Wednesday, June 30, 2010

117. Spellhorn by Berlie Doherty

Spellhorn by Berlie Doherty. Illustrations by John Lupton (Canada) - (USA)
Essential Modern Classics

Pages: 208 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: June 27, 2010
First Published: 1989 (ESM Edition May 4, 2010)
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: children, fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

Night is falling.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: This book is published under the Essential Modern Classics list. This is a list of books chosen by the publisher's UK house and is a collection of outstanding books for children. From looking at the titles I'd say the age range varies anywhere from 8 to 15. Four new titles are to be published in 2010 under the Essential Modern Classics list and I think the authors chosen present a unique collection for North American readers to discover. I intend to be keeping up-to-date with ESM as well as digging into their backlist.

A wonderful fantasy written in the classic style comparable to ancient British folklore, though the author has created her own world from scratch. As part of the Essential Modern Classics series the book starts with an informative paragraph bio. of the author followed by a short essay entitled "Why You'll Love This Book" written by a famous author, in this case Helen Dunmore. Then a quick blurb on just who is Helen Dunmore. This publisher's series also sometimes ends with extra material at the back of the book called "More Than A Story". This book contains that section and is extremely interesting, relevant and a bonus to the book. First there is a long "Author's Note" in which the author describes how she wrote this book with the input of 4 blind children. Then there is a section on the history of the myths of unicorns around the world and finally a Q & A section with Doherty about the book including the question to why she chose the ending she did.

Laura is a blind girl who smells and feels a presence under her bedroom window. She sneaks out at night and finds a unicorn. She climbs upon him and the Wild Ones appear and carry her off into the night. She is told a tale as she is taken to their magical land that Spellhorn has chosen her to be their new Mighty High and only she can truly be their new leader, if she refuses to come Spellhorn will stay with her and the Wild Ones will not be able to return to their home world called the Wilderness. Laura is torn between leaving her family between and the plight of these peoples but when her sight comes back to her, the choice becomes easier.

A beautiful little book! For me the mundane beginning, while well written, lasted a little too long making me wonder why this book was so "essential" but once the Wild Ones enter the scene it reaches a different level. Laura is a girl with many hurdles and decisions to make starting with her own blindness which gradually grew upon her in her toddlerhood. The journey to the Wilderness is full of decisions for her as the path is not easy and she must put her trust in Spellhorn while struggling with her feelings of turning around and going back home. As the new Mighty High she is faced with tough decisions at every turn. Laura is constantly torn between a "heart gladness" and a "heart sadness" which she can't even figure out as the longer she is a Wild One the more she forgets who she used to be. The ending is bittersweet and many may wish it had turned out differently. I was hoping for a different turn of events at the end. This is one of those books that will leave you with a sad feeling that you have finished it, so I suggest you read it slowly and enjoy the Wilderness and the Wild Ones as long as you can. Of course, this book would make a perfect gift for any girl who is into unicorns but I think you can be pretty confident any girl who likes fantasy will love this book. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail (on Tuesday)

I have to start remembering Tuesdays are not Monday! One box and an envelope arrived last week for me. All review books that I am very excited to read!

From Random House Canada

In a kingdom of merciless tyrants, Jebel Rum's family is honored as royalty because his father is the executioner. But Rashed Rum is near retirement. And when he goes, there will be a contest to determine his successor. It is a contest that thin, puny Jebel has no chance of winning.

Humiliated and ashamed, Jebel sets out on a quest to the faraway home of a legendary fire god to beg for inhuman powers so that he can become the most lethal of men. He must take with him a slave, named Tel Hesani, to be sacrificed to the god. It will be a dark and brutal journey filled with lynch mobs, suicide cults, terrible monsters, and worse, monstrous men. But to Jebel, the risk is worth it.

To retrieve his honor . . .

To wield unimaginable power . . .

To become . . .

The thin executioner (US) - (Canada)

The final, never-before-published volume in the noirish, gritty urban fantasy for adults from the bestselling Children's author. 'The Cardinal is dead -- long live The Cardinal' For ten years Capac Raimi has ruled the City as The Cardinal. Created by the first Cardinal to rule after him and continue his legacy, Capac cannot be killed. But that doesn't stop his enemies trying. And he has a lot of enemies. In the past Capac's always been content to wait his adversaries out, safe in the knowledge that he can't lose playing a long game. But things are changing. Rival gangs are gaining power in the City. And figures from Capac's past are reappearing -- people only he remembers, the first Cardinal's other creations, who disappeared with him ten years ago. It can only mean one thing. The mysterious Incan priests, the ancient powers behind the City, have never been happy about ceding control to Capac. Now they have a plan to take the City back. And this time Capac really could have a fight to the death on his hands! (US) - (Canada)

In a time of deadly crisis, Linden alone has the power to save her people.

The faeries of the Oak are in danger of extinction, and their only hope for survival rests in fifteen-year-old Linden. Armed with the last of her people's magic, she travels bravely into the modern human world. Along the way she makes a reluctant ally—a human boy named Timothy.

Soon Linden and Timothy discover a danger much worse than the Oakenfolk's loss of magic: a potent evil that threatens to enslave faeries and humans alike. In a fevered, desperate chase across the country, Tim and Linden must risk their lives to seek an ancient power before it's too late to save everyone they love. (US) - (Canada)

From Harper Collins Canada:

A thrilling and moving new novel about an extraordinary animal caught up in a very human war, for anyone who loved The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips or The Butterfly Lion! It's 1944. Elizabeth's father is fighting with the German army on the eastern front. Her mother works at Dresden zoo, where her favourite animal is a young elephant named Marlene. When the zoo director tells her the dangerous animals must be shot to prevent them running amok if the town is bombed, Elizabeth's mother moves Marlene into the back garden to save her! and then the bombs start to fall. Their home destroyed, Elizabeth and her family must flee the bombed-out city and through the wintery landscape, all the while avoiding the Russian troops who are drawing ever closer. It would be hard enough, without an elephant in tow! (US) - (Canada)

Monday, June 28, 2010

116. Feather Boy by Nicky Singer

Feather Boy by Nicky Singer (Canada) - (USA)
Essential Modern Classics

Pages: 288 pages
Ages: 11+
Finished: June 15, 2010
First Published: 2002 (2010 EMC edition)
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: children, realistic fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

It all began when Catherine came to talk about the Elders' Project.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I was immediately drawn to the story involving a derelict house and a mystery surrounding it. Then I noted the book had been published under the Essential Modern Classics list. This is a list of books chosen by the publisher's UK house and is a collection of outstanding books for children. From looking at the titles I'd say the age range varies anywhere from 8 to 15. Four new titles are to be published in 2010 under the Essential Modern Classics list and I think the authors chosen present a unique collection for North American readers to discover. I intend to be keeping up-to-date with ESM as well as digging into their backlist.

This is one of those rare and truly exceptional stories. A book that captures the heart and will live on in memory for ages. The story defies an age group, while not suitable for youngest children, it can be read and enjoyed by juveniles and adults with equal pleasure. There are both a young 13-year-old and a senior citizen character for readers to possibly choose one over the other to identify with, though the book is told from the 13-year old's point of view.

As part of the Essential Modern Classics series the book starts with an informative paragraph bio. of the author followed by a short essay entitled "Why You'll Love This Book" written by a famous author, in this case David Almond. This publisher's series also sometimes end with extra material at the back of the book, but this one does not.

Robert is the kid who gets picked last for sport teams, is teased relentlessly by the class smart alek and therefore everyone else, and has been nick-named Norbert by the other kids ever since he can remember. Robert joins the Elders' Project which involves working at the local senior's home and partnering with an Elder to create a visual that will sum up the group's experience of what they have learned about each other. Robert is more than surprised when a strange old lady suddenly calls out she doesn't want her partner, she wants him ... and is pointing directly at Robert. Thus begins a life and death relationship that will change who Robert is forever.

Robert is directed to a creepy old derelict house where rumour has it a boy about his age once jumped to his death from the top floor apartment thinking he could fly. Robert must race against time to figure out the mystery of the house and learn himself how to truly fly.

Heart-warming, funny, with characters who make you like or hate them, this is a beautifully written book. It is a coming of age story for Robert as he has a truly remarkable experience. It is a coming to terms with life story for the old lady, Mrs. Sorrel, as she finds a way to settle the anguish and self-punishment she has put herself through for the past forty years. Out of all this come life for one and death for the other, both good and wonderful things. This is an exceptional story which I am delighted to have read.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

115. Vanishing Girl by Shane Peacock

Vanishing Girl by Shane Peacock (Canada) - (USA)
The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His 3rd Case

Pages: 307 pages
Ages: 10+
Finished: June 26, 2010
First Published: Oct. 13, 2009
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: YA, mystery, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Irene Doyle gasps.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This third entry into the series is not as dark or scary as the previous two and there are no dead bodies this time either but this mystery involving kidnapping and robbery is very clever and full of twists. Irene is back on the scene after an absence in the last book and is a welcome return. All the regular characters, including the new Mr. Bell, are also assembled and while of course there are some new characters involved in the plot the character development is all saved for the regulars.

A spoilt rich girl just home from three years in India, daughter of a Lord in politics, in kidnapped. A few months go by without a single word or trace of her then suddenly an anonymous tip tells of her location and she is rescued but the culprits have escaped. The family retires to the country to relax and immediately their home in the city is robbed, not just robbed but almost totally emptied of its contents and days later the daughter is caught again. Sherlock has been on the case from the beginning and has clues that have sent him the wrong direction. But not only does he have to solve this crime for his own pride before the police, there is also a little boy's life at stake that Irene is desperate to save and finding the missing girl is crucial.

Another page-turning, exciting mystery that I've come to expect from Shane Peacock. Peacock gives a nod to Holmesian fans by naming the missing girl's family the Rathbone's. Holmes character as a boy is really developing in this book towards the man we eventually will come to know. Up to and including this point he has been searching for cases to solve to show up Inspector Lestrade and prove himself to the police and the world that he is a genius detective. I haven't liked this aspect of the young Holmes as it runs contrary to the adult Holmes' confident arrogance. In this book young Sherlock comes to a realization about this aspect of his behaviour and changes. His relationship with the young Lestrade is also explored in this novel much further than it has been so far and we see the inklings of their future relationship. Malefactor has been a wild card up to this point and his true character is finally revealed in this book as well.

Vanishing Girl is a satisfying read for followers of the series as we get another clever, exciting mystery, set in an accurate historical portrayal this time concentrating on the contrast between life of a child in a poor orphanage and life as a neglected but spoilt rich girl. We also come to a major point in all the major characters' development that will affect their behaviour now in future volumes. I have book 4 in my line-up and am looking forward to it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tom and the Two Handles by Russell Hoban

Tom and the Two Handles by Russell Hoban. Pictures by Lillian Hoban (USA) Out of Print
An I Can Read Book

Pages: 64 pages
Ages: 7+
Finished: June 23, 2010
First Published: 1965
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: easy reader
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

"What's the matter?" said Father to Tom.

Acquired: Bought and own my copy.

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

Russell and Lillian Hoban are a husband/wife team most popularly known for their series of books about Frances the bear. According to the bio on the back jacket flap of my copy this is their 9th book together at this point in time. This book is currently out of print and will stay that way as its way of illustrating its message is not what would be called acceptable by the majority of the masses today.

Tom comes home with a bloody nose that his friend, Kenny, has given him and his father explains that every problem has "two handles", two ways of looking at and fixing it: a bright side and a dark side. Tom takes his advice and comes home again the next day with a bloody nose. He keeps getting advice from his father both on why he loses the fights, tips on how to fight better and sage advice on fixing the problem without fighting. When Tom tries to explain things to Kenny it just never works out the way his father made it sound. For example, the time Tom is upset about always losing his father says "You win some, you loose some." Tom tells Kenny he doesn't want to fight anymore, everything's ok, you win some, you loose some. Then the friend turns around and says hey what do you mean I loose some? I always win! and Tom comes home with another bloody nose. (My son found this hysterical.) In the end, Tom and Kenny stop being best friends, Tom takes up practicing with a punching bag in the back yard and gains confidence in his fighting skills though he knows he'll never be as good as Kenny. Then he goes over to ask Kenny to be best friends again, who agrees saying Tom was the one who always started the fights anyway. Well, they end up having another fight but this time Tom wins and he sits on Kenny and finally explains the "two handles" way of looking at things when you're the one who lost. Kenny finally understands and all's well that ends well.

My son had a riot reading this book. To him it was pure comedy and plain silliness. I pretty much let it go at that, though I did try to see that he got the message of the "two handles" and we discussed fighting. He immediately saw the difference in this story that obviously took place in the olden days (the cars placed it in time) and today's reality by noting that when people fight today they use weapons like chains, knives and hard sticks (he's seen it on TV).

A fun book that certainly reads differently today than its original intentions in its day. But also an interesting look into the past when there was a different mindset and culture where something that has become such a problem today (schoolyard violence) could be a simple case of "boys being boys" having a few rounds of fisticuffs. My rating is based on a combination of our enjoyment of the book today and the book's relevance as a product of its time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

114. The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage by Justin Cronin (Canada) - (USA)
Pages: 766 pages (ARE)
Ages: 18+
Finished: June 24, 2010
First Published: Jun. 8, 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: science fiction, apocalyptic
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

Before she became the Girl from Nowhere - the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years - she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House.

Reason for Reading: As soon as I heard of this book, which was before any of the buzz or hype had started, I knew I had to read it as I love apocalyptic novels and this had all the ingredients that made it sound like a book I had to read.

First, all the buzz, the hype, the comparisons to classics in this genre and the talk about this book is true. I fell into this door stopper tome and became hypnotized by the world I had entered. I can't remember the last time I carted an almost 800 page book to the beach with me! But once I had started reading, I was trapped and could only stop reading for the very essentials of life. I have not read Justin Cronin before but this is an author who can write and I will be checking out his two previous works.

Essentially, this is the story of a girl who saves the world. The plot is so complex it is almost impossible to give a summary without writing pages but I'll try. A hideous scientific experiment goes terribly wrong and a virus is exposed in the United States. It eventually destroys modern civilization on the North American continent (the fate of the world is unknown), leaving behind scattered groups of survivors and horrible infected persons who have been turned into something no longer human. Because of their lust for blood and some of their habits such as death by exposure to light the media, in the early days referred to them as vampires and occasionally to the virus as the "vamp virus". However, throughout the book various groups have different names for the infected ones, most commonly called virals, and while some names such as "dracs" refer to vampires, everyone knows these are people who have been infected with a virus. In my humble opinion, this is not a vampire book.

One of the survivors is a little girl who was also experimented on, the last one. She turned out different though, she appears perfectly normal and a CIA agent rescues her where they then flee to the mountains and live a reclusive life. A hundred years go by and now commences the majority of the book. How life is being lead now with the remains of civilization around the new societies, living in a world where nighttime is to be avoided, using sources such as batteries but having no replacements once they are gone. This life can only last so long and one day into it walks a girl. A strange girl, who may hold the fate of humankind in her hands.

I just love this book so much!! There are so many characters and all are so deftly created to be complete, complex human beings. The world Cronin has created is amazingly real and is one that is completely believable of a post-apocalyptic society. His characters deal with real issues such as brotherly tensions, falling in love when it is not reciprocated and when it is, overcoming personal fears, and personal growth. The Passage is a journey in many ways. A physical one across land, one of growth personally for each character and a spiritual one as deep questions are raised and realized.

My only problem with the book is that nowhere in the book's description does it tell me that this is the first in a proposed trilogy. It took a little googling to find that out. So the ending is an ending but it is also a beginning and while I look forward to continuing with the story in the future I was a little miffed at first that the seven hundred odd pages wasn't going to give me a finite ending. My final word, though, is if you like post-apocalyptic books this is a Must Read as it will no doubt go on to become a classic.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

113. Foiled by Jane Yolen

Foiled by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mike Cavallaro (Canada) - (USA)
(Foiled, Book 1)

Pages: 160 pages
Ages: 13+
Finished: June 23, 2010
First Published: Apr. 13 2010
Publisher: :01 First Second
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I want to tell you this story.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, First Second Books.

Reason for Reading: Jane Yolen is a wonderful author, so versatile! though I am partial to her mythological/folk tales works. Seeing that she had written a graphic novel I was so excited to read this.

Aliera Carstairs is a loner who doesn't fit in at school with any of the cliques; she doesn't even stand out enough to get picked on by anybody. She's rather a broody thing but she does have one passion and that is fencing. Everyday after school she goes to fencing class and is told she is very good and can go "far", which means The Nationals. Aliera has a rather strange practice fencing foil that her mother picked up for her at a Chinese lady's tag sale for $2. Not your typical foil, this one has a great big fake jewel wonder glued (she's tried to remove it) stuck to the end of the handle. Whatever, fencing is an expensive sport.

Aliera is colourblind and the majority of the book has been drawn and coloured in black,white,and various greys going up to a bluish tint. This not only shows Aliera's colourless world but also her broody attitude. Aliera does have a secret dream, she plays this out in her imagination when she is fencing and when she plays RPG with her wheelchair bound cousin, it is here she becomes Xenda of Xenon, expert swordswoman.

Imagination meets reality when Aliera puts her fencing mask on in the subway and suddenly she can see colour but not from our world, from the world which lives parallel to ours which is full of fairies, dragons, strange creatures and dragons and a queen who tells her she is a Defender of her world and gives her her first mission.

I loved Foiled! The story within the book is completed and finalized by there are many hanging threads and an obvious ending to let the reader know there will be another book, perhaps even a series. Aliera is a great main character, one that is easy to relate to. She is somewhat shy (though I'd really just say she's quiet). She stays out of everyone's way but thinks a lot. She's got some great comeback's and oneliners in her thoughts. But push her too far and she'll let loose like nobodies business and tell you exactly what she thinks. Aliera is not to be messed around with. She may be broody a good part of the time but she is also bold and brave and the one that can be counted on in an emergency. A delightful book, which more than met my expectations. Certainly looking forward to the next one! Recommended!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

112. Early to Death, Early to Rise by Kim Harrison

Early to Death, Early to Rise by Kim Harrison (Canada) - (USA)
Madison Avery, Book 2

Pages: 228 pages
Ages: 13+
Finished: June 14, 2010
First Published: May 2010
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: YA, paranormal
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The car was hot from the sun, and I pulled my fingerprints from it as I slunk past.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

A fabulous sequel to Once Dead, Twice Shy! An exciting story from beginning to end that had me glued to the book until I was finished. Once again Kim Harrison finished off with a nice, neat, satisfactory ending without the use of a cliffhanger, though leaving the loose threads and plot direction for the next and what may be the last book of a trilogy. All the characters from book one return so that even though we've had to wait a whole year for this book, their familiarity quickly comes back to mind and the author does give quick mentions throughout of events that happened in book one to refresh our memory without going into a rehash of book one except for a quick half-page prologue.

I really don't want to say a lot about the plot in the book as it carries on from book one taking the main character Madison Avery, who is dead, further along with the job she has been assigned and I don't want to give plot spoilers for either book. We get a greater insight into the workings behind the scenes and while this actually is an angel book where the angels come from heaven and god (with a little g) is once mentioned, the author has taken great liberty to create her own fictional vision of how death works and what part angels play in helping souls to reach heaven. Harrison's vision is fantastical (having nothing to do with Christianity) but does pose some seriously tough questions about free will.

The characters are wonderful. Madison grows into some of her powers and finds it's not all fun and games to be a supernatural being. Madison grows to connect closer and even bond with some of her supernatural friends, Barnabas the light angel and Nakita the dark angel and Grace the guardian angel. Madison's love interest Josh, is not an integral part of this story, but in the brief page time he gets at the beginning and end their relationship does take a step in the right direction.

Some very cool ideas at work in this sequel which not only entertained me but had me thinking and and seeing the point of view of both sides, the Dark and the Light. While, morally, I know where I stand, I can understand the various points of view. It will be very interesting to see how all threads and issues are resolved though I do have an idea as to a possible direction. A great series that I am really enjoying. Just wish I didn't have to wait a whole year for the next book!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

111. The (Nearly) Great Escape by Bill Willingham

The (Nearly) Great Escape by Bill Willingham. Art by Tony Atkins (Canada) - (USA)
Jack of Fables, Vol. 1

Pages: 121 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: June 12, 2010
First Published: 2007
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

Life is a giant, coagulated bowl of suck.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: In my journey to read the "Fables" series, I find it is time to switch over and get myself up-to-date with the "Jack of Fables" series.

I've heard from various corners that "Jack of Fables" is not as good as the original "Fables" series. Personally, Jack was not one of my favourite characters when he was in "Fables" and I didn't miss him when he left. So, I went into this wondering whether I was going to be entertained enough to want to continue the series. The first thing, one sees is that the artist is different, recognizably so, but his work is in the same style as that of "Fables" in that the book looks and feels comfortable to the "Fables" reader.

The first story comes from a couple of frames from a "Fables" volume when Beast casually mentions he is off to see Jack in Hollywood as he has broken innumerable Fables' rules. So here we see Jack living high as a Hollywood mogul, making movies based on his stories when Beast appears to take back what Jack has stolen from them and sends him packing for breaking Fable's rules of engagement while in the mundy world. While hitchhiking with a suitcase full of money Jack is kidnapped and taken to a private retirement home with large grounds, very similar to the Farm, only this is guarded and certainly a jail. Here he meets many new Fables, most are not recognisable but a few are such as Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox, Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose and Dorothy and her pals from Oz. But a great surprise meets us at the end of the first chapter when we meet, alive and very well, a previously known fable whom we've thought to be dead for quite some time now in the Fables universe.Of course Jack must escape this prison and the rest of the volume continues with that storyline as he gets a small group together to plan and execute an escape.

I really enjoyed this volume. I remember Jack being very egotistical and he still is but his one-liners are funny and I've taken a bit of a liking to him. Jack may think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread but his plans never follow through the way he envisions them, taking him down a notch or two in the reader's eye. The great escape was a plot worthy of a Fables volume and just the type of thing I had hoped to see in this off shoot series. Jack's back on the road again by the end, so we'll see where he ends up next. I do hope it keeps some of the characters we've met so far in the story line. A great start to a spin-off series! Here's hoping Volume 2 continues to deliver.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week brought a few books through the mail, mostly ones I bought online, plus a set of review books and a book win.

From Harper Collins Canada:

The last three Barnes & The Brains books:

When Giles, Tina and Kevin are hired by the rich and eccentric Miss Frost to uncover the mystery of her deep and overgrown swimming pool, they discover not one, but two real live dinosaurs! Miss Frost is wickedly pleased with the discovery — the creatures are priceless! But Giles can see how sad and lifeless they’ve become. Now only the deal of the century will save the dinosaurs and allow them to be set free — Can Barnes and the Brains pull it off? (Canada) only

When Giles's eccentric Aunt Lillian wants to look younger, she invents a gooey cream to make her wish come true. The only problem is that it turns her into a kid! (Canada) only

An old church tower has a problem with bats, but when Tina's homemade Bat Zapper attracts more bats than it repels, the boys take matters into their own hands. Or is it really a vampire they're up against? (Canada) only

Won from the author, a signed edition:

In 1962, when her best friend Lowell begins to hang around new friends who think girls are losers, Juliet, a fearful fifth-grader, teams up with bold, brave Patsy who challenges the boys to a series of increasingly dangerous contests. (Canada) - (USA)

Books I bought from

My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories is a Catholic family treasure!

With almost 200 stories, this book is an excellent resource for children and families to grow together in their faith and knowledge of Catholic tradition. It uses selections from the actual text of the highly respected and readable New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, including stories from the Deuterocanonical Books.

Along with stories from actual Bible text, My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories includes additional elements. Each of these elements will help encourage the child to talk to God, to understand the meaning of new words from the passage, to learn quotes from saints and other important figures, and to go deeper in their faith by cross-referencing the CCC and applying the lesson to their lives. With its thorough teaching of Catholic faith, Bible stories, and classic art, this Bible Storybook will be a welcome addition to Catholic homes, schools, and churches. (Canada) - (USA)

The first 4 First Modern Classics Pub'd last year (2009).

After Bertie rescues an orphaned lion cub from the African veld, they are inseparable until Bertie is sent to boarding school far away in England and the lion is sold to a circus. Bertie swears that one day they will see one another again, but it is the butterfly lion that ensures that their friendship will never be forgotten. (Canada) - (USA)

New edition of the Smarties-Prize-winning story about a magical horse. Now published into the First Modern Classics list, fantastic stories for young readers. It's Christmas, but Irina's family don't have enough money to buy her the present she wants. Then Irina sees the wooden horse in the junk shop window and all she wants is to take it home with her. Irina is sad and lonely and she knows that the little horse is lonely too. But what Irina doesn't know is that this dusty little horse with the tattered mane is really an enchanted horse who comes to life and takes Irina on magical journeys. (Canada) - (USA)

A wonderful new edition of the classic story of Paddington, the bear from Darkest Peru, who was found lost on Paddington Station. Now published into the First Modern Classics list, fantastic stories for young readers. The Browns first met Paddington on a railway station -- Paddington station, in fact. He had travelled all the way from Darkest Peru with only a jar of marmalade, a suitcase and his hat. The Browns soon found that Paddington was a very unusual bear. Ordinary things -- like having a bath, travelling underground or going to the seaside became quite extraordinary, if a bear called Paddington was involved. (Canada) - (USA)

A new edition of the first novel about Little Wolf as he is sent to Uncle Bigbad's Cunning College to learn the nine rules of badness. Now published into the First Modern Classics list, fantastic stories for young readers. All Little Wolf wants to do is stay at home with Mum and Dad and Baby brother Smellybreff. Instead he's packed off to Cunning College to learn the 9 Rules of Badness and earn his Gold BAD Badge from his wicked Uncle Bigbad. He sets off on his journey, sending letters home as he adventures in the big wide world, Little Wolf's Book of Badness won an U.K.R.A. award for making an outstanding contribution to children's literacy; the Birmingham Children's Book award and the prestigious Di Cento prize in Italy for the best children's book of the year. (Canada) - (USA)

The only one of these I've read is Paddington, of course, but I'm such a completest I couldn't have it be the only one I didn't have. It's been ages since I've read it anyway, and I don't have a review on the blog so I have an excuse.

110. The Red Door by Charles Todd

The Red Door by Charles Todd (Canada) - (USA)
Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery, Book 12

Pages: 344 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: June 11, 2010
First Published: Dec. 29, 2009
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: mystery, British police procedural, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

She stood in front of the cheval glass, the long mirror that Peter had given her on their second anniversary, and considered herself.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I've always wanted to read a book by this "author". The reason for reading the book now though is that this was actually the very first book I received in 2010 to review and while I was putting my piles of review, won, tbr, etc. books onto my new bookcase I found it grouped with the wrong books so I rectified the situation by making it my next read.

Jumping in with book twelve in a mystery series has the potential to cause some problems. As to an ongoing personal story there was only a brief mention of that at the beginning and the end, plus some vague references to previous solved crimes which didn't interfere with my reading at all. What did make the book hard for me to get into was the character of Ian Rutledge. By this time, he is a well established character and readers are presumed to know him already. Being new to this type of character did hinder my getting settled into the story, especially since Rutledge is unlike any other inspector I've come across. Set two years after the end of the Great War, Rutledge is a war veteran who secretly suffers from emotional effects of the war, shell shock, which is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. In particular, he carries around with him, so to speak, one of his fallen soldiers, Hamish, who speaks to him in his head and Rutledge needs to physically be aware that there is space for him, though he will never look at him, they do have conversations and Hamish can be considered to be Rutledge's partner as would be found in other books. This took some time for me to actually comprehend and now makes me want to start this series from the beginning.

The story itself is wonderful. A full cast of characters connected in one way or another makes the list of suspects large but finite. The writing spends much time on the characters lives, giving each individual a real and true representation. Rutledge is given two cases to work on. The first involves a lone widow whose husband never returned from the War, who is found murdered at her own front door. The second is of a wealthy man who mysteriously disappears from hospital. The man turns up safe after being away long enough to cause considerable worry but soon Rutledge has more than just one body on his hands. A very clever mystery. What I usually term a "thinking man's" mystery. There are several secrets and mysteries along with the murder to solve and reveals come slowly and can change the reader's whole take on things. I had fun having the satisfaction of figuring out some secrets and mysteries but never could hold on to the murderer. In the end I was surprised.

I really enjoyed this book. The time period is a perfect setting for British mysteries, invoking the charm of the the Golden Age writers, yet I wouldn't call this a cozy. This is much more a psychological drama with a lot of insight into the after effects of war, in all sorts of ways throughout British society. A very satisfying read and one that I will be adding to my must read list. Though I'll have to start at the beginning to get the full story on the intriguing Inspector Ian Rutledge.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Stan, World's Best Dad

Happy Father's Day, Dad! I'm so lucky that you are my Dad in so many ways. I had the best childhood and am thankful for everything you and mum sacrificed to make sure Michelle and I were never in want. You never gave up on me while I made stupid mistakes and were there with open arms when I came crying back. Thank you for the way you accept me, now that we know about my Asperger's. You're love and understanding is firm ground I can always stand on. I always speak about you to others with pride and get responses like "You're dad sounds like a really nice guy" or "You're dad must be a very special man." and I respond that "yes, he is." I love you very much and wish you the best of Happy Father's Days. Wish I could be with you. But I'll see you again in October. All my love, from your little girl who has a little curl right in the middle of her fore'ead.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

109. Growing Up in Coal Country by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Growing Up in Coal Country by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 122 pages
Ages: 10+
Finished: June 9, 2010
First Published: 1996
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Genre: non-fiction, children, history
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

In coal country, the workdays began before dawn.

Acquired: Bookmooched a copy.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my son as part of our history curriculum.

This book centres on Pennsylvanian coal country in the late 1800s to early 1900s. It also mainly focuses on the child workers though it doesn't exclude the men, nor the women back at home. The book is also profusely illustrated with contemporary photographs, some from the author's family as it was personal history that inspired her to write the book. During the author's research she listened to many interview tapes and read transcripts and has included many quotes from men who were once the boys described in the book. This makes for very interesting reading and brings the book closer to reality for the juvenile reader.

The book is incredibly thorough, going through all the different jobs involved in working at the mine. Then moving on to the company village and day-to-day life for the women and such things as scrounging for scraps of coal, the company store and school. Then the book moves on to recreation after working hours. A chapter on dangers and tragedies and common accidents prefaces a final chapter on the beginning of unionization and the big strike in Pennsylvania. A conclusion then follows up with the reasons coal mining ended as such a big industry.

While the book is centred on Pennsylvania, the majority of the information is general in nature and can be applied to anywhere coal mining took place in North America. The photographs are amazing and add volumes to the book's enjoyability. The text is narrative, interesting and while never written down to its audience does keep topics lively remembering who it's audience is. My son loved this book so much. Often when I read to him he will sit in another chair than me and I will hold the book up for him to look at pictures, or he likes to walk around the room but whenever I brought this book out he jumped up and ran right over to snuggle right next to me so he wouldn't miss the pictures. For myself, this is a topic I really knew little about and I enjoyed the book very much as well. A tremendously, enjoyable read about an industry once so important to everyday life and the terrible working conditions, child labour, and oppression workers had to face and in spite of it all they grew up to actually have fond memories and say it wasn't all bad. Highly recommended.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Grizzwold by Syd Hoff

Grizzwold by Syd Hoff (Canada) - (USA)
An I Can Read Book

Pages: 64 pages
Ages: 6+
Finished: Jun. 7, 2010
First Published: 1963
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: easy reader
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

In the far North lived a bear named Grizzwold.

Acquired: Bought and own a copy.

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

Grizzwold is typical Syd Hoff. Wonderful, expressive, humorous illustrations decorate a funny story with a subtle message and an oversized lovable main character. Grizzwold is a huge bear, the biggest in the forest. Soon there is a bang and he sees men chopping down trees until one day there are no trees in the forest. Grizzwold takes the men to task and they apologize but explain they are loggers and how paper must be made. Grizzwold can't live in a forest without trees so he goes to look for trees in a desert, on a mountain, in a house, etc. He even tries out the zoo and circus where he finds other bears but that's not for him. When he finally comes to a new forest he is so happy and so are the hunters, until a park ranger saves the day telling all that this is a National Park where bears are safe and hunters do not belong.

I really appreciate how the 1960s version of this environmental message is portrayed in a subtle way, telling both sides of an issue fairly. While at the same time, it still comes out siding with nature and gives the reader something to think about or discuss. Many of today's writers of children's environmentalist stories could take a lesson on the form shown here. It shows when a book published in 1963 is still in print almost 50 years later! Yeah Syd Hoff!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

108. Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 256 pages
Ages: 13+
Finished: June 6, 2010
First Published: Nov. 10, 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Genre: YA, paranormal
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I was supposed to be doing my algebra homework that night.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Reason for Reading: I'm a fan of the author's. Also, chosen for this month's Random Read Challenge.

Deep topics are under discussion in this book, first and foremost being transcendentalism. The main character does an awful lot of thinking and figuring things out in her head rather than impulsively acting upon her feelings as so many juvenile book character do. This leaves me somewhat concerned with the age group the book is marketed to. (The dust jacket says 10-14). I think that age group expects action rather than quotes from great transcendentalists such as Emerson. Personally, I recommend the book for Young Adults, 13+.

I enjoyed the book immensely. I haven't read too many books by Haddix, yet, but I've yet to find one I don't like. Lindsay Scott is a mysterious character at first as we find her. Then as she opens up and tells her story I found her to be a compelling character. The story is a slow one, with lots of thinking, reminiscing, and the turnings inside Lindsay's head. The action does not start until near the end, bringing the book to a satisfactory conclusion.

Lindsay is a former television sitcom star (sort of a "Full House" knock off) where she was the cute little kid. When she hit puberty, her powers also hit. Lindsay can hear anything, anyone, anywhere in the world says about her. Being a popular actress this brought on an avalanche of voices in her head and while she tried to cope she eventually had something akin to a nervous breakdown (to the outside world). The show was canceled and Lindsay became a recluse for the next five years, not leaving her house, living with her father who was abandoned by her mother upon her birth. We meet Lindsay at age 16, just as her father has died and she begins the journey into figuring out why she is the way she is. What starts this journey is a night on which two teenage fans "kidnap" Lindsay, having read in a tabloid that she was being kept under lock and key by an abusive father. This forces Lindsay to look at her life and she discovers she may not be the only one with her powers.

A very unique topic, with characters that are real and sincere. I found this an enjoyable read that dealt with a lot of issues teens will relate too such as death of a parent, peer pressure, what others think of us, wanting to hide away from the world and ultimately leaves with a positive message that when others think ill of us (are unkind, even bullying) there are likely to be issues in that person's life making them act out aggressively to others, letting one understand how to feel compassion for one's enemies. This was a quick, page-turner for me. Recommended.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thanks for the Prayers!

Thanks to everyone for all the prayers and thoughts! I had my procedure this morning and as suspected everything is fine. Thank you, Jesus! Getting me there was a bit of a struggle but I've been worse and hubby came out of it with no bruises. I've spent most of the day sleeping the sedative off. And am ready to get back to posting a book review for tomorrow!

Thanks again!

God Bless!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Could Use a Little Prayer

Please say a little prayer for me. I am going in the morning for a cancer screening procedure, which we expect turn out OK. But I'm a class A worry wart, and my panic/anxiety disorder is already at work overtime and just getting to the hospital is going to be a feat in itself. If you feel so inclined, I sure could use some prayers for strength today and tomorrow morning. Thank you.

On my knees, before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to you, Eternal Spirit of God. You are the strength and light of my soul and I desire never to grieve you by unfaithfulness. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for your light, and listen to your voice, and follow your gracious inspirations. I cling to you and give myself to you and ask you, by your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore you Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in your grace that I may never sin against you. Give me grace O Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to you always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for your servant listens." Amen.

107. Death in the Air by Shane Peacock

Death in the Air by Shane Peacock (Canada) - (USA)
The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His 2nd Case

Pages: 254 pages
Ages: 10+
Finished: June 13, 2010
First Published: Apr. 2008
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: YA, historical mystery
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

What is it like to see a man die right before your eyes?

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This second book in the series really works on 13-year-old Sherlock Holmes character. Peacock is laying the groundwork for how the boy became the man with all his idiosyncrasies. The first book started him off on detective work and showed us where he came from. This book continues by showing how Holmes developed his deductive reasoning as he moves in to apprentice with a very intelligent but down on his luck medical man, who is far ahead of the times with his medical ideas. We see Holmes' character continue to harden as he still refuses to get close to the girl he loves as his connections with the criminal world promise a threat to anyone he should care for. In this book, it is also suggested to Holmes that having a second brain to bounce his ideas off of could only improve his ability to put the pieces of a crime together and he enlists his first partner, by divulging the details of the case he is working on to his employer.

This is a tremendously fun story. Set in the Crystal Palace a famous trapeze artist falls to his death right at Holmes' feet. Holmes notices that the bar has been partially cut at both ends and the man speaks a cryptic message to him before falling into a coma. Determined to solve the case and claim the glory before Inspector Lestrade becomes aware this is more than an accident and can claim the glory as his own Sherlock finds himself in the dubious world of circus performers and theatrical types. Through his investigation it turns out that another crime, one that the police do know about, was committed at the exact same time. Sherlock may be in over his head this time as his chase takes him to the meanest, most dangerous part of London.

An exciting mystery, with many familiar elements of an authentic Sherlock Holmes story, Peacock does a very good job with his imagining of where Holmes came from and how he turned into the great detective, yet flawed man. The story gets quite dark and I wouldn't recommend for young or sensitive readers. There are some slightly bloody bits and the tension can get quite intense. Everything I love to find in a good mystery! The historical elements are also fascinating: the Crystal Palace, inside the somewhat shady world of early aerialists, Sherlock's first experience on a train and the description of Victorian London, mostly the poorer and seedy sides. A great book. I'm looking forward to his 3rd case.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

Busy mail box last week! A few review books, a bookmooch, and I treated myself to an online purchase as well.

For review:

From Harper Collins Canada:

At the request of Queen Victoria's prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, Liberty Lane is dispatched to Brinkburn Hall in search of answers. The deranged aristocrat Lord Brinkburn is nearing death, with his elder son, Stephen, eagerly waiting to inherit his title—until Lady Brinkburn's startling announcement that the heir is illegitimate. Chaos ensues.

The rivalry between Stephen and his younger brother, Miles, heats up dangerously. Liberty's arrival only stirs an already volatile mix, and she is greeted soon after by the odd disappearance of one brother . . . and by a shocking murder within the family's circle. Secrets and scandal run rampant throughout the cold and loveless Buckinghamshire estate far from the polish of London's aristocracy—as the plucky young investigator races to separate truth from falsehood, villains from victims, before death takes up a more permanent residence. (Canada) - (US)

From Online Publicist:

Fifteen-year-old Krystal Bentley is royally miffed. Why her mom had to divorce her dad and drag her from New York City to the middle-of-nowhere Connecticut is beyond her. She’s never lived outside of The City and doesn’t know what to expect. But there’s one thing she never could have expected: the cute dead boy standing in her bedroom asking for help.

As she juggles being the new girl, resisting the requests of Ricky, the transparent dead boy, to find his killer, and dodging the demands of every other ghost on the planet, she can barely find time to hate her mother’s new husband.

When she begins to think it’s all too much, she finds comfort in a bizarre friendship with Sasha, a disappearing socialite and Jake, the telekinetic boy from the wrong side of the tracks. They both bear the same M shaped birthmark as her and the alliance of their powers seems to have a history that dates back to the 1700s.

But what are their powers for? Can they be used to get themselves out of the dangerous mess they’re currently in, or will they prove to be more dangerous than anything they’ve ever imagined? (Canada) - (US)

From LibraryThing ER Program:

It is 1868, the week that Benjamin Disraeli becomes Prime Minister of the Empire. Sherlock's beautiful but poor admirer, Beatrice, the hatter's daughter, appears at the door late at night. She is terrified, claiming that she and her friend have just been attacked by the Spring Heeled Jack on Westminster Bridge and the fiend has made off with her friend. At first Sherlock thinks Beatrice simply wants his attention, and he is reluctant to go back to detective work. He also believes that the Jack everyone fears is a fictional figure. But soon he is suspicious of various individuals, several of them close friends.

Set at a time when many in England were in a state of fear because a Jew was running the country, Shane Peacock presents a compelling story filled with an atmosphere of paranoia and secrets and surprises played out on late-night London streets. Sherlock gets drawn deeper and deeper into the pursuit of the Spring Heeled Jack, whose attacks grow in number until it seems that there are Jacks everywhere. (Canada) - (US)

From Random House Canada:

Karin Slaughter’s internationally bestselling novels are as notable for their vivid portraits of lives shadowed by loss and heartbreak as they are for their dramatic criminal investigations. Her latest offering features the return of her most compelling characters and introduces memorable new ones in a tale of corruption, murder, and confrontation that will leave more than one life . . .

When Special Agent Will Trent arrives in Grant County, he finds a police department determined to protect its own and far too many unanswered questions about a prisoner’s death. He doesn’t understand why Officer Lena Adams is hiding secrets from him. He doesn’t understand her role in the death of Grant County’s popular police chief. He doesn’t understand why that man’s widow, Dr. Sara Linton, needs him now more than ever to help her crack this case.

While the police force investigates the murder of a young woman pulled from a frigid lake, Trent investigates the police force, putting pressure on Adams just when she’s already about to crack. Caught between two complicated and determined women, trying to understand Linton’s passionate distrust of Adams, the facts surrounding Chief Tolliver’s death, and the complexities of this insular town, Trent will unleash a case filled with explosive secrets—and encounter a thin blue line that could be murderous if crossed.

Spellbinding and keenly paced, Broken is Karin Slaughter at her best. Here is an unforgettable story of raw emotions, dangerous assumptions, the deadly and layered game of betrayal, and a man’s determination to expose the most painful of human truths—no matter how deeply they’re hidden . . . or how devastating. (Canada) - (US)


Yes, Rufus wrote CAIUS IS A DUMBBELL on his tablet at school, but no, he did not break into the schoolroom, did not tie up his teacher, and certainly did not paint his slur about Caius on the Temple of Minerva (even if it is in Rufus's own handwriting). Rufus is doomed unless his six classmates can find out who is really responsible. Every hour seems to bring a new, confusing clue . . . until the boys finally stumble upon someone who is not what he appears to be. (Canada) - (US)

Bought from Chapters-Indigo online:

Of all things Catholic, there is nothing that is so familiar us the Mass. With its unchanging prayers, the Mass fits Catholics like their favorite clothes. Yet most Catholics sitting in the pews on Sundays fail to see the powerful supernatural drama that enfolds them. Pope John Paul II described the Mass as "heaven on Earth," explaining that what "we celebrate on Earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy." (Canada) - (US)

Twenty stories from Shakespeare retold in lively prose. The author makes the complex language of Shakespeare's greatest plays accessible to young children by relating the stories that form the core of the plays. Her graceful, vivid retellings are the perfect introduction to Shakespeare's works. (Canada) - (US)

Discover the Angel Omnibus, which collects the IDW's Angel: The Curse, Angel: Old Friends, Angel: Spotlight, and Angel: Auld Lang Syne. This huge collection of comics includes work by New York Times best-selling writer Peter David, and features the most popular characters from the TV show including Spike and Illyria. (Canada) - (US)

CD edition of a contemporary, fresh version of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
(Canada) - (US)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

106. Alison Dare Little Miss Adventures

Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures by J. Torres. Art by J. Bone (Canada) - (USA)
Alison Dare, #1

Pages: 90 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: June 12, 2010
First Published: 2002 (reprint May, 2010
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, graphic novel
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Once upon a time ... in the expansive sultanate of Shahrazad ... within the arid region of Es-Sindibad ... just outside the ancient city of Ala-ed-din, there was a bored little girl named Alison Dare.

Acquired: Received a review copy from LibraryThing's ER Program.

Reason for Reading: The summary intrigued me as did the fact that both the author and Illustrator are Canadians.

Alison Dare is a 12-year-old girl with the heart of an Indiana Jones. She wants "swashbuckling adventure, death defying danger, a little intrigue, romance, action" and she doesn't have to look far it. Her mother is a world renowned archaeologist and her father is the superhero the Blue Scarab. Both her mother and father are being stalked by an evil baron and various other bad guys and if she doesn't find adventure when she's with them she seems cable of discovering it easily enough on her own.

This was a real fun, action-packed comic which at times was either following and Indy Jones vibe or full of superhero action. Alison is always accompanied by her two best friends, one is the brains, the other the squeamish beauty. This particular volume is divided into three separate stories. The first involves Alison finding a Genie lamp while on an excavation with her mother during spring break and as most people find out, you must be careful what you wish for. In the second story Alison tells her two friends the story of how her parents met and how her father became the Blue Scarab, all in the middle of a newscast which reports on the Blue Scarab fighting near death with the Ice Woman. Finally the last story brings everyone together as Alison tries to get her parents back together by planning a picnic at the museum where her mother is working on a display of an Incan mummified baby. While that's not working out as planned the evil Baron von Baron descends upon them capturing them and stealing the mummy plus we get to meet another member of the Dare family, Uncle Johnny, a secret spy agent.

Each story was fun and exciting. I enjoyed Alison Dare. Her ego is a bit big for her boots but then aren't all adventurers like that, Indiana Jones, Laura Croft, etc. This will especially appeal to girls and is an entertaining, sometimes humorous read.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

OT: Canadian "Fox News" Coming Soon??

"Fox News North" Coming to Canada?

Oh, wow!! This would be amazing! A news station that isn't so far left, we have to watch American news? If only it could really happen!

105. Switch by Grant McKenzie

Switch by Grant McKenzie (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 427 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: June 5, 2010
First Published: 2009 UK (Aug. 3, 2010 CAN)
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Genre: suspense, thriller
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Rick Ironwood staggered back from the blow, his trick knee giving out with a pop as his feet twisted sideways in a puddle of grimy engine oil.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Group (Canada).

Reason for Reading: The summary of this debut book by a resident Canadian had me very interested.

All I can start out with is a big WOW! This is not quite my usual fare of thriller which usually consists of the serial killer variety so I was not prepared for the intense serial-ness of this book. What an incredible story that in truth could happen to anyone. As the book first started off, I was reminded of a popular Hitchcock devise of the innocent man finding himself caught up in the middle of evil doings. These are innocent men, simple men, regular Joe's who have been brought into the spider's lair to play his nasty game. He kidnaps their families and then the men must do exactly as he says, being given missions of increasing moral complexity, or else he will kill the family.

As we enter the book, one man is at the end of his mission and believes that his wife and daughter have been murdered. At the same time another man has been brought into the game with the kidnapping, given the rules and his first mission. Eventually the two men meet and figure out a connection between themselves, thus trying to find a connection between them and the dead or injured, so they can figure out who hates them so much to be doing this, when they have never done anything illegal in their lives before.

This book starts off running and does not stop until the end. The chapters are quite short making this a very easy book to just keep going 'one more chapter' until the wee hours of the night. The fast pace means a lot of action, while this usually means character development suffers, in this case it doesn't. McKenzie has his story revolving around a tight set of events and characters and the backstory up to that point flesh out the characters for us as do the conversations the men have and the moral choices they make as they fulfill their often deadly assignments.

The narrative is for the most part in the present with the two men but ever so occasionally we are briefly taken to the kidnap victims' points of view to understand the terror they are going through and the utmost futility that they may be saved. Then again on even fewer occasions we are shown the evil mastermind's point of view, hear his rantings, and know he is very clever, though he remains a mystery.

An amazingly intense read. Very scary, even though these characters do have a connection with each other, it is not a sinister one and the reader could visualize that some psycho could pick any group of people, possibly including themself, to play his sick and deadly game. This is one that hits home, uncomfortably close. How far would you go to save your family's lives?

Read this one! Americans have the UK title available from a-zon or bookdepository. Otherwise I don't see an upcoming US release in sight as of yet.

Friday, June 11, 2010

104. Dimanche Diller by Henrietta Bransford

Dimanche Diller by Henrietta Branford. Illustrated by Rachel Merriman. (Canada) - (USA)
First Modern Classics
Dimanch Diller trilogy

Pages: 127 pages
Ages: 7+
Finished: June 3, 2010
First Published: 1994, (FMC edition, 2010)
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: humour
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
Dimanche was three years old when Polly Pugh arrived at Hilton Hall, the house her parents had lived in before they were lost at sea when she was just a baby.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: Specifically I was intrigued with the publisher's new list under the title of "First Modern Classics" aimed at younger readers. Originating from the UK house the titles on this list, which started last year (2009) are a unique selection for North American readers. The plot of this title intrigued me

A delightful story with a plot that has become somewhat overdone since this book was written especially in the form of Lemony Snicket who wrote his first book five years after this book was written. However, I still found this story to be fresh and fun, reading it in hindsight. This was my first time reading the book and to tell the truth had never heard of the author previously. Even though she has a large backlist of books, has a British Children's fiction award named after her, and this book specifically won, at the time, a prestigious UK children's award The Smarties Book Prize, which, however, is now defunct.

The story features Dimanche, an orphan, raised in a very small nunnery until at three years old a letter arrives from a supposed aunt, a fellow Sister from a French order of Nuns. She has been given a reprieve to look after her niece while she grows up and they move into the family home. The reader is shown right from the start that this is not really Dimanche's aunt but the horrible Valburger Vilemile who has found out about Dimanche and is impersonating the aunt so she can collect the millions of pounds when Dimanche reaches the age of consent. Of course, if she were to die sooner .... that could only make V.V.'s life simpler since she can't stand even the sight of children. Dimanche goes through a series of nannies who just can't stand the treatment of Dimanche or themselves until her beloved Polly Pugh arrives as nanny and Polly is determined that this child shall be seen to properly and loved.

A delightful romp! All sorts of shenanigans going on with Valburger Vilemile's attempts to put Dimanche in harm's way. Then when her trickery is discovered Polly and Dimanche come up with clever schemes to outwit the villain. It is pure delicious, rollicking fun all the way. I truly loved this one. Fortunately there are a couple of sequels as I'd like to see how Dimanche gets on now. The book is illustrated with chapter heading drawings. These were added in 2002, but I cannot find any earlier illustrator listed. The drawings are cute and a welcome addition to the story. While most of them are original, there does come a point when several illustrations do start to repeat themselves which is a bit of a cop-out. If you are going to add illustrations to an already published book, then do it 100%.

Naturally enough, I expected this to be a girl's book. There are no male character's except for the police chief whose part is not very major. But the whole time I was reading I kept thinking how much my son would enjoy this book. Throughout the book one never really thinks about whether Dimanche is a boy or a girl and I think the author did a splendid job in creating a female character that boy readers are going to be drawn to just as much as girls. I shall definitely be moving this book over to his bedside table pile.

Finally, an aspect of the "First Modern Classics" series I really like is first at the beginning there is a short paragraph by a famous author called "Why You'll Love this Book" which Vivian French provides in this instance. Then at the back there is "More Than a Story" section with its own Table of Contents. This one includes information on real famous orphans, two limericks about aunties and uncles, a magic trick, plenty of jokes and puzzles (and these do have a connection to the story you'll find after reading) and a recipe for a Traveler's Tart (this relates to one of their disguises) . Not quite as impressive as I found this section in "I, Houdini" but still worthy of inclusion. The late Henrietta Brandford is a delightful find as a new author for me, a shame she didn't make a name for herself in North America. Hopefully, this book will have others this side of the pond searching out her other titles along with me.