Monday, November 30, 2009

The Good Neighbors series by Holly Black

239. Book One: Kin by Holly Black. illustrated by Ted Naifeh. 2008. 117 pgs. Ages 13+ - Rue's world is torn apart when her mother disappears and her professor father is held on suspicion of murdering a student. She finds out that her mother is a faerie who has returned home and Rue must deal with her own identity as she starts to see strange people that no one else can see. Absolutely beautifully drawn by Ted Naifeh of Courtney Crumrin fame, a better artist couldn't have been chosen to bring Holly Black's faerie world to life. I loved this story! Rue is a totally real person with a full set of emotions and one connects with her right away. I was drawn into the story from the opening pages and had an exciting read from start to finish. The shocking ending leaves me clamouring to read book 2. 5/5

240. Book Two: Kith by Holly Black. illustrated by Ted Naifeh. 2009. 115 pgs. Ages 16+ - Wow! The second volume in this series takes a turn to the darkside as Rue battles against her grandfather who wants to take over the human city as a home for the faeries. Her friends start acting strange, even to the point of murder and she desperately enters the faerie world to save her mother, her friends and her city. Amazing story! Just brilliant. I picked it up and could not put it down until I had finished. The story has become very dark and there are some pretty creepy scenes. There is also plenty of casual teen sex happening, which I could have done without, and this definitely brings the series up to an older reading audience level. Naifeh's illustration is a masterful use of black & white, haunting, scary and beautiful. This is without a doubt a stunning fantasy series and I really hope it will prove to be longer than a trilogy. For now, the creepy ending has me panting for word on an expected due date of book three's publishing. 5/5

Monday: Books in the Mail

I'm short on time today so just a list for you to peruse this time around. Things have slowed down to a reasonable mailbox load last week. I received a few more Cybils plus a regular review copy (even though it too is a GN!) and I won an ARC.

Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott (from Eureka Productions)

Shades of GreyARC by Jasper Forde (won from Penguin Book


Black is for Beginnings by Laurie faria Stolarz
Crogan's Vengeance by Chris Schweizer
Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday by Ted Naifeh (already reviewed here)

For those wondering, I'll be continuing with the graphic novel reviews for a while yet. I do see an end in sight. I'm almost finished with the books I have on hand then I'm just waiting for the last ILL's to trickle in. Our deadline for a shortlist is the end of the December but I do hope to be reading a few novels over December as well :-)

Hatter M. Series

237. Volume One: The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor with Liz Cavalier. art by Ben Templesmith. 2007. 176 pgs. ages 14+ - I haven't read the novels so I'm jumping in here with no prior knowledge of the story. I am under the presumption that this is a parallel story to Alice's story in the original novels. It's easy enough to figure out that Hatter has been separated from Alyss and is spending his time searching for her. He lands in Paris and later takes a puddle to Budapest. There is a flashback to the novel retelling how and why Alice escapes to our world. So I felt pretty comfortable with the story though there were many references to people and things that alluded me. This is a strange story. It held my interest but I'm not exactly sure whether I would say I really enjoyed it. It was OK. The artwork has an ethereal quality to it making it very unusual, it is dark and done in various monotones with a small splash of contrast colour in each colour palette. I didn't find it very appealing. The plot is interesting. I am intrigued to see what will happen in Volume Two and at this point I'm thinking it is probably wise to read the novels before the graphic novels. 3/5

238. Volume Two: Mad With Wonder by Frank Beddor with Liz Cavalier. art by Sami Makkonen. 2009. 208 pgs. ages 14+ - Starting off in Wonderland Redd receives a report of the events of book one (this also helpfully refreshes the reader's memory) then we return to Hatter who is now in London and five years have gone by since his search began. He then leaves London for America at the time of the Civil War, fighting all sorts of enemies from earth and Wonderland as he continues to search for Alyss. I've become more comfortable with the story at this point but with the appearance of characters from the novels realize one should read this series after the books. The artwork is done by a different person than the first book and is much more visually appealing using a palette of browns, blues, yellows and greys with touches of red here and there it has a dark atmosphere. Interesting story line which particularly deals with madness. I especially enjoyed the episodes taking place in the sanatorium. I'll read the novels now before I continue with the GNs. 4/5

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Short Stories in Graphic Novels

#235. The Eternal Smile: Three Stories by Gene Luen Yang. illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim. 2009. 170 pgs. 15+ - This book of short stories is an adult title with crossover appeal to teens. Yang shows us here that he has a taste for the strange. In these three stories Yang has taken a person's reality and turned it into a fantasy or turned their fantasy into reality, making for stories that end with the infamous twist. I enjoyed all three very much; they were each enjoyable and unusual, as well as making one think about the good or bad consequences of living in a fantasy world and avoiding your own reality. The illustrations are all wonderful. Kim has used different styles for each story to match the theme and mood. The second story has actually been done in the style of an old comic book (one of those "Gold Key" comics from the seventies) complete with fake ads. Very well done book. Recommended. 4.5/5

#236. Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia illustrated by Gris Grimly. adapted. 2009. 136 pgs. 14+ - It's hard to decide a suitable age for this book, as children differ, but at whatever age your child can handle the gruesome artwork, they can handle the book. Presented here are four of Poe's most horrifying works that deal with death and madness: The Tell-Tale Heart, The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, The Oblong Box, and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. Being a fan of Poe's since I was 11, I have recently become quite fond of reading illustrated versions of his stories and poems and this quite tops the ranks. Omitting "The Oblong Box" for a minute we have three very horrifying, and two downright gruesome tales that Grimly has illustrated with a superb craft for the Gothic gore that brings these tales to shocking life. Back to all four stories now, Grimly's illustrations of people gone mad is simply chilling. While Poe *has* been abridged, it is well worth it to see this presentation of work in such a visual manner. The book is not your typical graphic novel; there are no frames nor word bubbles. What we have instead is fully illustrated pages with blocks of text artistically placed on the page. Though there are also some pages where the text is not blocked, even then it is placed to suit the pictures. Rather than calling this a book, I call it a piece of art and highly recommend it to Poe's fans. It would also make a fantastic introduction to the author's work. This book is a follow up to a previous book of Poe that Grimly illustrated; you can be sure I'll be reading that one soon too. 5/5

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Graphic Novel Trios Continue

#232. Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee. illustrated by Sam Hart & Artur Fujita. 2009. Age 13+. - An absolutely beautiful book! Slick, glossy pages with gorgeous artwork done in various monotones for different settings such as the forest scenes are done in greens, the Nottingham castle scenes in purples and the action/fighting scenes in reddish yellows. This palette certainly brings the mood and tone of the story alive. Tony Lee has set down a wonderful retelling of the Robin Hood legend taking various parts of the lore and weaving them into his own wonderful, serious, cohesive story of Robin Loxley robbing from the rich to both give to the poor and save to pay the King's ransom. He's made sure to keep the famous scenes present such as the joust with Little John on the bridge and the archery contest Robin wins while in disguise, though Lee has added his own twists on each to keep his retelling fresh and new. A wonderful piece of work to be enjoyed by Robin Hood enthusiasts and those new to the legend as well. 4/5

#233. The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan. 2009. Age 10+. - A combination of historical fiction and fantasy/folklore make up this strange tale that takes place during the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s. A family has been suffering for four years now without rain. The eldest daughter has dust pneumonia, the youngest has never seen rain, the father cannot work the farm on his own, the mother realizes they must pull up stakes and move and now 11yo Jack, our hero, has been too young to help around the farm as he grew over the years. He thinks he is a klutz and he has started seeing things; those around him think he has come down with dust dementia. As anyone who regularly reads my reviews knows, I love fantasy but I really did not like the fantasy element in this story. I would have enjoyed it much more as a straight historical fiction. The strange King of Storms Jack meets in the neighbour's barn was just plain weird and made no sense whatsoever. There were also way too many wordless pages for my enjoyment. Finally, while the artwork did suit the time period it didn't impress me, I found it wishy-washy. This book has received rave reviews but I'm going to have to beg to differ as the whole thing left me feeling 'meh'. 2.5/5

#234. Children of the Sea Vol. 1 by Daisuke Igarashi. 2009 English translation. 2007 orig. Japanese. Age 13+. A very intriguing fantastical story of the sea. Two children were raised in the sea by dugongs and now are living partially on land with a guardian who works with Ruko's father at an Aquarium. Ruko has just been kicked off the summer kickball team as she is too rough and she spends her time near the ocean. She meets Umi, one of the sea boys, and begins to find out about his mysterious life. At the same time, scientists are reporting the disappearance of certain common fish life from aquariums around the world. Ruko's father is studying this but one day Ruko sees it happen before her eyes in the aquarium. An extremely unique story that had me captivated from the beginning! The story is very well told, the characters are interesting and real and I am totally intrigued with the plot, which I haven't decided yet whether it is fantasy or science fiction. This is a Japanese book read back to front and the artwork is done realistically. At 316 pgs there is plenty of room to give a good background on the characters and proceeds well into the story up to a cliffhanger ending that makes one eager to read Vol. 2. The book is rated T (ages 16+ for disturbing images). I waited the whole book for this to show itself and near the end there was one image that was 'disturbing', though I'd just say weird. It is of a deformity. Other than that the book is totally clean and I, of a very conservative nature, have no problem recommending the book for 13+. 5/5

A Trio of Cybils Nominees

#231. Joey Fly Private Eye in Creepy Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds. illustrated by Neil Numberman. 2009. Age 8+. - This is a wonderful crime noire in graphic novel format. Taking place in the Bug City all the characters are various insects and arachnids. Joey Fly is a Private Eye (da da daaaa) and Sammy Stingtail (a scorpion) is his sidekick. Written in classic thirties private eye style, "It was a muggy summer day when he walked through my door. Right away, I thought he looked like trouble. I was right.", the book is a pure joy to read. The crime is a fun one to keep kids guessing and following the clues and there is plenty of humour. Most of the art is done in dark blue & white to give that old noire feeling but other colour palettes show up as well to add variety. A lot of fun and definitely a winner! Loved it! 5/5

The Incredible Rockhead by Scott Nickel. illustrated by C.S. Jennings. 2009. Age 8+ - I'm a big fan of Stone Arch Press books but have to say I finally found one that I didn't like. Chip, as geeky as a geek can get, is turned into Rockhead, a supposed superhero. Basically his head turns into a rock and he has a hard time standing up, give him a push and he can smash into things. Anyway, he saves the kids at the zoo from escaped dangerous animals by smashing into them?! I'm as far away from a tree hugger as you can get but even to me piles of dazed animals who have been smashed into isn't my idea of fun or a superhero. Don't bother. 1/5

The Emperor's New Clothes by Stephanie True Peters. illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. 2009. Age 7+ - I'm a big fan of this fairy tale series by Stone Arch Press. I've already reviewed both Rapunzel and Three Little Pigs and hope to read the rest of them with my son. The story remains quite true to the original excepting that the emperor is in his underwear instead of being naked and there's a fun twist with the ending. The artwork is bright and bold with wonderful eccentric figures. The artist appears to have done the foreground figures on watercolour paper with the backgrounds done in some other method. Not my favourite in this series but still a great fun book. 3.5/5

OT: Canadian MP Slams Abortion Regime

This is an off topic post about politics and pro-life; please kindly skip and do not read if you do not share the same values.

Despite the fact that Canada has one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world and that recent polls show that most Canadians would prefer to have some restrictions on abortion, the political pressure to keep the status quo on the issue is so firm that it is rare for a Canadian politician to even mention the issue, let alone critically.

But one Conservative MP has bucked the trend of silence and recently issued a salvo against Canada's "abortion regime" that he argued is directly and seriously harmful to mothers, as well as their unborn children.

"As a compassionate, caring, progressive society, we should provide the kind of support and options for the expectant mother, so that she doesn't feel her only choice is to choose death for her offspring," said Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott in a hard-hitting press release issued last week. "To put women in that kind of position is not the hallmark of a caring, compassionate, progressive society. That's providing 'no choice.'" ... Read More

To contact MP Maurice Vellacott to express your support:
Maurice Vellacott, MP
Unit 3-844 51st Street East
Saskatoon, SK
S7K 5C7

Tel. 306-975-4725,
Toll Free 888-844-8886
Fax 306-975-4728

230. The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa

The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa, translated by Lauren Na
The Story of Life on the Golden Fields Vol. 1

Pages: 319 pgs.
Ages: 16+
Finished: Nov. 26, 2009
First Published: (Apr. 2009 Eng. trans) (2003 orig. Korean)
Genre: YA, realistic fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

"Golly! Them beetles are matin'."

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee.

Acquired: Borrowed through ILL.

Summary: This is the story of two women, one a little girl and the other her young widowed mother. The story focuses on the little girl and her awakening identity as a woman, and also as a side story is her mother who finds love again for the first time since her husband's death. As the back of my book says "first love and second chances."

Comments: This first book in a trilogy follows the little girl from the age of about six to fourteen. It takes place in a small Korean village in a time period unknown, with the only clue to placing it somewhere in the 20th century being a steam or coal engine train. Now, I'll start off by saying this is not the type of book I would normally read *at all*. I am much too conservative to even want to read a book that has the words "s*xual awakening" on the front flap but doing my job as a Cybils panelist I reluctantly set down to give the book a chance.

I can't quite know how to say just how beautiful a story this was. A little girl's curiosity about her body, the difference between boys and girls, grown-up things she over hears and how she goes straight to her mother with her questions and confusion is a tender love story in itself. The mother/daughter relationship presented here is truly touching and really the backbone of this volume. For those wanting a plot there really isn't any. We are touched by the maternal relationship and watch as each of them separately experiences womanhood. The little girl's experiences of finding our about her body, how it's different than a boys, her first period and her first crush on a boy, who is studying to be a monk, are all respectfully portrayed. The mother, who is young and beautiful, suddenly finds that love for a man can touch her heart again when she falls in love with a traveling artist who keeps returning to visit her. There are a couple of incidents in the book that I could have done without but for the most part the material is presented in a decent way, making for a truly touching story.

I also really enjoyed the artwork. The is the first time I've read Korean manga which is called manhwa. I'm not a huge fan of manga artwork as I hate the horrible fake over expressive faces and how all the men look like girls. But this book was not drawn that way at all, aside from the occasional great big mouth to show extreme emotions all the artwork is very realistic and the detailed background scenery in many frames is lovely. The men aslo look like men. I wonder if this is typical of Korean manhwa or just this particular artist's style.

I've fallen for Ewha, the little girl, and I'll be reading the next book for sure. Though I won't commit any further as I'll have to see if the story remains within my boundaries as she gets older. This book, The Color of Earth, is not going to be for everyone but if the topic interests you and you are comfortable with the subject matter then I hope you find the story as touching as I did. I'll end with a lovely little quote the girl says to herself near the end of the book:

Because I asked something I shouldn't have asked, I heard what I shouldn't have heard. And because I went where I shouldn't have gone, I saw what I shouldn't have seen. How will my young heart cope with all that I've heard and seen?

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Courtney Crumrin Graphic Novel Series

The 4th volume in the Courtney Crumrin series has been nominated for a Cybils Award this year so I thought I would read from the beginning to better appreciate volume 4, instead of jumping into a story in progress.

Courtney Crumrin series by Ted Naifeh (recommended ages 11+, due to some language and frightening scenes)

#226. Book 1: Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things (2002) - I was sucked into the story right away! Courtney's parents, living well beyond their means, jump at the chance to live rent free at Great Uncle Aloysius's creepy old mansion that happens to be in the rich area of town. Having use of the lower floors but strictly forbidden to enter his upper domain the parents settle in. Courtney can't make friends at school due to her association with the Crumrin house and she hears things in the night. This leads to her snooping around and finding an old book with very strange recipes in it that she starts to experiment with and she meets some very strange creatures both in and out of the house which mostly want to do harm to her or someone. I loved this. Done in black and white it suits the gothic, creepy atmosphere. Courtney is a girl with an attitude but likable all the same. Can't wait to read book two and find out where the story is going to go. 4/5

#227. Book 2: Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics (2003) - Lots and lots of action in this volume with many story arcs and mini plots within the overall main plot of the series. It's been a year now and Courtney is quite the witch under her warlock Uncle Aloysius's tutelage. Courtney meets another grown witch, is invited to a cat meeting, confronts the most horrible hobgoblin then learns of a political plot within the warlock and witches' Coven. Courtney befriends a night thing whose life is in danger, Uncle Aloysius thinks he can handle things but it's left to Courtney in the end to uncover who is behind the horrible plot. So much going on in this book that it is a whirlwind ride, new characters both good and evil. Courtney's character is becoming much clearer. She has a huge attitude but a heart to match for the underdog. This volume gets pretty creepy and scary at times and all things do not end happily. Courtney's parents also no longer play a part of the story at this point as Courtney spends her time between school, with Uncle A., and in the forbidden woods. The book ends with Courtney ready to take on the world and I'm ready to take on the next book! 5/5

#228. Book 3: Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom (2004) - We're given one brief page to refresh our memory of the big picture from the last volume then Courtney's ambivalent parents are back in play as they go back to the city to finally sell their old condo. Courtney tries to reconnect with an old friend and finds they've both changed. When she returns she has to spend summer vacation at a summer school for other children of witches/warlocks and she doesn't get along with those kids any better than the ones at school, but when one of them, a show off, turns his little brother into a night thing they come to Courtney for help and off they go to Goblin Town in search of the Orchards of the Twilight King for a reverse spell. But all along Courtney has a stalker on her trail. The excitement level is high in this volume. A whole new cast of characters are put into play with the summer school group and a few people/creatures from previous books make an appearance as well, while Uncle Aloysius stays in the background this volume. The story lines are intricate and detailed, plenty of mini story arcs with a plethora of eccentric characters. I love Courtney's attitude and loyalty and am anxious to read Vol. four. 5/5

#229. Book 4: Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday (2009) - This book is different that the others in that instead of being four small chapters this time, while remaining the same size, the book has been split into two long chapters which could almost be considered short stories. I think this book could be read as a stand alone as none of the content is dependent on the previous material except for the relationship the previous readers will have developed with Courtney by this time. Courtney has gone on a trip with Uncle Aloysius, mentioned at the end of Vol. 3, to Europe. The night things play no part in this volume but instead Courtney and her uncle meet up with traditional creatures of the night. In chapter one they meet up with werewolves and in chapter two it's vampires. All the things I've come to love about Courtney are still present in this volume though Courtney's attitude suffers a bit of a blow as she finally comes to realize that she has always been lonely. Courtney and Uncle A's relationship also finally starts to show signs of warming. The five year lag between books 3 and 4 have me worried about the likelihood of seeing a volume 5 anytime soon. The ending certainly leaves room for one and I'd love to see Courtney come back to learning the full potential of her powers. 4/5

225. The Heroine of Long Point

The Heroine of Long Point by Leslie and Lois Benham. illustrated by Vernon Mould
Buckskin Books 4

Pages: 113 pgs.
Ages: 8+
Finished: Nov. 26, 2009
First Published: 1963
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

This is a true story about a boy, a sailing-ship, and a very brave woman.

Reason for Reading: read aloud to ds as part of our history curriculum.

Acquired: We own this book.

Summary: A fictional retelling of the true story of Abigail Becker, who in 1854 discovered in a hurricane-like storm that a ship, the Conductor, had wrecked upon a sandbar near her cabin. The ship was a reasonable swim's distance from shore but the eight men were devastated and had tied themselves to the topmast to wait out the storm (or die). By gestures Abigail, who herself could not swim, convinces the men to make the swim and this brave woman goes out to meet each one, in turn, and single handedly rescues the crew.

Comments: This little known Canadian story takes place on Long Point peninsula in Ontario on the north shore of Lake Erie. I had never heard the tale before and really enjoyed learning this new piece of Canadiana. My son has a passion for any sailing themed stories and with the first half of the book all about the ship's journey, the storm and the shipwreck he was caught up in the action right away. A well-written, exciting gem of a book. Unfortunately out of print, but well worth looking for.

This book is part of the Buckskin Books series published by Macmillan of Canada, long out of print. These books would have been the sixties version of early chapter books. The print is large and spaced between lines. The reading level is not any easier than your average book suitable for 8-12s today though so don't let the appearance of the text fool you. I particularly enjoy my copy as it is signed by both authors (a husband and wife team) and has a bookseller's sticker on the back jacket flap, which apparently is from their own store "Benham Arts & Crafts".

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Danny and the Dinosaur

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff

Pages: 64 pgs.
Ages: 5+
First Published: 1958
Genre: easy reader
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

One day Danny went to the museum.

Reason for Reading: my son read aloud to me.

Acquired: We own this copy.

Comments: Danny visits the museum and when he gets to the dinosaur display a real dinosaur pops out and asks Danny to play with him. So off they go through the town having lots of fun ending up playing hide 'n' seek with the neighbourhood children but as sunset comes along everyone must go home including the dinosaur who must get back to the museum. This is one of the original "I Can Read" books that has stood the test of time. What little boy doesn't go through the dinosaur stage? This silly story is a load of fun and can be enjoyed by any age. Syd Hoff was one of the great children's author/illustrators and his works will never go out of print. Some of the PC persuasion may find the display of the "Indian" and "Eskimo" offensive, but the rest of us will enjoy a good old-fashioned timeless classic. One word of note though, buy yourself an old secondhand copy if possible. The new reprints have been recolourized with dark full-colour illustrations rather than the light pencil crayon effect of the originals.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Artemis Fowl Graphic Novels

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Conkin. Art by Giovanni and Paolo Lamanna

Artemis Fowl series

Book 1: Artemis Fowl - It has been so long since I read the novel that I barely remembered the story before I started to read this. I wasn't impressed with the first Artemis Fowl novel but reading it in graphic novel format seems to have done it a bit of good as I did quite enjoy this version, though I still find the story rather on the mundane side. The end of each chapter finishes with a dossier on a character, event or place which adds a lot of background information in a unique way; I found these entertaining and hope they continue throughout the series. I love the illustrations and seeing the characters coming to life, so to speak. Holly and Butler were done very well but Artemis was not how I envisioned so he had to grow on me through the book. I felt that Artemis was also presented not as mean as he was in the novel. Sure he is shown as self-centred, mean, with no remorse but he's even worse in the novel. My favourite character is Mulch Diggums and I love how he has been brought to the page. A good adaptation of a not so great book that starts off a much better series. 3/5

Book 2: The Arctic Incident - This is when the Artemis storyline really picks up and as I enjoyed the novel I also enjoyed the graphic adaptation. Artemis is learning about caring and friendship, but of course that doesn't stop him being a criminal mastermind. The fairy People need Artemis' help with a goblin uprising and in return he wants their help in rescuing his father, what follows is an action-packed adventure full of close calls, magic and double crossing. The dossiers with extra information used in the first book are present again but much less frequently which was a shame as I really enjoyed those. The illustrations are great and colour schemes used throughout are wonderful at capturing moods and atmospheres. A fun book that really captures the spirit of the novel. Fans are sure to enjoy revisiting the original book with all the visual glamour of a graphic novel. This is as far as I ever got with this series and it has made me want to get back to reading the books and I intend to continue reading the graphics as they come out. 4/5

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

222. The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders

The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Didier Lefevre & Emmanuel Guilbert. illustrated by Frederic Lemercier, introduction and translated by Alexis Siegel

Pages: 267 pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Nov. 23, 2009
First Published: May, 2009 (English translation) (2003-2006 orig. French)
Genre: non-fiction, graphic novel, memoir
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"I say good-bye to everyone."

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Summary: Photographer Didier Lefevre was offered to accompany the MSF (the original French version of Doctors Without Borders) on a 3 month mission to Afghanistan in 1986 when the Soviet-Afghan War was raging. The book tells of his journey from Pakistan to the mission site in Afghanistan, his stay and his decision to make the journey back to Pakistan alone which almost cost him his life.

Comments: An incredibly brilliant, powerful work of art! At first I thought this was going to be about current affairs in Afghanistan, so was quite surprised to find the memoir taking place during the Soviet era invasion of Afghanistan. The graphical presentation, the artwork is phenomenal. A very unique combination of cartooning and photographs have been combined together which at first, I admit, put me a bit off kilter but once I got used to the presentation I found myself seeing real life images even when I was looking at an illustration. An odd sensation but extremely well done. The authors/illustrator portray so much on the journey: the beauty of the land, the terror of illegally crossing the border, traveling under cover of night, watching for Soviet planes to drop bombs on them if sighted.

Then at the medical camp there is the large amount of local people coming for help for such things as a humongous cancerous tumour on a toe, a foot that is so rotted the man has pulled it off that morning and asks if they can put it back on for him; then the war wounded come in: a child with half his face blown off, a man with shrapnel in his back, a paralyzed girl with one tiny piece of shrapnel that has severed her spinal cord. The photographs, the text, the illustrations capture the spirit, the agony, the willpower, the drive of the doctors who come to work here in non sterile makeshift tents to treat these people, sometimes just so they can die with dignity.

Didier's journey back is even worse than coming as he has had enough at the end of the three months when he finds that the team is going to be staying an extra week so with some guidance to a nearby town where he will be certain to get a guide he sets off on his to journey back to Pakistan. Didier finds that without the resources and experiences of the "pros" he accompanied on the way out there he is a walking target and with exposure to criminals, crooked cops and the elements he almost loses his life. A magnificent, compelling story that concentrates on human relations and interactions without getting political. The political situation is discussed in the beginnings of the book to set the reader in the situation as it is happening but the focus of the book is people, how they treat each other both good and bad in situations both large and small. Highly recommended!

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221. The Stonekeeper's Curse

The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet, Book Two

Pages: 219 pgs.
Ages: 10+
Finished: Nov. 23, 2009
First Published: Sept, 2009
Genre: children, graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"Let go of me."

Reason for Reading: Next in series. Cybils nominee

Acquired: I received a review copy from the publisher.

Comments: It's been awful long wait since the first book in this series that I had to sit down and think a bit before I dove into this eagerly anticipated sequel. While Book 1 was all dark and foreboding, this second in the, I assume, trilogy gets right into the action. We find out all the answers and reasons for Emily's attachment with the Amulet and what her quest must be whether she wants it or not. Her brother also has an important part to play in saving this world. New friends are met and the enemy is shown in it's full evil wickedness. A compelling, fast-paced, action packed story with plenty of odd creatures, magic and hand-to-hand combat. Also an intriguing story, beautifully illustrated and the author has created a fascinating world. I just hope we don't have to wait another 20 months for Book Three!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday: Books in the Mail

The Cybil book fairy has been visiting my mailbox all last week. Every book I received was for review purposes for the Awards. My reviews are going to be strictly graphic novels for the next few weeks as I get all these books read (except of course the read alouds to my son).

So here's what the mailman brought:

Since the release of Artemis Fowl in 2001, Eoin Colfer's blockbuster series has sold more than eight million copies in the United States alone. Now, in this second graphic novel installment of the series, fans can follow along as the world's youngest criminal mastermind rushes to save a man who has been kidnapped by the Russian Mafiya: his own father.

Eoin Colfer has once again teamed up with acclaimed comic writer Andrew Donkin to adapt the text for this action-packed, brilliantly illustrated adventure in the Artemis Fowl series.

Fast-paced graphic storytelling and stunning full-color illustrations combine in an action-packed retelling of the heroic Robin Hood story.

How did Robin of Loxley become Robin Hood? Why did he choose to fight injustice instead of robbing for his own gain? Expressive and gritty, this graphic novel whisks readers back to Crusades-era England, where the Sheriff of Nottingham rules with an iron fist, and in the haunted heart of Sherwood Forest, a defiant rogue — with the help of his men and the lovely Maid Marian — disguises himself to become an outlaw. Lively language and illustrations follow the legendary hero as he champions the poor and provokes a high-stakes vendetta in a gripping adventure sure to draw a new generation of readers.

Tall tale. Thriller. Gripping historical fiction. This artful, sparely told graphic novel — a tale of a boy in Dust Bowl America — will resonate with young readers today.

In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father’s failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of "dust dementia" would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot’s abandoned barn — a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it’s hard to trust what you see with your own eyes — and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes. With phenomenal pacing, sensitivity, and a sure command of suspense, Matt Phelan ushers us into a world where desperation is transformed by unexpected courage.

A taut adaptation of Shakespeare’s masterwork by Gareth Hinds — the standard-bearer of graphic-novel retellings of literary classics.

In a graceful adaptation, Gareth Hinds transforms Shakespeare’s timeless tale of pride and defiance, loyalty and ambition, betrayal and revenge into graphic-novel format, packing it with visual drama and providing accessible notes. This artful edition — like an extraordinary stage performance — offers a striking new perspective on one of the most powerful and beloved tragedies in the English language. Incorporating excerpts from the bard’s own language, Gareth Hinds’s inventive format opens the experience of KING LEAR to students and fans of graphic literature.

Zombies Calling creator Faith Erin Hicks brings her manga-fueled art style and pop-culture sensibilities to girl's boarding schools in her latest book The War at Ellsmere. Jun is the newest scholarship student at the prestigious Ellsmere girls' boarding school - but to a lot of the privileged rich girls, scholarship student is just a code for charity case. Fortunately, Jun has an ally in the quirky Cassie, who tells her legends of a beautiful creature that lives in the forest outside of the school. Between queen bees and mythical beasts, Jun has quite the school year ahead of her.

In an eerie attic filled with living toys and dolls, one rag doll named Stitch begins to awaken from his cotton-filled amnesia. Why does Granny Pairley keep Stitch and his rag doll cousins captive in the playroom? Did they once have lives outside the attic walls? Taunted by a pair of nasty fairies called the Benders, and menaced by the very stinky Yum-Tum Bear, Stitch finds comfort with Simon, the handsomest of the rag doll boys. Along come the ghastly puppets Voodoo Dolly and Tinybones, leading Stitch through hidden passageways to a dreadful secret room. This digest-size re-issue of Stitch collects the entire story, plus all-new extras exclusive to this edition.

When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does.Ruka's dad and the other adults who work at the aquarium are only distantly aware of what the children are experiencing as they get caught up in the mystery of the worldwide disappearance of the oceans' fish.

Nanami Takahashi falls for Motoharu Yano, the most popular, carefree boy in class. For Nanami, it's first love, but Yano is still grieving the death of his girlfriend who died the year before.
Nanami starts high school with high hopes of making lots of friends. She develops a crush on the enigmatic Yano, but he may have too many secrets for her to handle.

In a faraway kingdom, there lives an Emperor who prizes fancy clothes above all else. He buys suit after suit made of the most expensive materials instead of tending to his threadbare kingdom. Then, one day, two traveling merchants offer to make the Emperor a special suit that has magical powers. The merchants, however, are not who they claim to be, and the suit has one major flaw -- no one can see it!

Whenever Chip Stone's in danger, he's instantly transformed into a hulking beast with a giant head of rock. Although the power helps him overcome or, more accurately, smash apart his fears, the transformations aren't helping his social life.

220. The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe

The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe
Hazel Micallef Mystery (Book 2)

Pages: 415pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Nov. 22, 2009
First Published: Oct. 27, 2009 (Canada only)
Genre: mystery, crime
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

What always broke his heart was the way they dressed themselves.

Reason for Reading: Next in series.

Acquired: I received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Summary: Reports of a body found at the edge of a nearby lake have Detective Inspector Micallef and her sidekick DC Wingate investigating. What appears to be an apparent drowning is by no means a mere murder but only the beginning of a twisted game being played out by a psycho. The drowning seems familiar and is found detail for detail in the last issue of the local paper's summer serial story. When the next installment is printed the police begin a frantic investigation to save the life of a kidnap victim before he is killed or not enough of him is left to be rescued.

Comments: This second book by Wolfe was even better than the first. A very unique murder mystery case unlike any I've read before kept me riveted to the book. The gruesome factor is enough to make the squeamish squirm and keep the interest of hardened thriller readers as myself. A well-paced story with a mystery that kept me guessing to the end and I really enjoyed the read. The book also focuses on Hazel's personal life and progresses her character forward to a more likeable one than in The Calling, yet I still just do not find her someone I particularly like. I think there are also moments within the story when one must suspend reality a tad. I suppose that is inevitable with most crime thrillers, to a point, but this just stands out for me with a 62 year old woman taking on so much action. Ultimately, though, the plot is unique, the case is quirky and The Taken is a compelling read. I'll be looking forward to seeing what case Hazel must solve in her next book.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Contest: Neil Armstrong

This time I am giving away an ARC of a children's book recommended for ages 8-12: Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino. The cover of the ARC shows a reduced version of the actual cover, shown in the picture.

Contest will run until Dec. 4, with the winner randomly chosen and announced on Dec. 5. This contest is open to US and Canada only. Sorry, but International postage is too expensive for me.

To enter:

Please try to leave all your responses in one comment.

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 already in your profile.)

3) +2 Tweet or blog about this contest and leave me the link.

4) +1 If you were going to lie to impress someone, who would you say was your uncle?

You can read my review of the book here and see how much I enjoyed it. Here is the publisher's summary:

"Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year old......the problem is that no one knows it but me. In the entire town of Massapequa Park, only I can see him for what he really is. A phony.

It's the summer of 1969, and things are not only changing in Tamara's little Long Island town, but in the world. Perhaps Tamara could stand to take one small step toward a bit of compassion and understanding? A terrific debut novel with truly vivid characters and a wonderful voice.

219. T-Minus: The Race to the Moon

T-Minus: The Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani. illustrated by Zander Cannon & Kevin Cannon (no relation)

Pages: 124 pgs.
Ages: 10+
Finished: Nov. 21, 2009
First Published: May, 2009
Genre: children, non-fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"...New UN headquarters in the Big Apple..."

Reason for Reading: Cybils nominee.

Acquired: I received a review copy from the publisher.

Summary: Starting in 1957, this non-fiction book tells the story of the space race between the United States and Russia as they each strove to be the first to make a more impressive advancement in space technology, which started with the Russians being the first to launch a satellite into space and ended with the US being the first to set foot on the moon. The book focuses on the men and women working behind the scenes rather than the astronauts themselves.

Comments: This is a perfect example of how a graphic book can be so much more rewarding than the traditional textual book. Personally, this is not a subject I would ever pick up a regular book about as it is just not something that would normally interest me enough to read about it. But one glance through this book and my attention was immediately caught. The illustration was realistic, facial expressions showed real emotion, the black and white treatment gave both a feel of the past and a "space-y" feel. I wanted to start reading! And what an enjoyable book it is. The book is told in story format switching between the US and Russia. When the move to Russia has been made the reader is aware as the script has changed to include a backwards N denoting the Soviet language. There are plenty of footnotes, each found immediately under the frame in question which is a very user friendly design, much easier than having to look at the bottom of the page or as often happens in non-fiction, hunting around at the back of the book! Throughout the book there are also side panels which show a rocket and report chronologically of every attempt, both Russian and American, and whether it was successful or whether it failed. Included is data such as flight duration and, later on, astronauts aboard.

Finally, down to the story itself. Very well-written, interesting and compelling. I very much enjoyed the reading and now know a lot of information about the space race that I had no idea of before reading the book and probably would never have known had not such a book been presented to me. Kids and teens who are interested in space will be drawn to this book and those who aren't will be drawn to the graphic presentation and all will experience a fascinating read and learn an interesting part of our recent history. Highly recommended!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

And the Winner Is ...

And the winner of The Line Painter by Claire Cameron is ...............

Belinda M

Belinda says " I would rather be the person offering the ride. "

In fact every person who answered the question wanted to be the driver!! Personally, I would rather be the stranded one, remember it is "late at night". So this could mean dawn is not that far off. Anyway I would lock myself in the car and hide under blankets and wait until dawn with whatever kind of weapons I could find in my hands, including, hopefully, a can of some sort of spray. Then when daylight hits I'd start walking (with weapon) to the nearest help or for a police car to flag down. But that's just me .....

You can read my review of The Line Painter here.

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

With the beginning of Advent at the end of this month and Christmas to follow, the next shall be my last contest until the new year.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Graphic Novels

Two more Cybils nominees I've been reading:

217. Constance and the Great Escape by Pierre Le Gall. illustrated by Eric Heliot. 2009 (orig. French edition 2007). 32 pgs. Ages 6+. - Constance is a horrid little girl with a huge kitty. Her parents decide to take her to a boarding school for troublesome children and Constance hits upon a plan to get sent back home. The artwork in this book is gorgeous in what I guess is called a Goth style. Other than that though the book has rather a pointless plot: how to be a nasty kid; how to trick grown-ups into thinking you are good. I'm reading it as a Cybils nominee in the graphic novels category and it's simple one panel per page style is more reminiscent of a picture book, but it's appearance is more like an easy reader only the vocabulary is a bit high to classify it as such. Kid's are sure to enjoy the book, but there are so many more better books out there why bother with this one. My rating is based on the artwork 2/5.

218. The Elsewhere Chronicles Book One: The Shadow Door by Bannister & Nykko, 2009 (orig. Beligian edition 2007). 46 pgs. Ages 8+ - The first in a trilogy, this gorgeously illustrated fantasy introduces how three boys meet Rebecca and end up finding a door to another world through an old movie projector in an empty old house. Being the first book, we meet all the characters, are given enough backstory, some foreshadowing and a cliffhanger ending. Following the format of the traditional graphic novel/comic serial, this is a great book for younger ages to get started on a graphic fantasy series. Four very enjoyable main characters and an intriguing plot has me dying to know what happens next. Fortunately the other two books have also been released in English all at the same time. 3.5/5

216. Bang Goes a Troll by David Sinden, Matthew Morgan & Guy Macdonald

Bang Goes a Troll by David Sinden, Matthew Morgan & Guy Macdonald. illustrated by Jonny Duddle
An Awfully Beastly Business, Book 3

Pages: 202 pgs.
Ages: 8+
Finished: Nov. 17, 2009
First Published: Sep. 15, 2009
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

High on a snowy mountaintop, a blizzard was howling.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series. Read aloud to the 9yo.

Acquired: I received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Summary: The RSPCA receive a messenger bat that tells them the trolls are in trouble and Dr. Fielding, Orson, Ulf and Tiana set out to investigate. Once there they find that someone has set up an elaborate enclosure full of mechanical traps for a beast hunter's ultimate hunting weekend getaway. The three meet a new friend and set out to save the beasts.

Comments: This is definitely my favourite book in the series so far. So as not to keep repeating the same template book after book of having Baron Marackai plotting against the RSPCA the authors have gone in a different direction. Here we have the Baron already involved in his nefarious scheme when our heroes arrive on the scene to foul up his plans. Of course the Baron is only too pleased to have another chance to rid himself of his pesky nemesis. At this point in the series we are comfortable and great friends with the main characters and they need no introductions, nor do the authors waste space to re-introduce them. Everybody we've come to love returns, though our favourite character, Druce the gargoyle only has two small scenes this time around. However, we immediately took a liking to the new character Gumball the Goblin, whom I couldn't help but read aloud with a Gollum-like voice! Very funny story, full of action. The nine-year old was laughing and cheering so loud I often had to stop before I could continue reading. This is a wonderful series, that boys, especially are going to love. But girls will equally find appeal probably enjoying Tiana the Fairy and her take no guff attitude the best. Looking forward to next month's release of Book 4, The Jungle Vampire. Which, by the looks of it, may possibly be the last in the series. I'll wait until I know for sure before I tell my son though, as he's not going to take that news well at all!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Graphic Novels Mini Reviews

Cybils Award nominees I've been reading.

212. The 3-2-3 Detective Agency: The Disappearance of Dave Warthog by Fiona Robinson. 2009, 73 pgs, Age 7+ - A delightful mystery story about a group of animals who meet on the 3:23 train to Whiska City where they decide to open up a detective agency together. Upon placing an advertisement in the paper they receive several clients reporting missing persons and finally the mayor shows up to report the entire police force missing. The new detectives are on the case and find all disappearances lead to one place! The characters are delightful from Slingshot the overactive Sloth to Roger the dung beetle with a taste for gourmet cooking. The mystery is a fun one that kids will love and the book is full of humour. The illustration style is bright and detailed. The only issue I may have with the book is that the frames could be a little over busy and crowded and the text is on the small size. This could have been solved by producing a larger format book. Otherwise a very fun, enjoyable book that kids will love and hopefully we will see the 3-2-3 Detective Agency in further adventures to come. 4/5

213. Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones: Girl Genius Book 8 by Phil & Kaja Foglio. May 2009, 144 pgs, Ages 15+ - This is a tough book to give a fair review since as a Cybils nominee I've had to jump in with book 8. There is a lot going on, a back story I have no idea about, but what I can tell is that this steampunk comic is one I want to start from the beginning and read. The art is bright, humourous, with over dramatic facial expressions and very buxom women. While I had no idea of the whole general plot, even with the quick "The Story So Far" write up at the front of the book, I did grasp the mini plot of this volume in particular and thought it was a splendidly unique world of an heiress trying to reclaim her castle, which is alive, in a world full of living machines and flying airships. I plan on starting with book 1 and will re-read this and probably re-review it when I get to it in it's chronological order. Beautiful artwork and a tempting glimpse into an intriguing series that I most certainly will be reading. 3.5/5

214. Adventures in Cartooning by James Strum, Andrew Arnold & Alexis Frederick-Frost. Apr. 2009, 109 pgs, 8+ - A delightful book that tells a story of a knight who wants to fight a dragon, so off he goes on his adventure but along the way a Magic Elf accompanies him and teaches him the art of cartooning. Illustrations are drawn in Ed Emberley style and Ed is given a nod for his inspiration at the back where instructions on how to draw the knight, elf and horse are given. Throughout the book cartooning lingo is introduced and the aspects that make up a comic: panels, bubbles, sound effects, etc. All within the confines of a delightful, humourous story. A very unique book which will bring out the cartoonist in any aspiring artist who may feel overwhelmed at getting started. An actual child's example is shown at the back of the book. Highly recommended. 5/5

215. Cat Burglar Black by Richard Sala. Sep. 2009, 126 pgs, 12+ - What a devilishly divine caper! K. has been raised in an orphanage by a wicked woman who has trained the children to be master thieves and pickpockets when one day she receives a call from a long lost aunt to come live with her at a rundown boarding school. K arrives and meets 3 other girls who seem to come from similar circumstances as her and the teens are encouraged to continue their thievery working for a secret organization. I loved this book! The story is fast-paced, a little over-the-top at times but so much fun it's forgivable. A spooky atmosphere, people who go missing, strange voices in the night and a spunky heroine who isn't about to believe any old line make this a can't put down read. The ending leaves many questions unanswered and while it is a satisfying ending one can't help but think that a sequel is planned. Mystery fans will love this, especially girls. 4.5/5

211. Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri

Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri
The First of Another Series

Pages: 387 pgs.
Ages: 14+
Finished: Nov. 15, 2009
First Published: Aug. 25, 2009
Genre: YA, paranormal
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Victoria didn't have time to play.

Reason for Reading: The plot drove me to choosing this one. Plus, I'll admit the cover also attracted me.

Acquired: I received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Summary: Five children disappear from their homes, all ten years old. Five years later they all arrive at an elite New York high school with a governess in charge of them. They are all beautiful, brilliant or athletic and soon take over the school with their popularity. They each have a special talent such as stopping time, reading minds, etc. and they'll do anything to get what they want including making deals with the devil.

Comments: I absolutely loved this book so much! I really didn't know what to expect when I went into it as I have been avoiding reading any other reviews and it just surpassed all my possible expectations. The five teenagers range in temperament from nasty and backstabbing to shy and lonely. The governess is the real villain in this story and I was just tickled that she shared my name, Nicola. I don't come across my own name in literature all that often so that was fun for me. The story is amazing. I can't say much as it's best to find it all out on your own. The story slowly unravels itself chapter by chapter and has a very unexpected twist at the end which really brings home the dangers behind the classic story of selling one's soul to the devil. There's nothing I did not like about this book; the characters, the plot, the pacing, the theme made a brilliant reading experience for me which I was sad to see come to an end. The ending is satisfying and I heartily recommend this tale of greed, evil and redemption.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

210. High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips

High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips with Hilary Liftin

Pages: 292 pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Nov. 14, 2009
First Published: Sept. 23, 2009
Genre: non-fiction, memoir
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

In the mid eighties, when I was on tour with the New Mamas & Papas, a porter brought two packages up to my hotel room.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy reading celebrity memoirs and was a big fan of One Day at a Time when the show was on. I had read Valerie Bertinelli's recent memoir and knowing Mackenzie Philips' checkered past figured she would have a very interesting memoir.

Acquired: I received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Comments: Mackenzie Phillips is the daughter of John Phillips (the mastermind of the famous singing group The Mamas & The Papas) and is best known for her role as Julie Cooper on One Day at a Time. In this book Mack tells her own story from birth to the present. She was born into the psychedelic world of the sixties, partially raised by a man addicted to a plethora of drugs who let her and her older brother do as they pleased. Their exposure to drugs lead them both to become users as children, happily supplied by their father. Mackenzie's life was to continue to be run by drugs for many, many years until she finally became clean for 15 years only to end up addicted to pain killers which led her straight back to the monster until she was arrested for possession in 2008. Once again clean, and pain free, Mackenzie tells all in this well-written biography.

Mackenzie's voice is very down to earth and makes for an easy read. She tells her whole life story without leaving out the ugly parts. She has secrets to reveal and does name names most of the time. One can tell right from the start though that she has not set out to trash anyone. This is her story and she accepts all responsibility for all the wrongs she's done in her life but also tells the wrongs done to her without attempting to blame anyone. I'm sure everyone knows the secret she reveals about her father (though I won't mention it, in case you haven't heard) and it is one of the creepiest, saddest, disgusting things one can read about and Mack's journey from violated victim to drug induced willing participant is an uncomfortable story to read.

The book is written with respect to all; she doesn't leave out parts, as in other memoirs I've read recently, about her siblings in so far as they concerned her life story. She stops at some point with each of them saying that it is that individual's story to tell, not hers, but at least the family dynamics are fully explored. Much time was spent on the One Day at a Time years which I fully appreciated as I was sorely disappointed in that aspect of Valerie Bertinelli's book.

Mackenzie has lived a hard life and excepts responsibility for it. Her son is the driving force behind her sobriety and staying clean. She shows how her life started on this route with the upbringing she had but as an adult she excepts making her own bad choices. It's a miracle she has pulled through this life and come out the other side. A very interesting read about the sixties/seventies drug culture, the eighties coke obsession, filled with famous names but centering on the life of a little girl who had to grow up in the middle of it all. Recommended.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday: Back to Books

Very busy mailbox again last week with the Cybils review copies rolling in. I also won 1 book and received 1 ARC.

First the review copies for Cybils nominees:

I won this book from Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages.

A small treasure of a novel in the tradition of The Bridges of Madison County and For One More Day. The Wakefields seem to have everything. Garrison is a hugely successful graphic artist. Liza is an active member of the community and a patron of the arts. Their 16-year-old daughter Angel is bright, beautiful, and a gifted dancer. At the same time, though, they have traded away many of their dreams. Garrison gave up a future as an accomplished painter to make money. Liza suspended her own dancing career to raise a family. And Angel is setting aside her ambitions to live her mother's dream.

When Angel gets into a car accident that kills her first love, the Wakefields' lives turn on a dime. While Angel lies in a coma from which even the best prognosis is devastating, Garrison and Liza sit by her side, their once-passionate marriage in tatters. As their heartache over Angel builds, Garrison and Liza struggle to rediscover who they once were--and who they were meant to be. They come to realize that it will take everything they have within themselves to heal Angel, heal their hearts, and renew the power of their love.

At once romantic, inspiring, and empowering, Song of Renewal is a rare bauble of a novel, one with something to say to every family.

And, finally, I received one ARC in the mail this week from Random House US. Of course, mine is an ARC so it doesn't have the pretty cover.

Seventeen-Year-Old Luce is a new student at Sword & Cross, an unwelcoming boarding/reform school in Savannah, Georgia. Luce’s boyfriend died under suspicious circumstances, and now she carries the guilt over his death with her as she navigates the unfriendly halls at Sword & Cross, where every student seems to have an unpleasant—even evil—history.

It’s only when she sees Daniel, a gorgeous fellow student, that Luce feels there’s a reason to be here—though she doesn’t know what it is. And Daniel’s frosty cold demeanor toward her? It’s really a protective device that he’s used again . . . and again. For Daniel is a fallen angel, doomed to fall in love with the same girl every 17 years . . . and watch her die. And Luce is a fellow immortal, cursed to be reincarnated again and again as a mortal girl who has no idea of who she really is.