the regulars in this series.  The plot was fun, exciting and full of dangers.  Characters are developing especially the leader Tom, and the warrior priest from the Veni Yan, Randolph.  I enjoy character driven books, and while this is more plot-driven, the characters personalities and motives are also quite important to the plot.

My only complaint is that there is not much, if any, lead-in to this book to refresh your memory of 2011's book one; so it did take me a few chapters to get into the story and start remembering who was who and what was what.  Also, I'm pretty sure I said this in my review of book one but there are not nearly enough illustrations by Jeff Smith.  One per chapter on the most part.  More illustrations would be gladly welcomed by Jeff Smith.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

151. Egypt's Mysterious Pyramids by Agnieszka Biskup

Egypt's Mysterious Pyramids: An Isabel Soto Archaeology Adventure by Agnieszka Biskup. Illustrated by Roger Stewart (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Library

Pages: 32
Ages: 8+
Finished: May 25, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Capstone Press
Genre: children, graphic novel, non-fiction, ancient history
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence: "The Lighthouse at Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World."

Publisher's Summary: "In graphic novel format, follows the adventures of Isabel Soto as she discovers the secrets about Egypt’s great pyramids."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading:  I've enjoyed other books in this series.

An introductory book on the history and building of the Great Pyramids of Giza.  A story approach is taken as Isabel travels back in time and gets first hand information from on-the-spot witnesses.  She travels back in time to the building of each of the three pyramids and we learn the history of each while learning how the building progressed from the step pyramid to the smooth-sided pyramid.  I did find it a bit unbelievable as Isabel popped up in her jeans and jacket and "interviewed" the Ancient Egyptians without them batting an eyelash at this strange modern woman.  However, the Isabel Soto books are fun.  Bringing a positive role model and career choice (minus the time travel :-) along with basic information.  While these books are usually deservedly recommended for a wide age range, this particular one is too general to be of much use beyond the Grade 3/4 level.  This book is more of a starting point to see if the subject matter is of interest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

150. Eyewitness Books: Mummy

Mummy by James Putnam. Photographed by Peter Hayman. (Canada) - (US)
Eyewitness Books

Pages: 63
Ages: 10+
Finished: May 23, 2012
First Published: 1993
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley/Alfred A. Knopf
Genre: children, nonfiction, ancient history, ancient Egypt
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Mummies are the preserved bodies of people or animals."

Publisher's Summary: "Photographed in full color. Unwrap hair-raising facts about natural and man-made mummies! Here is a look at how bodies were prepared, why ancient cultures made mummies, and how bog and ice mummies were preserved by freak climatic conditions."

Acquired: Purchased new a very long time ago.  Don't remember where.

Reason for Reading:  Ds has been studying Egypt for his homeschool history topic.

Really what can be said about an Eyewitness Book; I feel redundant just trying to review it.  If you are a parent then you already know about these awesome visual books profusely illustrated with museum and archival photographs along with an informative yet short text per two-page spread that is carried along with image subtexts.  This book in particular is an older edition and has been reprinted.  I have not seen the new edition but it has about 10 more pages and does include a clip-art CD (something we would not make much use of).  I do know these books now include Internet links but other than that I can not tell you the difference between the editions.  I'll pass on describing an Eyewitness Book as everyone already knows they are excellent, some a bit more than others.  This being in the top-end with a perfect five star rating for me.  The visuals are extremely fascinating, though parents should be forewarned that many are graphic in nature since there are images of mummified humans in various degrees of preservation, including children and babies.  My son was squeamish at first but got used to the mummies after a bit and became quite fascinated with them.  There were a couple we had to cover up because they were just too freaky for him.

The progression of this book is nicely laid out.  First it starts with natural mummies, those made by design, then those made by accident.  Then it moves on for the majority of the book onto Ancient Egypt and the various topics of mummies are covered extensively. Finally, the book ends with South American mummies, the Iceman, bog mummies, the mummies in the catacomb of Sicily and a final oddity of "other" mummies.  Highly engaging book.  Suitable also for teens and adult.  Would make the perfect coffee table book.  But be warned, this particular book is not for the squeamish.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

149. Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

Catch Me by Lisa Gardner (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
Detective D.D. Warren, Book #6

Pages: 40
Ages: 18+
Finished: Mar. 22, 2012
First Published: Feb. 7, 2012
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense, police procedural
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "My name is Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant."

Publisher's Summary: "In four days, someone is going to kill me . . .

Detective D. D. Warren is hard to surprise. But a lone woman outside D.D.'s latest crime scene shocks her with a remarkable proposition: Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant believes she will be murdered in four days. And she wants Boston's top detective to handle the death investigation.

It will be up close and personal. No evidence of forced entry, no sign of struggle.

Charlie tells a chilling story: Each year at 8:00 p.m. on January 21st, a woman has died. The victims have been childhood best friends from a small town in New Hampshire; the motive remains unknown. Now only one friend, Charlie, remains to count down her final hours.

But as D.D. quickly learns, Charlie Grant doesn't plan on going down without a fight. By her own admission, the girl can outshoot, outfight, and outrun anyone in Boston. Which begs the question, is Charlie the next victim, or the perfect perpetrator? As D.D. tracks a vigilante gunman who is killing pedophiles in Boston, she must also delve into the murders of Charlie's friends, racing to find answers before the next gruesome January 21 anniversary. Is Charlie truly in danger, or is she hiding a secret that may turn out to be the biggest threat of all?

In four days, someone is going to kill me. But the son of a bitch has gotta catch me first."

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Tremendous!  I just can't wait reading a new Lisa Gardner, some are better than others but I've never been disappointed!  This latest volume in the DD Warren series does not disappoint.  First off, little time is spent on DD's personal life but we get enough to know the latest details and how she is adjusting to the new changes in her life.  Fed up with the downtime she is quite excited to get back on a case and while working one, another case finds her.  Of course, it's obvious to any serious crime reader that the two cases will somehow be related to each other which indeed they are, with the first leading to a much larger, more intricate case.  The book alternates between the points of view of both D.D. and her team investigating the crimes and the woman who feels that she is the target of a murder.  This woman, Charlie Grant,comes across as determined, full of fight and an equal in personality as to how we're used to finding DD herself.  A great thriller with many twists and turns.  Some interesting people become suspects and knowing who can be trusted is an open question.  I sped read this one to the end and am glad to say I am all caught up with this series now!  Looking forward to a book next year, Ms. Gardner!

Monday, June 11, 2012

148. The Secret Lives of Plants! by Janet Slingerland

The Secret Lives of Plants! by Janet Slingerland. Illustrated by Okasana Kemarskaya (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Library

Pages: 32
Ages: 9+
Finished: May 23, 2012
First Published: Jan. 1, 2012
Publisher: Capstone Press
Genre: children, non-fiction, graphic novel, biology
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "A little acorn has found its way into a prime spot."

Publisher's Summary: "Plants may look innocent, but they’re sneaky, tricky, secretive little buggers. You could watch them all day and they would never move an inch. But hidden from your eyes, their roots, leaves, and blossoms are always working. From photosynthesis to reproduction, get ready to uncover the science of plants and the secrets that they keep."

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Press.

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy and I have always been happy with this publishers books in the past.

From this book and the previous one about asteroids, I'll have to say I am not impressed with the latest offering of science books for the Graphic Library series.  I did really enjoy the illustrations in this book.  They are 90% nature shots and yet still, even with the few illustrations of people, the artwork has a slight manga look to it while also reminding me of illustrated nature books from the '60s and '70s.  Very nice to look at.  The text is quite dry and not told in a very engaging voice.  It is however full of interesting and informational facts.  This book is geared at grades 3-9 and while not a book I'd have at home to read front to end; it would make a good library/classroom book for research purposes on the topic.  This book is much drier than I've found other Graphic Library books but it does succeed in being both a visually pleasant and informational non-fiction book, which is what it sets out to be in the first place.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

147. The Lonely Existence of Asteroids and Comets by Mark Weakland

The Lonely Existence of Asteroids and Comets            

by Mark Weakland. Illustrated by Carlos Aon.

Graphic Library

Rating: None
Capstone Press
On a dark night as you watch the sky with your friends, a rock with a fiery tail shoots across the sky. A comet! Asteroids and comets hurtle through space, sometimes a
 little too close to Earth. But did you know that they are linked to life on this planet? From the asteroid Ceres to Halley’s comet, blast into space and enter the lonely existence of asteroids and comets.

Reading Level: 3-4
Interest Level: 3-9
Lexile Level: 890L
ATOS Level: 5.8
AR Points: 0.5
AR Quiz Number: 148590
Early Intervention Level: 25

ISBN: 9781429679879 / 1-4296-7987-5
Publisher: Capstone Press
Copyright: 2012
Language: English
Page Count: 32
Page Dimensions: 7 x 9
Binding: Paperback

Reading Notes:  I can't give this book a proper review because of my personal bias.  I am an Intelligent Design believing Christian and this book is full of the Big Bang theory and the theory of Evolution.  As a Catholic we are allowed to, and many do, believe in evolution as long as we believe that the Creator breathed the soul of life into man, at some point.  I won't get into my personal beliefs but I just found this book annoying with it's millions of billions of years ago and theories stated as facts.  Only once did they say "some" scientists believe.  And why discuss evolution in a book about asteroids and comets, is beyond me.  The author tries to make his connection but it was weak as far as I was concerned.  The above are my thoughts, not a review.  The book may be a highly valuable source from a Random Design point of view, I wouldn't know or care.

Friday, June 8, 2012

146. Lone Hawk: The Story of Air Ace Billy Bishop by John Lang

Lone Hawk: The Story of Air Ace Billy Bishop by John Lang. Foreword by Jeff Lemire (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 104
Ages: 10+
Finished: May 20, 2012
First Published: Sep. 1, 2011
Publisher: Puffin Canada
Genre: children, graphic novel, biography, WWI, RCAF
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Christmas, 1905. Owen Sound, Ontario. "All right, Worth, settle down now.""

Publisher's Summary: "As a boy, Billy Bishop was a crack shot - he had a sharp eye and great aim. Nearly flunking out of Royal Military College in Kingston, he eagerly signed up for duty when the First World War broke out. Sent first to England, Bishop discovered his true love: the Royal Flying Corps. Up in the air, the fighting may have been "cleaner" - no trenches, no mud, no mustard gas - but it was extremely dangerous and difficult. In fact, most fighter pilots in the First World War would not shoot down even a single plane.

Bishop soon proved himself to be a fighter pilot with an unerring instinct for aerial combat. He practiced relentlessly and would never land his plane before firing off every bullet, diving on targets he'd set up beforehand. The practice paid off. Bishop racked up seventy-two officially confirmed victories and was awarded every major medal, including the Victoria Cross. By the end of the war, he was considered so valuable as a symbol of the war effort that Canadian authorities insisted he be grounded: his loss would have been devastating to all Canadians."

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: When I was looking up `Hyena in Petticoats' I found this book which belongs to the same publisher`s series, though I can find no name for the series or other books.  These two books are obviously matching volumes though.

Before reading this book I knew who Billy Bishop was, but I didn't know anything about him.  I could have given a one sentence description that covered the basics and that was all.  I found this graphic biography to be very entertaining and informational.  Of course, it leaves many details out and concentrates on Bishop's time flying as a fighter pilot in France where he was virtually mad with shooting down the Hun before they got him or his men.  From this biography Billy comes across as patriotic, a natural born "good shot" and having a fierce hatred for the enemy, simply because they were "the enemy".  I didn't find him particularly likable, in fact, his character was quite questionable.  Most WWI books I've read are about the trench warfare and this look at the airforce side of the war was very different.  After reading the book I searched around to find out more about Billy and found this book had skipped entire chunks of his life but had kept to a fairly specific theme in Bishop's life: his daring fighting victories and his numerous medals won.  I could find nothing referring to his personality or character but his lifestyle certainly reflects the type of man depicted here.  A very well-done graphic novel about an interesting man whom I wouldn't mind reading more about.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

145. Hyena in Petticoats by Willow Dawson

Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung: A Graphic Novel by Willow Dawson (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 94
Ages: 12+
Finished: May 19, 2012
First Published: Nov. 1, 2011
Publisher: Puffin Canada
Genre: Graphic novel, YA, biography, suffrage
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Summer 1883.  Frankie's the same age as you and he can read."

Publisher's Summary: "Nellie McClung made an indelible mark on Canada. She was the author of eighteen books, a political activist and social reformer. In every role she played, she demonstrated unfailing courage, wit and resourcefulness, and helped make a better world for women and girls.
In the first frames of this brilliant graphic biography, Willow Dawson plunges readers into the rugged world of Canada's western pioneers, taking us into the early life of McClung as the child of homesteaders, and follows her on her path to becoming a teacher, a crusader, a suffragette and eventually the first female Member of Parliament."

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading:  Author Monica Kulling recommended this on her FB page and I'm always up for more Canadian biographical/historical graphics.

A well-written and engaging story concentrating on Nellie McClung, the crusader, the suffragette and fighter for women's rights.  It tells her story from childhood on through until her death.  This is not her entire story nor a full biography but one that focuses on the woman who is hailed as a hero of feminism and women's rights.  The book does this job well and presents an interesting story, making Nellie out to be a hero for women today.  Some important aspects of her life and beliefs are left out though, because they are not of the type political correctness wants us to remember about this woman.  First her Christian (Baptist) beliefs were very strong and the guiding force behind her activism.  This is mentioned in the afterword but not a part of the biography at all. 

Also Ms. McClung was a strong supporter of eugenics.  This again was never mentioned in the biography and is only mentioned in a non-judgemental sentence in the afterword.  Unfortunately, this vile practice (Eugenics) was well supported at this time in history, was imposed by law in Alberta until the 1970s, was the major part of Hitler's plan for a "master race" and again is a favoured ideology through the abortion of Down's Syndrome Children and African/Third World children. 

Having read Dawson's other graphic novel, I am still not a fan of her facial drawings but they are more suited to this period piece than to the contemporary Lila and Ecco ....  Here they fit in with an overall Art Deco feeling.  Overall an enjoyable bio, for what it is trying to do but I would prefer a more balanced approach with the whole true story, without it trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

28. Crogan's Loyalty by Chris Schweizer

Crogan's Loyalty by Chris Schweizer (US) - (Canada
The Crogan Adventures, #3

Pages: 170
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jan. 26, 2012
First Published: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Oni Press
Genre: children, YA, graphic novel, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "You shouldn't have invited him without talking to me first."

Acquired: Received an egalley from Oni Press through NetGalley.

Publisher's Summary: "The fan-favorite graphic novel series from Eisner-nominated cartoonist Chris Schweizer returns with an all-new adventure! Charles and William Crogan are two brothers with very different perspectives on family, country, and loyalty. Now they find themselves on opposite sides of the brewing conflict between colonial separatists and those still determined to serve the British Crown. Will their brotherhood be washed away in the bloodshed of the War or will their own ties endure?"

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

I love this series!  The third book continues on in the manner we have come to expect.  Wonderful, touching story, insightful and thought provoking with plenty of action and some humour as well.  The black & white illustrations fit the story nicely and I enjoy the artwork.  The books follow no common storyline so reading order is really of no importance and they skip around through time.  As usual the book opens with the modern day Crogan family having a little incident and the father finding time to tell his two sons about a male Crogan ancestor to illustrate a point similar to the conflict going on with the boys' lives today.  This is a story of brothers disagreeing, but how it all boils down in the end to the old saying that "blood is thicker than water."

This being a story of the American Revolution, I was prepared for the Loyalist brother to be the bad guy along with the British army, but was pleasantly surprised to find that both sides of the story were told here without bias.  Why each brother chose the side they did was explored and neither one was shown as "wrong" in any sense, nor were the British portrayed as "bad guys".  The book focused mostly on the brothers and portrayed the other soldiers/officers as people with good and bad characteristics, reminding us that all soldiers in war are underneath the uniform, just ordinary folks whichever "side" they are on.  The only fault I would mention is that this volume did not have as much derring-do as the previous two volumes, there was some, but not quite on par with the first ones.  Otherwise, a great, and unique, presentation on the beginnings of the Revolutionary War and mightily enjoyed by this Canadian who just happens to live in the heart Loyalist Country.