Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

Halloween or All Hallows' Eve is not a liturgical feast on the Catholic calendar, but the celebration has deep ties to the Liturgical Year. These three consecutive days — Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day — illustrate the Communion of Saints. The Church Militant (those on earth, striving to get to heaven) pray for the Church Suffering (those souls in Purgatory) especially on All Souls Day and the month of November. We also rejoice and honor the Church Triumphant (the saints, canonized and uncanonized) in heaven. We also ask the Saints to intercede for us, and for the souls in Purgatory. Read more ...

195. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 Graphic Novel

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Tim Hamilton. Introduction by Ray Bradbury.

Pages: 149
Ages: 13+
Finished: Oct. 30, 2009
First Published: Jul.21, 2009
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

It was a pleasure to burn.

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee

Comments: At this point I think it's fair that no summary of Fahrenheit 451 is needed. I'm a fan of the novel having read it a handful of time plus I've seen the 1966 movie a couple of times. Obviously, I was no stranger to the plot when I sat down to read the graphic adaptation. I was very pleased to find a very faithful adaptation to the novel had been rendered. It's amazing to see a novel transformed with a minimal amount of text and the addition of graphics to tell the same story. Though one hopes an adaptation will never replace the original, this is a beautiful compliment to it.

The illustrations are very interesting and match the mood of the story done in a limited palette of colours using a trio of colours plus black for the most part though occasionally going down to 2 colours plus black at times. He uses warm reds, yellows and oranges for the fireman scenes while reverting to cool blues, greens and purples for the rest of the book. It sets a dark, oppressive feeling without the need for a narrative to do so.

I can't quite give this a rating of 5 as I know Mr. Bradbury's work can't be equaled but Tim Hamilton has done an excellent job in bringing the novel to the graphic format in a stunningly faithful rendition.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

RIP IV Challenge - Completed

Another year of the RIP is over. This year we only had to commit to 4 books but I managed to double that and read 8 appropriate books. This is the challenge I, and I think everybody elese, looks forward to all year long. Hosted by Carl, it's always a great 2 months of scary, creepy reads. Here's what I managed to read this year.

RIP IV Challenge (Sept 1 - Oct. 31, 2009) (4 books)
1. Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy
2. Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard
3. Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay
4. The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein
5. My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
6. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
7. The Child Thief by Brom
8. The Bag of Bones by Vivian French

I'm pleased with every single book I read this year!

194. Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

Pages: 344
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 29, 2009
First Published: Jul.7, 2009
Genre: graphic novel
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

mmm...oohh.. that's good...

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee

Summary: The book opens with a man watching, presumably, a pornographic movie, when his building is hit by lightning and catches fire. Such is how we meet Asterios Polyp, 50 year old architect. He grabs a few trinkets and as he rushes out the door we see he has a room full of videos, each one marked with a consecutive day of the week which appear to go on for years back. Through a series of flashbacks we follow Asterios' past and present as with the cash he takes a bus to however far it will get him, ending up in a hick town where he gets a job as a mechanic and rents a room in the house of his boss.

Comments: The book is a study in self. It is hard for me to review this book critically as I have never studied philosophy and that is the main theme running through this book. The first thing to enter my mind was existentialism and after googling it, I found it fit the situation perfectly in my mind but I also saw the opposite happening as well, so another google brought up the term nihilism. The amazing thing about this graphic novel is that the illustrations follow suit in a gripping display a graphic brilliance to fit the atmosphere of the pages.

For characters, the book is sparse. Asterios himself is self-centered and egotistical. His Asian wife is his opposite: warm, tender and loving. Otherwise the book contains a handful of eccentric characters, who while also being wrapped in their own self manage to do so without the know-it-all, "I'm always right", attitude of Asterios. My favourite character was the garage owner's wife, Ursula Major a buxom, large, pipe smoking, luxurious blonde woman who follows all the Pagan religions and thinks she is part Indian because she was a Shaman in a past life.

I haven't read anything by the author before so I didn't know what to expect and I must admit I thought it was quite weird to begin with but then things started making sense, I started understanding Asterios' character and I really enjoyed the book in the end. Speaking of the end, it's quite a shocker too.

I would especially recommend this book to anyone who knows a thing or two about philosophy. You'll get a whole lot more out of it than I did but nevertheless, I took what I could from it and was pleased with the read.

As to this being nominated for a Cybil. This is an adult book published for adults and I don't feel it should be considered for the award. The theme is adult, the grown-up characters are not appealing to teens and there are many nude scenes showing full frontal nudity down to the pubic hair on both sexes, along with sex scenes, which I do not consider appropriate for a non-adult audience.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Three Pigs, a Cybil & Harriet Tubman

Today I have a three in one for you!

The Three Little Pigs retold by Lisa Trumbauer, illustrated by Aaron Blecha. (Jan. 2009) (33pgs) received a review copy from the publisher. - This graphic novel is label reading level 1, though I do say it is a but harder than that but nevertheless my son had no problems reading this out loud to me. The story keeps true to the traditional tale we are all familiar with with no watering down and tiny little twist at the end that is very clever. The illustrations are wonderful and creepy. You honestly have to give this book a read once you've had a look at the illustrations. Ds looked forward to reading it everyday. We have another in this Fairy Tale series and I've noticed my library has quite a few on the shelves as well, so we'll certainly be back for more of these. 5/5

192. Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon (jun. 11, 2009) (153pgs) Cybils nominee. Borrowed from my library. - Dragonbreath is a graphic novel-text hybrid. While the majority of the book is written in text, every so often it will venture off into anywhere from a single page to several pages of graphic novel format which are interwoven right into the story. An interesting use of the graphic novel format which makes the book read quickly. Dragonbreath is the only dragon in his reptile and amphibian school and he has yet to learn how to breath fire but that's not his only problem. He hates doing schoolwork and after receiving an F on a made-up report about the ocean he goes to visit his cousin a sea serpent who takes him on a journey beneath the sea where he has many adventures along with his iguana friend Wendell. Armed with this information he is able to re-write a much better report.

A cute little story; the illustrations are very cute and will appeal immediately to readers. The faces are very expressive. I think kids will certainly relate to the characters and have fun with the adventures. Personally, I found the story cute but not anything special. I'm capable of enjoying a just plain fun story but this lacked the element of that something special for me. If your child is attracted to the book go ahead and buy it for them but I wouldn't go out of my way to choose it for a child to read. 3/5

193. Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Teresa Flavin. (2000) (48pgs) read as part of our history curriculum - An easy reader chapter book briefly tells the story of Harriet Tubman's life and her heroic deeds to save other slaves by bringing them to Canada and later on her part in the Civil War. A good majority of the book is spent on her life as a child, and life before she escaped slavery so children can get to know her as a person first before they learn she is a hero. My only quibble is that the whole Canadian connection is skipped. The word Canada appears once in the book "take the group on to Canada". 3/5

Fortunately we live very close to where she lived in Canada and were able to visit the church where Tubman brought the slaves on (I forget whether it was 17 or 19) separate journeys she made down south and back again via the Underground Railroad. The church doesn't have a website but here is a little info site about it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

191. The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
(a parallel novel to Oryx and Crake)

Pages: 431
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 27, 2009
First Published: Sept. 22, 2009
Genre: post-apocalyptic, science fiction (no matter how much the author denies it)
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

In the early morning Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise.

Reason for Reading: Atwood's new book. Qualifies for the Canadian Reading Challenge. Borrowed from my library.

Summary: A plague has wiped out the majority of the world and the God's Gardeners cult had been preparing for the end-times (the Waterless Flood) all along. Two women, who were members of God's Gardeners have survived the plague. One, Ren, because she was in an isolation unit (almost like an apartment) where she was recuperating after being abused by one of the patrons in the sex club where she worked and possibly contaminated. The other, Toby, had locked herself in the beauty spa (heavily secured corporation run) she was the manager of the night the plague hit full force. The story is told from three points of views. Ren's and Toby's with both of them telling their present situation and remembering their past life with the God's Gardener's. The third point of view comes from the past and follows the God's Gardeners year by year through sermons given by Adam One which end with a hymn.

Comments: I really enjoyed Oryx and Crake and dived into this book as soon as it came into the library for me. The book was a quick read. I always find Atwood's writing to flow so naturally her books are often hard to put down, and this was no exception. Ren and Toby are full, realistic characters, quite opposite in nature from each other but both emotionally draw the reader into their lives and thus the book. Atwood's feminist side shows through here as we see a comparison between the two women. Ren has been treated kindly then thrown aside and later used and abused by men because of her good looks while Toby has been used and abused and later ignored by men because of her plain looks.

The God's Gardeners cult was pretty creepy in my opinion. Atwood has created a religion which is Old Testament based, yet Pagan in nature and is full of Saint Days. While the group believes in an Old Testament God, they are eco friendly by worshipping animals and nature and are strictly vegan. Near the beginning she has a St. Mowat of the Wolves day and I said to myself, "Oh, Lord please do not let her have a St. David Suzuki day in here or I'm going to through this book across the room". He did appear, but fortunately it was near the end of the book and I held back my urge.

I would suggest reading Oryx and Crake first. The books are not dependant on each other but this one does reference many things from the first book and you are going to wandering around in the dark as either no explanations, or only brief ones are given. A very quick explanation of the events of the first book are summed up for you at the crucial point in Year of the Flood but a reader will be missing out on a whole book's worth of insider information if they journey into this without having read Oryx and Crake first.

Ultimately though, I was disappointed with book. It was a good enough book. Fans of Oryx and Crake will have to read it to find out the rest of the story. But I just didn't get into the story that much. It wasn't a page turner, even though it read quick enough. The plot kept moving forward but there never was any real suspense, reveals, moments of great emotion or climax even to satisfy. Well, there is a climax and an ending but they are small and weak and I ended the book with a "hmmph".

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Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm a Blurb!!!!!

The latest trade paperback edition of Kenneth Oppel's Starclimber hit the stores this month. I've hinted a couple of times at a secret I've been keeping and this is it. I won a contest and came in as the first runner up! Harper Collins Canada ran the contest back in May and Kenneth Oppel himself chose the three winners. I was contacted in August but didn't want to spill the beans publicly until I'd seen the thing with my own eyes to make sure it wasn't some surreal dream. My blurb is printed on the first page when you open the book and just look at the company I'm keeping!! I also received a signed hardcover first edition as a prize (as if seeing my name and words in print wasn't "prize" enough! You can read my whole review here.

If you live in Canada, run to your nearest bookstore and buy one! Heehee!

Kenneth Oppel's Starclimber

Now I can't wait to go the author's booksigning in November!

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week saw the arrival of two arcs and I actually bought a book as well, good excuse though as I bought it as a read aloud for school purposes. With two arcs coming in this past week, I'm very shocked to say I did not read any arcs in that time which makes the arc pile a total increase of 2 books. Well it was bound to happen sooner or later!

From Random House Canada:

Anne Rice returns to the mesmerizing storytelling that has captivated readers for more than three decades with this new novel — the first book in a new series called “Songs of the Seraphim.”

Angel Time is a dark, suspenseful novel about angels, reluctant assassins and a journey of redemption.

Toby O’Dare — a.k.a. Lucky the Fox — has fallen far from grace. He is a contract killer who carries out violence whenever and wherever he is told, a soulless soul who takes orders from someone he calls “The Right Man.” When a mysterious stranger comes into Lucky’s nightmarish world and offers him a chance to save lives rather than destroy them, Lucky seizes the opportunity to escape the darkness. He is lifted in (angel) time and carried back through the ages to the primitive and treacherous world of thirteenth-century England, where Jews live an uneasy existence. He begins a journey that leads him from the medieval villages of England to the cities of London and Paris as his quest becomes a story of danger and flight, loyalty and betrayal, selflessness and love.

The eagerly awaited second novel from the author of the widely acclaimed debut mystery The Calling.

DI Hazel Micallef is still recovering from back surgery when a report comes in that a body has been found in a nearby lake, snagged under several feet of water. But as DC Wingate says, the whole thing is way too eerie. The first installment of a story has just been published in the local paper: a passage that describes in detail just such a discovery. Real life is far too close to fiction for coincidence.

The second novel featuring Hazel Micallef is a stunning and suspenseful exploration of the obsessive far reaches of love. It will confirm Inger Ash Wolfe as one of the best mystery writers there is.

Purchased from Ignatius Press:

A Vision book containing the enthralling story of the great modern apostle of youth, Saint John Bosco, and his best-loved pupil who became a saint, Dominic Savio. Blessed with tremendous natural and supernatural gifts, including a wonderful sense of humor, Saint John Bosco overcame overwhelming obstacles to help deprived children find a better life.

Juggler, magician, acrobat, tailor, teacher and writer--John Bosco became all of these in his efforts to lead boys and girls to God. A prayer was the price of admission to his shows; a friendly contest to match skill or strength was his answer to the hoodlums who laughed at him. As a priest he was known as Don Bosco and built churches and schools.

Don Bosco's schools were cheerful places where the school spirit ran high. This story of Saint John Bosco and his pupil, Saint Dominic Savio, will appeal to the young readers of today.

190. By the Great Horn Spoon!

By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Eric von Schmidt

Pages: 193
Ages: 8+
Finished: Oct. 23, 2009
First Published: 1963
Genre: children, historical fiction, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

A sailing ship with two great sidewheels went splashing out of Boston harbor on a voyage around the Horn to San Francisco.

Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 9yo to go with our history studies.

Summary: Aunt Arabella is in imminent danger of losing her estate so Jack and the butler, Praiseworthy, leaving a note behind, stowaway on a ship to reach California where they plan to strike it rich with the other forty-niners. Thus coming home in time to save Aunt Arabella's estate. If only things worked out just as we planned them...

Comments: As historical fiction, the book's historical content is contained to life aboard a coal-fueled steamship, both above and below decks, the lifestyle of a gold miner and the drudgery of working on a gold claim with the likelihood of not finding any gold. Otherwise, the tale told here is far too tall to take seriously. Having read a handful of Fleishman's books, including some McBroom, I knew what to expect all along.

A delightful, over-the-top, rip-roaring adventure that both ds and I enjoyed immensely. The character of Praiseworthy is hilarious. Being the perfect 'stiff upper lip' butler he is completely out of his element in the dusty wilds but like the perfect butler he can fix any awkward situation in a jiffy. Praiseworthy slowly loses pieces of his butler's ensemble and with it his lip begins to loosen up as well. Undoubtedly, Praiseworthy is the star of this book. Oddly enough though, with the book being about the rush for gold, the first good half (maybe a bit less) of the book takes place aboard the steamship. We certainly enjoyed the exploits on board, and sailing books are a big hit around here, but we did start to wonder when the gold rush part of the book would ever start. To sum up the story simply put: good, clean fun with plenty of action and loads of laughs.

The only thing I didn't enjoy were the illustrations which are of the scribbled variety. I'm sure someone may appreciate them; they are detailed but to me they look like continuous line drawings that were scribbled up in two minutes. I'm not a fan of von Schmidt. But I am pleased the book keeps the original illustrations. There is nothing worse than ripping apart a piece of literature by implanting "new" illustrations. This brings me to the cover. Neither my son nor I were pleased with it. When reading ds always has a fun time placing the cover picture in the story and guessing what is happening in the cover. Since the cover illustration has been "updated" the characters look nothing like they do inside the book and he could not figure out who they were and when the fight scene finally came he was literally disgusted with the cover drawing, especially of Praiseworthy. "Doesn't look anything like him!" he said. I agree.

I can't find a picture of the original cover anywhere but here is a foreign edition with von Schmidt's artwork and a proper picture of Praiseworthy, perhaps it is the original cover artwork. Who knows?

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Couple of Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews

Today I have a couple of reviews of elementary/middle grade graphic novels which are Cybils nominees that I have read recently read.

#188. Perseus and Medusa by Blake A. Hoena, illustrated by Daniel Perez, 2009, 63 pgs - This retelling of the famous Greek myth is quite complete in its details including parts of the story not always included in children's versions such as the Gorgons which frequently get dropped. But I was most impressed with the inclusion of the sidestory of Perseus's return journey home including his saving of Andromeda before he returns to court with the head of Medusa. A very true retelling, keeping it suitable for children. There is a bit of violence, Medusa does get her head chopped off after all, and with that a few drops of blood are shown here and there over a few pages. Nothing I wouldn't deem suitable for an 8yo of my own. The illustrations are gorgeous! I always say this when I review a Stone Arch book but they always use top-notch artists for their books. Perez has worked for Marvel and Dark Horse comics and his illustrations beautifully bring the story alive. A must read for mythology fans! 5/5

#189. Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero by Charise Mericle Harper, 2008, 106 pgs. - Kiki the cat is a super hero. Whenever there is a fashion disaster she turns into Fashion Kitty, has the ability to fly and can fix any fashion blunder. Her school changes policy and everyone must start wearing uniforms, what a tragedy! But is it? Fashion Kitty doesn't receive any calls. There is something bigger afoot here and maybe you don't have to be a super hero to be a hero. This was a cute little girly-girl story that I'm sure the intended audience will love. It pretty much reads like a cartoon show episode with a few good lessons thrown in. The artwork is simplistic, drawn with the basic shapes. It is the type that children will be able to sit down and copy their favourite characters and in fact there is a Fashion Kitty drawing lesson at the back of the book. The book is mostly what I call fluff, cute fluff though, and little girls with a flare for fashion will certainly enjoy Fashion Kitty. 3/5

Friday, October 23, 2009

And the Winner is ....

And the winner of The Rapture by Liz Jensen is :

Sheila (bookjourney)

Sheila's favourite post-apocalyptic books are the Left Behind series.

You can read my review of The Rapture here.

If you didn't win today, there is always another chance as you can stay tuned tomorrow for another giveaway!

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Contest: The Rapture by Liz Jensen (Sticky)

When I received The Rapture by Liz Jensen for review I somehow ended up with two copies! The Canadian edition I had been expecting and then shortly followed by an ARC of the American edition.

I am giving away here the unread ARC of the US edition of The Rapture by Liz Jensen.

Contest will run until Oct. 22, with the winner randomly chosen and announced on Oct. 23. This contest is open to US and Canada only. Sorry, but International postage is too expensive for me.

To enter:

1) You must be a follower (over in the right bar) and let me know you are in your comment.

2) Leave your email address (if it is not in your profile.)

3) For +2 extra entries tell me your favourite apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic book.

You can read my review of the book and while it is not exactly glowing, I do think many people will enjoy the book more than I did. Here is the publisher's summary

It’s a blazing hot summer in the not-too-distant future. Thirty-five-year-old psychologist Gabrielle Fox is painfully rebuilding her life after a terrible accident that has left her a paraplegic, and her lover dead. The effects of incapacitating memories and guilt have led to Gabrielle’s dismissal from her London job. Craving anonymity and a fresh start, she moves to the coastal town of Hadport and accepts the first post she is offered, as an art therapist at a lackluster institution for dangerously psychopathic teens.

Gabrielle’s predecessor is on emergency leave thanks to an unhealthy obsession with Bethany Krall, now Gabrielle’s patient. A punky and precocious wild child with matted hair and kohl-rimmed eyes, Bethany’s claim to fame is that she murdered her own mother with a screwdriver. Aside from a gift for rip-roaring verbal obscenities and a knack for intuiting the inner torments of strangers, Bethany has the uncanny ability to gleefully forecast the environmental catastrophes now befalling the earth at a terrifying rate. Though skeptical at first, Gabrielle finds herself preoccupied with Bethany, her alarm and fascination swelling with every accurate prediction.

Seeking a rational explanation, Gabrielle connects with the big-hearted Scottish geophysicist Frazer Melville, an expert on global weather patterns. Though Frazer is not able to give Gabrielle the easy answer she hopes for, she finds comfort in his presence, and perhaps even attraction. The two begin a tentative romance as Gabrielle realizes that the door to her sexual life may not be closed after all.

Meanwhile, the enormous human cost of each global cataclysm is tallied in advance by a jubilant Bethany, who likes to toss in a few snippets of scripture memorized at the knee of her father, the charismatic fundamentalist preacher Leonard Krall. Gabrielle suspects Krall of having more to do with his wife and child’s ruin than he admits to, but before she can fully investigate, she and Frazer must put their reputations on the line and find a way to warn humanity of the looming apocalypse.

Raved about in The Times as “an unputdownable eco-thriller” and already optioned for film by Warner Brothers, Liz Jensen’s The Rapture once again proves Jensen to be a master of page-turning suspense. Readers will be entertained by the pyrotechnics of this hugely intelligent and wholly original voice, while unnerved by the high-voltage ecological horror story that feels all too plausible in our time.

186. 20 Bible Verses Every Child Should Know with 20 original Bible memory songs on full-length CD

20 Bible Verses Every Child Should Know with 20 original Bible memory songs on full-length CD illustrated by Christine Tripp, songs by Little Man Music. (text by various authors. Scripture taken from NIV)

Pages: 92 + CD
Ages: 4-10
Finished: Oct. 13, 2009
First Published: 2003
Genre: children, Bible, Christian
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Have you been looking for a fun, new resource to help your child learn Bible verses?

Reason for Reading: We spend time on religion every school day M-TH. This book came with our curriculum; I had not seen it before. We used it every other week.

Comments: I was not looking to use this book as a verse memorizing tool but more as a devotional and discussion starter with my son. I was impressed right away with the visual presentation and the everyday stories children could really relate to. The real test though was to listen to the CD. Would the songs be corny? I sat down and started to listed to it on my own and must say I was more than satisfied. The songs are sung in various combinations of a man, woman and children. Each song is a different style of music such as up beat, soft and slow, foot stomping, etc. International styles are represented as well, for example the first song has an African feel to it. The singing is good quality, the music is fun and the songs are not corny, in fact they get in your head and you find your self singing as you go about your day.

Each story follows the same format over 4 pages. A Bible verse is featured. The left hand side is a full colour illustration to accompany the story which illustrates the verse in action in a child's life today. Two "Memory Booster" activities are suggested. (These vary from word games to play in the car to actual crafts). Then the lyrics to the song follow.

How we used the book over a 4 day period: Day one, we would read the verse. (remember memorizing is not my goal but rather understanding and applying) We would discuss any words he might not know the meaning of and say the verse again now that he understood all the words. He would repeat the verse. Then I'd ask if he knew what it meant. And often he had very good explanations, and we'd discuss a little longer as interest held. Day two, we said the verse then read the story and applied the verse to the lesson the child had learned in the story. I skipped the "Memory Booster" section. Day three, We said the verse, then listened/sang the song usually more than once. As many times as he wanted within reason, as he sometimes really enjoyed a song and would have had me play it ten times in a row if I let him. Day four, We said the verse, sang the song, then I let him pick any previous songs he had enjoyed and we sang them until he had had enough singing.

The book is non-denominational, though obviously Protestant in nature, as a Catholic I was completely happy with the book as well. A great devotional for kids who love music!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

185. Up Till Now by William Shatner

Up Till Now: The Autobiography by William Shatner with David Fisher

Pages: 342 + index
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 20, 2009
First Published: May 13, 2008
Genre: memoir, actor
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

I was going to begin my autobiography this way: Call me ... Captain James T. Kirk or Sergeant T.J. Hooker or Denny Crane Denny Crane or Twilight Zone Passenger Bob Wilson or the Big Giant Head or Henry V or the Priceline Negotiator or ... Well, that's the problem, isn't it?

Reason for Reading: I love William Shatner and there was no doubt I'd be reading his autobiography! This also qualifies for the Canadian Reading Challenge.

Comments: William Shatner's autobiography covers his entire life from growing up in Montreal, Canada to virtually the present with his thoughts on not being invited to participate in the recent new Star Trek movie. His childhood is briefly summarized though his acting ventures as a child, in high school and university and then book focuses on his career as an actor starting with his days on the Canadian stage at the Stratford Festival and moving right along to his current role as Denny Crane. In between he has had a career with many ups and downs. Though never any really big downs as he is the type of actor who accepts work when he needs it. Thus he has done a lot of B-grade movies (and proud of it) and played character parts on hundreds of TV shows and every now and then he hits it big. So big in fact he has become an icon in the industry and love him or hate him, who doesn't know the name William Shatner?

I love Shatner's sense of humour! He is dry, witty and most importantly doesn't take himself seriously and plays that up to the media, who often take him seriously; reporting him that way and creating a false persona, "Bill Shatner". It's very funny to watch in real life when people actually take the guy seriously when he's acting his famous Bill Shatner character. Maybe it's a Canadian humour thing. He talks about these "pranks" and how he first told the media an outrageous made up story back in the early Star Trek days, of how it just popped into his head during an interview, he thought he was telling a joke but everyone actually believed him and so it all began. His humour shines through in the book, with pompous statements, one-liners and segues into commercials for priceline or promos for the book. It's quite hilarious.

There's also another side to Shatner though as he tells of his personal life. Such as his first two failed marriages and his faults as a husband that contributed to there demise; the tragic death of his third wife and the tumultuous marriage they had preceding that death; his thoughts and fears about growing old and realizing his own mortality is approaching; his thoughts on the negative opinions of his fellow Star Trek cast members (all except Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley).

The book is very satisfying covering everything you'd really expect to find in Shatner's biography. The one thing not present is long meanderings on Star Trek as that material is covered in his first memoir, Star Trek Memories, which I read when it came out and also enjoyed. He still has a few stories to tell, though, and talks about the conventions, movies and such. I felt as if he gave Star Trek just the right amount of space in this book seeing as he's already covered it in depth. I especially enjoyed his thoughts, and reminiscences on making Rescue 911, Invasion Iowa and Boston Legal. A very enjoyable read from an actor who is not-so-surprisingly a down to earth man at heart and a brilliant actor (and a bad singer, yes, he knows this!).

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

184. Wonderland

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac. illustrated by Sonny Liew

Pages: 160
Ages: 13+
Finished: Oct. 18, 2009
First Published: Mar. 17, 2009
Genre: graphic novel, ya, children, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Mary Ann ...

Reason for Reading: Cybils Award nominee. I've also been meaning to read this since I first heard about it.

Summary: The book is set in Wonderland sometime not too long after Alice has left. Here we meet Mary Ann, the girl whom the White Rabbit mistakes Alice for when she first arrives. We find out Mary Ann is the White Rabbit's maid and follow her through an adventurous day where she uncovers the fiendish doings of the Queen of Hearts.

Comments: While the book does have its plot running through, I found the main focus to be on the characters. Kovac explores Wonderland and its famous inhabitants such as the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat in such great detail and in a more up close and personal way than the original book provides. It is great fun watching these characters come to life in this way. (Though I do question why Jabberwocky and Tweedledee & dum from Through the Looking-glass have been placed in Wonderland.) Kovac has done a magnificent job of keeping the essence of Carroll's witty, off-the-wall sense of humour. Sonny Liew's illustrations are wonderful and wacky; based on the Disney images (since this book is published by Disney Press) they are instantly recognizable yet he changes them enough to take away the cuteness and there is actually an aura of creepiness to this Wonderland.

To thoroughly enjoy the book, one must know the original Alice in Wonderland story as many references are made to it and it's assumed you know who all these characters are. I don't think reading the original book is necessary, any version or the Disney movie would suffice. I'm not really sure why the book is recommended for ages 13+; my only guess would be the maturity to fully comprehend the humour and the underlying tones.

I really enjoyed the story. It was a quick afternoon read. The eventual ending for Mary Ann is quite unnerving. I've never been a fan of the Cheshire Cat and to see his true colours (in my mind) brought to life so well was a delight ... and slightly eerie. This is a book that just pulling it off the shelf and looking through it is going to make you want to take it home with you. I say it's worth it. I suggest the book would make a great gift for a young teen or tween girl who already knows the Alice in Wonderland story.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

My First Book Signing!!

This Saturday I went to my very first book signing! I went to Chapters in "the city" to get my copy of The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan signed. She was amazing! Her author picture does not do her justice at all as she was all smiles and very pretty!

I've never done anything like this as my anxiety/panic disorder which is a common condition for people with Aspergers to also suffer from (though by no means do all). But I was determined to go. I took an anxiety pill before I went and then I worried the whole way there that when I went up to the table and said my name "Nicola" (which is not that common) that she would recognize me, as we have had a few emails back and forth when I originally published my review of her book and I mentioned I'd be going to this signing. So I was hoping she wouldn't recognize my name but kind of dreading that she probably would so anyway this is where the mind of an Aspergers person goes frantic. It's hard to describe and I won't try ... but I was determined to go.

So I got there and walked around a bit, noticed she was there and when I saw her sitting down at the table, I took a gulp and headed on over plus I had decided that if she recognized me I would shake her hand. (I don't shake hands with anyone except my priest at church and occasionally people in church when we give the sign of peace to each other.) Anyway I walk up to the table hoping when she asks my name, "Nicola" will not ring any bells for her but instead as soon as I get near the table she looks at me and says "Are you Nicola? (I nod my head) I recognize you from your picture on the internet!" We shake hands! Then she starts thanking me for posting my review "all over the internet". I managed to look in the general direction of her face, I think, and blabbered and flustered some words, I'm not sure what I said, though I did say I loved the book and I answered questions she asked me. But "whew" it was pretty nerve wracking while it was happening but really awesomely cool when it was over.

This is what she wrote: For Nicola. Thanks for reading & for posting your lovely review all over the internet. Best Cathy Buchanan.

Monday: Books in the Mail

Some of you may have noticed (probably not) that I didn't do my Monday books post last Monday. That is because it was Thanksgiving here and I was too busy (lazy) to make time for the post. So this week's post includes 2 weeks' worth of book arrival, but alas, it is only a few books even combined. This is good though, as my reading has slowed down considerably with our visitor here and other life things happening as well.

Now the books:

Two weeks ago I received two review books:

Not long before her fiftieth birthday, Mackenzie Phillips walked into Los Angeles International Airport. She was on her way to a reunion for One Day at a Time, the hugely popular 70s sitcom on which she once starred as the lovable rebel Julie Cooper. Within minutes of entering the security checkpoint, Mackenzie was in handcuffs, arrested for possession of cocaine and heroin.

Born into rock and roll royalty, flying in Learjets to the Virgin Islands at five, making pot brownies with her father's friends at eleven, Mackenzie grew up in an all-access kingdom of hippie freedom and heroin cool. It was a kingdom over which her father, the legendary John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, presided, often in absentia, as a spellbinding, visionary phantom.

When Mackenzie was a teenager, Hollywood and the world took notice of the charming, talented, precocious child actor after her star-making turn in American Graffiti. As a young woman she joinedthe nonstop party in the hedonistic pleasure dome her father created for himself and his fellow revelers, and a rapt TV audience watched as Julie Cooper wasted away before their eyes. By the time Mackenzie discovered how deep and dark her father's trip was going, it was too late. And as an adult, she has paid dearly for a lifetime of excess, working tirelessly to reconcile a wonderful, terrible past in which she succumbed to the power of addiction and the pull of her magnetic father.

As her astounding, outrageous, and often tender life story unfolds, the actor-musician-mother shares her lifelong battle with personal demons and near-fatal addictions. She overcomes seemingly impossible obstacles again and again and journeys toward redemption and peace. By exposing the shadows and secrets of the past to the light of day, the star who turned up High on Arrival has finally come back down to earth -- to stay.

An orphan faces an evil magician in this literary fantasy for readers of all ages that probes the depths of good and evil.

When Zac Sparks's mother dies, he's sent to live in Five Corners with his cruel old Aunties. It isn't long before Zac knows something strange is going on. Five Corners is populated with weird characters – a midget butler, a girl who doesn't speak, a blind balloon seller, a mysterious singer, and the Aunties' father, Dada. Zac's first encounter with Dada is so terrifying he faints dead away.

The one bright spot is Sky Porter, a friendly soul who encourages Zac and shows him kindness. But Sky isn't what he seems either, and when Zac learns Sky's amazing secret, he sees that this wonderful man may have a very dark side as well. Discovering that Dada is an evil magician who has found a way to live forever, Zac knows many lives are at stake, including his own.

Last week I received one book which I won from the author, who I ended up having a couple of emails with and she is a wonderful lady. I'm really looking forward to reading this book, the first in a family saga series.

"Melinda and the Wild West," is a Historical Fiction love story filled with intrigue, adventure, and romance. This story blends fascinating characters with Bear Lake history, and is based on several true experiences.

The time period is 1896. Melinda is from Boston and has come to Idaho's Bear Lake Valley. The idea of going to the Wild West appeals to her. She wants to do some good in someone's life and maybe she could do it in the West by teaching school. Intertwining fact and fiction, Melinda is confronted by many obstacles such as a bank robbery by the notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy, a rebellious student, an irritable grizzly bear, a blinding blizzard, Stinging Nettle, and the most stubborn rancher she has ever met.

This book is not only full of adventure, but has the tenderness of romance. A rugged rancher and a determined schoolteacher from the east tend to butt heads and clash with each encounter, but at the same time there seems to be an underlying interest in one another. Why Gilbert is guarding his heart is a mystery to Melinda. In this story, Melinda is desperately trying to help a rebellious student through acceptance and love, and at the same time, she is trying to understand her own heart.

Getting down to stats that makes 2 review copies in over the last 2 weeks and I've read 2 review books in that time, meaning my to-be-reviewed pile has not increased or decreased. Nothing like consistency!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

183. Testimony by Anita Shreve

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Pages: 305
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 16, 2009
First Published: Oct. 21, 2008
Genre: realistic fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

It was a small cassette, not much bigger than the palm of his hand, and when Mike thought about the terrible license and risk exhibited on the tape, as well as its resultant destructive power, it was as though the two-by-three plastic package had been radioactive.

Reason for Reading: I really wanted to read this book right from when it first came out but it just kept getting pushed to the bottom of the pile. The book was picked for my October Random Reading Challenge. I received a review copy from Hachette Book Group.

Summary: Avery is a small New England town and Avery Academy, the private high school, is the only prestigious thing about it. That is until the headmaster receives a sex tape of several students in a drunken orgy which someone has filmed. While that may not exactly be shocking these days, especially if it had come from the public school, what is shocking is those involved. One girl is only fourteen. The boys are top A students and athletes with promising futures. One boy is a day student, on a scholarship, one of "them" (a town boy), from an upstanding farm family. What follows is a retelling of the events leading up to and after that dreadful event told through the voices of those involved and many others.

Comments: This was a wonderful book! I really enjoyed the read. Each chapter the voice changes from character to character, going from major players to minor characters such as teachers on staff to room mates. This is a brilliant way to keep what is actually a fairly simple plot going into many different directions. There are secrets that unfold that make the simple incident more than it seems initially. Also viewing the incident from each major character's point of view turns what at first appears to be an easy-to-place-blame incident into one much more profound showing one the other side, multiple other sides and the moral issues involved when one is so quick to make rash judgement on others. A very intriguing story!

The characters are all developed well, at least the ones the author meant to. I became attached to a couple of the characters but knew they were doomed from the beginning. Perhaps that is why I became attached to them? There are a couple of major reveals in the book. One I had figured out from the very beginning so was rather let down that I had actually uncovered it as I think it spoilt the effect for me. If I could have been surprised/shocked over the event my rating would have been higher. All in all, though, I really enjoyed the book. Now she has a new book out, A Change in Altitude, (Sept. 09) which looks very good to me as well. I think I may have found another favourite author.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

New York Times' Zalewski Critiques Today's Picture Books

I've got to say I'm right behind him on this one. I've always, more or less, stuck with the classic picture books with my children. There is nothing worse than picture books about bratty kids who act and behave in ways which are entirely unacceptable in your own home.

In today’s picture books, the kids are in charge:

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Little Bear's Friend by Else Holmelund Minarik

Little Bear's Friend by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak
Little Bear series, book 3

Pages: 62
Ages: 5+
Finished: Oct. 8, 2009
First Published: 1960
Genre: children's easy reader
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Little Bear sat in the top of a high tree.

Reason for Reading: My son read the book aloud to me as his reader.

Summary: Little Bear meets Emily for the first time; she and her parents are camping in the woods for the summer. They become friends, have adventures on their way to owl's house for his party and say goodbye at the end of the summer.

Comments: Fans of the TV show will be interested in seeing how Emily really meets Little Bear for the first time and that indeed she does have parents who are alive and well! This book more than other's in the series follows a more traditional chapter book with a fairly cohesive story rather than four separate short stories. Each is connected to, or continues on from the previous. Minarik was a brilliant story teller and she, as usual, does a wonderful job with the limited vocabulary of this book, part of the original "An I Can Read Book" series. Minarik's stories themselves can stand on their own but I personally think that these have become the classics they are because of the combination of Minarik's writing and Maurice Sendak's illustrations. Lovely, whimsical illustrations showcase perfect examples of Sendak's work that focuses on the regular aspects of life rather than his fantastical works for which he is more well known.

With the entry of Emily into the series, these books become more girl friendly and yet still retain their appropriateness for boys. Children shouldn't miss out on the original books if they've only been exposed to the cartoon show. Written at a Level 1 reading level the book is simple and straight forward to read, making it a pleasure for beginners or struggling readers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cirque du Freak Trailer

I Can't Wait!!!!

If you haven't already, read books #1-3 to prepare for the movie.

182. Alligator Stew by Dennis Lee

Alligator Stew: Favourite Poems by Dennis Lee, illustrated by Roge

Pages: unpaginated
Ages: 5+
Finished: Oct. 3, 2009
First Published: 2005
Genre: children's poetry
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Alligator pie, alligator pie,
If I don't get some I think I'm gonna die.

Reason for Reading: I read poetry to my son as a regular part of our day. We read a 2 page spread at a time alternating between a book focusing on one specific poet then a collection of authors. This was our poet focus and I chose a Canadian poet to qualify for the Canadian Reading Challenge. I own this book.

Comments: A collection of some of the best and most popular poems from Dennis Lee's previously published books up to this date. Includes such favourites as Alligator Pie, Willoughby Wallaby Woo and Mulligan Stew. For those who've never had the pleasure of reading Dennis Lee's poetry, I would suggest you think along the lines of Shel Silverstein crossed with a G-rated Monty Python and add a good dose of Canadianism. Rollicking good, fun and sometimes hilarious poems with a beat that are perfect for reading aloud. Some are slow and spooky, others are fast and funny, while others have you singing the words by the time you've read two lines as in one of my favourites, Doctor Bop. No child should leave childhood without having experienced at least one of Dennis Lee's collection of poems.

Roge's illustrations are quite literally out of this world. Bright, bold and goofy. I'm not sure what the style is called but his character's proportions are not quite right, necks too small, heads too big, bodies bent in ways they shouldn't quite be able to go, etc. and his monsters and creatures are very unique and strange and yet playful, not scary. They brilliantly enhance the poetry.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

181. A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge

A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

Pages: 193
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 3, 2009
First Published: Aug 2009
Genre: nonfiction, graphic novel, biographical, current events, history
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Monday, August 22, 2005.

Reason for Reading: Cybil Awards nominee. Received from the library.

Summary: Follows the lives of seven individuals before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. Each of these people come from different walks of life giving very different experiences as they share the same devastation of a natural disaster.

Comments: The book is quite powerful, especially the beginning and middle. The coming of the storm is handled very dramatically with wordless panels and was my favourite part of the book. The story is told chronologically and flips between the seven people (5, technically as 2 are in pairs) this is a little confusing at first but once you get into the book the reader gets into the rhythm. Not all of the characters stay behind and while all characters are followed, inevitably those who stay are the ones with the most character development. I easily read the book in an afternoon and enjoyed the powerful firsthand view of survivors. Being Canadian this is actually the first book I've read on the topic.

There were a few things I didn't like. Though the book is a firsthand account and not political, per se, it obviously has a slant that is noticeable very early on with an anti-Bush graffiti on a bathroom stall on page 26 and a very stilted, unnatural (not necessarily logical, imho) conversation near the end of the book (pg. 147/148) between two of the characters listening to a talk radio viewer questioning why so many people stayed behind. The inclusion of these two bits unobtrusively add a political slant. Secondly, there is one character who uses very foul language every time she opens her mouth, including the f-word. Her story is probably one of the most compelling but it was hard to get past the obscenities. These, though, are minor irritants to this reader and may not bother others at all. The book is certainly worth a read.

As to the book's nomination for a Cybil, I'm going to have to say it does not, imho, qualify as having "kid appeal". The book is written for an adult audience. There is one character who is a high school student, but he is the least significant character in the book and has little page time compared to the others. The story of his parents is more interesting than his own actually. I don't think the stories of this group of adults are going to appeal to young teens and there is the problem with the foul language. The book would appeal to 17/18yos, but in my mind once you reach 17yo you are usually reading adult books anyway, making that a moot point.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

180. The Bag of Bones

The Bag of Bones by Vivian French, illustrated by Ross Collins
The Second Tale from the Five Kingdoms

Pages: 248
Ages: 8+
Finished: Oct. 10, 2009
First Published: July 28, 09
Genre: children's fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"Wheeeeee!" The small bat did a double backflip, then a twist, and landed neatly on the branch below.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series. I received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Summary: The evil witch Truda Hangnail, practitioner of Deep Magic (not permitted in the Five Kingdoms) comes to visit her granddaughter and takes control of the local group of witches shrinking them down to the size of rats. Loobly, one of the witch's servants, escapes and sets off to get the help of the Ancient Crones. Meanwhile, it is Queen Bluebell's 80th birthday celebration and since she has no female heirs she will be naming her future successor at the party. But Truda Hangnail has a diabolical plan to crash the party and become the Queen of the Five Kingdoms herself!

Comments: A fun sequel to The Robe of Skulls! Lots of new characters are introduced but all the familiar ones from the first book find there way into this story as well. The bats Marlon and Alf join in on the first page, then the twin brother princes make their appearance, as well as the Ancient Crones. Our heroine (from book one) Gracie Gillypot and Gubble the troll finally make a late appearance halfway through the book.

A quick, easy read with lots of magic and dastardly doings. Truda Hangnail is all badness and as in the first book the bad are bad and the good are good keeping the story a fun romp through a fantasy world. I really enjoyed the new main character, Loobly. She's outwardly so timid and yet she sticks up for herself every time it counts. Her fondness for rats is amusing as well.

This is one of those books that's just plain 'a whole lotta fun'. While the plot may have been predictable (to me) I had a great time getting there. I love these characters. I love the Scottish author's sense of humour and I love Ross Collins illustrations. Looking at the author's website, I see a third book has already been published in the UK, called The Heart of Glass. No sign of it on this side of the ocean yet but hopefully it will be a summer 2010 release.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

179. A Pioneer Thanksgiving

A Pioneer Thanksgiving: A Story of Harvest Celebrations in 1841 by Barbara Greenwood, illustrated by Heather Collins
Pioneer Story series, book 2

Pages: 47
Ages: 7+
Finished: Oct. 8, 2009
First Published: 1999
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Sarah sat in the little bedroom off the kitchen, reading to Granny.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series and it was the week before Thanksgiving.

Summary: Follows the Robertson family as they gather together the ingredients for their meal from the wild and prepare the meal and Sarah realizes all she has to be thankful for.

Comments: While only a fraction of the size of the first book, A Pioneer Story, this book keeps to the same format with chapters of the story followed by non-fiction sections that carry factual information plus crafts and recipes. Again the crafts are simple to make though will require a gathering of 'not just laying around the house' supplies. The book again is illustrated with Heather Collins lovely sepia and dark brown pencil drawings which draw attention to the time period of the story.

The story is very much Canadian with the whole story focusing on the harvesting and remembrances of the Old Countries' (Europe) harvest customs. The book finally ends with a brief but very enlightening explanation of how our Thanksgiving is in Oct. and the US's is in November and why our Thanksgiving doesn't involve a single Pilgrim. Did you know Canada didn't even officially call the holiday 'Thanksgiving Day' until 1957?!

I also am pleased with how the secular publisher dealt with the Christian aspect of the Pioneer's lives and role it would have played in their Thanksgiving. Rather than ignoring it as is often the case with history books aimed at the secular public, it is briefly, factually woven into the story. Sarah reads to her sickly Grandmother from the Bible and at the end of the book when the family sits down to eat Pa says grace. Then there is a brief non-fiction page explaining grace, giving some examples of different ones the pioneers may have said, even one in German that the Robertson's German neighbours may have used.

A wonderful book for Canadian children to learn the true meaning and history of Thanksgiving in Canada.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Winner Is..

And the winner of Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda as chosen by yesterday (though I was out all day and didn't get a chance to make a post, Sorry!) is....

Book Dragon

Congratulations! Book Dragon says this one has been on her wish list so lucky you, your wish has come true! I'll be sending you an email shortly for your snail mail address.

To those who didn't win ... Stay tuned ... I'll be posting another contest in my next post today!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Contest: Houston, We Have a Problema

I am giving away a brand new trade paperback of Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda. Contest will run until Oct. 8, with the winner randomly chosen and announced on the Oct. 9. This contest is open to US and Canada only. Sorry, but International postage is too expensive for me.

To enter:

leave a comment below with your email (if it is not in your profile). You can't win if I can't email you back.

+1 Blog about this contest and leave a link to the post.

+2 become a Google Follower (over in the right bar) or let me know that you already are a Follower.

Jessica Luna is your typical 26 year old: she has man trouble, mom trouble, and not a clue what to do with her life (though everyone else in her family seems to have plenty of suggestions!) After a lifetime of being babied by her family, Jess is incapable of trusting herself to make the right choices. So instead, she bases all of her life decisions on signs. She looks to everything for guidance, from the direction her rearview-mirror-Virgin-de-Guadalupe sways to whatever Madame Hortensia, her psychic, sees in the cards.

When her sort-of boyfriend Guillermo, a gifted unmotivated artist, disappoints her again, Jessica thinks it's time to call it quits. Just to be sure, she checks in with Madame Hortensia who confirms that yes, it is time for a change. (Who knew $20 could buy so much security!) Right on cue, Jess meets Jonathan; he's the complete opposite of Guillermo--of all Jess's boyfriends, in fact. He's successful, has a stable job....and is white. Jess isn't sure if Jonathan is really the change Madame Hortensia saw. Sure he gives great career advice, but is he advising her on a career she actually wants? And yes he's all about commitment, but is it Jess or her mother who really wants marriage?

Jess runs back to Madame Hortensia for advice, but even she is out of answers. Now there's only one thing that's certain: no one--not her mother, her sister, her boyfriend or her psychic--can tell her what to do. For better or for worse, Jess will have to take the plunge and make her own decisions if she wants to have any future at all.

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178. A Family Treasury: Classic Bible Stories

A Family Treasury: Classic Bible Stories retold by Lise Caldwell

Pages: 159
Ages: 7+
Finished: Oct. 7, 2009
First Published: 1998
Genre: children's bible, Christian
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Reason for Reading: We have religion as a subject every day M-TH, part of this included reading Bible stories. We read from this book every other week, the book came with our curriculum and I hadn't seen it before hand.

Comments: A retelling of the Bible through selected stories. No version of the Bible is given as a source, so one must assume it is a complete retelling. The book is from a non-denominational point of view and should be accessible to everyone, as it was to this Catholic reader. While containing a fair selection of Old Testament Stories the emphasis is on The New Testament. All the popular stories are contained and overall it is useful and edifying Bible. I will admit that at first glance I was unsure of it's use as it does appear simple. Each story is a two page spread with the left-hand side containing the text and the right hand side containing an illustration. The gave me the impression the stories would be dumbed down and missing their essence. I couldn't have been more wrong though. They are well-written at a high enough reading level (5/6) to contain a rich vocabulary and while the more adult situations have been left out the stories are true to the Bible, imho. Each one caused several minutes of teaching and discussion afterwards.

Also I can't end without saying that the book itself is highly pleasant to look at. With puffy boards, gilt edges, a ribbon bookmark, a presentation space on the front endpage and gorgeous original but old-fashioned looking paintings to illustrate this would make a perfect gift Bible. I'd recommend for ages 6+ to be read aloud or 8+ to be read alone until the child is ready for their own real Bible.

PS - Don't forget to enter my contest for Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda! Last Day to Enter!

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Monday, October 5, 2009

177. The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis

Pages: 154
Ages: 9+
Finished: Oct. 4, 2009
First Published: Sep. 1, 2009
Genre: graphic novel, children, adventure
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

I made a working model of the Wright Brothers' Flyer for my history project!

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee. I also read and enjoyed Davis' first children's graphic novel, Stinky.

Summary: Every day Julian Calendar is teased at school for being nerdy and smart. Then one day his family tells him they are moving and Julian is delighted; he can start all over again. His first day at the new junior high he pretends to be everything he is not but it's not that easy and he slips up in class and let's his brains show. He is secretly contacted by two fellow brainiac inventors and they become fast friends working on inventions every spare minute they have. But it's time for them to form an alliance when a dastardly scientist steals their schematics plan book and hatches a devious plot. Can they stop him in time using only their wits and inventions?

Comments: I wasn't overly crazy about this book, which ends on a note that feels as if it may be the first in a series featuring the Secret Science Alliance (SSA, for short). The plot and the story were actually quite good, a little slow to get going, but once it did I really enjoyed it. The pacing was very well-timed with the tension slowly mounting throughout the story until the ending became very quick and fast paced. The three kids are also very real characters each with their own flaws and as a group they compliment each other and show positive teamwork in action.

My problem is with the graphic aspect of the book. It is too fussy. There is too much going on, too much text, too many graphics. There are diagrams with arrows pointing here and there and zooming in for close ups with text labels naming all the technical parts of the inventions and surroundings. Their are pages of the science notebook shown randomly in scenes written on notebook paper which reminded me of the old Magic School Bus books. Same with the graphics; there are frames within frames and each layout is very crowded. To me the graphic design gets in the way of rather than enhancing or becoming one with the story. I prefer Eleanor Davis's first book, Stinky, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award.

October Random Read

As selected by my readers by poll, my October book for the Random Reading Challenge will be:

Testimony by Anita Shreve

It won by one point, running neck in neck with The Flying Troutmans the whole way. I'm happy with the results, over the two I would have picked Testimony myself as I've wanted to read one of Shreve's books for a long time, but The Flying Troutmans would have had the added bonus of counting towards the Canadian Book Challenge, as well.

Thanks to everyone who voted in my poll!

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week brought me 3 fantastic review books! Each one I'm very eager to read. But last week only saw me reading one review copy though, meaning mt arc increased by 2 books.

What if? Why not? Could it be?When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.

A brilliant and chilling dystopia for a new generation in the tradition of Brave New World."'Explain to us why you wish to enter The Academy.'" Anaximander, a young Academy candidate, is put through a gruelling exam. Her special subject: the life of Adam Forde, her long-dead hero. It's late in the 21st century and the island Republic has emerged from a ruined, plague-ridden world, its citizens safe, but not free, and living in complete isolation from outside contact. Approaching planes are gunned down, refugees shot on sight.Until a man named Adam Forde rescued a girl from the sea."Anaximander, we have asked you to consider why it is you would like to join the Academy. Is your answer ready?"To answer that question, Anaximander must struggle with everything she has ever known about herself and her beloved Republic's history, the nature of being human, of being conscious, and even what it means to have a soul.And when everything has been laid bare, she must confront the Republic's last great secret, her own surprising link to Adam Forde, and the horrifying truth about her world.

The compelling story of three young orphans who must survive on their own during the Civil War.
It’s near the end of the war, and rumors of emancipation are swirling. Eleven-year-old Luke decides to run away to freedom and join the Union Army. But he doesn’t find the Yankee troops he was hoping for. Instead, he finds nine-year-old Daylily, lost in the woods after suffering an unspeakable tragedy. Her master set her free, but freedom so far has her scared and alone.
Also lost in the woods is seven-year-old Caswell, the son of a plantation owner. He was only trying to find his Mamadear after the Yankees burned their house with all their fine things. He wanted to be brave. But alone in the woods with two slave children, he quickly loses all his courage, and comes to greatly depend upon his new friends. In the chaos and violence that follows, the three unrelated children discover a bond in each other stronger than family.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Love My Prime Minister

Now nobody can say Stephen Harper doesn't have a personality. I love this, I'm such a fangrrrl! Who has the coolest leader? Canada!!!

176. Fables: Homelands

Homelands by Bill Willingham
Fables, book 6

Pages: 190
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 3, 2009
First Published: 2005
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

(not included since it contains spoilers)

Reason for Reading: next in the series

Summary: This volume is a turning point in the series; many important events happen which will make the continuing story take a new turn.

Comments: This is probably the most exciting volume I've read to date. I just loved every part of it! We start off with a two issue story solely concerning Jack which is integral to his character's future. A very enjoyable story. Then we move onto the heart of this volume where for the first time the setting switches to the Homelands and we see what life is like there now. I won't go into details, but an incredible story takes place with many twists and turns and amazing reveals as we learn the truth of who the Adversary is and how and why they took over the homelands. (I made a wild guess a few books ago based on some loopy logic as to who the Adversary was and I WAS RIGHT! Thanks for not telling me I was right though, Rhinoa! The reveal is really well done and right up to the very last page turn I still didn't know if I was going to be right or not). This story line is 5 issues long but is broken up in the middle with a one issue story of what is going on back at Fabletown where many secrets are revealed and we also get to meet up with Mowgli for the first time and revisit his Jungle Book friends. I'm absolutely gleefully eager to get on to the next volume. Time to go place my ILL with the library!

PS - Don't forget to enter my contest for Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda! Only 4 more days to go!

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Poll: Pick My October Random Read For Me

I have a handful of ARCs leftover from 2008 and I want them read by the end of this year so I thought I'd use those for my Random Reading challenge for a while but instead of using to pick the title this month I thought I'd let YOU pick which one I read. So please don't be shy and enter your vote of which of these books you think I should read next month. Poll will close on Oct. 3. Are you just surfing by on your way somewhere else? Take a sec. and add your vote too, please. All you lurkers, come on out, put in your vote too! The more votes, the more fun this will be! Voting is on my side bar.

175. The Child Thief by Brom

The Child Thief by Brom

Pages: 481
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 2, 2009
First Published: Aug. 25, 2009
Genre: urban fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

It would happen again tonight: the really bad thing.

Reason for Reading: I was very interested in a retelling of Peter Pan from an author known previously for horror books. I received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Summary: This is a modern re-telling of the Peter Pan story. If you've read the original you'll know that Peter is rather an arrogant, self-centered boy and the author takes that Peter and creates a very dark urban fantasy. Amazingly, the basic plot line is very similar to the original. Peter comes to the real world to find runaway kids and steals them by tricking them into following him back to his world, Avalon. There he has created a group of children who fight against the evil Flesh-eaters who are out to destroy them and the island, headed by the fearful, Captain. Peter has his mother figure in the woman who is the lifeblood of Avalon, the one who keeps the magic alive and Avalon hidden, Modron, the Lady of the Lake.

Comments: This was a fantastic read! First off though, the book itself is beautiful. Brom also illustrates the book with full page b/w drawings which are very dark and haunting, several of them remind me of the artist Hans Holbein's woodcuts which feature Death. Plus in the middle of the book are full colour paintings of the major characters!

The book is both enchanting and disturbing at the same time. I love the folklore connections of Avalon and the Lady of the Lake. Avalon itself is inhabited by pixies and elves and all manner of creatures; while the mythos behind it all is fascinating. In the Author's Note at the end, Brom goes into detail where he found his inspiration, which in itself is interesting. Peter and his gang of runaways, The Lost Ones, The Devils (they call themselves) are disturbing. A handful of them become major characters who the reader becomes emotionally involved with (one way or the other). The writing and characterization is brilliant. One can never forget that these are children and so it becomes a dreaded but compelling read that can't be put down as they brutally kill and slay their enemies and swear like gangsters. Among themselves The Devils form a group that reminds one of The Lord of the Flies. And yet through it all, there is one runaway, Nick, whom we meet near the beginning, who never quite falls under the spells of the magic, Avalon, Peter, who knows that Avalon is not all there is to fight for. A truly, splendid, wonderfully crafted story. Very dark and haunting, not for those with weak stomachs (heads fly frequently), but both urban fantasy fans and fans of fairytale and classic book retellings will not want to miss out on this one. I will most certainly go back and read Brom's two previous horror books and be on the lookout for his next offering.

I don't want to post an illustration here and infringe on copyrights but going to this link will take you to a lot of pictures featured in the book. Unfortunately, the creepiest one that especially gave me a Hans Holbein vibe is not shown but scroll down about halfway for the woman with the monster head things, that will give you an idea! Most of the colour illustrations are shown, though again not my favourite.

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