Wednesday, October 31, 2012

276. Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker (1st ed.)

Bram Stoker (1st. ed.) edited by Tom Pomplun  [2nd Ed (US) - (Canada)]
Graphic Classics, Vol. 7

Pages: 144
Ages: 12+
Finished: Oct. 16, 2012
First Published: 2003
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: graphic novel, YA, short stories, anthologies, horror,
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence: "My Very Dear Mr. Stoker, Please regard this as my Modest Proposal for a New Dramatic Presentation of Dracula:"

Publisher's Summary: "Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker is the seventh in a series of books which present great literature in comics and heavily illustrated format by some of the best artists working today in the fields of comics, book illustration, and fine arts. The book includes comics adaptations of "The Lair of the White Worm", an excerpt from Dracula, plus six other great stories by the great writer, Bram Stoker."

Acquired:  Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading:  I'm working on reading the complete series.

I had to ILL this volume and was a little disappointed to see I received the 1st edition (now out of print) as a more recent 2nd edition has been updated.  But beggars cant be choosers and I'm just appreciate of my library system that they are able to get hold of about 95% of the books and movies I request through them.

The publisher's website describes the changes in the second edition so I'm able to know how this one differs.  First off, I have read Dracula twice and while I don't recall, I must have read a short story of 2 of Stoker's in the numerous anthologies I've read over the years.  That said only one story in this book was familiar to me "The Judge's House".

This book has some fun with Dracula, starting with an introductory letter to Mr. Stoker entreating him to put his book into ballet form (which it has been).  Then there is a graphic adaption of Dracula's voyage across the sea, this was not very impressive, a Dracula Gallery consisting of art illustrating a quote from the book.  Lovely art but again not so impressive and finally a supposed Vampire's Guide written by Van Helsing, comic and cute.  These Dracula parts of vol. 1 have been removed, except the Vampire Guide, and replaced in vol. 2 by a full graphic adaptation of the novel.  For this reason if I came across the second edition, I would read it for this alone.  The rest of the two books are the same minus two small items.  Lair of the White Worm, Torture Tower, The Judge's House and The Bridal of Death have all been graphically adapted.  I absolutely adored Lair of the White Worm and The Judges House. Torture Tower was good, quite Poe-esque but The Bridal of Death was strange.  The Wondrous Child has been presented differently, as an edited short story with several illustrations.  I don't mind reading a book of illustrated short stories but I'm not impressed with editing them and it really had no place here in a graphic novel, besides they kept this story, while deleting The Funeral Party and The Duelists also written as a short story, and I would have rather have had them keep the much more sinister and creepy Duelists.

I enjoyed all the artwork. Done in black and white it suits the macabre nature of the stories.  There are many artistic styles presented but they are not so far apart that they mesh together nicely, coming together in a nice cohesive.  I didn't even mind J.B. Bonivert's artwork this time, though I still don't care for it!  Otherwise well-done and I am now a big fan of Stoker and must make sure I read more of him.  His short stories are comparable to Poe.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

270. Captain Awesome vs. Nacho Cheese Man by Stan Kirby

Captain Awesome vs. Nacho Cheese Man by Stan Kirby. Illustrated by George O'Connor (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
Captain Awesome, #2

Pages: 111
Ages: 5+ (Suitable for older struggling/reluctant readers up to 12)
Finished: Oct. 10, 2012
First Published: Apr. 3, 2012
Publisher: Little Simon
Genre: superhero, adventure, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "By the super MI-TEE force of Captain Awesome and the canned cheese power of Nacho Cheese Man, I call this Sunnyview Superhero Squad tree house sleepover meeting to order."

Publisher's Summary: "Eugene McGillicudy and Charlie Thomas Jones are best friends. They are also supersecret superheroes and members of the Sunnyview Superhero Squad. It’s Captain Awesome and Nacho Cheese Man to the rescue! MI-TEE!

But when Eugene and Charlie get into a fight, Captain Awesome is forced to wonder if Nacho Cheese Man might actually be…bad? In the process of sorting out good guys and bad guys, Eugene learns an important lesson about friendship—and what it really means to be a superhero."

Acquired:  Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.
Reason for Reading: Ds read aloud as his reader. Next in the series.

Really pleased with this chapter book series for beginning readers.  Nice big words, double spaced, pictures on every two-page spread all to make the book visually appealing to the young/reluctant reader.  These are all important aspects but of course there must be a good story as well and Captain Awesome passes the test second time around bringing a good, clean fun book that will appeal mostly to boys.  There is excitement and silliness and the chapters are just the right length with some variation.  Of course George O'Connor's artwork is wonderfully pleasing and adds to the sense of fun these two boys are having.  What I especially like is that even though this book is particularly aimed at 5-7 year olds, the book only mentions the children are in Grade Two once.  Otherwise, there is no age set upon these characters except that they are kids and my struggling 12yo reader felt the book was appropriate at all times.  The story dealt with being annoyed with younger siblings and being quick to blame a friend without any proof.  Plus dealing with a neighbour's dog.  He enjoys this series and though it is just a tad hard for him,  he is doing well with it and we will continue to look forward to Captain Awesome's further adventures.

Monday, October 29, 2012

268: Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel

Sailor Twain or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 399
Ages: 18+
Finished: Oct. 8, 2012
First Published: Oct. 2, 2012
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: graphic novel, magical realism, mermaids
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Don't call me captain."

Publisher's Summary:  "One hundred years ago. On the foggy Hudson River, a riverboat captain rescues an injured mermaid from the waters of the busiest port in the United States. A wildly popular--and notoriously reclusive--author makes a public debut. A French nobleman seeks a remedy for a curse. As three lives twine together and race to an unexpected collision, the mystery of the Mermaid of the Hudson deepens.

A mysterious and beguiling love story with elements of Poe, Twain, Hemingway, and Greek mythology, drawn in moody black-and-white charcoal, Sailor Twain is a study in romance, atmosphere, and suspense."

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, First Second Books.

Reason for Reading:  Set in the 1880s, I wasn't about to pass this one by as it sounded just to my tastes.

Phenomenal!  One of my favourite graphic novels of the year.  This is a haunting, gothic story set in Victorian era New York, or to be more exact on a steamer upon the Hudson River.  From the beginning prologue, the book is surrounded in mystery.  The fog that fills the graphic panels also hovers heavily over the plot.  Atmosphereic only begins to describe the aura one feels reading this book and I'll say that it didn't take me long before I forgot I was reading a graphic novel, per se.  I was totally invested in these characters and the story was compelling, a real treat for someone looking for a spooky ghost story that involves much more than ghosts.  On top of that the book examines love in its varied forms, how can one truly hang on to it, is temptation always too much to handle or can a certain kind of love stand against it.  I was mezmorized while reading Sailor Twain and will be keeping this for a second read later down the line.

Be forewarned though that this is an adult book with frontal n*udity of both s*xes, and has s*x scenes.  I thought they were represented very tastefully, just not something I would hand to anyone without knowing where their limits lay in that direction.  Also there is cursing, including multiple use of the F-word.

DVD Break: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - (1920) - (DVD) - (B&W/Silent) - (ILL)

After reading a graphic novel adaptation of this recently it spurred me on to wanting to re-watch this movie which I've only ever seen once before, somewhere in my twenties I would think.  I had to place an Inter-Library Loan and received a copy which included three other movies called "cult classics".  At only 52 mins. this is a short movie but certainly a classic.  The story is phenominal and one can only imagine how it thrilled audiences at the time.  There is the creepy aspect of the sideshow somnambulist, the use of this word alone sounds eerie, of course it only means sleepwalker; but in the film it seems to mean someone who sleeps all the time and when awake is still in a sleeping state.  However brief, there is the story of best friends being in love with the same woman, there is an ongoing murder mystery, the mad scientist/doctor is thrown in for good measure and finally when you think it is all over, a twist ending leaves one re-examining what one has just seen.  Brilliant really how so much story has been condensed into actions, body language, facial epressions and occassional snippets of text!  I really love this movie.  The first viewing of Cesare, the somnambulist, is held off as long as possible and is quite a spectacular moment.  It must have been quite frightening to 1920s audiences.  The style of this movie is called German Expressionism.  Now I don't know what that means and I'm not about to look it up but obviously it has to do with the un-realness of the set designs.  Everything is presented on a slant, shadows and trees are painted on the background and some of these turn into doors.  There are only a handful of stages which are re-used over and over again for different scenes, sometimes slightly changed but always recognizable.  There is abstract art painted on backdrops and the whole over all affect is very surreal nd otherworldly.  The only thing I can think to compare it to, is a Salvadore Dali painting without colour.  If you are into dark, gothic stories this is certainly a must see.  I highly enjoy it and it deserves to be on all the "movies you must watch" lists.

Now this DVD also contains Nosferatu, so I plan on watching it next.  I had no intentions, but since it is on the DVD, I might aswell.  I have seen it before around the same time I first watched "Caligari".  I was doing the whole silent movie thing back then :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

267. Prophet, Volume 1: Remission by Brandon Graham

Prophet, Volume 1: Remission by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Faryl Dalrymple, & Giannis Milonogiannis. Art by the same (Canada) - (US)
Prophet: Vol. 1

Pages: 136
Ages: 16+
Finished: Oct. 6, 2012
First Published: Sept. 4, 2012
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, post-apocalyptic, science fiction
Rating: 1/5

First sentence: "Dusk is approaching by the time the tulnaka finds this place, still hungry after a fruitless day of foraging."

Publisher's Summary:  "On distant future Earth, changed by time and alien influence, John Prophet awakes from cryosleep. His mission: to climb the the towers of Thauili Van and restart the Earth empire. News of the Empire's return brings old foes and allies out of the recesses of the vast cosmos. 

Collects PROPHET #21-26"

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley

Reason for Reading: I'm always attracted to post-apocalyptic science fiction.

This is going to be a short review as I plan on keeping it short.  The volume confused me.  I really had no idea what was going on.  Apparently each "chapter" a new John Prophet would appear and start the story all over again waking from stasis from under the earth's surface to complete a mission in this new dangerous Earth.  This took me some time to figure out so I didn't have a clue what was happening with each issue shift.  Sometimes I wondered if it was the same book or some sort of error.  The art is so different issue to issue that it also threw me off track.  I don't mind a couple of artists working on a project but four, which each working on separate issues it just confounded my confusion.  This GN is not for me, nor would I recommend it.  However it generally seems to be getting excellent reviews.  I enjoy science fiction but I am not hard-core, perhaps this would appeal more to those associated with that term.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

266. Broxo by Zack Giallongo

Broxo by Zack Giallongo (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 239
Ages: 10+
Finished: Oct. 5, 2012
First Published: Oct. 2, 2012
Publisher: First Second
Genre: MG, graphic novel, fantasy
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "And so I've climbed Peryton Peak ... for nothing."

Publisher's Summary:  "In this wildly entertaining fantasy debut we meet Broxo, the only surviving member of a tribe of barbarians who once occupied a now-desolate mountain. All alone in the world, Broxo spends his time on the mountain hunting and avoiding the man-eating walking dead that periodically drag themselves out of a fetid lake.

Everything changes when Zora, a foreign princess, arrives on the mountain seeking Broxo's lost tribe. Can the two young warriors together defeat the living dead?

With accessible and beautiful art, killer fight scenes, and a story that mixes humor, romance, and classic high fantasy, Broxo is a tale you're sure to enjoy."

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, First Second Books.

Reason for Reading:  I seem to be taking a break from fantasy these days but this "classic high fantasy" appealed to me and I was hoping it would be suitable for my son.

I really enjoyed this novel.  Not only on my own level but once I got into the story I also started reading with an eye out for my son's appreciation, as a struggling reader needing high-interest stories this fits the bill to a "T".  Broxo is a wonderful "quest" fantasy.  Set in an alien humanoid world, Zora sets off to prove herself to her family by helping to reunite the five realms in search of the lost tribe of Peryton.  Here she meets Broxo, a warrior of her own age and his pet, a gigantic snow beast.  They are not quick to make friends, both being quite self-centered and egotistical; but as events unfold and they come to realise they need each other's attributes to succeed they become friends.  They meet up with a mysterious non-human woman whose status of evil or good is questionable, a horde of zombie-like people, the ghost of an ancestor and a beast out to get Broxo to revenge his mother's death.  All the while, the mystery as to what happened to Broxo's clan which disappeared when he was a baby must be solved.  An entertaining story with plenty of action.  With both a male and female main character it should appeal to everyone but Broxo himself is the scene stealer along with his ginormous (yet somehow cute) pet.  The battle scenes are intense with blood but no gore and the suspense of the story is maintained throughout.  All the characters are sympathetic to the reader and this is a very satisfying read.  Completely age appropriate to the recommended age group and well beyond.

Friday, October 26, 2012

265. Thief of Thieves, Vol. 1: "I Quit" by Robert Kirkman

Thief of Thieves, Vol. 1: "I Quit" by Robert Kirkman & Nick Spencer.  Art by Shawn Martinbrough (US) - (Canada)
Thief of Thieves, Vol. 1

Pages: 152
Ages: 14+
Finished: Oct. 3, 2012
First Published: Sept. 18, 2012
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, crime, thriller
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Hello?"

Publisher's Summary: "Conrad Paulson lives a secret double life as master thief Redmond. There is nothing he can't steal, nothing he can't have... except for the life he left behind. Now with a grown son he hardly knows, and an ex-wife he never stopped loving, Conrad must try to piece together what's left of his life, before the FBI finally catch up to him... but it appears they are the least of his worries.

Collects THIEF OF THIEVES #1-7."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

Reason for Reading:  I'm always on the lookout for straight mystery/crime/thriller graphic novels. It's an area I would like to see expanded with quality work.

This gave me a bit of a vibe of that movie with Sean Connery where he is the professional cat burglar and he trains the young woman to be as good as he is.  Forget the name of it but it was a remake of an older movie starring George Hamilton, I believe.  Anyway, back on topic.... This novel did give me some good vibes.  I liked the big group of pro criminals working on a job aka Oceans 11; I liked the action and the heists.  There was certainly a James Bond feel to the Redmond character, though Redmond is a broken man now, we visualize he may have been the debonair, suave Bond type in his youth.  So, on the whole I did enjoy the romp of this read.  However, it did have quite a few pitfalls.  The dialogue was unrealistic, people don't talk like this, even thieves.  The heists were over the top and not believable outside of the realm of Hollywood.  The whole premise really didn't feel likely; Redmond wanted out so badly and yet he backed himself into a corner he couldn't get out of.  Not exactly smart for our supposed hero.  Rather unrealistic, but nevertheless a pleasant diversion.  I'm in no hurry to read the next volume, though I will look for it in the library when the time comes.

DVD Break: Son of Lassie

Son of Lassie - (1945) - (DVD) - (Technicolor) - (own)

Two years later the sequel to Lassie Come Home was made, but now the little children have grown up.  Well, sort of ... they are supposed to be 17 but Lawford is actually 23 and Lockhart 21, though she looks the older.  Taking on Roddy McDowell's part as Joe, owner of Laddie & Lassie is the handsome Peter Lawford and taking over for Elizabeth Taylor as Priscilla who is madly in love with Joe is June Lockhart an unbelievable replacement for the character.  This is Lawford at his best.  Usually he plays the debonair Englishman in suits, sipping a drink in the parlour as part of the Rat Pack, but here in Son of Lassie he is an energetic, outdoorsy youth trapped in Norway (which is actually Banff. I recognized Lake Louise!) during WWII who undergoes a trek of survival to make it back to England alive with his dog who traipsed across the country searching him out.  Nigel Bruce and Donald Crisp reprise their roles as father and grandfather respectfully.  I enjoyed the movie once the action moved to active war duty.  Prior to that the soppy romantic angle was hard to watch.  I'm not a fan of Lockhart and it is so obvious that Lawford's character loves the dog way more than the girl that she comes off as begging him to love her.  Peter Lawford is gorgeous and I did enjoy him best about this movie.

Ds really enjoyed this.  This type of action is right up his alley   He can't take suspense or gross stuff very well and these old movies are just the thing for him.  He loved all the spying and dangerous situations Joe got himself into, he really enjoyed the war aspect, having bad guy Germans to root against and thought Laddie was cool, even though he doesn't like dogs in real life.  He enjoyed the movie way more than I did.  After the movie we were treated to an old Tom & Jerry cartoon called "Flirty Birdy".  I don't like the newer T&J where Jerry always gets the upperhand but love these old ones.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

264. Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel  (US) - (Canada)
The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Book 2

Pages: 310
Ages: 12+
Finished: Oct. 2, 2012
First Published: Aug. 21, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: YA, Gothic, paranormal
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "The books flew open like startled birds trying to escape the flames"

Publisher's Summary: "Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library and vows he will never dabble in the dark sciences again—just as he vows he will no longer covet Elizabeth, his brother’s betrothed.

If only these things were not so tempting.

When he and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist. Together with Victor’s twin, Konrad, and their friend Henry, they venture into a place of infinite possibilities where power and passion reign. But as they search for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness from which they may never return."

Acquired:  Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading:  This is the author's latest book.

Absolutely stunning.  The first book was good and this one is twice as good.  Oppel has stepped up the gothic atmosphere, introduced the supernatural element, played the romance element and kept the entire story very dark.  There is not one character in this book who is not immune to the elements of the darkside.  The reader doesn't really know if anyone is truly a 'good' character.  I found this to be one of the best books I've read by Oppell and I've read his entire oeuvre except his early novels.  Very dark, Oppel has managed to keep the same religious undertones that are found in the original Shelly's Frankenstein.  Keeping the character of Elizabeth a Christian, Victor's actions are questioned over and over again as to whether he is playing God, does he have a god complex and while Oppel delves into the supernatural, unlike Shelly, I realistically get a good feel that this could indeed be the set up that turns the boy into the man who eventually creates the creature known most commonly by his own name.  This was a page-turner for me and I'm quite impressed with the variety of styles Oppel is capable of writing to such perfection.  This is his forte though,when he turns to the atmospheric, dark and moody he is in his element.  A must read for fans of gothic literature.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Memorable Memoirs Reading Challenge 2012 - FINISHED

ETA - Oct. 24:  I finished this challenge today by reading my 4th book as I had signed up for the "Diarist" level.  I will,however, keep adding books to the list until the official end of the challenge (end of the year).  I'm reading one now, so that's at least one more for the list!

And here's my last challenge I'm signing up for next year.  This challenge is hosted by The Betty & Boo Chronicles and sign-ups can be found here.  I'm a great fan of memoirs and always read a few every year so will be signing up for the first level "Diarist".  I'm already reading the diaries of someone which is a chunkster of a book, so I know I'll get at least one book read!

Diarist: read 1-4 memoirs

Autobiographer: read 5-9 memoirs

Memoirist: read 10+ memoirs

Books I've Read:

1. Dotter of Her Father's Eyes by Mary M. Talbot
2. Ethel & Ernest: A True Story by Raymond Briggs
3. War Stores: An Enlisted Man in Vietnam by Sephen G. Macdonald
4. Growing Up Bronx: A Memoir of my Shapers and Shakers by H.A. Hargreaves
Diarist Level Completed

5. Christened with Crosses: Notes Taken on My Knees by Eduard Kochergin

263. Growing Up Bronx by H.A. Hargreaves

Growing Up Bronx: A Memoir of my Shapers and Shakers by H.A. Hargreaves. Introduction by Lorina Stephens  (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 145
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sep. 30, 2012
First Published: Apr. 1, 2012
Publisher: Five Rivers Chapmanry
Genre: boyhood, authors, memoir, Canadian author, 1930s
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "I may have been nine, perhaps ten, at the start."

Publisher's Summary:  Growing Up Bronx allows readers a poignant insight into the mentors and influences that shaped one of Canada's brilliant writers of science fiction. Hargreaves takes you through the Great Depression and WWII, in his native Bronx neighbourhood, into the lives of shopkeepers and family, heartache and triumph.

This is definitely a must-have collection of short stories to complete the canon of H.A. Hargreaves' work.

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Good Reads First Reads..

Reason for Reading:  I like reading memoirs of growing up during the '30s-'50s.

This is a quaint, endearing story of a man's childhood in the Bronx during the Depression up through the early years of WWII.  The author, mostly known as a Canadian science fiction writer, started life as an American and here he tells stories of the people who most made an impression on him in his youth.  Hargreaves has a entertaining voice and these tales are a pleasure to read, however they are quaint and not much really happens in them.  Each chapter is a story separate from the others, more like a vignette of his life, focusing on one person who was important to him, now looking back.  Each story runs the course of time and thus the stories overlap each other time-wise and certain events in Hargreaves life will be mentioned repeatedly.  I actually liked this approach, rather than a chronological one.  Hargreaves mother died quite tragically and suddenly and this is revisited in most stories from a different angle, a different perspective and we see what an effect it had on his life.  Every story was enjoyable, but all said and done quite laid back.  This is a book you can pick up and read a chapter then set down and pick up again at any time to read the next one and not loose any continuity.  I'm glad to have read the book as I enjoy this type of literature but I think the book will be of most interest to those who know the author's work as a science fiction writer and want to add this glimpse of his childhood to their collection.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

262. Fables 17: Inherit the Wind by Bill Willingham

Inherit the Wind by Bill Willingham. Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Shawn McManus et. al.  (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
Fables, Vol. #17

Pages: 144
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sept. 30, 2012
First Published: Jul. 10, 2012
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy, fairy tales
Rating: 3/5

First sentence: "Okay, here we go!"

Publisher's Summary:  The tights and capes have been stored away forever, but where do the Fables go from here? Bigby and Snow White’s cubs try to move forward after learning a hard lesson about life and death in this collection featuring issues #108-113 of the acclaimed series.

Acquired: Purchased a new copy from an online store.

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

The main story being told in this issue is the titular story in which an heir to the North Wind must be found.  This becomes the beginning of a new story arc that will carry over now in which the cubs will feature more as main characters.  Throughout this story there are also various sideline stories as well: one of major note follows Bufkin in the new land of Oz carrying over from last volume and is proving interesting.  Also of smaller note both Rose Red and Miss Sprat have their own storyline as well.  This arc leads us to many new beginnings (since much was wrapped up last volume).  Not a lot really happens though, not much excitement or reveals but storywise things are being set up for the new story arcs.  After this main portion of the book we are treated to two smaller stories.  The first is a Christmas issue which takes Rose Red out in search of finding Hope in a cross of Dickens' A Christmas Carol and The Cricket on the Hearth.  Finally, the end section is a series of small vignettes which tell tales from "In those days" back to the times before or during the rule of the Adversary.  Most of these have nothing to do with the overall story arc, but they do tell interesting little tidbits of background information and there are a couple which hint at what is in store for a couple of characters further down the line.  Overall a passable issue, but nothing really happens, except for finding the heir to North Wind, as this is otherwise a set-up issue for the new paths the story will be taking.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Short Story: "The Coat" by Emma Gollan

"The Coat" by Emma Gollan
a short story


from WOMAN magazine, Aug. 14, 1971, pg 51

First Sentence:  It was on the afternoon of Paul's interview that Katy first saw the coat.

Last Sentence:  "To celebrate, give her a choice of any coat in your window."

I can find absolutely no information on this author at all.  She does not bring any results on amazon or LibraryThing.  Perhaps she only ever published a few short stories, mayhap only this one?

A short story indeed taking up 4 columns of type on a single over sized magazine page.  "The Coat" is a somewhat old-fashioned story as it tells the story of a newly married couple and yet it is timeless as it deals with the new, unsure, unsteady feelings a couple experiences during that beginning time in a marriage.

Katy and Paul are young, newlyweds, with a recently born baby, living with Paul's parents.  The story is told from Katy's point of view and her in-laws are strong-willed, especially her mother-in-law; whom Katy finds domineering and opinionated.  Paul is a lawyer, like his father, and everyone has assumed would work with him and eventually take over the business, but that very day he is in London going for an interview with a firm there.  The two of them plan to move away and make a life for their family in the city.  Katy sees a coat in the local shop window.  Usually there are several on display, but today just this one and it is unique.  Modern, daring, bold colour, it suits her to a tee and she'd love to buy it but knows she shouldn't spend the money right now.  She imagines how horrified her mother-in-law would be with it, the brightness of the green alone would have her open-mouthed.  The owner's son, a long-time friend of hers, comes out and talks with her.  The display is his idea, the coat would look splendid on her, talk gets round to Paul.  The friend is rather shocked that Paul would take work away from his father, as he's always talked of taking over the business ... hasn't he?

As the day progresses, Katy begins to doubt herself.  Has she talked Paul into moving away?  Is he doing this for her only?  Does he really want to work in London?  What has she done?  At the same time the coat hovers in the background as a symbol of her (and Paul's) independence.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

261. Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs

Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs  (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)
Temperance Brennan, #14

Pages: 278
Ages: 18+
Finished: Sep. 27, 2012
First Published: Aug. 23, 2011
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: mystery, crime
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Looking back, I think of it as race week in the rain."

Publisher's Summary: "Just as 200,000 fans are pouring into town for Race Week, a body is found in a barrel of asphalt next to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The next day, a NASCAR crew member comes to Temperance Brennan’s office at the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner to share a devastating story. Twelve years earlier, Wayne Gamble’s sister, Cindi, then a high school senior and aspiring racer, disappeared along with her boyfriend, Cale Lovette. Lovette kept company with a group of right-wing extremists known as the Patriot Posse. Could the body be Cindi’s? Or Cale’s? 

At the time of their disappearance, the FBI joined the investigation, only to terminate it weeks later. Was there a cover-up? As Tempe juggles multiple theories, the discovery of a strange, deadly substance in the barrel alongside the body throws everything into question. Then an employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goes missing during Race Week. Tempe can’t overlook the coincidence. Was this man using his lab chemicals for murder? Or is the explanation even more sinister? What other secrets lurk behind the festive veneer of Race Week? "

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

Reason for Reading:  I read all the author's books.  I've got myself slightly behind but will get caught up shortly.

First I'll start by saying I enjoyed the book very much.  It was actually quite refreshing.  Reichs seems to have removed herself from the cookie cutter mold she had let herself slip into lately, not that I don't always enjoy her books to a 3 or more but they do follow a pattern.  Here we have Tempe entering a new world, one she isn't familiar with, that of Nascar Racing and she has to deal with some bones found in fairly obscure condition.  As often happens a past and present corpse bring ideas of a relationship to their deaths and the investigation gets underway both into the current deaths and into the John Doe case.  I kind of kicked myself when the perpetrator was found as it should have been easy to solve but it didn't come to me this time.  I enjoyed Reichs usual details and it ended up being a surprising and sad case.

On the other side, Tempe's continual personal life is always an ongoing theme of this series and I was pleased with its direction.  It was not what I had expected as Andrew Ryan does not appear in the book at all.  We do hear of him, through email letters and Tempe does still care about him, Charlie Hunt(?) her other suitor has been busy on an all important case and may perhaps be finding interest somewhere else.  Meanwhile Tempe meets an ex-cop whom she works with on this case who makes her heart go pitter-patter in a completely different, new and exciting way.  On top of that her ex and his fiance, 24 -year-old Summer, are driving her insane.

A good all around mystery with a new fascinating setting, but for some reason I felt this a very slow read.  It was not hard to put down  and it would take time for me to pick up again.  Personally I think this was me,not the book's fault.  It was just a slow reading week for me.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Short Story: "We are the Fine Musicians" by Paul Darcy Boles

We are the Fine Musicians by Paul Darcy Boles
A short story

Illustrated by Ron Atkinson


from WOMAN magazine, Aug. 14, 1971, pg 36

First Sentence:  Musical families can kill you.

Last Sentence:  But when people listen hard, nobody has to be killed.

Searching for this author brings up many hits but not much *about* the author himself.  He does however merit a paragraph obituary in the New York Times as "an award-winning novelist and short-story writer".  The one thing of note other sites seem to be in agreement over is that this American writer is noted first and foremost as a short story writer.

This is a simple, quaint story but I enjoyed it very much.  It has a youth as the narrator and could be a young adult story if printed in a teen magazine but since its intended audience here would have been mothers, one can see the story as an effort to bridge the generation gap between a parent who grew up during the big band era and the current Beatles culture.  The parents in this story are musical, father plays a variety of instruments while the mother bangs out a tune on the piano while singing very well.  Basically as soon as each of the four boys is out of diapers they are taking musical instrument lessons and the family forms a band.  They perform two public functions each year for friends, family and neighbours, one in the spring and the other at Christmas.  The family bonds and has a great time year after year until the two eldest reach their late teens; they've been playing modern music on the side and are balking in themselves at playing this old "big band" repertoire year after year.  One spring, around midnight at the annual gathering they let loose with the younger two joining in playing music like the Beatles.  Well mother and father are flabbergasted, but the audience gives a surprised spattering of applause and a few handshakes.  It happens again at Christmas, but this time the audience goes mad with applause, back slapping, etc.  That evening the two eldest and the parents have a talk which leave the parents befuddled.  They had tried to talk about music, "melodic line"; each side mentioned *names* to bewildered head shaking from the other side.  The generation gap is too wide.  No one is mad but things have changed.  Next function, the older two simply do not approach the stage, they mingle with the audience, pass out drinks, act as hosts.  The parents submit to their "strike".

That summer the family goes on its annual camping trip, bringing along an instrument each as usual.  The first evening the older two take the dog for a walk in the woods.  They go a good pace and realize the dog has taken off; much time goes by before they find him again and at this point they are lost and find they haven't brought the compass with them.  Several hours have gone by and it is during this episode that the family's love for music rescues them and the gap between the parents and eldest children narrows as they learn about giving, taking, and compromise.  A sweet, quaint story with an enjoyable writing style.

DVD Break: Lassie Come Home

Lassie Come Home- (1943) - (DVD) - (Technicolor) - (own)

Well, I had no idea how this movie was going to go over.  I asked ds if he knew who Lassie was, and he said "no".  So I told him everybody had to know who Lassie was and showed him the Triple Feature DVD we have.  He was set to watch it and we had a grand time watching this oldie but goodie.  Filled with a stellar cast, the acting is excellent.  Elizabeth Taylor's part is quite small in this movie and I think she had the same wardrobe the entire movie.  It is Roddy McDowell who shines as the main character of Lassie's boy owner. Also included are Elsa Lancaster, Nigel Bruce, and J. Pat O'Malley along with others not so well known still today.  Another surprising thing that happened with this movie was that dh came into the room, first stood, then moved to the arm of the couch, and finally ended up in a chair; and watched the whole thing with us.  Supposedly a tear-jerker, we all managed to stay dry-eyed and slipped into a fit of giggles remembering some of the more over dramatic scenes.  An excellent story that still appeals over time, as the story of a boy who must give up a beloved pet and the incredible story of a pet's determined will of survival to make it back home to him.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

252. Dark Matter Volume 1: Rebirth by Joseph Mallozzi

Rebirth by Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie. Art by Garry Brown  (US) - (Canada)
Dark Matter, Volume 1 

Pages: 104
Ages: 16+
Finished: Sep. 16, 2012
First Published: Oct. 16, 2012
Publisher: Darkhorse
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction, space travel
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Life support at 15 percent."

Publisher's Summary: "The six-person crew of a derelict spaceship awakens from stasis in the farthest reaches of space. Their memories wiped clean, they have no recollection of who they are or how they go on board. The only clue to their identities is a cargo bay full of weaponry and a destination—a remote mining colony that is about to become a war zone! With no idea whose side they are on, they face a deadly decision. Will these amnesiacs turn their backs on history, or will their pasts catch up with them?

Collects issues #1-#4 of the miniseries."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Reason for Reading:  I was in the mood for a space travel story and the amnesiac angle sounded intriguing.

This story was exciting!  I dislike drawing comparisons like this but all throughout I kept thinking how much like "Firefly" the feel of this crew and the plot was.  Afterwards I found out the writers were actually involved with writing for all the various "Stargate" shows but even knowing that I still got a very strong Firefly vibe and those who like FF will enjoy this tale.  A motley crew with 2 women, 3 men and a child.  Varied personalities and visual looks make them different from one another as they play off and antagonize each other.  Slight pairings off are made and we even have the mysterious child counterpart of River (from Firefly) in the as yet unnamed female child.  An exciting off world episode introduces us to the characters and gives them their first assignment as a team.  This would make for a great TV show and plays out well in graphic format.  Humour is added to the mix to bring an enjoyable group of characters, with plenty of action, and a backstory running over with mystery and possible storylines.  My only complaint is the art.  I don't like it.  The faces are ugly and when panning out, groups of people become rough-shaped squiggles, blobs or outlines.  Fortunately, the characters and plot carry this fun space travel adventure.

DVD Break: Batman The Animated Series

Batman: The Animated Series: Tales of the Dark Knight- (1992) - (DVD) - (animated) - (own)

Instead of repeating myself on how much I love this animated version of Batman,  you can read my thoughts on our viewing the first DVD in this set here.  This is the second disc in the one-off series of random episodes from the show.  It also has a very short documentary on how voices are chosen and done for animation.  Warner is particularly proud of their attention to detail and not using stock sound effects.  This one features 4 episodes from season one in random order but there are no continuity issues with their placement.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and did my son who was a little reluctant to donate it to the library.  But he had decided ages ago he didn't want it anymore, and he did donate the previous one we watched; in the end he decided to donate.

The four stories included here are:  Episode 27: The Underdwellers featuring The Sewer King.  Batman goes back to roots here and fights against a simple evil of a man who is exploiting runaways and street children.  Episode 13: P.O.V. (my favourite of the four) this one does not include any villains.  After a drug sting operation turns sour, with Batman's presence   The three main officers involved are put into interrogation  Bullock & Montoya regulars of the series and a rookie) each tell the events from their own point of view.  Episode 23: The Forgotten which I actually remember watching on tv!  Bruce Wayne goes down to the docks, disguised as a workman, to investigate the mysterious disappearances of homeless people and dockworkers.  He ends up being boinked over the head and comes to in an enforced labour camp headed by a most repugnant fat man.  Wayne's problem is that when he wakes up he finds that the bump on the head created amnesia.  A great episode, quite intense, but of course ends up quite alright in the end.  And finally, Episode 11: Be a Clown, Doesn't take much to figure who the villain is in this one!  The mayor, who hates Batman and Joker on the same level, has a self-centred birthday party or his son, Jordan, who would just like to be a magician.  All the prominent citizens are present with their children when a clown magician arrives, entertains, creates diversions, and then tries to blow up the party.  Bruce Wayne saves the day, but that's when we find that Jordan has run away and is know under the control of The Joker.  Batman to the Rescue!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

236. Finder: Talisman by Carla Speed McNeil

Finder: Talisman by Carla Speed McNeil (US) - (Canada)
Finder, #4

Pages: 96
Ages: 16+
Finished: Aug. 30, 2012
First Published: Oct. 16, 2012 (orig. 2000-2002)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Genre: graphic novel, YA, fantasy, science fiction
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "Marcie! No more magic!"

Publisher's Summary:  "Since 1996, Finder has set the bar for science-fiction storytelling, with a lush, intricate world and compelling characters. Finder: Talisman is the story of a book — the book beloved by misfits and castaways, once glimpsed and forever longed for — and of Marcie, the kid who never gives up her search for magic and meaning. Now, the fan-favorite story is collected in a new, oversized hardcover edition and a limited-edition hardcover signed by creator Carla Speed McNeil!

* Finder: Talisman is a much-sought-after fan favorite and a great point of entrance into the world of Finder.

* First time in hardcover!"

Acquired:  Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Reason for Reading:  The lost book intrigued me even though I have not read any books in the Finder series.

This is a reprint of a particularly well-loved volume of the Finder series.  I absolutely enjoyed this book, much more than I thought I would since it is part of a larger series.  But it reads incredibly well as a stand-alone, in fact, one isn't even aware that it is a part of a series as a newcomer.  The story appeals to the book lover and is a coming of age story as well as a bitter lesson in whether one should try to re-capture one's childhood or not.  We have the story of a girl who can't read and is gifted a book by her mother's easy come, easy go boyfriend.  Every time he visits he reads to her from this book and it is full of the most amazing stories.  However, he stops visiting and Marcie can't continue with the book, she gets her older sister to read it to her but it's not the same story, she's not reading it right and she finds something offensive in the book and puts it up on a shelf.  Marcie then goes on to learn to read but once she has the knowledge she comes back to get her book and it has gone, her mother has given it up for recycling. Another interesting aspect of this story is that it is set in a future world where "dead tree" books are of little value.  People "read" electronically through uplinks that they plug into their heads, Marcie is quite against this.

Anyway, without going into more details, eventually Marcie grows up, becomes a wanna be writer, continues on an everlasting search for her lost book as that is where her imagination stems from.  Marcie does eventually find the book with devastating results.  I just loved this story, the world in which it was set and the characters.  An invaluable part of the book was the author's end notes where she goes through the book page by page leaving sometimes very brief, ofttimes quite detailed notes on the story: where the ideas came from, what inspired her and how the story relates to the Finder universe in general.  This is where the uninitiated realizes that these characters have been around.  The boyfriend, especially, is an important figure otherwise in this world.  These notes really made me want to investigate Finder some more.  The individual volumes are no longer available but omnibus editions *are*, at very reasonable prices.  So I've added Vol. 1 to my cart, which contains the first four books, including this one, so I can dive deeper into this intriguing and actually quite deep and thought-provoking story world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

144. The Curse by Mike Norton

The Curse by Mike Norton (US) - (Canada)

Pages: 80
Ages: 18+
Finished: May 18, 2012
First Published: Oct. 17, 2012
Publisher: Omni Press
Genre: Graphic novel, humour, horror
Rating: 2/5

First sentence: "Crowley, you f*cking d**chebag!"

Publisher's Summary: "In 2009, cartoonist extraordinaire and internet sensation Mike Norton (Battlepug, Double Feature Comics: The Answer) took the "24-Hour Comic" Challenge and created the pug-tastic comic The Curse over the course of a single day! He returned with sequels spawned during "24-Hour Comic" events in 2010 and 2011. Now all three tales of pirates and pugs are available in print in this new collection."

Acquired: Received an egalley from the publisher, through NetGalley

Reason for Reading: It sounded funny.

The first page (pg. 3) which has three speech bubbles has five vulgar words and at this point I was wondering what I was reading.  By page six I'd read so much profanity I was disgusted and about to close the book for good but then came page seven.  I have got to admit that when the pirate jumped out from the bushes and attacked the jerk boyfriend biting him on the arm and running away, I found this highly amusing and unexpected that I had to keep reading.  Once I'd finished the first of three stories, it seemed pointless to stop reading an 80 page book now that I'd got this far.  The second story was highly amusing with David Bowie's Labyrinth character as the main antagonist.  I giggled when he was referred to as "Kajagoogoo" and "the chick from Duran Duran".  Third story didn't do much for me.  So, yeah, this was rather hilarious in parts but the language was most foul indeed and I'd never read anything by this author again.  The publisher's recommended age is for teens but I'd never let any teen of mine read it unless I was OK with them talking like a hardened gang member.   Honestly, there is absolutely no reason for the continuous vile language used in this book.  Not very impressed, though I admit the humour tickled my funny bone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Authors in Mystery/Thriller Genre

Today's topic is to make a list of your favourite top ten author's in whatever genre you choose.  I'm going to choose mystery/thrillers as I think I'll be able to come up with the author's quickest.  I love the genre and probably have to most author crush's in that field.

Top Ten Authors in the Mystery/Thriller Genre
(in no particular order except #1 *is* #1!)

(go here and type in the author's name in the search box to find all my reviews)
1. Mo Hayder!!!
2. Jo Nesbo
3. Karin Slaughter
4. Tess Gerritsen
5. Shane Peacock
6. Lisa Gardner
7. Alan Bradley
8. Laura Lippman
9. Agatha Christie (no reviews)
10. Marjorie Allingham (no reviews)

221. Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes edited by Georgia McBride

Two and Twenty Dark Tales:Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes edited by Georgia McBride. Introduction by Francisco X. Stork (US) - (Canada)

Pages:  340
Ages: 13+
Finished: Sept. 16, 2012
First Published:  Oct. 16, 2012
Publisher: Month9Books
Genre: short stories, anthology, horror, fairy tales, paranormal
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence: "When the girl sneaked in at midnight, he used his penlight to make a note."

Publisher's Summary:  "Who doesn't love Mother Goose? 

From Jack and Jill falling down the hill, to Old Mother Hubbard and her poor dog. 

These are the stories and songs from our childhood. But you've never heard Mother Goose told quite like this. 

Twenty-two dark young adult retellings of Mother Goose rhymes from some of today's most exciting YA authors are featured in this anthology."

Acquired:  Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

Reason for Reading: I love fairytale retellings and this was too compelling a prospect to pass up!

I was quite excited to read this collection as these retellings are right up my alley with the type of short stories that I enjoy, being based on Mother Goose was rather unique as well since most such anthologies stick to traditional fairy tales.  First taking a look through the Table of Contents I was a bit disappointed as I'd only heard of 3 of the authors and only read 2 of them (McBride, Stork & Holden).  All the others were brand new-to-me so I didn't know what I was in for but I'm happy to say I had a pleasant experience with this book.  I did read an advance reading copy provided by the publisher so my copy was missing the last two stories and my review is based on that version.  My overall rating for the book is actually 3.5 / 5 making it sit between Good and Very Good, not quite either, somewhere in between.  There was one story that I thought was absolute garbage and gave a 0 rating and that will have brought my total enjoyment down, but I did find several excellent 5* and very good 4* stories in this collection.  A great book for the Hallowe'en season or anytime for the reader who likes an eerie, dark tale where not all endings are happy.

1. As Blue As the Sky and Just As Old by Nina Berry - Uses the rhyme "Taffy was a Welshman" as its base.  Basically using the concepts of Welsh and thief the author has conjured up a fantastic original Welsh fairytale.  I can't say what it is about as both the main character and the reader are clueless as to what is happening as events unravel and I wouldn't want to spoil the story.  Absolutely fabulous start to this collection. 5/5

2. Sing a Song of Sixpence by Sarwat Chadda - A creepy tale of demons and souls.  Blackbird waits at the the Inn "Sixpence", where many demons hang out.  Here desperate humans come to him to sell their souls.  When the maid comes in, Blackbird knows she has come for him but is surprised when it is not her soul she has to sell him.  Interesting use of all the elements of the nursery rhyme are incorporated realistically into this dark tale, even the bit about the maid's nose gets worked in very well!  4/5

3. Clockwork by Leah Cypes - Interesting use of the elements of "Hickory, Dickory Dock" used as the components in a spell, in which a princess has been turned into a mouse and as the story starts she turns back into herself by touching the clock as it strikes the hour.  The plot here was rather cliched with a certain member of the royal lineage getting rid of those ahead in line to usurp the throne. But has a unique and dark twist ending.  3/5

4. Blue by Sayantani DasGupta - Uses the rhyme "Little Boy Blue" as its base.  Doesn't really adhere to the rhyme much, using symbolism more than anything and being about Boy & Blue.  A rather strange little tale, much shorter than the previous works so far.  Has a haunting atmosphere, but didn't really do all that much for me with an abrupt ending. 3/5

5. Pieces of Eight by Shannon Delany with Max Scialdone - Uses the lullaby "Sleep, Baby, Sleep" as its base which I've never heard of before and according to the words the authors only loosely based their story upon it.  This is your basic fantasy quest and this story was longer than any of the others so far.  Not bad, it didn't quite grip me as the plot where the hero is to gather together the words of a song to save the Dreamland Tree (and thus return magic to the world) before it was destroyed by non-believers was somewhat cliched.  It was still a pleasant diversion though.  3/5

6. Wee Willie Winkie by Leigh Fallon - I loved this one!  Can't say much about it as it was quite short but it explores the question "why do the children have to be in bed by 8 o'clock?".  A very creepy little story.  Probably my favourite so far.  5/5

7. Boys & Girls Come Out to Play by Angie Frazier - Based on the titular rhyme which I have heard but am not that familiar with all the words.  Another creepy story.  When you are invited to "come out to play" legend has it that this is not an invitation you can decline.  When a girl's recently brain injured sister receives the invitation she takes her place, finding out a shocking truth and the reality of deceptions. 5/5

8. I Come Bearing Souls by Jessie Harrell. Based on the rhyme "Hey, Diddle, Diddle". - Very unique story which uses the animals found in the rhyme to relate to the appropriate Ancient Egyptian gods and their myth of weighing the soul against the feather of truth when a person dies.  Set in a funeral home, these gods are living as humans, performing their godly duties until Hathor has a run-in with Amemit. 4/5

9. The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the First by Nancy Holder - Based on the titular rhyme. I used to love this rhyme as it was a gorgeously illustrated 2-page spread in my childhood nursery rhyme book.  This is a historical paranormal story.  The Lion & the Unicorn represents the British Royal shield at the time with King James being the Unicorn.  He was a pious man and deeply convicted in ridding the nation of witches.  What his page discovers in the depth of the torture rooms in the dungeons makes him have serious doubts about the King.  A spooky story with evil lurking everywhere. Does not have an ending as Part the Second will appear further in the book (3/5)

10. Life in a Shoe by Heidi R. Kling - Based on rhyme "The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe".  Here the "shoe" refers to a shoe-sized apartment. Takes place in a dystopian future that is utterly unbelievable.  This is an anti-life cautionary tale and the biggest piece of cr*p I have ever read.  Being a short story, it makes assumptions and has no space to explain itself.  I could write an essay longer than the story refuting every ludicrous and asinine assumption it presents to the audience.  Painful to read.  Filth and cr*p.  (0/5)

11. Candlelight by Suzanne Lazear. Based on the rhyme "How Many Miles to Babylon?" - Two disgruntled sisters are very mad at their strict mother and when given the chance to go somewhere where they can always do whatever they want, be happy, with no adults around to tell them what to do, they accept.  Following the instructions, going by candlelight, they arrive in Babylon and it is everything they could have wished for; that is until they decide they miss their mother and want to return home.  An eerie "Twilight Zone" atmosphere and ending.  While I didn't predict what exactly happened, you do know that something strange is going to happen almost from the beginning.  Fun!  3/5

12. One for Sorrow by Karen Mahone - Based on the titular counting rhyme which I am not too familiar with.  - This simply uses the "crow" from the rhyme as its theme.  This is a fairly tale along the lines of the prince is cursed and turned into a frog, only this time it's not a prince and he is turned into a crow.  His people originally had the ability to shape-shift between crow and human but a witch has trapped him in his crow form.  I really enjoy "shapeshifters" when they are not the usual wolf or common animals, but this story just didn't reel me in.  It seemed over long and I had a hard time concentrating on it, finding my mind wandering, perhaps it was my own state of mind at the time but I think not as the story had no real excitement just gentle ebbs and flows. 3/5

13. Those Who Whisper by Lisa Mantchev - Based on the rhyme "When I was a little girl, about seven years old". This is a completely obscure and new rhyme to me! This is an intriguing story of the daughter of the village "healer/witch".  Upon her mother's death she is still a young girl but is taken far from the village boundaries and told never to return.  She was trained by her mother in the art of herbal knowledge and at this time we learn the birds can speak to her.  I won't get into any details but the blacksmith and his son play vital roles and the story is a romance such as most fairy tales turn out to be.  A dark theme, but a pleasant tale.  4/5

14. Little Miss Muffet by Georgia McBride - Based on the titular rhyme.  A very short tale with the theme of shapeshifters.  Any guess what "animal" they shift into?  Takes a shocking twist in the middle and ends  abruptly. Good creepy fun!  4/5

15. Sea of Dew by C. Lee McKenzie - Based on "Winkin, Blinkin' and Nod". Fantastic story! A girl on a school cruise ship finds herself pulled aboard a lifeboat with three stowaways after the ship sinks.  The story starts with the four teens in the boat.  A dark morbid tale which is my favourite in the collection so far; surpassing the wee willie winkie one as it is much longer and has much more development and backstory. (5/5)

16. Tick Tock by Gretchen McNeil - Based on the rhyme "There's a neat little clock" which I have never heard of before.  This story is fairly short and would most of all the stories so far fall into the horror genre.  This involves a drive far out into the countryside to a manor house all by itself and the terrifying events that follow.  Very creepy, but didn't really have a point and so when it ended I just felt like I didn't get it.  (3/5)

17.  A Pocket Full of Posy by Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg - Based on the rhyme "Ring around the roses".  A teenage boy wakes up in the park with blood all over himself and a flower posy in his pocket.  This is a freaky tale with a really good build up.  The boy has no memory of what happened and the story builds up to the reveal (which isn't what you think it's going to be).  However the ending wasn't that satisfying for me.  4/5

18.  The Wall by K.M. Walton. Based on the rhyme "Jack and Jill".  A dystopian tale where twins Jack and Jack, along with their Nan, have survived a virus that has wiped out the world, as far as they know.  Jack and Jill have always hated each other and the teamwork and camaraderie needed for survival is not coming easy for them.  Nan dies a natural death of old age leaving the siblings on their own, with their hatred of each other.  All around enjoyed this one.  5/5

19.  The Wish by Suzanne Young. Based on the rhyme "Star light, star bright." A girl is at a party on a ship and goes out on the deck by herself, seeing the lone star in the sky she makes her wish, "I wish I were dead."  and has the night of her life.  Another dark story that leads up to its eerie ending, which is predictable but nonetheless, fun getting there. 4/5

20.  A Ribbon of Blue by Michelle Zink. Based on the rhyme " Oh dear, what can the matter be?". A 13 year old girl with cerebral palsy is taken to the carnival for the first time by her guardian, her grandmother, where she has her fortune told.  It raises her spirits and compels her to return to the carnival each year, looking for the fortune teller, who has never reappeared, and for the revelation of her fortune to come true.  In her 16th year, as her grandmother is close to death, now riddled with emphysema, she guiltily makes her way to the carnival and finds that life, love and freedom are indeed glorious but not always what you think they may be.  I thought this story was well-written, however didn't find it very eerie or dark, and the ending was predictable for me. 3/5

21-22.  I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher which does not include the final two stories. Therefore my review and rating is based on the above mentioned 20 out of 22 tales presented in this book.

P.S. I also posted a review today, #275, on LibraryThing only, of a magazine I read: Somerset Studio Sep/Oct 2012.

Monday, October 15, 2012

260. Far North by Will Hobbs

Far North by Will Hobbs  (US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Pages: 216
Ages: 10+
Finished: Sep. 27, 2012
First Published: 1996
Publisher: Avon Camelot
Genre: survival, adventure, YA
Rating: 5/5

First sentence: "The first I ever heard of the Nahanni River and Deadmen Valley was from the bush pilot who met my flight at Fort Nelson, way up at the top of British Columbia."

Publisher's Summary: "Mayday! Landed on river. Engine out. 
Floating toward the falls."

When the engine of their float plane fails during a water landing near the head of Canada's monumental Virginia Falls, what began as a sightseeing detour turns into a survival mission for two high-school students and their elderly companion.

With the brutal sub arctic winter about to fall like a hammer, Gabe Rogers, his boarding-school roommate, Raymond Providence, and Raymond's great-uncle, Johnny Raven, are trapped in a deadly wilderness. Braving icy rapids and desperately hunting for moose in their struggle to fend off starvation, all three travelers must rely on the others' knowledge and courage, or survival is out of the question."

Acquired: Bookmooched

Reason for Reading:  Several reasons:  I read this aloud to my son.  He really enjoyed our previous two Will Hobb's read alouds Jason's Gold and it's sequel Down the Yukon.  He asked that I read him more by the author.  I searched out titles and specifically choose this one for two reasons: 1) ds is very fond of both survival stories and any story that takes place at sea/on water (in this case an arctic river); 2) I have a geographical reading project going and as far as Canada goes I only have two provinces left and this would count as my North West Territories book.

We sat down to read this book expecting an exciting book and Will Hobbs once again delivers.  We were both thoroughly glued to our seats during the reading of this book.  Hobbs always takes time to introduce his characters and set his story properly before diving into the adventure so don't expect to hit the ground running.  This is not how Hobbs writes.  He is a wonderful writer, with a skilled pen at description of scenery and really giving one a sense of being exactly where he has planted his characters, in this case a very northern part of Canada in the North West Territories, close to the Yukon border, along the Nahanni River boarded by cliffs on both sides.  Once the adventure starts, though, the excitement is non-stop and peril is around every corner.  Hobbs deals with man vs nature in a realistic manner and man doesn't always win, he gets hurt and sometimes he dies.  Chapters end in either cliffhangers or desperate measures making one sorry to leave off until next time.   As I said we both really enjoyed this, I'd say I liked this best of the three we've read so far.

This book also qualifies for the Canadian Reading Challenge since it takes place entirely in Canada, although the author is American, not a Canadian.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Salon: Oct. 14, 2012

What happened since last Sunday:  Well I had an absolutely miserable reading week this week.  It took me the whole week to read Firestarter by Stephen King.  It was a re-read for me and I just never really got caught up in it.  I'm also having problems with my sleep again, sleeping too much that is.  So that certainly doesn't help with the reading because I keep falling asleep and waking up with a book closed somewhere near me or on the floor, having to find the last place I remember reading {sigh}.  This has to do with the autism and socialization; I get soo wasted whenever I socialize.

I went to a religious class last week and will be going once a week through Dec. We are watching Fr. Barron's Catholicism and discussing; it was really exciting and I enjoyed myself.  The Year of Faith started on Oct. 11 and I had joined up with an email service to read the Catechism over the year as Pope B16 has encouraged us to do this, this year.  That is going well and the readings are so short daily that it should be easy to keep up.  Each morning as I open my email, I go straight to the Catechism and read it before anything else!  Went out for breakfast with a couple of friends one morning; we always go out for coffee almost every day but it was nice to stay and have breaky for a change.

Hmmm.... I changed the background on my blog, that orange was driving nuts.  This one isn't very original but at least it's suitable.  I've received everything I ordered online for Christmas presents over the week and my closet is getting full.  I just have a short list of things to get my son and then I will be done with his.  Have made a list for everyone else and will try to coax the hubster into going shopping one day/evening this week so I can get some headway in that direction too.  My son went to Confession this weekend all on his own, for the very first time.  He didn't need any reminding of what to say or what to do or anything.  I was so very proud of him!  And I told him so too, Dad shook his hand.  We asked what his penance was and did it together with him.  Sat. night after Mass we went out for dinner and today ds has a friend over playing Wii. He very rarely has anyone over and he and his friend arranged this themselves!

Now onto the week in books: 

What I read last week (reviews to come)(links take you to
Graphic Novel: Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel
MG Novel: Captain Awesome vs Nacho Cheese Man by Stan Kirby
Graphic Novel: The Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk Volume 1 by Matt Wagner
Novel: Firestarter by Stephen King
Non-Fiction: The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure by Martin W. Sandler
Collection: (review posted) The Circus Infinitus Stories Volume 1 by Ethan Somerville

What we watched last week:  We watched one episode on the next Batman: The Animated Series single disc. First three episodes of Fr. Barron's Catholicism.

What I posted last week (links take you to my reviews/posts):
Graphic Novel: Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf by John Wagner & Alan Grant
DVD Break: Batman: The Animated Series: The Legend Begins
Graphic Novel: Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Meme: Top Ten Books of 2011
Short story: "The Return" by Edith Reveley
Graphic Novel: Graphic Classics: Halloween Classics edited by Tom Pomplun
Book Tour: Novel: Whirlpool by Eileen Enwright Hodgetts
Article: "The Man Who Walks on the Sky" by Shane Peacock
Collection: Circus Infinitus: Stories Vol. 1 by Ethan Somerville

What I plan to read next week (links take you to amazon):
CollectionCriminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories by Steve Niles
Non-FictionArn? Narn. by Bruce Meisterman
Graphic NovelGraphic Classics: Bram Stoker edited by Tom Pomplun
Magazine: Finish Somerset Studio Magazine Sept/Oct. 2012
YA Novel: Becoming Holmes by Shane Peacock
Graphic Novel: Last Days of an Immortal by Gwen de Bonneval
MG Novel: Bookweirdest by Paul Gannon

Until next Sunday!

258. The Circus Infinitus Stories, Vol. 1 by Ethan Somerville

The Circus Infinitus: Stories Vol. 1 by Ethan Somerville - (Kindle)
Circus Infinitus, #6

Pages: 195
Ages: 18+
Finished:  Oct. 12, 2012
First Published: Jan. 12, 2011
Publisher: Storm Publishing
Genre: steampunk, urban fantasy, historical fantasy, short stories,
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Circus Infinitus!"

Publisher's Summary: "This book features the following short stories:

“Welcome to the Circus Infinitus” – an introduction to the mysterious Circus Infinitus and its unique cast of characters.

“Madam Zazuma” – penniless aristocrat Elizabeth Montrose turns to the Circus Infinitus for help to escape from a loveless arranged marriage.

“I Want to Join the Circus” – a small boy decides to run away to join the Circus Infinitus.

“The Monocle and the Morality Police” – Queen Victoria decides the Circus Infinitus is a corrupting influence on the people of London and charges Sir Hubert Fotherington and the IntelliGent with the task of shutting it down.

“The Haunted Funhouse” – Take a tour through one of the Circus’s attractions.

“Maxiumum Terror” – inside the Maze of Mirrors, don’t look too deeply or you might see the darkness inside your own soul.

“A Week in the Life of Victoria-7” – Introducing the Lady with the Seven Faces.

“Goril-Ho-Tep” – Amuna the Mummy leads an expedition into the British Museum to steal a mummified ape.

“Fool’s Errand” – Cousins Reggie Jefferson and Bart Sabbath both desire the ancient artifacts of King Arthur’s Fool, stored within Professor Abbacus’s laboratory – for entirely different reasons.

“A Week in the Life of Violet” – Victoria-7 tries out the Immortality Machine in an attempt to break her curse, and makes herself human once more.

“Gremlins” – After arriving in the United States for the first time, the Ringmaster must seek help from the Zero Corps to save the Circus from an infestation of insectoid monsters from the Immaterium."

Acquired:  Purchased this when it was being offered for free.

Reason for Reading:  For some reason I love weird circus stories, so this just appealed to me.

An entirely entertaining introduction to the world of the "Circus Infinitus".  According to the publication date, this is actually the 6th book in the series but it read well for me as a starting point.  There are times when one wonders if one would have a slight bit more fun if they'd more background knowledge but overall, most of the stories are background introduction stories themselves to the particular characters who inhabit this world.  I'd certainly classify this as steampunk as it takes place in Victorian England, for the most part, and includes steamworks, clockworks, and odd mechanical gadgets.  There are nine books in this series which have been published since 2010 to the current year, so far, and I must say I was a bit unsure going in what I was in store for as there are no reviews of any of the books at this point.  But I feel like I've stumbled upon a little secret gem as I enjoyed this enormously.  The book, however, is in need of editing.  There are typos, misspellings and grammar errors; enough to be quite noticeable.  I wasn't at the point of frustration but some people may not tolerate it.  However, at .99 purchase price, the writing outweighs the editing at this point.  I did enjoy the book enough that I took the plunge and purchased the first published novel in the series, for .99, to give it a go and see how a full-length novel measures up.  I'm quite tickled at this point to have discovered this series.

1. Welcome to the Circus Infinitus! - This first story introduces us to this strange circus of freak shows and unusual acts, we become aware that there is something magical, perhaps paranormal about the circus; at least it doesn't run by the boundaries of this earth.  We watch a show in progress and are introduced to many of the acts in the circus as they perform.  There is a strange hissing sound as curtains close, then open and a new stage is immediately set for the next stage.  There is a man who works with electricity and is mysteriously all bandaged up and "steampunk" thinks the reader.  In the audience is a serious man who does nothing but scribble away in his little notebook muttering to himself about the Queen's displeasure.  Queen?  Victoria?  Oh, yes, steampunk happening thinks the reader again.  After a double break line letting us know something new is about to happen a freak with a deformed body named John (yes, I am thinking his last name at this point) is put on stage growling and acting as he is introduced as the Elephant Man.  Then John Merrick collapses, the show is called to a halt and a doctor is sent for.  This doctor is one of the circus' own and is actually an alchemist nicknamed Jack who has just got himself a new talisman, so his powers are at high form.  Jack the Ripper comes back, under duress I might add, and helps cure John Merrick.  So ends our introduction to the Circus Infinitus.  I just loved this story!  What a load of fun!!  The back story of just who Jack the Ripper really is, is very imaginative and great fun.  A great beginning to what could prove a fascinating book if it continues in this vein.  5/5

2. Madam Zazuma - A young couple, Edward and Elizabeth, go to the Circus one evening.  As the night goes on we find out they are engaged, it is an arranged marriage that Elizabeth is obliged to, and that Edward is somewhat of a brute.  Elizabeth convinces Edward to visit the fortune teller Madame Zazuma.  Edward is insulted by his fortune and storms out but Elizabeth stands her ground saying she wants her fortune told.  She is warned off Edward and told that things will come to rights in the end.  Elizabeth finally finds out that Edward has been soliciting the company of Adella the Amazon and this is where things get very strange and Elizabeth's life is changed forever, for the good we hope, but we will have to see if she turns up again in future stories.  A couple of characters from story 1 appeared in this one.  Again another fine story.  Individual but lightly connected to the first.  5/5

3. I Want to Join the Circus - A young boy sneaks off to join the Circus Infinitus.  As he sneaks around at night he becomes aware of the unsavoury goings on at this circus and witnesses much horror.  While Tumblety and Abacus have no sympathy for the lad, we get to know the Ringmaster better as he takes care of the situation and saves the boy, while explaining why there are no children workers at his circus.  Not a major story in the canon but explains some more about this odd circus and the goings on.  The Ringmaster may not exactly be an admirable fellow but he does seem to have his own code that he adheres to.  4/5

4.  The Monocle and the Morality Police - We met the Monocle back in the first story.  Here he has a meeting with Queen Victoria and a Hindu contemporary.  She wants the Circus gone, whatever it takes.  This is the longest story by far up to this point and very creepy and weird.  It involves X the strongman who is not human anymore as he has several symbiosis living inside him.  The symbiosis can leave at will and lead separate lives but X is helpless without them.  I won't give any more details but lets just say very strange!  Unfortunately, The Monocle and IntelliGent kidnap X to torture and extract secret information about the Circus. Obviously they've picked the wrong guy and things do not work out as planned.  4/5

5. The Haunted Funhouse - We are taken along with the customers on a tour of the haunted house, knowing the house is inhabited by real paranormal creatures and human oddities.  The people start off cock-sure that they will meet people in sheets and fake masks only to be amazed by the oddities they see.  The tour becomes scarier and scarier until midway through people are screaming and rushing from rooms, until the end where things calm down a bit and many have the bravado to say they would go through again right away.  Once the tour is over, we meet the "performers" gathered as they talk of the tour's profits.  This one is very short and has good atmosphere, though doesn't include any major characters.  3/5

6. Maximum Terror - This story doesn't really add to the cannon or even introduce any new characters.  It is very similar to the last one.  This time we move next door to the Mirror Maze attraction.  Like normal funhouse mirrors these are set to alter the person's appearance but rather than humorous they change the person into odd, rather disturbing images designed to give a little shock to the system.  Well this time people come screaming out of the maze saying they saw horrible things such as maggots, rotting corpses, exploding intestines turning into snakes, etc.  Professor Abbacus is called to the scene and we are taken inside the clockwork machinery to see the slight adjustment that has to be made to set things aright.  2/5

7.  A Week in the Life of Victoria - Nothing happens in this story, we are just introduced to Victoria 7, who on each dawn of the new day transforms into a new being.  The cycle resets every seven days.  We've already met one of her personages in a previous story and now we are introduced to her properly along with the other six.  Victoria is musing upon herself and describes each individual in looks, desires, appetites, feelings, powers and how she compares them against each other.  Not  a very exciting read but will serve a purpose if she shows up again in another story. 2/5

8. Goril-Ho-Tep - Now we are thankful for the above story as this one features Amuna the Mummy, one of Victoria 7's personages.  It also features a certain un-named Detective who resides on Baker Street.  The mummy of a gorilla is on display at the British Museum and business is not so brisk at the Circus.  Out of curiosity Amuna goes to see the display and is immediately drawn to the Gorilla. She wants him brought back to life and while we've heard of it many times before in previous stories, we finally get to see the steamwork "Immortality Machine" at work.  By this point Professor Abbacus has become a well-known character, and The Ringmaster to a lesser degree.  An entertaining story.  3/5

9.  Fool's Errand - A very long story which has two cousins drawn to the Circus by an object nobody has ever found of any use before; one has a legitimate reason for coming, the other has been sent by the Bishop who, with the Monocle and Queen is working to bring the Circus down once and for all.  An entertaining story with lots of action and we meet Victoria as Lady Frankenstein in this story.  A secret is revealed about Abbacus and the Circus does its disappearing trick and ends up in Yorkshire this time.  4/5

10. A Week in the Life of Violet - While the stories are still episodic, at this point the book has taken on the resemblance of a continuing story.  Vampiress decides she wants to remain in this form and convinces Abbacus to use the Immortality Machine on her thinking it will stop her daily transformations.  Instead she becomes the visible Invisible Woman, a human girl, the real girl she was before she was cursed, Violet.  Violet has the time of her life and wants to be human forever, she finds love and hopes for the best.  Things don't work out for the best for her and the story ends with a mysterious cliffhanger leaving us wondering about The Ringmaster.  Another long story.  I really enjoyed this one.  It also mentions Reggie Jefferson from story 9 and Elizabeth from story 2, so we know they are still with the Circus and what their jobs are.  5/5

11.  Gremlins - The Circus is in the States and President Cleveland has received a letter from Queen Victoria so he sends his team of three supernatural investigators out to essentially get rid of them but, instead, they become great friends and end up helping the Circus fight off an infestation of the new Industrial Age cryptid, Gremlins, who feed off mechanical parts.  This was another long story and very enjoyable.  I really liked the three new American characters and found this a great story with which to end the book.  5/5