Showing posts from May, 2008

98. The Borden Tragedy

The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary
A Treasury of Victorian Murder Book 3

Pages: no page numbers
Finished: May 29, 2008
First Published: 1997
Genre: graphic novel, true crime
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: Joy wrote a review of this recently and I just had to read it myself. My library didn't have it so I ordered it through ILL.

First sentence:

The grim and seething summer of 1892 will never depart my memory ... nor, I daresay, will it be ever forgot by the good citizens of Fall River.
Comments: Rick Geary takes his account of the famous Lizzie Borden murder case from the unpublished memoirs of an unknown lady of Falls River. Being very familiar with this case, it has been one of my obsessions since I was a child, I found the author wrote a very realistic and unbiased presentation. Most of the important facts are here and it is a compelling read. Geary does not try to point a finger at any one suspect but gives the list of suspects and lets the reader deal with the facts themselves. The hea…

97. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Pages: 394
Finished: May 29, 2008
First Published: 1987
Genre: Southern Fiction
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Southern Fiction Challenge

First sentence:

The Whistle Stop Cafe opened last week, right next door to me at the post office, and owners Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison said business has been good ever since.
Comments: Evelyn Couch goes to the nursing home with her husband as he visits his mother ever week. Evelyn quickly gives her best wishes and then hurries out to the waiting room. It is here that she meets Ninny Threadgoode, an 86 year old woman who starts talking from the second Evelyn sits down. Ninny talks about the past, not her life, but the life of all the people she used to know and especially Idgie and Ruth two very special friends. Evelyn becomes caught up in this story and ultimately her life is changed forever.

The story is told through very short chapters that move back and forth through time. There are se…

Final Dose of Bill Peet

We've been enjoying more Bill Peet these last few weeks. We've enjoyed everyone of these books and really had a good time sampling Bill Peet's work. He is one of the greats and it is such a joy that all his books are still in print. I won't go into a review of each of these as I would say the same thing for each of them. Wonderful!

96. The Eyes of a King

The Eyes of a King by Catherine Banner
First in a Trilogy

Pages: 435
Finished: May 27, 2008
First Published: May 27, 2008
Genre: YA fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Random House Canada. Also qualifies for the YA Challenge

First sentence:

These are the last words I will write.

Comments: Wow, this was an amazing book. There are so many layers to the story that I find it difficult to attempt to summarize but attempt I will. The main narrator, Leo, lives in the world of Malonia. This is a military run world. Soldiers patrol the streets. Children go to military school to learn to fight not so much to read and write. Children with powers are sent to 'special' schools where they are locked up and kept under control. People with mental problems are labeled 'Unacceptables' and taken away by soldiers. It is in this world that Leo lives and one day he finds a blank book. But words start appearing in the book and a story unfolds. It is a tale set in a fa…

95. Chomps, Flea, and Gray Cat (That's Me!)

Chomps, Flea, and Gray Cat (That's Me!) by Carol and Bill Wallace
illustrated by John Steven Gurney
Third book in the Gray Cat Trilogy

Pages: 89
Finished: May 26, 2008
First Published: 2001
Genre: children, fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: read aloud to the 7yo. next and final book in the series.

First sentence:

I loved sitting in the House Mama's lap!

Comments: Chomps and Gray are friends, summer is coming and Flea is expected back any day now. Comps and Gray spend their time together having fun and trying not to get into trouble with Mama but they just can't help it. Then one day after Flea arrives home the Mama is missing and in terrible trouble. It is is up to the three friends to get help for her.

This was a wonderful ending to this series. Full of fun and humour. The ending was quite intense with danger and the 7yo was caught up in the race to rescue Mama. Overall, a fun series for little ones, about ages 6-8.

94. Favorite Poems of Childhood

Favorite Poems of Childhood edited by Philip Smith

Pages: 84
Finished: May 22, 2008
First Published: 1992
Genre: poetry
Rating: 2.5/5

Reason for Reading: read aloud to the 7yo. We always have a book of poetry on the go.

First sentence:
From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

Comments: Collection of poetry that will appeal to children from short 4 line verses to longer story poems of several pages. This is a "Dover Thrift" book and does not have any illustrations to speak of there are 4 b/w line drawings with no appeal to them at all. This definately dampened our enjoyment of the poetry. As far as the poems go there were some favourites such as "The Raggedy Man", "The Peppery Man", "There Were Two Ghostess" and "The Quangle Wangle's Hat" and others , but there were far too many poems that marveled at the wonders of nature which bored the 7yo to tears. Not…

93. Alias Grace

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Pages: 468
Finished: May 23, 2008
First Published: 1996
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: chunkster challenge. GRTB pick

First sentence:

Out of the gravel there are peonies growing.

Comments: This fictionalized account is based on the true story of 16 year old Grace Marks who was accused and found guilty of accessory to the murders of her master and his mistress, the housekeeper, in 1840s Toronto, Canada. As the book starts Grace is in prison and is waiting to be seen by a doctor who has obtained permission to study her. He is not the usual type of doctor but rather a doctor of the mind.

The narrative of the book switches from the 1st person of Grace to the third person narrative of the doctor and between these narratives are letters between the characters, excerpts from contemporary papers and poetry. The switching views and narratives keeps the reading moving. I particularly enjoy this type of back and forth narrative. Atwood has …

Once Upon a Time Challenge Completed

I finished the Once Upon a Time Challenge! Thanks to Carl for hosting such a suburb challenge!
I pretty much strayed from my original list and just read books as they came up. I loved them all though. I chose the first quest to complete any five books that fit the genre. The books I read are:

5. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
4. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
3. The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
2. The Silver Treasure: Myths and Legends of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean
1. The Wrath of Mulgarath by Holly Black

92. Five Children and It

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
First book of The Psammead Trilogy

Pages: 242
Finished: May 20, 2008
First Published: 1902
Genre: children fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: Decades Challenge. Read aloud to my 7yo

First sentence:

The house was three miles from the station, but, before the dusty hired fly had rattled along for five minutes, the children began to put their heads out of the carriage window and to say, "Aren't we nearly there?"

Comments: Four children and their baby brother stumble upon a Sand Fairy and learn from It that he can grant them one wish a day but the wish will only last until sunset. They quickly learn that making and getting wishes is not as easy as it seems. They wish for the wrong things at the wrong time and even when they get it right it never turns out as they thought it would. Such as when they wish they were all beautiful and return home to find that the servants don't know who they are and turn them away…

91. Here We Go Again: My Life in Television

Here We Go Again: My Life in Television by Betty White

Pages: 289
Finished: May 19, 2008
First Published: 1995
Genre: autobiography, NF
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: I'm trying to always have a non-fiction book on the go. I enjoy old-time celebrity autobiographies and I've always admired Betty White.

First sentence:

"And now, here is Betty White --a woman who has been on television

Comments: This is Betty White's autobiography which starts with her first amateur stage performances and then quickly gets to her television career. Being written in 1995, it only goes up to the end of The Golden Girls and the brief sequel The Golden Palace. Not only is this the story of White's life, it also reads as a history of television. Ms. White was there at the beginning in 1949 and starred on one of the very first TV shows, Hollywood on Television which she was on air six days a week for five and a half hours a day!

Ms. White has a wonderful written voice which rea…

90. Airborn

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
First book in the Airborn series

Pages: 322
Finished: May 19, 2008
First Published: 2004
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: once upon a time challenge. YA challenge. I've read all the Silverwing books and wanted to start this series now since the third book is coming out this fall.

First sentence:

Sailing towards dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the
ship's eyes.

Comments: Matt Cruse works as a cabin boy on the airship Aurora. His father, before him, worked and died on this ship and Matt himself was born on an airship. Sailing is in his blood and he feels he was born to be in the air. He befriends a girl passenger who is making her first air voyage to prove the existence of strange air creatures that her recently deceased grandfather was thought to have imagined. While making a routine voyage with a full load of passenger's and cargo they are attacked and boarded by pirates. This is the beginning of Matt and Kate…

Short Story Challenge Completed

Another challenge completed. The short story challenge was the perfect challenge for me as I had wanted to get into the habit of reading short stories this year and that mission has been accomplished. I hope to always have a collection on the go dipping into them regularly in the evenings on the weekends. My challenge was to read four collections of short stories and I read three of the four mentioned on my sign-up post. Thanks to Kate for hosting this challenge!

Here's my list of completed books:

Night Shift by Stephen King
Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories by Garth Nix
High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories by Robertson Davies
Best American Short Stories 2007

89. Night Shift

Night Shift by Stephen King

Pages: 326
Finished: May 18, 2008
First Published: 1978
Genre: horror, short stories
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: next in my chronological Stephen King Project. Short story challenge.

First sentence:

Let's talk you and I. Let's talk about fear.

Comments: Stephen King's first collection of short stories (mostly) previously published in various magazines. There were only a couple that didn't do it for me and those were ones that strayed from King's regular fare. The rest of the stories are creepy, or scary, or silly but they were all very good. This is an excellent collection and will be enjoyed by any horror fan. A brief synopsis of the stories and my thoughts follows:

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&#…

Flute's Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush

Flute's Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush by Lynne Cherry

Finished: May 16, 2008
First Published: 1997
Genre: picture book, non-fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: read aloud to the 7yo.

First sentence:

Four lovely turquoise eggs lay in a nest in a small dogwood tree in a forest in Maryland.

Comments: This book follows the life of a wood thrush from the time it is born and learns to fly in the Belt Woods of Maryland. Then as it journeys to Costa Rica for the winter and once more back again to Maryland where he mates and has babies of his own. The author/illustrator has written a lovely, interesting story full of information on the bird and his surroundings, including an even-handed presentation of environmental issues. The illustrations are lush, intricate and detailed. While the text will be over the heads of young children, the illustrations will be appreciated by all ages. The end pages are especially nice with the front showing a map of the journey from Maryland to Costa Rica a…

88. The Anatomy of Deception

The Anatomy of Deception by Lawrence Goldstone

Pages: 342
Finished: May 17, 2008
First Published: Jan. 2008
Genre: historical fiction, forensic mystery
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

First sentence:

For days, clouds had hung over the frigid city, promising snow; an ephemeral
late winter veneer of white, but the temperature had suddenly risen and a cold,
stinging drizzle had arrived instead.

Comments: It is 1898, Philadelphia and Dr. Ephraim Carroll is studying with the renowned Dr. William Osler. Autopsies have been legal for only five years and still many people find them barbaric. It is in this setting that one day the corpse of a young lady found in the streets turns up on Dr. Osler's table for autopsy. Dr. Carroll notices that two of the other doctor's seem shocked by her appearance and Dr. Osler quickly replaces the sheet and ends the class early. Later, looking into the suspicious death of one of his colleagues leads him down…

School Books

This is our last week with our program for this year, Animals and Their Worlds from Winter Promise and we've finished off several of our books we've been using with the curriculum. Here are the final books we've used and the brief reviews I wrote for LibraryThing.

One Small Square: Coral Reef by Donald M. Silver
Beautiful illustrations are the main focus on each page drawing the child into the book. An engaging text, combined with the illustrations, encourages one to linger over the pages. My 7yo enjoyed the book immensely. We have used almost all of the One Small Square series and this one was our absolute favourite. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Kids' Easy-to-Create Wildlife Habitats by Emily Stetson
Detailed information and instruction on how to turn your backyard into an inviting habitat for local wildlife from rabbits and birds to butterflies and frogs. While most of the ideas are more suitable to those living in houses with decent sized backyards, suggestions are al…

87. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by Robert Byrd

Pages: 81
Finished: May 14, 2008
First Published: 2007
Genre: historical fiction, non-fiction, play, children
Rating: 2/5

Reason for Reading: This is last year's Newbery winner and I am reading all the Newberys.

First sentence:

The Feast of All Souls, I ran from my tutor -
Latin and grammar - no wonder!

Comments: A collection of monologues/soliloquies written to be performed by middle grade students. Each monologue tells the tale of an individual child from the middle ages. Footnotes are presented in sidebars and a few non-fiction factual pieces explain various medieval customs and history. The book is gorgeously illustrated with medieval-type illustrations in ink and watercolour. The design of the book is also very visually pleasing with coloured ribbon sidebars on every page.

While I found this book very pretty, the text did nothing for me. The majority of the monologues are written in…

First in a Series Challenge - Complete

I finished the First in a Series challenge! I loved this challenge. I got to start some series I've been meaning to read for a while and some of them I've even gone on to the second book. Thanks to Joy for hosting, her challenges are always so much fun. Here's my list of completed books:
12. The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet #1)
11. Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse #1)
10. Gunpowder Empire by Harry Turtledove (Crosstime Traffic #1)
9. Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan (The Saga of Darren Shan #1)
8. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (Dexter Morgan #1)
7. Birdman by Mo Hayder (Jack Caffrey #1)
6. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (Eve Dallas #1)
5. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George (Lynley & Havers #1)
4. Destiny by Alex Archer (Rogue Angel #1)
3. The Field Guide by Holly Black (Spiderwick Chronicles #1)
2. Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart (The Edge Chronicles #1)
1. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympi…

86. The Stonekeeper

The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet Book One

Pages: 187
Finished: May 14, 2008
First Published: Jan. 2008
Genre: children, graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: The cover and the illustration caught my attention

First sentence:

We're supposed to pick up Navin at eight o'clock.

Comments: The opening panels chronicle an intense scene of a car crash in which everyone escapes except the dad. Two years later Mom and the two kids, Emily and Navin, are moving to an ancestral home in a small town because of financial hardships. It is an old rundown, creepy place but they settle down for the first night until they hear strange noises. As they follow the noises down to the basement the mom is attacked and kidnapped by a strange bulbous tentacled creature. A door in the basement opens and the children follow it into a strange alternate world. Emily finds an amulet with a strong power and they meet up with other creatures who want to help them but all the while an dark figure i…

85. The Vampire's Assistant

The Vampire's Assistant by Darren Shan
Cirque Du Freak, The Saga of Darren Shan Book 2

Pages: 241
Finished: May 14, 2008
First Published: 2001
Genre: YA, horror
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: next in the series. YA challenge

First sentence:

My name is Darren Shan.
Comments: Darren and Mr. Crepsley return to the Cirque de Freak and Darren has a hard time coming to terms with his new half-vampire status. He makes friends with the Snake Boy but finds himself becoming weaker and weaker as he resists the urge to drink human blood. This second in the series was even better than the first one! Most of the book is spent fleshing out Darren's character as he struggles with his preconceived ideas about evil and good. And exiting and unexpected ending with plenty of gory bits made this a quick, page-turner. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

84. The Resurrectionist

The Resurrectionist by Jack O'Connell

Pages: 304
Finished: May 13, 2008
First Published: April 2008
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: received this ARC.

First sentence:

Alone in the doctor's office, Sweeney's eyes lingered on the final panel and, once again, he found himself feeling something close to sympathy for the cartoon strongman, exiled and adrift, the world town down in a random instant and supplanted with a precarious replacement.

Comments: This is a very strange story and a hard one to summarize. There are many different threads to the story but on the surface there are two main plots. Sweeney has moved to a small town and placed his comatose son in the care of the specialized clinic. He has taken the job as the night shift pharmacist and lives in an apartment in the basement. Very quickly he realizes that there is something going on at the clinic and on his very first day in town he has an unpleasant run-in with the local biker gang, the Abomination…

83. The Rabbi's Cat

The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar
Translated from the French by Alexis Siegel and Anjali Singh

Pages: 142
Finished: May 10, 2008
First Published: 2001-2003, 2005 English edition
Genre: graphic novel
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: looked interesting.

First sentence:

Jewish people aren't crazy about dogs.

Comments: Set in Algiers of the 1930s, this is the story of a Rabbi and his daughter told through the eyes of their pet cat. This is a very Jewish story with much theology and insight into Jewish customs, traditions and history. Personally, I know very little about the Jewish faith and always find it interesting to learn more. We follow the Rabbi in his day to day life and we watch as the daughter meets and then marries a young Rabbi from Paris. This is mostly a light story with a witty sense of humour and yet at times very profound. A wonderful insight into this time and place in history where Arab and Jew lived side by side. I really enjoyed this book, both the flavour and the stor…

82. The Mephisto Club

The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen
Sixth Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles mystery

Pages: 355
Finished: May 9, 2008
First Published: 2006
Genre: mystery, thriller
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: next in the series

First sentence:

They looked like the perfect family.

Comments: Ritualistic killings and satanic messages lead Rizzoli and Isles down a twisted path as they search for the killer. Things hit too close to home when Dr. Isles wakes up to find a satanic message on her door. Lots of twists and turns take us deeper into this eerie plot with supernatural undertones. I always enjoy books in this series but this is probably my least favourite to date. There was a supernatural element dealing with the true nature of evil, which was left hanging and it just felt out of place in this series. I found the topic more than interesting but Gerritsen would have been better to have written a standalone with this demon-hunter plot rather than subjecting it to Rizzoli.

Southern Reading Challenge

I missed out on this one last year but really enjoyed reading all the reviews as they came out. Rather than just listing 3 books I'm going to make a list of books from which I'll pick my three. The Southern Reading Challenge: Read 3 southern books from May 15 to Aug 15

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell
God's Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross
Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billy Letts

Short Story Monday

#12. The Ledge - As the story opens a man is sitting in a high rise apartment with another man whose wife he has been having an affair with. He and the wife are running off together. The husband, who just happens to be involved with the mafia, makes him a bet that if he can walk around the 5-inch wide ledge of the building he will let him go with his life, his wife, and an envelope of money. This is a superb story full of tension and a fabulous ending. One of the best in the collection. This was filmed as one of the stories in the movie "Cat's Eye"

#13. The Lawnmower Man - A man lets his lawn get overgrown and hires a company to come mow it. The man who arrives is extremely strange, he takes off his clothes and eats the mown grass right behind a self-powered lawn mower. When our man tries to call for help, the lawnmower man becomes upset. This is just weird. This was made into a movie (with Pierce Brosnan) but it had nothing to do with King's story other than…

81. Madapple

Madapple by Christina Meldrum

Pages: 410
Finished: May 4, 2008
First Published: May 13, 2008
Genre: YA, literary fiction
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Random House Canada. and qualifies for the YA challenge

First sentence:
The women resemble schoolgirls with gangly limbs, ruddy cheeks, plaited flaxen hair; they walk holding hands.

Comments: Aslaug has been raised by her mother in near isolation in a rural area with only one nearby neighbour. They spend much of their time gathering plants and Aslaug knows the properties of every plant in the area. They eat what they forage, nuts, seeds, roots, grains and teas. Then Maren, Aslaug's mother dies and Aslaug finds relatives she knew nothing about and she moves from one kind of isolation to another. She learns the secret of her birth, her mother's insistence of her virgin birth and as each family secret is uncovered the reality becomes darker and more horrendous. As the book opens we find Aslaug on trial for a do…

More from Bill Peet

We have been spending more time with Bill Peet the last couple of weeks. These books are just so wonderful. They are around 50 pages each and about on a Grade 4 reading level and appropriate to read aloud to any age. It is hard to decide whether we enjoy the story or pictures more but the pictures most certainly enhance the text.

Buford the Little Bighorn, 1967
Buford is a bighorn sheep who has very long horns that have grown all the way around his body. He finds walking on the mountains very difficult and the other sheep must pull and push him along. One day he decides this is not fair to the other sheep so he says goodbye and goes off on his own. He travels the dangerous route down the mountain to the fields below. Here he comes across a cattle ranch and he spends the summer hiding in the middle of the herd. But one day a plane overhead spots him and comes down to land. Buford recognizes them as hunters and knows it must be bighorn hunting season. So he takes off back up the mountains…

Medical Mystery Madness Challenge

This challenge is right up my alley! I love forensic mysteries. Read 3 medical mysteries from June 1 to November 1.

My choices are:
The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

80. The Canadians: Biographies of a Nation Volume II

The Canadians: Biographies of a Nation Volume II by Patrick Watson

Pages: 359
Finished: May 1, 2008
First Published: 2001
Genre: non-fiction, history, biography
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Looked interesting and I'm tyring to read more non-fiction this year.

Comments: Patrick Watson is a popular Canadian television personage and journalist. I remember him from a show I watched when I was a kid where he would dress up as a famous person from history and then sit down and interview himself. I don't remember what it was called but it was very good.

This book contains 16 mini-biographies on persons from Canada's past, some are famous and the others should be. It is a shame that many of these people are not known today. Looking at the table of contents I noticed that I had heard of only five of these people before I started to read.

This was a wonderful book! The biographies are well written in a narrative style, giving the facts of the person's life but concentrating more on th…

79. The Shining

The Shining by Stephen King

Pages: 683
Finished: May 1, 2008
First Published: 1977
Genre: horror
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.

Reason for Reading: Next up for my Stephen King Chronological Project. Chunkster challenge

Comments: Jack Torrance is a man with personal demons. After spending a childhood full of abuse, he turns into an alcoholic and one night breaks the arm of his three year old son. He and his buddy, just as much a drunk as he, are driving home one night and hit a bike in the middle of the highway, they can find no body anywhere but the shock scares them both into sobriety. Jack still thirsts for a drink every day of his life and in a fit of anger he attacks a student at the school where he works as a teacher. As the book opens we find Jack newly fired from his job and now interviewing for the position of off-season caretaker at a hotel up in the mountains, The Overlook.

The Overlook has its own demons and is not so much a building as a b…