Tuesday, May 31, 2011

120. Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis by Bernard Beckett (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 185
Ages: 14+
Finished: May 19, 2011
First Published: 2006 New Zealand (Mar. 24, 2009 CAN)
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Genre: YA, science fiction, dystopia, post-apocalypse
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Anax moved down the long corridor.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I love dystopian literature and will read pretty much anything I can get my hands on as long as it sounds interesting to me.

The year is 2075, an island society lives behind a Great Sea Fence and is modeled after Plato's Republic. The society is Utopian to all those within, but watching over society very carefully is The Academy where the Original Sin has been concealed very carefully from this Brave New World.

Written in a unique format, we meet Anaximander as she begins her four hour oral exam to gain entry as an historian at The Academy. The book's chapters are divided into the four separate hours of Q & A followed by a stretch of break time between each where Anax is left to her thoughts. Anax's project is based on Adam Forde a great cultural hero who died before the Great War. Through her telling of his story and the questions asked of her we learn the history of this world: the global disasters, the Last War, the seclusion of The Republic behind the Great Sea Fence, the plague that destroyed much of mankind and The Republic's response to killing any who sought asylum with them,  and finally, the beginning of the Great War which tore down the old Republic and established the New Platonic Republic. We are mostly exposed to Adam and his world, along with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) device that has been left with Adam after he ends up in jail, as all true great people's hero's eventually do. It is through Adam's and Art's relationship and lack of such that we really get to know this man and his society and eventually back to Anax's. The surprise reveal at the ending was a shock to me but now that I've thought about it I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.

The book is unusual. It wasn't a page-turner for me and took longer for me to read 185 pages than it should have. But it was interesting and never did I consider putting the book away, or *not* continuing on with it. The story lingers with me. The ending is certainly what makes the book worth the read and leaves one to ponder on many levels. Readable.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Little Henry to the Rescue by Eleanor Graham

Little Henry to the Rescue by Eleanor Graham. Illustrated by Ben D. Williams (Out of Print)

Pages: 27
Ages: 5+
Finished: May 18, 2011
First Published: 1945
Publisher: Whitman Tell-a-Tale Books
Genre: children, picture book
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

In an out-of-the-way corner of the airport, Henry, the little helicopter, sat all by himself, feeling very sad.

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

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me as his reader *and* I used to collect tell-a-tale books.

I gave up my collection of Whitman tell-a-tales when I moved across the country and this is currently the only one I own.  One I'd never read before.  Ds did a wonderful job reading the story and it wasn't exactly all that easy to read either.  This an adorable story with even more adorable illustrations of Henry the helicopter.  It seems a doctor has been stranded on a tiny deserted isle and needs rescuing so he can be taken to another island where some sick people need looking after.  Of course all the various other planes are approached first but deemed not suitable because the island is too small for a runway or not flat enough for a smaller craft to land.  Henry, who has always been teased by the larger planes and called "Bug" is finally able to show off his particular skills and earns everyone's respect when he saves the day.  A really cute story.  I just love the illustrations of the three men.  There is the lanky airport boss, the stiff army officer, and the roly poly businessman.  Cut and a fun story!  A keeper!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

119. Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee Volume 5

The Man Who Could Not Become Spirit by Hiroyuki Asada (Canada) - (US)
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 5

Pages: 184
Ages: 13+
Finished: May 17, 2011
First Published: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: YA, manga, fantasy
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Huh? Zazie!

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

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

This is a pivotal book in the series. So far the overriding plot has been Lag's search for Gauche Suede. This time he seeks out "The Man Who Could Not Become Spirit" as he has information that he has at least seen Gauche. As we already know from the previous book this is not the real "TMWCNBS" but a victimized impostor. Lag finds this out and helps this man and his partner, Sarah. There are a lot of battle scenes in this volume, and perhaps too many as I found myself a bit confused getting into the story this time around. What with the 3 month wait between volumes and then the heavy battle scenes I found it hard to remember the background plot. What makes this book pivotal is that Lag does finally find Gauche Suede, but it is not a happy meeting or reunion. Without giving any information away to future readers I'll just say that the stage is set for the series to take a new direction with the overriding plot by the end of this book.

An important book in the series but not as satisfying as it should be. Too heavy with the battles and not clear enough on the plot which becomes quite involved and takes new directions. The ending scene is a flash to a different character and holds promise to what the next volume will hold: Vol. 6: The Lighthouse in the Wasteland, available in Aug. 2011.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

DC Super-Pets!: Heroes of the High Seas

Heroes of the High Seas by J.E. Bright. Illustrated by Art Baltazar. (Canada) - (US)
DC Super-Pets! series

Pages: 54
Ages: 6+
Finished: May 16, 2011
First Published: Jan. 2, 2011
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Genre: Easy Reader, Superheroes
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Topo the Octopus loved playing music for his friend, Aquaman, the king of the underwater city of Atlantis.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me for his reader.

This new series "DC Super-Pets!" is a younger sibling to the already established "DC Super Heroes" series by the publisher. While the latter series is for established, and perhaps reluctant readers, this new series is for emergent or reluctant readers. All six books in the series are at a GR. 2 level with this one being at a RL:2.9. Following the same format as the established series, DC Super Pets uses colourful cartoon graphics for all the sound effect words. It goes on to make the books more appealing to younger readers by using different colours of text for each character's spoken words. There are also illustrations on every page, using a variety of formats from full-page to half-page to single illustrations amongst the text. This may sound crowded at first but the lines of text are double spaced creating a nice graphic display, easily read on each page.

This was our favourite book in the series! (though we do have one more to read) Pure superhero action and story from beginning to end with no accompanying ecological tie-in, or thinly disguised lessons or values displayed. A whirlpool is found close to Atlantis City threatening it's very existence. Aquaman and his trusty steed, Storm the Seahorse, along with fellow companions an octopus and a seal go to investigate. They find a diggler at the source, causing the underwater tornado, but digglers are usually very peaceful animals. What has upset this animal so much? It doesn't take long to find out that Black Manta and his Manta Ray cohorts are behind the scheme to ruin Atlantis and everyone goes into full superhero battle mode.

A fun, exciting story from start to finish with lots of action. My son's not too familiar with Aquaman but he likes him just fine, especially that he can mind communicate with all the sea animals. If you aren't picking your books on superhero alone, then I recommend this one as a must buy in the series based on story alone.

Friday, May 27, 2011

118. Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews
(Canada) - (US)

Pages: 255 pages
Ages: 18+
Finished: May 15, 2011
First Published: Apr. 5, 2011 CAN (Sep. 6, 2011 US)
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Genre: literary fiction
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Jorge said he wasn't coming back until I learned how to be a better wife.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I adored "The Flying Troutmans" and wanted to try another book by the author.

Irma Voth is about a family who are Mennonites but ultimately that is not a big issue in the story; they could really be any very rural, backwoods type of people as the Voths are pretty much loners and there is not a lot of Mennonite community activities or lifestyle portrayed in the book.

The Voths are originally from Canada but one day they picked up and moved to a Mennonite Community in Mexico. They live remotely, on land where the father owns three houses. We meet Irma as her husband is leaving her. Irma has been shunned by her father because she eloped and married a Mexican. They live in one of his houses and work his land for free but he does not speak with them. Irma's husband comes back every now and then as he is involved in the drug trade and he keeps his "goods" in the barn. A famous Mexican director comes to the area and rents the third house on the property for his crew as he makes a movie about Mennonites. The father hates everything these people stand for but his youngest daughter becomes curious and sneaks away to watch them.  Irma is offered a job as translator since she speaks German, Mexican and English, which she excepts, since she has no income and no husband now. The plan is to eventually leave the stranglehold of her father.

There is no denying that Toews is a beautiful writer who has a lyric way with words and can add a touch of wit to scenes where it is least expected. The story is a slow moving one, not one to be rushed, even though I did read it within the time frame of a day. I find it hard to review this book because I'm not ecstatic about the story but neither did I dislike it. I never really connected with the characters. I found the story interesting though perhaps a bit "high-brow" at times, taking itself too seriously. But I never once stopped enjoying the story though it took a long time to go anywhere. I preferred the second half of the book over the first. In the second half, Irma gets away from her father and moves to Mexico City where she learns a whole new way of live. And yet, through it all, she still yearns for the corn fields back home.

Irma herself is a character with many crosses to bear. She has the two men in her life, her father and husband, who have treated her unwell and yet she in turn has great guilt over something she has done to each of them in turn. Irma actually carries a lot of guilt for things she blames herself for causing and people she has hurt, starting with own soul. Irma learns who she is on this journey. Learns if it is possible to forgive herself and if it is possible for her to forgive the others as well. Certainly, a well-written, good read if not necessarily a gripping read. I'm still interested in reading the author's other books as I enjoy her writing style.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

117. Genkaku Picasso Vol. 3 by Usumaru Furuya

Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 3 by Usumaru Furuya. (Canada) - (US)
Genkaku Picasso Trilogy, Vol. 3

Pages: 316
Ages: 16+
Finished: May 14, 2011
First Published: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: YA, Manga, Magical Realism
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Welcome to Akatsuki High's Multicultural Festival!

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

Reason for Reading: Next (and last) book in the series.

Volume 3, the last in this trilogy, continues on with the theme of the previous books with Picasso drawing the heart of another student and diving into the picture. This story revolves around a boy who has not gone to school for the past several years as he is in a state of depression where he feels that nothing is worth it; life is useless and all pursuits pointless as the world will end one day and we are all going to die anyway. His mother brings him to a festival at the school to try and cheer him up but Picasso discovers in the hidden heart that the mother is the cause of all the boy's trouble. A rather strange story which I wouldn't have really liked except that there is a cultural aspect to it about honouring one's parents that somehow changes this from a Western-type story of blame the parent for all the kid's problems, to something different.

The next story goes back to Sugiura and his crush on Akane. He finally asks her out and she accepts thinking it is just a friend outing but when Akane has to set him straight on the no romance side of their friendship, Sugiura goes on the rebound with a girl who has confessed she likes him and is more his type. When Picasso dives into Sugiura's heart he finally helps him discover why he has always had an attraction to Akane, even though she is not his type, and stops him from making a big mistake with this new girl. This is a fitting end to Picasso's adventures of "helping" people since Sugiura was the first he helped back in Vol. 1 and here he now is the last.

The time has come though for Picasso to examine his own heart and he is suddenly surrounded by a huge aura and draws a picture and dives into it, not realizing it is his own dark heart until he starts trying to solve the problem. Quite a spectacular ending that I was impressed with. It made the whole trilogy worth reading and the story is really quite deep when one examines it. All the characters we've met from all three volumes come back in this volume and join together to help Picasso in the final chapters.

This is not a series I would normally have read had the summary been more forthcoming about plot and content in the first, Vol. 2 especially contained a lot of content which I would not have continued to read if the volumes had not ended in a trilogy. There is a lot of s*xual situations, some way out of my "want to even know about" zone and therefore do pay attention to the publisher's recommended age of 16+ and I add that this series will not be for all adults either.

It wouldn't have been for me either. But I stuck with it after Vol. 2 to find out the ending and I'm glad I did at that point as I'm impressed with the writing and the direction the plot went. I'm not going to recommend this series, as I can't due to its content. But if after reading my reviews of the individual books, you find the topic/plot interesting you will find a well-written and unique manga trilogy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

116. The Sindbad Trilogy by Ludmila Zeman

The Sindbad Trilogy
from the Tales of the Thousand and one Nights

Retold and Illustrated by Ludmila Zeman

Paperback editions published by Tundra Books, May 10, 2011

Received review copies from Tundra Books.

Rating: 4/5

1. Sindbad - 1999, 32 pgs (US) - (Canada) - Ludmila Zeman is a brilliant artist and solid storyteller. This beginning book in her Sindbad trilogy tells of two events on Sindbad's seven voyages. But first Zeman sets the scene by very briefly telling us the story of Shahrazad and how she saved her life by telling stories such as these to a cruel king. This book tells tales of how Sindbad mistook a whale for an island, how he mistook a Roc's egg for a mountain and was carried by that Roc into a pit of jewels and deadly serpents. While the story, of course is entertaining, the illustration is breathtaking. Ms. Zeman explains in an Author's Note at the back how she "wanted to recognize Persian influence in the art of book illustration, calligraphy, layout, illumination, and border decoration." Thus she has created illustrations of high detail and authentic ethnicity to accompany the tale, truly blending the art with the story to bring a credible presentation of a Persian legend.

While the publisher has recommend the book for ages 6+, I think the writing style is somewhat mature for the younger audience, and even though this is a picture book, I personally would recommend for ages 8 and up. No one is too old to read this tale, appreciate the art and glean information from the Author's Note. 4/5

2.Sindbad in the Land of Giants - 2001, 32 pgs (US) - (Canada) - The second book in the trilogy starts off in the morning of the next day and Sindbad continues telling his adventures at sea.  This time we have one voyage with several incidents which are quite dark and scary.  So again, I'm noting my personal recommendation for these books as appropriate for ages 8 and up rather than the publisher's 6+.  Sindbad's ship has been driven off course towards the horrible Mountain of Monkeys which is an island covered with a particularly loathsome variety of hairy monkey.  These monkeys swim out to the ship and literally tear it to ragged pieces.  The crew manage to get away on a rowboat and make for the shores of the island where they head for a magnificent castle (the temple at Angkor, as mentioned in the Author's Note), only to find that it is inhabited by a giant beast who captures them, puts them in a cage and promptly roasts the captain for his supper.  Once they escape, having caused grave harm to the Beast they go back to the boat and find that the Beast's brothers are so angry at them that they are destroying their ship thinking they are on board.  The waves cause a terrible turmoil and two survivors, one of which is Sindbad, arrive on an island filled with ferocious man-eating beasts.  Of course, Sindbad makes his way home and the book ends promising us one more tale of Sindbad's voyages.  This story is a dark one and may scare some children, others, perhaps especially boys will thrill at the adventures this time around.  But once again while the storytelling is entertaining, it is the incredible artwork that truly carries the text along.  The Author's Note this time, briefly recounts the Shahrazad story, for those who may not have read the first book, and explains the importance of the Thousand and One Nights to today's society. 4/5

3.Sindbad's Secret - 2003, 32 pgs (US) - (Canada) - The final book in the trilogy starts with Sindbad the Sailor telling his visitor that he will now tell him of his last voyage, where he acquired his greatest jewel of all. Sindbad is among the crew of another ship and is the only survivor when the ship is eaten by a giant sea serpent. Clinging to a piece of wood he survives the ravages of the ocean and eventually comes to rest on the shores of a deserted isle, until he finds a hairy ape man who abuses him and uses him as his steed for some time then he is rescued by another ship only to find he has been taken as a slave. The new men are elephant hunters and take him back to their land where he is put into service in killing elephants. But of course, Sindbad cannot go through with it and once he arrives in this new place he sees a funeral procession with a beautiful bound woman who will be put on top of the funeral pyre to die along with her master. Sindbad figures out a way to save the elephants and the love of his life, Fatima. Thus now at home we see his finest treasure is his wife and their wonderful family of seven children. This book is less scary than the others; nothing really bad happens except for the ship being eaten by the serpent and that is fiddlesticks compared to what we've witnessed in the first two books. The tone in this book is also much lighter and Sindbad's solutions give everyone a happy ending, even the elephants. Finally, the story ends with a moral that Sindbad's visitor easily recognizes as does the reader, that love and family are finer treasures than the best of jewels. No need to comment on the art again as it is as spectacular as in the previous two books and the the book ends with a brief Author's Note which speaks of the culture and philosophy of the Sindbad tales. 4/5

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

115. The Gates by John Connolly

The Gates by John Connolly (Canada) - (US)
Samuel Johnson vs The Devil, #1

Pages: 296
Ages: 13+
Finished: May 13, 2011
First Published: Oct. 6, 2009
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: YA, humour, paranormal, apocalypse
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

In the beginning, about 13.7 billion years ago, to be reasonably precise, there was a very, very small dot.

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

Reason for Reading: I've always wanted to read this author and this sounded like a fun book to start with.

This is Connolly's first children's/teen book. It can be gross (in a demon/monster sense) and the language is a high level, not written down to anyone so I personally would recommend the book to teens even though the main character is only 11-years old. This book is humour at tongue-in-cheek's finest. Connolly takes stabs and jabs at all concerned and you need to be able to laugh at yourself and not take offense to appreciate this type of humour. Think Christopher Moore, but clean! without the profanity or sex. Seriously, the book is a riot.

The story involves Samuel Johnson who just happens to see his next door neighbour and some friends conduct a ritual in their basement which opens a portal to Hell and brings forth four of The Great Malevolence's top demons who take over the four unfortunate participants' bodies to prepare the way for his arrival to take over the world. What ensues is comic slapstick, witty repartee and just plain silliness, but it is full of demons, death and Hell, so not for the squeamish either.

I love Christopher Moore and got the CM vibe right away as I started to read so settled down for a comedic ride. If you are expecting thrills and chills this is not what you'll find here. The most endearing character is a down-on-his-luck demon named Nurd who has been shunned by the other demons and finds himself mysteriously zipping back and forth between our world and Hell. Once he is here to stay, we find out he is lovable in a stray mutt kind of way and he helps Sam who happens to be targeted for death by Ba'al, the GM's number one in command.

A fun book, which certainly made me smile, and giggle a few times. Not exactly laugh out loud funny, like Christopher Moore, but a good show nevertheless. The book ends obviously hinting at a sequel and a bit of searching shows me that a sequel has been released in the UK this month (May, 2011), Hell's Bells. I'll be keeping my eyes open for it's appearance this side of the ocean.

Monday, May 23, 2011

107-108. Sleeping Beauty, Vampire Slayer & Cinderella, Ninja Warrior

I'm on a Book Tour with Virtual Author Book Tours for Maureen McGowan's first two books in her Twisted Tales series!

107. Sleeping Beauty, Vampire Slayer by Maureen McGowan (Canada) - (US)
Twisted Tales

Pages: 326
Ages: 12+
Finished: May 3, 2011
First Published: Apr. 1, 2011
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: YA, fractured fairytale, CYOA, paranormal
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Sunlight streamed through the floor-to-ceiling windows lining the western-facing wall of the palace's reception room.

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

Reason for Reading: I enjoy fairytale retellings and when I was offered this book it just sounded like plain fun.

I went into this book expecting fun and I was not disappointed! I can't give a complete book summary as at various places in the story you make decisions for Sleeping Beauty (Lucette) affecting the telling of the story. There are 8 possible routes through the book and they are shown at the end of the book. They all do end with the same outcome though. The basic premise is very close to the original Sleeping Beauty tale but with a twist that certainly adds a major change in the plot.

The baby is cursed at her naming party by a neighbouring ruler who "accidentally" did not recieve an invitation to the party. This is the Queen of Vampires from the land of Sanguinia. She curses the child that she shall prick her finger one day, drawing blood, and at that time she shall fall asleep during the hours of daylight and wake up only for the hours of night, while the entire population of her country shall fall asleep during the nighttime hours and be awake during the day. Leaving Lucette all alone at night and the kingdom virtually helpless against any vampires who wish to drink human blood, which they don't normally do as a rule. The fairies do manage to put a bit of a counter spell on the curse; they extend the time so that this event will not happen until after Lucette's 16th birthday and they give a way to end the curse: when Lucette has proven that she has found true love the curse will fall. Seemingly pretty impossible since she'll never have human company once the curse has taken effect!

This was a joy to read! I had a lot of fun with it. Being able to become involved in the story and actually make choices for Lucette was an interesting addition to the story. This is similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books, but in this novel the opportunities are less frequent and only happen at crucial moments so one feels as if they really have a hand in controlling the story. One could read the book multiple times, to experience different versions, but that idea holds no interest with me. Lucette is a fun tomboy princess, who leads an overprotected life whose father does everything imaginable to make sure Lucette never pricks her finger in her childhood, but her mother feels Lucette must be ready for the inevitability of the curse and learn to defend herself when the time comes so she secretly sends her to the Vampire Academy, telling the father she is attending charm school. Add a bit of romance as Lucette must decide between two suitors whom she both likes very much and we have a fun, exciting fairy tale with all the ingredients for a great read. This is a book one reads for simple entertainment and it doesn't disappoint. My only quibble would be that it would be more fun (and enticing) to read the book multiple times if there were different outcomes. Otherwise a pleasant read. 4/5

108. Cinderella, Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan (Canada) - (US)
Twisted Tales

Pages: 308
Ages: 12+
Finished: May 7, 2011
First Published: Apr. 1, 2011
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: YA, fractured fairytale, CYOA, paranormal
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Cinderella's shoulders quivered with fatigue as she tipped the twenty-seventh wooden bucket of fresh water into her stepmother's bath.

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

Reason for Reading: I enjoy fairytale retellings and when I was offered this book it just sounded like plain fun.

I'm glad I read Sleeping Beauty first as it gave me heart to keep plugging away with this one which was not as good as Sleeping Beauty at all. The very basic premise of Cinderella has been kept. Well-off girl's father dies and leaves her in the charge of her evil stepmother and nasty stepsisters. Though they are not ugly on outside, just on the inside. Cinderella becomes the servant and is treated more like a slave and a prisoner. Until the night of the ball, when Cinderella tries to get away, not because she wants to attend the ball though but because she wants to enter the competitions being held first during the day, one of them ninja/magic skills to win training with the royal wizard. And here is where we leave the traditional tale behind. Cinderella's step-mom is an evil black magic wizard and she is keeping Cinderella a prisoner with the use of entrapment spells which don't allow her to leave the house of her own volition. The stepmother is sure Cinderella knows where her real mother's wand is (an incredibly powerful object) hidden but alas Cinderella has no clue. Cinderella has inherited some natural talent from her mother, a great wizard in her own right, and with the help of her cat Max, has been training in both her ninja and magic skills secretly.

This story was just ok for me. For the first half the step-mother's evil had no opposition and it became tiring. There was also an obvious case of mistaken identity that dragged on for the whole book it became silly that the reveal was not made. I enjoyed the book much more once circumstances chanced in the last half of the story allowing the step-mother's opposition to come forward. The characters weren't as fun or engaging as those in Sleeping Beauty either; I really had no feeling for them either way. The only character whom I had any feelings for was the second step-sister, who was a minor character being in the shadow of her more dominant older sister. This step-sister did behave in a way that showed she felt for Cinderella and was a victim herself of her mother's abusive upbringing. Those looking for fairy tale romance, however, will be much happier with Cinderella than Sleeping Beauty as the love story starts early and becomes a vital part of the plot and the solution. Overall, a fun, if simple, tale that will satisfy romance fans.

One quibble, that really annoys me actually, is the cover which has nothing to do with the book. Cinderella never wears a gown in the story, nobody, let alone Cinderella, ever uses swords and at no time was Cinderella ever wandering around a castle with a candle wearing said gown and carrying said sword. The cover does not in any way convey the title "Ninja Warrior" to me. The cover should have shown Cinderella in her ninja outfit she wears to go to the ninja/magic competition & ball. Plus she should be carrying either a wand or a form of stick, both of which she makes use of during the book.

Final results: Loved Sleeping Beauty, tolerated Cinderella. Would I read a new book in the series? Yes, I'm pretty sure I would give the next book a chance.

Here is the rest of the Book Tour Schedule.  Check out the other participants as there are some free books being given away! Plus Interviews with the author, and author guest posts.

Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty Book Tour Schedule

Tour Host: Date of review: BK (GP)Guest Post, (I)Interview, or (G)Giveaway?

Tasha A Trillion Books 5/9 Both 5/10 I
Katie A Book Obsession 5/9 Both 5/10 G
Irena This Miss Loves To Read 5/10 Both 5/11 G, I
Jazz About Books Blog 5/10 Both 
Kristen Seeing Night Book Reviews 5/11 Both 5/12 G,I
Jenny Dreaming of Books 5/11 Both 5/12 I, G
Debbie Debs Book Bag 5/12 Both 5/13 G, GP
Stella Book Lovers 5/12 SB 5/13G, I
Aanchal Book Flame 5/17 Both 5/18 G,I
Jill The Owl 5/17 C 5/18 G, GP
Corrine Lost For Words 5/18 C 5/19 G,GP
Emily Red House Books 5/18 &19 Both 5/20G
Jenn Books At Midnight 5/19 Both 5/20 G, I
Regan Star Shadow 5/19 Both 5/20 G, GP
Alex Electrifying Reviews 5/20 Both 5/20 G
Nicola Back to Books 5/23 Both 
Melissa My Chaotic Ramblings 5/23 Both 5/23 G
Mindy Reading for Sanity 5/23 C 
Misty The Book Rat 5/23 SB 5/25 G, I
Chioma Black and Blue Ink... 5/24 Both 5/25 G,I
Ashley Basically Amazing Books 5/24 C 5/25 GP
Patty Books, Thoughts And A Few Adventures 5/25 Both 5/26 G,I
Marcie 2 Read or not 2 read 5/26 Both 5/27 G
Lizzy Cornucopia of Reviews 5/27 SB 5/27 G
Key: Both= Both books, C= Cinderella, SB=Sleeping Beauty, I= Interview, G= Giveaway, GP=Guest Post

Sunday, May 22, 2011

114. The Odyssey: Homer by Tim Mucci

The Odyssey: Homer by Tim Mucci. Art by Ben Caldwell & Rick Lacy (Canada) - (US)
An All-Action Classic, #3

Pages: 128
Ages: 10+
Finished: May 11, 2011
First Published: May 4, 2010
Publisher: Sterling
Genre: children, graphic novel, Greek mythology
Rating: 2/5

First sentence:

Once again my thoughts take me far away...
across the many years...
over the wine-dark seas...
to the strong-walled city of Troy.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Sterling.

Reason for Reading: This was a Cybils '10 nominee and I hadn't read it by the time judging was due as it was not a contender by that time and I'm just now getting to it.

I really don't have a lot to say about this adaptation of Homer's Odyssey. I did not enjoy it, and in fact found it confusing and rather boring. Let me preface that statement by saying I am a great fan of Greek mythology and have read *many* retellings of The Odyssey and will continue to do so as I love the story. However, this adaptation jumped around from scene to scene, flashback to present, with no segues between leaving out a lot of the *why* we are suddenly in a certain situation. Knowing the story well, I knew what was missing but I can't imagine this being someone's first exposure to Homer's Odyssey. The art also was certainly not appealing to me. I found it very busy with a lot of stuff going on in each individual panel that took away from the basic action it was meant to depict and I'm just not a fan of the square-jawed angular type of art. Of course this is just aesthetic and will vary with ones personal tastes in art. Overall, not recommended.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

113. Toy Story: Toy Overboard Graphic Novel

Toy Story: Toy Overboard by Jesse Blaze Snider. Art by Morgan Luthi. (Canada) - (US)
Toy Story Graphic Novels, #4

Pages: 128
Ages: 8+
Finished: May 11, 2011
First Published: Apr. 12, 2011
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Genre: children, graphic novel, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Andy is going on vacation!

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The fourth book in the Toy Story series goes back to the standards of the second "Return of Buzz Lightyear". Once again we are treated to a full book ongoing story, rather than the collections of short stories found in the other two volumes. My only quibble was that the story line has moved ahead to Toy Story 2 territory and Jessie and Bullseye have been added to the cast. I don't like Jessie as a character and as I expected she took over the story as the main character and plunged ahead into danger causing one of the toys to go overboard while they are on a cruise (and two quickly follow suit, including Jessie). The plot revolves around first, who will get chosen to go on the vacation with Andy, while certain toys have accepted they will never get to go on vacation. Then the second part of the plot concentrates on the action referred to in the title as we follow the exploits of the toys lost in the sea and how they manage to find their way back to the other toys.

A really fun adventure and I'm thrilled with the feature length story rather than short stories. I hope they keep that up for future volumes. While I can't say I was happy with Jessie's starring role (personal preferences) it was good to see some very minor characters take on more significant roles. The space alien toys showed up quite a bit had some funny lines as they bring up their cult of "the claw" and Mr. Shark has a starring role! Each book has had a different artist but of course the Disneyfied characters are all pretty much cookie cutter with no variation so it hasn't really mattered, but what I did notice this time around was that Andy was drawn somewhat differently, not quite up to par. All in all, though this is my second favourite book in the series so far, after "Return of Buzz Lightyear", that is.

Friday, May 20, 2011

DNF: Grimpow: The Invisible Road by Rafael Abalos

Grimpow: The Invisible Road by Rafael Abalos. Translated from the Spanish by Noel Baca Castex (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 59/493
Ages: 13+
First Published: 2005 (2007, English translation)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: YA, historical fantasy
Rating: DNF

First sentence:

The fog hung low in the forest, obscuring Grimpow's way.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I enjoy a good historical fantasy especially when centered around mythical items as the plot suggested this would be.

I should have known from the very brief forward, which attempts to separate fact from fiction and legend from truth, which contains a common purposeful error concerning Pope Clement V that this may not be the book for me. From the beginning the Religious were treated with disrespect. They all had faults, greedy, didn't follow their vows, drunks, kept mistresses etc. The Church was represented as wealthy for the purposes of greed. And other small quibs, pokes and jabs made me roll my eyes but I was willing to get into the story until I hit these two little sentences.

"Many of these books refute or challenge the existence of God by explaining Heaven and earth and the universe scientifically. Because of this, the Inquisition has banned them."

Everyone should know that the Church was the force behind all early scientific, medical discovery and encouraged/supported learning the mysteries of God's world. (It still does today.) This statement is blatantly wrong and unsuspectingly turns the reader into accepting the anti-Catholic views of the characters, with the prior anti-Catholic sentiments I didn't have the stomach to read any further. Your mileage may vary. The book has mixed reviews on amazon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

112. Cowboys & Aliens by Fred Van Lente & Andrew Foley

Cowboys & Aliens by Fred Van Lente & Andrew Foley* (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 103
Ages: 15+
Finished: May 8, 2011
First Published: 2006 (Feb. 22, 2011 - this edition)
Publisher: itbooks
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

Every conqueror believes himself moved by a higher power.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I'd heard about the upcoming summer movie starring {sigh} Harrison Ford so thought I'd read the original comic book the movie is based on first.

This is a rather unusual tale as one could guess from the title. We join a group of settlers led by a priest who are traveling west to claim some land they have bought to start a new life. They are attacked by Indians and one of their two guides goes off to get help from the nearby Fort. Indian attacks end up being the least of his worries when he finds the fort under attack by intergalactic space invaders who see all other life forms as slaves and they have arrived to to take humankind into slavery and take over our world.

The book is full of action and low on actual story. Characters have relationships with each other but the reader never gets close enough to care about any of them. There is action, though. Did I mention that? Lots of it. Starting off with the brief Indian attack, then going full out as the Indians and white men join forces against the bigger threat of the aliens who have awesome cool weapons compared to their arrows and gunshot rifles. Obviously comparisons between how the Indians were treated by European explorers and settlers and the alien threat to mankind are made several times. An entertaining hour's read but nothing that especially grabbed me. I think this has great potential to make a better movie than book. But by all means read it before the movie though as it looks like there are certainly going to be changes afoot. Such as: I see no priest in the list of characters and Harrison Ford's character does not exist in the book.

*Andrew Foley is a Canadian.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

111. Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop

Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop. as told by Janet Joly. Illustrated by William Pene Du Bois (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 76
Ages: 8+
Finished: May 6, 2011
First Published: 1952
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: children, historical fiction, War, WWII, France, Catholic
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

It all started when we were playing at The Flight into Egypt.

Acquired: I'm pretty sure I Bookmooched this.

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

Based on a true story, this book tells of a tale in which ten Jewish children are brought to a small Catholic school in the countryside of France up in the mountains. There are currently twenty students at this school. The Sister asks the students if they will be capable of hiding the Jewish children from the Nazis and they agree. Thus the children play and learn together until one day Sister does not return from town and the Nazis arrive at the school looking for the Jewish children.

A lovely little story that has become a classic. The ending is quite intense and the book is very enjoyable . There is a religious element to the story, that is crucial to the plot, but that only revolves around one bible story involving King Herod's search for the baby Jesus. A fast read but a gripping story that shows that even children can make a difference against evil. A movie has been made based on the book and we tried to get a copy through ILL but were unsuccessful.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

110. Why Catholics Are Right by Michael Coren

Why Catholics Are Right by Michael Coren (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 228
Ages: 18+
Finished: May 6, 2011
First Published: Apr. 12, 2011
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Genre: non-fiction, Catholic, Theology, Church history
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

When I first told friends and colleagues about this book, they were intrigued by its proposed content but disturbed by its title.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I love Michael Coren's TV show, I am a Catholic and the provocative title did its trick and grabbed my interest. But I would read any book by Coren on religion or politics, though I don't always agree with him on the latter.

This book is unapologetically, in fact, is proudly, Catholic. Written by a Catholic to give a Catholic point of view on Catholic teachings and Catholic issues. Unfortunately, there remains one last prejudice in this world that is fine and dandy to behold and that is anti-Catholicism. Some Christians may feel that prejudice against any form of Christianity is rampant, and while that is true to a certain degree, even some non-Catholic Christians can be as vicious as anyone else in their anti-Catholic vitriol. Search the net; it won't take you long to find one of these "discussions", even in major newspaper comment sections.

Michael Coren's book hits on all the major topics, and even the minor topics, that non-Catholics and the media are so upset, uninformed and plain wrong about. This is a short book so doesn't go into theological academia to prove its points but does go plenty deep enough to get at the truth. Divided into 5 parts Coren deals with the abuse scandal, historical topics, theology, life and a final chapter on "other stuff". Within these 5 topics Coren manages to not only discuss his main topic but carry on from one topic to another related one until the subject has been more than covered, leaving no blank spaces behind. The book is very thorough.

This book is a must have for every practicing Catholic as it is a primer on how to defend our faith in a friendly, intelligent manner against all the uninformed and oftentimes ignorant comments made against Catholicism. The chapter on the abuse scandal which accepts the awful truth and tragedy of what actually happened and explains how it has been dealt with versus the media attacks and vendettas is worth the price of the book alone.

Persons who truly want to understand what Catholicism is about will enjoy this book which will give them bite-size yet meaty information on what we Catholics really believe and why, rather than what you've heard about or think you know about our beliefs.

If you are already anti-Catholic, this book will enrage you and you will hate it as it will prove all your prejudices to be wrong, thus having you believe that the book itself is at fault as you personally could, of course, never be.

My only complaint is that the book has no index.  Something that doesn't seem to be a given anymore where non-fiction is concerned.  I know this is going to be a book I will refer to time and time again and while the book is set up easily enough to find what you are looking for an index would have come in handy.

A brilliant book that no practicing Catholic should be without.  Treat yourself to a copy and while your at it buy a gift copy for a friend, relative or priest.  It's that good!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel

Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel (Canada) - (US)
I Can Read Books, Level 2
Frog and Toad series, Book 2

Pages: 64
Ages: 6+
Finished: May 3, 2011
First Published: 1971
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: children, easy readers
Award: Newbery Honour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

One morning Toad sat in bed.

Acquired: Purchased new from an online retailer.

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

Another fine collection of short stories about friends Frog and Toad. Frog is the wiser one with Toad being the one with more silly ideas. As usual we have five stories which are not related to each other. In the first Toad decides to write a list of everything he will do that day and he does not deviate from it until he looses the list, which creates quite the problem. Next Frog gives Toad some seeds to plant his own garden and Toad is very impatient for them to grow. He talks to them, yells at them, sings to them, reads them stories, plays music etc. all to no avail. The third story has Frog and Toad with a freshly baked bowlful of cookies which they can't stop eating and they try to come up with a way to make the cookies inaccessible so they can no longer eat anymore and make themselves sick. The fourth story has Frog and Toad wanting to be brave like the heroes in fairy tales so they take a walk up a dangerous mountain and encounter various dangers along the way running quickly back home and feeling quite brave. Finally Toad has a dream where he can do all sorts of performing arts in a theatre where Frog is watching him. But after each act Frog gets smaller and smaller, until Toad looses his friend altogether. Wonderful stories for all ages, but I think "Frog and Toad All Year" is my favourite so far.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

105. Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan

Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. Illustrated by Andre LaBlanc (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 156 pages
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 29, 2011
First Published: 1942
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: children, historical fiction, world war II
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

"Beat you to the turn!" Peter Lundstrom shot his sled down the long steep slope.

Acquired: purchased a used copy from a garage/book sale or thrift shop.

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

I've read this book a couple of times in the distant past and the story vaguely stayed with me. It is the story of how children were used to take gold from the bank of Norway on their sleds, right past the Nazis and then bury it in the snow and build snowmen on top of it. The gold was then secretly, at night taken aboard a hidden ship by the crew who, when the mission was completed would take the country's money to the US for safekeeping during the occupation of their country and duration of the war.

The story is a bit old-fashioned in its writing style but still holds up well with its exciting story of children being the heroes of the day. The story is pretty much plot driven, with the mission and danger moving the book closer and closer to the climax. While the characters are never fully developed and presented as quite stereotypical. Good, heroic, patriotic children who do what they're told and never waver from doing their duty.

I remember enjoying the story more than I did this time around and my son was never quite taken with it. He became more interested as the book neared the end and the tension mounted a bit, but otherwise he was generally lukewarm to the story. For myself, I think I may have been tempered by having found out, while looking to see if there is a movie of the book (there is) that this story is most likely not true.

From when it was written until recent times the book was purported to be a true story. I have an old edition from the '60s which states "This story really happened." New editions of the book do not pass it off as a true story anymore. There has never been any proof that this event with the children happened, no witnesses, the children never came forward afterwards, no memoirs or diaries found, etc. So it is very hard to believe it is true. What is true, is that a ship arrived in America with Norway's gold and the captain gave a story that children were involved and it was from this news story that Ms. McSwigan based her story. One must remember that this event happened right in the middle of the war, as was the book published, so no real information would have been wanted to have been leaked to the Nazis. A non-fiction book about the rescue of Norway's gold was written in a book called Pimpernel Gold: How Norway Foiled the Nazis by Dorothy Baden-Powell which is out of print but should be available online or in libraries.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

104. The Door in the Wall by H.G. Wells

The Door in the Wall by H.G. Wells (Canada)
Penguin Mini Modern Classics

Pages: 66
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 3, 2011
First Published: 2011 (this form) (1911, 1897, 1895) orig. short stories
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: short stories
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

One confidential evening, not three months ago, Lionel Wallace told me this story of the Door in the Wall.

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

Reason for Reading: I enjoy the author.

This is a small book, about the size of a man's hand and contains three short stories. 2011 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Penguin Modern Classics list and in honour of this event they have published 50 of these "Mini Modern" books to celebrate the great short story writers. The books are all uniform.

I like H.G. Wells; I've read all his fiction, some of the novels more than once. I especially like his science fiction, the classics "The Time Machine" and "The Invisible Man". I read his short stories when I was a kid in a humongous old tome entitled "The Complete Works of H.G. Wells", though it's completeness was referring to his fiction, so I must have come across these stories at least once before though they were not familiar to me at this reading. The three stories are very different from each other. The first is mostly humorous with a trick ending, the second is what we expect when we hear the name H.G. Wells: science fiction and the third is more a horror story in the vein on Poe. None of the stories were particularly impressive to me. They were all OK, with the sci-fi one standing out amongst the three but I'm sure someone could have picked three more outstanding stories to represent this great writer. Overall, just OK.

The Door in the Wall - The titular story in this collection and the longest is about a man who recounts the story of an old school chum who came to visit him in the night who tells him the tale of how he has been haunted his entire life by a mysterious door in the wall, which he entered once, and the narrator tells us how this story ends tragically. 3/5

The Sea Raiders - A day when the Devonshire coast is attacked by strange aggressive man-eating tentacled sea creatures. My favourite of the collection. 4/5

The Moth - A man is either being haunted by his late academic rival or his death has driven him insane. 3/5

Friday, May 13, 2011

OT: B16 We Love You!

The Insensitive Pope

DC Super-Pets!: Midway Monkey Madness by Sarah Hines Stephens

Midway Monkey Madness by Sarah Hines Stephens. Illustrated by Art Baltazar. (Canada) - (US)
DC Super-Pets! series

Pages: 52
Ages: 6+
Finished: Apr. 27, 2011
First Published: Jan. 2, 2011
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Genre: Easy Reader, Superheroes
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"Look! Up in the Sky!" said a kid entering the midway of Bazooka's Carnival.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud to me for his reader.

This new series "DC Super-Pets!" is a younger sibling to the already established "DC Super Heroes" series by the publisher. While the latter series is for established, and perhaps reluctant readers, this new series is for emergent or reluctant readers. All six books in the series are at a GR. 2 level with this one being at a RL:2.8. Following the same format as the established series, DC Super Pets uses colourful cartoon graphics for all the sound effect words. It goes on to make the books more appealing to younger readers by using different colours of text for each character's spoken words. There are also illustrations on every page, using a variety of formats from full-page to half-page to single illustrations amongst the text. This may sound crowded at first but the lines of text are double spaced creating a nice graphic display, easily read on each page.

This story features Beppo the Super-Monkey pet of Superman and Gleek, the Wonder Twins' space-monkey. The Wonder Twins, Jayna and Zan, are also characters in the story. I used to love the Twins on Saturday cartoons "The Justice League of America", I think was the one they were in. Anyway, Beppo is enjoying a day at the carnival when he hears screams and finds the villain Grodd the Gorilla setting all the animals in the animal show free, including the bears, crocodiles and zebras, when the lion is just about to be released Beppo steps in to stop this villain. The Wonder Twins are nearby and hear the screams for help so they and Gleek show up to help Beppo out and the four of them take on the huge powerful ape.

This is just what we've come to expect from this series of readers and both ds and I enjoyed it. Ds has not come across the Wonder Twins in his superhero world yet, so he especially enjoyed them and Gleek. Lots of non-stop action that keeps the young reader's attention and a fun book in the series.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

103. The Promises She Keeps by Erin Healy

The Promises She Keeps by Erin Healy (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 329
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 27, 2011
First Published: Feb. 8, 2011
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: thriller, Christian fiction, magical realism, supernatural
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

In the silence of night, sounds of life have a greater chance of being heard.

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

Reason for Reading: I am a fan of the author.

Fantastic! This is Erin Healy's best book to date. I was hooked from the first chapter and couldn't let go until I reached the end. This book revolves around three sets of characters and is more character driven than plot driven. Though the plot is a very strange and eerie tale that turns into something so much more. Ultimately the story is about love (from a Christian pov "God is love") and everlasting life. However, the book can be read by anyone as the Christian elements are under the surface and can simply be read as magical realism by non-Christian readers. For Christian readers though, it is a beautiful story of what love and death truly mean.

The story follows three individual sets of characters until they all wind up involved with each other in direct or indirect ways. The book starts off with Chase and his sister Chelsea, young 30's twins who live together. Chase is an autistic man and Chelsea has devoted her life to taking care of him. Chase is a wonderful artist who draws trees using any type of white media on black paper. He has also memorized 4 versions of the Bible and likes to quote from it, especially the passages about trees. He has suddenly changed his routine, highly unusual for an autistic, and is drawing trees especially for strangers which he then goes out to the newly opened art gallery to give them to the people he drew them for.

The gallery's owner, Porta, is an elderly self-centred woman whose seventy-third birthday is fast approaching and is also a practicing witch. She has just moved to town after having a falling out with the ladies in her former coven. She is now striking out on her own. All her life she has been seeking the person whose blood can bring immortality to anyone they choose. Her son thinks she is crazy and is totally against all she stands for, though he does know the power she has. Of course, growing up with a mother who has never showed him any love has turned Zack into a weak man, addicted to drugs and alcohol. Zack is a bit of an artist himself and meets Promise through the art class he attends.

Promise is a young woman with cystic fibrosis who is determined to become a singer to get her bit of fame before she dies but she becomes noticed in a much more infamous way. Once Promise meets Zack she survives a series of what should have been fatal accidents virtually unharmed. This brings her to the attention of Porta who thinks she has finally found the source for immortality. Chase also seeks out Promise as he has drawn her a picture and falls in love with her.

All these people come together in a thrilling story of evil vs good. The story is a little eerie at times and the plot is certainly intriguing. The unexpected ending was not what I had hoped for but was satisfying for this reader and beautiful within the Christian context of the story. I'm impressed with Ms. Healy's progress. Her debut solo book Never Let You Go was good, but The Promises She Keeps is great!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monday: Books in the Mail (early Tuesday evening)

Books came to my mailbox from various sources this week! Let's take a look!

These first 2 didn't technically come in my mailbox but were a surprise, as a lady at church brought them to me one morning and said I could keep them.

Drawn from Archbishop Sheen's best-selling books, these 28 reflections will lead you day by day through the Advent season. Eloquent quotes are paired with beautiful Scriptures on the themes of the season—patience, waiting, gift, hope, humility, joy—and more. Spend a few quiet moments of each day with one of the 20th century's greatest preachers, preparing your heart to receive the Savior of the world.

The legendary Mother Teresa's work for—and among—the poor has become the yardstick by which the entire world measures compassion, generosity, and selflessness. Her words and actions have inspired millions of people from every race and religion and country to help the poor and needy, a legacy that is her gift to all mankind for generations to come.
From 1950, when she founded the order of Missionaries of Charity, to winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and then, in 1985, being awarded the Medal of Freedom—the United States' highest civilian award—to her final days, Mother Teresa served the world as a beacon shedding the light of hope, comfort, and peace on all.
Mother Teresa: In My Own Words is a timeless testament to the power of her words. Here are the same quotes, stories, and prayers that helped strengthen and inspire the poor, the dying, the suffering, and the doubting who she met during her lifetime, and that will continue to strengthen and inspire all who read them.

From Random House Canada:

In the third novel in the Ruth Galloway series, shoreline erosion at the village of Broughton Sea's End has revealed the skeletons of six men, their arms bound. From the mineral content of their bones, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway can tell that they were all Germans. Most likely, DCI Harry Nelson reckons, they were killed by the local Home Guard when they tried to land during the Second World War. This is just the first complication in a story brimming with surprise twists, not all of them stemming from these murders. Ruth is a new mum of a daughter she adores but whose existence is raising eyebrows and is testing Ruth's assumption that she can be a mum, a professional archaeologist, a teacher, and an adjunct to a murder investigation all at the same time.

From Random House US:

Eight-year-old Noah's problems seem easier to deal with if he doesn't think about them. So he runs away, taking an untrodden path through the forest.

Before long, he comes across a shop. But this is no ordinary shop: it's a toyshop, full of the most amazing toys, and brimming with the most wonderful magic. And here Noah meets a very unusual toymaker. The toymaker has a story to tell, and it's a story of adventure and wonder and broken promises. He takes Noah on a journey. A journey that will change his life.

From Harper Collins Canada:

I'm Madison Avery, in charge of heaven's hit squad . . . and fighting it all the way.

When Madison died the night of her prom, she knew her life would never be the same. Now she has a powerful amulet, a team of rogue angels by her side, and the ability to flash forward into the future to see the shape of destiny. And of course, now she's finally with Josh—a perfect boyfriend who doesn't even mind that she's dead.

But being dead has its disadvantages, too. Madison feels caught between the light and the dark, and between her real life and her timekeeper status. When Madison has the opportunity to get her body back—to be alive again—she faces her most difficult decision yet. If she claims it, she could return to being a normal girl—and have a chance at a real relationship with Josh. But would having the one thing she wants most in the world also mean giving up everything she's worked so hard for?

True: Delly Pattison likes surpresents (presents that are a surprise). The day the Boyds come to town, Delly's sure a special surpresent is on its way. But lately, everything that she thinks will be good and fun turns into trouble. She's never needed a surpresent more than now.
True: Brud Kinney wants to play basketball like nothing anybody's ever seen. When the Boyds arrive, though, Brud meets someone who plays like nothing he's ever seen.

True: Ferris Boyd isn't like anyone Delly or Brud have ever met. Ferris is a real mysturiosity (an extremely curious mystery).

True: Katherine Hannigan's first novel since her acclaimed Ida B is a compelling look at the ways friendships and truths are discovered.

It's all true (… sort of).

Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking?

Meet one funny dog—Enzo, the lovable mutt who tells this story. Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: most dogs love to chase cars, but Enzo longs to race them. He learns about racing and the world around him by watching TV and by listening to the words of his best friend, Denny, an up-and-coming race car driver, and his daughter, ZoË, his constant companion. Enzo finds that life is just like being on the racetrack—it isn't simply about going fast. And, applying the rules of racing to his world, Enzo takes on his family's challenges and emerges a hero. In the end, Enzo holds in his heart the dream that Denny will go on to be a racing champion with his daughter by his side. For theirs is an extraordinary friendship—one that reminds us all to celebrate the triumph of the human (and canine) spirit.

This is a special adaptation for young people of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling adult novel The Art of Racing in the Rain.

I won this next book for a monthly challenge at the Canadian Book Challenge from John Mutford. Thanks John!

When a grizzled old man shoves a decades-old treasure map into 13-year-old John A. Macdonald’s hands, he’s certain this will be the best summer ever. But that was before a humpback lake serpent is seen at twilight by the people of Stone Mills in the mysterious Lake on the Mountain. As people flee in panic, John knows his family might be next unless he can figure out what dwells in the lake in time. But does he have what it takes to confront something he can’t see clearly? Or will the serpent in the darkness win?

101. Aquaman: Deepwater Disaster by J.E. Bright

Aquaman: Deepwater Disaster by J.E. Bright. Illustrated by Dan Schoening, Mike DeCarlo & Lee Loughridge. (Canada) - (US)
DC Super Heroes

Pages: 54
Ages: 8+
Finished: Apr. 23, 2011
First Published: 2011
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, early chapter book, superheroes
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

A wild storm raged in the Gulf of Mexico.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

Reason for Reading: My son loves these books and I always read them first before handing them over for bedtime story time. They are above his reading level yet.

I used to love reading Aquaman comics when I was a kid in the seventies, so he's always been one of my favourites. In this fictional story we have a "ripped from the headlines" plot about an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that catches fire and then they discover that the pipe has broken and oil is spewing into the ocean causing an ecological nightmare. Aquaman is off to the rescue getting all the crew off the rig but while there he comes across his arch nemesis Black Manta. Hardly believing Black Manta is behind this mess they talk and Manta has just come along to fill up his vehicle with free oil but is not the one responsible. Aquaman convinces Black Manta to join with him in a temporary truce to fix the problem at hand. And along with the help of the creatures of the sea they manage to cap the pipe.

I'm not a fan of eco-fiction as it can degenerate quickly into didactic lessons and political agendas but this is well written with none of those problems. The focus is on the issue at hand. The danger to the environment and animals is realistic. While onus is quickly established, the book never sinks to concerning itself with blame but with taking action in solving the situation. Now if we only really had superheroes out there to fix all our problems!! A fun and exciting story as usual from this series for emerging readers or older reluctant readers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

100. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 314
Ages: 18+
Finished: Apr. 24, 2011
First Published: May 26, 2009
Publisher: Random House
Genre: historical fiction, China, WWII, immigrants
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"Our daughter looks like a South China peasant with those red cheeks." my father complains, pointedly ignoring the soup before him.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I absolutely love Chinese historical fiction that takes place during the reign of the last empress through Mao's Cultural Revolution. I'll read other Chinese time periods but this era is absolutely fascinating to me. This book is perfectly situated starting with the Japanese invasion of China and ending with the first years of Mao's rule.

This is a generational drama which tells the story of one family and then two families as they become connected by marriage. The focus is on two sisters three years apart in age who, though very different in looks and temperaments are very close, and through all the hardships, tragedies, horrors and sufferings never part from each other. They are sold off as wives to a rich man's sons to pay off their father's gambling debts which have left his family destitute. However, with the invasion of the Japanese the girl's never make it to the ship to America with their new husbands. Instead they and their mother are left to escape Shanghai on their own and seek out a place where they may be safe from the rapacious Japanese. This part of the story is my favourite as it takes place during my favourite time period, the war and the Japanese atrocities in China at the time. The author has written a compelling and terrifying story for these three women, which many others will have experienced similar stories in real life at this time. The closeness between the sisters is bonded and solidified here and they realize the strength and love of their old-fashioned foot bound mother they never knew existed.

As the story moves to America there are many secrets, lies and betrayals hidden in almost every member of the new family's life: Pearl and May, their husbands, their father-in-law (Old Man Louis) and mother-in-law (Yen Yen) and well as the three Uncles. All living together, except the uncles, who live nearby, it would seem hard for so many secrets to exist but they have become the essence of life. Pearl and May have different experiences now and different routes to follows and while envy and jealousy creep up on both parts they never loose their strong ties that bind them together.

A wonderful story, full of tragedy and both bittersweet and familial love. Lisa See's writing is reminiscent of Amy Tan but her topic and sense for tragedy are more in line with Pearl Buck's work. Since I've read all of the latter authors' works I think I've found myself an author to fill their place in my reading. A sequel to this book is available this month, Dreams of Joy, but I think I will go back and read some of See's earlier works first.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

99. The Mass for Children by Rev. Jude Winkler

The Mass for Children by Rev. Jude Winkler, OFM, Conv. (Canada & US)
St. Joseph Picture Books, #489

Pages: 32
Ages: 5+
Finished: Apr. 20, 2011
First Published: 1990 (this edition)
Publisher: Catholic Book Publishing Corp
Genre: children, catholic, religion
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Jesus loved his apostles so much that he promised them he would never leave them alone.

Acquired: Purchased from our local Catholic Book & Gift store.

Reason for Reading: We used this book over an extended period of time as part of our religious studies every homeschool morning.

This is an excellent book which simply does as its title proposes. It presents the Mass in an easy to read font, highly illustrated for children. It does much more than this though. First there is a one page introduction which explains in simple, yet not childish, language why we have Mass. The Mass presented is an ordinary times one and is shown in the most standard version with only a few times giving the optional responses for versions A,B,C or D. Both the Nicene Creed and the Apostle's Creed are given at the appropriate time. I found it to virtually be representative of any standard ordinary times Mass that I have attended.

While presenting the Mass, the book also explains briefly in small red print what each part of the Mass represents, what it means, why we are doing it. The priest's words are in normal font, while responses are in bold print. On the left hand side in easily noticeable blocks of print it tells when to Stand or Sit. It does omit kneeling, though. Which is easy enough to add yourself if your parish kneels as does ours. Thus once the child has been guided through the book, they can take it to church with them and use it as there own mini-missal to help guide them through the Mass and the responses.

As I always say with this series of books this one is perfect for adults (RCIA candidates and those returning to the Church after a long period) to help when you first attend Mass to get over that strange feeling, until the Mass becomes familiar to you. And, of course, the book is a goldmine for learning all the responsorial songs and prayers: Lamb of God, Holy Holy Holy, May the Lord accept this sacrifice, I confess to almighty God, etc. It is all here in this one little book!