Saturday, July 31, 2010

146. Salem Brownstone by John Harris Dunning

Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers by John Harris Dunning. Art by Nikhil Singh (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 96 pages
Ages: 15+
Finished: July 26, 2010
First Published: July 13, 2010 US ( Oct. 2009 UK)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, graphic novel, gothic, paranormal
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

There are those who love the rum and unusual, the uncanny, the macabre.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: I was immediately taken with the publisher's eerie plot summary.

This is a beautiful book. Oversized like a large picture book with decorated cloth covered boards, it feels like a treasure in your hands. Upon opening the book, the story grips you right away as if something by Poe. Then turn the page where the artwork starts and immediately Gory comes to mind and the further one gets into the story with the mixture of art and text there is a very strong Tim Burton vibe going and I actually started imaging the story being filmed with Johnny Depp as Salem Brownstone. The artwork is truly masterful. Each frame is so detailed, this book could take many readings and each reading would reveal something you had missed the previous times through. How do I describe the art? Outlandish, eerie, macabre, bizarre and just outright fiendishly freakish (in a good way!).

Salem Brownstone, a grown man, who hasn't seen his father since he was six receives a telegram that his father has died and left him his mansion and the contents and he must come claim it ASAP that evening at 9pm. Upon arrival Salem finds an old creepy Victorian house and notices a sign announcing a circus nearby. Once inside he discovers his father was a magician and dons the cape, when he hears a noise. As he investigates he happens upon Cassandra Contortionist who has been waiting for him. She has a scrying orb that belonged to his father that she must pass on to him. She takes him down to the circus for further explanation and it is here he learns that he must take over his father's role in keeping the world safe from the evil creatures of another dimension.

This is a macabre story and certainly not going to be for everyone but if you like Poe or Lovecraft then this will be along your tastes. The atmosphere is very dark and heavy, the story is very creepy and when you think you've seen it all something even creepier happens. I was engrossed with the story and the whole book itself. A wonderful Hallowe'en read. From the ending, there are hints that Salem may appear in a sequel.

Watch the trailer for a sample of the amazing artwork!

Friday, July 30, 2010

145. Children of the Sea, Vol. 3

Children of the Sea, Vol. 3 by Daisuke Igarashi. Translated from the Japanese by JN Productions. (Canada) - (USA)
Children of the Sea series

Pages: 334 pages
Ages: 16+
Finished: July 25, 2010
First Published: June 15, 2010
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: YA, Manga, Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

What's wrong?

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

Ruka is in shock over the disappearance of Sora in the last volume and not doing well at all. Umi is also acting strangely and stays close to Ruka now. Anglade, introduced in the last volume, has a long talk with Jim about the sea children and then takes off with Ruka and Umi. Very strange things happen and this volume gets a little confusing with where the story is going. On the other hand, a fair portion of this volume takes place in the past starting with Anglade as a boy, his relationship with Jim, and how the sea children came to be with them. This clears up a lot of the background story and continues to make the story fascinating. A wonderful new character is introduced in the past, an old woman named Dehdeh, whom I hope will turn up again as she seems to know much more than she has told. The original disappearing fish story seems to have a much greater meaning now and Ruka has joined Sora and Umi in having a deep, cosmic relationship with the sea. As I said, the story arc is heading in a direction that is somewhat confusing at this point and I don't want to say anything else to give away any spoilers. Overall, this volume is not as good as the first two but seems to be a pivotal point in the story where the next volume is going to pull some more threads together. I love this series; the theme and plot are so different from any other manga I've read and the artwork is beautifully detailed with people of various ethnic groups represented. Vol. 4 will be released in Dec. of this year ('10).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

CSN Review Coming Soon!

CSN has contacted me again, to see if I would like to review another one of their products! Well, I've got my eye on a certain little coffee maker, plus I've been looking at reading lamps and computer chairs. It's going to be s000o hard to chose which exactly to get but I'll let you know as soon as I've chosen. But first here's a picture of the cute french press that's calling my name. I'm the only coffee drinker in the house and I hate making a whole pot just for myself. This would be perfect for me and it matches my kitchen!

144. Countdown by Deborah Wiles

Countdown by Deborah Wiles (Canada) - (USA)
The Sixties Trilogy, Book One

Pages: 388 pages
Ages: 11+
Finished: July 24, 2010
First Published: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, ya
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

I am eleven years old, and I am invisible.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy historical fiction but the amount of photographs and media images in the book was what intrigued me the most.

If anybody had told me I was going to absolutely love a book that's main historical setting was the Cuban Missile Crisis I would have said "Sorry, I don't even read that kind of political book" then the next thing I'd say would be "BTW, what is the Cuban Missile Crisis?"

The book takes place over the last few weeks in October, 1962 and is somewhat autobiographical using the author's personal life and memories to tell the story of growing up in the sixties. Taking the author's place is Franny Chapman, an ordinary girl with a little brother who can do no wrong in her parents' eyes. It's the story of Franny's life; her best friend is starting to avoid her and becoming friends with a girl whose mother is divorced who Franny is not allowed to have anything to do with. Her uncle, great uncle really, lives with them as he raised her father, but he is slipping into dementia, calls everyone soldier and is embarrassing the whole family to the neighbourhood. Franny's father is in the Air Force and always going off on trips seeming never to be there when the worst family crises arise. Franny's older sister, who is in college, is up to something mysterious, something she has disagreed with their mother about, and then one night she just doesn't come back home.

The background is the height of the cold war. The children are inundated with the "duck and cover" routine should a nuclear bomb hit. They have practice drills and watch in class movies to make sure that instinctively they know what to do. The Bay of Pigs has ended and there is talk of the Russians attacking with a nuclear bomb. Then President Kennedy comes on the TV and explains the situation in Cuba involving the Russians and nuclear missiles aimed at the United States. The media quickly label this the Cuban Missile Crisis. Also spread throughout the book are the rumblings of the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. As the book ends, I believe the set up has been made that the background of the second book will be Civil Rights.

The story is just simply fantastic. I read the book in a day as I just couldn't put it down. The relationships between all the children were very real and the attitudes and lifestyle of the sixties shone through making the story very authentic. A very unique aspect of this book, which has been called a "documentary novel" is that in the middle of the ongoing story it will suddenly turn to a non-fiction essay on a person who has been mentioned. These are very interesting and flow right along with the story feeling perfectly natural in their placement. We learn of both Jack and Jackie Kennedy this way, along with Harry S. Truman, Pete Seeger, Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer and others.

What makes this book truly amazing though is the combination of text with photographs and graphic media. Every so often, there is a graphic section which enhances the story telling through photographs, quotes, headlines, cartoons, posters, song lyrics and much more. These follow the storyline and political events are introduced through the graphic media before it becomes a part of the textual story which really enhances and makes clear the understanding of otherwise potentially difficult topics. But the photos also just immerse you in the culture and era with sports events, space accomplishments, popular singers and stark photos of reality.

I've never read anything quite like this before and think the combination of text and media has been put together brilliantly and with a compelling, well-written story this is a fantastic book. I am eagerly awaiting the second book!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

143. Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe

Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe, 4th edition edited by Tom Pomplun (US) - (Canada)
Graphic Classics, Volume 1

Pages: 144
Ages: 12-Adult
Finished: Jul. 22, 2010
First Published: May 15, 2010
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: graphic novel, short stories, poetry
Rating: 4/5

Aquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: I read the 3rd edition and was eager to see what the "greatly revised" 4th edition had to offer.

First sentence:

I was sick - sick unto death with the long agony of my imprisonment; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to stand, I felt that my senses were leaving me.

An anthology of graphic adaptations of some of Edgar Allan Poe's works, both short stories and poems. Each story is written/illustrated by different people such as Rick Geary, Carlo Vegara, Matt Howarth and others resulting in a wide variety of artist styles throughout the book. Most of Poe's works collected here are his most famous but there are a few lesser known ones as well.

There are quite a lot of changes to this 4th edition with the removal of, mostly, the shorter lesser known works and the addition of a few poems but especially two major long works. First, but most importantly; all my favourites from the 3rd edition are still present. As I said in that review,
"My favourites were Rick Geary's retelling of "The Tell-Tale Heart" as I am fond of his work. I also enjoyed "The Imp of the Perverse" by Tom Pomplum and Lance Tooks which I had never heard of before. I also enjoyed Pedro Lopez' rendition of "The Cask of Amontillado" as that is one of my favourite Poe stories and the adaptation was well done."
What has been removed are: King Pest, Eldorado (a poem), Spirits of the Dead (a poem), The Masque of Red Death, and Hop-Frog. The only one of these I deeply regret the removal of is The Masque of Red Death and to a much lesser degree Hop-Frog.

The additions are mostly very strong. The Black Cat returns after its removal from the 3rd edition. The two new long pieces are The Pit and the Pendulum and William Wilson. The Pit and the Pendulum is worth the price of admission. It has been incredibly rendered in all its eerie glory by David Hontiveros and Carlo Vergara. Another of my favourite stories that has been presented in a terrifyingly creepy and atmospheric manner. This one joins my favourites in the entire book. William Wilson is a strange story to begin with but the artwork is gorgeously detailed and atmospheric; I love the portrait of Poe on the wall in the last frame. Not one of my favourite stories but adapted to graphic form very well and certainly worth the removal of Hop-Frog. Also new to this addition are the poems In a Sequestered Churchyard Where Once Poe Walk'd by H.P. Lovecraft, and Annabel Lee. The Raven is not new but the illustrations have been redone by J.B. Bonivert and I have to say I am not pleased with them at all. I don't know what you call this type of art but it is plain weird (almost farcical to me) and totally distracts from the somber, eerie tone of the poem. On the other hand, Bonivert illustrates the new Annabel Lee and is much more successful using a fairy tale theme to the art that grows darker frame by frame.

If you already have a previous volume I think this one is well worth adding to your collection just for the addition of "The Pit and the Pendulum" alone. If you don't have this volume, what are you waiting for? This series is a great way to sample the author's work if you are unfamiliar with it and if you are a fan of Poe's it brings his work to another level by reading it in the graphic format.

October will be bringing Volume 19 of the series, entitled Christmas Classics which sounds exciting. I have visions of Dickens and The Birds' Christmas Carol. Guess I'll go see if they have a page up for it. Well, I was right about Dickens! It will also have O. Henry, Sherlock Holmes and Clement Moore (of, course! How could I not think of that!) In Colour. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

142. Manifest by Artist Arthur

Manifest by Artist Arthur (Canada) - (USA)
Mystyx series, book 1

Pages: 248
Ages: 13+
Finished: July 22, 2010
First Published: Aug 1, 2010
Publisher: Kimani Tru
Genre: YA, paranormal
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"I can't hear you. I can't hear you," I repeat, talking to myself.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the book's publicist.

Reason for Reading: The sounds of a Paranormal YA Ghost Whisperer with an added twist plot was enough to make me want to read it.

This is a book that I enjoyed more the further I got into it. I find that while I'm reading I often rate a book as I go along. This was a two at the beginning, a solid three by the middle and pushing a four and a half by the end so to sum it all off I've gone with an overall four. Krystal can see dead people, hear them, have conversations with them and now they are asking her for help. Ricky Watson, a very cute boy, for a ghost, wants Krystal to find out who killed him and he won't stop pestering her until she agrees to help him. Two other kids at school are trying to corner Krystal into meeting them somewhere secret when they find out Krystal has the mysterious 'M' birthmark that both of them also have. This may all be very exciting to some but not Krystal as she is in the middle of glooming over her parents divorce, her mother's moving her from NYC to hicktown Connecticut and her subsequent marriage to Gerald who seems to hate Krystal almost as much as she hates him.

When I first started reading I really did not like the character of Krystal. She was full of angst, self-importance, rude to her mother and everyone else for that matter, whiny and basically a grating narrative voice to have to read. Krystal's attitude remains the same for a good part of the book but fortunately the plot was exciting enough to keep me reading. There is a mystery to solve and the three teens set out to solve who killed Ricky; popular belief is that the crew he hung with had something to do with it but Ricky wants their names cleared and the real killer found. The story becomes more involved when Krystal meets another ghost in the boiler room, a crying girl who has had her head bashed in and thinks there may be a connection to Ricky's death.

The plot was a fun read and I ended up reading the book in an afternoon. Little bits of information are leaked as the book progresses though I knew who the culprit was early on. This plot line is closed by the end of the book. In amongst the solving of the mystery, is a plot line where the teens found out about their birthmarks and powers, this, again, is an intriguing story arc and one that will continue through the series. They learn enough in this volume but there are many more questions to ask and so much more to know. The dynamics of the group of three who are from very different backgrounds is also explored and grows.

Krystal's home life is an ongoing issue through the book and it just plain annoyed me. I'm not cold-hearted. I appreciate the drama of the situation, but it is one of those things where if everybody had just told the truth at the beginning there would not have been all this hatred and misery for so long. Toward the end there is some kind of resolution, and Krystal seems to lose her angst and bad attitude but we'll have to wait until book two to find out for sure. Because Krystal aside I really liked all the other characters, especially Sasha and I'm quite excited to find out what the next book will bring.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday: Books in the Mail

Well, I received two graphic novels for review on Monday last week and figured that would be it mail-wise, but on Friday I received a handful of packages bringing a few more review books and a book/dvd set I had ordered.

From Simon & Schuster Canada:

As Ando learns to use his powers effectively, he must decide whether or not to oppose Inukai. A decision made much harder when it could cost him his life.

From Harper Collins Canada:

The shocking tales continue in Volume 2 of "Hanako and the Terror of Allegory". What is lurking in the mirrors at midnight, and what horror is causing the killing spree of hundreds of suicidal girls? And as Aso delves into the mind of Kanae's blind cousin, he and Hanako discover the haunting allegory that entraps her. And what will Hanako and Kanae do when they see Aso lying lifeless in a pool of his own blood?

A flamboyant party host is murdered in full view of a roomful of bridge players! When the flamboyant socialite Mr Shaitana boasts to Poirot that murder is an art form rather than a serious science for the little grey cells, the detective has some reservations about accepting his invitation to a party. And his reticence proves to be well-judged when an after-dinner game of bridge turns into something decidedly nastier than mere art! Now words and pictures combine in an exciting new way of telling these stories -- full-colour graphic novels which enhance the original stories and offer a completely new way of enjoying some of the world's most popular and exciting mysteries.

An elderly spinster has been poisoned in her country home -- with only her little dog as the witness! Everyone blamed Emily's accident on a rubber ball left on the stairs by her frisky terrier. But the more she thought about her fall, the more convinced she became that one of her relatives was trying to kill her. On April 17th she wrote her suspicions in a letter to Hercule Poirot. Mysteriously he didn't receive the letter until June 28th! by which time Emily was already dead! Now words and pictures combine in an exciting new way of telling these stories -- full-colour graphic novels which enhance the original stories and offer a completely new way of enjoying some of the world's most popular and exciting mysteries.

From Penguin Young Readers Group:

Thirteen year old Dellie lives with the guilt that her little brother’s death was her fault. Her mother cries all the time and because she wants Dellie to stay safe, she keeps her inside as much as she can. It doesn’t matter that Dellie longs to go outside to be like other girls or that there’s a boy she likes and he likes her too. All that matters to her mother is that she’s safe at home. So, Dellie has no choice but to watch the world of her housing project through her second story window. Things start to change soon after new neighbors move in on the first floor. Trouble like this has never happened in Dellie’s building before. Now there are men fighting on the stoop, gunshots echoing through the night and Corey, a hungry and abused five year old boy knocking on her door looking for something to eat. Corey reminds Dellie of her brother and even though their friendship is dangerous, she wonders if this time, she’ll be able to do what needs to be done. Will she be able to save Corey?

Purchased Online:

Is Christianity a bland, domesticated religion, unthreatening and easy to grasp? Or is it the most exotic, unexpected, and uncanny of the religious paths? For the mystics and saints -- and for Father Robert Barron who discovered Christianity through them -- it is surely the strangest way. "At its very center," writes Fr. Barron, "is a God who comes after us with a reckless abandon, breaking open his own heart in love in order to include us in the rhythm of his own life."

In this book, Fr. Barron lays out three basic paths of the spiritual life: Finding the Center; Knowing You Are A Sinner; and Realizing Your Life is Not About You. He also provides practical approaches to enhance your journey along these three paths.

Our ultimate goal is to be a saint. It is our greatest calling and what is desired for us by our Creator. Father Robert Barron paints a beautiful and mysterious image of what it takes to be a follower of, “the One who is, Jesus Christ.” He lays out three intriguing paths to holiness: Finding the Center; Knowing You’re A Sinner; and Realizing Your Life is Not About You. He also provides practical approaches to enhance the journey along these three paths.

Untold Blessing DVD and its companion book, The Strangest Way, are insightful guides for meditation as you walk in the Way, either for personal reflection or for small group study and discussion.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Music: Grace Changes Everything by Jamie Slocum

141. New Catholic Picture Bible

New Catholic Picture Bible by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D. (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 232 pages
Ages: ALL
Finished: July 19, 2010
First Published: 1955
Publisher: Catholic Book Publishing Co.
Genre: Bible
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

God is eternal.

Acquired: My son was gifted this at his Baptism & 1st Communion by his Godmother.

Reason for Reading: Every Mon-Fri (mostly) we read a Bible story.

We converted to Catholicism two Easter Vigils ago and were already in the middle of another Bible Story book at that time. When we finished it we moved onto this one, our first Catholic Bible story book. I'll review this book in particular and then compare how I found it to the usual Protestant or ecumenical Bible story books we had previously read.

This is a nice gift Bible with puffy boards and a Presentation page to fill out. Each story is a two-page spread with the left-hand side usually being an illustration and the text on the right-hand side. There is some variety to this though as there are some longer stories where the picture is shrunk to half or a third of the page to make more room for the text and there are scattered throughout some short stories that take up one page with illustration and text sharing the same page. The illustrations are beautiful old-school paintings, very realistic and religious. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are always shown with a halo. Unfortunately no one is credited with the illustrations. The text is a delight to read, presented chronologically and has a suitable reading level for a wide range of ages.

I've read many, many Bible story books through the 21 years I've been a mother. How did we find this specifically Catholic Bible story book different from all the others? The beginning and the end to start. This Bible starts with the fall of Lucifer and his "bad angels" and ends with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Earth and the conversion of the first Christians. This Bible also has a definite emphasis on Christ and the Gospels. During the Old Testament, whenever an event or prophesy was made there would be an explanation of how this referred to or was fulfilled in the New Testament. I really appreciated this as it kept us focusing on Christ even during the Old Testament, just like during Mass. The other difference is of course, the Catholic element found in the New Testament where all the Biblical references to the Church are explained and events that are Holy Days are mentioned as such. Also the Eucharist, the Transubstantiation, the Stations of the Cross, the establishment of the Church and the Peter's Primacy are all told from within the Bible stories from whence they came.

Thus, I have no problems with reading any Bible story book, Protestant or ecumenical, even as a Catholic, but I do see the advantages of a faith specific Bible story book. Given a choice, though, I would now chose a Catholic Bible story book over another.

A lovely Catholic Bible story book, recommended for gift giving.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

140. Celtic Treasure by Liz Babbs

Celtic Treasure: Unearthing the Riches of Celtic Spirituality by Liz Babbs (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 80 pages
Ages: ALL
Finished: July 21, 2010
First Published: Sept 1, 2009
Publisher: Lion Hudson
Genre: non-fiction, religion, Christian
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I keep a box of 'treasures' in my attic.

Acquired: I won a copy from the author.

Reason for Reading: I am Catholic and am interested in the early Church, especially the Saints.

Well, honestly, I didn't know what to expect from this book. What was Celtic Spirituality? Was it some new age thing or Christian? Upon opening the little book I was immediately met with Scripture and St. Patrick's Breastplate along with stunning photography of Christian ruins from the 1st millenium in Ireland and Scotland. This is a lovely, hand-sized gift book printed on quality paper. A delight to read and look at. The book is about the history of the Celtic Christians in the first millennium and though it is never mentioned this is, in other words, the early history of the Catholic Church in Ireland and Scotland. Everything that is mentioned, the history, the saints, the prayers, the places, the way of life are all from the beginnings of the Church in this part of the world, when the Celts were converted to Christianity. The book is full of scripture and Saint's prayer's (my favourite part), and even quotes from C.S. Lewis and Chesterton. The author herself has written her own prayers and poems which are very nice and full of Christian love. A nice book.

When I was finished I googled one of the modern day communities mentioned in the book that practiced Celtic Spirituality, just to know what it was. It's not something I'm interested in but I'm happy we share the same history. My church is decorated with Celtic crosses on it's outside architecture as our patron saint is Saint Patrick and we have his Breastplate inside the church.

Friday, July 23, 2010

139. Dark Life by Kat Falls

Dark Life by Kat Falls (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 297
Ages: 11+
Finished: July 20, 2010
First Published: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: YA, science fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I peered into the deep-sea canyon,hoping to spot a toppled skyscraper. Maybe even the Statue of Liberty.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: I've read a couple of other books about permanent settlements on the sea floor and find the concept quite interesting.

It is the future and an experimental colony on the sea bottom is flourishing. Ty was the first child born sub-sea and it's the only life he knows. When Gemma comes from Topside looking for her brother she joins him in a journey to safe the colony from a force that seems to be out to get the pioneers. A band of Outlaws are attacking pioneer homes, killing their livestock, invading their homes and deflating them, plus Ty and Gemma have evidence they might have killed someone. Things are taken to such a point that Ty and other sub-sea children must reveal a dark secret they have been keeping.

This was a fun read. I read the book in a day and carried it with me everywhere. The descriptions of underwater life sound plausible to this layman. The way the community is set up is very intriguing and makes one want to visit such a place. I've always thought that underwater living would make a much more sensible next step than colonization of another planet. Ty has a whole family who play a part in the book's plot but Gemma is the one who brings the popular orphan theme into play. I found Ty to be a bit of a whiner, disrespectful to his parents and authority so I never particularly liked him but, nevertheless, the book did have an easy to read, pleasant narrative with a sense of humour. The plot becomes quite involved as we have Ty and Gemma searching for the Outlaws, the Outlaws running amok with the pioneers and the government eventually gets involved leaving the colonists in a worse situation than before. Be prepared as the secrets are revealed make this a compelling read.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

138. My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 364 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: July 18, 2010
First Published: May 13, 2010
Publisher: Viking
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"Are you Mary Sutter?" Hours had passed since James Blevens had called for the midwife.

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

Reason for Reading: I'm very interested in this time period especially involving stories of women. The doctor angle grabbed me right away.

Mary Sutter is a twenty-ish young woman who is an experienced midwife. She comes from a long line of maternal midwives. Her twin sister was trained for a while too but she was pretty, flighty and not interested in midwifery while Mary, on the hand, was not satisfied with midwifery. She wanted more, she didn't want to nurse, she wanted to be a doctor and was determined to become one, no matter what. Medical schools would not accept her application, she could find no doctor to apprentice her. Then the Civil War happened and she snuck onto a train full of male "nurses" (really any volunteer who would go, mostly drunks) being sent to the front. Thus begins Mary's apprenticeship and journey from charwoman to doctor.

The historical setting is wonderfully done. It is genuine yet the war aspect, meaning the political/tactical aspects of war are kept to a minimum. We're given enough information to know and understand what is going on but not bored to tears with a "war book". Medicine is the focus of this book. For the first part of the book we experience childbirth in the 1860s. The complete use of midwives for this situation unless something horrible goes wrong and then a doctor is called in with his dreadful chloroform and forceps. Mary is known as the best midwife in Albany, even better than her mother, now that she's grown older. Then we see how a doctor (a male) gets his license as a surgeon: a year of apprenticeship with another doctor and then 6 months of courses at a college where he would be lucky if he even got close enough to a body to touch it.

Women of course were not doctors at this time. In fact, only certain kinds of women, would be nurses. No self-respecting girl from a reputable home would become a nurse. When Dorothea Dix put out her first call for nurses wanted during the Civil War she was only allowed by the government once her call described the type of woman wanted as over thirty, hard working, plain looking, wearing black or brown with no jewelry, sober and "can exercise entire self-control".

The history of medicine as it grows through the War is fascinating as they know little of diseases and infections. There is one surgeon who gets laid up by having his hands burnt who is already a proponent of microscopy who goes around collecting samples so he can perhaps learn more from this tragedy. The descriptions of the wounded, the unsanitary conditions in the makeshift hospitals and non-stop amputations is sickening.

Mary is a determined figure who sets out to do what she wants to do. But at what price? She has many decisions to make along the way. What we want to do and feel compelled to do may not always be the right thing to do and Mary often has to look back on her past decisions and wonder. This makes Mary a real, flawed character who though she is an admirable woman of her time fighting for her rights and those of women everywhere is also someone who has to make choices, some right, some wrong, to get where she wanted to go and she ruminates upon this often.

The final component of the story is a love triangle involving three men with Mary at the centre. Plain, tall, certainly not attractive Mary, has three men in love with her. Mary knows she is plain, her mother knows she is plain and each of her suitors definitely mentions she is plain but there is something that attracts them to her, especially her determination and loving nature. Which of the three she ends up with may be a surprise but I was overjoyed.

A fabulous read, compelling, hard to put down. I did find it somewhat of a slow read, not for any bad reason, but simply I had to slow down my natural reading pace to simply take it all in. Riveting!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Barn Owl by Phyllis Flower

Barn Owl by Phyllis Flower. Illustrated by Cherryl Pape Out of Print
An I Can Read Book

Pages: 62 pages
Ages: 6+
Finished: July 16, 2010
First Published: 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: non-fiction, barn owls
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

High in the corner of the barn, the barn owl sits and waits.

Acquired: Purchased my own copy.

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

This is a beautiful story. We've had the book since ds was small and have read it to him many times and now he is able to read it himself. Told in a narrative, storytelling voice this tells the life cycle of a barn owl from birth until he mates and has young of his own. The story is told realistically without anthropomorphizing any of the animals; it is truly a nature story. We experience the owls' birth and then follow the strongest one as he grows in the nest, learns to fly, deals with a cat, meets man, learns to hunt, experiences winter and finally starts the cycle of nature over again by mating and having young of his own. Ms. Flower writes in a beautiful voice which is touching and heartwarming and the book has a strong pro-nature emphasis without being obtrusive. The illustrations are also very nice, especially of the adult owls. I'm surprised this one has been let go to out of print status as it is not dated at all and quite relevant and excellently written. Worth looking for!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

137. Illustrated Poems for Children

A Special Collection: Illustrated Poems for Children. Illustrated by Krystyna Orska. Introduction by Miriam Peterson Out of Print

Pages: 147 pages + indexes
Ages: 8+
Finished: July 16, 2010
First Published: 1973
Publisher: Hubbard Press
Genre: children, poetry
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Acquired: Bought a copy at a book/thrift/garage sale.

Reason for Reading: Every Mon - Fri I read my son a two page spread of poetry. This book in particular has great sentimental value to me as I had it as a child and literally read it almost daily for years.

A wonderful, unique, solid collection of poems, not the usual variety found in children's collections. The majority of the poems are by the literary greats such as Tennyson, Dickinson, Coleridge, Stevenson, Poe, Longfellow, Whitman, Wordsworth and Yeats. Then there is a large number by well known children's poets such as Christina Rossetti, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker. Plus a large number of poets I've never even heard of (which isn't saying much). Every type of poem is included here: Lear's limericks, short one stanzas consisting of 2 or 4 lines, romantic poems, silly poems, story poems and epic poems.

The illustrations are pure seventies. Bold, brash and bright, they cover every page and catch the child's attention whether they understand the words of the poem or not. The first two page spread is of "The Eagle" by Tennyson. Now I can't say this does anything for me in particular but as a child I loved this page, this poem. I read it over and over until I had it memorized and would randomly recite it whenever. Both pages are pure illustration, with the poem in a white bubble in the corner. I had no clue what "azure" meant or really what the poem was exactly about except that that eagle in the picture was going to soar down towards the water. One thing I love about the illustrations is that instead of just colouring in the shapes they are all filled in and decorated with designs, patterns and swirls. There is a groovy turtle drawn for Vachel Lindsay's "The Little Turtle"

I'm not a big lover of poetry but I love certain poems and my son seems to be following in the same vein. He zones out during the love poems or the "oh how wonderful is a daffodil" poems no matter how well I read them. He loves silly poems and poems about unusual topics such as bats or manhole covers. He also enjoys the story poems such as "Little Orphant Annie" or "The Raggedy Man" but the epic poems are usually over his head such as "Barbara Frietchie" and "The Destruction of Sennacherib" but he loves "Paul Revere's Ride" and maybe not so epic but certainly long Poe's "The Raven".

This is a great collection that will grow with your child and is worth looking for if you can appreciate the illustration. The book is oversized, sturdy, and well-bound to last a life-time. I do not intend on ever giving up this copy. It's a keeper!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hubby's Birthday

My hubby turned 49 this Sunday! Happy Birthday Dear!

Monday: Books in the Mail

Last week was a good book week for me! A few books to review and a HUGE box of books I won for the Canadian Book Challenge 3 courtesy of John @ The Book Mine Set. Thank you!

From Simon & Schuster US:

“‘Oh, little one,’ he whispered, as he gently stroked her cheek, the first time he had touched her in fifteen years. ‘What have they done to you? What have they done to us all?’ ”In his latest dark and chilling Charlie Parker thriller, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly takes us to the border between Maine and Canada. It is there, in the vast and porous Great North Woods, that a dangerous smuggling operation is taking place, run by a group of disenchanted former soldiers, newly returned from Iraq. Illicit goods—drugs, cash, weapons, even people—are changing hands. And something else has changed hands. Something ancient and powerful and evil.The authorities suspect something is amiss, but what they can’t know is that it is infinitely stranger and more terrifying than anyone can imagine. Anyone, that is, except private detective Charlie Parker, who has his own intimate knowledge of the darkness in men’s hearts. As the smugglers begin to die one after another in apparent suicides, Parker is called in to stop the bloodletting. The soldiers’ actions and the objects they have smuggled have attracted the attention of the reclusive Herod, a man with a taste for the strange. And where Herod goes, so too does the shadowy figure that he calls the Captain. To defeat them, Parker must form an uneasy alliance with a man he fears more than any other, the killer known as the Collector. . . .

From Hachette Book Group:

FBI behavioral psychologist Daniel Clark is a man on a mission. After over a year of tracking a mysterious serial killer known as Eve, he feels closer than ever to discovering the murderer's true identity when he finds Eve's latest victim still alive.

In an effort to save the girl, Daniel narrowly escapes becoming another casualty on Eve's list. Despite seeing the killer with his own eyes, a gunshot wound to the head leaves him with amnesia, unable to remember any details from the incident. His drive to find the killer takes on a whole new meaning when Eve takes yet another victim, one Daniel knows all too well-his estranged wife Heather.

Determined to bring her back alive, Daniel takes his obsession to a dangerous new level, even recreating his own near-death experience in attempt to recall anything from his encounter with Eve. Soon enough he finds himself fighting for Heather's life, and, in the end, his own.

From Simon & Schuster Canada:

In the future, Utopia has finally been achieved thanks to medical nanotechnology and a powerful ethic of social welfare and mutual consideration. This perfect world isn't that perfect though, and three young girls stand up to totalitarian kindness and super-medicine by attempting suicide via starvation. It doesn't work, but one of the girls--Tuan Kirie--grows up to be a member of the World Health Organization. As a crisis threatens the harmony of the new world, Tuan rediscovers another member of her suicide pact, and together they must help save the planet...from itself.

From Harper Collins Canada:

The 'No-mouth Woman', 'The Man Under the Bed', and the 'Human Faced Fish' are supposedly urban legends. But what few people know is that just at the moment when someone believes them to be true, they become reality and appear before them! Enter Daisuke Asou, a folklore detective who deals with such cases. He calls these fantastic creatures 'allegories'. What's a folklore detective to do?

From Random House US:

An extraordinary fiction debut, Think of a Number is an exquisitely plotted novel of suspense that grows relentlessly darker and more frightening as its pace accelerates, forcing its deeply troubled characters to moments of startling self-revelation.

Arriving in the mail over a period of weeks are taunting letters that end with a simple declaration, “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” Amazingly, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly. For Dave Gurney, just retired as the NYPD’s top homicide investigator and forging a new life with his wife, Madeleine, in upstate New York, the letters are oddities that begin as a diverting puzzle but quickly ignite a massive serial murder investigation.

What police are confronted with is a completely baffling killer, one who is fond of rhymes filled with threats and warnings, whose attention to detail is unprecedented, and who has an uncanny knack for disappearing into thin air. Even more disturbing, the scale of his ambition seems to widen as events unfold.

Brought in as an investigative consultant, Dave Gurney soon accomplishes deductive breakthroughs that leave local police in awe. Yet, even as he matches wits with his seemingly clairvoyant opponent, Gurney’s tragedy-marred past rises up to haunt him, his marriage approaches a dangerous precipice, and finally, a dark, cold fear builds that he’s met an adversary who can’t be stopped.

In the end, fighting to keep his bearings amid a whirlwind of menace and destruction, Gurney sees the truth of what he’s become – what we all become when guilty memories fester – and how his wife Madeleine’s clear-eyed advice may be the only answer that makes sense.

A work that defies easy labels -- at once a propulsive masterpiece of suspense and an absorbing immersion in the lives of characters so real we seem to hear their heartbeats – Think of a Number is a novel you’ll not soon forget.

Won from John at The Book Mine Set! This is a box of 13 Canadian books, one for each province/territory. Thank you!!

In the white-shingled houses of Beinn Barra, young men shine their shoes and young girls curl their hair. It’s Saturday night, there’s a dance in the parish hall, and Benny Doucet is playing. They come from all over Cape Breton to hear “Strings” Doucet play the fiddle.

But it is 1939. England has declared war on Germany. Canada will march beside the mother country. Three friends enlist in the legendary Cape Breton Highlanders: fisherman Hector MacDonald, gifted musician Benny Doucet, and Calum MacPherson, who has been accepted at Dalhousie to study medicine. The three friends sail off to war in November 1941.

The families wait for word of their boys. Gunner MacDonald, a returned man himself, knows only too well what his fisherman son will witness in the trenches of Europe. Joachim and Ona MacPherson seek, and fail to find, solace in each other. Napoleon and Flora Doucet finger their rosary beads at the kitchen table and pray for Benny’s safety.

Where White Horses Gallop is a haunting tale of a war where emotional shrapnel riddles the spirit long after the guns a continent away have grown silent.

Eddie Dancer returns for another escapade in this hard-edged and witty mystery. When Paul Menzies—an out of shape, middle-aged, advertising executive—is fired, he cannot imagine anything making his day worse. However, when he walks into an argument at an ATM machine that turns abusive, he ends up with massive injuries, a hospital bill, assault charges, and a $50,000 lawsuit. About to reach a settlement, Paul is instead lured into a winner-takes-all fight with the brawler who put him in the hospital. Paul's wife hires tough-talking, private detective Eddie Dancer to prevent the fight, but he realizes that stopping what the media have termed "the mismatched fight of the year" is even beyond him.

With the publication of Call of the Wild in 1903, Jack London became the most popular author in America. This story is a remembrance of his time in the 1897 Yukon Gold Rush and the dog that was his friend there. This dog, whose name was also Jack,was the model for Buck in Call of the Wild. Our story imagines what might have happened to the dog who was left behind, and what adventures he might have. It’s memory... the man remembers the dog, the dog remembers the man. Barry Moser, the accomplished and imaginative illustrator, does the wood cut images for this book.

Inspired by the most famous of all Canadian children's books, L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, this cookbook combines easy step-by-step recipes with charming watercolours of Anne and her friends, and quotations from three of the ever-popular Anne books. Never before have good things to eat and drink been so successfully derived from cooking episodes in children's literature. From 'Poetical Egg Salad Sandwiches' to 'Anne's Liniment Cake' and Diana Barry's Favourite Raspberry Cordial', these delicious treats will be fun to make - and they'll be sure to turn out well because they were kitchen-tested by a twelve-year-old who had perfect results!

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is the novel that established Mordecai Richler as one of the world’s best comic writers. Growing up in the heart of Montreal’s Jewish ghetto, Duddy Kravitz is obsessed with his grandfather’s saying, “A man without land is nothing.” In his relentless pursuit of property and his drive to become a somebody, he will wheel and deal, he will swindle and forge, he will even try making movies. And in spite of the setbacks he suffers, the sacrifices he must make along the way, Duddy never loses faith that his dream is worth the price he must pay. This blistering satire traces the eventful coming-of-age of a cynical dreamer. Amoral, inventive, ruthless, and scheming, Duddy Kravitz is one of the most magnetic anti-heroes in literature, a man who learns the hard way that dreams are never exactly what they seem, even when they do come true.

Each year, for generations, poor, ill-clad Newfoundland fisherman sailed out 'to the ice' to hunt seals in the hope of a few penniew in wages from the prosperous merchants of St. John's. The year 1914 witnessed the worst in the long line of tragedies that were part of their harsh way of life.

For two long, freezing days and nights a party of seal hunters--one hundred thirty-two men--were left stranded on an icefield floating in the North Atlantic in winter. They were thinly dressed, with almost no food, and with no hope of shelter on the ice against the snow or the constant, bitter winds. To survive they had to keep moving, always moving. Those who lay down to rest died.

Heroes emerged--one man froze his lips badly, biting off the icicles that were blinding his comrades. Other men froze in their tracks, or went mad with pain and walked off the edge of the icefield. All the while, ships steamed about nearby, unnoticing. And by the time help arrived, two thirds of the men were dead.

This is an incredible story of bungling and greed, of suffering and heroism. The disaster is carefully traced, step by step. With the aid of compelling, contemporary photographs the book paints an unforgettable portrait of the bloody trade of seal hunting among the icefields when ships--and men--were expendable.

In 1973, outside of Kenora, Ontario, Raymond Seymour, an eighteen-year-old Ojibway boy, is taken by a local policeman to a remote island and left for dead.

A year later, the Byrd family arrives in Kenora. They have come to stay at “the Retreat,” a commune run by the self-styled guru Doctor Amos. The Doctor is an enigmatic man who spouts bewildering truisms, and who bathes naked every morning in the pond at the edge of the Retreat while young Everett Byrd watches from the bushes. Lizzy, the eldest of the Byrd children, cares for her younger brothers Fish and William, and longs for what she cannot find at the Retreat. When Lizzy meets Raymond, everything changes, and Lizzy comes to understand the real difference between Raymond’s world and her own. A tragedy and a love story, the novel moves towards a conclusion that is both astonishing and heartbreaking.

Set during the summer of the Ojibway occupation of Anicinabe Park in Kenora, The Retreat is a finely nuanced, deeply felt novel that tells the story of the complicated love between a white girl and a native boy, and of a family on the verge of splintering forever. It is also a story of the bond between two brothers who were separated in childhood, and whose lives and fates intertwine ten years later.

James Houston made his first journey to the Canadian Arctic in 1948 in search of a new land to paint. There he found a warm, friendly people living in a vast, cold, hauntingly beautiful world. He lived with the Inuit and Indian people in the Arctic and grew to understand them and their way of life. He also helped introduce Inuit culture to the world with his remarkable art and stories.

Here are four of his exciting Inuit folktales--Akavak, Tiktaliktak, The White Archer, and Wolf Run--collected for the first time in one beautiful volume. Houston's striking illustrations for each story bring the Arctic and its people to life. This inspired collection is sure to fascinate readers of all ages.

A young chef who revels in local bounty, a long-ago murder that remains unsolved, the homeless of Stanley Park, a smooth-talking businessman named Dante - these are the ingredients of Timothy Taylor's stunning debut novel - Kitchen Confidential meets The Edible Woman.

Trained in France, Jeremy Papier, the young Vancouver chef, is becoming known for his unpretentious dishes that highlight fresh, local ingredients. His restaurant, The Monkey's Paw Bistro, while struggling financially, is attracting the attention of local foodies, and is not going unnoticed by Dante Beale, owner of a successful coffeehouse chain, Dante's Inferno. Meanwhile, Jeremy's father, an eccentric anthropologist, has moved into Stanley Park to better acquaint himself with the homeless and their daily struggles for food, shelter and company. Jeremy's father also has a strange fascination for a years-old unsolved murder case, known as "The Babes in the Wood" and asks Jeremy to help him research it.Dante is dying to get his hands on The Monkey's Paw. When Jeremy's elaborate financial kite begins to fall, he is forced to sell to Dante and become his employee. The restaurant is closed for renovations, Inferno style. Jeremy plans a menu for opening night that he intends to be the greatest culinary statement he's ever made, one that unites the homeless with high foody society in a paparazzi-covered celebration of "local splendour."

Long before she made her first trip to Afghanistan as an embedded reporter for The Globe and Mail, Christie Blatchford was already one of Canada’s most respected and eagerly read journalists. Her vivid prose, her unmistakable voice, her ability to connect emotionally with her subjects and readers, her hard-won and hard-nosed skills as a reporter–these had already established her as a household name. But with her many reports from Afghanistan, and in dozens of interviews with the returned members of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and others back at home, she found the subject she was born to tackle. Her reporting of the conflict and her deeply empathetic observations of the men and women who wear the maple leaf are words for the ages, fit to stand alongside the nation’s best writing on war.

It is a testament to Christie Blatchford’s skills and integrity that along with the admiration of her readers, she won the respect and trust of the soldiers. They share breathtakingly honest accounts of their desire to serve, their willingness to confront fear and danger in the battlefield, their loyalty towards each other and the heartbreak occasioned by the loss of one of their own. Grounded in insights gained over the course of three trips to Afghanistan in 2006, and drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews not only with the servicemen and -women with whom she shared so much, but with their commanders and family members as well, Christie Blatchford creates a detailed, complex and deeply affecting picture of military life in the twenty-first century.

Inter Alia is the long-awaited first collection by one of Canada’s most talented young poets. His work has been widely published in journals and was selected by Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane for Breathing Fire 2: Canada's New Poets. He is heir to the English metaphysical poets in many of his preoccupations, with a good dash of Robert Bly, but his technique is very much influenced by his interests in Oriental forms – haiku, waka, haibun, etc. Seymour is smart, yes; but this is above all poetry of deep feeling. Its publication marks the appearance of a unique and important new voice in Canadian poetry.

The Plain Fact of the Matter

Holding the cup in your hands, white. Watching it find a way to your lips;
the time it takes a cigarette to reach my mouth. You look as though you
are about to expose yourself, give up some secret. Or not. Your finger
circles the rim which catches your gaze; the one thing this moment
you want to understand without words. Ever have. Right before I
speak, you cock your head, bring your ear in close for this new,
less cruel language-in the cup, the shy turn of your neck.

Smoke is exhaled, broomswept dust in a sunlit room.

White Bird Black Bird is a fictional account of the clash of cultures when the indigenous people of northern Canada come face to face with the demands of southern consumers and their need for oil and gas. The story follows the fortunes of a young reporter in a idealistic crusade to right wrongs and find a mission in life only to discover that the northern mysteries have no easy solutions. The story is based on fact and many of the issues it raises are still alive today.

The Last Crossing is a sweeping tale of breathtaking quests, adventurous detours, and hard-won redemption. Englishmen Charles and Addington Gaunt are ordered by their tyrannical industrialist father to find their brother Simon, who has gone missing in the wilds of the American West. Charles, a disillusioned artist, and Addington, a disgraced military captain, set off to remote Fort Benton on the edge of the Montana frontier. The brothers hire the enigmatic Jerry Potts, a half Blackfoot, half Scot guide, to lead them North, where Simon was last seen. Addington takes command of the mission, buying enough provisions to fill two wagons, and hires sycophantic journalist Caleb Ayto to record the journey for posterity. As the party heads out, it grows to include the fiery Lucy Stoveall, Civil War veteran Custis Straw, and saloonkeeper Aloysius Dooley. This unlikely posse becomes entangled in an unfolding drama that forces each one of them to confront personal demons. Told from alternating points of view with vivid flashbacks, The Last Crossing is a novel of ruggedness and salvation, an epic masterpiece set in a time when worlds collided, were destroyed, and were built anew.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

136. Nick of Time by Ted Bell

Nick of Time by Ted Bell. Illustrations by Russ Kramer (Canada) - (USA)
Nick McIver, book 1

Pages: 434 pages
Ages: 11+
Finished: July 16, 2010
First Published: Sept. 1, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: adventure, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"Hard a'lee, me boys!" shouted Nick McIver over the wind, "or be smashed to smithereens in the jaws of Gravestone Rock!"

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: I have the second book, but thought I had better read the first book, well ... first. I read this aloud to my son, as he loves seafaring adventures.

Set in 1939, just before war is declared, on the smallest of the Channel Islands. Nick's father is lighthouse keeper and a secret spy for politician Winston Churchill reporting back any German U-Boat activity in the Channel waters. A strange man called Billy Blood kidnaps Nick's dog Jipper and thus starts a seafaring adventure that will cross time. Billy Blood is a pirate of Admiral Lord Nelson's time and not only has he taken Nick's dog, he has also kidnapped Lord Hawke's two children. Lord Hawke, Nick and his friend Gunner go back in time with a time machine device of Hawke's which Blood just happens to have the only other existing one. While there they must help Nelson's fleet out of a dangerous situation that only Nick can guide them through. Meanwhile, back at home, Nick's younger sister, Kate, has been left with Commander Hobbes to take some vital information about a special U-Boat to England unbeknownst that said U-Boat is hot on their trail.

Rip-roaring adventure from beginning to end in the fashion of "Treasure Island" and in the same vein the illustrations are a handful of full-page drawings as one would find illustrative plates in an old copy of "Treasure Island". A gripping story with Nick certainly in the lead as main character. He is an independent twelve-year-old, though respectful to his parents, who was born with the sea in his blood. He spends as much time as possible out in his boat sailing the waters in good and bad weather, even mapping a route through a dangerous coral reef into a cove. His hero is Admiral Lord Nelson and he thinks of him every time he starts to feel discouraged in life. His sister, Kate, is only seven and maintains her position well, despite being cute and funny she is smart as a tack and manages to save the situation at the last minute many times.

We both loved this book. The story is engaging and the shared time between the two time periods is very exciting. The chapters alternate with one set of characters in 1805 then back to the present with the Nazis in 1939. All of the main characters are likable and each has a sense of humour which adds a light tone in between the action scenes. The story is realistic and the battles scenes in 1805 are not for the very young or sensitive as battle wounds are described in full, and blood and violence are shown in their proper place in war, though never unnecessarily or gratuitously. The pirates, and well most adults, do use a small amount of language using the British curse words bloody/bleeding frequently and taking the Lord's name in vain quite often. Since I was reading aloud, I was able to say the words about half the time as they applied, something really was bloody in the battle and I spoke the Lord's name in a way that the character was now calling upon Him rather than swearing, the other half of the time I edited it out. But these are two small complaints in a book aimed at this age group.

I just love finding books that are definitely aimed at boys, there are of course many girls who enjoy this type of action and they have the character of Kate to identify with, but I appreciate when the male/female characters are brother/sister thus eliminating the awkward love angle or the even more annoying battle of the sexes angle. Kate and Nick are especially a nice team as they are loving family members, far enough apart in age that Nick is Kate's parent-in-absentia figure and Kate adores her big brother.

A wonderful book with family values, adventure, really bad guys (pirates and Nazis) and an edge of your seat action set in exciting historical times. Looking forward to Book 2 in the series.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

135. Gone by Mo Hayder

Gone by Mo Hayder (Canada) - (USA)
Jack Caffery, book #5

Pages: 415 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: July 14, 2010
First Published: Feb 4, 2010 (UK)
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: mystery, thriller
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Detective Inspector Jack Caffery of Bristol's Major Crime Investigation Unit spent ten minutes in the centre of Frome looking at the crime scene.

Acquired: My sister gifted this book to me.

Reason for Reading: Mo Hayder ... new book ... nothing more to say.

This is an all-nighter police procedural that has Jack Caffery on the case of a supposed carjacker who takes a car with a girl in the back seat. The girl is not found and the realization is made that he didn't want the car but the girl. Then it happens again. Another car, another girl, this time much younger. With statistics showing that child abductors kill their victims sooner than later, the team is on a race against time. Flea comes to Caffery and tells him about two previous unsuccessful attempts that are identical and this helps the team start to put together a case. Separately, the book focuses of Flea, as an individual and how the events from the previous book "Skin" have affected her emotionally and on the job as she tries to put herself together but she also notices Jack's complete change in manner towards her.

The story is clever. There are turns that move the plot in different directions but guessing the identity of the culprit wasn't exactly hard, though Hayder does keep you with a tiny seed of doubt until the final reveal. A thoroughly enjoyable police procedural. But also very much tied to previous books, especially "Skin", so should not be read out of order or at least not before "Skin", since Skin's whole shocker is outed in "Gone".

Why do I give the book a rating of three if it's a clever, enjoyable police procedural? Because when I read Mo Hayder I am expecting a whole lot more than enjoyable. I have read all her books and am a huge fan. Words I usually use to describe her books are gruesome, disturbing, weird, roller-coaster ride, heart-thumping, breath-holding, twists and turns, a shocker! This book had none of those elements, aside from a few turns (only turns, no twists) and I was disappointed. Her books The Treatment and The Devil of Nanking have made me hold Hayder above other thriller writers and this one felt more like one of the crowd. Don't get me wrong, it's good and kept me up into the wee hours but I wasn't satisfied that I'd read a Mo Hayder. Not her best, by far. Another thing that got to me was what was with the happy-happy ending, Hayder's books do not have happy endings. Perhaps this is a sign that the Jack Caffery series is over.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

133. Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten

Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 375 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: July 12, 2010
First Published: Sept. 28, 2010
Publisher: Mira Books
Genre: psychological suspense
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

She walks down a deserted hallway of the psychiatric hospital, her heels tapping a short staccato on the disinfected floor.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the book's publicist.

Reason for Reading: One of the book's main characters is described as having Asperger's and since I, myself have Asperger's I was immediately interested. But the book's plot and setting of a psychiatric hospital also had me eager to read the book.

The book opens with Danielle, the mother of Max, entering a patient's room and finding him brutally murdered while huddled on the floor nearby, unconscious, is her son, Max, with the murder weapon in his hand. Danielle is a lawyer and her son, Max, has Asperger's. Max is about 16 and has become very moody and suddenly started to show violent tendencies. His doctor recommends that it is time Max go to a psychiatric hospital for a full evaluation. When he enters, Danielle is advised to go home but she is determined to stay until he is ready to come home but the doctor will only allow her short visits in the morning and afternoon. Max's behaviour reportedly deteriorates and he becomes extremely violent, has to be sedated and restrained. After the murder occurs Max is arrested as is Danielle as an accessory. Danielle does everything in her power to prove her son's innocence and this takes her along two very different paths, both with a deviant and horrifying end.

This was a fantastic mystery! A page-turner book that I couldn't put down until I'd finished it. The supposed Asperger's theme is not very prevalent. At the beginning we meet a teenage boy with AS and learn some small details of the condition but the story soon morphs into a whole different set of circumstances where the Asperger's can no longer be recognized. At the end, it is addressed again and Max's original problem is dealt with nicely. But this is not a book to read to find out about Asperger's. It simply contains a character who has AS in the same way one would read a book where a character was blind but one would not read it to find out all about blindness.

The story is superb. I love reading books that take place is psychiatric institutions; it is such a private, secluded world that the potential for evil to be taking place with in its walls is perfectly plausible in one's imagination, and of course with the deplorable history of asylums and loony bins not *that* far away in the past it doesn't take a great leap of imagination.

Max is a wonderful character and though he is hard to get to know for most of the book because he's often sedated there does come a time when his true person comes through. It is at this point that some of the benefits of his Asperger's personality come into play (his intelligence and obsessiveness)and he helps vitally with his case. The mystery leaves a wonderful trail of suspense as it unravels. I admit I figured out whodunit quite early and why but the details were still disturbing as they were unearthed.

A totally engrossing psychological suspense. The author's website states that she is working on another book that will once again feature a character with a psychiatric disorder and I am most emphatically looking forward to its release.

134. Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius

Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius by Colin Dickey (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 302 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: July 12, 2010
First Published: 2007
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Genre: non-fiction, medicine, history
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

At 2 o'clock in the afternoon on October 30, 1820, workers disinterred the body of the composer Joseph Hayden from his grave in the Hundsthurmer Church in Vienna, preparing it for transit to the nearby city of Eisenstadt, home of his powerful patrons, the Esterhazy family.
Acquired: Received a review copy from McArthur & Company.

Reason for Reading: I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction taking place during Victorian times and was interested in what this book had to offer from that time period especially on the topic of Phrenology. I also simply have a taste for the morbid.

Cranioklepty concentrates on man's fascination with human skulls and what they can tell us about the criminal, insane and especially the genius. The book covers the time period from 1790 through the early 1900s though the lasting effects take us right through the 20th century up to a 2009 law suit. Cranioklepty concentrates on the post death lives of famous people, especially Joseph Haydn, Thomas Browne, Mozart, and Beethoven. Each of these individuals had their head stolen from the grave, used for scientific purposes, traveled the world, or went missing for a time as they were hidden away by collectors.

The book tells a fascinating chronology from the scientific point of view as Phrenology first appeared on the scene as the New Science. This "science" was able to prove the intellect of individuals but it always had its detractors. As science disproved Phrenology and it became a parlour game, science moved onto craniology which at that time was concerned with the size of the skull and the brain cavity to prove a person's intellect.

A fascinating study of the people involved scientifically and those who collected skulls, as well as the stories of the stolen skulls as their journey lasted sometimes over a hundred years, amusing anecdotes (one including an ancestor of the Presidents Bush) and descriptions of preparing a head for examination of its skull (that are not for the weak of stomach) make for a bizarre yet dramatic read.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I love this commercial!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Look at him...look at me...look at him..look at me (LOL)

I'm on a horse. (hahahahahaha)

I could watch this over and over.

132. Jack of Fables: Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges. Art by Tony Atkins (Canada) - (USA)
Jack of Fables, Volume 2

Pages: 143 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: July 12, 2010
First Published: 2007
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Look, there's another one of the Golden Bough's kidnap vans prowling around down there.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

So, I'm still enjoying "Jack" though it is not nearly as good as "Fables". Jack is not exactly a likable character but there are times when one can't help but laugh along with him and hope he gets out the mess he's in. One thing I'm glad to have found carried over from "Fables" is the directory of characters at the beginning of the book. This helps introduce new characters and remember who old characters are especially the further you get into the series.

This time we start with Jack just after the great escape where he meets up with three other new Fables who have been wandering on their own and they decide to go high in the mountains to avoid recapture from the Golden Boughs staff. The first two issues have them sitting around a fire, while Jack reminisces to keep them all warm by telling them of the time he was Jack Frost. Here we get to see The Snow Queen again and find out how she turned evil. I enjoyed this story and there is a reveal about Jack at the end that we can, hopefully, expect to come into play sometime in a future edition.

The rest of the book is devoted to the title story in which Jack meets up with Gary, whom I've grown fond of, and who has become Jack's sidekick. With the help of Gary's talent they set off for Las Vegas and Jack makes his fortune all over again but little does he know that behind the Vegas scene is the Fable Lady Luck, who brings luck with her wherever she goes but at a price, sucking the luck out of the brains of Vegas' most lucky players. What follows is Jack's typical near death escapades as he tries to beat Lady Luck at her own game and keep his Vegas empire. Lady Luck was a delightful evil character and the ending hints she may show up again. Gary adds tons of humour to the plot, his power is to animate inanimate objects, and he spends the story accompanied by a mannequin named Noelle he has grown fond of.

Generally just a couple of fun stories though we do have some characters and loose ends that are left dangling as possible entries into the plot further down the line. Time to order Volume 3 from the library!