Monday, January 31, 2011

19. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 3

MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 3 by Megumi Osuga. Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Paul (Canada) - (US)
MAOH: Juvenile Remix

Pages: 192
Ages: 16+
Finished: Jan. 21, 2011
First Published: 2007, Japan (Nov. 9, 2010 US)
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: YA, manga, action, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"P-put it out, you moron!"

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

Reason for Reading: next in the series

Wow! This series is consistently remaining exciting and receiving 5 stars from me. I'm loving it and really can't wait for volume 4. Ando tries to help out when some thugs are threatening to blow up a gas station. This forces a face-to-face meeting with him and Inukai, the mysterious leader of the vigilante group The Grasshoppers. I don't want to give any plot away but we see into Inukai's character in this volume and he is not someone to be liked, but the issue of whether he is a god or demon is still equally possible. Two fabulous new characters are introduced in this volume. First is Anderson, an American teen, joins Ando's class. His father is the head of the group turning the city into a conglomeration of strip malls. But Anderson is nothing like his father and while the students find his American ways a bit strange, he's also very cool. Second, is another assassin. This time it is a girl, possibly called "Hornet" , though also referred to as "that wasp girl". This time Ando is not the target but unfortunately he gets mixed up in things and finds himself being chased down by her. The ending of this volume is incredibly creepy, excellently drawn and brings a new darker feel to the series. Not exactly a cliff-hanger ending but one that makes you want to grab vol. 4 and keep reading!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fire Fighter! (DK Readers)

Fire Fighter! by Angela Royston (Canada) - (US)
Dorling Kindersley Readers, Level 2

Pages: 32
Ages: 5+
Finished: Jan. 20, 2011
First Published: 1998
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
Genre: easy reader, non-fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

It is busy at the fire house even when there is no fire.

Acquired: Bought used at a thrift store or book/garage sale.

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

Not too much to say here. Everything you could want in an easy reader. Engaging text and DK's usual exciting photography to compliment. We see inside the fire station and what fire fighters do there; then we are taken on the road with them to a real fire. The pictures of a house on fire are stunning, though could be frightening for younger children. As well as the plot which involves the fire fighters thinking a child may be in the house, exciting but possibly scary for younger readers. Every now and then there is a fact box of information. These use a smaller print and are an aside. My son refused to try and read them saying they were my part. I think the text size change threw him. Other than that no complaints at all. Entertaining and very realistic.

Reading Update: I want to stop here for my own benefit and report on ds's reading skills. He's now 10yo and I'm confident picking any Level 2 reader for him. Some are harder than others but generally they are all in the same vicinity when it comes to reading level. Though "I Can Read Books" are the true gauge of his reading level. If it's one of the older ICR books at a Level 2 I know he will be able to read without me checking it first. He reads in an expressionless voice but his comprehension of what he reads is near perfection. He is actually reading and we both enjoy his reading and are satisfied when he completes a book. Problem is that he is not consistent. He still has problems with words of more than two syllables, refuses to track words himself making me use my finger as a pointer. Though when he is having a good reading day I will refuse and tell him if he doesn't want to track the words then I'm not going to do it for him. This brings us to bad reading days which happen out of the blue and frequently enough that I can't say for sure he is ready to move up a level. On these days I have to use my finger for tracking, have to cover up suffixes like "ing" so he can read the root word, words like "then" he will just start rambling "the, there, three, than, this" and get frustrated. So I say take it slowly, sound it out, and he finally gets it. But on these days this can happen with every 4th word so to avoid frustration I tell him words that he can read but aren't easily sounded out just to keep the flow of reading going. While these days are frequent, the "good" days do outnumber the "bad" days.

All that said, I have a small stack of level 2 readers left here at home. I'm going to have him finish those, then we are going to move up to level 3s and I'll try introducing a chapter book at a low reading level to see if he can handle reading without the colourful pictures. I'm thinking a Magic Tree House, Marvin Redpost or Clyde Robert Bulla since most of those are RL 2 point something. Then I have to figure out how to get him to read on his own, without reading aloud to me (or someone else). At school, (he goes half days) during silent reading time he just pretends to read if his E.A. isn't there to read to, and he readily admits this.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

18. Taro and the Magic Pencil by Sango Morimoto

Taro and the Magic Pencil by Sango Morimoto. Translated from the Japanese by Katherine Schilling. (Canada) - (US)
Adventures of Taro, 1

Pages: 104
Ages: 6-10
Finished: Jan. 19, 2011
First Published: 2008, Japan (Nov. 2, 2010 US)
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: manga, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

This is Taro, the Prince of Comics.

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

Reason for Reading: The plot sounded fun and I thought my son might enjoy the book.

This is an absolutely adorable story with a plot worthy of any popular cartoon show. Taro loves to draw comics and when he isn't reading them he is drawing them in his sketchbook and has pictures all over his room. He imagines they all live in a world called Doodledum. One day the very first drawing he made comes to life to tell him that Doodledum is in great peril. A nasty villain, King Crossout, is erasing everything in Doodledum and if Taro doesn't come to save them they will all be deleted. He is given a magic pencil and an alter comic ego, Terrie the terrier, when he enters Doodledum. This is his first adventure where the King sends one of his minions, Cutlass Croc, to deal with him.

What a fabulous, adventure story! Sure to win the hearts of any young gamers or anime watchers as it has that same type of action and plot. With a mission, puffed up bad guys and cute sidekicks, nothing is missing. The humour is hilarious and I had myself a good chuckle whilst reading. There was a part with the inevitable toilet humour but with a book that seems aimed at boys they'll love it, and it is just one short mini-arc. The book is done mostly in b/w but every now and then there is a full colour two page spread. The book isn't completely manga either as there is a running textual narrative throughout the book along with the manga aspect inserted within. Every inch of the book is used to tell the story with comic panels on the flaps and inside covers decorated with information. There's even a comic panel on the copyright page! The second book is out in March and if these are displayed properly in libraries I think Taro could become quite a popular character with the younger set.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Emmett's Pig by Mary Stolz

Emmett's Pig by Mary Stolz. Pictures by Garth Williams. (Out of Print)

Pages: 63
Ages: 6+
Finished: Jan. 18, 2011
First Published: 1959
Publisher: Harper & Row
Genre: children, easy reader, animal story
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

{unknown} my copy is missing the first few pages.

Acquired: Purchased at a book/garage sale or thrift store.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud as his reader.

Even though we are missing the first few pages of this book it really didn't matter to the story. We could easily tell what had been discussed on the missing pages as it was recapped for us on a further page. This is a darling book! The story is about a boy who just loves pigs and has his whole room decorated with pigs and pig everything. He wants a pig of his own but they live in the city so his parents always so no. Emmett has dreamed everything about owning his own pig, how he'll care for it and even what he'll name it. But then along comes his birthday and his parents have a surprise for him.

I picked up this book because I pick up anything Garth Williams illustrated and I used to read Mary Stolz as a young teen. I thought it was unusual that she had done an I Can Read Book. Well, ds loved the story because it was about a boy obsessed with something and ds, being autistic, is always obsessed with something so he knows how it feels and he laughed and got excited for this boy. I loved the book because it is so darling! The story is just plain good old-fashioned wholesomeness, no gimmicks, no big actions scenes; just a story about a boy and a pig. The illustrations are gorgeous and I just love them. As we were reading I wondered if the book was still in print, seeing as Williams is such a favourite but then came the pictures of the Father smoking a pipe and I knew that if it was still in print it would probably have been re-illustrated. My absolute favourite picture in the book is of the family in the living room and Emmett is asking for the pig. We some mum and dad in chairs. Mum is in a dress with matching necklace, feet in slippers resting on a footstool, reading a book. Dad is right beside her wearing a sweater, shirt and tie, leaning back in an easy chair with pipe clenched firmly in mouth whilst reading the paper. Emmett stands next to them. Lovely nostalgic picture done in peach and green. I see that the book is out of print now but it was re-published back in 2006 as a paperback I Can Read Book and "Garth Williams's original illustrations appear now in full color with help from renowned artist Rosemary Wells." So the lovely 2 tone peachy-pink and green colours of the original are gone and I'd be interested to know if Dad's mouth is empty! Worth adding the original to your collection.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

17. Fire in the Sky: A Tale of the Hindenburg Explosion

Fire in the Sky: A Tale of the Hindenburg Explosion by J. Gunderson. Illustrated by Claude St. Aubin* (Canada) - (US)
Graphic Flash series

Pages: 49
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 18, 2011
First Published: Mar. 30, 2009
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, historical fiction, graphic hybrid
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

I had the best bedroom in Germany.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Stone Arch Books.

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

This is a hi-low chapter book with occasional pages of graphic panels used within the story to continue the action instead of text, a hybrid. Michael Roth, his brother and father, an American, are moving to America from Germany for at least the duration of the war and they are coming via the Hindenburg. Michael has been fascinated with the airship ever since it was built. There is a strange man aboard whom Michael starts to wonder if he is a spy who plans to blow the airship up. As Michael sneaks around trying to figure out the mystery of this man, the reader is given a lot of interesting information about the Hindenburg in particular and zeppelins in general. Also the beginning of the story, sets the stage for WWII discussion. It is 1936 and not much has exactly happened, as far as the Roth family know, but the topics of Nazis, Hitler, and the treatment of Jews early on are mentioned. This is perfect for younger children as it broaches the subject without getting into anything graphic. Mostly it is an interesting little story about the Hindenburg. We both enjoyed the fictional story and after reading the book we watched the live footage of the explosion on YouTube.

*The illustrator is a Canadian

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

16. Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 1

Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 1 by Usamaru Furuya (Canada) - (US)
Genkaku Picasso Trilogy, Vol.

Pages: 249
Ages: 16+
Finished: Jan. 19, 2011
First Published: Nov. 2, 2010
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: YA, manga, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

I meant to write Hikari Hamura.

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

Reason for Reading: The publisher's simple one line tag at pre-publication grabbed my attention and piqued my interest. "Having cheated death, Hikaru Hamura must save himself by using his artistic abilities to help others."

Hikaru, who has been nick-named Picasso, is pretty much a loner type of guy who really likes to spend his time alone drawing in his sketchbook whenever he can. He has one close friend, a girl named Chiaki. They are both in a terrible accident and Chiaki is killed but Hikaru survives. What he soon learns is that he really did die but he has been allowed to live if he uses his drawings to help others. If he lets too much time go by his body begins to rot, starting with his arm. This is the driving force that compels him to help other people, that and Chiaki has come back as a little angel of some sort to be his companion.

I was at first surprised to find that this is not one continuous story but each chapter is episodic being more of a short story centering around the person and their problem that Picasso and Chiaki help out. As the stories move on, he gathers friends and an overall running story arc about the characters begins to take shape. The stories are quite interesting and I must say surprised me in how dark they became as the cover and summary gave no indication of this element. I like dark so this is when the book picked up for me, though some of the themes are a bit on the weird side and this is definitely an older Teen book as recommended by the publisher.

The first story sets up the whole plot of the book, with the accident and Picasso finding out his unfortunate future and helping his first person. The person's problem and resolution were a little far-fetched and I wondered what the rest of the book would be like but I was ready for the next story. We've now picked up Sugiura, a boy, as a friend from the first story and Picasso helps a girl who is a teen model. This story deals with childhood grief and again was a bit out there but the story became darker and we picked up Akane, the girl, as another new friend for Picasso. Next is when things really went dark and weird with the next story where Picasso helps a boy and the story touches on the theme of S&M as well as teens who are loners and finally the last story, another very dark one, deals with suicide and hero worship. A very eclectic mix of stories! By the end of the book Picasso had grown from a whining complainer who didn't want this to be happening to him to someone who was beginning to take charge of his new calling. I certainly enjoyed the main characters and am interested to see where this goes with the next volume. The first two stories were a little overdone and had they all been like that I would not have enjoyed the book but the characters kept my interest through them and then the last two stories were very creepy and dark, as well as insightful. The art is amazing. When Picasso draws his pictures we get full page detailed drawings that are intricate and gorgeous in their weirdness. Still, I'll be reading Volume 2 before making a final call on whether to continue with the series.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

15. Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp

Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp by Jerry Stanley. Illustrated with Photographs (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 85
Ages: 11+
Finished: Jan. 17, 2011
First Published: 1992
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Genre: YA, non-fiction, American history
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Life had always been hard on the farmers who lived in Oklahoma, and in the 1930s it was especially hard on those who lived in the Panhandle, a barren stretch of rock and red soil sandwiched between Texas, Kansas, and New Mexico.

Acquired: Purchase a copy through an online retailer.

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

This is the story of a group of people who called themselves "Okies", having come from the Oklahoma region, who migrated to California from the Dust Bowl area during the Depression of the 1930's. Through extensive photographs and quotes from those who were youngsters at the time we get an insider's look at the Dust Bowl and what it was like to live there at the time. We are taken along for the ride as jalopies laden down with a family's worldly goods headed west for migrant farm work in the San Joaquin Valley area of California. Then the book focuses on life there for the "Okies" They met terrible opposition from the people already living there and prejudice became rampant. The "Okies" lived a bedraggled life in tents, with rags for clothing and children who were not wanted in the schools. Children would taunt them and teachers would ignore them. The prejudice they faced was almost unbelievable that it resembled racism. One person is quoted as comparing them to "white folks". How are people from Oklahoma less white than those from California?!?! My son and I were amazed and shook our heads at how little it can take for prejudice and racism to rise from the smallest of differences between people.

Then comes along Leo Hart, a high school counselor who saw the need for these children to be educated and through sheer determination and wits he began to build a school for them. He easily raised money from the Californians when they learnt the money was to build a separate school for the "Okie" children and he scoured the universities looking for like-minded graduate teachers to come teach at his school. Together, Leo, the children, staff and parents built the school and as soon as possible classes started taking place. There were two rotations where half the school would work on academics in the am and work on building in the pm and then they'd switch at lunchtime. Little did they know that the Weedpatch School would become such a success. Leo was ahead of his times in wanting to create a diverse education for his students which not only included the academics but also included animal husbandry, carpentry, plumbing, agriculture (growing their own food for their cafeteria), kitchen skills, (the cafeteria meal was prepared by teachers and students together). One of the teachers who taught typing and stenography was also the chemistry teacher and she taught the girls how to make their own face cream and cosmetics! The school also had its own C-46 where they were taught aircraft mechanics and any students earning marks over 90% in math were allowed to drive the plane up and down the runway!

This book is suitable for middle grade to young teen readers and as a read aloud to younger students. The writing isn't exactly the most compelling narrative, but the story itself is so interesting that with the photographs and quotes from the surviving children make it a powerful read despite any dryness in the writing. A great book for getting a feel for the Dust Bowl, and the resulting migrant workers and their hardships. The story has ties to Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath which are discussed in the text and the two would make a good read together for older students.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday: Books in the Mail

Sorry no pretty pictures or descriptions today. The links will take you there though! I have to get these posted and am so busy. I've been cleaning the house for the cleaners to come tomorrow. (Yeah, it's that bad!) We are only having a very small wedding but still some family members are flying, busing, driving in starting Wed. and our 3 bed. house is going to be full! Then we get married on Sat!

Here's what my mailbox held last week:

Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba (from Vertigo/DC Comics)

Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker (from Scholastic Canada)

The Girl Who Became a Beatle by Greg Taylor (from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group)

Vermonia #4: The Rukan Prophecy by Yoyo (from Candlewick Press)

My son's math curriculum:
Math-U-See Gamma

And that's all folks!

14. The Last Airbender Prequel: Zuko's Story

The Last Airbender Prequel: Zuko's Story by Dave Roman & Alison Wilgus. Illustrated by Nina Matsumoto (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 144
Ages: 10+
Finished: Jan. 17 , 2011
First Published: Jan. 18, 2010
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: children, manga, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

"Prince Zuko, you have shown yourself to be unworthy of the crown and unfit to stand upon the land of our noble ancestors."

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Reason for Reading: This was a Cybils '10 nominee and as a panelist for Graphic Novels was required reading for me. The panelists did not receive a review copy from the publisher and, I, unfortunately, was unable to find a copy before our nominations were due. My copy from Interlibrary Loan request had just now come in.

I have not seen this movie, though I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan movies even when the critics trash them. I have watched the cartoon some years ago when my son was younger, it was one of his favourites but he no longer watches it and while I saw it I must admit to not really paying attention to the overall plot. This is to say I'm coming to the book with very little knowledge, except knowing about the Avatar.

From what I can gather this is simply a very short story of how and why Zuko was banished to find the Avatar and follows him on the first stages of that journey. It is really the story of how he changed from a spoilt, selfish, youngster with no feelings for anyone but himself into a more mature person who is learning to respect others and how his feelings of contempt for his uncle gradually change to honour. It is an interesting, exciting story but definitely aimed at the movie audience. The book ends mid-action with a to-be-continued and there is a follow-up manga of the movie. The book is shorter than the number of pages indicate also as a good portion of the last pages are "Bonus Material" showing a manga writer's script on one page and the artist's sketches from the script on the other.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Finished The Stand!

Yeah me! I did it! I finally read The Stand by Stephen King after putting it off for 2 years. Silly me was looking at 15 days but in reality it took me 21 days to read the 1141 page Signet paperback with tiny print. First goal of 2011 completed! And now I can get back to moving forward with my Stephen King project.

And now I can start reading other books!

Asperger's Comedy

This is a video that makes fun of Asperger's but as someone with Asperger's I can say it is very close to the truth and it is ok to be able to laugh at yourself. I find this quite hilarious!

I've taken those facial expression tests myself and can never get sad right very often myself. I always think the emotion is surprised. Of course, in the real test there is no tear to give it away.

Watch more comedy videos from the twisted minds of the UCB Theatre at

Rex Murphy on "Iranium" & free speech

13. Stuart Goes to School by Sara Pennypacker

Stuart Goes to School by Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Martin Matje. (Canada) - (US)
The Amazing World of Stuart, 2

Pages: 58
Ages: 6+
Finished: Jan. 16, 2011
First Published: 2003
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: children, humour
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

As soon as he woke up, Stuart knew it was going to be a bad day.

Acquired: Bought a used copy at a book sale.

Reason for Reading: Honestly, the illustrations had me!

This is a cute little story in a chapter book format that is really intended for reading aloud. Being about a third grader it certainly is for the younger crowd but elementary students will probably have a hard time reading it themselves as it is not exactly an easy read and the print is quite tiny. No, this story is going to be much more appreciated as a read aloud.

It's the first day of school once again and Stuart, constant worrier, has even more things to worry about than usual. But with the help of his magical cape he made for himself he thinks he'll be able to make it big at school this year. Well, magic doesn't always work the way you want it to and Stuart ends up having some hilarious adventures and in the end the cape does help him make friends but not because of the magic. The last page contains a step-by step "how to draw Stuart" which looks simple enough for anyone to try. The illustrations throughout are really adorable and this is a fun, quick read.

DNF. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith. Adapted by Tony Lee. Illustrated by Cliff Richards (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 176
Ages: 18+
Finished: DNF
First Published: May 4, 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: graphic novel, humour, horror
Rating: DNF

First sentence:

It's a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Reason for Reading: This was a Cybils '10 nominee and as a panelist for Graphic Novels was required reading for me. The panelists did not receive a review copy from the publisher I, unfortunately, was unable to find a copy before our nominations were due. My copy from Interlibrary Loan request had just now come in.

I'm not a Jane Austen fan. I haven't read this novel. However, I do like zombies and thought the graphic novel of this might be fun. I was wrong. The pages are unnumbered so I don't know how many pages I did read, but it wasn't all that much, before I just couldn't go on any longer as it was just plain stupid. Plus the artwork is atrocious. The drawings look like they haven't been finished, I couldn't tell any of the women apart, and every page looks like it was Xeroxed on an old 1970's machine. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pro Life - March for Life Theme Song

12. Two Generals by Scott Chantler

Two Generals by Scott Chantler (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 243
Ages: Adult (but easily a YA crossover)
Finished: Jan. 14, 2011
First Published: Oct. 26, 2010
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Genre: memoirs, biography, WWII, France,Canadian history
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

"I-is that you, Lieutenant?"

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I love reading journals,memoirs and books based on them.

Wow! That one word could some up my complete review. Wow to the story! Wow to the graphics! Wow to the physical book itself!

Let's start with the book. The top and bottom halves are faux leather-look, the corners are rounded on the board and the pages. The pages are a nice thick quality paper and the book virtually looks like a moleskin journal. It even has an elastic band to hold it together. Beautiful book to behold!

The story is centred on the true life WW II experiences of the author's grandfather Lew Chantler and his best friend Jack. Little did they know it but they would end up being in the famous attack on the beaches of Normandy and be the Canadian division who recaptured Caen, France and ultimately ended up in the battle at Buron. The book spends plenty of time describing their training in England and life for the soldier not on active duty there before the meat of the story switches over to the Invasion at Normandy and the horrors of war. Examine the horror and tragedy of war the book certainly does while still recognizing the bravery and honour of the men who fought and those who died for their country. Taken up to the leadership level of majors, presidents, kings and those who plan the war, irony can often be found in Chantler's book. This is also the story of the bond of friendship and how one doesn't know how strong a friendship is until it is put to the test of a hardship.

The artwork is fantastic. The majority of the work is done in b/w drawing with one colour added and for the majority of the book that colour is khaki, obviously representing the army, but whenever a scene that mentions the upcoming war or its possible dangers a bit of red is added which provides an unsettling contrast. As the scenes become more dangerous the khaki is left behind and red becomes the one colour in each frame, easily representing war. But when it comes to the most barbaric scenes in the middle of battle with limbs flying and death everywhere, the scheme turns to red and a light terracotta colour and these colours clearly represent death and horror.

The author wrote his story using as source material, his grandfather's journal, letter's to his wife and letter's received by him from others. Chantler was also able to track down some remaining survivors/or their families who could help him with other source materials. A brutal yet compelling story of war. One that shows the horrors of war but also shows the bravery of those who fought and the respect we owe them. Scott Chantler has done his late grandfather proud. A compelling piece of Canadian history from the point of view of one Canadian who served his country.

Friday, January 21, 2011

11. Who Was Amelia Earhart?

Who Was Amelia Earhart? by Kate Boehm Jerome. Illustrated by David Cain. (Canada) - (US)
Who was ...? series

Pages: 106
Ages: 8+
Finished: Jan. 12, 2011
First Published: 2002
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Genre: children, biography
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Amelia Earhart was a pioneer.

Acquired: Bookmooched.

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

This is a basic biography of Amelia Earhart focusing on her accomplishments though it does tell her life story from her childhood onwards. The brief opening chapter explains how Amelia's name is nowadays associated with her disappearance and death, but that this book is not about her end but about her life. It gives a good look at Earhart's progress to becoming a pilot and her motivation to setting records, as well as exploring her impact on women of the time. An interesting aspect that I enjoyed was that within each chapter there is a time-out page which will give a brief explanation of a topic that has come up in the text, such as World's Fairs, the Wright brothers, Lindbergh, the depression, etc. One must just stop reading the story and take time-out to read them but they do add another dimension to the book that I enjoyed, especially seeing as the story was not particularly gripping. It does its job well, is a pleasant enough read but there is no connection for the reader with Amelia and no attempt made to make one. The illustrations, which are profuse with one on every single page, are not highly attractive, faces are usually at such a distance that a few lines will suffice for facial details and they are filled with cross-hatching and lines to fill in spaces.

My son listened contentedly to the story, asked questions and was interested. But after seeing the first few illustrations had no desire to sit beside me and look at the pictures. There may be better books on the topic but if this is the one you read it will be enjoyable.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jimmy Neutron: Jimmy on Ice (Easy Reader)

Jimmy on Ice by Adam Beechen. Illustrated by Mark Marderosian (Canada) - (US)
The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius
, Level 2

Pages: 32
Ages: 7+
Finished: Jan. 11, 2011
First Published: 2003
Publisher: Simon Spotlight/Nickelodeon
Genre: easy reader, science fiction
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Jimmy Neutron and his friends Carl and Sheen played in Jimmy's backyard under the hot summer sun.

Acquired: Bought used at a thrift store or book/garage sale.

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

Both ds and I love the Jimmy Neutron cartoons so there is always going to be a fair amount of enjoyment from a storybook about Jimmy and his science inventions. This time it so hot out that even Sheen's Ultra Lord action figures are melting. Jimmy has a great idea using Carl's sunblock. He'll just magnify it's power and using a laser beam coat the sun with sunblock to cool things down a bit. And it works! Only it works too well and Jimmy may have just started the next ice age! Can Jimmy reverse the effects before the angry mob of townspeople get him?

Fun story, with a great, though over the top, of course, scientific solution to the problem. For a Level 2 reader the book was incredibly hard to read though, "Ready-to-Read" books are certainly not equivalent to other early reader series' levels.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Two Easy Reader Graphic Novels from Stone Arch Books

Publisher: Stone Arch Books

Acquired: Received review copies from Capstone Publishers.

Reason for Reading: I am a huge fan of Stone Arch books which publishes "worry-free" content, easy reader graphic novels and chapter books with graded reading levels. My reading challenged son has used their books to improve his reading skills and has enjoyed almost all the books, even when I don't.

End Zone Thunder (Sports Illustrated Kids Graphic Novels) by Scott Ciencin, illustrated by Gerardo Sandoval. Aug. 1, 2010, 56 pgs. - The book has been professionally drawn and styled and it shows. Done in a style typical of comics and superhero cartoons with angular faces and jawlines and manga-type hairstyles. This is definitely a high-low reader, with a reading level of 1.7 and interest level up to 14 yo. The two receivers on the team are competitive with each other to such a degree that the other players are beginning to find it detrimental to the team, even though both are the best players on the team. When the captain of the team moves away suddenly they both vie for the position of the new captain and the coach puts them both through an intense regime to see who really wants it most. But what exactly is the coach looking for? My only problem with this book is my own personal fault in that I don't understand a thing about football! And this book talks football. But that aside, the teens are presented very well, speaking and acting just like real-life teens (keeping in mind that Stone Arch only prints family friendly material). I recommend this book and having read Avalanche Freestyle previously I find the whole series is worthy of recommendation. 4/5

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Arabian Nights Tales) Matthew K. Manning. Illustrated by Ricardo Osnaya. Aug. 1, 2010, 63 pgs. -A retelling of the famous Arabian Nights tale in which the phrase "open sesame" originates. A detailed retelling that manages to keep all the gruesome violent bits of the original tale while keeping the story family friendly. Recommended for ages 10-14 by the publisher I tend to agree as the violent bits while not actually shown are alluded to through words and images, leaving the goriness to the imagination. There is one scene with a pool of blood. Written at a 3.0 Reading Level, this will be great for readers of that grade and will make a fantastic hi-low reader. I appreciate a retelling that can stay with the original tale and think Manning & Osnava have done a wonderful job in doing so without showing the gory bits. My only dissatisfaction with this one is that I'm not entirely pleased with the illustrations. While done in the typical comic-book/cartoon style I found the faces and facial expressions awkward and stiff. Otherwise, I'd love to read the other three books in this series. 4/5

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

10. Jack of Fables: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack

The New Adventures of Jack and Jack by Bill Willingham, Mark Sturges & Chris Roberson. Art by Tony Akins & Ross Braun. (Canada) - (US)
Jack of Fables, Vol. 7

Pages: 126
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 11, 2011
First Published: Jun. 29, 2010
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, fairy tales
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Anchorage, Alaska.
"It is cold, Jack."

Acquired: Purchased a new copy via an online retailer.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

I've never liked Jack of Fables as much as the original Fables series but it has been more than interesting enough to keep me reading. A lot of fans were somewhat disappointed with a "Great Crossover", however I was not one of them. I was very excited to read this new volume of Jack, knowing that a whole new story arc would be starting from the remnants that remained from the "Great Crossover". The new Jack, Jack Frost, is a lovable character, so unlike the original Jack Horner that I was greatly expectant to see where he would fit into the new storyline.

The volume opens with Jack H. and Gary sitting in a diner where Jack tells Gary a story from his past that he had never told before about landing on an island full of fabled apes and helping them with their troubles where he eventually became king of the jungle for a while. There he met such fables as George, the ever curious, a gorilla by the name of Magilla and of course the great Kong. This was fun old usual Jack stuff.

Then we moved onto the titular story arc with the remaining four chapters which switch back and forth between Jack and Gary and Jack Frost who has set off to be a hero with a wooden owl as his sidekick whom he names MacDuff. Jack is in great trouble as it seems that he is transforming into something, he starts gaining weight, his skin goes all pimply and he's losing his hair. His T-shirts are hilarious! As he continues to transform into some large creature he has an instinct to reach a certain place before the transformation completes. Meanwhile, Jack Frost is having a tough time finding anyone who needs rescuing or the the real services of a hero until he advertises and a young woman comes to him to help save her town from the night walkers, man-eating monsters that live in the forest. As he sets out to take care of the night walkers they in turn seek him to save them from an evil sorcerer and Jack has the potential to save two clients all in one go.

I love, love, love the new direction Jack of Fables has taken. Jack Frost is a welcome addition to the cast and is going to be a much more fun character than Jack ever was. It isn't clear how (or if) the old Jack in his new form will be part of the story arc now so that remains to be seen. If he is still going to remain in constant play I think he'll be much more interesting this way! The only thing that disappointed me was the cover (which is really cool!) but not representative of anything that happens in the book. The Snow Queen, nor any of those cool characters make an appearance in this volume.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday: Books in the Mail

A full and busy mailbox last week brought me plenty of review books:

From Harper Collins Canada:

Incorruptible, Vol. 3 by Mark Waid - Reformed supervillain Max Damage, and his sidekick Jailbait, travel to the ruins of Sky City. A vicious gang of Plutonian-worshipping white supremacists are wreaking havoc on the survivors and ruling with no mercy. But there's one thing they didn't count on...Max Damage. The key to victory may lie in the hands of Alana Patel, Plutonian's ex-girlfriend. But how will Max ally himself with Alana when she hasn't come close to forgetting about Max kidnapping and torturing her in his days as a villain?

Irredeemable, Vol. 5 by Mark Waid. The secret history of Hornet, who died at the hands of Plutonian, is finally revealed. The fallen Paradigm member had a plan--a fail safe--that puts all of Earth and the Plutonian in danger. And when Modeus' plans reach critical mass, the few remaining heroes of Earth are the only thing standing between civilization and ultimate chaos.

From Random House Canada:

Wildcat Fireflies by Amber Kizer. Meridian Sozu is a Fenestra—the half-human, half-angel link between the living and the dead. She has the dark responsibility of helping souls transition safely into the afterlife. If people die without the help of a Fenestra, their souls are left vulnerable to be stolen by the Aternocti, a dark band of forces who disrupt the balance of good and evil in the world and cause chaos.
Having recently lost her beloved Auntie—the woman who showed her what it meant to be a Fenestra—Meridian has hit the road with Tens, her love and sworn protector, in hopes of finding another Fenestra. Their search leads them to Indiana, where Juliet, a responsible and loving teenager, works tirelessly in the nursing home where she and several other foster kids are housed. Surrounded by death, Juliet struggles to make a loving home for the younger kids, and to protect them from the violent whims of their foster mother. But she is struggling against forces she can't understand . . . and even as she feels a pull toward the dying, their sickness seems to infect her, weighing her down. . . .
Will Meri and Tens find Juliet in time to save her from a life of misery and illness? And will Meri and Tens' own romance weather the storms of new discoveries?

Bink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones. Boy, did Blink get off on the wrong floor. All he wanted was to steal some breakfast for his empty belly, but instead he stumbled upon a fake kidnapping and a cell phone dropped by an "abducted" CEO, giving Blink a link to his perfect blonde daughter. Now Blink is on the run, but it’s OK as long as he’s smart enough to stay in the game and keep Captain Panic locked in his hold. Enter a girl named Caution. As in "Caution: Toxic." As in "Caution: Watch Your Step." She’s also on the run, from a skeezy drug-dealer boyfriend and from a nightmare in her past that won’t let her go. When she spies Blink at the train station, Caution can see he’s an easy mark. But there’s something about this naïve, skinny street punk, whom she only wanted to rob, that tugs at her heart, a heart she thought deserved not to feel. Charged with suspense and intrigue, this taut novel trails two deeply compelling characters as they forge a blackmail scheme that is foolhardy at best, disastrous at worst - along with a fated, tender partnership that will offer them each a rare chance for redemption.

The Hunt of the Unicorn by C.C. Humphreys. Elayne thinks the old family story that one of her ancestors stepped through a tapestry into a world of mythical beasts makes a great fireside tale. But she lives in the real world. In New York City. And she's outgrown that kind of fantasy.

Until she finds herself in front of a unicorn tapestry at the Cloisters museum and sees her initials woven into the fabric. And hears a unicorn calling to her. And slips and falls—into that other world.

Suddenly the line between fantasy and reality isn't so clear. But the danger is real enough. Almost before she can think, Elayne is attacked by a ferocious beast, rescued by a unicorn, and taken prisoner by a tyrant king. Each of them seems to have an idea about her—that she's a hero, a villain, dinner!

But Elayne has a few ideas of her own. She wants to overthrow the king; she wants to tame the unicorn. She wants to go home! And she's willing to become both hero and villain to do it.

From Simon & Schuster Canada:

Tegami Bachi Letter Bee, Vol. 4 - Amberground is locked in darkness. A man-made star casts only a dim light over the land. The pitch-black wilderness is infested with Gaichuu--colossal insects with metal exoskeletons. The Gaichuu make travel between the cities of Amberground extremely dangerous. But thankfully the Letter Bees, a brave corps of messengers, risk their lives in order to keep the hearts of Amberground connected.

A Letter Full of Lies Lag, now a Letter Bee rookie, meets Dr. Thunderland, Jr. a peculiar man who collects and catalogs the various Amberground species. When the doctor takes a particular interest in Steak, Lag and Niche have to hustle to keep him off the doctor’s dissection table! The ensuing chaos pays off for Lag when the doctor reveals that Gauche—Lag’s missing hero—paid the doctor a visit before he disappeared.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 1 - While the day belongs to humans, the night belongs to yokai,supernatural creatures that thrive on human fear. Caught between these worlds is Rikuo Nura. He's three-quarters human, but his grandfather is none other than Nurarihyon, the supreme commander of the Nura clan, a powerful yokai consortium. So, Rikuo is an ordinary teenages three quarters of the time, until his yokai blood awakens. Then Rikuo transforms into the future leader of the Nura clan, leading a hundred demons.

Genkaku Picasso, Vol, 2 - Having cheated death, Hikaru Hamura must save himself by using his artistic abilities to help others.

From Margin Notes Books:

The Whicharts by Noel Streatfeild - 1920s London: three adopted sisters train for the stage and support the household.

Maimie, Tania and Daisy Whichart have self-reliance thrust upon them. The Whicharts is the story of their dreams, friendships and loves. The drudgery of stage-work is set against their passion for family ties and realising their dreams.

Out of print since the 1930s, Noel Streatfeild's first novel is an exuberant portrayal of London cultural life in the inter-war years.

Purchased for myself from an online retailer: (got tired of adding pics & descriptions!)

Twin Spica, Vol. 2 by Kou Yaginuma
Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, Vol. 3 by Sakae Esuno
Chi's Sweet Home, Vol. 2 by Konami Kanata

09. A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina

A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina. Art by Antonio Fuso (Canada) - (US)
Vertigo Crime series

Pages: 180
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan. 10, 2011
First Published: Oct. 19, 2010
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, mystery
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

So she's finally dead?

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I love that the pure mystery/thriller/crime genre is so much more easily found in the graphic novel format now. I'll always take a look when I see one and the plot had me on this book.

They could be your typical family: Ted and Biddy Usher, Biddy's mom Martha, and the three grown children, with the youngest in his last year of his school, William, Amy and Sam. But they are not, typical that is. It is Christmas and in the basement flat they rent out a horrendous murder takes place. Ted quickly makes plans to incorporate that portion back into the house as he'd been wanting to for years. Then family members start to die. One by one. Is it because of the wrath of a witch who was burnt at the stake there in the 1500s? Or has one of the remaining family members decided to get rid of the rest, each of whom has a surprisingly good reason for wanting the others dead?

An incredibly creepy murder mystery. Well-written with a plot that picks up suspense as it goes along and is quite difficult to solve since suspects keep getting killed themselves and the pool of possible suspects to pick from gets smaller and smaller. A delightfully tense and surprise ending with a final shocker on the last page. This is Mina's first graphic novel. She has previously written mystery novels and one series of comics. I am quite interested in reading something else by this author if this is an example of her technique. The artwork is done in black and white with a lot of shadows which I think is particularly suitable to this story (and others of its sort) as it captures the noir feeling that wold be missing if the gruesome scenes were shown in full colour.

Just the sort of thing I like in a murder mystery, gruesome, creepy and a shocker at the end.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Graphic Novels Challenge 2011 - Finished

Well, I have officially completed to Graphic Novel Challenge which at the Expert Level was to read 10+ books: Here are the books I read for the challenge. However I do intend to still play along and continue to add books to the list and linkies throughout the year. These are my official books read:

Graphic Novel Challenge 2011 (Expert 10+) (Jan-Dec. 2011) FINISHED
1. The Night Owls by Peter & Bobby Timony
2. Thunder from the Sea: Adventure on Board the HMS Defender by Jeff Weigel
3. Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 2: Research by Thomas Siddell
4. Incorruptible, Vol. 2 by Mark Waid
5. Agatha Christie's Peril at End House by Didier Quella-Guyot
6. The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane
7. New Monster in School by Sean O'Reilly
8. The Incredible Rockhead vs. Papercut! by Scott Nickel
9. Crogan's March by Chris Schweizer
10. Luna Park by Kevin Baker
11. Lola, A Ghost Story by J. Torres

Books added after:
12. A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina
13. Jack of Fables: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack by Bill Willingham
14. End Zone Thunder by Scott Ciencin
15. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves by Matthew K. Manning
16. Two Generals by Scott Chantler
17. The Last Airbender Prequel: Zuko's Story by Dave Roman & Alison Wilgus
18. Genkaku Picasso, vol. 1 by Usamaru Furuya
19. Fire in the Sky: A Tale of the Hindenburg Explosion by J. Gunderson
20. Taro and the Magic Pencil by Sango Morimoto
21. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 3 by Megumi Osuga
xx. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies adapted by Tony Lee. Based on Jane Austen (DNF)
22. Escape from Pompeii by Terry Collins
23. Rescue in the Bermuda Triangle by Marc Tyler Nobleman
24. Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 3 by Kiiro Yumi
25. The Whirlwind World of Hurricanes with MaxAxiom, Super Scientist by Katherine Krohn
26. The Dynamic World of Chemical Reactions with MaxAxiom, Super Scientist by Agnieszka Biskup
27. Children of the Sea, Vol. 4 by Daisuke Igarashi
28. City in Peril! by Paul Collicutt
29. Rust Attack! by Paul Collicutt
30. The Indestructible Metal Men by Paul Collicutt
31. Murder on the Robot City Express by Paul Collicutt
32. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri
33. Jack London The Call of the Wild by Lloyd S. Wagner
34. Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol by Scott McCullar
35. Toy Story: The Mysterious Stranger by Dan Jolley
36. Incorruptible,Vol. 3 by Mark Waid
37. Irredeemable, Vol. 5 by Mark Waid
38. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 4 by Hiroyuki Asada
39. Silly Lilly in What Shall I Be Today? by Agnes Rosenstiehl
40. Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 2 by Usamaru Furuya
41. Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
42. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 1 by Hiroshai Shiibashi
43. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower
44. The Rukan Prophecy, Vermonia 4 by Yoyo
45. Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker
46. There's a Wolf at the Door by Zoe B. Alley
47. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Volume 4 by Megumi Osuga
48. Stephen King The Stand Vol, 1: Captain Trips by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
49. Flight, Volume 7 edited by Kazu Kibuishi
50. Greek Myths retold by Marcia Williams
51. Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 4 by Kiiro Yumi
52. Death Note: Black Edition, Vol. 2 by Tsugumi Ohba
53. Taro and the Terror of Eats Street by Sango Morimoto
54. Lewis & Clark by Nick Bertozzi
55. Excalibur: The Legend of King Arthur by Tony Lee
56. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 2 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
57. Graphic Classics, Vol. 20: Western Classics edited by Tom Pomplun
58. The Lightning Thief Graphic Novel by Robert Venditti
59. Cowboys & Aliens by Fred Van Lente & Andrew Foley
60. Toy Story: Toy Overboard by Jessie Blaze Snider
61. The Odyssey: Homer by Tim Mucci
62. Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 3 by Usamaru Furuya
63. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 5 by Hiroyuki Asada
64. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 5 by Megumi Osuga
65. Death Note: Black Edition, Vol. 3 by Tsugumi Ohba
66. A Study in Scarlet by Ian Edginton
67. Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki
68. Yokaiden, Vol. 1 by Nina Matsumodo
69. Yokaiden, Vol. 2 by Nina Matsumodo
70. Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 5 by Kiiro Yumi
71. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 3 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
72. Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman
73. Out From Boneville (Bone 1) by Jeff Smith
74. The Great Cow Race (Bone 2) by Jeff Smith
75. Escape of the Storm (Bone 3) by Jeff Smith
76. Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, Vol. 3 by Sakae Esuno
77. Chi's Sweet Home, vol. 2 by Konami Kanata
78. Twin Spica, vol. 2 by Kou Yaginuma
79. William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice by John F. McDonald
80. Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote Part 1 by Lloyd S. Wagner
81. William Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet by John F. McDonald
82. Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers by Bruce Buchanan
83. The Dusk Society by Sidney Williams & Mark Jones
84. Fables 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham
85. Jack of Fables 8: The Fulminate Blade by Bill Willingham
86. Death Note: Black Edition, Vol. IV by Tsugumi Ohba
87. In Defense of the Realm by Sanjay Deshpande
88. Photo Booth by Lewis Helfand
89. The Dragonslayer (Bone 4) by Jeff Smith
90. Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border (Bone 5) by Jeff Smith
91. Old Man's Cave (Bone 6) by Jeff Smith
92. Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory by George O'Connor
93. Defiance, Resistance Book 2 by Carla Jablonski
94. Sita, Daughter of the Earth by Saraswati Nagpal
95. Space Race by C.E. L. Walsh
96. H.G. Wells: The War of the Worlds by Ryan Foley
97. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 6 by Hiroyuki Asada
98. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 4 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
99. MAOH: Juvenile Remix, Vol. 6 by Megumi Osuga
100. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
101.Vermonia #5: The Warrior's Trial by Yoyo
102. After the Challenger by Robert Marsh
103. Nola's Worlds #1: Changing Moon by Mathieu Mariolle
104. Nola's Worlds #2: Ferrets and Ferreting Out by Mathieu Mariolle
105. Nola's Worlds #3: Even for a Dreamer Like Me by Mathieu Mariolle
106. George R.R. Martin's Fevre Dream by Daniel Abraham
107. Graphic Classics #21: Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery edited by Tom Pomplun
108. Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs by Marcia Williams
109. The Clockwork Girl by Sean O'Reilly & Kevin Hanna
110. The Marvelous Land of Oz by Eric Shanower
111. Orcs: Forged for War by Stan Nicholls
112. Around the World by Marc Phelan
113. Good vs. Evil: The Awakening by Donald Lemke
114. Healthy Snacks, Healthy You! by Sally Lee
115. Bone 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith

08. Lola, A Ghost Story by J. Torres

Lola, A Ghost Story by J. Torres. Illustrated by Elbert Or (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 102
Ages: 12+
Finished: Jan. 9 , 2011
First Published: Jan. 13, 2010
Publisher: Oni Press
Genre: YA, graphic novel, ghost story
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The Tagalog word for grandmother is "Lola".

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Reason for Reading: This was a Cybils '10 nominee and as a panelist for Graphic Novels was required reading for me. The panelists did not receive a review copy from the publisher and like most other panelists, I, unfortunately, was unable to find a copy before our nominations were due. My copy from Interlibrary Loan request had just now come in.

This is a great ghost story told in the classic tradition and very worthy to be read by all ghost story aficionados. Jesse sees dead people, goblins, demons, monsters, etc. but he's learned to stop telling anyone since his parents' and teachers' reactions have been less than accepting. Now he and his family are traveling "home" to the Philippines; Jesse's parents immigrated to Canada when he was four and this is his third visit here. He hates it here. They have come for the funeral of his grandmother, "Lola" in Filipino. The culture of his Filipino family is quite hard for Jesse to accept, they are devout Catholics, carrying Rosaries, with beautiful shrines of worship in the house and yet they are steeped in the superstitions of tradition. Lola had the "gift" and he's heard all the stories of how she's helped the community and even defeated demons. Jesse fears what it will be like here now that Lola is gone.

A fabulous story with lots of creepy moments. The tension mounts slowly through the story. Things start happening right away and the reader becomes unsettled knowing something is not quite right. Gradually we learn what is going on, and Jesse realizes the truth as well. His cousin easily figures out Jesse's gift and berates him for hiding it, telling him it is a gift from God and he must use it. He has something he must do before he leaves. Then like any really good ghost story the book ends with a really fantastic heart-pounding shocker of an ending where one can only imagine what comes next. Loved this one!

Sunday Salon

I'm not a member of this group who posts on Sundays but thought I'd nab the title and post my own "Sunday Salon" for today. This is especially for those readers who are wondering what is up with all the graphic novel reviews and will they ever end! Yes, they will end, not permanently by any means, I am an addict, but I will be posting a wider range of types and genres in the near future. But for the time being my posts are going to remain mostly graphic novels/manga with some easy readers and the occasional children's book thrown in while I am working on The Stand by Stephen King.

To read The Stand was my first goal of 2011 and if you didn't read why before you can find out here. How's it going you ask? Well this is the first chunkster of this scope I have read in ages and it feels weird to keep on reading the same book. First I started off with a bonus though, as I had thought the book had 1500 pgs but it really only had 1100 (must be another chunkster I'm putting off around here somewhere that has the 1500!). My reading speed usually covers 100 pages a day out of a normal sized adult hardcover. This fluctuates a bit with the type of book I'm reading but I can make a good judgement call on how long the book will take to read based on it's pages. Not so with The Stand, if you're familiar with reading King's works you'll know what I mean when I say I'm reading a Signet paperback. Yeah. So while the book has 1100 pages it might as well have twice as many since the print is so minuscule! It's taking me much longer than I thought to read. It is now halfway through the month and I've read just over half the book, so I'm on for the long haul with this one and will finish it just before the end of the month, I predict. Possibly leaving room to finish one more quick read.

So in the meantime, I've put my non-fiction book aside which I always read a chapter of each night before I go to bed in favour of The Stand and helping me to finish it. (I'm really enjoying that non-fiction book, too! Look in the sidebar. But non-fiction is easy to pick up after it's been set aside). I'm reading a graphic novel or short chapter book each day to continue having a review to post each day. And on top of that my son's readers and the books I read to him for history and "just fun" will pop up for review here and there as well. So that's what the rest of January is going to look like review-wise here.

Once Feb. comes you can be sure I will be eager to read books that are quick reads. I have to say my favourite kind of book is about a 3 day read. And when I pick a book to read if it has over 500 pages I'm hesitant to read it. I'm very content with anything up into the 400s but as it pushes close to the 500 mark or goes over it has to be a very compelling tale for me to choose it. Strangely, this doesn't apply to non-fiction, as my rule with NF is to read one chapter a night before settling with with my current fiction book, so it doesn't matter how long the NF is. I do very frequently find myself reading much more than the required one chapter though!

While I am certainly enjoying The Stand, even though I've read it before (the '70s version), the neverendingness of it does make me stop and look at other books and long for the day I can read them. But now that I've got my bookmark smack dab in the middle of this chunkster it sure looks good to see it there. It was painful to see it creep along the first week of reading seemingly hardly moving and now the fun part will start as I see it edging closer and closer to the end.

So, enjoy the graphic novel reviews and I've got manga coming up soon for the rest of the month and rest assured that come February we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming of assorted YA, mystery, fantasy, literature, historical fiction and anything else that hits my fancy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

07. Luna Park by Kevin Baker

Luna Park by Kevin Baker. Art by Danijel Zezelj (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 157
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jan 8, 2011
First Published: Nov. 30, 2010
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: magical realism, crime, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Every day, he tries to escape the nightmare.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: The Russian historical aspects and the publisher's summary had me intrigued.

This is a very difficult book to give a summary as nothing is as it seems but let me tell you what appears to be happening as the book starts. Alik Strelnikov is a Russian immigrant who made a deal back in Russia which got him his freedom in America. This 'freedom' lead him to working for a second fiddle Russian mob group in Coney Island as an enforcer. Here he lives an existence with his girlfriend in an apartment drinking, listening to old Russian records and shooting heroin to forget what he has become. But he is plagued with dreams, nightmares actually, the same ones over and over, which show him in various situations in different uniforms and he is always afraid. These nightmares will take us back in history to pre-revolutionary Russia, to WWI, to the Chechen Wars and back to 1910s New York.

This is an awesome, gripping story. The reader has no idea of what is really going on for some time. My mind contemplated these dreams as possible flashbacks to past lives, psychic visions of the past, a tortured man turning his real problems into symbolic messages and finally a simpler consideration, the raving dreams of a madman. Why he keeps having the dreams is not so important but the recurring themes that they carry are. With the ultimate one of betrayal being the most affecting on him. Then the book takes an extreme magical or psychedelic turn and one can possibly start to put things together until near the very end when the author hits us with a very subtle reveal we hardly notice it until the final page with it's shocking end. I actually stared at the last page for some seconds before the reveal sank in. A fabulous end!

The writing and the art combine to make a surreal, strange, semi-conscious type of plot. This is not going to be a book for everyone. Not for the type who like their plots to begin at A and end at Z. The plot is incongruous and where it is going the reader cannot grasp until a certain point 2/3s of the way through. This is not a bad thing though. I found the book utterly captivating to read. It's one of those few books that stand out alone as an "I've never read anything quite like it before!" book. The art is fascinatingly done mostly in a palette of terracottas, greys and purplish blues that turn into lavenders at more lighthearted scenes (not that there are many of those). If you've ever seen old Communist posters or postage stamps from the era, the art reminds me of that style at times. Otherwise it matches the mood of the story perfectly.

Friday, January 14, 2011

06. Crogan's March by Chris Schweizer

Crogan's March by Chris Schweizer (Canada) - (US)
The Crogan Adventures, Vol. 2

Pages: 208
Ages: 13+
Finished: Jan. 7, 2011
First Published: Feb. 3, 2010
Publisher: Oni Press
Genre: YA, historical fiction, graphic novel
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Mom! Mom!

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series. This was a Cybils '10 nominee and as a panelist for Graphic Novels was required reading for me. The panelists did not receive a review copy from the publisher and like most other panelists, I, unfortunately, was unable to find a copy before our nominations were due. My copy from Interlibrary Loan request had just now come in.

Set within the framework of the modern day Crogan family, the father tells the patriarchal story of a fellow Crogan ancestor from the past. This book is about Peter Crogan, Legionnaire, circa 1912. An action packed story of a man within the French Foreign Legion and the fellow soldiers he meets and bonds with in various ways. Also explores his feelings for the locals whom they are there to protect and the Tuareg, who are fighting against them, along with the other soldiers' opinions. Peter is an average guy. We don't know exactly why he's in the FFL, but do know it was to get away from something and to start over, like many others who joined the Foreign Legion. Crogan doesn't seem to be any different than the others, he doesn't look different or act different but gradually as the story progresses we can see that Crogan has a conscience. He regrets certain actions and decisions he's made and he soon starts making decisions based on his conscience and we have an unlikely hero in the making.

The story is full of action and adventure. Being lost in a sandstorm, battles galore, trapped inside the depths of a cave and being captured by the enemy for public decapitation in the morning. Yes, there is no lack of excitement. But there are also moments of pathos. Crogan first gets choked up when one of his buddies is the only one not to survive the sandstorm while others are only grateful the casualties were so few. Crogan realizes some truths in several poignant moments and there are two especially sad moments towards the end of the book.

I can't say the artwork is anything special for me. It's typical b/w cartoony drawing, well done. I really liked Vol. 1 but I adored this Volume. I think the story had so much depth and I must admit it my enjoyment may be due, in part, to my love of French Foreign Legion stories, from when I first saw Laurel and Hardy join the FFL to other old b/w movies to the awesome book "Beau Geste" by P.C. Wren. Looking forward to Volume 3 which from the cover picture at the end of the book looks like it will be about the Revolutionary War.