Friday, August 31, 2012

222. Graphic Classics: Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson edited by Tom Pomplun (Canada) - (US)
Graphic Classics, Volume 9

Pages: 144
Ages: 12+
Finished: Aug. 12, 2012
First Published: May 15, 2012
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: graphic novel, short stories, poetry, YA
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "This is a handy cave and a pleasant sittyated grog-shop."

Publisher's Summary:  "Horror, Mystery, Fantasy & Verse from
Scotland's Greatest Storyteller

• Treasure Island -
Stevenson’s all-time adventure classic, adapted by
Alex Burrows and Scott Lincoln

• The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde -
a unique two-part adaptation illustrated by
Simon Gane and Michael Slack

• The Bottle Imp -
a contemporary visual interpretation by Lance Tooks

• Plus Verses and Fables -
a collection of poetry and short fiction illustrated by
Maxon Crumb, Joe Ollmann, Cynthia Martin, 
Hunt Emerson, Lisa K. Weber, Shary Flenniken,
Johnny Ryan, Neale Blanden, Roger Langridge, 
Rico Schacherl, Peter Gullerud and Tom Neely

• With a comics biography of Robert Louis Stevenson
by Mort Castle and Chad Carpenter,
cover by Scott Lincoln, and additional illustrations by
Anton Emdin and George Sellas"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Eureka Productions.

Reason for Reading: Latest release in the series.

Volume 9 in the series gets a small revamp as it goes into its Second Edition.  I have not read or seen the first edition so cannot compare the two but I do know that a selection of stories called Tales of Treasure Island has been replaced with an actual adaptation of the novel Treasure Island.  In the mere 52 pages used to convey this classic tale much has been whittled down and just the bare bones of the original remain, but to be fair a good job has been done with this limited space and the adapter, Alex Burrows, has decided to focus squarely on Jim Hawkins.  The Fable and Verse section is tremendous fun.  Here we encounter all manner of genres that Stevenson dabbled in from children's poetry to alien science fiction.  The short stories in here are wonderful and have been greatly adapted, many of them are not well-known.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has also been given an excellent treatment.  Divided into two parts with two separate artists, the first part is done in graphic format and tells our tale as we know it; the second part is a reproduction of the text from R.L. Stevenson's own pen as he writes Jekyll's letter of confession.  This text is then highly illustrated.  A unique way to present this story graphically and extremely satisfying.  The Bottle Imp is also satisfying even though it renders the story in art, though not text, as set during modern times.  Finally, I must say, I heartily enjoyed the mini- biography of R.L. Stevenson's life.  I have read a lot by this author but have never actually read about him, so it was all new information to me and highly entertaining.  This type of piece would be welcome in other volumes in this series that focus on one particular. author.  Usually with these books, I find the collection of art styles please me for the most part but usually find a few "not my thing".  However, I found this volume entirely visually pleasing and I certainly enjoyed the black and white art which suits this author and his genres of horror, mystery, and the Victorian era very well.  A must have in the collection.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

221. Victory: Resistance Book 3 by Carla Jablonski

Victory by Carla Jablonski. Illustrated by Leland Purvis (US) - (Canada)
Resistance Trilogy, Book 3

Pages: 124
Ages: 13+
Finished: Aug. 11, 2012
First Published: Jul. 17, 2012
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: graphic novel, YA, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "June 6, 1944. The Allies land in Normandy in Northern France."

Publisher's Summary:  "The final installment in Carla Jablonski’s Sydney Taylor Honor-winning Resistance trilogy.
World War II thunders to a conclusion in this third and final installment of Jablonski and Purvis’ critically-acclaimed historical trilogy. As the Allied Forces move to retake France from its Nazi invaders, siblings Sophie, Paul, and Marie Tessier must risk their lives once more and journey into the belly of the beast: Paris. They are on a mission to deliver top-secret intel for the Resistance movement . . . they are its youngest agents."

Acquired:  Received a review copy from First Second Books.

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

This is the final installment in this stellar trilogy about the resistance movement in occupied France.  This third book brings us up to the last days of occupation and the final liberation of France.  Tensions run high in the Tessier household as we see many different ways in which people did their part to survive and resist.  The entire household is vocally fed-up with the aunt's collusion with the Germans. Sophie is torn between her feelings for her German "boyfriend" as a person while she uses him to gather information. Paul is frustrated with his inaction and becomes more actively involved in the Resistance with drastic life and death results.  The mother is becoming friendlier with the Germans to obtain sources for her family's survival and faces accusations from her children.  Marie, the youngest, feels helpless, until an injured Allied airmen falls onto their property and she finally feels fulfilled with her part in the war effort.  Everything comes to a grand climax as Paul goes to Paris to deliver an important message from DeGaulle and meets someone from the past.  Excellent volume, reads nicely as a standalone as well.  Both starts and finishes with short essays on factual events to place the story in history.  Fantastic ending to this trilogy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

219. Creepy Presents Richard Corben

Creepy Presents Richard Corben by Richard Corben and others. Introduction by Jose Villarrubia (US) - (Canada)
Creepy Presents Archive, Richard Corben

Pages: 320
Ages: 16+
Finished: Aug. 10, 2012
First Published: Jul. 24, 2012
Publisher: Dark Horse
Genre: Graphic Novel, Horror
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "The castle overlooks a mountain pass."

Publisher's Summary:  "Over 300 pages of timeless terror from a master storyteller! Horror comics visionary and coloring pioneer Richard Corben has been a voice of creativity and change for over four decades. For the first time ever, Corben’s legendary Creepy and Eerie short stories and cover illustrations are being collected into one deluxe hardcover! With an informative foreword by artist and comic book colorist José Villarrubia—who also provides color restoration—this volume features Richard Corben’s original stories, Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, and collaborations with cast of comic-book writers.

* Essential stories and illustrations from Richard Corben!

* The first collection of all of Corben’s legendary Creepy and Eerie stories!"

Acquired:  Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

Reason for Reading:  I used to love these horror story comic collections when I was a young teen and I believe I may have read some of this title's single issues but I am sketchy on which comics I did actually read, except of course "Tales from the Crypt", that I distinctly remember.

A fabulous collection of short horror stories from both Creepy and Eerie comic magazines.  The stories were originally published through the years 1970-1982.  They are both in black/white and in full colour, probably a fair representation of both are included.  I must profess a preference for the black/white stories as the use of shadowing is much more terrifying, or at least creepy, to me than the bright redness of blood and gore when colour comes into play.  Other reviewers talk about reading these original comics when they were 8,9,12 and while I see no problem with that as there are certain children who love to have the pants scared off them.  My age recommendation is older because I am concerned about the hugely buxom women and eventually totally frontally naked women with a strategically placed object in the groin area.  The violence is quite violent also and the stories pretty freaky.  That said, they are a whole barrel of fun for the appropriate age group.  I undoubtedly had a lot of fun with these eerie, creepy stories that compare to "Tales of the Crypt" or "Twilight Zone", if you've never read this kind of thing before.  Richard Corben's art is delicious and he certainly deserves a collection of his own.  It's a pleasure to read all these stories (some of which he did write) and find the same consistent quality artwork throughout.  As to the quality of the stories, they vary.  There are three well done retelling of Poe stories, near the end we have a couple of episodic stories which carry over for about three parts each and these were very good.  There are stories about monsters, werewolves, madmen, serial killers, ghosts and plain old weirdos.  I'll admit there were 2, I think, that I didn't "get", a couple that made me chuckle, and quite a few that made me think "sweet" at their unsettling endings.  I don't particularly have a reason why but I did find myself enjoying the last half of the book containing the stories from the "Eerie" magazine better than the "Creepy" issues for some reason.  A whole lot of fun and this volume is a good price, especially compared to the hefty price of the Creepy Presents Archive volumes.  I'd love to collect these but price is definitely  a factor for me and will drive me to the library, unless they come out with trades at half the price.  But this special volume is priced to sell!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

RIP: Josepha Sherman (1946-2012)

So young!  Josepha contributed widely to sci-fi and fantasy.  May she rest in peace.

My favourite books:

218. This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel  (US) - (Canada)
The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Book 1

Pages: 304
Ages: 12+
Finished: Aug. 10, 2012
First Published: Aug. 23, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Genre: Gothic, YA, paranormal, romance, horror
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "We found the monster on a rocky ledge high above the lake."

Publisher's Summary:  "Victor Frankenstein leads a charmed life. He and his twin brother, Konrad, and their beautiful cousin Elizabeth take lessons at home and spend their spare time fencing and horseback riding. Along with their friend Henry, they have explored all the hidden passageways and secret rooms of the palatial Frankenstein chateau. Except one.

The Dark Library contains ancient tomes written in strange languages, and filled with forbidden knowledge. Their father makes them promise never to visit the library again, but when Konrad becomes deathly ill, Victor knows he must find the book that contains the recipe for the legendary Elixir of Life.

The elixir needs only three ingredients. But impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science and love—and how much he is willing to sacrifice."

Acquired:  Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I read all the author's books.

This is Oppel's third series for Young Adults and each one has been so completely different from the other.  The only thing consistent between them is a dark atmosphere or plot.  This time Oppel has entered the Gothic world, set in Eastern Europe near the end of the French Revolution; it is never quite clear whether this is our earth or an alternate reality.  Everything feels true and real for this historical time period; it is only when Victor's potions of alchemy provide fantastical results that we enter into a world of magical realism.

I did find the book a bit slow to get into but once I caught the flow, I was hooked and found the book hard to put down.  There are four main characters and each has their own distinct personality.  Victor is not the most likable of the bunch but the book is told from his point of view and this reader found him the most genuine however unreliable he may be :-) I loved the whole Gothic atmosphere, the dark eerie tunnels, forests and sinister scientists.  The added magic of alchemy brings that touch of the supernatural to the events to provide an all around gripping story with fantastic plot, characters and atmosphere.  The ending wasn't surprising to this reader and yet it was still a shock as it was deftly written, coming out of when least expected and leaves all sorts of plot openings for the next volume which I am eager to read as it will have  been released by the time this review has been posted.

Monday, August 27, 2012

217. Marathon by Boaz Yakin

Marathon by Boaz Yakin. Art by Joe Infurnari (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 90
Ages: 16+
Finished: Aug. 9, 2012
First Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: graphic novel, historical fiction, Ancient Greece, Sports
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "What's your name, boy?"

Publisher's Summary:  "The epic tale of the original marathon runner—just in time for the 2012 Olympic Games
It was a turning point in ancient history.
It inspires men to greatness.
It was the foundation of one of the greatest and most prevailing global peace efforts of the 20th century.
It was the greatest feat—and the tragic death—of a man whose legacy will never be forgotten.
In 490BC, an Athenian messenger named Eucles ran 153 miles from Sparta to Athens, and in so doing preserved ancient Greek civilization from subjugation to the Persian Empire.
This is his story."

Acquired:  Received a review copy from First Second Books.

Reason for Reading: I love Ancient Greek history and the many legends associated with current day events.  I had just finished reading about the Persian conquest of its great Empire at this time (to my son) and this story serendipitously ended up being a logical progression of my reading.

I had a few problems with this book, but I first want to say that it is a very good book.  My main problem is my own; I do not really have a head for the military,  logistics, co-ordinations, planning side of war and "Marathon" presented the Battle at Marathon, and the previous battles which led up to it very much so in this militaristic way.  Honestly, it bored me to a degree, truthfully, because it went over my head.  However, there was some character development in this early part of the story to keep me reading.  The vicious tyrant Hippias of Athens' character is set during this introduction while he has his young b*stard son beheaded for losing a race to a slave.  His actions only get worse from this point on.  Eucles, the main character, is that slave who won the race, and the fear that drives him is shown throughout the book; the fear changes over time as those fears come true and are replaced by new ones.  Hippias obviously the villain is not meant to be likable but Eucles is also a man of little dimension and few characteristics that he is hardly likable as a real person either.  When the warring reaches the point of the Battle at Marathon and Euclid is put to his test, that he has become famous for, the story shifts somewhat and becomes more concerned with two characters and less so on military strategies, though they still play a big part.  But now we are allowed inside these men's heads and the story becomes more personal as we learn of that famous messenger run to Marathon, which has been honoured at the Olympic Games with the Marathon run since 1896.  The book is very brutal with violence.  The publisher recommends ages 12+ but personally I recommend ages 16+ for the brutal violence and language, as well as the maturity of the subject matter.  This book will be best appreciated by those who enjoy military battle minutiae.  As to the artwork, I found it very complimentary to the text, done in a quick sketch style with added details here and there.  The sepia tone throughout adds to the feeling of the ancient time period.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

215. Good Neighbors by Ryan David Jahn

Good Neighbors by Ryan David Jahn (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 280
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 5, 2012
First Published: 2009
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Crime, historical fiction, racism, psychological suspense
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "It begins in a parking lot."

Publisher's Summary:  "A compulsively readable debut crime novel inspired by the legendary real-life murder of Kitty Genovese. 

At 4:00 A.M. on March 13, 1964, a young woman returning home from her shift at a local bar is attacked in the courtyard of her Queens apartment building. Her neighbors hear her cries; no one calls for help. 

Unfolding over the course of two hours, Good Neighbors is the story of the woman's last night. It is also the story of her neighbors, the bystanders who kept to themselves: the anxious Vietnam draftee; the former soldier planning suicide; the woman who thinks she's killed a child and her husband, who will risk everything for her. Revealing a fascinating cross-section of American society in expertly interlocking plotlines, Good Neighbors calls to mind the Oscar-winning movie Crash, and its suspense and profound sense of urban menace rank it with Hitchcock's Rear Window and the gritty crime novels of Dennis Lehane, Richard Price, and James Ellroy."

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: I was so impressed with the author's latest book, The Dispatcher, that I just had to read  this, his first book.

I'll start off by saying I undoubtedly enjoyed this book, not as much as Jahn's second book, but I'm still quite impressed.  They are two very different types of books though.  While The Dispatcher is most definitely a thriller written at a fast past.  Good Neighbors is hard to classify into a genre and while it only takes place within one night it moves forward slowly.  This is not a bad thing though.  The book is definitely a crime.  A woman is attacked, stabbed and raped in the courtyard feet away from her apartment block.  But many more crimes take place also, some illegal, some immoral, some omissions of error and yet all are considered crimes against natural order.  What this book mostly does is take a look at a true to life crime, the real-life murder of Kitty Genovese , and imagine how her death could have happened as it did surrounded on all sides by apartment blocks.  Jahn goes inside the heads of these people who stand and stare at what is happening below them in the courtyard, some not realizing the gravity of the situation, others realizing it, but everyone assuming someone else has already called the cops so why should they as they'd only become involved and have to answer questions about their own lives.  And you see everyone has secrets in their own lives.  None of these people are truly "bad" but none of them are without sin either and they'd rather not have to answer embarrassing questions.  The book focuses on a handful of people and couples who all have something quite important going on that evening that overshadows the event happening down below in their courtyard.  They are too wrapped up in themselves to even notice the outside influence.  Then there are others who don't live in the complex but are/or will be connected by book's end who also are having to deal with life threatening issues before they are placed in a position to be of any service to the wounded girl.

Mostly this book is a study of characters, a slice of life from the mid 1960s and deals with social issues and taboos of the times such as: black/white racial tensions, crooked cops, police cover-ups, mixed marriages, serial killers, homosexuals, euthanasia, Vietnam War.  The book was not what I had expected (a mystery/thriller) but I ended up absolutely entertained with the psychological insight into the minds of these people from another time and also the effects that mass shock will have upon people.  It is a study into the minds of the times and gives a great slice of what 1960s American culture was like.

This is one of my favourite types of books; multiple characters with separate stories where the point of view switches between them rapidly until slowly towards the end connection are made.  A fascinating story. I will be on the lookout for Jahn's next book.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

214. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 05

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 05 by John Wagner & Alan Grant. Illustrated by Mick McMahon, Ron Smith, Brian Bolland, Ian Gibson, Steven Dillon, Colin Wilson, Barry Mitchell, John Cooper & Carlos Ezquerra (US) - (Canada)
Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 05

Pages: 400
Ages: 15+
Finished: Aug. 4, 2012
First Published: Jun. 19, 2012
Publisher: 2000AD
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction, crime,
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Attention all units! Major disturbance at Sonny Bono Block! Residents in revolt!"

Publisher's Summary: "THE LAW AT WAR!

Judge Dredd rides into action in this fifth volume collecting together some of his most exciting cases. Arch-nemesis Judge Death rises from the grave once again in Judge Death Lives, citizen is pitted against citizen in Block Mania and the apocalypse comes to Mega-City One in the all-time classic Dredd epic, The Apocalypse War. Featuring art by such comic legends as Brian Bolland (Batman: The Killing Joke), Carlos Ezquerra and Mike McMahon and written by John Wagner (A History of Violence) and Alan Grant (Lobo) this tome is a worthy addition to any Thrill-seeker’s library!"

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

Reason for Reading: I love the Judge Dredd universe!

What a fantastic volume!  This is epic in nature as it collects together the much talked about Apocalypse Wars in other smaller collections.  Well here it finally is!  Also the prequel story that led up to the Apocalypse "Block Mania" is included and with these two stories we have (the pages aren't numbered) what looks like just a little over half of the book.  That's one complete storyline for over 200 pages of this 400 page volume.  Some major action takes place here and this is just a stupendous volume to read.  The first half of the book follows along the regular vein with short stories and occasional 2 or 3 part episodes of crime in Mega-City One.  But not only do we get the epic Apocalypse story, in the first half comes the return of Judge Death and Judge Anderson in an awesome episodic storyline.  Simply a fantastic dose of the Judge Dredd universe.  Dredd's character becomes more and more dark and hard with this volume as well.  His "the end justifies the means" philosophy is put into full action.  I really can't wait for Vol. 6 to see how the world is put back together after this destruction!

I haven't read the other Case Files but I've already got 01 and I'm going to try and get caught up by the time 06 comes out (no date as of yet).  I am majorly hooked!

Friday, August 24, 2012

213. Days With Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

Days With Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
Frog and Toad (book 4)

Pages: 200
Ages: 5+
Finished: Aug. 2, 2012
First Published: 1979
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: children, easy reader, animal fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Toad woke up"

Publisher's Summary:  "Frog and Toad enjoy spending their days together. They fly kites, celebrate Toad's birthday, and share the shivers when Frog tells a scary story. Most of all, they have fun together—every day of the year."

Acquired:  Purchased a new copy from a homeschool retailer quite some time ago.

Reason for Reading:  Next in the series.  Ds read aloud as his reader.

I can't say much more than I have already said with the previous three books in this series.  This was the last one published but it does not matter which order you read them in.  Once again Lobel proves that the perfect children's book transcends all ages.  Ds and I had a great laugh at the antics of Frog and Toad.  They are just plain silly and yet they ring true with our everyday life.  Frog and Toad each has their own distinct personalities and together they compliment each other.  My favourite story from this book is "Tomorrow" in which Toad, lazing in bed, as always, puts off every single chore until tomorrow and then he starts to worry about what a hectic day he is going to have tomorrow so he gets up and does each chore now so he won't have to do it tomorrow.  The he goes back to bed with a clear mind and no worries!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

DVD Break: Duma

Duma- (2005) - (DVD) - (own)

 This DVD collection features four films with the theme "boy and animal".  Of all the movies on this collection, this is the only one I had previously seen; on TV and not straight from the beginning.  I told my son I'd seen this one so of course he choose it as the last movie for us to watch. LOL. Duma is one of the best nature movies you will ever see.  This is a genuine film, set in South Africa about an abandoned cheetah that is taken in by a farmer's family and raised to become the beloved pet of Xan the 12 year old boy.  They start off knowing that they will return him to the wild when the time comes, before it is too late.  Many things happen and the boy ends up running away from home with the cheetah going across the country to return the cheetah to where they found him by himself.  This is his adventure.  A very realistic movie with fantastic cinematography of Africa: the desert, the grasslands, the farmland.  This movie also pulls at your heartstrings, though neither autistic son nor I were too emotionally invested, except that we loved the cheetah, Duma.  This is fantastic family fare and highly recommended but adults will enjoy this without any kids as well.

After watching all of the movies, ds is refusing to donate the DVD to the library.  So we will be hanging on to it for the time being.  In order our favourite movies were:

12yo ds: Duma>The Amazing Panda Adventure>Shiloh>Flipper

Me the Mum: Duma>Shiloh>Flipper>The Amazing Panda Adventure.

212. BOOK TOUR: White Lies by Jeremy Bates

White Lies by Jeremy Bates (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 265
Ages: 18+
Finished: Aug. 4, 2012
First Published: May 7, 2012
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "The storm began when she was driving north on U.S. Highway 2, almost four thousand feet above sea level."

Publisher's Summary:  "While driving to a charming village tucked away deep in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, where she is to begin a new job teaching high school English, Katrina Burton picks up a young hitchhiker who turns out to be drunk and predatory. Fearful for her safety, she lies about her destination in order to get him out of the car. But when she later discovers that he is a teacher at the same school, she finds herself feeding that initial lie with more lies. Then Katrina meets a mysterious man. Handsome, charismatic and strong, he is exactly what she needs to extricate her from the expanding network of lies, now spinning out of control. She falls fast and hard for him. But her perfect solution soon becomes a nightmare that lands her in the middle of a grisly murder. And Katrina's problems don't stop there. She must decide whether to betray her new love, or cover up the murder and hope for the best...until she discovers that the choice may not be hers to make."

Acquired:  Received a review copy from Pump Up Your Book .

Reason for Reading: The hitchhiker angle always intrigues me and the author's Canadian background interested me as well.  Sounded like it would be a good read.

Right from the beginning we are placed with Katrina in a creepy situation as she picks up a hitchhiker only to find herself frightened and intimidated into throwing the man out of the car in the middle of a storm.  Katrina is a likable main character right from the start, though she has a penchant for making decisions the reader may not always agree with.  She is in a vulnerable situation in her personal life and when a strong charismatic man comes along it is only too easy for her to fall under his spell.  I found the situation plausible.  Statistically many women find themselves in trouble because of the persuasions of their boyfriends but in this situation I thought Katrina started following the man's lead too soon.  This was my only beef with the book; a longer, more controlling relationship needed to be established to have been more believable for Katrina to behave the way she did.  The situation was plausible but just didn't quite feel totally believable because of this.

Putting that one aspect aside, I had a marvelous read with this book.  I did not expect it to go in the direction it did.  The write up on the back of my book is much more vague than the publisher's summary and I was surprised at who the "bad guy" turned out to be.  The story deals with the moral issue of telling a lie. Katrina is hit with an almost Biblical vengeance when she tells one small white lie, because this one fib leads to another, leads to another, and so on, until the lies are no longer white, no longer, small.  They become cover-ups for misdeeds that are not only ethically wrong but illegal and Katrina is driven knowing that it all started with her one little white lie.  I enjoyed the fact that lapsed Catholic Katrina was pulled back to her faith during this time of turmoil and ended up in the confessional.  From the theme of the moral consequences of lying to the positive portrayal of a priest and penitent in a confessional, (though penance was somewhat unrealistic) I would not be surprised to hear that the author has a Catholic background himself as he has done a fair and accurate portrayal of the Faith.

A thriller that is fast-paced with one crisis after another hitting the main characters until they hit desperation and a stand-off against the law at the end that will keep the reader on their toes unsure of how it will all play out in the end.  Jeremy Bates is an exciting new voice on the thriller/suspense scene.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

211. The Bionic Man Volume One by Kevin Smith

Some Assembly Required by Kevin Smith & Phil Hester. Art by Jonathan Lau (US) - (Canada)
The Bionic Man, Volume One

Pages: 248
Ages: 16+
Finished: Aug. 2, 2012
First Published: Aug. 7, 2012
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Genre: YA, graphic novel,science fiction, based on TV
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence: "It's ready."

Publisher's Summary: "We Can Rebuild Him! Steve Austin is back and acclaimed filmmaker Kevin Smith unleashes his high-octane vision in this new series from Dynamite. Smith unleashes The Bionic Man into the 21st century as only he can, with an innovative take on this classic character that will show you The Bionic Man with a whole new set of powers and abilities - not to mention enemies! Kevin Smith is joined by Phil Hester, artist Jonathan Lau, and cover artist/character designer Alex Ross (the team that brought you the new Green Hornet series).

This trade paperback collects the ENTIRE critically acclaimed 10-issue story, along with a complete cover gallery."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Reason for Reading: I loved the six million dollar man as a kid.  Had to read this.

The Bionic Man still costs $6 million, only with the addendum of /per day.  This is a serious re-imagining of how Colonel Steve Austin became the Bionic Man and his first assignment.  When most trade collections contain 5 comic issues, we are getting good bang for our buck here with the complete first 10-issue series combined in this trade edition.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  Everything fans loved about the past show is still here, minus the cheese.  Steve has a red tracksuit for fan's to savour that iconic look, though he barely wears it.  Jamie is his fiance, thankfully, so we are spared re-running the agony of that old love story.  Steve is a tough old guy, older than he would have been in the TV series but not too much so.  The author has managed to maintain the same type of sarcastic, snide, tongue-in-cheek without being rude humour that the original character had.  This makes him totally lovable and I'm hooked.  Tons of action, quite gruesome at parts, the main characters are given some background and one looks forward to getting to know them even better.  As far as art, the artist hasn't tried to make the characters look like the actors from TV, though he has kept them the same physical types.  The only one who actually reminded me of his TV counterpart was Oscar Goldman.  If you were a fan of the show back in the '70s, this modern adaptation is sure to please!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

210: Saint Angela Merici: Leading People to God by Sister Maryellen Keefe

Saint Angela Merici: Leading People to God by Sister Maryellen Keefe. Illustrated by Augusta Curreli. English translation by Mary Cabrini Durkin, OSU & Patricia Edward Jablonski, FSP (US) - (Canada)
Along the Paths of the Gospel series

Pages: 71
Ages: 10+ (younger as a read-aloud)
Finished: Jul. 20, 2012
First Published: 2002
Publisher: Pauline Books and Media
Genre: Children, Biography, Christian, Saints, Catholic, History
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "In the little lakeside town of Desenzano in northern Italy, stands a huge castle that overlooks the surrounding valley."

Publisher's Summary: "When Angela Merici was a young girl, she loved fun and games. She also loved to read about the lives of the saints. God gave Angela a new kind of mission to carry out. Through her love and her work to lead others to God, Angela became a saint herself! Beautiful color illustrations on every page."

Acquired:  Purchased a new copy from a Catholic Homeschool Company.

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

Beautiful book the size of a chapter book but presented in the format of a picture book with fully illustrated pages and chunks of text on each page.  This is the inspirational story of Angela Merici who became the founder of the Order of Ursulines.  A woman of the 16th century who devoted her life to God and helping the poor, especially girls and women who were homeless or without prospects.  Angela became a lay sister and did not marry but did not become a nun, preferring to stay and live amongst the people she was helping. The story is entertaining, the illustrations beautiful and the reading experience both a challenge and satisfying for my son.  He started off quite shaky with it but by the end of the book was quite confident though I did need to help him quite a bit.  I'm looking forward to the other books in this series.

DVD Break: Shiloh

Shiloh - (1996) - (DVD) - (own)

 This DVD collection features four films with the theme "boy and animal". This movie is based on the novel by Phyllis Naylor Reynolds which won the Newbery Award and is the first in a trilogy.  I believe all three books have all been turned into movies as well.  I have not read the book, yet, but will someday as reading all the Newbery winners is one of my projects on the go.  This is your typical pull-at-the-heart-strings dog movie.  I don't like dogs, in real life.  In a movie or in a book, I'm far enough away from the things I don't like to appreciate them as a character and I've certainly read my fair share of dog books though I do tend to stay away from dog movies.  All that aside, this was a nice little movie.  The Beagle of course is cute and the movie continuously is pulling at the watcher's emotions.  My son thought it was unreal that a human could be so mean to an animal nor was he impressed with the boys father's strictness.  Ds is terrified of dogs in real life (for no particular reason; it's just a quirk of his autism) so he didn't have any emotional response to the movie at all.  But he sat there quietly watching the whole thing and I can tell he enjoyed it though when asked he said "There was no adventure!" I enjoyed the movie, despite it not being my type of thing, the young actors played their roles very well. A good family movie that will (normally) pull at the emotions but everyone can rest at ease that this is no dead-dog movie.

Monday, August 20, 2012

209. Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires

Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires (US) - (Canada)
A Binky Adventure, #3

Pages: 64
Ages: 7+
Finished: Jul. 30, 2012
First Published: Sep. 1, 2011
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: children, humour, graphic novel
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "It shouldn't be here."

Publisher's Summary: "In Binky's third adventure, our intrepid, sometimes accident-prone hero is shaken out of his routine when he's forced to contend with Gracie, a dainty striped foster kitty who comes to live at Binky's space station (aka his home at 42 Sentinel Parkway). Binky instantly resents the new arrival, whose cute face and perfect manners are downright annoying. Indeed, Gracie seems too perfect. So Binky decides to do some undercover investigating and discovers a shocking truth about the family guest. Soon Binky is thrust full-throttle into a situation that puts all his Space Cat skills to the ultimate test! "

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

I'm not exactly what one could call a "pet person" but Binky is just about the most adorable cat creation ever. His adventures would be down right hilarious if he just weren't so serious about himself.  Spires perfectly captures the attitude and idiosyncrasies of house cats everywhere in Binky and we can understand why they have such 'tude when we realize what an important job they actually have protecting us humans from the aliens.  Binky and Gracie are wonderful together as they interact and try to best each other.  With an adorable story, Spires pulls it all together with her droll artwork that manages to convey such emotion within each small drawing of Binky.  Binky is sure to capture the hearts of cat lovers of all ages!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

208. Mike's Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Mike's Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Illustrated by Dirk Gringhuis (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
The Alden Family Mysteries, #5

Pages: 128
Ages: 7+
Finished: Jul. 30, 2012
First Published: 1960
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Genre: children, mystery
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "The four Alden children could hardly wait to get back to Mystery Ranch."

Publisher's Summary: "The excitement begins when they meet their old friend, Mike.  When Mike is blamed for starting a fire, the Boxcar children know he's innocent.  But can they discover who's really behind Mike's Mystery - before it's too late?"

Acquired: Bookmooched

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.  I am collecting the first original 19 books of this series.

Mike's Mystery could probably be said to have the first full blown mystery for the children to solve.  All the previous books "mystery" was simply finding out the identity of mysterious strangers but this time we have a crime: arson, a witness: Mike's dog, and a couple of clues: a blue hat and a picture in a newspaper.  We get a sense of real detecting going on for the children now.  Mike's Mystery is also the first time that a book in this series is dependant on another in the series.  This one is a direct sequel to book #4, Mystery Ranch, and will be enjoyed much better having read them in order.  Also, one of the main characters returns from book #2, Surprise Island, and again this benefits readers who have read the books in order, otherwise many references to previous exploits will by lost upon them.  The series is shaping up at this point into an ongoing adhesive collection, rather than just individual stories.

This story is typical fare for the series, much better than the last book and fun to see a proper mystery unravelling for the children this time.  Exactly one year has passed since the last events happened and the Aldens return to the Mystery Ranch to find many changes have been made over the school year.  A large cast of characters this time, though the majority of them have already been met in the past books so nobody new to really get to know.  Benny and his friend Mike shine as the major characters in this book, even though everything is still much a group effort for the Alden children, focus is allowed to drift more often towards the littlest brother.  A satisfying entry in the series.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

207. Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life by Brian Lee O'Malley

Precious Little Life by Brian Lee O'Malley. Coloured by Nathan Fairbairn (US) - (Canada)
Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1

Pages: 192
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 29, 2012
First Published: 2004 (Aug. 8, 2012 Colourized Ed.)
Publisher: Oni Press
Genre: graphic novel, college life, 1990s, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Scott Pilgrim is dating a high schooler!"

Publisher's Summary: "Just when you thought you knew all there was to know about Scott Pilgrim comes Scott Pilgrim Color Hardcover Volume 1: Precious Little Life! The first in a series of brand-new hardcover editions, this remastered, 6"x9" hardcover presents Scott's first "evil ex" battle as you've never seen it before - in full-color! Plus, previously unpublished extras and bonus materials make this mighty tome one that's required reading for Scottaholics everywhere!"

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley

Reason for Reading: I've really paid no attention to the hype about this series, never seen the movie, nor do I know what it's even about.  But I did intend to give it a try someday, seeing as the author is Canadian and since I had the chance decided now was the time.

I didn't *love* this and at first wasn't even all that lukewarm to it either but as the book progressed I became more interested in Scott and then eventually Ramona, until at the end I knew I would read the next book.  I was put off with all the h*m*s*xual references and jokes.  Is that all a gay character is for?  Of course, the lifestyle of these 23-25 year olds was not what I would call edifying either.  The publisher recommends this for ages 13+ but I personally give it a recommended 18+.  Any 13 year old of mine won't be reading about young 20 year olds going to bed with each other.  There is one highschool student in the book (a 17yo) but she is brought into the college/young adult world.  Not a book for children, imho.

Once I got over this stuff, and got used to it, as I did think this was going to be a book about and for highschoolers, I found myself getting attached to Scott Pilgrim and several of the other characters such as Kim and Ramona at this point.  The story is quite out there with a video game theme whereby Scott has to defeat Ramona's past 7 evil boyfriends to win the right to date her.  In fact there is a lot of little bitty "out there" references that are made and plot points that happen so the reader, especially this one, became more and more intrigued the further she reads on.  When I first started, I couldn't see myself really liking this book, but now that I'm finished I certainly want to read next book!  The colour was nice but I don't want to wait that long to read them all so I will continue on with the black & white editions.

Friday, August 17, 2012

206. Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 320
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 29, 2012
First Published: Jul. 17, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: realistic fiction, family drama
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Deep in darkness, there was a tiny light."

Publisher's Summary: "When Maxon met Sunny, he was seven years, four months, and eighteen-days old. Or, he was 2693 rotations of the earth old. Maxon was different. Sunny was different. They were different together.
Now, twenty years later, they are married, and Sunny wants, more than anything, to be “normal.” She’s got the housewife thing down perfectly, but Maxon, a genius engineer, is on a NASA mission to the moon, programming robots for a new colony. Once they were two outcasts who found unlikely love in each other: a wondrous, strange relationship formed from urgent desire for connection. But now they’re parents to an autistic son. And Sunny is pregnant again. And her mother is dying in the hospital. Their marriage is on the brink of imploding, and they’re at each other’s throats with blame and fear. What exactly has gone wrong?
Sunny wishes Maxon would turn the rocket around and come straight-the-hell home.
When an accident in space puts the mission in peril, everything Sunny and Maxon have built hangs in the balance. Dark secrets, long-forgotten murders, and a blond wig all come tumbling to the light. And nothing will ever be the same.…
A debut of singular power and intelligence, Shine Shine Shine is a unique love story, an adventure between worlds, and a stunning novel of love, death, and what it means to be human."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

Reason for Reading: I was attracted to this book because of the autistic son.  Both my own son and myself are autistic (me: Asperger's) so I am often drawn to books that depict these characters.  The book also sounded like it would be "quirky", something I really enjoy.

All I can really say about this book is "WOW"!  What a beautiful story.  Sunny and Maxon share the ultimate love story.  This book is about love, the pure and simple kind and how complicated we can make it out to be.  What is experienced between Sunny and Maxon is that something kind of wonderful that one can only hope they will get to experience in some small way in one's own life.  This is a romance for people who don't read romances.  The book also explores autism and Asperger's in all its awesome reality, both its drawbacks and its benefits.  We see this way of being from all possible angles, theories and thoughts.  I was truly swept away with these characters and in love with both autistics, Bubber and Maxon, as I saw myself and my son in them to certain degrees, while totally relating to them.  And yet I also related to Sunny, who has her own difference she must live with who only wants to be "normal" and have her family fit in and *be* "normal" like everyone else.  But as she learns, no one is really normal and the most normal of us all usually are faking it on the outside, just trying to fit in like everybody else.  An extremely powerful book, with characters who hit your heart and won't easily be forgotten.  I rarely read a book and imagine re-reading it, but this is one I *know* I will be rereading a few years down the line!

DVD Break: Flipper (1963)

Flipper - (1963) - (DVD) - (own)

 This DVD collection features four films with the theme "boy and animal".  We have never seen this movie before.  I'm actually surprised that I haven't seen this but there you go; I haven't ever seen the TV series or any of the various remakes either.  The movie does show its age both in positive and negative ways.  The stereotypical roles of male and female, but also the freedom and responsibilities of the 12-year-old.  The first comment my son made was the question "When is this supposed to be happening?" to which I replied "about the late 1950s".  The dolphin footage was wonderful, even if they used some of it over and over again.  I think this would have been a fairly "exciting" concept at this point in time.  Ds enjoyed these parts the best.  His next comment about half way through the movie was, "This isn't much of an adventure is it?" and with that he sums up the movie.  It is a pleasant diversion but in all reality, quite boring.  The daily interactions of the boy and the dolphin as they fall in love, the stress of the father making him get rid of it, the dolphin ends up saving his life but all of this is taken in its stride.  There is no great suspenseful climax or anything and the cheesy theme song is annoying, but if you like 50s commercial ditties it might be your thing.  So, we were pleasantly diverted for an hour and a half while we watched the movie but wouldn't recommend it or ever watch it again.  Not exactly bad, but not exactly good either.  The DVD had a bonus feature of a Tom and Jerry cartoon from the late 1940s which we watched and enjoyed extremely. I love the old T&J because neither of them win.  First Tom will get Jerry, then Jerry will get Tom and so on until the end where they are both a little worse for the wear.  I forget the title of this one but in keeping with the "Flipper" theme it took place on the beach and was 7 mins. long.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Tour: Giveaway White Lies by Jeremy Bates

A single white lie. That’s how it all began. But when that lie snowballs out of control, Katrina Burton, a young schoolteacher, is forced into telling another and another.

Suddenly and tragically, her lies lead to a grisly murder. Now she must decide to come clean and confess, which will not only destroy her career, but also the life of the man she loves. Or cover up the murder and hope for the best.

But very quickly, she discovers that she may not have a choice, and that her real trials are only just beginning.

Enter to win below.

Come back Aug. 23 to read my review of this suspenseful book by Canadian author, Jeremy Bates.

Canadian author Jeremy Bates has spent the last ten years traveling the world, visiting more than thirty countries. He was born and raised in Canada (London, Ontario area) and has travelled to the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Bates is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario with a degree in English literature and philosophy. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Inc, and Crime Writers of Canada.

US/Canada Residents Enter to Win a Free Copy!

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Follow the Book Tour:

Friday, August 17th
Book reviewed at The True Book Addict
Monday, August 20th
Book reviewed at My Devotional Thoughts
Interviewed Blogher
Tuesday, August 21st
Guest blogging at My Devotional Thoughts
Wednesday, August 22nd
Interviewed at Examiner
Thursday, August 23rd
Book reviewed at Back to Books
Friday, August 24th
Book reviewed at Tea Time with Marce
Monday, August 27th
Guest blogging at Idea Marketers
Tuesday, August 28th
Book reviewed at Review From Here
Wednesday, August 29th
Guest blogging at Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf
Thursday, August 30th
Guest blogging at Digital Journal

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thrill Week

This looks like it will be a lot of fun and I've already added the host's blog to my feeds!

What is Thrill Week
It is all about Networking with Bloggers and Authors who love to read and write Thrillers, Mystery, Suspense and/or Horrors. The goal is to find new blogs and bloggers with similar interest in those genres and of course add to our huge TBR and Wishlists.
We will highlight authors that write in these genres or new authors with amazing debuts.

189. The Boxcar Children Beginning by Patricia MacLachlan

The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm by Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Tim Jessell. (US) - (Canada)
The Boxcar Children, Prequel

Pages: 144
Ages: 7+
Finished: Jul. 10, 2012
First Published: Aug. 15, 2012
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Genre: historical fiction, children
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Henry stood in the doorway of the barn and looked out over the farm."

Publisher's Summary: Before they were the Boxcar Children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden lived with their parents at Fair Meadow Farm.

Although times are hard, the Aldens are happy--"the best family of all," Mama likes to say. One day, a blizzard hits the countryside, and a car is stranded on the road near their farm. The family in the car needs shelter, and when the Aldens take them in, the strangers soon become friends. But things never stay the same at Fair Meadow Farm, and the spring and summer bring events that will forever change the lives of the Alden Children. 

Newbery Award-winning author Patricia MacLaclan pays loving tribute to the classic novel by Gertrude Chandler Warner in this story of the Alden children's origins and the challenges they faced before their boxcar adventures."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Reason for Reading:  I am reading and collecting the first 19 original books by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  I usually don't read modern prequels or continuations such as this (I didn't go anywhere near the Anne of Green Gables prequel!) but MacLachlan is a widely respected, award winning author whom I've read before so after a little consideration I thought I would give this a go.

MacLachlan is a good writer who especially does the historical very well.  The year is never given, but going from the first BC book, this must be set in the early 40s.  These are "hard times" and the Aldens live a simple life and the book tells the daily life of a simple family.  There is slight drama to the plot but mostly it is a series of events that lead up to what the reader knows will be coming, the death of their parents and the turning of the children into orphans.  This is all dealt with very gently and "not a big deal".  No one should come into this book not having read their share of Boxcar Children Mysteries; this story is not to make one sad as one already knows the grand future of these children.  MacLachlan has managed to keep Warner's simple style of writing while maintaining a quality work something she is well known for in her original work.

Overall, I didn't really find this story adding anything that needed to be told.  It is a simple book, not the beginning of a new series and does not add to the Alden Family canon.  I'm sure it will sell well initially, but has nothing to sustain its longevity.  A slow, gentle story, without much happening, no mystery and simply a preface to the opening chapter of the original Boxcar Children written in 1942.

DVD Break: The Amazing Panda Adventure

The Amazing Panda Adventure - (1995) - (DVD) - (own)

 This DVD collection features four films with the theme "boy and animal".  We have never seen this movie before.  The cinematography of China is fantastic, even the 12yo appreciated it.  I expressed my desire that I've always wanted to visit China but ds said he would not because they speak a different language there and he felt a little more interested in the idea when I told him that many people there speak English and he could always learn some Chinese too before he visited, if he ever went.  The pandas are absolutely gorgeous, especially at the beginning when they use real footage of real panda's but as the movie progresses and the children interact with the baby panda, a robot or puppet of some sort or combination is used and it is pretty fake looking.  The story itself is pretty dull.  They all have to rescue a baby panda from a bumbling duo of poachers.  Plenty of action though, the kids have a knack for surviving the rapids and going over waterfalls, even when one of them can't swim! I did appreciate that the boy/girl relationship did not degenerate into a romantic-type of deal; they did not like each other at first and by the end they appreciated each other though their friendship was still tentative.  An ok movie.  None of the actors are exactly famous.  Though the main adult lead is recognizable by face if not by name. He's the idiot Colonel in "Avatar" and I recognized him from "The Men Who Stare At Goats" In conclusion, nothing much.  Good for scenes of China and pandas.  Ds did enjoy it much more than me though.  He thought it was really cute.  Rated PG. I don't remember why, there must have been a few of the mild curse words.

DS was so happy to get back to our special movie time.  This has become an intimate mother/son time for us and after the movie this time he actually engaged me in conversation about the movie, initiating by asking me questions!  Great strides for him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

182. Monocyte by Kasra Ghanbari

Monocyte by Kasra Ghanbari. Illustrated by Menton3 (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 226
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 2, 2012
First Published: Aug. 14, 2012
Publisher: IDW Publishng
Genre: horror, fantasy, Gothic
Rating: 2.5/5

First sentence: The council will now hear the Marquis de Seraphim."

Publisher's Summary: Two warring immortal races rule a scarred world where time has no meaning. Death (Azrael) sits impotent, quietly planning his restoration. He summons Monocyte, a forgotten immortal necromancer who long ago chose sleep in his failed quest to die. With a fatal pact sealed, Monoctye strikes out as Azrael's vicious proxy. The MONOCYTE collected edition is a 224-page oversized 9x13.5" hardcover that includes the series prequel previously only available digitally, all four issues, all eight side stories, and all 12 covers. This includes art by Ashley Wood, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt, Phil Hale, Barron Storey, Ben Templesmith, Riley Rossmo, Christopher Mitten, David Stoupakis, and Chris Newman. The over 60 pages of new content will be filled in part with art contributions by internationally-known comic book and fine artists/sculptors such as Scott Radke, Matthew Bone, Guillermo Rigattieri, Richard A. Kirk, Alberto Ruiz, Tim Roosen, Richard Friend, Toby Cypress, and many more.

Acquired: Received an egalley from Netgalley.

Reason for Reading: The art looked compelling and while the summary was vague it piqued my paranormal interests.  I enjoy stories which feature Death personified.

This comic is very, very strange.  It really bares multiple readings to understand completely, something I would be up to if I owned the physical hardcopy; I read an ecopy provided by the publisher.  Let's start with the good.  The great actually.  The graphics are absolutely stunning.  If you are a fan of dark Gothic art, surreal scenarios, macabre and sensual creatures, you will be in awe.  Since the book is printed in an oversized format, the art is going to be staggering (remember I am only seeing it in a digital format.)

The story itself is quite confounding and I'll just come out and admit it, way over my head, especially for a single reading. There are many Biblical allusions, quotes from scripture only slightly altered, direct references to Christ, allegory and the message that ultimately the way to everlasting life is through death.  In all honesty, I'm not quite sure if the author's intentions are to mock or evangelize Christianity.  There is one horrific scene, the killing of a baby, which I immediately related to abortion in our world.  As a Christian myself, perhaps my worldview interpreted things the way they mean to me.  Perhaps your reading experience, based on your worldview may be more occult, paranormal or fantasy.  I'll sum it up again with one word.  Strange!

Monday, August 13, 2012

RIP: Jean Merrill

Children's author Jean Merrill, who wrote more than 30 books and was best known for The Pushcart War (1964), died August 2, the New York Times reported. She was 89.

My favourite books:

205. The Occultist Vol. 1 by Tim Seely

The Occultist Vol. 1 by Tim Seely & Mike Richardson. Art by Victor Drujiniu (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 136
Ages: 16+
Finished: Jul. 28, 2012
First Published: Jul. 24, 2012
Publisher: Dark Horse
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, paranormal
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Let's have a round of applause ... for Aiden Beck!"

Publisher's Summary: "Rob Bailey must balance responsibilities as a boyfriend, as a college student, and as the new wielder of the Sword, an ancient book of spells that has binded itself to him. With a team of hit mages hired by a powerful sorcerer after him, it’s trial by fire for the new Occultist, as he learns to handle his powerful magical tome, or suffer at the hands of these deadly enemies. But as he fights for his life, our hero wonders whether he’s wielding this enigmatic weapon, or if it’s the one in control."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

Reason for Reading: Some paranormal fantasy sounded good at this time.

I only finished this book last night but I find myself looking over it to remember the story.  My attention was held during the book, but I've obviously found it to have a slight, tenuous hold on my memory.  It was the usual stuff you expect with a plot like this.  Lots of monsters/demons/assassins coming to get Rob, big fight scenes and the mysterious spells and powers coming from the book that will protect him no matter what.  Rob is a lighthearted, funny guy which makes the plot seem less serious with all the repartee going on.  But I liked it that way, kind of a "Buffy"-type thing, but not nearly so witty.  The art is well done.  An over all pleasant diversion, worthy of a read but not something I'd rush out to buy the next volume.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

204. Granny Han's Breakfast by Sheila Groves

Granny Han's Breakfast by Sheila Groves. Illustrated with photographs (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 24
Ages: 6+
Finished: Jul. 27, 2012
First Published: 1985
Publisher: Overseas Missionary Fellowship (available for purchase here)
Genre: Christian, missionary, non-fiction, short story
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "They all called her Granny Han - "Han Po Po" in their Chinese language, for she was no longer in America but Taiwan."

Publisher's Summary: "When Granny Han went to her cupboard one morning, her cupboard was bare! Granny prayed for her food anyway, and before she knew it, a large and wonderful breakfast appeared before her eyes. Read the adult version of this true story and the other adventures of Granny Han in Pauline Hamilton's "To A Different Drum" also available from OMF Books."

Acquired:  Purchased a used copy at a thrift shop.

Reason for Reading: I love missionary stories, especially those that take place in China.

A truly beautiful story for young children about the power of God to provide and the redeeming grace in accepting Jesus as your saviour.  A wonderful book that introduces one to Chinese foods and daily life as it tells a vignette from missionary Pauline Hamilton's life.  The story is told in a lovely storytelling voice and is never preachy though it is decidedly Christian.  Granny Han is a believer and she simply puts her trust in God, learning to practice what she preaches, when hard times hit.  Her belief proves to be an example to someone, who takes some years to live according to their own free will, but eventually comes back to Granny with Jesus in their heart.  Inspiring and simply a delightful little true tale that shows respect to every one.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

203. Orchid, Vol. 1 by Tom Morello

Orchid, Vol. 1 by Tom Morello. Art by Scott Hepburn (US) - (Canada)
Orchid, Vol. 1

Pages: 112
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 25, 2012
First Published: Jul. 24, 2012
Publisher: Dark Horse
Genre: post-apocalyptic, science fiction, graphic novel
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence: "When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed."

Publisher's Summary:When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Human settlements are ringed by a dense wilderness from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless. The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful that overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortress-like cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves.

Delve into the first chapter of Orchid, the tale of a teenage prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Reason for Reading: On impulse actually. I've just re-read the publisher's summary and I think that last paragraph was missing from what I first read as "teenage" prostitute does not appeal to me at all.  However, for some reason, this called to me.

I am so glad I read this, rather unusual for me, graphic novel.  Very violent, quite graphic in s*xuality, language and plain brutal images.  The publisher recommends age 14+.  I'm age 40+ and was disturbed by some images; my recommended age is 18+.  So I start with these caveats but let me tell you this was a fantastic story!

It did start off a bit shaky.  The premise is somewhat unbelievable as to how this post-apocalyptic world came to be along with the mutant DNA animals. Also I'm a bit tired of assuming that future worlds will be medieval-like and women will revert back to being used, abused "property" of men.  But.  Suspending belief to a degree and getting comfortable within this world with the first couple of issues, by the third issue the story has picked up and proves to be an extremely detailed, intriguing, highly developed plot.  There are many side stories along with the major plot taking shape within this first volume and I was completely hooked by the end and am anxious to read volume 2 which has been added to my pre-order titles.

The characters are fantastic especially Orchid and the main male character, Simon.  Orchid (who I never thought of as "teenage" but had rather set her as 20-21 in my mind) starts off weak, and a bit whiny, but her character grows throughout this volume to become the hero she is going to be for the future of the series.  Simon really shined for me.  A slave who learned to read, he speaks rather "bookish" and pompously compared to the general population; he is an idealist who thinks the world is the way he wants it to be.  He is a hero but also adds a much needed comic relief to the otherwise dark, brutish nature of the rest of the story.

I really can't say how much I enjoyed this story.  I'd even be tempted to buy the comics and I don't "do" individual comics! Highly entertaining and promises to be an above average epic.

Friday, August 10, 2012

202. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 254
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 25, 2012
First Published: 2006
Publisher: Random House
Genre: thriller, psychological suspense
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence: "My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly."

Publisher's Summary: "WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart 
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming."

Acquired:  Borrowed a copy from my local library

Reason for Reading: I read Gone Girl earlier this month and thought it was just OK but I had read Dark Places years ago and loved it, so I wanted to read this, Flynn's first book, to see which opinion of her as a whole author I had of her.

Sharp Objects presents a completely unique premise for a thriller that kept me on my toes and excited throughout the book.  From the first few pages I knew I was going to like the main character and she proved to be a multi-layered personality who did many unexpected things and yet remained true to her character.  The three main female characters were all highly intricate psychological studies of deeply affected personalities who the reader never knew whether they were truly good or bad.  While I won't say I was on the edge of my seat, as I had decided upon one of two possible solutions, I will say Flynn keeps you guessing until the very end.  And even when you think the whole case is solved, she pulls out one final twist to unnerve you and make sure you go to bed feeling slightly creepy about the whole thing.  I had a hard time deciding whether I liked this or Dark Places better since it has been some years since I read it, but I re-read my review and it brought the whole book back to me and this one wins out ever so slightly.  As a first book, this is extremely potent and Flynn has followed up well with two more.  Even though I thought Gone Girl was less than stellar, I still enjoyed it and will be looking forward to her next book.