Showing posts from April, 2008

Pub '08 Challenge

I've decided to join the Pub '08 Challenge. Read at least 8 books published in 2008. Kids/YA books are not allowed, just adult reading. The challenge lasts all year long. I'm starting with books I've read since March, so I've already got 6 read! Check out my list in the sidebar.

Let's Talk ARCs

I'd like to put this out to those of you who review a lot of ARCs.

I've got two major publishers now who are sending me ARCs regularly, plus I belong to a couple of lottery type deals for ARCs and then there is the occasional one I get asked if I'd like. So, I'm very pleased that I'll be reviewing new books here quite regularly now. But I am wondering how others deal with balancing the reading of ARCs vs. private reading.

How do you stay on top of the 'required' reading so that you don't get overwhelmed? Do you drop everything and read ARCs as soon as they arrive? Read them in the order they come? or let them pile up and read whichever you feel like at the time? So far I haven't had enough at one time to have had to consider these questions before but I'm expecting a steady flow starting now.

I'd love to hear how others stay on top of it, keep it fun and still manage to read 'old' books, too.

Short Story Monday

#8. Battleground - A hitman returns from his last job, taking out a toy manufacturing mogul. On his way up to his penthouse apartment the desk clerk hands him a large package that has arrived for him. Sure it is a bomb or something equally unpleasant he takes his time before opening it. Eventually he unwraps the paper and finds stenciled on a wooden box the words "G.I. Joe Vietnam Footlocker" with a list of contents. I really enjoyed this one. It made me think of the army men from Toy Story only much more vicious.

#9. Trucks - Here is the one I've been waiting to re-read! A small group of people are under siege at a gas station. They can't get out, the electricity has been cut and they are surrounded by heavy trucks. They try to deal with the situation, try to figure a way of escape and not all of them make it to the end alive. It is rather a cheesy idea, trucks taking over the world, but I loved this story the first time I read and I loved it this time. I'm also …

78. Dolphin Adventure

Dolphin Treasure: A True Story by Wayne Grover
Illustrated by Jim Fowler
First book in the Dolphin Trilogy

Pages: 47
Finished: Apr. 26, 2008
First Published: 1990
Genre: children, nonfiction, animals
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

The Florida sun warmed our backs as we loaded the diving gear aboard our boat.

Reason for Reading: Dad read this to the 7yo and I didn't want to miss out.

Comments: Wayne Grover goes diving off the coast of Florida. As he is enjoying the beauty he hears a series a clicks. As he looks for the source of the sound a family of dolphins, two adults and a baby, come up to him. The baby is wedged between the two adults and he can see that the baby has been injured. A plastic fishing line is wrapped tightly around the baby's tail fin and embedded into the skin. The baby is in pain and blood is flowing from the wound. The adults manoeuvre the baby in front of Wayne and he realizes that they are asking for his help. This is an awe striking and heart touching story with a re…

77. A Ribbon of Shining Steel

A Ribbon of Shining Steel: The Railway Diary of Kate Cameron by Julie Lawson
Dear Canada series

Pages: 204
Finished: Apr. 26, 2008
First Published: 2002
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

Hell's Gate and Galoshes!

Reason for Reading: I'm reading my way through the series.

Comments: Kate Cameron and her family move to Yale, British Columbia where her father is working on the railroad as a foreman in charge of bridge building. Kate document's in her diary the progress of the railway for the year of 1882. She tells of her worry for her father's safety as workers are injured and killed. We also see the hardships and discriminations against the Chinese workers brought in to build the railroad. Daily life in a small town built for the purposes of the railway workers and their family is brought to life as Kate describes school, picnics, camping, tragedies and triumphs. An engaging story that I enjoyed very much. As usual with this series the book ends with …

76. Last Bus to Woodstock

Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter
First Inspector Morse mystery

Pages: 309
Finished: Apr. 26, 2008
First Published: 1975
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4.5/5

First Sentence:

"Let's wait just a bit longer, please," said the girl in dark-blue trousers and the light summer coat.

Reason for Reading: First in a Series Challenge. I was (still am) a big fan of the TV Show.

Comments: A young woman is found murdered in the parking lot of a small pub. Inspector Morse is partnered with Sergeant Lewis for the first time and they work the case. Lewis finds Morse's tactics often strange and somewhat difficult to work with at times. This is a brilliant and clever British police procedural. Being very familiar with the TV Show I found the characters to be a bit different than they are portrayed on the screen. Morse is younger and Lewis is several years older than Morse for a start! Once I realized, and accepted, that Morse was different than I was familiar with I was hooked. This is top-notch Bri…

75. A Foreign Affair

A Foreign Affair by Caro Peacock
Liberty Lane, Book 1

Pages: 331
Finished: Apr. 24, 2008
First Published: Apr. 2008
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

"Would you be kind enough to tell me where they keep people's bodies," I said.

Reason for Reading: Received this ARC from Harper Collins Canada

Comments: The year is 1837 and Liberty Lane receives a note informing her that her father has been killed in a duel in France. Libby knows without a doubt that she has not been told the truth. Her father must have been murdered and she will find out what really happened. She meets with adversity almost immediately and is asked to work as a spy while masquerading as a governess. Libby will do anything to find her father's killer and in the end will discover a plot to usurp the newly crowned Queen Victoria.

This is a quick, light read with an intricate mystery that kept me guessing until the end. While there was plenty of action I didn't really feel grabbed by the sto…

74. Gunpowder Empire

Gunpowder Empire by Harry Turtledove
First in the Crosstime Traffic series

Pages: 288
Finished: Apr. 22, 2008
First Published: 2003
Genre: YA, science fiction, alternate history
Rating: 2.75/5

First Sentence:

When Jeremy Solters found a note from his mother in his lunchbox, he started to laugh.

Reason for Reading: I read Ruled Britannia some years ago and loved it. At that time, none of the author's other books appealed to me. I was browsing the YA section of my library a few weeks ago and noticed this series which he has written since I last looked. The concept sounded interesting.

Comments: It is the late 21st century and technology has found a way to travel between alternate realities. Dozens have been found so far with potentially hundreds more to be found. In this time of depleted natural resources, citizens of our world travel incognito in families to alternate realities as traders.

The Solters arrive in Aggripan Rome for their summer job as traders; trading mirrors, razors, Swiss army…

A Grain of Rice

A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman

First Published: 1986
Genre: picture book, fairy tale
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Once a year the Emperor of China opened his court so that even the humblest of his people could come before him.

Reason for Reading: read aloud the 7yo.

Comments: A lowly peasant asks to marry the princess and is scorned. However, the princess takes kindly to him and asks her father to hire him. So the peasant goes to work in the storeroom and such a friendly, hard worker as he quickly rises in position. He moves on to the kitchen and his dishes are exquisite. The princess sneaks down to the kitchens to watch him and the two fall in love. The princess realizes she will never be allowed to marry so with a broken heart she soon sickens and death is near. The Emperor vows to give anything to the man who can save his daughter. The peasant mixes a potion which, when the princess hears is from him, heals her very quickly. But alas, when the peasant again asks for her hand the E…

Short Story Monday

All three stories I read this weekend were of the monster variety.

#5. The Mangler - An ironing machine in an industrial laundry plant is possed by a demon and is killing employees. Two cops are aware of the problem and set out to exorcise the demon. This was rather silly and made me chuckle more than anything. This was made into a movie by Tobe Hooper. (which I haven't seen)

#6. The Boogeyman - A man shows up at a psychiatrist's office with the need to unload his story. He had three children and all three of them were killed by the boogeyman as toddlers. Now the boogeyman is after him. Another one that I found more silly than scary.

#7. Grey Matter - A boy runs into the all-night store in a near panic. He has a very strange story to tell old men gathered there. His father, whom no one remembers actually seeing for several months, has been slowly turning into something not human. Leaving the boy behind with the wife of the owner, three of the men go to check things out.…

73. Vanish

Vanish by Tess Gerritsen
Fifth Jane Rizzoli mystery

Pages: 336
Finished: Apr. 19, 2008
First Published: 2005
Genre: thriller
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

My name is Mila, and this is my journey.

Reason for Reading: next in the series. This qualifies for my 'V' book for the a-z challenge. I won this book from Joy in the last contest for the a-z participants.

Comments: A woman is taken to the morgue and one evening as Dr. Isles is working she hears noises. She is surprised to find that the dead woman is actually alive and she is taken to the hospital in a very agitated state. At the same time, Jane Rizzoli is going into labour and about to be admitted to the hospital. The dead woman (now alive) grabs a security guard's gun and shoots him, then takes hostages and Jane just happens to be in the room that the panicked woman has taken over.

Another fabulous entry in this series! I couldn't put it down. The narrative alternates between the present hostage situation and the story of a Rus…

72. Cirque Du Freak

Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan
Cirque Du Freak, The Saga of Darren Shan, Book 1

Pages: 266
Finished: Apr. 18, 2008
First Published: 2001
Genre: YA, horror
Rating: 4/5

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

First Sentence:

I've always been fascinated by spiders.

Reason for Reading: YA challenge, 1st in a series challenge. I really enjoyed Shan's latest book for adults so I decided to try his YA series.

Comments: Darren Shan and his friend get tickets to go to a secretive Freak Show which has mysteriously arrived in their town. While they are there the boys learn that one of the performers is a vampire in disguise. This vampire does an act for the show with a huge deadly spider and Darren is fascinated with spiders. He sneaks back to the theatre during the day when the vampire will be asleep and steals the spider. Thus begins a downward spiral of events which lead to serious injury and life and death decisions.

I have to say I really enjoyed this! It was a very quick read and s…

71. Another Thing To Fall

Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman
Tenth Tess Monaghan Mystery

Pages: 325
Finished: Apr. 17, 2008
First Published: March, 2008
Genre: mystery
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:

There she was.

Reason for Reading: I received this review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Comments: Tess Monaghan is out rowing on the river when she inadvertently collides with the set of a TV Show. Once they find out she is a private investigator she is hired to work as a body guard for their young star. Seems she has been the target of a stalker in the past and now strange things are happening on the set, small fires and other small but annoying sabotages. Tess soon realizes there is a lot more going on and when someone is murdered her behind-the-scenes investigation starts.

This is the first Laura Lippman book that I have read. Usually I'm pretty particular about starting a series at the beginning so was a little wary about jumping into this tenth entry of the series. I had little to worry about as I was hooked f…

The Wonderful Eggs of Furicchia

The Wonderful Eggs of Furicchia: A Picture Story from Italy by Anne Rockwell

First Published: 1969
Genre: picture book, fairy tale
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Long ago, in the city of Florence, there stood a little shop where an old lady named Furicchia sold eggs.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 7yo.

Comments: This fairy tale comes from medieval Florence and tells the tale of a good witch who sells enchanted eggs to the villagers. The eggs always bring good fortune to those who eat them. They can make you healthy, wise, pretty, or whatever benefit you may need. However, next door to Furicchia lived a selfish, mean lady, Maddalena, who wanted to know Furicchia's secret. She tried to buy some eggs but was told they would only work for those who have a pure heart. Maddalena, of course, does not believe this and she sets out to steal the source of the eggs. In the end, her wickedness gives her a surprising and most appropriate ending.

This story is a lot of fun and the ending was a laug…

70. Capyboppy

Capyboppy by Bill Peet

Pages: 62
Finished: Apr. 17, 2008
First Published: 1966
Genre: children, animal story, autobiographical
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Since early childhood my son Bill has been fascinated by the wild creatures living around the Los Angeles and southern California area.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 7yo.

Comments: A true story based on the author's experience of having a capybara as a family pet. His oldest son had always brought home animals as pets but once when he was attending college he brought home a capybara. The animal won all their hearts and had many comic escapades but in the end they realize that wild animals are not meant to be pets and they must decide what to do with him. The story ends happily, though mother sheds a few tears. This is a fun, educational story illustrated profusely with Peet's fabulous line drawings. Bill Peet worked for Walt Disney back in the day and he is one of the greatest children's book author/illustrators.

This has …

The Donkey Prince by M. Jean Craig

The Donkey Prince retold by M. Jean Craig
Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

First Published: 1977
Genre: picture book, fairy tale
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Once there lived a King and a Queen who ruled over a wide and peaceful kingdom.

Comments: A King and Queen who can have no children ask a wizard for help but when the King pays him he substitutes lead pieces for some of the gold. When the wizard finds out, he curses them to have a child who looks like a donkey and will remain as such until someone loves him as a human. The King and Queen are heartbroken and pay no attention to the child. He is teased by the other children and eventually leaves home until he finds another court who welcome him because he is a wonderful lute player. Here he fulfills his destiny.

I read this to the 7yo for our daily fairy tale story. This is a retelling of the Grimm tale of the same name. Before writing this review I pulled out my copy of the Complete Tales of Grimm and read the original tale which is ve…

69. That Furball Puppy and Me

That Furball Puppy and Me by Carol and Bill Wallace
Second book in the Grey Cat Trilogy

Pages: 83
Finished: Apr. 15, 2008
First Published: 1999
Genre: children fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:

"Ring ... Ring."

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 7yo. Next in the series

Comments: It is now winter and Grey continues to watch for the bird, Flea, to return but knows that he must wait until winter is over. Something strange is happening around the house and he hears the word 'grandkids' repeated often. Soon he founds out what that means and Grey experiences his first Christmas which has it's good points and it's bad points. But the worst thing of all is when the Mama opens her Christmas present and out pops a puppy. Grey is no longer the smallest pet in the house and somebody else is getting his tummy rubs. Grey is jealous and sets out to get the puppy out of the house. We enjoyed this second in the series. Not as much as the first but still a cute, fun stor…

Three Pigeon Books by Mo Willems

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Caldecott Honor), Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late and The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

We have had a blast the last week reading these books. These are probably the funniest and most addictive picture books I've ever read. I read them aloud to the 7yo and he just couldn't get enough. We read each one three or four times in a row at the first reading alone. He is now holding on to them and reading them himself. It is going to be a sad day when they have to be returned to the library!

...Drive the Bus and ...Stay Up Late are both written to the reader. In "...Drive the Bus" the bus driver asks us to watch the pigeon and make sure he does not drive the bus while he goes away for a little while. The pigeon then tries every trick in the book to get us to let him drive the bus. Children will immediately see themselves in the pigeon's pleading and wheeling and dealing, as will any parent. In "...Stay Up Late"…

Short Story Monday

#3. Night Surf - This story is related to Stephen King's novel The Stand. Here we have a group of teenagers who are among the lone survivors after a virus has wiped out most of the world's population. Each of them has previously had a different virus, making them think they are immune to this one. Not much happens but it has an eerie atmosphere and makes me even more eager to re-read The Stand.

#4. I Am the Doorway - An ex-astronaut tells his buddy his strange tale. Several years after coming back from an exploration mission to Venus and now retired the astronaut has horrible pains in his hands and wakes to find them covered with eyes. Eyes that not only see, but see this world as a strange alien world and the people seem like horrible creatures. He finds that the eyes can take over his body and make him do things, like kill people. He takes drastic action to silence them but ... well, you'll just have to read the story yourself.

68. The Devil of Nanking

The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder
Published as Tokyo in the UK

Pages: 363
Finished: Apr. 12, 2008
First Published: 2004
Genre: thriller, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First Sentence:

To those who fight and rage against superstition, I say only this: why?

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

Comments: Grey is a young woman who is driven to find the answer to her past. To find her answer she must seek a piece of rare film taken during the Nanking Massacre. This obsession takes her to Tokyo and into the world of hostess bars and the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Chapters alternate with Grey's present and a memoir of an old man she meets written during the days of the Japanese invasion of Nanking.

The atmosphere is dark and imposing. From the start the reader is aware of an impending doom. The mind races as we try to imagine what could be so horrible. The mounting tension is almost unbearable. Until finally, shock after shock is revealed and it was with pounding heart a…

67. The Silver Treasure

The Silver Treasure: Myths and Legends of The World by Geraldine McCaughrean
Illustrated by Bee Willey

Pages: 130
Finished: Apr. 11, 2008
First Published: 1996
Genre: Folklore/myths/legends
Rating: 4.5/5

First Sentence:

When the Spanish came to South America, they looked around them at the people, but saw only the gold bands on their arms, the silver rings in their ears.

Reason for Reading: Once Upon a Time Challenge, Read aloud to my 7yo.

Comments: This is the second of a three book set by the award-winning British author and storyteller, Geraldine McCaughrean. It is a wonderful collection of myths and legends from all around the world. Many nations are covered and while there are a few well-known tales retold, the majority are lesser known and not found in many collections of this sort. The writing and language is beautiful and told in a story-teller voice. One feels as if one can hear the storyteller's voice as they read and these are wonderful to read aloud. The tales are in their…

66. The Arthurian Omen

The Arthurian Omen by G.G. Vandagriff

Pages: 322
Finished: Apr. 9, 2008
First Published: 2008
Genre: suspense
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

Brother Gruffyd's old heart trembled with excitement.

Reason for Reading: I received this as a review copy.

Comments: Maren travels to Wales to help her sister search for a manuscript which could prove that King Arthur was real. Upon her arrival she is notified of her sister's murder. Maren sets off to find the manuscript on her own and track down the killer. She is soon joined by a motley crew of people who all say they are on her side but one of them may just be the killer.

Maren hits the ground running in this book and the action is non-stop. With very short chapters and the quick pace this is a fast read. Maren herself is the definition of Murphy's Law and finds herself the victim of attempted murder, kidnapping, stalking, and unsuitable suitors galore. There is also a comic element present and while there is plenty of suspense and ac…

65. More About Little Pear

More About Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
Fourth (and final) Little Pear book

Pages: 125
Finished: Apr. 9, 2008
First Published: 1971
Genre: children fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First Sentence:

Little Pear was a Chinese boy.

Reason for Reading: next in the series. Read aloud to my 7yo

Comments: Little Pear is 7 years old now and has finished his first year of school. It is now summer vacation and his days are free to spend with his family and his friend, Big Head. Each book in this series has been just as good as the others and this one is no exception. The love for China and its people shines through on each page and Little Pear is one of the most charming characters in children's literature that we have met. This is the final book about Little Pear and he will be sadly missed by both the 7yo and I.

Short Story Monday

I've been absent from short story Monday for the last month but am now back into my routine of reading short stories on the weekends. This time I am reading Night Shift by Stephen King. This is King's first collection of stories and the next book up in my chronological Stephen King project. (Well, actually, The Shining is next and I'll be reading that very soon.)

First we start off with a rather boring Introduction by John D. MacDonald then we have a Foreword by Stephen King and this is the very first book in which he wrote a foreword. It was a very interesting essay on why he writes scary stories and why people read them.

#1. Jerusalem's Lot - This is somewhat of a prequel to 'salem's Lot. It is the 1850s and a man and his man-servant come to live in a relative's old home after he dies from an accident. The home has been in the family since the days of the Puritans. The residents of the nearby village are wary of the newcomers and eventually start to…

64. Payment in Blood

Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George
Second Lynley & Havers Mystery

Pages: 312
Finished: Apr. 5, 2008
First Published: 1989
Genre: British mystery
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

Gowan Kilbride, aged sixteen, had never been much for early rising.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

Comments: A London theatre group of actors visits Scotland for the weekend to stay at the director's sister's manor house turned hotel. The next morning the playwright is found stabbed to death in her bed with the door locked. Strangely, Scotland Yard is called in almost immediately and Lynley and Havers take over the case.

The story starts off slowly and at first I was rather disappointed. Having really enjoyed A Great Deliverance I expected more than the Agatha Christie-like British cozy atmosphere of the first 100 pages. However, at page 99 (in my book) the case took a turn and it became the first of many twists and turns in the mystery. Also, the plot revolved heavily around the British class system wh…

Draw Write Now Book 6 Animals & Habitats

Draw Write Now Book 6: Animals & Habitats - On Land, Ponds & Rivers, Oceans
by Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer

We used this book as part of our curriculum this year with Winter Promise's Animals and Their Worlds. Divided into three sections this book focuses on animals found on land, in ponds and rivers and in oceans. Each page gives step by step instructions to draw the animal and text to copy for handwriting practice. There is also a page at the end of each section with more information on the specific animal and recommended books to read.

My son loved this book with a passion. We soon gave up on copying the text as it was way too much writing for this 7yo. Instead, I had him dictate a story to me and I would write it down. So it became an exercise in creative writing/expression rather than handwriting. The drawing instructions are very straightforward and easy to follow. I would draw the picture right along with him and did occasionally need to help him now and t…

Fairy Tale Friday

#14. Babushka (a Russian legend) - Babushka is an old woman whose only child died long ago. The three wise men rest at her house on their way to visit the Christ Child and encourage her to come also. She decides to come but first must find a present, so she carefully fixes and cleans the old toys of her son. She sets off on her journey to Bethlehem but she has missed the baby and continues on looking for him. Thirty years later, still searching for the baby she sees a man on a crucifix and stops to give her condolences to the weeping mother. From this time on Babushka continues her wanderings but now she leaves a toy, from her basket which never empties, in the home of Christian children and once a year on the birthday of Christ the toys become visible. I love this story!

#15. The Pig Goes Courting (a Hawaiian myth) - Kamapua'a is a pig-like god and he has become infatuated with Pele, the fire goddess. She has quite the temper, a nasty disposition and does not return the feelings. …

63. Coyote Autumn

Coyote Autumn by Bill Wallace

Pages: 201
Finished: Apr. 2, 2008
First Published: 2000
Genre: children, animal fiction
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

I love days off from school

Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 7yo

Comments: Thirteen year old Brad has always wanted a pet, especially a dog but living in a Chicago apartment made it out of the question. When his family moves to rural Oklahoma he is hoping more than anything that this birthday he will finally get the present he has always wanted. However, before that day arrives Brad walks into the carnage that coyote hunters have left behind at a nearby dam. He brings the remaining coyote pup home and the summer that is both the best and worst of his life begins. This was a beautiful, touching story with many laugh-out-loud moments. Both the 7yo and I loved it. The writing is very simple, yet full of real emotion. This is a wonderful, wholesome 'boy' book with a bittersweet ending. We've read a few book by Wallace now and will continu…

62. In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd

Pages: 264
Finished: Mar. 30, 2008
First Published: 1966
Genre: fictional memoir, humour
Rating: 3/5

First Sentence:

I felt like a spy.

Reason for Reading: I wrote this in a previous post a while ago. I saw a review of In God We Trust a little while ago (sorry forget who) and it brought the book back to my memory. When I was in Grade 5, my teacher, Mr. Prowse, read parts of this book to us and I just fell in love with it. I asked my parents to get the book for me (this was 1977) and they couldn't find it anywhere. Later in life, I'd remember it occasionally and look but never was able to find it in print (this was pre-Internet). Of course, I hadn't thought of the book in years when I saw that review and was thrilled that it was back in print and I just had to get a copy. This same teacher also read to us from James Thurber that year, which set me off reading Thurber at time. Ah, memories!

Comments: Ralph Parker returns to his ho…