Wednesday, November 30, 2011

256. That Fatal Night by Sarah Ellis

That Fatal Night: The Titanic Diary of Dorothy Wilton, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1912 by Sarah Ellis (Canada)
Dear Canada, 1912

Pages: 170
Ages: 8+
Finished: Nov. 23, 2011
First Published: Sept. 1, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Genre: children, historical fiction, Canadian author
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:
May 1, 1912
Father and Mother met with the principal this morning.

Acquired: Received  a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: Someday I hope to read all the books in this series.

This book takes a different point of view than most kid's historical fiction I've read about the Titanic.  The book starts a few months after the sinking and we meet Titanic survivor 12 year-old Dorothy, her traveling companion did not survive, something for which she feels guilt and Dorothy doesn't really want to talk about the Titanic anymore.  She gets into an altercation at school and is sent home for the remainder of the year.  Her teacher brings her home work and a journal where she tells Dorothy to write about her Titanic experience as it may help to put it into perspective for her.  Dorothy writes about her life now and her life in England where she was visiting her Grandmother and Grandfather before her fateful journey home, touching on every subject but the one that has redefined her life.  Eventually, Dorothy does take the plunge and tells us what it was like for her that evening the "unsinkable" ship The Titanic sunk.

An enjoyable story, with much more going for it than just a recounting of the Titanic's final days.  We have a full-blown story of a survivor's life, living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  What it was like to deal with being a survivor when so many more had died, the guilt and blame a person throws on themselves.  Also daily life in Halifax , 1912 is explored as is rural life in 1912 England.  I enjoyed Dorothy's tone of voice in this epistolary novel told through her journal writings.  The only thing that bothered me is that she sometimes went into theatre mode and wrote scenes as if she were writing a play script, these were a bit bothersome but they did add some humour.  Another good entry to this popular series for girls.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

255. The Deadlies: Felix Takes the Stage Kathryn Lasky

Felix Takes the Stage by Kathryn Lasky. Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin. (US) - (Canada)
The Deadlies, #1

Pages: 142
Ages: 7+
Finished: Nov. 21, 2008
First Published: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: children, humour, animal fantasy
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

For Felix, the best part of the night came when the concert had ended.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading:   I enjoy the author's books and animal fantasy.

This is a cute, funny book filled with lots of interesting information  on brown recluse spiders and spiders in general.  The Deadlies, a family of brown recluse spiders minus a dad, live in the basement of a philharmonic hall.  The mother is very strict that the kids keep themselves hidden as their venomous nature scares humans so much that even the sight of them will bring in the dreaded E-Men to exterminate them all; something the mother has lived through in the past.  But Felix is different from the others, he loves the music and has an artistic bent.  He finds himself pulled towards the stage at night when the conductor is working there alone at night but of course the dreaded thing finally happens one night and he is seen.  Within hours the exterminators arrive and the Deadlies are on the run to find a new home.  They temporarily find shelter next door at an old antiques store but head off to the Boston Public Library where the mother lived with her own mother before she passed away.

A fun, exciting story that any animal fantasy fan will be sure to enjoy.  Written for a younger crowd than Lasky usually writes for, the story is more humour and adventure based with little fantasy other than the world in which spiders can talk.  They have themselves a great sidekick in Fatty the Cat, the theatre's backstage cat who is the children's godspider and accompanies them on their journey.  A silly, fun story that doesn't resort to any gross spider facts but instead opens up an entertaining world of spider facts that will fascinate boys and girls alike.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series: Spiders on the Case.

Monday, November 28, 2011

254. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 639
Ages: 9+
Finished: Nov. 20, 2011
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: children, historical fiction, realistic fiction, 1920s, 1970s
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Something hit Ben Wilson and he opened his eyes.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Scholastic Canada.

Reason for Reading: I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret and have just been waiting for Selznick to follow it up with something similar.

Following the same "genre-breaking form" he established in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick returns to the half text/half wordless picture book to tell two parallel stories set fifty years apart until they eventually merge together into the same tale.  The first story set in the 1970s features Ben whose mother has just died in a car accident; he's never known who his father was and after looking around his mom's room he discovers some clues to his identity.  He runs away to New York in search of the man he's never known.  Fifty years earlier in the 1920s, we are introduced to Rose, a young girl with a fixation on a silent movie star who feels trapped in her own home.  She too runs away to New York to find a friend named Walter, who will hopefully help her escape her strict father.  Eventually the two stories catch up to each other and merge into one story.

Ben's story is told purely in text using roughly about 200 pgs., while Rose's story is told in the remaining 400-odd pages in wordless illustrated sequences.  As each story alternates, the reader switches gears from reading words to gazing enraptured at the illustrations.  The artwork, needless to say in superb!  Selznick has created another masterpiece in this hybrid of novel and picture book.  The story is compelling and touching.  The characters lovable and real.  My only beef would be that Hugo Cabret included with the illustrations photos and movie stills; Wonderstruck is pure illustration.  I think the topic, themes and time period would have lent themselves well to including this type of media as well, especially considering one of the 1920s characters is a famous silent film/stage star.  Otherwise a pure delight!  Of the two I liked Hugo better but this is a worthy follow up and still deserving of a top rating.  Looking forward to seeing Selznick continue in this fascinating format in a future book.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

253. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd. Illustrations by Jim Kay. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 206
Ages: 12+
Finished: Nov. 19, 2011
First Published: Sept. 15, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, magical realism, horror
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The monster showed up just after midnight.  As they do.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I was simply drawn to the plot and the cover.

A 13-year-old boy is dealing with the terminal illness of his single mother.  He has nightmares almost every night, is a loner at school, is bullied by one boy in particular and one night begin the visitations of a monster at 12:07.  The story deals with the normal emotions of a child dealing with the imminent death of a parent: grief, anger, etc. and the mystical world of the nightmares and the monster symbolize things the boy can't verbalize or rationalize himself otherwise.

This is a dark story but with a redeeming ending.  Don't let the fact that it is an illustrated book fool you into thinking  the book is suitable for young children.  It is definitely a YA title, dealing with some tough emotions, dark situations, frightening scenes and emotionally draining.  I lost my mother to terminal illness at age 24 and the deathbed scene brought tears to my eyes.  A powerful, haunting and gut-wrenching story.

The book is profusely illustrated in a very dark manner.  With what appears to be black ink throughout, some illustrations are mostly dark texturized blackness with no focal image while others are quite outstanding haunting images featuring the monster.  On their own I'm not sure I would appreciate them but they are a perfect match for the story being told.  This is a book I wouldn't be surprised to see on award lists.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

260. Holy Women by Pope Benedict XVI

Holy Women by Pope Benedict XVI (Buy)

Pages: 143
Ages: 18+
Finished: Nov. 24, 2011
First Published: June 28, 2011
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor
Genre: Catholic, Biography, Religion, Inspirational
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

In 1988, on the occasion of the Marion Year, Bl. John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter entitled Mulieris Dignitatem on the precious role that women have played and play in the life of the Church.

Acquired: This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Holy Women. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Reason for Reading:   I love reading about the Saints and want to read more work of Pope B16.

This is a collection of articles on seventeen holy women of the church throughout the ages, most of the women are saints, though not quite all; most were nuns, but again not quite all.  These writings are "derived from catecheses given by Pope Benedict XVI during his weekly general audience from September 1, 2010 to April 6, 2011."  They have only been edited slightly to fit the book form.  These are brief histories but meaty with information and inspiration, Benedict gets right to the heart of matters and tells a history of the woman's life, what lead her to her religious/spiritual way of life, tells us what these women achieved, how some were honoured and respected while alive, how others were martyrs for God.  The Pope then winds each article down by placing the woman's achievements/religious teachings in our own modern times, showing how what she did or said is still relevant today and each ends with a relevant prayer.  Most of the women are from the middle ages but the time span covered is broad ranging from 1098 to 1897 and the women are presented more or less chronologically with only slight deviation.  The women included are:

St. Hildegard of Bingen
St. Claire of Assisi
St. Matilda of Hackeborn
St. Gertrude the Great
Bl. Angela of Foligno
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
St. Bridget of Sweden
Marguerite d Oingt
St. Juliana of Cornillon
St Catherine of Siena
Julian of Norwich
St. Veronica Giuliani
St. Catherine of Bologna
St. Catherine of Genoa
St. Joan of Arc
St. Teresa of Avila
St. Therese of Lisieux

The book is short and written in a very readable voice making it possible to quickly read through the book, however, I decided to take my time and read a biography a night so I could digest and process the information on each woman before going on to the next one.  An highly enjoyable, entertaining, informative and, inspirational read!

Friday, November 25, 2011

252. The X'ed-Out X-Ray by Ron Roy

The X'ed-Out X-Ray by Ron Roy. Illustrated by John Steven Gurney (Canada) - (US)
A to Z Mysteries

Pages: 85
Ages: 7+
Finished: Nov. 18, 2011
First Published: 2005
Publisher: Random House
Genre: children, mystery
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"I'm not dressing like a penguin and you can't make me!" Josh said.

Acquired: Borrowed from my local library.

Reason for Reading:  As every year, I am participating in the AtoZ Challenge.  For the first time, this year I only have the X's left and I will have completed it so I decided to actively search out books.  My niece did a little research and came up with this title for me.  I had heard of the series before.

The kids, age unspecified, have tickets to go see a famous singer who is coming to town with the nickname "Penguin".  One of their Dad's takes them to the outdoor concert but while there during intermission Dink injures his arm.  While this is going on the singer's special diamond penguin necklace is stolen.  The kids get involved in the mystery and think they know who may be behind the robbery.

Going into this book blind, not knowing whether the series has positive reviews or not I didn't know what to expect.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with a fun little mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed for this early reading level. Well told, interesting, with several possible suspects it should keep young mystery fans entertained.  I found myself quickly reading the book in one sitting and deciding to get the first book in the series for my son since it is on target for reading level for him.  He is a reluctant reader and this series may just catch his fancy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

251. The White Ballets: Swan Lake, Giselle, and La Bayadere by Rajka Kupesic

The White Ballets: Swan Lake, Giselle, and La Bayadere by Rajka Kupesic (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 40
Ages: 7+
Finished: Nov. 16, 2011
First Published: Oct. 21, 2011
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, picture books, ballet, fairy tales
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Everyone, rich and poor, was invited to the palace garden to celebrate Prince Siegfried's birthday.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading:  First I must say I am not a fan of the ballet, the dance or the music.  However, I do appreciate the stories they tell and I enjoy reading retellings of the stories either in picture book format or more involved novelized retellings.  The stories are much like fairy tales, incorporating many elements of fantasy.

This is a beautiful book.  One worth owning and adding to a collection of fairy tales or similar retellings.  Aesthetically the book is gorgeously illustrated with full page paintings and each story also has one two-page spread illustration.  While the dustjacket has a nice picture it is included inside the book and I am more inclined to find the picture boards more attractive.  They are delicately designed with a white on white pattern, gold lettering and a smaller version of another picture found inside the book.  The endpages again are beautiful, also using a white on white as well as white on silver pattern design.  This is just the type of book you want to hold and browse through and appreciate.

Content-wise, the book starts with a brief essay by the author (a former ballerina) on why she choose to retell these "ballet blanc" stories and what that means.  Then we have the three stories wonderfully retold in language any age can enjoy.  After each story is an "About" spread where the author tells a brief history of the ballet then goes on to interpret each of the paintings she has included for each story.  Her paintings do not necessarily illustrate the events of the story but more so illustrate the ballet scene and feeling one would see on stage at such a particular point in each piece.  These sections would not hold the interest of  a young child but are a treasure trove for the older reader. 

The combination of stories, background and interpretive information along with the gorgeous artwork make this book truly suitable for any age.  Highly recommended for anyone who would appreciate the material.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

250. Gargoyles, Monsters in Stone by Jennifer Dussling

Gargoyles, Monsters in Stone by Jennifer Dussling. Illustrated by Peter Church (Canada) - (US)
All Aboard Reading (Level 2)

Pages: 48
Ages: 7+
Finished: Nov. 15, 2011
First Published: 1999
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Genre: children, easy reader, non-fiction, history, middle ages, architecture
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

High in the sky they keep watch from the tops of churches.

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

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

We were really pleased with this book.  Ds didn't know anything about gargoyles before reading the book and found the topic fascinating.  He says he'll be looking up now instead of looking down to see if he can spot his first gargoyle.  I'm not sure if there are any around here but if there are going to be any we should find them somewhere on our travels as we live in the oldest part of the province.  Very informative, even I learned a thing or two such as where the name comes from.  The illustrations are beautiful and the reading level was good for my son, just a bit of a challenge.  An impressive little book at this level of reading.  Too bad it has gone out of print.  It certainly isn't outdated!  Hope they'll reprint this one soon!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

249. In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps It Up by Monica Kulling

In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps It Up by Monica Kulling. Illustrated by David Parkins (US) - (CANADA)
Great Idea Series, #3

Pages: 32
Ages: 7+
Finished: Nov. 14, 2011
First Published: Oct. 11,2011
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: children, picture book, science, biography, inventor, women's studies
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Mr. Maxwell was behind the counter, counting out nails.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading:  I enjoy Monica Kulling's children's biographies.

Another delightful entry in the Great Ideas series!  This time Kulling brings us an inventor probably not known to many people, certainly I'd never heard of her before.  Margaret Knight was prolific with her inventions and patents throughout her life but her most famous achievement was in the paper bag industry.  While she did not invent the flat-based paper bag she did invent the machine that made it possible to mass produce them instead of having each one individually hand produced.  Margaret Knight is an interesting woman of the late 1800s, who went against the lot cast for woman of the time period.  While she felt her life had been hampered because she was a woman she managed to rise above the attitudes of the day and achieve so much as a woman inventor.

A great, interesting little story.  I loved being introduced to this lesser known inventor and David Parkins illustrations are incredibly detailed with great facial expressions that nicely show the time period, being somewhat reminiscent of Rockwell.  Must have for libraries.

Monday, November 21, 2011

248. Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri

Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri. Illustrated by James Weinberg. (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 406
Ages: 14+
Finished: Nov. 17, 2008
First Published: Oct. 25, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, Novellas, short stories, fantasy, science fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The sun was faithful again that morning, rising above the farm with a shine so fresh it tasted like gazpacho.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading:   I really enjoyed both books in the author's "Another" series and was intrigued by this collection of novellas.

A collection of four novellas written by the author, each featuring a different sub-genre, yet all of them fit under either fantasy or science-fiction on the surface.  These stories are for the older teen and quite suited to adult reading as well, though they do feature teen main characters.  Of the four stories I really enjoyed three of them with two being quite outstanding.  The fourth fell flat and didn't entertain me.  These stories show what a great creative, inventive, dark mind Nayeri has and what he may have in store for readers in the future is simply delicious to think about.  Highly recommended!

1.  Toy Farm - A western, this is a weird, quirky tale set on a toy farm, where the inhabitants are toys and the farm grows new toys to populate itself.  The main character is Sonny, an 18yo straw man who patrols and protects the farm and its inhabitants.  A stranger comes to the farm, perhaps to cause danger but before his real purpose is known a truly evil man arrives who wishes to find out the secret of the toys' ability to live and have feelings.  He and his slave plant people start to take over the farm while Sonny, the farmer's daughter and the stranger do what they can to fight against him.  A very strange story indeed and while I didn't really understand its meaning, I enjoyed it nonetheless.  It had a creepy vibe to it that I just can't describe.  Strange but interesting. 4/5

2.  Our Lady of Villains - Fantastic little dystopian novella set in 2062 where nano-technology has taken over the world.  People live on the web and in virtual reality.  A corporation basically rules the world and plans to turn the earth into one virtual reality on the upcoming ReCreation Day.  A girl, who belongs to the group of dissenters, the Villains, races against time to perhaps save the world.  Compelling story, much longer than the first one but had me racing through the pages and read in one sitting.  Loved it!  5/5

3.  Wish Police - Brilliant urban fantasy!  My favourite story so far!  Saul, a Djinn, and his partner Ari, a goldfish who happens to be prince of the sea, work for the ICU (Imaginary Crimes Unit).  Their job is to go after wishes that have been sent to commit crimes and apprehend them before the crime is committed because you see all wishes comes true unless they wouldn't, shouldn't or couldn't.  Randy just had a bad night and before he falls asleep he wishes his family was dead.  That's when Saul and Ari are given what should be a simple case.  Along for the ride is a recently demoted detective who may be Saul & Ari's new partner Mack, who claims to be a giant leprechaun.  As mysterious herself as the case turns out to be this story is an exciting read and a lot of fun.  An amazing amount of character development is put into the three main characters and I could see, and would very much like to see, the further adventures of this trio in novel format.  5/5

4. Doom with a View -  This is a fantasy, an original fairy tale, if you will.  Told from the point of view of Death; he tells us the tale of a kingdom run by a selfish young prince, two artisans who have been warring since they were first compared to each other, and their children, star-crossed lovers.  This is really a farce on all these common elements of a Romeo & Juliet fairy tale since our lovers don't even meet until the story is almost over.  I'm usually quite fond of stories involving Death as a character but this one fell flat with me and I'm afraid I found it rather silly and boring. 2/5

Sunday, November 20, 2011

247. My First Catechism by Father Lovasik

My First Catechism by Father Lavasik, S.V.D. (Canada) - (US)
St. Joseph Picture Books

Pages: 32
Ages: 7+
Finished: Nov. 1, 2011
First Published: 1983
Publisher: Catholic Book Publishing Corp.
Genre: children, Catholic, religion
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Who made you?

Acquired: Gifted a copy from ds's Godmother.

Reason for Reading:  We have been using this book as part of our religion studies every school day, very slowly, for about the past year.

A very simple yet thorough introduction to the Catechism and church teachings for youngsters and new Catholics of any age.  Simple question and answer format takes you through 11 topics starting with "Why Am I In the World" and ending with "Sin".  The final three pages present a collection of popular prayers.  Very useful and easy to understand.  Gave my son a good grounding in Catholic theology and we both memorized the ten commandments in order!  Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

246. Around the World by Matt Phelan

Around the World by Matt Phelan (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 236
Ages: 10+
Finished: Nov. 13, 2011
First Published: Oct. 11,2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, graphic novel, historical fiction, biography, world explorers, travel
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:

It all began, as many great adventures begin, with a story.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading:  I enjoy graphic biographies and while I wasn't too impressed with Matt Phelan's Storm in the Barn, thought I'd give him another go.

This is the story of three late 19th century "around the world travelers".  The book opens with the scene from Verne's famous book of the same name where Phileas Fogg makes his bet to travel around the world in 80 days.  It was the publication of this book that inspired many real life adventurous types to set off and do the same thing.  Told separately in three vignettes, the reader is introduced to the stories of three such adventurers, who each wrote a book documenting their travels.  First up is Thomas Stevens a miner, who quits his job, takes up riding the new-fangled invention the bicycle and proceeds to travel around the world via bicycle (this was the penny-farthing bike at the time though he rode the American version).  Next is the story of Nellie Bly, Girl Reporter who set out to beat Phileas Fogg's time and travel the world in 74 days while sending home news reports.  The American public went wild for her stories.  Finally, we are told the story of Joshua Slocum, retired sea captain, who fixes up a dilapidated little boat into a sea-worthy sailing ship and travels the world by sea. 

Each one of the stories is interesting and while having the same theme, unique from one another.  Rather than being just a retelling of events, Phelan has chosen to portray each journey through the person's ultimate reasons as to why they conducted the voyage, their driving force and their eventual personal rewards.  An enjoyable read.  Not overly exciting, but interesting nonetheless.  I can't say I'm particularly fond of Phelan's artistic style; his colours are drab and his watercolours are wishy-washy to my sensibilities, but he is a well known illustrator and obviously many others do appreciate his work.  Certainly a unique topic and combination of stories.

Friday, November 18, 2011

245. The Dragon Turn by Shane Peacock

The Dragon Turn by Shane Peacock (Canada) - (US)
The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His 5th Case

Pages: 220
Ages: 12+
Finished: Nov. 13, 2011
First Published: Oct. 11, 2011
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: YA, mystery, historical fiction, magicians
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

The moment the dragon appears on the stage of The Egyptian Hall theater in London, Sherlock Holmes knows there is something truly wonderful, truly disturbed, about Alistair Hemsworth.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Tundra Books.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

I always look forward to reading the next installment of The Boy Sherlock Holmes, knowing I'm in for a good mystery, period piece and adventure.  The fifth book in the series, The Dragon Turn was no disappointment!  Set in the world of Victorian prestidigitation, the reader is planted back stage at the antics of self-important magicians and the violent death of one leaving very few remains other than pieces of flesh, whilst a rival is collared for the offense.  But Sherlock is not convinced things are as they seem and with some coercion from Irene he takes on the case to prove the magician is innocent but after he has gained his freedom, Sherlock begins to have second thoughts of his innocence and takes the case on himself seriously when he realizes a woman's life may be in danger.

As usual for this series, the action is non-stop. The pace rushes forward from one reveal to another always keeping the reader on his toes.  Guessing "whodunit" may come sooner or later but guessing the full motive and execution of the crime is saved for the last twists.  An exciting mystery steeped in a well-researched Victorian time period.  Sherlock has grown-up in this volume, fifteen going on sixteen finds him a teen on the verge of manhood and much less impulsive and more discerning in his actions before he leaps.  His personal life moves forward in this volume as well, with all his previously established relationships taking on new directions.  This is a satisfying book all round for the reader who has been following the series.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

244. Tales From India: Stories of Creation and the Cosmos by Jamila Gavin

Tales From India: Stories of Creation and the Cosmos by Jamila Gavin. Illustrated by Amanda Hall. (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 88
Ages: 10+
Finished: Nov. 10, 2008
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: mythology, Hindu
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Before the world began, there was only a white sea of milk.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading:  I enjoy reading mythology.  Hindu mythology is relatively new to me and I have been reading it a bit this year.

This is a beautiful large illustrated children's book that can be read by anyone interested in the stories of Hindu mythology.  The book starts with the tales of creation, the creation of the gods, creation of man and finally various adventures of the gods and half-gods.  I find the stories to be much more fantastical than other mythology but they hold strong to the same themes of good vs. evil, gods vs. man, and stories of how things came to be.  I also find the Hindi tales to be much more romantic than others as well.  There are many stories of love along with warriors and battles.  Many of the Hindu gods are introduced here and this is an excellent book for an introduction to Hindu mythology.

The illustrations are beautiful and the author has used authentic Indian art styles from the past and present, especially using miniature painting for the fine details of her paintings.  The gods are fantastic creatures with many arms, parts human/parts animal, or simply wondrous creatures and they come to their full splendour under Hall's brush.  A beautiful book to add to any mythology collection and perfect as a primer on basic Hindu myths.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DNF: Our Daily Bread by Lauren B. Davis

Our Daily Bread by Lauren B. Davis (Canada) - (US)

Ages: 18+
Finished: DNF
First Published: Oct. 1, 2009
Publisher: Wordcraft of Oregon
Genre: dark noire, historical fiction, psychological drama
Rating: DNF

First sentence:
Near the top of North Mountain a tumbledown shed leaned against an old lightning-struck oak at the edge of a raggedy field.
Acquired: Received a review copy from the book's publicist.

Reason for Reading:  I actually like reading dark, gloomy noire novels with depressing themes and depressing ends.  This sounded along those lines and promised a redemptive ending.

I have a 50-page rule that I give a book before deciding not to go any further and I made it to page 56 out of 260 before deciding this wasn't the book for me at this time.  I had no problem with the writing or style, in fact, it is possible I might have come out of the book appreciating it.  But by page 56, I had decided I just did not want to spend time with the ugliness of this story.  I had no desire to pick it up and keep reading.  The story centering around such topics as child abuse, incest, drug manufacturing and selling, little children bullies and the dark side of religion, the fire and brimstone, wrath of God-type of preaching was too much ugliness for me to settle down with and read at this time in my life. 

As I always do with DNFs, now that you know why I didn't like it, here it the publisher's summary so you can decide for yourself:

From best-selling novelist Lauren B. Davis comes the deeply compassionate story of what happens when we view our neighbors as ‘The Other’ as well as the transcendent power of unlikely friendships.

The God-fearing townspeople of Gideon shun the Erskine Clan, who live on North Mountain, and ignore the rampant child abuse and violence. On the mountain, twenty-one-year old Albert Erskine dreams of a better and safer life. In town, young Ivy Evans is relentlessly bullied by her classmates. Though her father, Tom Evans, is a well-liked local, his troubled marriage to a restless outsider is a source of gossip. As rumors and innuendo about the Evans family spread, Ivy seeks refuge in Dorothy Carlisle, an independent-minded widow who runs a local antique store. When Albert ventures down from the mountain and seizes on the Evans' family crisis as an opportunity to befriend Ivy's vulnerable teenage brother Bobby it sets in motion a chain of events which will change everything. Inspired by a true story.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

243. First Descent by Pam Withers

First Descent by Pam Withers. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 265
Ages: 15+
Finished: Nov. 10, 2011
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: YA, adventure, extreme sports,
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

When the shot rang out, I leapt from my bed, lifted a corner of the bedroom curtain, and looked down on the river bend

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: The plot sounded exciting and I am a fan of this publisher, trusting their book selection when I haven't heard of the author before.

Excellent.  A superb adventure story that should especially touch reluctant male teen readers.  This is an exciting rush of adrenaline from start to finish. 17-year-old Rex is an expert whitewater kayaker taking after his grandfather who raised him along with his mother.  His grandfather was well-known in his day for making many first descents down rivers in South America but ended his career when local Natives chased him out of an area of Colombia leaving El Furioso unconquered to this day.  Rex promises to finish his grandfather's legacy by making this his first "first descent" and heads off to Colombia without anyone in his family really understanding the political situation in that area.  Hiring a local indigenous girl, 17-year-old Myriam, to be his guide he finds himself not only facing man vs. nature as he shoots extreme rapids but man vs man when he learns the plight of the indigena out in the wilderness caught between the paramilitary and guerrilla soldiers.

An eye-opening story of culture clashes and world social problems that do not make headline news but should be known and addressed globally.  Interesting characters that are real and relatable to teens.  I found both Rex and Myriam to be likable teens, flawed and each developed throughout the story.  I'm not usually into this type of "political situation" novel but am very fond of outdoor adventure/survival stories and found the political situation only enhanced the exhilaration of the plot.  A great library pick!

Monday, November 14, 2011

242. The Flash: Trickster's Bubble Trouble (DC Super Heroes)

The Flash: Trickster's Bubble Trouble by Michael Dahl. Illustrated by Erik Doescher, Mike DeCarlo & Lee Loughridge (Canada) - (US)
DC Super Heroes

Pages: 54
Ages: 8+
Finished: Nov. 6, 2011
First Published: Aug. 1,2011
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, early chapter book, superheroes
Rating:  3/5

First sentence:

"That's the funniest thing I've ever seen!" said a man.

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 love the new Green Lantern and Flash volumes that have been added to this series this year but this one was a little disappointing.  Flash meets up with Trickster again.  A moody teenager whose goal in life is to beat The Flash.  This time Trickster thinks he has the answer by using scientific elements that can't be seen such as gas and air pressure along with bubbles to take out the Scarlet Speedster.  A story based on pure action from start to finish.  I was however underwhelmed with Trickster as a super villain, who only used science and had no real super powers or reason for being than to "get" The Flash.  Youngsters may feel the same way but the continuous action should keep their attention glued to the page.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Canadian Book Challenge 5 - COMPLETED

I finished my original 13 books for this challenge, so am moving it over to the completed challenges.  I will however continue to add to this list as the official finish date is not until June 30, 2012.  My 13 challenge books are listed below with the extras noted underneath.

The rules are the same as always: read 13 books by June 30th, 2012. Over 13 is fine. Use your own definition of Canadian Author or Canadian Book.  The Challenge is hosted as ever by the brilliant book host, John Mutford, over at Book Mine Set. Here is my list starting July 1st, 2011.

Canadian Book Challenge 5
1. Canada's Maple Leaf: The Story of Our Flag by Ann-Maureen Owens & Jane Yealland
2. Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis by Jo Ellen Bogart
3. Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
4. Bone Beds of the Badlands by Shane Peacock
5. The Color of Lightning by Paulete Jilles
6. Sinking Deeper or My Questionable (Possible Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster by Steve Vernon
7. Canada, Our History: An Album Through Time by Rick Archbold
8. Monster in the Mountains by Shane Peacock
9. The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan
10. The Clockwork Girl by Sean O'Reilly* & Kevin Hanna
11. The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason
12. The Remains of War: Surviving the Other Concentration Camps of World War II by G. Pauline Kok-Schurgers
13. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

14. First Descent by Pam Withers
DNF. Our Daily Bread by Lauren B. Davis
15. The Dragon Turn by Shane Peacock
16. In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps it Up by Monica Kulling
17. The White Ballets: Swan Lake, Giselle, and La Bayadere by Rajka Kupesic
18. That Fatal Night: The Titanic Diary of Dorothy Wilton, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1912 by Sarah Ellis
19. Blood and Iron: Building the Railway, Lee Heen-gwong, British Columbia, 1882 by Paul Yee
20. Deadly Voyage: RMS Titanic, Jamie Laidlaw, Crossing the Atlantic, 1912 by Hugh Brewster
21. Prisoner of Dieppe: World War II, Alistair Morrison, Occupied France, 1942 by Hugh Brewster
22. Dragon Seer's Gift by Janet McNaughton
23. 50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-All History by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
24. The Fathomless Fire by Thomas Wharton
25. It's A Snap! George Eastman's First Photograph by Monica Kulling
26. Out of Slavery: The Journey to Amazing Grace by Linda Granfield
27. Jellaby by Kean Soo
28. Shot at Dawn: World War I, Allan McBride, France, 1917 by John Wilson
29. Jellaby: Monster in the City by Kean Soo
30. Monster Beach by Sean O'Reilly
31. The Missing Mummy by Seaon O'Reilly
32. Prisoners in the Promised Land by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
33. Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
34. Brothers Far From Home by Jean Little
35. Silver Threads by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
36. Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks
37. One Moon, Two Cats by Laura Godwin
38. Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
39. The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee
40. Heresy: Ten Lies hey Spread About Christianity by Michel Coren
41. Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
42. Behind Enemy Lines by Carol Matas
43. Torn Apart: The Internment Diary of Mary Kobayashi, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1941 by Susan Aihoshi
44. Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung by Willow Dawson
45. Lone Hawk: The Story of Air Ace Billy Bishop by John Lang
46. Man Overboard! by Curtis Parkinson
47. Hey Canada! by Vivien Bowers
48. The Puppet by Eva Wiseman
49. The Long March Home bybZoe S. Roy

*Sean O'Reilly is Canadian

241. The Flash: Master of Mirrors! (DC Super Heroes)

The Flash: Master of Mirrors by Laurie S. Sutton. Illustrated by Dan Schoening, Mike DeCarlo & Lee Loughridge (Canada) - (US)
DC Super Heroes

Pages: 54
Ages: 8+
Finished: Nov. 5, 2011
First Published: Aug. 1,2011
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, early chapter book, superheroes
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
"Do diamonds come in purple?" the girl asked.

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.

Well I was excited as a little kid that Green Lantern and The Flash have been added to this series and couldn't wait to start reading. As usual the illustrations are DC Comics quality and there are usually two per chapter.  An exciting superhero story which pits the Flash against Mirror Master who has duplicates of himself robbing many of Central Cities banks, jewelry stores and museums.  When the clones disappear through a plate glass window the Flash follows them and discovers himself in an alternate world where Mirror Master has taken control and set himself up as king of the empire.  To beat Mirror Master and save his own world from him, the Flash must first save the princess and return her kingdom to her.  Great superhero action.  Purely plot driven, it will keep young readers riveted.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

240. I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (Canada) - (US)
Flavia de Luce Mysteries, 4

Pages: 275
Ages: 18+
Finished: Nov. 5, 2011
First Published: Nov. 1, 2011
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre: mystery
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:
Tendrils of raw fog floated up from the ice like agonized spirits departing bodies.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

Oh, the sweet pure pleasure of reading a Flavia de Luce mystery, the witty and wise 11yo chemist with a propensity for poisons.  Book 4 in the series is as fresh and original as book 1 and, I think at this point, my favourite in the series.  Making a great Christmas gift as our action takes place on Christmas Eve this is sure to please fans and newcomers alike.  Fans will be pleased to see familiar faces but newcomers won't miss a thing just jumping in with this series.  A great character study and return to the traditional British mystery, Bradley has the Christie flair down to a "T".  The book entices us with two mysteries actually as the murder does not take place until 2/3s of the way into the book.  While the reader is kept guessing as to who will be murdered for the larger part of the book they are then rewarded with a splendid crime that has members of Flavia's own family on her list of suspects and her own life in danger at the climax.  Bradley has outdone himself!  If you have mystery lovers on your Christmas list, consider them taken care of!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

DNF: Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline

Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 173/386
Ages: 18+
Finished: DNF
First Published: 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: legal thriller, suspense, crime
Rating: DNF

First sentence:

Nat Greco felt like an A cup in a double-D bra.

Acquired: My sister gave me some of her extra books to take home with me.

Reason for Reading:  I've never been partial to legal thrillers, but my sister has a lot of books by the author so I thought I'd try her out.

Most of Scottoline's books are part of a series, this however is a standalone.  I've been picking my way through this book since Tuesday and just can't get into it.  There was a small part where I thought things were finally picking up and I was interested but I soon lost that feeling.  As I said I'm not that fond of legal mysteries, this isn't that an exciting of a plot.  A prison riot, the lawyers later find themselves in danger and way too much of a will they or won't they romance theme.  Just not my cup of tea.  Boring compared to what I usually read and I didn't care about either of the main characters.  I did bring home one other book by the author that is part of her series, which I will probably give a go but not in the near future.

As I always do with DNFs, now that you know why I didn't like it, here it the publisher's summary so you can decide for yourself:

Natalie Greco loves being a teacher, even though she can't keep her students from cruising during class. She loves her family, too, but her boyfriend fits in better with the football-crazy Grecos than she does. Then a colleague, handsome Angus Holt, talks Nat into teaching a class at a local prison, and her world turns upside down.

A violent prison riot breaks out, and Nat rushes to save the life of a mortally wounded guard whose last words are: "Tell my wife it's under the floor." Nat delivers the cryptic message, but before she knows it, she's suspected of murder and hiding from cops and killers alike. She is forced on the run to solve the riddle of the dead man's last words and to save her own life—and find real love.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

239. Green Lantern: Savage Sands (Super DC Heroes)

Green Lantern: Savage Sands by J.E. Bright. Illustrated by Dan Schoening. (Canada) - (US)
Super DC Heroes

Pages: 53
Ages: 8+
Finished: Oct. 28, 2011
First Published: Aug. 1, 2011
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Genre: children, superheroes, action
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

ZWWWOOOOMMMM!  Test pilot Hal Jordan scorched through the sky above Edwards Air Force Base.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Capstone Publishing.

Reason for Reading:  I admit to enjoying these books as much as my son and I always read and review them first, before passing them on for dad to read to him as bedtime books.  They are above his reading level yet.

This book is pure super hero action.  Whilst working his day job Hal Jordan, aka The Green Lantern, is pushing the limits of an experimental hypersonic jet.  Once he returns to base he is called in for a mission by the Green Lantern Corps.  Seems Egypt is experiencing wild sand storms and they have captured a man on security film stealing an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph from a museum.  Green Lantern immediately recognizes it as Vandal Savage, his immortal enemy who has raised an undead army of living mummies so he can once again rule the world as he once did in the days of the Pharaohs.

Great title and addition to the series.  This is one of the better ones and while I enjoy most books in the series I don't often hand it out ratings of 5.  Savage Sands is a sure fire 5 though from start to finish with non-stop action and superhero powers versus supervillain attacks.  It's a good ride!

Monday, November 7, 2011

238. Seal Journey by Richard & Jonah Sobol

Seal Journey by Richard & Jonah Sobol. Photographs by Richard Sobol. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: unpaginated (approx. 32)
Ages: 7+
Finished: Oct. 27, 2011
First Published: 1993
Publisher: Cobblehill Books
Genre: children, picturebook, non-fiction, animals, harp seal,
Rating: 3/5

First sentence:
The life cycle of the harp seal is one of the great wonders of nature.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading: I am reading Richard Sobol's entire backlist with my son and discussing the life of a photographer/photojournalist as a career option while doing so.  This is the final book for us to read.

A short read with lots of illustrations.  The author brought his son with him on this assignment and the story is told through both of their points of view.  The reader is generally shown the complete life of a seal pup from birth until it is abandoned by it's mother.  Then it describes at this point how it will take the cub a couple more years until he is ready to join in the mating ritual and complete the life cycle again.  There is only scant page time spent on the controversial hunting practices and no photographs of this are shown.  They stick to the beauty of the animal.  An entertaining, if brief, account of an animal's way of life

Sunday, November 6, 2011

237. Hide by Lisa Gardner

Hide by Lisa Gardner (US) - (Canada)
D.D. Warren, #2

Pages: 451
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 23, 2011
First Published: 2007
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: mystery, thriller
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

My father explained it to me the first time when I was seven years old: The world is a system

Acquired: I was visiting relatives and borrowed this from my sister.

Reason for Reading: I am reading this series but started with book #3, since my sister had the first two books it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with the series.

It is two years after the first book and Bobby Dodge has become a State Police detective.  When Boston P.D. uncover an underground pit containing the bodies of six young girls, the similarities to the case in book one are too familiar not to notice.  Bobby Dodge and D.D. Warren are partnered up to investigate.  Not only will this take them back to the persons concerned with the first case but also introduce them to a young woman who has spent her entire life on the run and she doesn't even know why.

This was a thrilling, exciting read and introduces D.D. Warrren as a main character for the first time.  More time is spent on fleshing out her character and introducing us to this smart, tough, acerbic detective whom we only briefly met in book one.  The case is full of twists and turns and only slowly reveals information as it unravels making it virtually impossible to completely solve on your own until near the end.  One can guess who the "bad guy" may be, but the full motive and reasoning is only slowly unwound.  With the setting taking place on the grounds of an old abandoned mental hospital the atmosphere is perfect for the cast of suspects who include former patients and staff, to name a few.  Since I started with book 3, this one is much more what I'm used to and better than book one *but* the plot is closely tied to Alone and they should be read in order, as Hide is full of spoilers for Alone.  Good creepy story!