Thursday, July 31, 2014

8th annual Canadian Book Challenge - FINISHED

I've already signed-up but I'm a little late getting this post up.  I had plans to read a bit more than I got around to this month but oh, well.  Here we go!

I've been in this challenge of John's since day 1 and while he always mixes things up and makes it fun for us every year the challenge is always the same.  Running from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 read 13 books by Canadians, about Canadians or set in Canada.  I don't usually have a theme or anything that organized but this year I am going to try and read a "Dear Canada" book each month, doubling up once for a total of 13 Dear Canadas.  Big fail for July, though technically it is July 31, and I've just started my first one :-)

Post reviews here.

1. Two Issues of Teen Titans Go! by J. Torres
2. Dear Canada: Winter of Peril : The Newfoundland Diary of Sophie Loveridge, Mairie's Cove, New-Found-Land, 1721 by Jan Andrews  (DC 1)
3. Trillium by Jeff Lemire
4. The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn
5. Dear Canada: A Country of Our Own: The Confederation Diary of Rosie Dunn, Ottawa, Province of Canada, 1800 (DC 2)
6. Bigfoot Boy 3: The Sound of Thunder by J. Torres & Faith Erin Hicks
7. Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1948 by Carol Matas (DC 3)
8. Green Arrow (New 52) Vol. 4: The Kill Machine by Jeff Lemire
9. Dear Canada: A Trail of Broken Dreams: The Gold Rush Diary of Harriet Palmer, Overland to the Cariboo, 1862 by Barbara Haworth-Attard (DC 4)
10. Green Arrow (New 52) Vol. 5: The Outsiders War by Jeff Lemire
11. This One Summer by Jillian & Mariko Tamaki
12. Dear Canada: All Fall Down: The Landslide Diary of Abby Roberts, Frank, Alberta District, 1902 by Jean Little (DC 5)
13. Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire
Challenge completed but still working on personal challenge of 13 Dear Canadas.  I'm currently at 5/13 and am reading one right now. (Nov. 25, 2014)

14. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
15. Dear Canada: An Ocean Apart: The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-Ling, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1922 by Gillian Chan (DC 6)
16. To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful by Shane Koyczan
17. In Real Life by Cory Doctorow
18. Dear Canada: A Sea of Sorrows: The Typhus Epidemic Diary of Johanna Leary, Canada East, 1847 by Norah McClintock (DC 7)
19. Creatures of the Rock: A Veterinarian’s Adventures in Newfoundland by Andrew Peacock
20. Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
21. Dear Canada: Banished from Our Home: The Acadian Diary of Angélique Richard, Grand-Pre, Acadia, 1755 by Sharon Stewart (DC 8)
22. Dear Canada: A Desperate Road to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Diary of Julia May Jackson, Virginia to Canada West, 1863-1864 by Karleen Bradford (DC 9)
23. No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
24. No Safe House by Linwood Barclay
25. Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood
26. Dear Canada: Days of Toil and Tears: The Child Labour Diary of Flora Rutherford, Almonte, Ontario, 1887 by Sarah Ellis (DC 10)
27. Chinese Turkestan: A Photographic Journey Through an Ancient Civilization by Ryan Pyle
28. Button Hill by Michael Bradford
29. Deadly Appearances by Gail Bowen
30. Dear Canada: If I Die Before I Wake: The Flu Epidemic Diary of Fiona Macgregor, Toronto, Ontario, 1918 by Jean Little (DC 11)
31. Crime Seen: Stories from Behind the Yellow Tape, From Patrol Cop to Profiler by Kate Lines
32. At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
33. Dear Canada: Turned Away: The World War II Diary of Devorah Bernstein by Carol Matas (DC 12)
34. Least I Could Do 5: Yield To Me by Ryan Sohmer
35. Dear Canada: Whispers of War: The War of 1812 Diary of Susanna Merritt by Kit Pearson (DC 13)
FINISHED - Personal challenge 13/13 Dear Canadas!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Children Are Naughty by Vincent Cuvellier

Children Are Naughty by Vincent Cuvellier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore the illustration of this book. It is just like something done in the 40s or 50s. The text is very droll and tongue-in-cheek so it is the art which brings out the humour and has you looking at all the details on each page. This is a translation of a French book and as such is probably cultural in its approach to humour. I can see it not being to the taste of all English readers. There is no moral or lesson here. We simply go through pages of various ways in which children misbehave themselves. All very realistic, but the illustration makes it funny as does the dry humour of the text. Finally, at the end, with tongue firmly planted in cheek we are told that parents, of course, were not naughty when *they* were children and to finish it off we conclude that the only good child is a sleeping one; then, of course, they are just lovely! I thought this was very fun and cute in a non-cute way, if you know what I mean. But I will warn that I can readily see some people not appreciating this type of humour at all.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mid-Year Favourites Jan-Jun 2014: Short Story Collections & Misc

Now that we are in the middle of the year I thought I'd gather together my favourites so far for the year from Jan to June 2014.  Since I read soooo many books I've divided them up into categories and am keeping track of them that way.  So far I've done 

Nonfiction (Adult/Juvenile)
Fiction (Adult/YA)
Juvenile Novels
Picture Books & Easy Readers

Today I finish off with my last category which is Short Story Collections.  I read one short story every day.  Sometimes a short story is not so short and it will take me two days and there are a few days here and there when life interrupts and I don't read a storyat all, but I am pretty consistent.  I've been doing this since 2009 off and on but it became a regular thing in 2011 and now it's just habit.

It's pretty much impossible to give a (5/5) to a collection of short stories because invariably there is going to be a dud or two amongst the gems of even the best collections.  I prefer to read books which collect stories by one author which I call "collections" as they give a sense of the author but it is always fun to read a collection of stories that share a theme, I call these "anthologies".

I've read 6 collections of short stories so far this year from Jan-Jun, 2014.  Four of them are collections of one author, the other two anthologies containing various authors based on a theme.  Since there are no full (5/5) rated books in this list.  I will give you my top two favourites which both achieved a (4/5).  These both happen to be collections of one particular author each.

Short Story Collections

1.Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock (4/5)
2. The Birds: and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier (4/5)

And that is it for my best of lists for this half of 2014. I do have two remaining "odd" categories left.

Single Short Stories - I only read one and I rated it very badly, so not a best.
Poetry - Again I only read one so it can hardly be the best of anything. But here's the link anyway
1. Flower Fairies of the Garden by Cicely Mary Barker (5/5)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Newbery Reading Project

This is a re-read for me. The first time I read it aloud to my eldest about 15 years ago and we both loved it so much. I went on to read several more of the author's books after that, also enjoying them. I was looking forward to this re-read. I was a little disappointed as the story was much slower than I had remembered and at first I actually thought it was boring. So it did take me some time to get into it this time, though I hardly remembered the story except the basic plot. I did find my groove though, and settled down with this old-fashioned story, set in a different time in a different world, pre-WWII Netherlands. This is a sweet story about children and their love for animals, storks in this case. It's a time when children roamed the countryside all day long, unsupervised. The first good chunk of the book sets up the plot and not a lot of events happen, though Dejong is a beautiful writer and we soon feel the sense of this time, this place and these people. Once the hunt for the wheel begins, action enters the story and each individual child has an event happen along the way. Some of these adventures are what we would consider today, well anytime really!, quite dangerous and make for exciting reading. It dramatically contrasts what childhood was like in those bygone days compared to today. Everyone will shake their heads but, some will be with regret, others with thankfulness, that those times have passed. I do think this is a beautifully written story, with a lovely message; a sweet story in a way, but a real one as well, these children are hardly all sugar-and-spice. Unfortunately, I don't think it is a book many modern-day children will have the patience to read themselves and I recommend it be used as a read-aloud. There is so much to discuss! I'm a huge fan of Maurice Sendak but his illustrations in this book are only middle of the road, recognisable as his work certainly but nothing special.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mid-Year Favourites Jan-Jun 2014: Children's Books

Now that we are in the middle of the year I thought I'd gather together my favourites so far for the year from Jan to June 2014.  Since I read soooo many books I've divided them up into categories and am keeping track of them that way.  So far I've done nonfiction (Adult/Juvenile) and fiction (Adult/YA) . Today I will do my favourite children's books which I have divided into two groups Juvenile Novels and Picture Books/Easy Readers.  Next time I will post my last list of favourite short story collections and a few books that defy categories.

I've read 20 Juvenile novels from Jan-Jun 2014 and these are the ones I've rated a full 5/5. Since there are only three these are easily put in order.

1. The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech (5/5)
2. The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla (5/5)
3. The Sandman and the War of Dreams by William Joyce (5/5)

I've read 27 Children's Picture Books & Easy Readsers from Jan-Jun 2014 and these are the ones I've rated a full 5/5. 
Listed in no particular order EXCEPT the first two were my favourites.

1. Harley by Star Livingstone (5/5)
2. Tweedles Go Electric by Monica Kulling (5/5)
3. Tommy O'Toole and the Forest Fire by Anna D. Cordts (5/5)
4. My Best Sweet Potato by Rainy Dohaney (5/5)
5. The Mischievians by William Joyce (5/5)
6. The Good, the Bad, and the Monkeys by Scott Sonneborn (5/5)
7. Goat on a Boat by John Sazaklis (5/5)
8. Andy Also by Maxwell Eaton III (5/5)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mid-Year Favourites Jan-Jun 2014: FICTION (ADULT/YA)

Now that we are in the middle of the year I thought I'd gather together my favourites so far for the year from Jan to June 2014.  Since I read soooo many books I've divided them up into categories and am keeping track of them that way.  Last time I did nonfiction, today I will do my favourite fiction books which I have divided into several groups today I will do Adult and YA.  Next time I will finish up with children's books.

I've read 20 Adult novels from Jan-Jun 2014 and these are the ones I've rated a full 5/5. This is in no particular order.

1. Little Joe by Michael E Glasscock III (5/5)
2. The Kept by James Scott (5/5)
3. Apocalyptic Organ Grinder by William Todd Rose (5/5)
4. The Son by Jo Nesbø (5/5)
5. Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave (5/5)

I've read 8 YA/Teen novels from Jan-Jun 2014 and these are the ones I've rated a full 5/5.  Very successful choices so far!  This is in no particular order.

1. Jump Cut by Ted Staunton (5/5)
2. Devil's Pass by Sigmund Brouwer (5/5)
3. Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix (5/5)
4. Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen (5/5)
5. Torn Away by Jennifer Brown (5/5)

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Astounding! If I hadn't already read her latest book "Torn Away" I'd give this 5 stars, but that one was so good the bar is pretty high in my expectations for this author. This is Brown's first book and one I had wanted to read but the school shooting theme sort of made me roll my eyes as that's mostly been done and finished in my book. However, "The Hate List" is different, really quite different. The focus is not on the shooter, nor on the student body's recovery afterwards. Yes, those things are certainly there and important to the story. But those aspects are shown through the eyes of the girlfriend, the shooter's girlfriend. This is her story. How she met Nick, fell in love, became his girlfriend. Sure Nick talked about death a lot, so she did too, but that was just their "thing", wasn't it? Sure she was the one who started the Hate List but it was just a game. Who knew Nick took it so seriously? She was just as surprised as anyone else that day when the gun came out and the shooting started. She needed recovery too. She can't help that the people targeted were those on the Hate List. She didn't know Nick thought she wanted this too. The police think she did too. She's a suspect, she didn't shoot anyone, in fact she got shot. She took a bullet aimed at her worst enemy to make Nick stop. But she's a suspect. She's also a hero. This is her story and wow! was I riveted. I was there along beside Valerie the whole way. She is 17 and such a truly real character; I don't think there is any teenager who hasn't shared many of the feelings that fleet Valerie's mind. Her life sucks at times, sometimes because her parents are too wrapped up in themselves and sometimes because she does stupid teenager things. But she's a good kid who got herself into a terrible situation that many people have to recover from, including herself. Valerie's not the only one hurting from guilt though and the revelations at the end are truly heartbreaking. When we cross paths with someone truly disturbed, who is calling out for help in their own way, we can all too easily find the coulda/woulda/shoulda guilt. I've found a new author I'm terribly impressed with. Her characters and dialogue are so achingly real it hurts.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mid-Year Favourites Jan-Jun 2014: NONFICTION

Now that we are in the middle of the year I thought I'd gather together my favourites so far for the year from Jan to June 2014.  Since I read soooo many books I've divided them up into categories and am keeping track of them that way.  Today I will do my favourite non-fiction books which I have divided into two categories Adult/YA and Juvenile/Children.

1've read 12 NonFiction (Adult/YA) books from Jan-Jun 2014 and these are the ones I've rated a full 5/5. This is in no particular order.

Best Nonfiction (Adult/YA) Jan-Jun 2014
1. Way to Inner Peace by Fuller Sheen (5/5)
3. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman (5/5)
4. DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2014 edited by DC Comics (5/5)

I read 6 NonFiction (Juvenile/Children) books from Jan-Jun 2014 and only one excelled and rated a full 5/5

Best Nonfiction (Juvenile/Children) Jan-Jun 2014
1. DC Super-Pets! Character Encyclopedia by Donald Lemke (5/5)

Monday, July 7, 2014

RIP : Louis Zamperini & Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Not many people go through any of the events that happened to Louis Zamperini in his life and lived to tell about it.  And not only that he was an Olympic runner before he started his army career: a fighter pilot in WWII, crash survivor who spent 47 days adrift at sea, endured the harsh realitiy of being a Japanese POW.  Hi psychological torments upon returning to civilization had there affect and he almost lost his marriage, but they stayed strong through the worst of it and remained married for 54 years until her death in 2001. After getting his life back together he returned to Japan as a missionary, came to the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano as a Torch Bearer.  He wrote two memoirs of his life, one in 1956, the other in 2003.  He remained physically active until his death participating in skiing, mountain climbing and, of course, running.

Louis Zamperini died July2 , 2014 and the grand age of 97.

Read his Obit in the NYT

And I thought now would be a good time to bring back my review of his biography by the talented Laura Hillenbrand.  A stunning book that I've just heard is being made into a movie.  I wrote my review back in early 2011 and expressed my opinion that it would make a good movie then!

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand 

Pages: 406 (+ extensive source Notes)
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 5, 2011
First Published: Nov. 16, 2010
Publisher: Random House
Genre: non-fiction, biography, WWII
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
All he could see in every direction, was water.

Reason for Reading: This book dealt with many topics that interest me: World War II, especially the war with Japan, the Japanese war atrocities and survival stories, especially those at sea.

What an amazing book! I would give it 10/10 if I could and two thumbs up if it were a movie. I'd be very surprised if it wasn't made into a movie either, unless telling about the relatively unknown Japanese atrocities is too much for Hollywood to handle.

Louis Zamperini was a boy with humble beginnings, who grew up to have a shot at Olympic stardom, which was torn away from him by WWII and instead replaced by one of the most horrific survival stories you will ever hear. Seven years in the writing Hillenbrand has brought a book and a story that will not be forgotten by time. This is a story that everyone need read to see what despicable, horrific things human beings are capable of doing to others and how the spirit of other human beings are capable of surviving even the most degrading and self-demeaning tasks placed on top of daily torture of the most extreme kind. This book is hard to read in many places, but is also full of many moments of pathos. The POWs managed to find little ways to brighten their days at the expense of their prison keepers to help keep their morale up.

Louis started life as a thief and a thug, until his older brother took his energy and placed it into something more constructive. Track. Louis was a natural, but didn't take to it kindly at first, since he easily won without trying, until he saw that with real effort he could actually break records and his dream for the Olympics took over and he became a changed youth, participating in the Berlin Olympics. The War came along, and the draft changed Louis's life forever. As a bombardier of a B-29 he survived a crash into the Pacific Ocean and floating aboard a life raft for a record breaking 47 days with two other crew members only to be "rescued" in the end by the Japanese. Where he then spent the rest of the war with Japan as a POW in their Geneva Convention breaking camps. As one officer is quoted as saying "This is not Geneva. This is Japan."

The rags to riches story of Louis' childhood truly endears him to the reader as a character one really cares for. He is a sharp, intelligent man-youth, witty and with a sense of fun, that one cannot help but fall for him. Making his life story all that more horrific. Hillenbrand has done a good job of bringing Zamperini to life as a human being with his character strengths, quirks and flaws. The survival in the Pacific makes for absolutely riveting, unbearable and compelling reading. Hillenbrand, while writing of the POW experience, also manages to reveal some information on why the Japanese atrocities are so little known today and why their war criminals were given amnesty, while German war criminals are still hunted down to this day. (Though I believe what they presume to be the last living war criminal was extradited in just the recent past.) It certainly had nothing to do with the Japanese being any less inhumane during the war. In Hillenbrand's "Acknowledgements" she notes that the war is still a controversial topic in Japan and some of her Japanese sources asked not to be named. A MUST READ BOOK!!!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Harry Hole #5: The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbø

The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbø

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harry Hole (#5)

I hate rating this a 3 and it is not because the book is inferior but because of me, the reader, and my experience with Nesbo and the whole Harry Hole series. Bit of background: I have now read the entire Hole series. This is a series that is best enjoyed in order, at least from book 3 onwards. I had an awkward start, beginning with 4, then 6, then reading in order up to the present book. Then I went back and filled in the spaces by reading the missed books in order.

So here I start reading "Devil's Star" and it did take me quite some time to get into as I was remembering the death from a previous book and this book was populated with characters I knew would eventually be dead further down the series. One of the plots was long running and had been discussed previously and in books further along so I knew what would happen to the bad guy (and who he was) but was glad to "finally" read the book where it all came to a head. I was also feeling lackadaisical about Harry's private life as I knew where that would eventually go. But as to the *case* Harry is working, that came to me as fresh and while I guessed the identity of the serial killer early, I did also change my mind pretty quickly too, only to be proven correct the first time in the end! It was a good read and a compelling thriller after I got over the initial hump I read very quickly. It is tough to pick up a book in the middle of a series you know so well but I'm glad to have read it and finally am up-to-date with the series and will have to wait not-so-patiently for the newest release now.

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