Thursday, September 30, 2010

R.I.P. Tony Curtis

Heartbreaking news this morning as we learn that Tony Curtis (85) has passed away at his home of cardiac arrest. He has always been one of my favourite actors and I enjoyed him both when he portrayed comedy and drama. Some of my favourites are "Operation Petticoat", "The Defiant Ones" and of course "Spartacus". We are quickly losing all the great actors and they will never be replaced with the breed that now comes from Hollywood. Goodbye Tony, may you rest in peace and my condolences go out to his daughter Jamie Leigh Curtis and his other children.

200. Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo

Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. illustrated by Tony Fucile (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 81 pages
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sept. 23, 2010
First Published: Sept. 14, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Children's, Early Reader, Picture Book
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"Hello, Gollie," said Bink.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: I'm a fan of Kate DiCamillo.

An adorable book suitable for children who are reading on their own but still want pictures and may find a page full of text daunting. While not to be confused as an easy reader (for ex. "Perhaps a compromise is in order. "), this beginning 3 chapters book could easily be called a picture book as well. Each page is fabulously illustrated and contains small blocks of text which will appeal to children of a wide age range.

This book contains three episodes in the life of Bink & Gollie, roller skating "marvelous companions" who live in separate tree houses of the same tree. Bink & Gollie each have their own distinct, unique personality and that is what makes this book so much fun. The dynamics between the two, the repartee, the differences in personality and the obvious closeness as friends make these girls two very special characters in the literary world. Mr. Fucile's illustrations capture the essence of Bink & Gollie and it is the combination of writing and illustrating that makes this duo so captivating. I was taken with them right away.

The first story introduces a pair of "outrageous" socks, the second an expedition to the Andes mountains and the third the purchase of a goldfish. While each is an individual story, the theme (and importance) of the socks is carried through the book unobtrusively in the illustrations. Now that the Mercy Watson series is finished I think that fans will be very happy to turn their attentions to Bink & Gollie, the first in what I've heard (no evidence yet) will prove to be a series.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are you smarter than an atheist? A religious quiz

Are you smarter than an atheist? A religious quiz

Apparently atheists and agnostics got an overall highest average number of these questiones correct(20.9) while Jews and Mormons came closely behind with Protestants and Catholics sadly behind. Overall the average American got 16 questions right. This is quite shameful any way you look at it. Atheist/Agnostics with their 20.9 right is still only 65% correct and then it goes downhill from there.

I took the test. I am Canadian and Roman Catholic. My score was 28 correct answers or 88%. There were some US Constitution questions that tripped me up, so I don't feel bad about getting those wrong. Take the test. Do you fit in with the average person of your religious creed? Whether you are evangelizing or not, it is important to know the basics of other world religions.

Michael Buble New Video

Michael has a new video out! I love this! The costumes are so fun. He makes some friendly fun of Justin Beiber (sp?) at the concert so that part is particularly cute and he also does some impersonations as well so it's fun to see him dressing up in this video because I can just imagine him playing the parts.

199. Earthquake! A Story of Old San Francisco

Earthquake! A Story of Old San Francisco by Kathleen V. Kudlinski. illustrated by Ronald Himler (Canada) - (USA)
Once Upon America series

Pages: 56 pages
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sept. 22, 2010
First Published: 1993
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: Children, historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

"Oh, be quiet, Buster," Phillip grumbled into his pillow.

Acquired: Purchased my own copy.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to the 10yo as part of our history curriculum.

This short historical fiction chapter book takes place over only a moment in time. From the first shakings of the earthquake in 1906 until the morning afterwards the reader joins Philip has he lives through this devastating disaster. The first half of the story focuses on Philip and his family as they struggle with the earthquake and its aftermath along with the shocking sights and sounds as people walk en masse out of the city. The last half concerns Philip as he is left behind to watch the stable while Pa takes Mama and his younger brother to Aunt Eleanor's in a not too distant town for safety. Philip is left to deal with the worst of the situation by himself as the fires rage out of control and ultimately head towards him. He loves the horses and they are his family's livelihood. Will he be able to save them in time?

An entirely plot driven story with continuous action from the get go. It puts one right in the middle of the historical event and was an exciting experience for my son. A good little book that brings history alive.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

198. Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 321 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 21, 2010
First Published: Sept. 7, 2010 CAN (Sept. 13, 2010 USA)
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Today I'm five.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: With this subject matter, who is *not* wanting to read this book?

A 26 year old woman has been kidnapped and held captive in a soundproof, escape-proof 11 x 11 foot Room for 7 years. She has a five year old son, Jack. She cares for him fiercely and has created a world for him out of that Room, giving him everything she possibly can that he needs to grow properly, physically and emotionally. They do daily exercises, she teaches him, etc. This is their story, of their day-to-day life, their escape and how they cope on the Outside. A truly fascinating story to start with is only topped by the fact that it is told in the first person narrative of five year old Jack.

I'm going to start by saying this is a hard review for me to write. I agonized over my rating. There is not a doubt that Room is a wonderful piece of writing. The subject matter is enticing and the reality of the situation has been explored to such detail that one is amazed the author could have thought of some things without having actually experienced captivity herself. The book is divided into distinct sections, each one focusing intensely on a certain stage of Jack and Ma's story. Donoghue has managed to write about a horrific situation without ever actually putting in print any scenes that show the obvious s*xual violence that was perpetrated. In the hands of a lesser author this could have become a much more graphic story thus losing Ms. Donoghue's perceptive touch. The book reads fast, is compelling and is tremendously well written.

So why is this review hard to write? I didn't love the book. Yes, it was good. Good enough to keep me reading, and reading quickly too. The second half was better than the first, as in enjoying the story and the characters. I really enjoyed the introduction of Grandpa Leo, Steppa. He was the most real character in the whole book. I often found myself annoyed while reading the book. The child's narrative just didn't win me over. I didn't hate it but it felt detached somehow and thus I felt detached from the characters. I never had any great emotional response to the boy and his mother, which I *really* wanted to have. None of the other characters were fully developed, even Steppa , but he at least had the behaviour of a real person and came to life for me.

As you can see I had problems with the book, while appreciating it. Now that I've finished it, my immediate response is "Yeah, it was good." I wouldn't grab people and say you *must* read this book, but if anyone asked me I'd recommend it with my reservations as noted above. I may feel differently about my rating a month (a year) from now but it's been 6 days since I've written this review and I still feel the same way. Very well written, but only good, not great.

Monday, September 27, 2010

197. Theodore Roosevelt: The Adventurous President

Theodore Roosevelt: The Adventurous President by the Editors of TIME For Kids with Lisa DeMauro (Canada) - (USA)
TIME For Kids Biographies

Pages: 44 pages
Ages: 7+
Finished: Sept. 20, 2010
First Published: 2005
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: children, biography
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

It was early winter and the evening was chilly.

Acquired: Purchased a copy.

Reason for Reading: Read aloud to 10yo as part of our history curriculum.

A very impressive biography for juveniles! The publisher's recommended age is 7-9 but this could be read aloud to as young as 5 and is suitable for up to 12. Presented in an easy reader type format with large print, the book would also be perfect for reluctant readers; the text is probably around a level 5.

With the minimal number of pages, this is obviously a brief look at Roosevelt's life but it manages to cover all bases from birth to death with unexpectedly rich content. Written in a main narrative with captioned photographs and occasional sidebars to add extra related information, we not only are given the major details but the interesting tidbits as well. The book is heavily illustrated with photographs and the illustration that lead to the famous Teddy Bear story. Each chapter moves forward in Roosevelt's life so not one aspect gets any greater attention than the others, thus giving his political life and hunting expeditions about equal time.

I'm impressed with the way history has been handled here. Obviously with Theodore Roosevelt the (now) controversial subject of his hunting is going to be at issue, but this biography treats it within its historical context without making any judgmental calls upon the practice and explaining the "sport" from the era's point of view. Then it goes on to explain how this is a thing of the past and what our modern era does to protect animals. This fair, non-revisionist approach to history is important to me and not easily found in books aimed at children.

We both really enjoyed what we found out about Teddy Roosevelt and highly recommend this brief but informative biography.

Monday: Books in the Mail

I just love sharing the new books that came into my house each Monday! Last week I just received three, 2 for review and one that I won, but I also received a book to Giveaway as well (I'm not telling what) and No! it's not a duplicate of one of these.

For Review:

I can't tell you how absolutely excited I am to read this one!

From Candlewick Press:

In this pulse-quickening sequel to ANOTHER FAUST, an ancient Egyptian spell is turning the tony Marlowe School into a sinister underworld. Will all hell break loose?

Sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling and her insecure freshman brother, John, are hitting the books at the Marlowe School. But one tome consumes their attention: THE BOOK OF GATES, a coveted Egyptian artifact that their professor father believes has magical powers. Soon Wendy and John discover that the legend is real—when they recite from its pages and descend into a snaking realm beneath the Manhattan school. As the hallways darken, and dead moths cake the floor, a charismatic new R.A. named Peter reveals that their actions have unleashed a terrible consequence: the underworld and all its evil is now seeping into Marlowe. Daniel Nayeri and Dina Nayeri return to re-imagine Peter Pan as a twisty, atmospheric, and fast-paced fantasy about the perils of immortality.

From Random House Canada:

This volume follows two stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King. Snyder's story is set in 1920's LA, we follow Pearl, a young woman who is turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European Vampires who tortured and abused her. This story is paired with King's story, a western about Skinner Sweet, the original American Vampire-- a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before with rattlesnake fangs and powered by the sun.


From Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages. Thanks!

After passing the bittersweet parental milestone of putting her daughter, Sarah on the bus to sleep-away camp for the first time, Lena Trainor plans to spend the next two weeks fixing all the problems in her marriage. But when a second bus arrives to pick up Sarah for camp, no one seems to know anything about the first bus or its driver.

Sarah and three other children have been kidnapped, and within hours of the crime the parents receive an email demanding $1,000,000. When the specifics of the delivery terms throw suspicion on the parents of two of the abducted children, some of the parents begin to turn on each other, exposing fault lines in already strained marriages and forging new alliances. While the kidnapped children are living their parents' worst nightmare, the police are trying to sort the lies from the truth in conflicting stories and alibis that seem to be constantly changing.

Deftly weaving the emotional story that pits the parents of the missing campers against the police—and each other—with the fate of the kidnapped children hanging in the balance, Never Wave Goodbye will keep readers holding their breath until the last page.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

R.I.P. Challenge V FINISHED

I have officially completed the RIP V challenge having read 4 "perilous" books. But will continue to add extras until the challenge is oficially over.

This is what I read

RIP V (Sept. 1 - Oct. 31) (4 books)
1. City of Snakes by Darren Shan
2. The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan
3. The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade
4. The Agency: The Body in the Tower by Y. S. Lee

5. Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker
6. Room by Emma Donoghue
7. Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel
8. The Dreaming, The Collection by Queenie Chan
9. Black Gate by Yukiko Sumiyoshi
10. Harmony by Project Itoh
11. American Vampire by Scott Snyder & Stephen King
12. End of Days by Max Turner
13. The Sons of Liberty by Alexander and Joseph Lagos
15. Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs
16. Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1 by Stephanie Meyer & Young Kim

197. Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker

Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 367
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 25, 2010
First Published: Sept. 7, 2010
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: christian fiction, paranormal
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

My name is Toma Nicolescu and I was a warrior, a servant of Her Majesty, the empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, who by her own hand and tender heart sent me on that mission at the urging of her most trusted advisor, Grigory Potyomkin, in the year of our Lord 1772.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze Program.

Reason for Reading: I've been a fan of Dekker's for a few years and am reading each new book that comes out.

A warrior, Toma, and his companion are sent to guard a Lady and her twin daughters as the Empress feels they may be in danger and the daughters are suitable to be used for marriage negotiations. His companion has an affair with one daughter and Toma falls in love with the other but keeps his feelings to himself as he is duty bound not to become involved. Through his companion's escapades though, Toma, becomes aware that the nearby neighbours living in what one would call more a fortress than a castle are not only dangerous but downright evil. Ultimately, this is another take on the vampire tale, though the V-word is never used. Instead the mythology is taken from fantastical Biblical interpretations of the Nephilim. The story is a sensual one, full of lust and enticing senses. It is a story of Good vs. Evil, of the Passion of Christ, God's Love and redemption. However, the book would also read as a paranormal by non-believers.

The first half of the book has a very strong Gothic feeling with dark castles in the night, women wandering alone, long musky tunnels underground and strange portraits hung on the wall. Typical of that genre is the melodramatic love story that would match any Victorian Gothic. Ted Dekker once again writes another book that keeps you turning the pages with an eerie atmospheric suspense. This book, though, is quite different than anything I've read by Dekker at this point. I won't say it's my favourite but the story was certainly gripping and intriguing.

I did have some theological problems with the book though. Set in a country and era where all the characters are part of the Russian Orthodox Church (whether practicing or not), Dekker's characters were somewhat unrealistic. Water was made holy, by having a just-turned believer saying a few words that came to mind over it, a crucifix as well. An Orthodox Christian would know this would not necessarily even work and a priest's blessing would be needed for the type of Evil we are talking here. And secondly, this man who is a soldier in the Empress's Army fighting for God goes over the Lord's words at the Last Supper in his mind and vehemently stresses the symbolic nature of the blood at the Eucharist. An Orthodox Christian in 1700s Russia wouldn't even have contemplated such heresy, never mind have taken it as some sort of "fact".

Saturday, September 25, 2010

196. The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier (Canada) - (USA)
Walker Bean, Book 1

Pages: 192
Ages: 9+
Finished: Sept. 19, 2010
First Published: Aug. 17, 2010
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: graphic novel, children, adventure
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

For hundreds of years, from seaport to shantytown, a legend has been told to the children there ...

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: My son loves seafaring tales and this looked wonderful.

This is a beautiful book to behold. The illustrations are so bold, vibrant and full of details. The panels have so much going on in the background that one can look into them and see something new each time. We are even treated to the occasional two-page spread illustration. While some of these may be focused on a large central figure, the background will still hold many small details that one should linger on so as not to miss, but on the other hand there are a couple of amazingly intricately detailed two-page spreads that just make you want to keep looking to see what you are missing before turning the page.

Walker Bean has been sent off to sea by his grandfather, who has commanded Walker's father to return a cursed skull to its rightful place. Knowing that the father will not follow through, probably sell it somewhere, Walker is charged with making sure the job gets done. You see, grandfather bought that skull, looked at it and is now near death's door unless it is returned to its guardians. What follows is a rip-roaring yarn full of sea adventure mostly of the perilous kind.

While the story is not a fantasy per se, one must be able to suspend reality while reading of Walker Bean's adventures as they are of the most bizarre nature. Be prepared to meet pirates, a pirate girl who has turned the bow of the ship into a garden complete with lemon tree, great monstrous sea hags of legend and a cursed skull to begin with. Walker is a congenial protagonist who will appeal to all readers, wearing glasses, pudgy, reluctantly on the mission, but brave and determined. On the pirate ship Walker teams up with similarly aged Shiv and Genoa. Shiv is a humorous side-kick who knows his way around a pirate ship and comes up with great plans. Gen on the other-hand is a rather frightening, aggressive girl with red pigtails who is a delightfully enchanting character. Just loved her!

A great story and fantastic art combined with thrilling action and outrageously fun characters make this an entertaining seafaring adventure.

Friday, September 24, 2010

195. The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines by Jo Ann Yhard

The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines by Jo Ann Yhard (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 169
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sept. 19, 2010
First Published: Apr. 29 2010 CAN (Oct.1 2010 US)
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Genre: mystery, children
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Grace double-checked her gear: flashlight, matches, pocket-knife, caving rope, rock hammer, and gloves -- all there.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the author.

Reason for Reading: I liked the whole caves/fossil hunting angle of the mystery.

Grace's father died a mysterious death three months ago, her mother is taking it very hard, and last but not least her creepy neighbour appears to be watching Grace's every motion. So Grace spends most of her time with 3 friends fossil hunting (an activity her father was passionate about) out by the caves near abandoned mines and sinkholes. Grace soon turns her friends into detectives when she receives an anonymous note saying her father's death was not an accident and as they begin investigating what really happened to her father the truth of what is actually going on at the Sydney Mines is unraveled and they are met with life threatening danger from both the land itself and devious criminals out to stop them.

I didn't particularly like the dynamics of the young teens. Grace was very much the boss and two others kept bickering constantly. Grace is the only character fully developed and came off, to me, as a girl who was disrespectful to her mother, constantly lied and disobeyed. The other three were her followers and simply snuck out of their houses whenever the case called for it. However, the four children do grow throughout the story and eventually work out their character issues by stories end.

Character mores and manners aside, I became immersed in the mystery and Ms. Yhard surprised me at every turn by making the plot more and more intricate as it went along. The friends start off looking for any clues that can help tell what really happened to Grace's father and end up finding a much bigger illegal operation, as well as being stalked and chased by someone. On top of that, they are searching on treacherous land where sinkholes can appear at any minute and cave-ins could happen at any time. The mystery is very well-written, fast paced and exciting. The fossil theme is also given great attention as everything relates back to either Grace's father or the Fossil Museum he started. I found the topic very interesting and have a couple of destinations in mind now if I ever make it out to Nova Scotia again for a trip. Kids looking for a straightforward mystery without all the spooky nonsense prevalent in so many mysteries will be happy to find here an intricate mystery, full of excitement, set in the real world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cybils Panelist

Well, I am so grateful to have been selected to be on the Graphic Novels Round 1 panel again this year for the Cybils Award. This means I will be part of the team that reads all (or as many as possible) of the nominated GNs and then we will have to whittle them down to 5 books to pass on to the Round 2 judges who will then select the winner. Last year I had a blast. It was a lot of fun, but also a ton of work (more than I had expected) but well worth the experience. The dialogue between team members make this such a rewarding experience and I am thrilled to be a part of the Cybils again for my second year.

Start thinking of your nominations as the online nominating will go live on Oct. 1 through Oct. 15. Looking forward to to nominating myself!

194. Velocity by Alan Jacobson

Velocity by Alan Jacobson (Canada) - (USA)
Karen Vail, #3

Pages: 388 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 17, 2010
First Published: Oct. 5, 2010
Publisher: Vanguard Press
Genre: thriller, suspense
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

He was not going to kill her immediately.

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary defines "velocity" as "The speed and direction of motion of a moving body." FBI Profiler Karen Vail is that moving body and she is running to beat the clock with a fiery momentum to find her missing boyfriend who has disappeared into thin air with no clues but a possible connection with a serial killer. Unusual in the mystery/thriller series genre, Velocity picks up right where Crush ended. Literally starting with the next chapter. The plot starts off highly connected with book 2, followed by a resolution, then continues on with book 3's unique plot which always centres on the missing boyfriend, police detective Roberto Hernandez.

I loved this book! Jacobson keeps getting better and better. Velocity takes off in different directions, plot-wise, than either of his previous books making it more than just a serial killer case (not that there's anything wrong with that.) These new directions are surprising and unexpected reveals create a story that is much more than one at first assumes they are reading. Certainly plot is the mainstay of Velocity but, as often happens in mysteries, it has *not* been done so at the expense of characterization. Book 2 took us away from Karen's Quantico colleagues and Velocity continues with the now familiar California characters for whom we've grown fond (or not). But Karen gets sent back to Quantico where we are reintroduced to the characters from Book 1 and Jacobson has done a good job bringing these folks back to the reader's mind, especially giving significant development to Vail's boss, Gifford.

The book ends with the completion of the plot; the unique experience of a two-parter within a series is over but the personal lives of the main characters continue on, ending with a new trajectory for one of said characters and an interesting reveal which we can expect to be explored in the next book. I'm very much looking forward to the next book, which one can only hope is "in the works".

ETA: Alan has let me know that he is indeed working on the next Karen Vail book!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

193. Brainstorm! The Stories of 20 American Kid Inventors

Brainstorm! The Stories of Twenty American Kid Inventors by Tom Tucker. drawings by Richard Loehle (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 150 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sept. 13, 2010
First Published: 1995
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: Children, biography, short stories
Rating: 2.5/5

First sentence:

Young or old, most inventors are thrilled when they see their name on a patent issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Acquired: Purchased my own copy.

Reason for Reading: Came with our history curriculum. Read aloud to my ds, a biography at a time over a period of time.

A collection of short biographies featuring kid inventors, focusing on what they invented and how it came to be. Includes such inventions as earmuffs, coloured car wax, the Popsicle, water skis, resealable cereal box tops and others.

Neither of us was particularly thrilled with this book. The inventions I've mentioned above were the ones that ds enjoyed most. A lot of the other inventions were things he couldn't care less about like tufted bedspreads or couldn't relate to such as the rotary steam engine. Ds was keen when I started reading a story about a real kid (an 8yo or a 13yo) but some of these bios are about 17 or 18 year old's and that is pushing it a bit for a 10yo to consider a kid. Then some bios often were about how the inventor got the idea as a kid but didn't bring it to fruition until they were an adult which I think is cheating in regards to the title of the book. Also any mechanical or engineering inventions such as the electrical TV and the rotary steam engine were very detailed with scientific specifics which made the 10 yo's eyes glaze over. By the time we got to the last 5 stories he was begging me not to read the book anymore so I read them quickly in bed one night to if they were worth trudging through and I couldn't find any reason he needed to hear them so we ended the read-aloud there. I wouldn't recommend the book.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

192. Ticket to Curlew by Celia Barker Lottridge

Ticket to Curlew by Celia Barker Lottridge. illustrations by Wendy Wolsak-Frith (Canada) - (USA)
(has also been published in the US under the title Ticket to Canada)

Pages: 144 pages
Ages: 9+
Finished: Sept. 13, 2010
First Published: 1992
Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre
Genre: Children, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The conductor walked down the swaying aisle of the passenger car.

Acquired: Purchased my own copy.

Reason for Reading: I have read this book before and read it aloud to the 10 year old this time as part of our history curriculum.

Set in 1915, Alberta, this is a quiet story of settling the Canadian West. An American family decides to make the move when they hear about the free land. Sam and his father have come up first to build a house before Mama and his two younger siblings arrive. First living in a tent, Sam learns the stark, never ending reality of the prairies where the only reference point as he wanders off is their tent. He discovers buffalo wallows and buffalo skulls, starting to collect them. After the family arrives his experiences broaden as they meet their closet neighbours 4 miles away, an immigrant family who doesn't speak English and lives in a soddy. Sam tries to figure out the way to befriend the boy his age; Sam also finds a friend in the horse, Prince, that they buy specifically for the children to ride to school (4 miles the other way) and for Sam get about on when he has free time.

Following the simple lives of these prairie settlers, Ticket to Curlew shows the terrible forces of nature they had to struggle with from flash thunderstorms and snow storms where one needed to tie a rope around oneself just to get to the barn to the hidden dangers lurking in the tall prairie grasses. But it also explores the beauty of the land when out of nowhere amidst the grasses appears a pond and the beautiful blue skies. A quiescent story that looks back at the simple life of children on the prairies, settler life and the love of a boy and his horse. Winner of the CLA Book of the Year Award.

There is also a sequel to this called Wings to Fly, which is sadly out of print. I will read it again at some point to give a review but won't be reading it to the 10 yob as it is set a few years further on and focuses on Josie, Sam's sister, and her finally finding a girl her age whom she tries to befriend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

191. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Canada) - (USA)
The Hunger Games, Book 3

Pages: 400 pages
Ages: 13+
Finished: Sept. 11, 2010
First Published: Aug. 24, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: YA, dystopian, science fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next (and final) book in the trilogy.

There's no point giving a summary as there are already hundreds of reviews which have done that before me. Suffice it to say that there is a war and people die. One walks into this final installment knowing someone (at least) is going to die. War has been brewing during the series and it's culmination was obvious and no good writer can write realistically about war without having deaths. My own personal predictions of who would die were dead wrong and I was quite shocked with who eventually had their life(ves) taken in the name of Freedom.

But it was truly wonderful. Everything that happened in Mockingjay felt *right* to me. It's not what I expected or how I possibly would have had things turn out but Ms. Collins went in a direction I can truly appreciate and understand. In a war who are the good guys? Obviously one would like to think the side one is on, but from an outsider's point of view can there be a good guy? and is there any real distinction between the sides, as bad guys? Each side is capable of the same thing and is it only an atrocity when *they* did it to *you*? Is it right to punish the losers after the war is over? What if you are on the losing side? How do we live with and get on with it all afterwards? Personally, I am not *anti* war, I believe that, unfortunately, there does come a time when one must fight, but regardless of a person's stance on war these are thought provoking questions that are real to any society. The ending was perfect for me. I think it was a completely plausible ending for the main characters and it felt good deep in my bones. I'm truly satisfied with how Mockingjay ended and so glad I read this series now, all together, once all the books had been published.

Monday: Books in the Mail

One book the previous week and now when it rains, it pours! The delivery men from various companies were coming day after day this past week! Look at this fabulous lot of books!

From Harper Collins Canada:

In this world there exist spiritual pathways, called Gates that draw in the souls of the departed and move them to a new realm of existence. However, at times, a Black Gate appears, and the Black Gate does not wait for death...but instead forcefully sucks the souls out of living humans! Senju is a “Mitedamashi,” an agent with the power to summon or seal Gates, and save people’s souls. He is guardian to Hijiri, a boy whose life he once saved. After Hijiri discovers his own hidden powers, he begins a journey of self-discovery where the distant past comes back to haunt him and his choices determine life and death, not only for those he cares about, but the whole world!

Seventy-five years ago, a madman nicknamed the Torso Killer terrorized Cleveland. His horrific spree lasted four years and crisscrossed the entire city. Overall, he was credited with more than a dozen murders. And he was never caught.

Today, forensic scientist Theresa MacLean is called to an abandoned building where a desiccated, decapitated body has been found in a room that's been sealed off for years. Although there's no immediate proof, everyone assumes the same thing: that the newly discovered corpse was a Torso Killer victim. The body has decayed beyond recognition, leaving few forensic clues, but Theresa sees this as an opportunity to shed some light on a big piece of Cleveland's past that until now has been shrouded in mystery.

But then another body—this one recently deceased—turns up, and all signs at the scene seem to indicate the work of a new Torso Killer. Suddenly, Theresa's investigation takes on a whole new meaning. Her examination of the old body has opened a door to the past—a door someone wanted to keep closed—and she shifts her focus from solving a historical puzzle to catching a very dangerous, present-day psychopath.

But as the body count rises, Theresa finds herself nearer to danger than she ever imagined. For the killer is keeping a watchful eye on Theresa, and she begins to feel his presence everywhere. Each step brings them closer and closer to each other—at one point separated by no more than a speeding train in a railroad switchyard—as Theresa scours the city in her hunt for a murderous lunatic intent on reliving a terrifying past.

From Scholastic Canada:

In the third installment of the thrilling Amulet series, Emily, Navin, and their crew of resistance fighters charter an airship and set off in search of Cielis, a mythical city believed to be located on an island high above the clouds. The mysterious Leon Redbeard is their guide, and there's a surprising new addition to the crew: the Elf King's son, Trellis. But is he ally or enemy? And will Emily ever be able to trust the voice of the Amulet?

16-year-old Digger thrives as a spy & sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner & lover Tegen is killed, she disguises herself in a group of young nobles & sneaks out of the city. Accepted as a lady-in-waiting at the stronghold of the powerful Nemair, she finds new peace & friendship (*and* some new targets). But when an old client from the city comes to the castle, she realizes her hosts may be planning the ultimate uprising against the king - & rather than true peace, she may be at the heart of the rebellion.

A boy in a small town who has a different way of seeing.

A mischievous girl who won't stay in one place.

A mysterious notebook .

A fire.

A stranger.

A death.

These are some of the things you'll find within The Danger Box, the new mystery from bestselling author Blue Balliett.

Ansel is a mute boy whose master is a dragon-slayer. Brock has shining armor, and scars that prove his heroic stories. Ansel suspects there are no such things as dragons. So what is the man-eating monster that haunts the crags of Dragon Mountain?

From Random House Canada:

Zack is about to start at his new school, and his dad, who went there years before, tells Zack the stories of the haunted janitor’s closet, the specter of a dead crossing guard, and the Donnelly brothers, who perished in a suspicious fire. Dad doesn’t know that Zack has already met the Donnellys’ ghosts, who have warned Zack that there is an evil zombie under the school. Zack also learns that while zombies are usually content eating corpses, if they happen to bite someone who isn’t dead, that person also becomes a zombie.

Before midterms, Zack is dealing with two zombies, while trying to protect a friend whose curiosity has put him on the zombies’ menu.

With its spirit of adventure, Bookweirder courts new readers and keeps Malcolm and Norman's devoted fans captivated.

Norman Jespers-Vilnius is stuck in the sleepy British countryside with his parents and ultra-irritating sister. Things couldn't be duller — until Norman finds himself in the middle of the adventure story he discovered in the house's dusty library. Soon Norman is making strange new allies and stranger new enemies as struggles to rescue his best friend Malcolm the Prince of Stoats from another book gone wrong. Can Norman save Malcolm and steer the novel back on track? Can he hide his adventures in bookweird from his suspicious mother and the meddlesome Fuchs? Before we find out, we follow Norman on a chilling trip to 19th-century Paris, a fiery medieval adventure and, finally, a mission to discover the family secret at the heart of bookweird.

Hell on earth.

That’s what it’s like for Luce to be apart from her fallen angel boyfriend, Daniel.
It took them an eternity to find one another, but now he has told her he must go away. Just long enough to hunt down the Outcasts—immortals who want to kill Luce. Daniel hides Luce at Shoreline, a school on the rocky California coast with unusually gifted students: Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans.

At Shoreline, Luce learns what the Shadows are, and how she can use them as windows to her previous lives. Yet the more Luce learns, the more she suspects that Daniel hasn’t told her everything. He’s hiding something—something dangerous.
What if Daniel’s version of the past isn’t actually true? What if Luce is really meant to be with someone else?

The second novel in the addictive FALLEN series . . . where love never dies.

A distraught woman arrives at the Eastvale police station desperate to speak to Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. But since Banks is away on holiday, his partner, Annie Cabbot, steps in. The woman tells Annie that she's found a loaded gun hidden in the bedroom of her daughter, Erin—a punishable offense under English law. When an armed response team breaks into the house to retrieve the weapon, the seemingly straightforward procedure quickly spirals out of control.

But trouble is only beginning for Annie, the Eastvale force, and Banks, and this time, the fallout may finally do the iconoclastic inspector in. For it turns out that Erin's best friend and roommate is none other than Tracy Banks, the DCI's daughter, who was last seen racing off to warn the owner of the gun, a very bad boy indeed.

Thrust into a complicated and dangerous case intertwining the personal and the professional as never before, Annie and Banks—a bit of a bad boy himself—must risk everything to outsmart a smooth and devious psychopath. Both Annie and Banks understand that it's not just his career hanging in the balance, it's also his daughter's life.

From Penguin Group (Canada):

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?
His son, that's who.

Ever since his father's arrest for the murder of Little Red Riding Hood, teen wolf Henry Whelp has kept a low profile in a Home for Wayward Wolves . . . until a murder at the Home leads Henry to believe his father may have been framed.

Now, with the help of his kleptomaniac roommate, Jack, and a daring she-wolf named Fiona, Henry will have to venture deep into the heart of Dust City: a rundown, gritty metropolis where fairydust is craved by everyone and controlled by a dangerous mob of Water Nixies and their crime boss leader, Skinner.

Can Henry solve the mystery of his family's sinister past? Or, like his father before him, is he destined for life as a big bad wolf?

From Candlewick Press:

One day in a house at the end of Lucifer Street, on the Mississippi River side of Cairo, Illinois, eleven-year-old Oscar Ogilvie’s life is changed forever. The Crash of 1929 has rippled across the country, and Oscar’s dad must sell their home—with all their cherished model trains—and head west in search of work. Forced to move in with his humorless aunt, Carmen and his teasing cousin, Willa Sue, Oscar is lonely and miserable—until he meets a mysterious drifter and witnesses a crime so stunning it catapults Oscar on an incredible train journey from coast to coast, from one decade to another. Filled with suspense and peppered with witty encounters with Hollywood stars and other bigwigs of history, this captivating novel by Rosemary Wells, gorgeously illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, resonates with warmth, humor, and the true magic of a timeless adventure.

Twelve-year-old Frankie Parsons is a talented kid with a quirky family, a best friend named Gigs, and a voice of anxiety constantly nibbling in his head: Could that kidney-shaped spot on his chest be a galloping cancer? Are the smoke alarm batteries flat? Has his cat, The Fat Controller, given them all worms? Only Ma, who never leaves home, takes Frankie’s worries seriously. But then, it is Ma who is the cause of the most troubling question of all, the one Frankie can never bring himself to ask. When a new girl arrives at school — a daring free spirit with unavoidable questions of her own — Frankie’s carefully guarded world begins to unravel, leading him to a painful confrontation with the ultimate 10 p.m. question. Deftly told with humor, poignancy, and an endearing cast of characters.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

This week for the Catholic Carnival I have one relevant post. A review of a wonderful biography about Rev. Augustine Tolton, (1854-1897) the first black priest in the United States.

190. Jack of Fables: Turning Pages

Turning Pages by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturgess. Art by Tony Atkins & Russ Braun (Canada) - (USA)
Jack of Fables, Volume 5

Pages: 144
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 13, 2010
First Published: Mar. 10, 2009
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Looking back, anyone would have to admit that 1883 was a strange and wild year, and not by any definition a good one.

Acquired: Received a copy through Inter-library Loan.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This has got to be my least favourite of the Jack volumes. This one contains two completely unrelated story arcs. The first one called 1883 goes back into Jack's past and the 2nd one is back to the present day continuing the overarching theme with the new villain and focuses on each of the Page sisters in turn.

1883, takes us back into Jacks past. This is obviously a western and Jack is using the Candle name here while he is the leader of a gang. Back in Fabletown Ichabod Crane sends Bigsby Wolf out to bring Jack in for violating all sorts of Fables rules, the biggest being killing Mundies. The story follows the gang's dastardly deeds and Bigsby's hunting him down. It ends in a showdown and anyone can guess who the winner is. This story seemed out of place in the whole scheme of things as there was no segue into it or obvious purpose to it except perhaps to show why Jack and Bigby hate each other so much now.

Turning Pages is back to the Jack of Fables story at hand. We learn more of the Page's as we see them from their childhood years and growing up. Three chapters, each focusing on a different Page sister show us the instability going on at Golden Boughs, and the advancing evil of The Bookburner as he gets closer to his goal with his army. This man is a threat to all Fables everywhere. The family dynamics of the Page sisters if further explored and a new reveal is exposed. Enjoyable but I'm left with the feeling "that's all?". Let's get on with Volume 6.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

189. Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop edited by Otto Penzler (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 230
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 14, 2010
First Published: Oct.12, 2010
Publisher: Vanguard Press
Genre: mystery, short stories
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

It was hard to run, Dortmunder was discovering, with your pockets full of bronze Roman coins.

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

Reason for Reading: The book was sent to me unsolicited. I read several short story collections last year but haven't been reading many, if any, this year at all and the thought of spending some time with the short story format again was enticing, the book had come at just the right time for me.

This is a collection of the stories that Otto Penzler has had commissioned to be written for his store each year beginning 1993. He then has them bound and gives them away to customers at Christmas. The little booklets have become collectible themselves and Otto decided to publish them all together in one compilation for the final enjoyment of the masses. Each story is written by a different mystery writer though I have to admit I had only heard of 7 of the 17 authors, and read even fewer. The qualifications for each story was that they must happen at Christmas and must contain at least a scene that takes place within the Mysterious Bookshop. Apart from 3 of the 17 stories, the authors chose to make the bookshop and, more often than not, Otto Penzler himself as a major character, the prime components of the story. This was fun at first but became repetetive as the book progressed. Even though the stories were different there was a cookie cutter substance to them when you knew Otto would have some mystery happen in his Bookshop each time, or a clerk would be involved in one. Now that's not to say the stories weren't good. A few of them were excellent, most of them were good and there were only a couple of duds for me. Averaging up the total ratings of each individual story came up with a 3.5/5 for the whole book which feels perfectly spot on about how I feel for the compilation as a whole. Since these stories have only ever been printed in their original special edition format, this would make a unique gift for the mystery fan you're not sure what to buy them.

1. Give Till it Hurts by Donald E. Westlake - a humorous story of a man who robs a numismatic show of a pocketful of ancient coins and while escaping seeks refuge in a poker game he stumbles upon. 3/5

2. Schemes and Variations by George Baxt - it's fabled knowledge in the rare books world that a Dashiell Hammett manuscript entitled "The Thin Woman" has surfaced and someone is determined to have it, as an assassin is killing off the world's best known rare books and manuscripts dealers trying to find it. With its bookish theme this was obviously a fun story, as was the mystery. Otto Penzler is one of the main characters. 3.5/5

3. The Theft of the Rusty Bookmark by Edward D. Hoch - another fun book-ish themed mystery. A professional burglar is hired by a man who has just sold his late brother-in-law's book collection to Otto Penzler. The burglar is to go find the boxes of four hundred books and retrieve a bookmark left inside one of them. 3.5/5

4. Murder for Dummies by Ron Goulart - A two-bit author whose career is going south as his publisher no longer wants to renew his contract for his children's mystery series goes to the dark side when an elderly fan asks him to read her manuscript, and he loves it. A great mystery with all the right elements including a twist and a surprise ending. My favourite so far. 5/5

5. As Dark As Christmas Gets by Lawrence Block - The owner of The Mysterious Bookshop (never mentioned by name, but the real owner is poked fun at) has a Christmas party, wakes the next morning to find an extremely unique Cornell Woolrich manuscript missing. He calls in a friend, a private detective, who works in the same manner as Nero Wolfe and actually believes Wolfe is a real person. The detective quickly whittles the 50 party attendees down to 7 suspects, gathers them in a room and proceeds to unravel the mystery. Loved this one, even though it crossed the line and spoke to the reader; it was done for humour. The sleuthing was classic detective style and had a great solution that perfectly fit the tone of the story. 4/5

6. The Holiday Fairy by Jeremiah Healy - Otto Penzler calls in a P.I. from out of state to question three of his close friends that he has figured out have all been in his private rooms the preceding week on the exact days that three collectible objects have disappeared and been replaced with envelopes containing the book price payment of each. The plot of Otto calling in an investigator to find stolen objects wasn't new to this collection and this story didn't have anything new to offer. The ending was quite different but didn't save it for me. 2/5

7. I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus by Ed McBain - Title pretty much gives everything away but still pleasant story of a kid roaming the bookstore. Upstairs staff assumes mother is downstairs and boy tells downstairs staff mother is upstairs, but boy starts to get creepy when he starts insisting to everyone that Santa is dead. 3/5

8. The Grift of the Magi by S.J. Rozan - Otto tells two friends, separately, that he would like an extremely rare book for Christmas but knows he'll never find one. Silly little story with lots of word play. 2/5

9. My Object All Sublime by Anne Perry - Half an hour before closing a man finagles his way into seeing Otto in his private rooms and his intentions are no less than deadly. Loved this one. Grew creepier and creepier as it went along until a twist ending. My new favourite so far. 5/5

10. Christmas Spirit by Michael Malone - A chief of police from South Carolina accompanies a detective to Otto's Christmas party where the night ends with a body. The chief and a cat solve the crime. An ok story but I did enjoy the narrative voice very much. 3/5

11. The Lesson of the Season by Thomas H. Cook - A clerk has worked Saturdays all by herself in the store for ten years and every Saturday the same man has been coming in buying trashy paperback original action mysteries, with a special interest in one author. A book snob herself she finally asks him why he reads that junk and gets an answer worth far more than she was looking for. Great lead up, with a twist and satisfying end. Another favourite. 5/5

12. Yule Be Sorry by Lisa Michelle Atkinson - The unnamed owner of The Mysterious Bookstore is in dire straights: the phone's been cut, last month's mortgage is due, he's worried about the electricity, etc. He's desperately hoping one of his buyers can come up with a first edition of Hammett's second book as he already has a buyer. The book arrives the day before Christmas but as he is about to hand it over to the buyer he can't find it anywhere. That's only the first twist. Cute story. 3/5

13. The Long Winter's Nap by Rupert Holmes - A new Mysterious Bookstore has opened at another location at it's celebrating its first Christmas so O.P. hires a brass band to play out front. When the tuba player asks to use the washroom, a clerk shows him the way downstairs where they find a dead Santa in the storeroom. This story is much longer than any of the others so far, thus allows for quite a bit of a set-up and detecting as the murder is unraveled just in time, as the police arrive. Straight forward, classic mystery story. 4/5

14. Cold Reading by Charles Ardai - Just a regular day at the bookstore a few days before Christmas when a young woman walks in and starts talking to the clerk, Roger, turns out her grandmother was a highly collectible '50s author who only wrote two books before her untimely death. This woman says her father has just died and going through his stuff she's found a lot of grandma's things including a third book but it's only in manuscript form. Would he come over, she doesn't live far away, and take a look? When he arrives her apartment has been ransacked and she is missing, that is until her kidnapper calls on the phone. Quite a delightful story. You know something's up from the beginning but there's a twist and it's not what you thought it was. Fun. 3.5/5

15. The Killer Christian by Andrew Klavan - A brother and sister in the city for a while now from their more rural beginnings are leading very different lives. Holly, an aspiring actress, who currently has a part as an angel in a play, works part time in "The Mysterious Bookshop" and has been given a low rent apt. above it. Brother Steven however, has got himself mixed up with the criminal world and had Holly bail him out several times. But this time, he's in big trouble because his boss had decided to "off" him and Steven tries to stay alive, just ahead of the assassin. I really enjoyed this one. It had quite a bit of action and the characters were developed enough that I actually liked them and could imagine them outside the confines of the story. Apart from the very first story in the book, this is the only other one *not* to take place entirely in the store and use the owner as a major character. By this point in the book, I found that very refreshing! 4/5

16. The 74th Tale by Jonathan Santlofer - A young man walks into the bookstore near closing time and buys himself a Christmas present. Thinking he's getting more for his money he chooses a book with 73 stories in it. When he gets home and starts reading the stories, from his descriptions, we can tell the book is Poe. Then he comes across a story that inspires him to conduct a real life experiment he has always wanted to try. This is the creepiest story is the book! A good suspenseful tale and one of the best in the book. 5/5

17. What's in a Name by Mary Higgins Clark - Can't really give a summary of this as it slowly unravels until the end but it begins with a woman who is slowly clearing out her Nana's house after her death. For the past 20 years Nana has written mystery novels but none of them were ever accepted and her office is full of manuscripts (never having let anyone read one) , some in envelopes that have been sent and returned. Nana gave instructions to her granddaughter that upon her death, if she had never sold a book, then all her papers were to be thrown away with the promise that nobody would ever read them. This story was more cheesy and like a "Hallmark moment" than a mystery. 2.5/5

Friday, September 17, 2010

188. From Slave to Priest by Caroline Hemesath

From Slave to Priest: A Biography of Reverend Augustin Tolton (1854-1897), The First Black Priest of the United States by Sister Caroline Hemesath, SSF. Foreword to the 2006 edition by Deacon Harold Burke-Silvers. Foreword to original edition by Bishop H.R. Perry (Purchase)

Pages: 237 pages + Bib & index
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 12, 2010
First Published: 1973 (edition with new foreword 2006)
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Genre: biography, Catholic, Religion
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The John Manning plantation in Mead County, Kentucky, was jumping with excitement.

Acquired: Received a review copy from The Catholic Company.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy reading biographies Religious and I have a particular interest in the Civil War era and escaped slaves.

Augustine Tolton escaped slavery with his mother and two siblings when he was 8 years old. He had belonged to a Catholic family that had brought their slaves up in the religion. Augustine was always taken with the Faith, though the hypocrisy of his slave owners did not escape him. As a boy growing up in Quincy, Illinois he soon knew that he wanted to be a priest but didn't think it was possible for a black person. With the encouragement of his local priest, he let his dream take hold of him and aspired to the day he could be a priest and pastor to his own people. Augustine was unshaken in determination that Catholicism was the true religion for his people.

At this time, just after the Civil War, though, it seems the Church in the US didn't know what to do with a Negro who wanted to be a priest. Augustine had already met prejudice when parishioners who had no problem with the black population in the pews were aghast at his showing up in the school with their children. And if not for an Irish priest who preached fire and brimstone to his parish about the equality of *all* men in God's eyes every day until they dared not complain anymore, Augustine would not have received his basic education. But then came the time to study for priesthood and his local priests tried to get him into every single seminary in the US and each one declined with some version of "we are not ready". Various priests in the diocese tutored Augustine in the evenings as he worked during the day to support his family. Much time passed and it weighed heavily on his heart that he may never become a priest. But his devotion kept him determined and eventually he was sent to seminary in Rome where he had classes with students from all over the world including Africa and Asia.

When he came back to Quincy as the first black priest in the US (there had been others, of mixed-race, but they had "passed" as white) he was met with open arms by fellow blacks and the Catholic community and he was overjoyed to finally have reached his calling. But troubles still followed Father Augustine his whole life. He would have to deal with one spiteful, bigoted fellow brother in Christ who caused him much grief. Half his congregation was white and this caused racial problems from other parishioners in different churches who wanted the whites to give to their own coffers but Augustine refused to ask people to leave his church. He also had problems with black Protestants who were vehemently opposed to him taking his peoples' souls away from them. He eventually ended up in Chicago with his own parish and though his dream of building his own church was coming true, he was one priest administering to a large flock. With the abject poverty of many of his parishioners it was a losing battle to preach morality and convert souls, as poverty breeds immorality: adultery, alcoholism, gambling, fornication, etc.

Father Augustine was a Godly man, determined to give his people someone of their own race to confide in religously. Even dying black Protestants would send for him at the end instead of their own white ministers. He spent his life ministering to the ever enlarging black population of Chicago. He spent his evenings visiting the poor and the downtrodden. His life was devoted to spreading God's message and bringing the black community into communion with the Catholic Church. He died at an early age from exhaustion and sunstroke. He is a great testimony today as a man filled with God's love who never let the cross he had to bear stop him from continuing on with God's plan for him. He can be held up as an example of one whose Faith was often tested, and as a human did occasionally succumb to sorrow, yet he turned that sorrow over to the Lord and remained determined and unwavering in his Faith.

Sister Caroline writes Father Augustine's story in a narrative voice that almost reads as a novel. It is obviously heavily researched and the text is filled with excerpts from contemporary newspapers, Augustine's letters, and journal entries of both Augustine himself and those who knew him. This personal insight truly brings Father Augustine to life again for the reader. The book is also populated with a number of photographs and illustrations. Sister Caroline manages to capture both the public man on the outside and the private one inside. I highly enjoyed this biography.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

187. History Magazine Dec/Jan 2010

History Magazine Dec/Jan 2010
Volume 11 Number 2

Pages: 50
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 11, 2010
Rating: 4/5

This is the first time I've reviewed a magazine but I figured since I did read it cover to cover and I spent more time on it than I do some graphic novels there is really no reason not to include it in my reading counts. This is a small press magazine with virtually no advertisements, except for a handful placed by the publisher itself and 3 small others that may have been paid advertising. This is a Canadian produced magazine though they have everything set up with both US & Canadian prices and a different address for customers from each. This volume itself has no Canadian content but the "Topics we are working on" section lists a few Canadian specific. Given that, I'd say the content is North American heavy with an inclusion of world history. But now I've gone and looked at the current issue and it is strong on world history, so it looks like the magazine as a whole provides a good cross-selection from all over. I intend on buying the latest issue the next time I make it to the city. Now I'll just review the magazine articles the way I would a short story collection:

History Trivia - The opening pages contain two short articles; one on the history of scarecrows the on the history of dominoes. Both interesting. I can't say I learnt anything new about dominoes but the scarecrow one enlightened me.

Monte Carlo Systems: Myths and Promises - A 4 page article on 1890's/1900's gambler's techniques and systems for beating the table at roulette, mostly. As at the time, only 2 games were played at the famous casino, roulette and 21. Really very interesting. Some of the information is gleaned from two books both shown in the article, one written in 1903, the other in 1901.

Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins - The cover story. A 7 page book excerpt from the book of the same name by Robert K. Murray. This was an incredibly riveting story a miner trapped alone in a tight passage far underground with his foot stuck under a rock. The excerpt starts in the middle of the rescue operations and plays out to the end of the situation. An exhilarating read. Only problem is that it filled me with the story; I have no desire to read the book now. I know what happened and how it ended. All the stuff that will come before and after this excerpt is not necessary for me to read. People who are interested in the story already, or interested in Kentucky or mining history are the ones who may be tempted to get the book and read the whole account. But this was enough for me.

On the Road Again: The Great Auto Endurance Race - a 2 page article about a race held in 1909 Florida that was to bring notice to the need for improving the state's roads by racing a pack of cars from Tampa to Jacksonville and back again. Extremely interesting. I love stories and pictures of very early automobiles.

Behind Enemy Lines: Women Who Spied - a 4 page article on women who turned into spies during the Civil War, two are Confederate spies and two are Union spies. Of course I enjoyed this one!

Walk Like a Man: The Jennie Hodgers Story - The story of veteran Union soldier Albert D.J. Cashier who turned out to actually be a woman. In 1911, the Pensions Bureau opened his case to see if he qualified for increased benefits and it was at this time the truth came out. Jennie had changed into a man to join the army and fight for her country and then continued to live a peaceful life as a man finally retiring to a home for military veterans. These stories of women pretending to be men to do things they wouldn't otherwise be allowed to do are always interesting to read. This case seems to be more of a gender issue though nothing of that nature is known.

The Mystery of the Stone of Destiny - a 2 page article on the history of a mythical and legendary relic of Scotland that was returned with pomp and circumstance in 1996 after a 700 year absence. Interesting but not really my thing.

Little Wonder Records: Artifacts of a Pivotal Decade: a 3 page article that was fascinating! About a record label that produced one-sided discs for a dime from 1914-23. The songs they produced are a record of the social history of the states during that period. Starting with Irish songs for the large Irish immigrant community and songs longing for the South for southerners who had to move north for economic reasons. Onto the annexation of Hawaii with exotic and fun Hawaiian songs to show the people's fascination with this new state. Then what we could call the first anti-war songs as people watched WWI from it's start in 1914 hoping the US would not join in until it finally did in 1917. Then came the patriotic songs. After the war came jazz and songs of change as boys who'd been to Paris no longer wanted to work on the farm and finally in 1920 with the start of Prohibition came the novelty songs and blues that bemoaned the lack of a drink. Fascinating stuff, the article even has the words to a verse of songs for examples!

A Fox Trot Through Ragtime Dance - a 4 page article on the history of Ragtime music starting with the slaves satirical cakewalk dance, to Scott Joplin to Irene and Verne Castle to James Europe's Clef Club Orchestra and Ragtime's final decline as the advent of jazz came on the scene and the Charleston replaced the Turkey Trot. Readable enough but not exactly my thing.

The Christmas Tree Ship: The Story of Captain Santa - a 3 page article, this is a tale of the sea and about a man who sailed across Lake Michigan to bring pine trees to his German community every year for Christmas and his fateful last journey. Along with the ghostly legends that remain today. Exciting bio-article, just the type to keep me hooked. Loved it.

The Collapsing Ottoman Empire and the Congress of Berlin - a 4 page article with only small illustrations about the 1878 Congress of Berlin. A political meeting that divided up Europe in some manner and stopped or avoided a war or something. As you can tell this is all over my head. I know nothing about this stuff and could care less but struggled through the article anyway to learn a few things. Like who knew Turkey had an empire? The Ottoman Empire, I've heard of, but that it belonged to the Turks? Disraeli should have called an election as soon as he returned from this meeting then he would have won another term as PM but he waited too long and lost to Gladstone. Oh, and Bismarck was a real person before it was a battleship. That is what I learned by trudging through this political article.

Hindsight - 2 pages of history related "books and products" (a DVD) that have been chosen "solely on merit". Each book has a brief summary but no opinion. One is to assume they are all recommended, I guess. I only found two I would be interested in. Stealing Lincoln's Body by Thomas J. Craughwell. It "sheds light on the inception of the plot and the 19th century underworld of crooked politicians, immigrant gangs, counterfeiters and grave-robbers" at only 250 pages it could be an intriguing read. The other is a children's book called The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull. 40pg non-fiction illustrated sounds like something my son would like with his current inventor kick.

China Dolls: Toys With a History - the magazine ends with a one page article giving a very brief history on dolls with china heads, different styles, and how they were made. I'm not really into dolls but even I knew the info. presented here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Canadian Book Challenge 4 - Finished

Well I have officially finished the Canadian Book Challenge #4 having read 13 books by Canadian authors (well 13 authors & 1 illustrator, but I didn't count one book because even though written by a Canadian the topic was too American.) This is my list but I will continue to keep adding all the Canadian authored books I read until the official closing date.

1. An Incredible Case of Dinosaurs by Kenneth Oppel
2. A Weird Case of Super-Goo by Kenneth Oppel
3. A Creepy Case of Vampires by Kenneth Oppel
4. Terry Fox: A Story of Hope by Maxine Trottier
5. Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysart
6. Wilfred Grenfell: Adventurer to the North by Vernon Howard
7. The Secret Fiend by Shane Peacock
8. Lukey Paul from Labrador by Adelaide Leitch
9. Death on the River by John Wilson
x. The Wright Brothers: A Flying Start by Elizabeth MacLeod
10. The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade
11. Brain Camp by Susan Kim. Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
12. Hudson by Janice Weaver
13. The Body in the Tower by Y.S. Lee


14. All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine by Monica Kulling
15. Ticket to Curlew by Celia Barker Lottridge
16. The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines by Jo Ann Yhard
17. Room by Emma Donoghue
18. Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
19. In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae by Linda Granfield
20. Death on the Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster of 1914 by Cassie Brown
21. The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay by Beverly Jensen
22. The Nightwood by Robin Muller
23. Mighty Mighty Monsters: Hide and Shriek! by Sean O'Reilly
24. Backwoods of Canada: Selections by Catharine Parr Traill
25. It's Not About the Crumbs! by Veronika Martenova Charles
26. End of Days by Max Turner
27. Bad Boy by Peter Robinson
28. Dust City by Robert Paul Weston
29. The Wayfarer by R.J. Anderson
30. Tower of Treasure by Scott Chantler
31. Mercury by Hope Larson
32. It's Not About the Apple! by Veronika Martenova Charles
33. Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires
34. Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen
35. Lila & Ecco's Do-It-Yourself Comics Club by Willow Dawson
36. Daniel Boom #1: Sound Off! by D.J. Steinberg
37. Daniel Boom #2: Mac Attack! by D.J. Steinberg
38. Daniel Boom #3: Game On! by D.J. Steinberg
39. Daniel Boom #4: Grow Up! by D.J. Steinberg
40. Lucy Unstrung by Carole Lazar
41. It's Not About the Pumpkin! by Veronika Martenova Charles
42. It's Not About the Rose by Veronika Martenova Charles
43. Call Me Russell by Russell Peters
44. Bookweirder by Paul Glennon
45. It's Not About the Hunter! by Veronika Martenova Charles
46. New Monster in School by Sean O'Reilly
47. Lola, A Ghost Story by J. Torres
48. Two Generals by Scott Chantler
49. Falcons Gold: Canada's First Olympic Hockey Heroes by Kathleen Arnason
50. The Deadly Conch by Mahtab Narsimham
51. The Dragon Seer by Janet McNaughton
52. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
53. The Seventh Princess by Nick Sullivan
54. Quiver by Holly Luhning
55. Merci Mister Dash! by Monica Kulling
56. The Mystery of Ireland's Eye by Shane Peacock
57. Nearly Nonsense: Hoja Tales from Turkey by Rina Singh
58. High Flight: A Story of World War II by Linda Granfield
59. The Secret of the Silver Mines by Shane Peacock
60. Why Catholics Are Right by Michael Coren
61. Cowboys & Aliens by Fred Van Lente & Andrew Foley*
62. Cinderella, Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan
63. Sleeping Beauty, Vampire Hunter by Maureen McGowan
64. The Sindbad Trilogy by Ludmila Zeman
65. Irma Voth by Miriam Toews
66. Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay
67. Canadian Starters Themed Easy Readers (Emily Carr, Alexander Graham Bell, Moose, Raccoon)
68. Yokaiden, Vol. 1 by Nina Matsumodo
69. Yokaiden, Vol. 2 by Nina Matsumodo
70. Empire of the Ruins by Arthur Slade