Showing posts from January, 2008

January Books in the House

This month I had quite a nice selection of new (to me) books arrive.

I was the lucky winner of Beloved by Toni Morrison from 3m just before Christmas and it arrived at the begining of this month. I had decided this would be my next Morrison book so it was perfect!

A visit to the Sally Ann proved successful. As I was looking through the books, a sales lady came by and asked if I had noticed that the books were buy one get one today. Woohoo! I came home with some good stuff including Atwood, George Macdonald, Trollope, Vanity Fair, Casino Royale and others.

I placed an online order for the books in my chunkster challenge as I don't like using the library for really big books. The pressure to read them gets to me. I got The Shining, The Sweet Far Thing and Little Dorrit.

Bookmooch brought forth New Dawn on Rocky Ridge, Dragonquest and Arrows of the Queen (the very first Valedmar book). I've read a lot of Lackey's books but always shied away from the Valdemar books, probably becau…

21. The Apple and the Arrow

The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff

Pages: 75
Finished: Jan. 30, 2008
Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 7yo.
First Published: 1951
Genre: children, historical fiction
Awards: Newbery Honor
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

"Missed it again."

Comments: This is the story of William Tell, legendary Swiss hero, and the story of the Swiss rebellion which led to the formation of the Swiss Republic. Ds really enjoyed this book and I did also. The characters were real and endearing. The introduction to peasant life in the 1200s was fascinating to ds and inspired much discussion. He found the story to be very exciting. Some parts of the rebellion went over his head but, as noted, it sparked much discussion. The illustrations by this husband and wife team are stunning and the writing rich.

20. Faithless

Faithless by Karin Slaughter
Fifth in the Grant County series

Pages: 392
Finished: Jan. 29, 2008
First Published: 2005
Genre: forensics mystery
Reason for Reading: next in the series. series challenge
Rating: 5/5

First Sentence:

Rain had saturated the forest floor, soaking twigs and fallen limbs so that they bent without snapping.

Comments: Jeffrey and Sara find themselves on the case of a young woman who was buried alive, yet died an even more excruciating death. Karin Slaughter delivers again. This fifth book in the series is possibly my favourite one so far. An incredible page turner, not as gruesome as some of the other titles but equally as riveting. The side story of Lena Adams finally comes to a head and it looks like the next book may have her moving in a new direction. A terrific read. Highly recommended.

Sadly, I am nearing the end of Slaughters backlist. There is one more book in this series plus a stand alone left for me to read. She also has a new stand alone due out this year. I…

19. Strange Events

Strange Events: Incredible Canadian Monsters, Curses, Ghosts, and Other Tales
by Johanna Bertin

Pages: 140
Finished: Jan. 26, 2008
Reason for Reading: I have no idea. My eldest son gave it to me when he was getting rid of some of his books and I decided to keep it.
First Published: 2003
Genre: Non-fiction, history, paranormal
Rating: 2.5/5

First Sentence:

Most Canadians have heard of the Bermuda Triangle.

Comments: From the 1700s to the 1960s unusual events and sights that are a part of Canadian culture are recorded here. This takes more of a historical look at curiosities rather than a paranormal one. A far cry from a well-written book, nevertheless, I did find it interesting enough to finish reading. There were enough tales that were unfamiliar to me to keep it interesting, for example the Cadborosaurus. The expected Ogopogo is here, but I wonder at the exclusion of Sasquatch. Worth a read if you have an interest in this sort of thing.

Book Awards Challenge

This week I finished the Book Awards Challenge. The goal was to read 12 books which have received awards. I wrote a list to start with, then changed it several times but ended up tossing it to the wind and read books as I felt like it.

Here is my completed list of 12 award winning books:

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy(Pulitzer)
2. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood(Booker)
3. The Giver by Lois Lowry(Newbery)
4. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers(National Book Award)
5. Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard(Guardian)
6. The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy(Governor General's)
7. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park(Newbery)
8. Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry(William Allen White Award)
9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman(Carnegie Medal)
10. Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel (Mr. Christie's Book Award)
11. Dust by Arthur Slade (Governor General's)
12. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (Booker)

The only book I didn't enjoy was The Road. I wasn't very impressed with The …

18. The Iron Staircase

The Iron Staircase by Georges Simenon
Translated from the French by Eileen Ellenbogen

Pages: 176
Finished: Jan. 26, 2008
First Published: 1953
Genre: fiction
Reason for Reading: I love Georges Simenon. I do not like his Maigret novels, but I am fascinated with what are commonly referred to as his "Psychological Novels". These books are amazing studies into the mind of a person, usually a man, who is going through some sort of hardship in life but is otherwise nondescript. It has been a while since I read one so I thought it was about time for another visit.
Rating: 5/5

First Sentence:

The first note was written in pencil, on a sheet of writing paper the size of a postcard.

Comments: A man has realized that he has not been feeling well for quite some time now and becomes suspicious of his wife. He listens to her phone calls, watches her every move. What unfolds is a roller coaster ride of tension as the reader never quite really knows what is happening until near the end. As the man…

17. High Spirits

High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories by Robertson Davies

Pages: 198
Finished: Jan. 27, 2008
Reason for Reading: weekly reading of short stories for short story Monday. Canadian challgenge.
First Published: 1982
Genre: short story collection
Rating: 3/5

Comments: A collection of stories Davies wrote each year as Master of Massey College. These stories are funny, witty and satirical. Some stand out much more than others. These are best read slowly, one here, one there as they do have a sameness to them that tires. Recommended for fans of Davies.

Follows is a brief synapses (without spoilers) and my opinion on each story.

How The High Spirits Came About - In the introduction, Davies explains how every Christmas for the 18 years he was the Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto he would tell a ghost story. This is a collection of these 18 tales. The stories are parodies of the classic ghost story.

#1) Revelation From a Smoky Fire - in this story the current and first Master of…

16. The Best American Short Stories 2007

The Best American Short Stories 2007
Edited by Stephen King

Pages: 411
Finished: Jan. 23, 2008
Reason for Reading: weekly reading of short stories for short story Monday.
First Published: 2007
Genre: anthology, short story collection
Rating: 3/5

Comments: An interesting collection of short stories by different authors with no common theme. The stories range from the mundane to the strange, from love stories to death stories. For me the best stories in the collection were in the first half of the book leaving the second half very underwhelming for me. None of the stories stick out as being absolutely fabulous but there are some that were very good. Overall, a decent collection of stories most suited to the literary reader. Follows are my brief synopses of each story (with no spoilers) with my thoughts.

1. Pa's Darling by Louis Auchincloss - set in the sixties, a woman reflects on how her larger than life father overshadowed her life. Readable, but didn't really do anything for me.

2. Tog…

Short Story Monday

I have been busy reading short stories this week as I wanted to finish both of the collections I have been working on. I have quite a little stack of collections here that I am eager to start so it was time to either finish these or set them aside.

These are the last two stories in this collections

#19 - Sans Farine by Jim Shepard - This concerns the man who was the executioner at the time of the French Revolution. The men in his family had been executioners for seven generations, only now he is facing problems as his wife does not agree with the royal executions. Just ok.

#20 - Do Something by Kate Walbert - Basically this was just a depressing story of a woman whose son died of leukemia and she has turned to making protest demonstrations on her own.

Next up the last half of this book:

#10 - The Cat That Went to Trinity - There are two new students in class this year. One named Elizabeth Lavenza the other named Enstein, given name Victor Frank. This gives our narrator cause for concern e…

15. True History of the Kelly Gang

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

Pages: 368
Finished: Jan. 27, 2008
Reason for Reading: Booker challenge, book awards challenge, chosen for me in the GRTB game on LibraryThing.
First Published: 2000
Genre: historical fiction
Award: Booker Prize
Rating: 4.5/5

First Sentence:

I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false.

Comments: The life story of Ned Kelly, Australian Bushranger and Outlaw, as told through his fictional diaries. Wow, this was an amazing book. From page two I was hooked on the story and the life of this man. I found myself absolutely intrigued by him and since I started the book I have been reading about him online as well. Since the story is told through Ned's point of view we come to feel for him and root* for him, perhaps as the Australian people …

14. The Field Guide

The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 1

Pages: 107
Finished: Jan. 24, 2008
Reason for Reading: first in a series challenge, read-aloud to my 7yo.
First Published: 2003
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

First Sentence:

If someone had asked Jared Grace what jobs his brother and sister would have when they grew up, he would have had no trouble replying.

Comments: Three children move to an old Victorian home that belongs to a relative. They soon start hearing strange noises and then they find many strange and wonderful things that lead them to believe the house has another inhabitant. I read this aloud to my 7yo and I have to say I have never seen him so engrossed in a book before. At the end of each chapter we could hardly stand to not continue reading. We are both looking forward to the next volume. A wonderful, well-written fantasy for the under tens.

Reading Meme

This is a cool meme. I've just started to see it on a few blogs and Stephanie has tagged me! The meme originally comes from Eva.

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

This is a tough one. I don't think I actually cringe at anything except bodice-rippers. But I guess the one book that I sometimes see reviews of, and they are always positive, is Les Miserables. I absolutely do not enjoy anything that takes place in historical France and the French Revolution is the worst. I read and hated A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Pimpernel. I have seen the musical for Les Miserables and did not enjoy it all. So the thought of reading the book makes me cringe.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

This would perpetually change with whatever books I've read recently as I always have strong feeling…

Fairy Tale Friday

#8 - The Lake That Flew Away (An Estonian legend) - We really enjoyed this tale. Brigands and bandits were hiding in the marshes, searching for treasure and killing anyone who came near them. The lake flowed with their blood and was so sad that he decided to leave and find himself a place where he would be useful and appreciated.

#9 - Admirable Hare (a legend from Ceylon) - This is a tale of the Buddha and explains why, if you look closely, you can see the shape of a hare when you look at the moon.

#10 - All Roads Lead to Wales (A Welsh legend) - This is probably our favourite in the book so far. This post-Roman tale tells how Maximus Emperor of Rome found his lady love in Wales and how the Roman roads across all of Britain came to be built.

#11 - Rainbow Snake (An Australian myth) - The rainbow comes down to a dull, bland earth and leaves behind both tragedy, wisdom and colour.

#12 - Juno's Roman Geese (A Roman legend) - How a statue of Juno and her sacred birds, geese, saved Rome fr…

13. Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Illustrations by Robert Lawson

Pages: 139
Finished: Jan. 22, 2008
Reason for Reading: decades challenge, read-aloud to my 7yo.
First Published: 1938
Genre: children, fiction
Award: Newbery Honor Book
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:

It was an afternoon in late September.

Comments: Mr. Popper, an avid reader of literature concerning the Poles, receives a gift of a penguin from Admiral Cook. What ensues is the story of how he and his family cope with a penguin, and then many more penguins. This is the fourth time, I think, that I have read this so it has lost some of its charm for me. The 7yo enjoyed it well enough. The penguin antics are funny and this is a story that appeals to a child's imagination. Robert Lawson's illustrations are fabulous, as always. A cute, enjoyable story.

I do have to say though that I always find the ending rather disconcerting. SPOILER ALERT..... Mr. Popper leaves his family, basically deserts them, for a sup…

12. Rage

Rage by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)

Pages: 131
Finished: Jan. 21, 2008
Reason for Reading: I'm reading Stephen King in order and this was the next book.
First Published: 1977
Genre: fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:

The morning I got it on was nice; a nice May morning.

Comments: This is the first book Stephen King published under the nome de plume of Richard Bachman. This is very different from the other books he had published at this time. I'm not sure if it really fits in under any specific genre other than just fiction. This is an angry story of an angry youth who, in his last year of high school, thinks he is going insane and one day takes his algebra classroom hostage at gun point after killing two teachers in the process. The story turns into a "Breakfast Club" type of scenario as the hostages and the hostage taker tell stories and learn about each other. Interesting story, well-written and thought-provoking. Recommend.

Next book up for my chonological Stephen…

11. Born Standing Up

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin

Pages: 207
Finished: Jan. 20, 2008
Reason for Reading: I thought it might be interesting
First Published: 2007
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years.

Comments: Comedian, Steve Martin, shares in this memoir the ups and downs of the eighteen years he did stand-up. He briefly tells of his childhood, then moves on to his teenage years when he worked at Disneyland in a magic shop demonstrating the products. Martin does not get too personal, one can tell from his story that he is a private person. What he does give though is a vivid portrayal of the entertainment scene during the seventies and late sixties. It is a brief book and I would have liked some more in depth details of his experiences but it does give one some insight into the personal man behind the 'wild and crazy guy'. Enjoyable.

10. Abhorsen

Abhorsen by Garth Nix
Third in the Abhorsen Trilogy

Pages: 518
Finished: Jan. 20, 2008
Reason for Reading: next in the series. Series Challenge
First Published: 2003
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Fog rose from the river, great billows of white weaving into the soot and smoke of the city of Corvere, to become the hybrid thing that the more popular newspapers called smog and the Times "miasmic fog."

Comments: The last book in the Abhorsen trilogy starts the moment after the second book ends. This is mostly a quest story as Lirael and Prince Sameth travel to save the world from the Destroyer. The prologue ends with a shocker that took me quite a few chapters to come to terms with and then I settled down into the journey part of the story. The journey lasts three-quarters of book and I found that at times it lagged and seemed overlong. The action did pick up around the halfway point though and the last 200 hundred pages were page-turners for me. Not quite so good…

Short Story Monday

Well, I'm nearing the end of this book. Just two more stories to go! This week I ended up skipping a couple of stories as they were just not the type of thing I like to read.

#15 - Dimension by Alice Munro - skipped. This was an Andrea Yates type of story, only the father was the murderer, and that's not a spoiler.
#16 - The Bris by Eileen Pollack - skipped. A dying parent story.

#17 - St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. This is one of my favourite stories in the collection. Young werewolves are sent to the 'Home' to be raised by nuns and taught to behave like their human side and forget their wolf side.

#18 - Horeseman by Richard Russo - A University professor grapples with what her life has become over what she could have become.

Movie Review: The Departed

The Departed

Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin
Released: 2006
Own/Rent: Library
Reason for watching: This was the Oscar winner last year and we hadn't seen it yet, plus I love the entire line-up of actors in this.
Rating: 5/5

Comments: This was an absolutely awesome movie. It was so intense; I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie. The suspense of who was going to find out about the other first throughout the whole movie was thrilling. At the beginning of the movie I guessed what was going to happen to one of the characters but at the end when it did happen I was still shocked. Then the twists just kept piling up and it was stunning. I have a really easy time figuring out how books and movies are going to end so when I find one that shocks me I am delighted. I really want to watch this again and will probably buy the DVD sometime. Leonardo DiCaprio was really wonderful in this. I'm actually more a fan o…

9. Little Pear and His Friends

Little Pear and His Friends by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
Second Little Pear book

Pages: 129
Finished: Jan. 17, 2008
Reason for Reading: next in the series. Dh has been reading this at bedtime to the 7yo and I didn't want to miss out so I read it when they finished.
First Published: 1934
Genre: children fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First Sentence:

There is a village in China called Shegu.

Comments: Everything I said in my review for the first Little Pear book, holds true for this title also. This time around Little Pear is one year older, now six years old and in the first chapter his new baby brother arrives. Little Pear's adventures are less from naughtiness this time around but more from curiosity and misunderstandings. The writing and illustrations (on every page) are charming and the characters are endearing. An incredibly vivid look at life in a Chinese village in the early 1900s. Highly recommend.

There are two more Little Pear books but neither of them have been reprinted so I am keeping…

Fairy Tale Friday

#3 - George and the Dragon (A Persian myth) - A dragon is terrorizing a kingdom and a lottery is held each day to find the person who will be sacrificed for the dragon's next meal. On the day that the king's daughter has been chosen a Knight of the Crusades is on the scene to save the day. This is the legend of Saint George.

#4 - Skinning Out (An Ethiopian myth) - Tells the story of why the snake can change his skin when it gets old but humans cannot.

#5 - Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow (An English legend) - Starts with very brief historical background of Kings Richard and John, and Robin of Locksey. Then tells the popular story of the day Robin Hood won an archery contest disguised as on old man.

#6 - Brave Quest (A Native American myth) - A young brave who has been scarred by eagles is in love with a girl who has been promised to the sun. The girl asks him to journey to the Sun and ask his permission to marry her. The brave has a long eventful journey and ultimately does the S…

Movie Review - The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness

Director: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Released: 2006
Own/Rent: Library
Reason for watching: I like Will Smith.
Rating: 5/5

Comments: WOW. What a fabulous rags to riches story. Based on a true story of a man who made it from homelessness with his 5-year old son to business success. It was funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking and inspiring. This movie leaves you with the feeling that if you tried you could make it too. It also makes you feel like whatever your problems are, if this man could make it through his problems you can certainly make it through your own. So definitely one of those feel good movies. But also a very sad movie, at times. Watching the main character try to provide a place to sleep each night for his son was heartbreaking. It has been a long time since I cried while watching a movie, but the scene where they spent the night in the subway washroom had me weeping. Highly recommended!

8. Indelible

Indelible by Karin Slaughter
Fourth in the Grant County series

Pages: 360
Finished: Jan. 15, 2008
Reason for Reading: next in the series
First Published: 2004
Genre: mystery, thriller
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

"Well, look what the cat dragged in," Marla Simms bellowed, giving Sara a pointed look over her silver-rimmed bifocals.

Comments: This book is a departure from Slaughter's previous books. There is no gruesome crime scene in this story at all. Instead we delve into the past of the main characters and a fabulous story enfolds. The plot switches between the present where the Grant Country police station has been infiltrated and hostages taken, including Sara and Jeffrey, and the past where crimes of Jeffrey's childhood are brought to the surface when he takes Sara to his hometown just after they first started dating. This was a fabulous read and so different from her other books, yet just as good. Slaughter is definitely among my favourite authors. I can't wait for th…

Movie Review - The Queen

The Queen

Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Helen Mirren, James Cromwell, Roger Allam
Released: 2006
Own/Rent: Library
Reason for watching: Have wanted to see it. I used to be very big on the monarchy.
Rating: 4/5

Comments: I had to talk my dh into watching this with me, and fortunately, he ended up liking it as much as I did. Really a great movie that shows the royals from a very different angle. Mirren was fabulous as the Queen and I was really pleased to see Charles portrayed so low-key. The movie shined a positive light on everybody involved, I thought. And Blair was very interesting to watch. It was just a tad too political for me, since I know nothing of British politics and don't care for politics anyway. It's funny though, dh and I were talking and thought how few of the British PMs we knew of. Neither of us could name anyone off the top of our heads from recent years except Blair and Thatcher. Of course, if I go back in time I can come up with a few more: Churchill, Disrael…

7. The Reptile Room

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Second

Pages: 190
Finished: Jan. 13, 2008
Reason for Reading: next in the series
First Published: 1999
Genre: children, Gothic
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

The stretch of road that leads out of the city, past Hazy Harbor and into the town of Tedia, is perhaps the most unpleasant in the world.

Comments: The story picks up with the children in the car driving to their new home. Here they meet their distant uncle, Uncle Monty, who is a pleasant and intelligent man. The children seem to have finally found a wonderful place to live after the death of their parents but, alas, that is not to be. For only a few short days later, Uncle Monty's new assistant arrives and the children are positive he is Count Olaff in disguise. The pace from the first book picks up and this second book is much more fast-paced. The dark, gothic atmosphere continues and added is a touch of Holmesian detecting as the ch…

Short Story Monday

Having reached the half-way point of my other book, I've decided to switch back to this one for a change of pace.

#12 Findings & Impressions by Stellar Kim - I quickly realized this story was about someone dying of cancer so I skipped it as I don't read about that topic.

#13 Allegiance by Aryn Kyle - Glynnis and her parents have recently moved to America from England and she finds herself in the position of new girl at school. An unpopular girl has made moves to befriend her but Glynnis must choose between being unpopular also or making the right moves to become one of the popular crowd. There also is an unraveling story of why the parents moved to America and why the mother is so embittered.

#14 The Boy in Zaquitos by Bruce McAllister - A man gives a talk to a class about how he used to work for the government spreading deadly diseases in other countries. Strange.

6. Beyond the Deepwoods

Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart
Illustrated by Chris Ridell
The Edge Chronicles, Book One

Pages: 284
Finished: Jan. 13, 2008
Reason for Reading: 1st in a series challenge
First Published: 1998
Genre: children, YA fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First Sentence:

Far far away, jutting out into the emptiness beyond, like the figurehead of a mighty stone ship, is the Edge.

Comments: Twig was abandoned at birth and left to be brought up by a family of woodtrolls. Twig now sets off on a journey to find something to fill the void he feels from not belonging, what he finds is the truth and his destiny. Wow, this book was amazing. My mind is just full of the amazing world created by the author. The Edge is a land inhabited by bizarre characters and creatures (both flora and fauna). Each chapter brings us a new creature and new characters such as a hoverworm, the Slaughterers, a banderbear, the Bloodoak, the Gyle Goblin colony and so much more. I just couldn't stop reading as I excitedly turned to the next ch…

Movie Review - RV


Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Robin Williams, Jeff Daniels
Released: 2006
Own/Rent: Library
Reason for watching: We like Robin Williams.
Rating: 3.5/5

Comments: We enjoyed this movie. I see it didn't get very good reviews but I guess we're pretty easy to please. When I sit down to watch a comedy, especially one with a favourite actor in it, I expect to laugh and have fun. And this movie delivered. Lots of laughs and lots of fun in this simple, clean, family-friendly movie.

5. The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
First Percy Jackson and the Olympians book

Pages: 375
Finished: Jan. 11, 2008
Reason for Reading: 1st in a series challenge
First Published: 2005
Genre: children, YA fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood.

Comments: After Percy Jackson is attacked by a monster he finds out that he is a demigod. His mother takes him to the summer camp where others like him are trained. It is here he finds out which god is his father and he is given his first quest, to retrieve the stolen lightning bolt of Zeus from Hades in the Underworld.

This book was so much fun. A fast-paced read from beginning to end. As a fan of Greek myths I loved how the author did not tell who each monster or god was right away, giving the reader a chance to figure it out themselves. There were so many familiar myths represented here but there were also a few that were new to me as well. The characters were real and likable and I found myself comparing this to Ha…

Fairy Tale Friday

I love fairy tales with a passion. And my passion runs the gamut through fairy tales, legends and myths, especially the Greek myths. I simply love them all. I am currently reading from the book The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean, to my 7yo anywhere from two - five times a week. This is the first of a three book set by McCaughrean and each book is illustrated by Bee Willey. The illustrations are stunning and looking at the pictures is just as much fun as reading the stories. McCaughrean is a wonderful writer, these tales are vivid. The language is beautiful and full of emotion.

I'll be writing a short review each week as we read through the stories just like I do with my own short story reading. I'll be posting on Fridays simply because I'm a sucker for alliteration. LOL.

#1 - The Golden Wish (A Greek Myth) - This is the story of King Midas, one of my favourite Greek myths. Does anyone not know the story? Midas wishes that everything he …

Movie Review: Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Director: Jonathan Dayton
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin
Released: 2006
Own/Rent: Library
Reason for watching: After hearing someone referring to it, I looked it up online and thought it sounded good.
Rating: 4.5/5

Comments: Since I had never heard of this until just recently, I didn't know what to expect going in, except that it was quirky. Quirky it was, indeed, but also hilarious and heartwarming. Throughout the whole movie we chuckled over and over but at the end when you find out what the little girl's talent for the beauty pageant is we were roaring with laughter. Every one of the actors was wonderful, Alan Arkin especially and I see he won an Oscar for the part. This is an exceptional movie and one that shouldn't be missed. Recommended!

We've also watched a few movies with the 7yo recently. These are:

Curious George - (own) a bit too sappy, sweet for my tastes but the 7yo liked it well enough.

Dennis the Menace Strikes Again - (TV) e…

4. The Serpent's Egg

The Serpent's Egg by J. Fitzgerald McCurdy
First book of The Serpent's Egg Trilogy

Pages: 280
Finished: Jan. 8, 2008
Reason for Reading: Canadian challenge, YA challenge
First Published: 2001
Genre: children, YA fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:

North of Ottawa, deep in the Gatineau Hills, a tremor shook the still night air.

Comments: Just as Hate, the Demon, arrives at Miranda's house to destroy her, a Druid takes her away. As she follows him, they make their way to the Houses of Parliament and with the help of the tunnels underground and a little bit of magic she, and her friends, are escorted to the Elven world. It is then she finds out that she is the only one who can destroy the Demon.

The story was exciting and fast-paced and the fantasy world was intriguing. The world is inhabited by the typical Tolkien races of elves, dwarfs, trolls and dragons. That this world was connected to ours via the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa added an extra touch of fun.

I really enjoyed the bo…

Short Story Monday

#7 Refuge of Insulted Saints - Hearing a knock at the door one evening our narrator opens the door to find Babs (otherwise known as Saint Barbara, Patron Saint of Artillery) standing at his door with a cannon pointing at him. She and many other saints who have just been deposed to legend status by Pope Paul VI (1969)are seeking asylum at the college. This was a lot of fun and very witty!

#8 Dickens Digested - A young man working on his thesis about Charles Dickens becomes more and more like Dickens himself. Lots of fun Dickensian-speak but not as good as other stories here.

#9 The Kiss of Khrushchev - A Russian exchange student, a member of the choir, disappeared some years ago but now our narrator has found a singing frog in the basement. This story was just plain weird.

3. Kept: A Victorian Mystery

Kept: A Victorian Mystery by D.J. Taylor

Pages: 463
Finished: Jan. 6, 2008
Reason for Reading: When I read the jacket blurb, I thought this would be just the kind of book I'd like. Chunkster Challenge
First Published: 2007
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

I will happily declare that there is no sight so harmonious to the eye or suggestive to the spirit as Highland scenery.

Comments: It is very hard to tell the plot of this book as there are many things going on. Two main stories run parallel throughout until they come together at the end. One being the mysterious mad woman kept under lock and key, the other follows a crooked lawyer who collects debts for his clients. There are also many side stories that intertwine these main stories. There is a maid who works in the house where the mad woman is kept, a young footman who falls under the spell of the crooked lawyer, an impoverished man whose wife is dying, the embarrassed landowner who would rather collect rare…

2. The Bad Beginning

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the First

Pages: 162
Finished: Jan. 4, 2008
Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 7yo.
First Published: 1999
Genre: children, Gothic mystery
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.

Comments: I read the first three Unfortunate Events books about 3 years ago and for some reason never got around to reading the rest of them. In this first volume the Baudelaire children become orphans and are sent to live with the evil Count Orloff who treats them miserably and plans to take their fortune from them. This series is mostly a parody of the Victorian penny dreadful type of books and is really a lot fun. The atmosphere is dark and gloomy and the humour dry and ironic. Literary allusions abound. The setting is an alternate one being clearly set in a Victorian age while also having such conveniences as cars and walkie-talkies. Some parts went over…

Movies/DVDs of 2008

This is an ongoing list of movies and dvds I have watched in 2008.

January: 13
1. I,Robot (2004) -science fiction
2. Curious George (2006) -animated
3. Dennis the Menace Strikes Again (1998)-family comedy
4. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) -stop motion
5. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) -comedy
6. RV (2006) -comedy
7. The Queen (2006) -drama, biography
8. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) -drama
9. Superman III (1983) -action adventure
10. Happy Feet (2006) -animated
11. The Departed (2006) -drama
12. Spiderman 3 (2007) action adventure
13. Pirates of the Carribbean: At World's End (2007) action adventure

14. Shrek the Third (2007) -animated
15. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) -thriller
16. Ratatouille (2007) -animated
17. Transformers (2007) -science-fiction

Didn't Follow Through ... Better Luck Next Year

Movies: I, Robot

This blog is about books but I thought I'd like to also make a list of movies and DVD sets that I watch. We don't go to the movies very often, anywhere from 0-4 times a year, so most of our movie-watching is done at home. Most of the movies we watch are borrowed from the library for free. Our library doesn't have the greatest selection of movies but it's not half bad either. We buy movies on DVD occasionally, especially when Wal-Mart has big sales. I also have a thing for TV Show Seasons on DVD. I expect my movie 'reviews' will be short and sweet.

I'll start with last night's movie, the first we watched in 2008.

I, Robot

Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Will Smith
Released: 2004
Own/Rent: Own
Reason for watching: I love Will Smith. I love science fiction movies and having read the book was interested in it.
"Suggested" by the book I, Robot by Isaac Asimov which I have read many years ago.
Rating: 3.5/5

Comments: The movie has nothing whatsoever to do wit…

Chunkster Challenge

OK, I have been trying to resist this challenge. I am in so many challenges already but I have my reasons (mwa ha ha!) I am officially joining the Chunkster Challenge which stipulates you read at least 4 books in 2008 that are at least 450 pages or more.

I started a book yesterday which qualifies and I intend on reading a Charles Dickens book this year so that really only leaves my 2 more books to add to the list. Oh, I just remembered I'll be reading The Far Sweet Thing by Libba Bray and The Shining by Stephen King this year too! Yeah, I have four and didn't have to add anything to my schedule!

My list:

Kept: A Victoria Mystery by D.J. Taylor (463 pgs of fairly small type) This is the one I'm currently reading.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens (1024 pgs)

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (832 pgs.)

The Shining by Stephen King (704 pgs.)

Books Read in 2008

This is an ongoing list of every book I read in 2008.

TOTAL = 194

January: 21
1. Sunwing by Kenneth Oppel -YA animal fantasy
2. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket -children, gothic (R/A)
3. Kept: A Victorian Mystery by D.J. Taylor -historical fiction
4. The Serpent's Egg by J. Fitzgerald McCurdy -YA fantasy
5. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan -YA fantasy
6. Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart -YA fantasy
7. The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket -children, gothic (R/A)
8. Indelible by Karin Slaughter mystery, thriller
9. Little Pear and His Friends by Eleanor Frances Lattimore children fiction
10. Abhorsen by Garth Nix -YA fantasy
11. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin -NF, memoir
12. Rage by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) -fiction
13. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater -children fiction (R/A)
14. The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black -children, fantasy (R/A)
15. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey -historical fiction
16. The Best American Short Stories …