Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Will Be Away For a While

I'm taking a trip back to Alberta to visit my Dad for the next three weeks. I am taking lots of books and plan on having a quiet visit and hopefully will get lots of reading done. I will have limited Internet access but do hope to keep my reviews up to date while I'm away. I just won't have time to comment or visit other blogs while I'm gone. I won't be making any other posts, besides reviews, while I'm gone and probably won't keep my current reading list (in the sidebar) up-to-date either.

See you all after November 20th, when I get back.

171. The Imposter

The Impostor by Damon Galgut

Pages: 249
Finished: Oct. 28, 2008
First Published: Aug. 5, 2008
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reason for Reading: Received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

First sentence:

The journey was almost over; they were nearly at their destination.

Comments: Adam Napier lives in South Africa just after the abolition of Apartheid. He has always been against Apartheid and now ironically he has lost his job to make way for race equality in the work place, losing his job to the black man he had been training. One time poet, he decides it is time to start writing again and he moves out to the Karoo, the empty countryside where he lives in a rundown shack of a house that his brother had once bought with the idea of fixing it up as a summer home. After only a few days he meets a man who once was a school chum of his as a boy, the man says he has always been his hero, but Adam cannot for the life of him remember him at all. He plays along and eventually starts going to the man's ranch to visit him and his wife on the weekends. Many more things happen, but then I would be giving away too much to say just what.

This is a very difficult book to describe. It is the story of friendship and betrayal, of nature vs. man, of race relations and finding out just how far one will go to get what they want. The book starts off very slowly and really feels to be about nothing at all, at first. But by the second page I knew I was going to enjoy the book, I just wondered what it was going to be about and often found myself wondering that as the book progressed. The title. The Impostor, comes into play many times, and once one realizes what 'impostor' implies one is later again shown a different 'impostor' and it evolves throughout the book.

This is not the book for you if you want non stop action or a plot driven book. The book is more a character driven story where the characters are more important than what is happening. This is one of those books you read and think you like, then wonder if you really do, but in the end the story grew on me and I think the characters will stay in mind for some time. This book has definitely made me interested in reading some of the author's other work. Perhaps I'll next read The Good Doctor which was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.

Monday, October 27, 2008

170. My Name is Number 4

My Name is Number 4: A True Story from the Cultural Revolution by Ting-Xing Ye

Pages: 230
Finished: Oct. 26, 2008
First Published: September 2008
Genre: YA, memoir
Rating: 4/5
Reason for Reading: Received a Review Copy from the publisher. Also qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.

First sentence:

The morning of my exile to the prison farm arrived, a characteristic November day in Shanghai, damp and chilly with an overcast sky.

Comments: This Young Adult memoir is an abridged edition of the author's 1997 adult book of memoirs A Leaf in the Bitter Wind. I find the Cultural Revolution amazing to read about. It is almost impossible to believe it happened as it sounds so much like dystopian literature. But the reality is that it did indeed happen and millions of Chinese people were brutally treated in their own country. Ting-Xing relates her childhood at the beginning of the Revolution and the hardship of her 5 orphaned siblings living with an adored Great Aunt who wasn't really a relative at all. The story of how her life quickly changed from school girl to political exile on a prison farm out in the countryside.

An astonishing and tumultuous tale from beginning to end. I was hooked from the outset and felt deeply for this girl who spent her late adolescence on a work farm. The story ends with her finally leaving the farm after six years and being allowed to go to university as an English major.

Not included in the book is how she became an English-Chinese interpreter and eventually defected to Canada in 1989 and now lives with fellow Canadian author, William Bell. Highly recommended!

Monday: Review Books in the Mail

Last week I received a few books in the mail for review from Random House Canada.

And I also mooched a book I've wanted to read for years.

So how does my arc tbr pile stand now. Still towering but I feel like I'm really getting caught up these days. I received 3 new ones last week and read and reviewed two making the pile only 1 book higher.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Not one of my usual posts but I just finished watching Wonderfalls The Complete Collection on DVD and wow! It was just so wonderful! But I can't find anyone who has ever even seen it!

This TV show aired only four episodes before it was cancelled but a full 13 episodes were filmed and are included on the DVD along with some fun Special Features.

I had never watched the show before but had seen commercials for it at the time and thought it looked interesting. I was at Wal-Mart one day when they had one of their DVD sales and they had a bin of TV Seasons 2/$15 so I bought everything that looked good to me and this was one of them.

What a wonderful quirky show. Each character was played so well. I feel such a let down that there are no more episodes to watch. It is about a 24 year old girl from a rich family who has a University degree in Philosophy but now lives in a trailer park and works at a souvenir shop in Niagara Falls. Inanimate figures with faces start talking to her and telling her do things. She feels compelled to do what they say even if it doesn't appear to be such a smart thing to do. Often she causes troubles but by the end of each show there is a path from the first thing she was told to do to the last thing that leads to a happy ending for someone.

Jaye, the main character, feels like she is going crazy and neither she nor the viewers no what is really happening. Some episodes lead you to believe she's crazy, others that God is speaking through her, while others that some sort of "Powers That Be" have chosen her. While each show is episodic there are also running story arcs through the show mainly of her relationship with a new-to-town bartender who came here on his honeymoon to find his bride cheating on him. The rest of her family is just brilliant. If you like quirky, funny shows such as Malcolm in the Middle, though with more adult themes and no kids, you'll love this series. One of the producers actually produced Malcolm in the Middle and the other is now doing the popular, though I haven't seen it yet, Pushing Daisies. IMDb says that Season 2, Episode 8 of Pushing Daisies will feature a Wonderfalls crossover. How amazing is that!

If you've seen the show let's talk about it in the comments.

169. The Shadow of Malabron

The Shadow of Malabron by Thomas Wharton
The Perilous RealmTrilogy, Book 1

Pages: 385
Finished: Oct. 25, 2008
First Published: August 19, 2008 (Canada, Hardcover) Aug. 4, 2008 (UK & US, paperback)
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reason for Reading: Received a Review Copy from Random House Canada. Also qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.

First sentence:

In a chamber high in a tower a young woman sits at a loom, weaving threads of many colours into a tapestry so large that it pools around her feet, half covering the chamber's marble floor.

Comments: This YA fantasy follows the traditional quest format of high fantasy. The story is very intricate and difficult to summarize. A teenager, Will Lightfoot, finds himself suddenly in an alternate dimension. The land of Stories, where all stories are begun and end and continue. He is befriended but soon finds out he is being sought by Malabron, the Night King, who has sent his right hand man, The Angel, and hordes of his minions, demons and strange creatures of the night. Will and a motley group of friends, including a talking wolf who has waited hundreds of years for his arrival, set off to find a portal to send Will back where he belongs.

There are many references to "stories" such as Red Riding Hood, Santa Clause (a toymaker named Father Nicholas), Freya (the Norse goddess of war, battle and many other things). I'm also sure there are probably references that went over my head.

I'll admit the book was a bit hard for me to get into. We are thrown right into this strange new world and must figure things out as we go along. I also found the character of Will not really fully developed. I didn't have any real feelings or concerns for him as a person. But, again I'll admit that at a certain point I became hooked on the plot. It is a very interesting and unique world Wharton has created. I was also pleased that the sub-plot within this series was completely resolved but enjoyed how the book ended with the feeling that there should be another chapter, well lots more chapters and I will certainly read the next book in the series.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Exploration and Conquest

Exploration and Conquest: The Americas After Columbus: 1500-1620 by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

Pages: 48
Finished: Oct. 23, 2008
First Published: 1994
Genre: children, non fiction, history
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 8yo for school

First sentence:

Christopher Columbus was not the first to discover the Americas.

Comments: A history of exploration through North America and South America from Canada to Peru. All major explorers of the times mentioned in the title are covered such as Cortes, de Soto, Cartier, Champlain, Hudson, and the founding of Jamestown. Presented in a large picture book format the text is appropriate for ages 6 and up. The illustrations are vivid, bright, detailed and interesting. Maps help visualize all exploration routes.

I found the book very politically correct and as a Christian needed to edit the text on the fly in many places. The word "forced" was used a lot in sentences which mentioned Christians and the conquering of the Aztecs failed to mention any of the Aztec's thirst for blood. The book told how the neighbouring tribes helped Cortes in his fight against the Aztecs but never mentions why. This type of revisionist history is not what I particularly enjoy but the book is not unusable by Christians, with a bit of word changes the information is useful and the book is easy to understand, written in a narrative and interesting text. My son has retained the information and the book served its purpose in our studies.

On the other hand, if you are coming from a different worldview the book may be perfect for you. YMMV!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

168. Walter the Lazy Mouse by Marjorie Flack

Walter the Lazy Mouse by Marjorie Flack
Illustrated by Cyndy Szekers

Pages: 96
Finished: Oct. 22
First Published: 1937 Doubleday
Genre: children's fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my 8yob.

First sentence:

Once upon a time there was a small young mouse named Walter.

Comments: This is the type of book that they don't make anymore but that I grew up reading: short chapter books with two-colour illustrations on every page. The copy I have has been re-illustrated by Cyndy Szekers in 1963. Marjorie Flack, herself, would have illustrated the original and I wish I could see her illustrations. I have always loved Szekers' illustrations but do not like it when books are re-illustrated.

Walter is a lazy mouse. So lazy in fact that he spends most of his time in bed and his family forgets about him and moves out right from under him. He wakes to an empty house and heads off into the forest to find his family. He gets lost and with the help of a new friend, Turtle, he lands on an island he names 'Mouse Island' and he becomes very good friends with the frogs that live there. Being the only mouse around he finds he must work to survive: build a home, make furniture, find food, keep warm, etc. Eventually, he leaves his lazy ways behind forever.

This was a very enjoyable story. Both the 8yob and I enjoyed it very much. I couldn't help but recognise the similarities in plot with William Steig's 1976 Abel's Island. I wonder if he found inspiration for his novel from this wonderful story aimed at younger children, eight and under. Lovely book!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

167. Resistance

Resistance: A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France by Agnes Humbert
Translated by Barbara Mellor

Pages: 270 + 100pgs of extraneous material (Afterward, index, etc.)
Finished: Oct. 20
First Published: 1946, 1st English translation Sept. 2, 2008
Genre: memoir, WWII
Rating: 4.5/5
Reason for Reading: I received a Review Copy from the publisher, Bloomsbury USA.

First sentence:

Rumours are flying, all flatly contradictory, but it seems clear that the Germans are advancing on all fronts.

Comments: Originally published in 1946, Agnes Humbert's journal became the most quoted source on the early days of French Resistance. Though being quoted frequently the book soon became obsolete and obscure obtainable only by academia. Republished in France in 2004, the book was finally translated into English this year, 2008.

The first and last sections of the book are taken directly from Ms. Humbert's day to day diary. Here we are told of her experiences as the Germans occupy France and how she and her colleagues started the first outright resistance to the occupation. We are also told the day to day reflections of the days after France were liberated and the part she played in helping to separate the chafe from the wheat where the German citizens were concerned.

The bulk of the journal was written almost immediately after the war and while not being an actual day to day journal it is a very closely remembered memoir of her German trial and sentencing as a political prisoner sent to Hard Labour camps and prisons, starting in France and eventually moving to Germany.

This is a fabulous book, full of atrocities and monstrous behaviour by human beings but also shows the determination of one woman and those who surround her of keeping their dignity and holding their heads high as they are degraded each and every day.

Highly recommended.

Monday, October 20, 2008

166. Killers of the Dawn

Killers of the Dawn by Darren Shan
The Saga of Darren Shan, Book 9

Pages: 206
Finished: Oct. 19, 2008
First Published: 2003
Genre: YA, horror, vampires
Rating: 4.5/5
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

First sentence:

It was an age of deceit.

Comments: Book 9 is a pivotal book in the Saga of Darren Shan series. The story arc that has been building since Book 4, I think, finally comes to a shattering reveal which I must admit I had already guessed several books back, but still it was fun to see it all unfold. A major tragedy happens in this book which was shocking and unexpected for me. The plot has been built up now for a final conclusion and showdown in the last three books.

Not much more to say with a long series like this. It is hard to review each book separately but this was one of the better books in the set and they've all been great. I can't wait to read the last 3!!

Monday: Review Books in the Mail

Last week was a good day for my mailbox, even had the UPS man here twice. Received in the mail last week are:

Last week I read an reviewed one arc so my pile has increased this week. Not counting the three children's graphic novels which my 8yo is reading to me, my towering, toppling arc pile has increased by 3 books.

I just haven't seemed to be reading as much as usual these days but I'm planning for that to change next month. I will be visiting my Dad in Alberta for 3 weeks in Nov. and I intend on bringing a ton of my arcs with me. I'll be alone in the house all day as they are at work so I can relax by their fireplace and read all day long! I am soooo looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

165. Fractured

Fractured by Karen Slaughter
Special Agent Will Trent, Book 2

Pages: 388
Finished: Oct. 18, 2008
First Published: July 29, 2008
Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: 3.5/5
Reason for Reading: received a review copy from Random House Canada. Plus I've read all the author's books, this is her latest.

First sentence:

Abigail Campano sat in her car parked on the street outside her own house.

Comments: When I first started reading this book I thought it was a standalone but quickly realized it was the next book in a series which started with Triptych. The story starts with a woman arriving home and finding her door open and the window glass smashed. She thinks of her daughter and runs up the stairs but at the top of the stairs she sees a girl obviously murdered (presumably her daughter) and a man kneeling next to her with a knife in her hand. She screams and runs down the stairs, she falls down the stairs, the man follows, grabs her legs, she kicks him, gets on top of him and strangles him to death.

A very exciting start and things slowly unravel to not be as they first appeared. This was an enjoyable mystery with lots of turns in the plot and a satisfying solution. However, I expected more from a Karin Slaughter book. I'm used to using the word "gruesome" to describe her books and this was nowhere near that calibre which is somewhat a shame since the first book in this new series, Triptych, was an incredibly brutal and intricately woven story. I honestly felt that for some reason Slaughter was purposefully trying to tone down the stomach-turning details of her previous works and that is not what I expected.

The book ends on an obvious note that there will be more books in this series. The main characters from this book appear as minor characters in a few of her other Grant Country series books so I would suggest starting from the beginning with Karin Slaughter and read her books either by series or by the order in which they were published.

Overall, I enjoyed the crime, the detecting and the solving of the mystery. Though this is not Slaughter's best work, I still look forward to her next book and wonder with anticipation whether it will be a Grant County or Will Trent book.

Friday, October 17, 2008

164. Pedro's Journal

Pedro's Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus August 3 1492-February 14, 1493 by Pam Conrad

Pages: 80
Finished: Oct. 15, 2008
First Published: 1991
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 8yo for school

First sentence:

The ship's roster of the Santa Maria has me down as Pedro de Alcedo, ship's

Comments: Told in a diary format this is the story of Columbus' first voyage to the New World told through the eyes of young ship's boy. It document's well the voyage in search of a route to Asia looking for spices and silk. This is the second time I've read this book aloud and it does make for a good read aloud experience. Conrad mixes fiction with fact to portray a boy of the times who sees things that are wonderful and other things that he finds shameful. The book is a little on the "bad Spaniards/poor Indians" point of view and Columbus' Christian purposes are not brought into play in this story much at all. That aside, it is done is a respectful tone and not over the top politically correct at all. It is a short book, well written and the perfect introduction to children of the life on the high seas during the era of the great explorers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

OT: Yeah!!!! Political Post

It is with great relief and pride that I celebrate tonight the re-election of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Still a minority government but with a very healthy rise in seats this time around. YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Congratulations Mr. Harper!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

163. The Beast of Chicago by Rick Geary

The Beast of Chicago: The Murderous Career of H.H. Holmes by Rick Geary
A Treasury of Victorian Murder, Book 6

Pages: unnumbered
Finished: Oct. 13, 2008
First Published: 2003
Genre: True crime, history, Graphic Novel
Rating: 4/5
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

First sentence:

The year is 1893.

Comments: This is the story of H.H. Holmes, who was infamous as the monster of the Chicago World's Fair in the late 1890s. He built a large building he named "The Castle" which had secret rooms, gas rooms, laboratories, torture rooms, etc. He is known as being America's first serial killer, though actually he was probably just the first one caught and punished. He is thought to have murdered hundreds of people, especially women by running a lodging house within the castle.

Geary's illustrations are on par with previous books in this series. I often think he gets better as he goes along. The detail in his drawings are amazing and the black and white illustrations capture the mood of the story being told.

My only complaint with this novel is that it seemed to rush through the story only skimming the surface and has left me wanting to read more of H.H. Holmes. I already have two other books on my tbr list about this murderer that I will have to get to shortly. Great introduction to the man though and a perfect starting point for those wanting to know the story of this vicious and unconscionable man.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday: New Review Books in the Mail

Last week I didn't receive any review books in the mail! That's all right though because it helps me get a little ahead. I read and reviewed one book last week, so the arc pile is down one more book.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers!

I also hope all my Canadian readers go out to the polls tomorrow and cast your vote. Hopefully, the Liberals won't be given a chance to ruin our country that has only just started to recover from the horrible Liberal rule of the last many years.

God Bless!

162. Bookweird

Bookweird by Paul Glennon

Pages: 250
Finished: Oct. 11, 2008
First Published: Aug. 19, 2008
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reason for Reading: Review copy sent to me by Random House Canada . Qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.

First sentence:

The weekend started out well for Norman Jespers-Wilnius.

Comments: Norman's behaviour gets himself grounded from his computer for the weekend. Fortunately, he is also an avid reader so he starts the weekend off by picking up the umpteenth book in his favourite series (a Redwall type of book) as he reads he unconsciously starts picking at a page much farther on in the book and ends up eating the page. When he gets to the page, a major moment in the plot, he finds it gone and realizes what he's done. So off he sets for the library where he meets a very strange new librarian who won't let him have a copy of the book for various reasons. But as Norman leaves the librarian tells him he'll take care of it just go back home and read the book.

So as Norman starts to read his book he falls asleep and wakes up inside the book. His actions start a series of events that change the course of the story and he must put it to rights. When he wakes from this world, his little sister is horrified because the pony book she's read five times has suddenly had the cute little pony killed viciously by gypsies. Norman agrees to read the book and once again falls asleep. He enters the pony book and finds he's let wolf creatures from his book into his sister's book and once again he is in 'bookweird'. He meets the librarian various times throughout these fictional worlds in different personas and he helps Norman set the 'bookweird' havoc right which he has created. Norman also ends up in his mother's serial killer book when a pony turns up instead of body and then his father, a professor, is missing a page from an antique copy of an Anglo-Saxon poem. It's Norman's job to set the fictional world back to order.

This is one of the most creative and unique plots that I have read! Each book that Norman finds himself in is fascinating and the reader becomes entranced by the story. I usually enjoy the "story within a story' format of novels and this was no exception. At points one forgets that the subplot is part of a larger plot and when Norman is whisked from one place to another the reader feels his disorientation themselves. Very well-written, a page-turner and a highly recommended book. The author, Paul Glennon is the author of an adult book which was a finalist for the 2006 GG. This is his first YA book and I hope he continues to write more. His first book The Dodecahedron: Or A Frame for Frames sounds fascinating. I'll have to make sure I go back and read it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

OT: Harper Warned Us About the Economy

Political Post (skip if not interested)

Harper Warned Us About the Economy
by Rob Doyle

Today, opposition parties are all talking about the dangers that global economic uncertainty is posing to the Canadian economy. Having suddenly woken up to the danger facing the economy, they are scrambling to invent policies about this crisis.

N.B. (from me) - Don't forget Harper is an economist by profession, not a professor or activist such as the other two.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper in December 2007

Last December, the Prime Minister was talking about the coming challenges brought on by the collapse of the U.S. housing market.

(London Free Press, December 12, 2007, A1.)

“Harper ready to give us the squeeze. Tells Canadians to tighten their belts as U.S. financial collapse looms” (Ottawa Sun, December 21, 2007).

“In CTV's year-end interview with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he says he's concerned about the slowdown in the American economy and how it could impact businesses north of the border” (Canadian Press, December 20, 2007).

“After almost two years of ‘don't worry, be happy’, the PM has been raising a caution flag, if not an alarm, about the Canadian economy in the year ahead. ‘I think 2008 will be a more challenging year for the country and for the government,’ he predicted during a recent chat with us at 24 Sussex Dr.” (Greg Weston. Whitehouse Star, December 31, 2007).

· “Harper said he'll be keeping watch on the looming storm on Canada's economic horizon. ‘We know there is considerable uncertainty in the world economy, in the American economy, and we've seen very strong performance from our economy so far,’ he said Monday. ‘So obviously, our wish for the year is we're able to sustain that momentum and shelter as best we can Canadians from any fallout of global economic problems’” (Canadian Press, December 31, 2007).

The Prime Minister was clear that the difficulties in the American economy were a real concern.
· ROBERT FIFE (Reporter): As the Prime Minister sat down with CTV to reflect on the past year, he has worries about the next. Top of mind, a threatening downturn in the American economy that will be felt north of the border.
STEPHEN HARPER (Canadian Prime Minister): I believe that 2008 is likely to be a challenging year in terms of the economy… There's no way we can be completely insulated from what's going on in the United States or in the global economy (CTV National News, December 20, 2007).

The Liberals and the NDP in December 2007

The Liberals and the NDP responded to the Prime Minister’s careful concern by saying the economy was fine and that the Prime Minister was trying to “create a climate of fear.”

The Liberals said the Prime Minister was overstating the risk.

“[John] McCallum said the government is overstating the risks because many experts expect the Canadian economy to grow by up to 2.5 per cent this year, which would leave room for spending and tax initiatives” (Toronto Star, January 1, 2008).

“McCallum accused Harper of sending a confusing message to consumers by combining talk of a tax cut with a warning the economy could be headed for trouble. ‘This is clearly a triumph of gimmickry over good public policy to announce the GST cut in a store and tell us the cupboard is bare,’ said McCallum. ’I think they're trying to downplay expectations and then people will be positively surprised’” (Toronto Star, January 1, 2008).

The Liberals were apparently still unaware of the challenges the crisis proposed when they wrote their platform.

Stéphane Dion recently admitted that ‘It was difficult for us to write a chapter on a U.S. economic crisis when we were preparing our platform’ (Stéphane Dion, Le téléjournal, October 6, 2008).

And Jack Layton and the NDP were not any better. Mr. Layton said that the threat to the economy was “climate change” rather than the collapse of the American housing markets.

“NDP leader Jack Layton accused Mr. Harper of trying to ‘create a climate of fear’ to justify government plans for the economy, as he said the government has done to gain support for the war in Afghanistan and to avoid joining the global fight against climate change. ‘If the economy is getting into some trouble and the government's finances are in some trouble, it's because Mr. Harper has paid no attention to that issue (climate change) at all,’ Mr. Layton said, adding that his party will continue to vote against the government on no-confidence motions” (Ottawa Citizen, December 24, 2007).

JACK LAYTON: “Well I think he is trying to create a climate of fear, and, you know, that's been his approach unfortunately on some issues, whether it was the way in which we have gone to war in Afghanistan” (CTV, Question Period, December 23, 2007)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Book Meme

I haven't done one of these in a while and I've seen this one doing the rounds so I just swiped it from A Patchwork of Books.

What was the last book you bought?
I haven't been buying books too much lately as I just have so many in the house, from the library and the arcs keep pouring in. But the last book I bought was from a thrift shop: If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth by Barbara Leaming. I read her biography of Katherine Hepburn and found it to be very well-written and respectful. I love bios of old movie stars.

Name a book you have read MORE than once
Hmm. I've read a lot of books more than once, mostly classics or children's books but I'll say Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. I read it numerous times as a child and I've read it a couple of times each to both of my children. (11 yrs apart)

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
The Bible. I became a Christian as an adult and my life has never been the same since.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

Usually I look at genre then read the plot summary. I gravitate towards fantasy, vampire books, Canadian Lit and historical fiction.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Hmm. Another toughie. I guess I do prefer Fiction but there's nothing as good as a true Victorian crime novel either.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

From those two choices I'd pick gripping plot. I love a book to be beautifully written but I can't stand an artsy fartsy high brow "look how beautiful I write" book that is boring with no plot. But the most important thing to me in a novel is characterization. I can read a book that hasn't much of any plot to speak of (such as Home by Marilynne Robinson) but has fabulous depth of characters and I'm in heaven. In fact, if the plot is gripping and the characters aren't fully developed I probably won't have too high an opinion of it.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

Same as above I'm going to go with Little Pear. He is your typical curious gets-into-trouble-but-doesn't-know-why little kid.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
I have about 40 books on my nightstand at the moment but if you look over at my side bar you'll see what I'm currently reading from that stack of books.

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

The last book I read was Allies of the Night by Darren Shan and I finished that two days ago.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Duh. Yes. Many times. I give a book 50 pages and if it hasn't caught my interest it isn/t very likely too. There are too many books in the world I haven't read to spend my time with a book I'm not enjoying. I don't blog about these books unless I received it as a review copy then I feel obligated to state why I gave up on the book. Sometimes I'll go 100 pages if it is a very long book as sometimes it takes that long for a huge book to really get going. And sometimes I'll push myself to the 100 pages because it is considered a great classic or it is getting rave reviews. Sometimes the push to 100 pages works like with The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy. It is a Canadian classic but it was not drawing me in at first and I couldn't understand what was so good about it but I pushed onwards and ended up really enjoying it at the end and I am so glad I read it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

161. Allies of the Night

Allies of the Night by Darren Shan
The Saga of Darren Shan, Book 8

Pages: 209
Finished: Oct. 8, 2008
First Published: 2002
Genre: YA, horror, paranormal
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Next in the series

First sentence:

It was an age of war.

Comments: Darren and Mr. Crepsley along with the others continue their quest to find and destroy the prophesied Lord of the Vampaneze. However, this volume takes a brief stop from the overall arching plot and plays out story of it's own which seems unrelated to the main plot but by the end things have turned in a new direction. My summaries are becoming vaguer and vaguer as I read along as I don't want to reveal any spoilers. Best thing about this entry in the series is the arrival of several people from earlier books. I had a hunch that two of them would show up again and was glad to find out I was right. This is just as engaging as the others in the series. Mr. Shan keeps the series fresh with twists and surprises plus he strays far from the formulaic pattern that can sometimes make long fantasy series become less interesting as they progress. But not so for this one. Every time I finish a book, including this one, I am eager to read the next to see where Mr. Shan will take the story next. Time to go put Book 9 on hold at the library.

160. John Cabot & Son

John Cabot & Son by David Goodnough
Illustrated by Allan Eitzen

Pages: 48
Finished: Oct. 7, 2008
First Published: 1979
Genre: children's biography
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 8yo as part of our school.

First sentence:

The city of Genoa, Italy, is famous as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.

Comments: A simple to read biography written in a story format of mostly John Cabot and the last few pages concentrate on Sebastian Cabot, his son. John Cabot is always interesting for kids to read about because he disappeared and was never seen again on his second voyage. John Cabot first claimed land in North America for Britain, naming it the "New Found Land", now called Newfoundland. A decent read for what it is at this level. Good 2nd and 3rd grade readers will have no problem reading the book themselves and it also works well as a read aloud.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Monday: Review Books in the Mail (on Wednesday)

Last week I received one review copy in the mail from Random House Canada. This looks like a rivetting thriller. I can't wait to read it.

Things worked well last week, receiving one new arc and reading and reviewing two making the toppling arc pile one book shorter than the week before.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

159. Mubound

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Pages: 324
Finished: Oct. 5, 2008
First Published: March, 2008
Genre: southern fiction, historical fiction
Award: Bellwether Prize
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada. Qualifies for the Book Awards Challenge.

First sentence:

Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep.

Comments: A story of 1940s Mississippi. A tale of two families; one black, the other white. Henry McAllen moves from the city with his wife, two young daughters and his cantankerous, racist father to land he has just bought. On that land are four sharecroppers but the story focuses on one family, that of Hap Jackson his wife and three young children. Henry's younger brother is off fighting in WWII as is Hap's oldest son who are both around the same age. When the war ends both of these young men eventually return war weary and world-wise to the South of the Forties, a viciously, racist time and place.

Each chapter is narrated by one of the six main characters and the whole story unfolds slowly through the eyes of each one. The contrasting eyes of Hap, an enterprising black man trying to get his family their own land, and Henry, who considers himself forward thinking where 'coloreds' are concerned yet who knows the limits. The contrasting eyes of Florence, black sharecropper wife who is midwife to the local black folks and Laura, a city bred white woman who becomes beaten down by the farm land. And finally through the contrasting eyes of Jamie, returning white air force hero who is so mentally disturbed by the war he has become an alcoholic and cares not what anyone thinks of him outside the family, and Ronsell the returning hero from the first fighting black platoon, directly under Patton's orders, and a deeply loving and caring man but in his returning home of Mississippi he is just a n*gger.

I really hate to gush in my reviews but all I want to say about this book is "Wow! Wow! Wow!". Beautiful, brilliant, sad, and disheartening yet ending on a bittersweet slight glimpse of hope. I felt for each and every one of the six main characters. It takes a lot of skill to write a book through the eyes of 6 different people but Jordan pulls it off with flowing grace. Beautiful and heartrending. Read this book!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

158. The Birchbark House

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Little Frog Book 1

Pages: 240
Finished: Oct. 1, 2008
First Published: 1999
Genre: children, historical fiction
Award: WILLA Award
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: Started out as a read-aloud to my 8yo but I ended up finishing myself. Qualifies for the Book Award Challenge.

First sentence:

The only person left alive on the island was a baby girl.

Comments: My first thought about this book is that is is a Little House on the Prairie from the Indian perspective. The illustrations are even reminiscent of Garth Williams. However, it doesn't hold up to Wilder's books at all.

The book chronicles a year in the life a little Ojibwa girl. The book is divided into seasons and we follow her as her family and tribe lead their normal lives. Mostly there are no connections with the white man though her father trades with the white traders and voyageurs. Each chapter is episodic but no major plot runs through book or even within the chapters. This is not to say it was boring. There is a lot of description and a look into Native life that is interesting and enjoyable to read. Omakayas, whose name means Little Frog in English, is a fully developed character and the reader feels for her. The rest of the family members are only seen through her eyes and therefore do not feel fully developed.

Personally, I enjoyed the story. It is a quiet book, there is deep tragedy in the middle, but mostly it simply follows the life of a First Nations girl. It is most definitely a girl's book. I tried to read it aloud to my son as it was part of our school curriculum but he had no interest in it whatever. There are no boy characters, at least not fully developed ones, for him to connect with and nothing happened to hold his attention. So I stopped reading to him and finished the book on my own. The writing, full of description and light on dialogue is not conducive to reading aloud anyway. I think this book would be enjoyed by those interested in pre-white man Indian life and will especially appeal to girls ten and over.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

RIP III Challenge Complete

With my last review I've now finished the RIP III challenge. I presume I'll be reading more books that will qualify as I read this genre a lot. But officially I am done the challenge. I did not make a list to read from but went the free and easy route and read whatever I felt like as it came up. Here's my list of books read:

1. The Vampire Prince by Darren Shan
2. Hunters of the Dusk by Darren Shan
3. The Mystery of Mary Rogers by Rick Geary
4. Night Runner by Max Turner
5. Faces of Fear by John Saul

All book were good or better but my fav. was Night Runner by Max Turner