Saturday, February 28, 2009

46. Bloodprint by Kitty Sewell

Bloodprint by Kitty Sewell

Pages: 351
Finished: Feb. 27, 2009
First Published: Feb. 3, 2009
Genre: psychological suspense
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: I received a Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

First sentence:

Angelina was her name.

Comments: An American now living in Bath, England, Madeleine Frank works as a psychotherapist and paints ants part-time. Madeline has a shaky background including a mother who practises santeria and will do anything to protect her daughter. One day a patient comes to Madeline's office seeking help in ridding herself of an abusive boyfriend whom she is obsessed with. Madeline soon finds herself facing her secret past as she tries to help this patient. A very intricate plot that sends the reader into the world of santeria, an imprisoned serial killer, the Russian mob, prostitution and murder.

The book is written in two progressive story lines. One, Madeline's present and two, Madeline's past until the two join together. This is one of those books that is very hard to summarize as there are several story arcs ongoing and they become intertwined with each other making it impossible to summarize the threads without giving away what happens.

I really enjoyed this book and it is one of those that gets better and better the further along you get into it. Though I was hooked from Chapter One. An intriguing mystery with many surprising and unexpected reveals. An interesting, strong female character with whom one can identify. A very fast-paced and unique thriller.

Not often does it happen, but this is one of those books where the last 50 pages are agonizing to read. One simply wants to get to the end and find out what happens and I found myself wishing I could read faster and putting the book down during this period to catch my breath and to refrain myself from peeking at the final pages.

The only thing that bothered me was the supernatural aspect. Now, it's not that I don't mind supernatural aspects in a story,I even expect it in a horror story. However, I do like my mysteries to be logical and real. I was fully aware the plot involved santeria and black magic as topics but wasn't prepared for the supernatural elements to be portrayed as "real". Of course, that might not bother you at all and even so, I highly recommend this book with that one caveat and will be searching out Ms Sewell's first book along with awaiting her next release.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday and Lent (STICKY)

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I have been debating what to give up during the 40 days of Lent and have come to the conclusion that the internet takes up a lot of my time. So I have decided I will not be surfing, browsing, buying, face-booking, reading email (except from family) or any other fun, but time-wasting activities. I do still intend to post my reviews as I won't be giving up reading and I have obligations to publishers who've sent me review copies. But I will not be reading your blogs or posting comments over this period as I try to spend more time with my family and prayerfully reflect on my relationship with God. Our family has been going through RCIA classes this year and on the Easter Vigil our 8yo will be baptised and we will all be receiving the rest of the sacraments and we will take Catholic Communion for the first time. We are all very excited to start this new journey in our Christian walk.

I hope you will all understand as I bow out of participating fully within the book blogging community over the next 40 days and encourage you to still leave comments. I'll get back to you all after the season. God Bless!

Sick and some Mini-Reviews

So I've been sick for the last four days and barely functional the last two. I started feeling like I was coming down with a cold on Saturday, on Sunday I made it to church but an hour later it hit me full blown and into bed I went. Monday and Tuesday are blurs. I couldn't get out of bed and my eyes hurt so much I couldn't even read! I could get them open enough to watch TV though so I spent both days watching DVDs and sleeping. Today ... well I'm up, dressed and prepared to face the day but only slowly as I'm working on about 50% at this point.

So needless to say I don't feel like writing proper individual reviews but I have a little pile here that needs to be done so I'm just giving mini-reviews today.

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems is his latest book in the pigeon series. My son loves these books because he can read them himself and they are hilarious. He really identifies with the pigeon and I think any child will as well as any adult who can remember being a child. This time Willems puts a little twist on the theme though. This time pigeon complains and wheels and deals for a puppy and {gasp} actually gets one this time. Only thing is he didn't realize that puppies are a lot bigger than pigeons, hence a very funny ending and pigeon puts his mind onto a different, though still unsuitable, pet. Highly recommended! Each of the four books in this series are just as good as the other and anyone, young or old, is going to have a big giggle over them. 5/5

44. Animal Farm (Fables, Vol.2) by Bill Willingham. Now having read this second book in the series I am officially a fan and can't wait to get my hands on the next volume. This is very different from the first one which had a classic noir feel to it. This time around Animal is indeed an Orwellian reference. The non-human fables and those unable to to take human form live on a large plot of land that has been enchanted with a spell to keep humans away. This is called "The Farm" and a large amount of the population is unhappy with the rather prison like conditions. Though the place is nice enough and not lacking in any way there is still the fact they can't leave. I loved the thematic cross between Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies. Lots of new characters were introduced while Snow White and Rose Red remained main characters as from the first volume. In this book we meet the three little pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, giants, a dragon, several animals from The Jungle Book including Baghera and Shere Khan plus many others. 4/5

45. Unintended Consequences (The Amazing-Spiderman, Vol. 5) by J. Michael Straczynski. This is a great volume with lots of deep issues for Spider-Man to deal with and contemplate. A nuclear test revives 12 mob bosses from the fifties who were killed and buried out in the desert in an old chemical waste hold. The combination of the chemicals being nuked brings together a creature formed of each of the men with an oozing Hulk type of appearances. It's main goal is to kill the man who put the hit on them but it doesn't care who gets hurt along the way. Spider-Man has to deal with the issue of helping people whether they be good or bad. In the last couple of issues Peter Parker is back to teaching and helping a student who especially needs some help with her life. He eventually meets up with Ezekiel again and finds out a bit more about this mysterious man and is posed with a question for contemplation. Sure, he gets the bad guys but what happens to them after they go to prison and should he just be getting the bad guy or should he be doing something to prevent people from becoming bad in the first place? An interesting proposal that makes me anxious to see where the character goes next. 3.5/5

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews. I've been really looking forward to finding the time to read this book since it was published last year (2008) but unfortunately after reading 155 pgs. I just couldn't bring myself to dredge through it anymore. A typical story of a dysfunctional family and Julie's childhood supporting her family as a singer. The main problem is that the narrative had no personality, no emotion to it. Julie tells of a particular night when her alcoholic stepfather enters her room and makes advances towards her and yet there is no feeling behind it or anything else in the book, at least up to page 155. It was with regret that I found the book not to my liking and I just couldn't get up the willpower to carry on. DNF

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

You may be wondering why this post is so short and has no pictures. Well, the sad story is I didn't receive any books in the mail last week. Zip, zero, nada, nothing, goose eggs! But looking on the bright side that makes my arc reading last week really count in lowering the leaning tower of ARCs. So having received 0 arc in the mail last week and having read a reviewed 3 that makes the pile actually 3 books smaller! Yeah!

43. Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Pages: 541
Finished: Feb. 22, 2009
First Published: Feb. 3, 2009
Genre: fiction
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: I received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

First sentence:

After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother's womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.

Comments: This epic family saga spans through the 1950s to present time and travels from Ethiopia to America and back again. A brilliant tale that starts off with an Indian nun working as a nurse in Ethiopia surprisingly going into labour with complications. Her twin sons are delivered alive but she dies on the table and the white doctor who is assumed to be the father refuses to look at the boys and leaves the Mission Hospital never to return again. This, then, is the story of the twins, Marion and Shiva, told through the eyes of Marion, the first born. The story of how they were as one person together until the day that betrayal over a woman tore them apart. An intense story that centres around medicine as the doctors and nurses try to help the poor of Ethiopia but also spans the history of this country from an autonomous monarchy through two coups, and a Marxist regime.

An absolutely brilliant book that I could not put down. Once I started I kept on reading like there was no tomorrow. The characters that populate this book are immensely genuine and eclectic from the twins, to their adoptive doctor parents, to the servants, the Matron and finally the collection of Indian doctors working together in America. A loving family and community from a mixture of cultures (white, Indian and Ethiopian) that combine Catholicism with Hinduism, live together through shocking event after shocking event.

A real page turner. An epic story that is a joy to read. An unfamiliar setting and a focus on medicine both captivated me and a truly heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal that continues to surprise you at every turn. Truly wonderful, this is a book that will stay with me. Highly recommended!

Friday, February 20, 2009

42. Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon & Dean Hale
Illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation)

Pages: 144
Finished: Feb. 19, 2009
First Published: Aug. 5, 2008
Genre: graphic novel, fairy tale, children
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: A few reasons actually. I've never read any of Shannon Hale's books but want to someday and this looked like a good way to get introduced to her storytelling. I was at the library one day and saw it, browsed through it and almost took it out but decided I had enough GNs at home already to read. Then the very next day Darla D. posted a review of it on her website, so it felt like kismet and if Darla says it's good I know I can trust her.

First sentence:

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little girl.

Comments: This Graphic Novel is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel. Not much of the original fairy tale remains in this fabulous retelling of a pampered but lonely little girl who when she learns her Mother is not her real mother but an evil dictator is banished to eventually die in a huge towering tree with a hollowed out room at the top. Rapunzel uses her long hair as rope to eventually escape and meets up with Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) and together they set off to save their world. Rapunzel who was taught rope lassoing as a young girl by one of the guards at her palace now braids her hair and uses them as lasso weapons of destruction. She becomes almost like a superhero in this rollicking read.

I absolutely loved the Western meets Fairy Tale presentation. (reminds me of the Western/Sci-Fi of Firefly) Absolutely truly unique and original story which makes me yearn to read more of Hale's work. The artwork is absolutely flawless. Bright, colourful and detailed making one look into each frame as you read. I really have no complaints about this book at all. Though there was one tiny little thing that bothered me. Rapunzel is a feisty, strong female character which is fine and good and especially enjoyable, but Jack has been relegated to sidekick and his character is squeamish and frightens easily. I don't like it when the female character is made to look strong at the expense of showing a weak male character. Reverse discrimination is still discrimination. But really it just bugged me a tiny bit. Highly recommend this to anyone who loves graphic novels or fairy tale retellings.

41. Pieces of My Heart: A Life

Pieces of My Heart: A Life by Robert J. Wagner, with Scott Eyman

Pages: 324
Finished: Feb. 19, 2009
First Published: Sept. 2008
Genre: memoir
Rating: 4.5/5

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

First sentence:

I was twelve years old when my future passed in front of me.

Comments: This is Robert J. Wagner's personal memoir from his birth to 2008, when he was 78. Wagner briefly tells of his parents and then spends a small time on his childhood moving into the full story of his life at the time of his mid-teens. Wagner is one of the unfortunately few remaining from the generation that actually worked and played with the greats of the Golden Age of movies. He intimately knew the likes of Jack Warner, Bette Davis, and Fred Astaire, among many others. It is brilliant to read of these people from a first-hand account. Then of course Wagner was in his prime along with all the stars of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Wagner drops names right, left and center in this book but he refrains from "dishing dirt" on anyone. Oh, he has some colourful stories to tell but he is not vindictive to anyone, not even Warren Beatty who stole his Natalie away from him.

A wonderful read, Robert J. Wagner has lead a long and eventful life immersed in show business from the movies to the stage to TV and back again. I remember seeing him recently on Three and a Half Men and he's still a looker. Of course, everyone from my generation remembers him most from the TV show Hart to Hart and Wagner spends just the right amount of time on that period of his life. Of course, he also spends a great deal on his relationship with Natalie Wood, one of the great love stories to come from the entertainment world, and it's tragic end.

Wagner has the help of a co-author to make this a wonderfully written story. I was totally captivated. Wagner comes off more than a bit egotistical at times but then he comes off that way in person and in the characters he's played on TV, so it is somewhat expected. He does have the annoying habit of letting you know of every man he introduces that is g*y and whether they made a pass at him or not. From famous people to backstage unknowns, this is something I really wasn't interested. Do I need or even want to know if a camera guy was g*y and didn't make a pass at him? That aside a really incredible read that anyone interested in Wagner's life or just that of movies and television from the 50s to the 80s will certainly enjoy.

PS - Go to the amazon link in the title above to watch a wonderful video clip of Wagner's thoughts on the book.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Toon Books (Part Three)

This time around I'm reviewing the first three books published in this series of graphic novels for emergent readers. The struggling reader (8yo) enjoyed the others so much we went out and bought the first three. So he has now read the entire line of Toon Books and anxiously awaits the publication of the next set.

They are around 30-odd pages each and first published April 2008.

Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons by Agnes Rosenstiehl. This is the easiest of the first three books. Simple words, large letters and divided into five parts as Lilly enjoys each season of the year, starting and ending with Spring. My struggling reader had no problems reading this book at all. The illustrations are really cute too!

Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes. This book is in the mid-range for reading level of the suggested ages, aprrox. RL 1-2. Benny and Penny have been in another book of the series and they are a fun brother and sister pairing. In this book Benny wants to play pirates and just wants Penny to leave him alone. He isn't very nice to her. But by the end he has learnt his lesson and they are friends together and Benny learns sometimes little sisters can play "boy" stuff too!

Otto's Orange Day by Frank Cammuso & Jay Lynch. This book is the highest reading level of the first three books in this series falling into approx. a RL of 3-4. My struggling reader had a hard time with this one and took it slowly but the story was so much fun that he didn't want to not read the book. So with a little bit more help from Mum than usually he worked his way through the book in about a week and a half. Adorable story of a boy who loves orange and when he receives a lamp that just happens to contain a Genie he is given one wish. Otto's wish is that everything should be orange. Otto soon learns that you should be careful what you wish for when cars can't tell what colour the traffic lights are and a robber on the loose has a description of everybody else, orange wearing orange clothes! Great story that will keep even reluctant readers turning the pages.

Highly recommend any one of the 8 books in this series published so far.

40. The Life & Death of Spiders

The Life & Death of Spiders by J. Michael Straczynski
The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 4

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Feb. 18, 2009
First Published: 2003 (contains previously published comics)
Genre: graphic novel, superheroes
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

First sentence:

So let's run a summary of the week's work, shall we?

Comments: Once you get to this point in a series it's hard to summarize without giving away what happened in previous books. To keep it brief, the issue with MJ is resolved in this volume. Spider-man discovers he was followed from the astral plane by a creature out to destroy him and Ezekiel shows up again with lots of information on the early folklore of the Spider-Man.

This was a great volume, probably the best so far, with plenty of villains and appearances by old favourites. The Fantastic Four make a cameo appearance as does Captain America. We also see Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom make appearances. This is a good volume to showcase what Spidey is all about also showing his conflicting emotions with doing what is right over his natural instincts. If you are reading the series this one is great. Can't wait for Vol. 5.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

39. Devil Bones

Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs
Temperance Brennan series #11

Pages: 310
Finished: Feb. 18, 2009
First Published: Aug. 2008
Genre: crime, forensic thriller
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Next in the series. I received a review copy from the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada.

First sentence:

My name is Temperance Deassee Brennan.

Comments: Tempe has quite the case on her hands this time. A human skull has been found in an underground room in a basement and the room also contains a beheaded chicken, a goat skull and all sorts of strange paraphernalia. Tempe comes head to head with religions such as santaria, voodoo and devil worship. But nothing is as it seems. A headless body is found by the lake, a suspect is run over by a subway train and a fellow colleague is murdered. Plus, along the way a cold case is solved.

Reichs' last two books were pretty good but I feel that with Devil Bones she is back on track with the brilliance of her earlier books which made me such a fan in the first place. Absolutely riveting! I read the first 3/4 of the book in one sitting staying up to the wee hours of the morning and had to force myself to wait another day to finish it off. Great pacing, twists and turns that keep the plot rolling just as we think we've got it all figured out.

My only complaint would be that the whole background story of Tempe's personal and professional life (from the past 10 books) is reiterated bit by bit during the first several chapters. As one who has read all her books, I found it irritating but a new reader to the series would be filled in quickly and be able to jump in and read this first. But seriously folks, read these books in order! There is a whole personal story line that follows through the books that would take half the fun of this series away if you just read the books in any old order. Start with Deja Dead and you'll be hooked!

Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine retold and illustrated by Robert Sabuda

This standard size picture book tells the story of the real Saint Valentine and leads us to understand why February 14 was declared St. Valentine's Day by the Pope in 496 AD. A well-written story with a plot that ends just before his execution. I've read this before to my older son and the 8yo enjoyed it very much. The first thing to strike him was the illustrations. "Why are the pictures all squares, mum?" So before reading the book I told him a bit about ancient Rome and the art of mosaics. Enjoyable book and a must for Christians who want to explain the religious meaning of the secular holiday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wolves in the Wall

Wolves in the Wall by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Dave McKean

Lucy is scared, she hears wolves in the walls but her family doesn't believe her. Each one suggests what it might be and then says anyways if it was wolves "then it's all over". Lucy has no idea what "it" is. But then one night the wolves do come out of the walls and the whole family runs down the hill and camps out for a few night wondering where they should move to. Lucy is the now only one brave enough to coax her family into getting their own house back.

Wonderful story, probably a bit too scary for very young children but olders will find it just the right amount of scary without being frightening. And it's funny too! I was surprised when I saw the illustrator was Dave McKean because I hated his work in The Graveyard Book, and many of my readers agreed with me. This book is obviously done in McKean's signature style. Full colour pages and a wonderful mixed-media art with collage, painting, sketching and slightly Picasso-like faces. Highly recommended!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week my mailbox was kept busy! I received 6 books for review. I'm afraid to look at my tally. Let's see, 6 arcs in and 3 read and reviewed (well, 1 was DNF). So I guess it's not too bad, that makes my pile only 3 books larger.

38. Serenity: Those Left Behind

Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon
Serenity Vol. 1

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Feb. 15, 2009
First Published: 2006 (collection of previously published comics)
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: I'm a huge fan! Graphic Novel Challenge

First sentence:

And so I say to you on this fine day, citizens of Constance, that your lives are not defined by that with which you enter this world, but rather with what you leave behind on it.

Comments: Takes place between the end of Firefly but before the movie Serenity. Inara continues her plans to leave. We are shown why Shepard Book left Serenity. Begins with a typical heist that does not go right. And we meet various other characters who create havoc for our friends, Badger and the Men in Blue Gloves. Nothing terribly special but a lot of fun revisiting the wonderful characters. The dialogue was written wonderfully, I could just hear the actor's voices in my head as I read. The artwork is quite good. Inara, Jayne and Kaylee are particularly close to their real live counterparts. Fun! Must read for fans.

37. Fool

Fool by Christopher Moore

Pages: 311
Finished: Feb. 15, 2009
First Published: Feb. 9, 2009
Genre: fiction, humour
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada. Plus Moore is one of my favourite authors.

First sentence:

"Tosser!" cried the raven.

Comments: Christopher Moore's latest book is a spoof on Shakespeare's King Lear, as well as Shakespeare's writing itself, a few elements from other plays are imported into the story as well, Macbeth's witches, for example. This is quite different from Moore's other books, he's written in a British style, using British slang and some of Shakespeare's original words, using footnotes for definitions of words possibly unknown to Americans.

Another difference from his other books is that while Moore, who always has a certain humour that you either find hilarious or offensive, (and for some reason Moore hits my funny bone and I've never found his humour offensive) at first, I found this book really goes overboard with the language and s*xual imagery and it was quite a bit of a shock but I soon settled down into it and it didn't bother me after a couple of chapters. If you've read Shakespeare you will know that he often used bawdy imagery and often his characters ranted at name-calling. It is quite interesting to see that imagery and name-calling in a modern format. I could even possibly imagine that were Shakespeare a 21st century writer, this is how he may have written.

I'm quite glad I chose to read a modern English version of the original play, King Lear, before reading Fool as I don't think I would have enjoyed this book as much if I didn't already know who the characters were and understand the original plot. Moore keeps all the key plot points of Shakespeare's work but he does not become stuck to the original plot. He soon sways from the original creating his own unique story with extra characters, very different results and ending. King Lear is only a minor character in this book, while his Fool (a minor character in the play) is the narrator and main character of the book.

I really enjoyed the book after getting over the initial language/s*x shock. It was a bit of a slow start but from the middle onwards I couldn't put it down. While fans will find this different than Moore's other work I'm pretty sure his devotees will enjoy this book. As to others who have not read Moore perhaps the warning on the back of the book "If that sort of thing bothers you, then gentle reader pass by." should be taken to heart. Not Moore's best book, (that spot is reserved for A Dirty Job, imho) but certainly up to par with his other work. A winner!

Friday, February 13, 2009

36. The Valentine Cat

The Valentine Cat by Clyde Robert Bulla
Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Feb. 13, 2009
First Published: 1959
Genre: children, fairy tale
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 8yo.

First sentence:

Long ago, in a faraway land, a kitten was born in a woodcutter's barn.

Comments: A fairy-tale story of a stray little cat with a white heart-shaped mark on his forehead. A painter finds him and is inspired to paint again after he has given it up and paints pictures of the cat on the walls of his rooms. An evil chimney-sweep steals the kitten for a while but he eventually ends up in the arms of the local princess. Needless to say the painter and the princess eventually meet for a happily ever after.

This is a picture book sized chapter book of six chapters. Easily read to small children and readable at about a grade 2/3 level. Lovely heart-warming story, with a genuine Valentine's Day feeling that isn't mushy and enjoyable for both boys and girls. the illustrations are gorgeous and the palette of black, red and turquoise is beautiful to behold. Profusely illustrated. A story of friendship that is a perfect Valentine's Day read for something a little different than the usually books. Well, worth searching for this out-of-print title.

35. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards

Pages: 277
Finished: Feb. 13, 2009
First Published: 1974
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 8yo.

First sentence:

It was a crisp, sunny October afternoon and Benjamin, Thomas and Melinda Potter were Visiting the Bramblewood Zoo.

Comments: Professor Savant, world renowned geneticist, has moved into his temporary home near the Potter family. The children run into the Professor at the zoo and are invited to visit him. The Professor tells them of the creature called the Whangdoodle and how there is only one left in the world and he has gone back to Whangdoodleland, refusing to have anything to do with humans. The Professor has tried and has been to Whangdoodleland but he does not have enough imagination and here is where the children come in. With their combined imagination the four of them should have no trouble entering Whangdoodleland and finding the elusive Whangdoodle. Thus begins a strange journey in a strange land filled with strange creatures.

I have such fond memories of reading this as a child. It may have been one the first real fantasy books I read as the the feelings for it are so strong. I must say it didn't quite live up to my remembrances, yet it is still a good story. Reminiscent of an E. Nesbit tale with the dynamics between the siblings this is a very fantastical tale. The 8yo enjoyed it immensely. Edwards is a good writer with a vivid imagination, this book inhabits a Wizard of Oz type of world and I think the book is best enjoyed by those who can dispense with reality and believe the unbelievable. The story is quite far-fetched and over-the-top in believability, but Edwards also has an underlying agenda of asking the reader to accept and embrace the reality of cloning in the future. I found that viewpoint a bit disturbing but it went over the 8yo's head so we didn't discuss it. Overall, a fun fantasy and one that has stood the test of time to become a classic.

My Life According to Google

Found this one on Facebook and thought it would be fun!

type in the following and choose from the first description found.... Be honest, don't just pick one out to be funny!

1: Type in "[your first name] needs" in the Google search:
Nicola needs to embrace the natural qualities of her hair.

2: Type in "[your first name] looks like" in Google search:
Nicola looks like a spy in a raincoat, wet brunette hair, dripping umbrella.

3: Type in "[your first name] hates" in Google search:
Nicola's Personal Hate For Zac Efron.

4: Type in "[your first name] goes" OR "[your first name] has gone" in Google search:
Nicola goes kayaking from Yasawa Islands and Vitu Levu, Fiji
**The very first one was not family friendly by any means, so I chose #2**

5: Type in "[your first name] loves" in Google search:
MySpace profile for Nicola loves for you to rate her space

6: Type in "[your first name] eats" in Google search:
Glamour girl Nicola eats eyeballs, silk worms, a crocodile foot...

7: Type in "[your first name] has" in Google search:
Naughty Nicola has one last trick up her sleeve.

8: Type in "[your first name] works" in Google search:
Nicola works between the mediums of both painting and textiles creating beautiful, highly colourful, textured textile works.

9: Type in"[your first name] lives" in Google search:
Leading lady Nicola lives her Grease dream.

10: Type in "[your first name] died" in Google search:
Just eight days after giving birth, nicola died from a superbug.

11: Type in "[your first name] does" in Google search:
Nicola does it her way.

12: Type in "[your first name] will" in Google search:
Nicola will be on national radio tomorrow morning.

13: Type in "[your first name] can" in Google search:
Nicola Can't take no more Drama

14. Type in "[your first name] plays" in Google search:
DJ Nicola plays the biggest party anthems

15. Type in "[your first name] drives" in Google search:
Nicola drives an Audi A3 which is her own car but sometimes she drives Bobby’s Range Rover Sport.

15. Type in "[your first name] feels" in Google search:
Nicola feels the weight of 20000 signatures.

34. The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
A companion to the Harry Potter series

Pages: 109
Finished: Feb. 12, 2009
First Published: Dec. 2008
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: A companion to the original series.

First sentence:

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of stories written for young wizards and witches.

Comments: A very short collection of five short fairy tales that are a part of the Harry Potter universe. They have no connection to Harry Potter except that these tales would have been told to children in his world as the first sentence indicates. The stories are cute, nothing spectacular, but certainly cute and well-worth a read for Potter fans. The best part of the book is that each tale is followed by a Commentary chapter by Professor Dumbledore. These are probably more interesting that the tales themselves. My favourite of the tales was The Warlock's Hairy Heart, probably because it stood apart from the others because it is dark and gruesome while the others are light-hearted.

Overall, a cute little book, nothing terribly special, but certainly a fun read for fans. Younger children will appreciate the fairy tales while older children/teens will be more inclined to appreciate the Dumbledore commentary. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you won't regret the hour or so it takes to read the book.

DNF. Land of Marvels

Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth, Jan. 6, 2009

I couldn't finish this book. I made it to page 69 but found the book just wasn't to my tastes. The word thriller is used in the description and I guess I just expected some thrills. I really couldn't concentrate on the book at all. I love the time-frame, early 20th century, and that is what made me think I would enjoy this book but there was too much ancient history, (Sumerians this, Assyrians that) and too much politics. Not my cup of tea at all. Perhaps it will be more to your liking. Here is the publisher's description:

Barry Unsworth, a writer with an “almost magical capacity for literary time travel” (New York Times Book Review) has the extraordinary ability to re-create the past and make it relevant to contemporary readers. In Land of Marvels, a thriller set in 1914, he brings to life the schemes and double-dealings of Western nations grappling for a foothold in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.

Somerville, a British archaeologist, is excavating a long-buried Assyrian palace. The site lies directly in the path of a new railroad to Baghdad, and he watches nervously as the construction progresses, threatening to destroy his discovery. The expedition party includes Somerville’s beautiful, bored wife, Edith; Patricia, a smart young graduate student; and Jehar, an Arab man-of-all-duties whose subservient manner belies his intelligence and ambitions. Posing as an archaeologist, an American geologist from an oil company arrives one day and insinuates himself into the group. But he’s not the only one working undercover to stake a claim on Iraq’s rich oil fields.

Historical fiction at its finest, Land of Marvels opens a window on the past and reveals its lasting impact.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

33. Until the Stars Turn Cold (Amazing Spider-Man)

Until the Stars Turn Cold by J. Michael Straczynski
The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 3

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Feb. 11, 2009
First Published: 2003 (collected previously published comic books)
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: Next in the series. Graphic Novel Challenge

First sentence:

Science tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite

Comments: Things move along and the story lines expand in this volume. The homeless children story arc is finalized when Spidey has to enter the Astral plane to fight The Shade. MJ comes back on the scene and whines and moans about being 2nd place to Spider-Man (Can you tell I don't like Mary Jane?). Aunt May deals with the Spider-Man issue and continues to campaign for his image. And a new story is introduced and wrapped up in the final two sections. Dr. Octopus is kidnapped and a younger bad guy duplicates his apparatus and leaves Doc Oc to die. The end sees Spider-Man and Dr. O fighting the against the same enemy for once.

Lots of action and fighting with villains especially towards the end of the book. Dr. Octopus is one of my favourite Super Villains so I enjoyed seeing him this time around. This issue pretty much finishes up all storylines to this point except that of Peter's relationship with Mary Jane. I love the artwork in this series. The blues and purples fit the mood perfectly. Now on to Volume 4!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

32. Bones of Faerie

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

Pages: 247
Finished: Feb. 10, 2009
First Published: Jan. 27, 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

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

First sentence:

I had a sister once.

Comments: Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Liza's town is very secluded and doesn't welcome strangers. References are made about Before when there were such things as TV and airplanes but there has been a war; a war which involved our world and the world of the Faerie. These two worlds are somehow connected to each other and the war caused great destruction on both sides. Liza's town is opposed to magic and they are taught how bad magic is. They know no different as the trees reach out to kill them and they fight to stay alive. They also make sure no magic is brought into their village even when it is born there. New born babes who show tell tale signs of magic are left on a far away hill to perish.

Liza's sister is born with faerie hair and after her father takes the baby, her mother disappears and Liza soon discovers she is having visions and must go find her mother. A friend, Matthew, joins her and she soon discovers his secret as well. They have a lot to learn about themselves, the world around them and the War with the Faerie.

This was a beautifully written, page-turning and thought provoking story. I really, really enjoyed it. The post apocalypse/magic angle is unique and makes for an intriguing story. Liza is a spirited, strong female lead and the characters are well-developed given the short length of the novel. A refreshing read that fantasy fans are sure to enjoy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

31. Liberty! How the Revolutionary War Began

Liberty! How the Revolutionary War Began (orig. The Liberty Tree)
by Lucille Recht Penner
Illustrated by David Wenzel

Pages: 37
Finished: Feb. 9, 2009
First Published: 1998
Genre: children, non-fiction, history
Rating: 3/5

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

First sentence:

"Long Live the King!"

Comments: This book is part of our curriculum and at first I wasn't going to read it as usually children's books on this topic are extremely patriotic and unusable by any other than Americans. As a Canadian, I started to read a bit myself first and was pleased with the text so I did read it to the 8yo after all. A very balanced overview is given of how the revolution began, was fought and won. The book tells the story from an almost unbiased opinion and I read straight from the text, for the most part. The tarring and feathering of Loyalists was even mentioned and I did not feel the need to add any 'extra' Canadian content except for minor instances to remind the 8yo that the British were not the bad guys but were us, Canada at the time. And of course, I'm balancing the material by reading from a Canadian history book as well.

So, very pleased with the presentation of the facts and the bold illustrations. Each chapter is presented in a two page profusely illustrated spread. The text is interesting and engaging. My son enjoyed it every time I got the book out, as we read it over a period of a few weeks. Americans will definitely be pleased with book and those from other countries will certainly be able to use the book to learn US history without the over-emphatic patriotism often present in these types of children's books.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday Books in the Mail

Last week I only received 1 ARC in the mail but I also received a BookMooch (I'm looking for books for next year's curriculum. I'll be adding more books to my wishlist in the weeks to come but if you belong to BookMooch take a look at my wishlist and I'll transfer the points over to you if you have anything I need.

And finally, best of all, I received a wonderful gift from a fellow blogger.

An arc a bookmooch

And a gift from John Mutford. These are readers I happened to mention on his blog that I used in school and was trying to collect them. He sent me these out of the blue. Thank you John! Go visit John's Blog he always has lots of fun stuff going on over there.

So after receiving 1 arc in the mail, last week I read and reviewed 3 arcs; actually making my arc pile 2 books smaller! Yeah, for small victories!

30. Legends in Exile

Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
Fables, Volume 1

Pages: 127
Finished: Feb. 8, 2009
First Published: 2002
Genre: fantasy, graphic novel (not suitable for children)
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: Everybody has either read this series or is reading this series and I couldn't hold out any longer even though I have to ILL each volume. It was Kailana's reviews that pushed me over the edge.

First sentence:

Once upon a time.

Comments: The people of fairy tales have escaped into the mundane world as their lands were ravaged and taken over by the Adversary. Ole King Cole is the mayor of Fabletown and Snow White is second in charge. This volume reads like a classic noir detective as Snow White's sister's apartment is found to be a bloody carnage with Rose Red herself missing. With no body to know whether he is looking at for a murderer or kidnapper Bigby Wolf (the law of Fabletown) sets off to track down Rose Red and solve the case.

The book is peopled with characters from fairy tales such as the above mentioned plus Prince Charming, Pinocchio, one of the Three Little Pigs, Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast and many more. It is so much fun to see these characters depicted in this way, in a very adult manner. The book also ends with a very good short story which explains how the fairytale lands were attacked and especially focuses on how Snow White and Bigby Wolf found their way to Fabletown.

I loved this book! The story told was gripping and I loved the artwork, which imitates the old comic book style of the 70s and earlier. Now I know why everybody is so addicted to these books as I can't imagine not continuing on with Volume #2. There are even a couple of prequels and a spin-off series called Jack of Fables. Highly recommended to any adult who loves fairy tale retellings.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

29. King Lear

King Lear by Shakespeare

This is not going to be a review like my others. I read an English translation of King Lear published by Spark Notes. So why did I read this? Later this month I will be reading Christopher Moore's latest book Fool, which is a take on Shakespeare's King Lear. I figured I'd enjoy Moore's book more if I knew the plot of the original.

So, I've read plenty of Shakespeare in the original text and have no great liking for reading Middle English. I've also seen several Shakespeare plays at the Stratford Festival and once one of those Shakespeare in the Park things. I feel I've done my time with Shakespeare. Unfortunately King Lear is not one I'm familiar with so I decided I'd read and enjoy it in normal English.

The translation I read was very easy to read. It was written in proper prose using everyday language which made it a delight compared to struggling with the original language. It is a very strange tale and at first I couldn't decide if it was a Tragedy or a Comedy as everybody in it is so stupid but as the deaths began to toll I understood it was a Tragedy.

I have to say I found the plot very over the top and unbelievable. I thought Cordelia was a stupid woman who could have prevented the whole horrible mess by opening her mouth in the first scene and King Lear is insane and a raving lunatic the whole play. I can see the potential in a parody of this and look forward to reading Moore's Fool.

The only two Shakespeare plays I really appreciate are Macbeth and Hamlet but I'm up to reading others in the future as long as it is an English translation.

28. The Saga of the Bloody Benders

The Saga of the Bloody Benders: The Infamous Homicidal Family of Labette County, Kansas by Rick Geary
A Treasury of Victorian Murder, Book 9

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Feb. 7, 2009
First Published: 2007
Genre: true crime, graphic novel
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

First sentence:

The state of Kansas is born in blood and fury.

Comments: The Benders were a strange family who bought a homestead in the early days of Kansas settlement. There land lay on the main road through the state and they partitioned there home into part grocery store, with their living quarters separated in back by a canvas sheet. Suddenly the near towns start receiving letters from people asking for news of relatives who were headed that way and the townsfolk realize a large number of people have disappeared in the area. When searching the countryside the townsfolk find the Benders home abandoned and it doesn't take long until they start digging and uncovering the bodies.

This is a case I had never heard of and found it quite intriguing. The artwork is what one expects from Rick Geary and this is just as good as others in the series. I must say I'm a bit surprised that Geary chose this case to feature though as it lacks the detail of his other books. Though through no fault of the author's, there just doesn't seem to be much information on the case and much of the information is solely suppositions. It does make me wish we knew more about the Benders.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

27. Otherwise

Otherwise by Farley Mowat

Pages: 309
Finished: Feb. 7, 2009
First Published: Oct. 28, 2008
Genre: non-fiction, memoir, autobiography
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: receive a Review Copy from the publisher, McClelland & Stewart.

First sentence:

Born in Mid-May 1921 -- lilac time in the small town of Trenton on the northern shore of Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte -- I spent my early years messing about in swamps, woods, and farmyards; falling in and out of boats; and surviving in various decrepit houses while establishing fundamental relationships with such disparate beings as snapping turtles, portly spiders, rapier-billed herons, honeybees, a bear who visited me in dreams, Charlie Haultain's silver foxes, crayfish and eels, water snakes along the Murray Canal, a passel of mongrel dogs, and Beatrix -- an enormous earthworm who lived through an entire winter in a tin can by my bedside.

Comments: Otherwise is Farley Mowat's memoirs of his life between the years 1937 and 1948. The opening pages quickly get us to his teen year's and his last year of living in Saskatchewan where he became a friend for life of the Others (the wildlife). Farley's family moves frequently but he always manages to find local wildlife whether they be living in small rooms or on a boat. Farley, along with his pals, volunteer and join the service where he was to spend the days of World War II fighting mostly in Italy. Finally after the War he comes home, marries, but is unable to settle down to 'post-war' life and he goes on ventures for the scientific community back to Saskatchewan and finally up to the northernmost parts of Canada where he spends time with the in-land Inuit.

The time frame this book covers parts of his life that are written in more detail in such books as And No Birds Sang and The Dog Who Wouldn't Be. While those books are about certain experiences in his life, this book is about him directly and the defining years of his life, the years that made him the man that he came be. Beautifully written, compelling reading, humorous and touching at times Mowat knows how to write and fans of the author will not be disappointed with his latest foray. While not exactly a page-turner, it is the type of book that is hard to put down and I often picked it up to read over my current fiction book before turning the lights out at night. An all-round enjoyable read with fascinating information about Saskatchewan wild-life, scientific procedures of the thirties and forties, Canadian army life and the Inuit. This would also be the perfect book to read for those who have never had the pleasure of reading Farley Mowat.

26. A Dangerous Affair

A Dangerous Affair by Caro Peacock
Liberty Lane, Book 2

Pages: 303
Finished: Feb. 6, 2009
First Published: Jan. 19, 2009
Genre: historical fiction, cosy mystery
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: receive a Review Copy from the publisher, Harper Collins Canada. Plus it's the next in the series.

First sentence:

Neither of us knew the rate for bribing a gaoler at the Old Bailey.

Comments: The book starts with Liberty and a friend visiting someone in prison who is to be hanged shortly. Then the plot moves back in time to before the murder and approximately directly after the events of the first book. Liberty's friend is in love with one of the dancers in a ballet and the evening Liberty goes to the ballet the Prima donna attacks the loved one on stage and a fight ensues. Later that evening the Prima donna is found dead in her room and the loved one is eventually convicted of the crime and sentenced to hang. Liberty, along with her friends from the first book, set off to track down the real killer.

In the first of this series I had reservations about the main character, Liberty Lane, being to modern for her Victorian setting. This time around Peacock has fleshed the character out more and kept her within the confines of her time. She is a much more believable character now and I quite enjoyed this book for the cosy mystery it is. Historical events take place around the characters giving the sense of a real time setting. The mystery has lots of twists and turns and the ending is surprising. The ending also sets the stage for more books in the series. This is a fun romp in Victorian England with unique characters and a very enjoyable cosy mystery.

Friday, February 6, 2009

25. Fifty Famous Stories Retold

Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
Illustrator not given

Pages: 186
Finished: Feb. 5, 2009
First Published: 1896
Genre: children, short stories
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: read-aloud to the 8yo. I'm also a fan of James Baldwin ever since I read his The Story of Siegfried to my older son about 10 years ago.

First sentence:

There are numerous time-honored stories which have become so incorporated into the literature and thought of our race that a knowledge of them is an indispensable part of one's education.

Comments: This is a collection of stories or "tales" that have been told over and over again throughout the centuries and unfortunately they are not as popular as they once were. Some of the tales are about real-life people and some are fictional heroes. Some are true and some are not, but the point is, each tells the tale of someone brave and heroic giving the reader a life-lesson without being didactic. Yes, there are some well-known tales such as some Greek myths, Sir Walter Raleigh, Pocahontas, and the fabricated yet well-told story of George Washington and the apple tree. Most of the stories however will be unknown to today's generation and I, myself, was only familiar with about half of them.

The stories focus is world wide, there are only a couple of American tales. Most come from England (such as King Alfred), then lots of Greek and Roman tales (though not many myths). Also featured are tales of explorers, sailors, William Tell, Napoleon, King Alfred, Robin Hood, Alexander the Great, Socrates and many others, many of whom I had not heard before.

Each story has one illustration, probably an engraving from the time period, artists' name are on some but they are too tiny to really read. James Baldwin writes for children in a easy storyteller mode often speaking directly to the reader. The 8yo and I enjoyed the stories just as much. I enjoyed finding tales I'd never heard before and he loved the swashbuckling tales of heroes. As in Baldwin's opening sentence in the Introduction these are tales which we should not let fade from our society. Some are still around today, but many are fading fast. Recommended!

The independent publishers Yesterday's Classics have reprinted many of Baldwin's books and I intend on getting more. They also have a wide catalogue of late 19th century children's books.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

24. ...If You Lived with the Hopi

...If You Lived with the Hopi by Anne Kamma
Illustrated by Linda Gardner

Pages: 80
Finished: Feb. 4, 2009
First Published: 1999
Genre: children, non-fiction
Rating: 3/5

Reason for Reading: read-aloud to the 8yo as part of our curriculum.

First sentence:

The first Spanish explorers came to North America more than five hundred years ago.

Comments: After a brief introduction the book is presented in a question and answer format directly written to the reader. The questions are interesting ones that children would ask and the questions also follow a logical format with one leading to the next. The illustrations are bold, but a little cartoony. Some actual photographs would have been nice.

My 8yo didn't particularly enjoy the book, and I'm not really sure why. I think he just lost interest in the topic the further we went along. (His personal opinion) I found the book well-written and interesting, probably something I would have enjoyed as a child as I read a lot of illustrated non-fiction back then. My only quibble is the slight cartoonish-ness of the illustrations, no real photographs and I had to edit on the fly as the Spaniards and Catholics were presented as one-dimensional cruel people and the word "forced" was used a lot. I prefer a non-biased approach when these topics are discussed; one that explains the feelings of those on both sides of the situation. But these topics are only found towards the end of the book, as much of the book is about pre-white-man life, and easily skipped, edited or discussed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

23. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Dave McKean

Pages: 309
Finished: Feb. 3, 2009
First Published: Sept. 30, 2008
Genre: children, fantasy
Award: Newbery Medal
Rating: 4.5/5

Reason for Reading: Just won this year's Newbery Award. Newbery Project

First sentence:

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."

Comments: After his family is killed a baby escapes by wandering out the open door and making his way to the graveyard. A married ghostly couple adopt him and name him Nobody Owens, Bod for short. Nobody then commences to grow up in the graveyard and can see and talk with all the ghosts of those buried there. In fact, he himself is not quite in the land of the living but somewhere between the life and death. He must stay here in the graveyard until he is old enough to look after himself on the outside as the man who killed his family is still looking for him and will continue until his job is completed.

I really enjoyed this book. Finally a 21st century Newbery winner I can rave about and recommend. The story and the characters are just wonderful. I really enjoyed the premise. It reminded me a bit, at first, of Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Dead even though the plot's are completely different. Even though I don't believe in ghosts and my religion tells me differently what will happen in the afterlife, it still is so much fun to imagine a world of ghosts. To imagine graveyards are full of the people buried there talking to each other. The book is really well written, fun and exciting. I think this is the type of book that will appeal to pretty much anyone, even those who don't like fantasy as a rule. Finally a Newbery winner that *will* be enjoyed through the ages!

My only reason for not giving a full rating of 5 is that I really did not like the illustrations at all. They were dark, hard to see the details and I thought the faces were horrible. They definitely did not enhance the reading experience at all. From looking at covers at LibraryThing I see there is an edition with illustrations by Chris Riddell. Now that is someone whose art I appreciate and I'd love to have a look at those illustrations.

Monday, February 2, 2009

22. The Chalk Circle Man

The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas
Translated from the French by Sian Reynolds
The First Adamsberg Novel

Pages: 247
Finished: Feb. 1, 2009
First Published: 1996 (English Translation 2009)Jan 6. UK/Canada,
Genre: crime, mystery
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Received a Review Copy from Random House Canada.

First sentence:

Mathilde took out her diary and wrote: " The man sitting next to me has got one hell of a nerve."

Comments: Wow! I think I've really been missing something by not reading European crime novels earlier. This is the first in the series of Commissionaire Adamsberg and the latest to be translated into English. While working on and wrapping up another case Adamsberg becomes interested in the latest talk around Paris of mysterious blue chalk circles appearing all over the city several times a week and inside each circle is a common ordinary item, or sometimes just a little strange. They've found a watch, a doll's head, a pen, a dead cat, a pigeon's foot, an 'I Love Elvis' button and many more items. No one except the press is really concerned about this but Adamsberg feels right away that there is something dead wrong about this. And he is proven correct when the first circle to contain a dead body turns up.

Beautifully written, the characters are exquisitely written. In such a short book all the characters, including the secondary ones, are fully developed and real. They are an eccentric bunch of people right from Adamsberg down to the blind man who loves to ask people if they'd like help crossing the street. The crime itself is wonderfully twisty and was impossible for me to figure out. Really an absolutely amazing crime novel crossed with psychological suspense. The characters remind me of Christie and the psychological aspects remind me of Simenon. Brilliance!

Only one thing that bothers me is that the books are not being translated in order. There are already 4 books translated before this, the first one. Strange...

**Sorry about the gushing, but I just really loved this book.

Monday: ARCs in the Mail

Last week I received 3 new books to review, and read and reviewed one arc making the arc pile 2 books taller! Oh dear!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Books Read in January

January: 21
1. Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival by Owen Matthews (3***)
2. The New Americans: Colonial Times, 1620-1689 by Betsy & Giulio Maestro (2**)
3. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (5*****)
4. When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson (5*****)
5. Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown (3***)
6. The Doll People by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin (4.5****)
7. Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz (4****)
8. The Amazing Spider-Man: Coming Home by J. Michael Straczynski (4****)
9. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (4.5****)
10. The Lost City of Z by David Grann (4 ****)
11. The Meanest Doll in the World by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin (4****)
12. Laika by Nick Abadzis (2.5**)
13. The Case of Madeleine Smith by Rick Geary(4****)
14. A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (3***)
15. American Rust by Philipp Meyer (5*****) (FAVOURITE of the Month)
16. The Runaway Dolls by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin (4.5****)
17. Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice by Maureen McCormick (3.5***)
18. 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson (4.5****)
19. The Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski (2.5**)
XX. Toon Books (part two) (5*****)
20. Nemesis by Jo Nesbo (5*****)
21. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (3.5***)

21. The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux, being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

Pages: 270
Finished: Jan. 31, 2009
First Published: 2003
Genre: children, fantasy, fairy tale
Award: Newbery Medal (2004)
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: Newbery Project. And because the movie is out.

First sentence:

This story begins within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse.

Comments: Written in a tradition fairy tale manner this is the story of four characters, two good and two evil (or shall we say mislead). They include a princess, a mouse, a serving girl and a rat. All good ingredients for a fairy tale. We learn the background lives of all four characters then we are told how they met up with each other and created this story which ultimately is about the mouse, being a knight in shining armour, and how he rescued the princess and helped the evil doers as well.

I know there are a million reviews of this book and many raves. It also won the Newbery in 2004. It is one of the better Newberys that have won in the 21st century but I wasn't that taken with it. Perhaps I am too grown up and cynical for this type of story but I found it very sickly sweet. Even though I am a great fan of fairy tales I found here that the good were too good and the evil were not all that evil, simply mislead. It is a very fast read so certainly worth the effort. I think girls in particular will enjoy the story but it's a bit too much "honey" for my tastes.