Monday, October 31, 2016

My Latest Reviews

Read my latest reviews on Goodreads while I take a break from blogging!

Last Five Books

The Strand Magazine June-Sept. 2013
3 of 5 stars
I enjoy this magazine and while this volume mainly contained unimpressive stories I still took pleasure in my time with it. I Love the book ads and book reviews just as much and maybe in this issue's case, more. Not the best collection o...
Naruto (3-in-1 Edition), Vol. 3: Includes vols. 7, 8 & 9
4 of 5 stars
Vol.7 - Encompasses the second exam and ends with a bit of a cliffhanger so we don't know if they've completed it yet. Kitts of battles with the same groups we've met before. There are some viscious bad guys out there. And they are all p...
Classic Goosebumps #22: Stay Out of the Basement
4 of 5 stars
The second Goosebumps book and the second one I've read. (though this is the one and only GB book I had previously read years ago). All was fresh to me as I didn't remember the story at all. I found this particularly well written having ...
Tweedles Go Electric
5 of 5 stars
I love Monica Kulling's historical and biographical picture books so it is with no surprise that I found The Tweedles adorable. Usually Kulling relates a true story but this time we have an historical fiction piece centred around the ele...
Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art
5 of 5 stars
When I think of Imperialism, Colonialism and empire building, the last country that would have come to mind is The Netherlands. But they did indeed have colonies such as Dutch Guiana, Gold Coast, Mozambique, South Africa, and many others...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Pruwahaha Monster by Jean-Paul Mulders

The Pruwahaha Monster by Jean-Paul Mulders
Illus by Jacques Maes & Lise Braekers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 26 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Kids Can Press
Source: egalley via netgalley

I thought this story was charming. About a monster who smells a child and hunts him but when he tries to scare him the child only laughs. While the story is delightful, the real joy of this book comes from the illustrations which are done in a pastel turquoise and peach. The pages are a graphic design dream. The main characters are not often the focus of the illustration but rather the backgrounds are detailed referring to items mentioned in the text. Often illustrations run off the page or are asymmetrical. The eye keeps moving and they enhance the text wonderfully. Delightful!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: Received a print copy to review from the publisher

Well-researched and full of nifty little bits of information on what Victorian life was really like for women. The author takes us back to mid-century 1800s and switches between US and England telling us what our life as a wealthy woman would be like going into detail about the naughty bits, the toilette, the marriage bed, disease, etc. She also takes us downstairs as we learn to deal with servants, housekeeping and cooking. The book is easy-breezy to read and the author takes a laissez-faire attitude pushing jokes and puns throughout. As a voracious reader of Victoriana mostly interested in the downstairs and back alleys, I didn't find much I didn't already know but it was fun having a book devoted to the topics. The only thing that annoyed me was the author's poking fun at everything. It started off cute but just got more and more irritating as the book went on, until I got to a point where I just wished she'd stop. It would have been wiser, and easier on the reader, if she had opened each chapter with the teasing and sarcasm and then got down to the business at hand of imparting her knowledge.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe by Robert Matzen

Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe by Robert Matzen
Foreward by Leonard Maltin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 24th 2016 by GoodKnight Books
Source: egalley via edelweiss

This is a biography or history of Jimmy Stewart's war years of which very little has previously been written as Jim refused to talk about it. Born into a family who had a male fighting in every war since the Spanish-American War, Jim was raised that one day he too must serve his country at war. The book may also be said to be a history of the 445th Bomb Squad where Jim spent most of his active service, ultimately reaching the rank of full Colonel. Matzen has a flowing narrative style which is very easy to read. Stewart is one of two of my most favourite Silver Screen actors and I enjoy war biographies so the book was of particular interest to me. I found the beginning which covers James birth to his early Hollywood days and his joining the service and training days to be the most interesting aspect for me. The rest of the book was too militaristic for me, describing in detail every mission in which Stewart participated. It was interesting but I'm not military minded preferring the social history of wars rather than what is presented here. Even though I enjoyed the book very much because it was about Jimmy, I think the book will be better appreciated by those more interested in the military history than those looking for celebrity information.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Unwanteds #4: Island of Legends by Lisa McMann

Island of Legends by Lisa McMann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 496 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Aladdin
Source: Local library

The Unwanteds (#4)

It's been a while since I read the first three and this wasn't as good as I had expected. Not much goes on between Quill and Artamae but instead Alex and gang spend their time with the other islands. They are invaded by the Warblers, go to the underwater island to rescue Sky's mum, then journey to a crab island. I loved getting back to the familiar characters. Didn't like the cliff-hanger ending, though. Good but not great. Here's hoping the next one picks up steam.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Front Seat Passenger by Pascal Garnier

The Front Seat Passenger by Pascal Garnier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 10th 2014 by Gallic Books
First published in French 1997
Source: egalley via edelweiss

Garnier writes dark psychological suspense and "The Front Seat Passenger" does not disappoint. Reminiscent of Simenon the story features a man whose downfall comes because of a woman. But he is a weak man and his fate is inevitable. Fabien finds out his wife was cheating on him when she dies in a car accident with her lover. Fabien tracks down the man's widow and becomes obsessed with her, stalking her, in hopes of finding some revenge against his wife and the man who was her lover. Once he meets the widow face to face things go further downhill becoming darker and darker until he is trapped. None of the characters is likeable but events keep taking unexpected twists until they each descend into oblivion through their own action or inaction.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Nate the Great & Nate the Great Goes Undercover by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Illus by Marc Simont
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 64 pages
Published April 1977 by Yearling
First published 1972
Source: Thrift shop

Nate the Great (#1)

Wonderful easy reader! This is the first in a large series and introduces us to the pancake-loving super sleuth. Nate has a dry sense of humour and the story is hilarious. The mystery is well played out, the solution a surprise, and clever. The art is wonderful! As most books from this era, the pages alternate with black and white drawings to two-colour illustrations. The colour theme for this book is pink and yellow which gives it a very '70s vibe. This should whet a kid's appetite for mysteries and detective stories.

Nate the Great Goes Undercover by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Illus by Marc Simont
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 48 pages
Published December 31st 1974 by Coward McCann
Source: Thrift shop

Nate the Great (#2)

The second book in this series introduces Nate's dog, Sludge, who will be his companion in the rest of the books. A friend asks Nate to solve the mystery of who or what is tipping over his garbage can every night. Nate uses deductive reasoning skills to figure out who is *not* stealing the garbage. Then he uses the library to narrow down his list of who could be the culprit. I love the humour in these books. It is so dry and hilarious. The art, of course, is wonderful with the two-colour theme being yellow and navy blue; perfect for a book that is about the night time.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking

Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking  
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Hamish Hamilton
Source: Received a print copy from Penguin Random House Canada

This is an intriguing read and yet I never really was too taken with it. It's a short book but a slow read even though it kept me interested. Really, nothing much happens and there is no discernable climax. A strange book filled with science and yet probably best classified as magical realism. The plot concerns time and a woman scientist who wants to discover how time can be experienced objectively rather than subjectively. In simplistic terms she wants to stop time so she can experience life on her own terms, to spend time alone without the constraints of real world time. The book covers a three-year time span in a non-linear manner with each chapter taking place during one of those three years. We follow her life and how she drags her boyfriend and brother into this experiment with her. I can't say much more but overall the book was easy to read but meandering and I never got involved or liked any of the characters making the read just ok for me.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Three Complete Novels (Psycho, Psycho II, and Psycho House) by Robert Bloch

Three Complete Novels (Psycho, Psycho II, and Psycho House) by Robert Bloch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 503 pages
Published September 1st 1993 by Random House Value Publishing
Source: Local library

An omnibus edition of the Psycho trilogy.

1. Psycho (1959) - see my review under the individual title (3/5)

2. Psycho II (1982) - Well this was nothing like I had expected. Norman is barely even in it. It's classified as a horror but I'd hardly call it that, more like a mystery thriller. It was readable though hardly exciting. The ending was a twist and I didn't see it coming. Not bad, not great. (3/5)

3. Psycho House (1990) - This was the best book in the trilogy. Given it rides on the coattails of Psycho but it could have easily been written as a standalone without any mention of the connection. However, the book uses all the information from Psycho I and II to create a backstory. A writer comes to Fairvale to interview people for the true crime book she's writing about the Bates case. It was a quick compelling read. There are lots of murders but not gory (though I believe the movie is a typical slasher). Instead, it is a thinker with a lot of suspense. I enjoyed trying to figure out whodunnit and found the suspense writing to be superb. (4/5)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mississippi Noir edited by Tom Franklin

Mississippi Noir edited by Tom Franklin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Akashic Books
Source: egalley via edelweiss

Akashic Noir Series

A mixed-bag of contemporary stories taking place in Mississippi. Averaging out to a solid 3.5 stars.

1. Combustible by Ace Atkins - An abused girl gets back at her stepfather. Short good read with a dangling ending. (4/5)

2. Lord of Madison County by Jimmy Cajoleas - Wow! I don't even know how to start. This is about rich, white kids. The main character hooks up as a drug dealer out of boredom, fakes getting Jesus, bags the pastor's daughter and ends up in very serious trouble with his supplier. A hardcore story but in the end it's about the pastor who really does practice what he preaches. (5/5)

3. Losing Her Religion by Rachell R. Smith-Spears - Heavy duty story of a woman who gives up everything for the married man who has just broken up with her. Powerful writing. (5/5)

4. Most Things Haven't Worked Out by William Boyle - Fantastic! A rip-roaring exciting read. A crime you could say, but it's about two people who were abused as kids and how they were ruined, one by hate and one by kindness. A very poignant ending. Complex, interesting characters. (5/5)

5. Uphill by Mary Miller - Nothing really happens in this story. A woman with a penchant for loser boyfriends tells about her current situation and ruminates on her past and future. Pretty boring. (2/5)

6. Boy and Girl Games Like Coupling by Jamie Paige - Very short. Narrated by the boy, it's about the moment a girl learns she's dating a psychopath. (3/5)

7. Oxford Girl by Megan Abbott - Brilliant. I loved this story! The narrative switches back and forth between a college couple starting with the girl finding out she's pregnant. Then they each tell the story of their relationship from the beginning to the dark, dark end. (5/5)

8. Digits by Michael Kardos - This is really creepy and I loved it until the end. A college English professor notices that students in the class are missing fingers. It's a great creepy story but ends suddenly and I didn't get it. I still don't get it. I would have given it a five but my rating is reduced because don't like stories to leave me bewildered. (3/5)

9. Moonface by Andrew Paul - A man recounts an event from his youth when he caused someone's death. OK. (3/5)

10. God's Gonna Trouble the Water by Dominiqua Dickey - This is a sad story but has a redemptive ending. A white boy and black girl have a four-year-old daughter. The boy wants nothing but them to be a family, while the girl knows they can ever have a normal life together because of their colour. The boy steals his little girl every now and then to get her mother to come to him. This time, he takes her on the night of a big storm and it's the last time he does. Very good. I love the narrative voice. (5/5)

11. My Dear, My One True Love by Lee Durkee - This is very short, a few pages. So briefly, a man narrates his attraction to crazy women. The ending was as I expected. Not bad. (3/5)

12. Hero by Michael Farris Smith - Just ok, not much really happens. About a boy who doesn't talk and his abusive father narrated by the next door neighbour who takes day labour jobs and has a large psychic-for-hire wife. (2/5)

13. Pit Stop by John M. Floyd - On a road trip, a mother tells her daughter about the time she was attacked by a serial killer. A really good story that had me riveted. Only problem is that the ending was disappointing. (3/5)

14. Anglers of the Keep by Roger Busby - A melancholy tale of a dying man whose daughter has arranged a lung transplant for him. The man tells his secrets to his ex-son-in-law on the journey to the clinic. (4/5)

15. Jerry Lewis by Jack Pendarvis - A guy has a mysterious encounter with a dangerous woman. Short and kind of dumb. (2/5)

16. Cheap Suitcase and a New Town by Chris Offutt - A lonely woman waitressing in a town she recently moved to gives a much younger waitress some advice and then moves on. I don't get the point of this. Boring. (1/5)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

In the Company of Wolves: Thinning the Herd by James Michael Larranaga

In the Company of Wolves: Thinning the Herd by James Michael Larranaga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 282 pages
Published October 10th 2013 by CreateSpace
Source: egalley via netgalley

In the Company of Wolves (#1)

Very good. I didn't have much idea what it was about as I went into it and at first thought it would prove to be about big business corruption, which I don't usually read. However, at approx 24% a lot of things were starting to happen: murder, undercover work taking place within a brokerage which buys out life insurance policies. Quin is a very intriguing character with many flaws and yet philosophical. He has mental health issues, several really, and we find out he's an unreliable narrator. In fact, a lot of the time it seemed as if everybody was double dealing or spies on the inside so the reader couldn't know what to believe. There are some loose threads and plot holes but the action sped along at top speed creating an uncertain ending in which we must read the next book to learn more. I'd really like to follow Quin into the next chapter of his life so I've just bought the reasonably priced sequel.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Wolf and Me by Richard Scrimger

The Wolf and Me by Richard Scrimger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 230 pages
Published October 1st 2014 by Orca Book
Source: Local library

Seven: The Sequels

The uniqueness of this series is that it doesn't matter in what order you read them. I chose this for my second book simply because the title caught my attention. I enjoyed this way more than Scrimger's book "Ink Me" from the first series. Again written by Bunny who has learning disabilities so the text is written in his vernacular with phonetic spelling and mistakes. It has the same problem as "Ink Me" in that the pot is incredibly unbelievable. The scenes that happened at the US/Canada border are just not possible. But if one is willing to suspend disbelief it is an action-packed read. Bunny is kidnapped and spends the entire book escaping and getting recaptured repeatedly. It's a fast read that I read in one day. As to its part within the series as a whole, it is minor. The Grandfather becomes an image of mental courage for Bunny but there is no mystery to solve as in the first book I read, "Double You". However, his brother's adventure ("Coda") is referred to repeatedly.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Murder for Max: A Maxine Benson Mystery by John Lawrence Reynolds

A Murder for Max: A Maxine Benson Mystery by John Lawrence Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 128 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Orca Books
Source: Received a print review copy through Library Thing

Rapid Reads

This is a book from Orca Books' Rapid Reads collection. These books are intended for adult literacy and ESL. Reluctant teen readers will also enjoy them if they don't mind books with adults as the main characters. I've read several of these now and some are better than others but it is hard to write a "good" book when using a limited vocabulary. This first in a mystery series is written at a Grade 3.6 level. Canadian author Reynolds has succeeded in writing an entertaining and engaging mystery at this vocabulary level. The book takes place over the course of an afternoon into early evening which works very well with this type of book. This is done in the classic Christie style of a group of people, one of whom must be the murderer and the police chief gathers them together to reveal who the murderer is. Reynolds has also been able to give the main character depth and have her come to terms, over the course of the book,with a slight inferiority complex of being a woman in a "man's" job. Among the better books I've read in this collection.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Seeds of Foreverland: The Prequel by Tony Bertauski

Seeds of Foreverland by Tony Bertauski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 77 pages
Published October 10th 2015 by DeadPixel Publications
Source: Kindle freebie

Foreverland (The Prequel)

A quick read that takes a great look at Harold's childhood and the work his parents started that he would later take further in the rest of the books in the series. Harold is a bad guy but this makes us feel for him a bit knowing how awful his childhood was. This was such a fantastic series and this novella is just a little bonus to read after the main series. Love it.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Gasp (Visions #3) by Lisa McMann

Gasp by Lisa McMann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 273 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Simon Pulse
Source: Local library

Visions (#3)

I read the first two books in this series when they came out and was a little worried I wouldn't be able to get into this last book in the trilogy after all this time. However, the long wait did not hinder my enjoyment. The book quickly reminds the reader what happened in the first two books over the beginning chapters. Then the rest of the book reads like a house on fire. I was glued to the pages and read the book over the course of an afternoon. I love the characters in this series and it's just a fun premise with some serious bits and lots of action. There's also a funny side and I loved the ending. Great conclusion to a great trilogy!