Friday, May 31, 2013

143. Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy

Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Mar. 12, 2013, Simon & Schuster, 283 pgs +notes & index
Age: 18+

But for some of the most influential figures in history, death marked the start of a new adventure. 
The famous deceased have been stolen, burned, sold, pickled, frozen, stuffed, impersonated, and even filed away in a lawyer’s office. Their fingers, teeth, toes, arms, legs, skulls, hearts, lungs, and nether regions have embarked on voyages that crisscross the globe and stretch the imagination.  
Counterfeiters tried to steal Lincoln’s corpse. Einstein’s brain went on a cross-country road trip. And after Lord Horatio Nelson perished at Trafalgar, his sailors submerged him in brandy—which they drank.  
From Mozart to Hitler, Rest in Pieces connects the lives of the famous dead to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses, and traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

This book briefly, but on several occasions, insults Catholics & the Orthodox but I will address that at the end.  As I browsed though the table of contents I was quite surprised at how well read I've become on this rather macabre topic as I noticed expected names.  I then proceeded to look for some specific names to see if they were included and found everyone so I was quite pleased with the read ahead of me.  At first I was a little disappointed that the book was not written as a cohesive unit but rather simply as a collection of mini-biographies of what happened to famous corpses (or parts of) over the years though it is divided into common themed sections.  The stories are irreverent, with the author's voice thrown in for humour, but quite detailed and extremely interesting.  They are short and basic, however, so more details would be found in books dedicated to a singular person or a more academic volume such as Dickey's "Cranioklepty".  The book itself has a unique shape, not very wide like a paperback but tall.  It reminds me of one of those "Uncle John Bathroom Readers" in appearance and once you've read this book, it would make a great addition to your guest bathroom reading basket as it would be sure to bring some stimulating reading.  The only thing I took issue with in this book, and I'll try to keep it brief, is that I was offended by the author's treatment of Catholic personalities.  She goes on to say several times that Catholics "worship" Saints and relics; she also accuses the Orthodox of "worshipping" the remains of Saints.  This is not only untrue but offensive to two of the world's largest religions.  The first commandment states that Christians shall worship none other than God and to blatantly state they do otherwise is nothing short of ignorance.  I don't want to get on a soapbox about this but that the author, editor, publisher did not catch this in time is unforgivable.  Catholics\Orthodox venerate, honor, respect, hold in high reverence both the Saints and their relics but in no shape or form do they "worship" them.  This glaring untruth should be edited if the book is reprinted and fixed immediately in electronic versions, imho.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

141. Island of Silence by Lisa McMann

Island of Silence by Lisa McMann
The Unwanteds, #2

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Sept. 4, 2012, Simon & Schuster, 406 pgs
Age: 8+

"Following the life-altering events at the conclusion of The Unwanteds, the stark world of Quill and the magical haven of Artimé are now home to whoever wants to live there, whether they are Wanteds, Unwanteds, or Necessaries. 
In Artimé, Alex Stowe and his friends continue to hone their artistic magical spells while welcoming newcomers, wondering how long this peace between Quill and Artimé will last. Alex is stunned when Mr. Today comes to him with a very special request—one Alex questions his readiness for, until circumstances offer a dramatic answer. 
And back in Quill, Aaron Stowe, Alex’s twin, faces a very different path. Devastated by his loss of status after Justine’s defeat and seething with rage toward Alex, Aaron is stealthily planning his revenge and return to power. 
Alex and Aaron’s separate stories proceed with suspenseful pacing, colliding in a stunning climax that elevates sibling rivalry to epic proportions and leaves the fate of both worlds hanging in the balance."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Loved, loved, loved this book.  Even better than the first one, which is rare for a series book.  I found the first book to drag in places but this one had me glued to the pages from start to finish.  First, though, I have to say I hate the blurb on the front cover claiming "The Hunger Games Meets Harry Potter" (Kirkus Reviews).  This book is nothing like either of them.  Oh, it's dystopia and has magic but the similarities end there.  Lisa McMann has proven herself over and over again that she stands on her own merits as an author and doesn't need to be compared to others to sell her books.  The world of Quill and Artime is expanded as a new Island and its people are discovered.  Alex's character grows by leaps and bounds as he's given a leadership role and all the characters are carried over from the first book.  The death of a major character is shocking and hard to believe; I am determined to think it will turn out otherwise in the next volume (please?). I love the combination of magic versus mundane totalitarianism.  A speedy read with very short chapters that make it so easy to keep reading just one more chapter.  McMann has become one of my favourite YA authors, though this series is MG, and I'm excited for the next volume coming out this fall and have the first in her new series ready to read next.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

140. The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook by Shaun Tan

The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook by Shaun Tan

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Feb. 1, 2013, Scholastic, 128 pgs
Age: 10+

"A new book of sketches, artwork, and personal reflection from the brilliant mind of award-winning, bestselling author and illustrator Shaun Tan.  
"I'm often wary of using the word 'inspiration' to introduce my work — it sounds too much like a sun shower from the heavens, absorbed by a passive individual enjoying an especially receptive moment. While that may be the case on rare occasions, the reality is usually far more prosaic. Staring at a blank piece of paper, I can't think of anything original. I feel utterly uninspired and unreceptive. It's the familiar malaise of 'artist's block' and in such circumstances there is only one thing to do: just start drawing." —Shaun Tan  
And when Shaun Tan starts drawing, the results are stunning. In The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook, we find a window into the creative process: the stops and starts, the ideas that never took off, and the ones that grew into something much bigger. Fans of The Arrival will recognize the quirky, surreal sensibility that is so distinctly Shaun Tan in this stunning collection, and gain insight into how his many gorgeous books were made."

Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Not much to say for this review.  If you are a fan of Tan's work you'll enjoy browsing through this mostly wordless art book filled with examples from his journals and notebooks.  Divided into sections each begins with a short text introduction by Tan, otherwise the book is for looking not reading.  Will be most appreciated by fans of Shaun Tan and by aspiring artists themselves.

Monday, May 27, 2013

138. Step Into The ... Chinese Empire by Philip Steele

Step Into The ... Chinese Empire by Philip Steele
Step Into ... series

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

1998, Lorenz Books, 64 pgs
Age: 8+

"Step into the amazing world of the Chinese Empire and uncover the secrets of the world's oldest continuous civilisation. Explore Chinese culture and beliefs, from their ancient origins through to the abdication of the last emperor. Discover fascinating facts about the Chinese people and find out why tombs were filled with pottery figures, who the terracotta warriors were, what the importance of jade was and how silk was made.  
A variety of practical projects bring the past alive, fly your own dragon kite; make a model of Han house; make an abacus; create and use ancient printing blocks; build a pagoda; cook red bean soup, and explore many other easy-to-do practical ideas that will vividly bring history into the present. The projects are shown in specially commissioned step-by-step photography and will make learning stimulating, exciting and fun, either at home or in the classroom.
Children will learn about ancient Chinese weapons, warfare, inventions, fashion, food, politics, religion, art, sports and much much more. Stirring fact-packed text, over 200 beautiful colour photographs and 100 illustrations make this accessible and enjoyable history an ideal accompaniment to school work, or a perfect additional learning tool at home."

Purchased a copy from Bookcloseouts a very long time ago!.

A very basic brief overview of an enormous topic that manages to squeeze in as much information as possible through words and photographs.  Each two-page spread covers one topic such as art, silk, soldiers,  the written word, inventions, etc. If you are familiar with a DK (Dorling Kindersley) book then this is exactly what you can expect here.  In fact the book is written by an author who has written for DK, as well.  An entertaining, easy to read and informative few paragraphs of text start off each spread then captions beneath the photographs enhance the information.  The beginning of the book has a timeline running along the bottom of the pages and throughout the book there are "craft" projects occasionally along the bottom edge of some spreads.  These "crafts" are for hardcore hands-on types though as they all require items not exactly found around the house and will take time and effort to make.  The finished projects will be worth the effort though.  These are not toilet roll and pipe cleaner projects!  I love Chinese history and found this book, though of course only a starting, or jumping off, point to be entirely readable and informative while at the same time being entertaining.  I'd never attempt the projects with own kids, not my style, but would recommend the book for those looking for a basic spine to work from while studying Ancient China.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

DVD Break: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - (2011) (Netflix) 

Brilliant british movie with with Maggie Smith and Dame Judy Dent.  Just loved it.  Funny and poignant.  Loved the main Indian actor as well, Dev Patel.  Just an all around great movie.

135. Sever by Lauren DeStefano

Sever by Lauren DeStefano
The Chemical Garden Trilogy, #3

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Feb. 12, 2013, Simon & Schuster,  371 pgs
Age: 14+

"Time is running out for Rhine in this conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden Trilogy.
With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.
Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.
In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Absolutely compelling and satisfying conclusion to this dystopian trilogy.  I really enjoyed The Chemical Garden Trilogy; it offered something different than the usual YA dystopia.  In a world where females died at age 20, they are coveted for their reproductive abilities and lead lives of prostitution or lives of luxury as forcible sister wives to one man.  The characters of the women are really stressed and though there are male characters they do take a back seat to the women; Rhine and Cecily become the main focus in this last volume.  Their characters have developed tremendously since the opening book, from the experiences and hardships they suffered they have grown strong, in different ways, and ultimately the hope they both once had and lost is returned to them.  An amazing end, and a cautionary tale for our society seeking perfection in the human condition.  I look forward to DeStefano's next work and am hoping for a standalone to see if she can carry a novel with as much success.  Recommended for YA dystopia fans looking for something a little different than the common fare.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

DNF: Sihpromatum: I Grew My Boobs in China by Savannah Grace

Sihpromatum: I Grew My Boobs in China by Savannah Grace

Rating: DNF

(US) - (Canada Kindle Only) - (Kindle)

Sept. 4, 2012, Sihpromatum Publishing House,  58/362 pgs
Age: 18+

""SIHPROMATUM" (Sip-row-may-tum) is a memoir series of one family's four-year backpacking adventure around the world. The first installment, "I Grew my Boobs in China", is the beginning of an intensely fascinating, sobering, and emotional memoir of Savannah's introspective and innovative family adventure. 
In 2005, 14-year-old Savannah Grace's world is shattered when her mother unexpectedly announces that she and her family (mother, 45; brother, 25; sister, 17) would soon embark on an incredible, open-ended journey. When everything from her pets to the house she lived in is either sold, given away or put in storage, this naïve teenage girl runs headlong into the reality and hardships of a life on the road.
These pages do not describe a vacation to semi-exotic locales protected from the local culture by a veneer of private transportation, scheduled meals, and ritzy hotels. The family lives and travels as the local people do, a distinction that generates fascinating and unusual experiences rich in multicultural insights, as told from the perspective of a budding young author with a traveler's eye for detail.
Built around a startling backdrop of over eighty countries ("I Grew my Boobs in China" relates the family's adventures in China and Mongolia), this is a tale of feminine maturation - of Savannah's metamorphosis from ingénue to woman-of-the-world. Nibbling roasted duck tongues in China and being stranded in Mongolia's Gobi Desert are just two experiences that contribute to Savannah's exploration of new cultures and to the process of adapting to the world around her."

Received a review copy from the author.

I love travel books; I'm widely read about China and interested in Mongolia and this is from a Canadian author.  All those things drew my attention to the book.  However, I found I just could not get connected with the book.  The author was 14 at this time of her travel and it is written from her point of view at that age.  I didn't like the typical whiny, self-involved teenage voice and after skimming ahead and reading random pages found more of the same.  It is not something I wanted to invest my reading time with so I put the book down.  Don't just take my opinion though; I seem to be in the minority as it has a large following with an average 5* rating on amazon!  Read the publisher's summary above for more details.

Friday, May 24, 2013

129. Muscle For the Wing by Daniel Woodrell

my copy was contained in this current omnibus edition
Muscle For the Wing by Daniel Woodrell
The Bayou Trilogy, #2

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Published: 1988
April 28, 2011, Hachette Book Group,  139 pgs  (470 pgs)
Age: 18+

"After ex-con Emil Jadick and his bad boys--a national gang of ex-cons who call themselves The Wing--storm a local St. Bruno poker game, Rene Shade sets out to stop the newcomers dead in their tracks."

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

The second book in this trilogy is so much better than the first that I want to give it a 5 star rating but compared to Woodrell's Ozark books it isn't in the same league so it will have to suffice with a four.  A hardboiled, southern, crime noir set in Louisiana, this is the second time we meet Rene Shade, a tough but honest (in his own way) cop, ex-boxer who deals with the riff-raff, bad cops and mobsters of a backwoods town.  The first in this series was also Woodrell's first book but by this time the author has ironed out his kinks and this is a fine gritty (and literary) crime novel.  Set in the seventies, the book is about crime rather than a mystery as the reader knows more than the detective.  Shade is a complicated character and this book has him in a relationship with a woman plus goes into detail about his relationships with his brothers and the people in town he grew up with.  We get to know Shade's background and upbringing and while he is involved in a hardcore case the real mystery for the reader to contemplate is why Shade became a cop instead of a criminal.  A very fast read that had me immersed.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Amy Tan Has a New Book!!!

OMG!  Amy Tan has a new book coming out at the end of this year.  I've read all her fiction and have waited years for this.  I know she has had health problems so I'm just thrilled to hear she's finally written a new book.  It is a chunkster and set in turn of the century Shanghai, a mountain village, and late 1800s San Francisco.  I can imagine it will have been well worth the wait.  I am soooooo excited!!

Moving between the dazzling world of courtesans in turn of the century Shanghai, a remote Chinese mountain village, and the rough-hewn streets of nineteenth-century San Francisco, Amy Tan's sweeping new novel maps the lives of three generations of women connected by blood and history - and the mystery of an evocative painting known as "The Valley of Amazement." Violet is one of the most celebrated courtesans in Shanghai, a beautiful and intelligent woman who has honed her ability to become any man's fantasy since her start as a "Virgin Courtesan" at the age of twelve. Half-Chinese and half-American, she moves effortlessly between the East and the West. But her talents belie her private struggle to understand who she really is and her search for a home in the world. Abandoned by her mother, Lucia, and uncertain of her father's identity, Violet's quest to truly love and be loved will set her on a path fraught with danger and complexity - and the loss of her own daughter. Lucia, a willful and wild American woman who was once herself the proprietress of Shanghai's most exclusive courtesan house, nurses her own secret wounds, which she first sustained when, as a teenager, she fell in love with a Chinese painter and followed him from San Francisco to Shanghai. Her search for penance and redemption will bring her to a startling reunion with Flora, Violet's daughter, and will shatter all that Violet believed she knew about her mother. Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement is a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, the legacy of trauma, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, that returns listeners to the compelling territory Amy Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club. With her characteristic wisdom, grace, and humor, she conjures a story of the inheritance of love, its mysteries and senses, its illusions and truths.

127. Life in the Ancient World by Bart Winer

Life in the Ancient World by Bart Winer. Illustrated by Steele Savage

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

1961, Random House,  213 pgs +index
Age: 8+

"A vivid and fascinating account of how people lived from day to day in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Iran, Crete, Greece and Rome."

Purchased a copy from a used book sale.

This is an absolutely wonderful history book for young people and I highly recommend it for Christian homeschoolers.  They just don't write them like this anymore. Written from a point of view which naturally assumes that God created the world, the Bible is a true record of history and the reader is a Christian; it interweaves Biblical history with other ancient history seamlessly from Mesopotamia to the Roman emperor Constantine.  The book begins with these sentences: ""And they said ... let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven."  So begins the Bible's story of the Tower of Babel.  This tower wasn't just a legend..." and ends with this sentence: "But the empire of Christ with its center in Rome, the "eternal city," went on to conquer the Western world."  Refreshingly written in a storyteller's narrative the book is interesting and informative.  Published by mainstream Random House, the book is not overly Christian but will appeal to today's Christian looking for a history book which does not take the "His" out of HIS-Story.  Of course, ancient history is ancient but some of the geographical information is outdated and modern discoveries would need to be supplemented with other material but this is a delightful overview of the anicient world.  I've read a lot of such books over the years and this one is going to be a keeper on my shelves.  A caution that some may find objection with the illustrations which do show nudity when it is applicable.  Men are shown from a profile revealing one b*tt cheek and women are shown topless but seldom have visible n*pples.  There is a combination between illustrations and actual archival photographs.  The copyright page also boasts that the book was fact checked by a professor at Columbia University.  A delightful find to be read aloud to youngers or read by up to early teens.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

126. Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever by Lauren DeStefano
The Chemical Garden Trilogy, 2

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Feb. 21, 2012, Simon & Schuster,  341 pgs
Age: 14+

"Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but they’re still in danger. Outside, they find a world even more disquieting than the one they ran away from. Determined to get to Manhattan and find Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan, the two press forward, amid threats of being captured again…or worse.
The road they are on is long and perilous—and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and men die at age twenty-five, time is precious. In this sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price—now that she has more to lose than ever."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Totally absorbing.  It has been some time since I read the first book and while the details are dim the images remain bright in my mind.  I found it easy jumping into book two and talk of events in book one quickly brought the details back to mind.  Rhine and Gabriel are the focus characters in this book, though several characters from book one return and a handful of strange and quirky new characters are introduced.  This is what I refer to as the "escape" or "search" part of a trilogy.  The entire book is devoted to the journey of their escape, heading back to Rhine's home, and her search for her brother.  A page-turning plot with surprising events, I was immersed for the entire read.  I especially found the latter half of the book with the experiments and hallucinations very creepy and well written.  My review for book three is standing in the queue and will be posted shortly.

Monday, May 20, 2013

DNF. Misty Circus by Victoria Frances

Misty Circus by Victoria Frances

Rating: DNF 47/74 pgs

Jun. 18, 2013, Dark horse,  80 pgs
Age: 10+

"Magic and mystery hide in the shadows of the rainy streets of Paris, kindness blooms in unexpected places, and a sad-eyed child journeys into the unknown.  
Renowned artist of the dark fantastic Victoria Francés first made a splash in the U.S. with her dreamy, sensual paintings in the Favole trilogy. 
Now, Francés returns with a gorgeous storybook for all ages.  
The tale of little Parisian boy Sasha and his poignant misadventures is at once heartwarming and melancholy, combining a sweetly gothic story with arresting, beautifully painted illustrations."

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

I read 47 of 74 pages but just could not go on any further as the book was not for me, as a Christian.  The second story was about witches and black magic.  The words "genuine witches' Sabbath" made me close the book.  The first story I hadn't enjoyed either with it's gender-bender theme and the use of the word "androgynous", in a book supposedly for children.  Drawing a girl and calling them a boy is not the definition of androgynous anyway.  This is classified as a "juvenile" book but for Christians I would not recommend it for any age.  Also it is a picture book; I had been under the presumption it was a graphic novel.  The art is stunning though.  I wish I had looked at the pictures without reading the text.

Friday, May 17, 2013

123. Tom Gates: Excellent Excuses (and other good stuff) by Liz Pichon

Excellent Excuses (and other good stuff) by Liz Pichon
Tom Gates (#2)

Rating: (3/5)

(Canada) ONLY

Feb. 24, 2013, Scholastic Canada,  351 pgs
Age: 8+

"Tom Gates, master of excuses, expert doodler and hilarious story writer is back: 
Gold Star Award Chart! 
Getting to the Top of Mr. Fullerman's AWARD chart is proving a bit Tricky! This is mostly because: 
1. Marcus Meldrew is a sneaky so-and-so and up to NO good, if you ask me. 
2. My tooth is aching SO much that I can't EVEN concentrate on drawing in class. 
3. I keep getting sidetracked by interesting activities like SWIMMING, bug catching and, most importantly, spending quality time annoying my sister Delia."

Received a review copy from Scholastic Canada.

Much like the "Wimpy Kid" books, this series is very similar except written at a bit of an easier level; it has much more drawing and graphically appealing that in some ways it could be called a graphic novel, though don't get me wrong it has no comic bubbles or panels and is a chapter book.  It is also decidedly British and hasn't been Americanized; in fact, at the end of the book "Tom" has created a visual and funny glossary which defines a lot of the British-isms for the reader.  I haven't read the first book and it didn't hamper my understanding of this one at all but I think I may have had an extra fondness for the characters if I had.  Extremely humorous in the British humour way but with no real plot, just the average (well, not-so-average) day-to-day doings of a middle school boy, his friend, annoying older sister and the class bully.  Fun read will appeal to reluctant readers and those who like to draw.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

121. The Nightmare by Lars Kepler

The Nightmare by Lars Kepler
Joona Linna (#2)

Rating: (4.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Jan. 29, 2013,McClelland Stewart,  512 pgs
Age: 18+

"On  a summer night, police recover the body of a young woman from an abandoned pleasure boat drifting around the Stockholm archipelago. Her lungs are filled with brackish water, and the forensics team is sure that she drowned. Why, then, is the pleasure boat still afloat, and why are there no traces of water on her clothes or body? The next day, a man turns up dead in his state apartment in Stockholm, hanging from a lamphook in the ceiling. All signs point to suicide, but the room has a high ceiling, and there's not a single piece of furniture around -- nothing to climb on. Joona Linna begins to piece together the two mysteries, but the logistics are a mere prelude to a dizzying and dangerous course of events. At its core, the most frightening aspect of The Nightmare isn't its gruesome crimes -- it's the dark psychology of its characters, who show us how blind we are to our own motives."

Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Brilliant.  I'm glad to get in on the ground floor with this writer as his books are being translated to English.  This is he most recent English release and the second in the Joona Linna series, with the next one coming out this (2013) summer.  A fantastic case of strange murder, suicide that may be murder and then a running tally of victims is connected to a political thriller that expands upon my usual fare of serial killer reads.  I'm not usual interested in political thrillers but that aspect doesn't come into play until well into the >500 page book that it's just one more twist to an intricate multi-threaded plot that leads in many directions before it all comes together in the end.

There are some inconsistencies with the first book.  In that one we didn't get to know Joona much at all with psychiatrist Erich Maria Barc being given the lion's share of character development.  Well, Eric is not in this book; he is mentioned in passing though not by name.  Joona has an arrogant catch phrase in the first book which has been dropped all together now instead of claiming that he is always right, the people around him seem to bolster his arrogance by telling him he is always right instead.  Much is made of Joona being a Finn in this Swedish police procedural.  I honestly can't remember this being mentioned at all in The Hypnotist.  Joona's character is fuller developed now and he has been given a background up to the point where a mystery is foreshadowed at the end which may be part of the next book's plot.

Even being a chunkster, this is a fast-paced read. One that keeps the heart pounding and the pages turning late into the night.  I adore the small 3-4 page chapters that make one fly from chapter to chapter and for some reason this set up makes it hard for me to put the book down when I see there are only 4 pages to the next chapter!  The case in The Hypnotist was more frightening; while this one is still thrilling it is quite different letting us know Kepler is not going to be following a cookie cutter plan for his series books.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

120. Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen & Other Photographic Rhetoric by Robert Bogdan

Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen & Other Photographic Rhetoric by Robert Bogdan, with Martin Elks & James Knoll
Critical Perspectives on Disability

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Oct. 15, 2012, Syracuse University Press, 312 pgs
Age: 18+

"Midget, feeble-minded, crippled, lame, and insane: these terms and the historical photographs that accompany them may seem shocking to present-day audiences. A young woman with no arms wears a sequined tutu and smiles for the camera as she smokes a cigarette with her toes; a man holds up two prosthetic legs while his own legs are bared to the knees to show his missing feet. The photos were used as promotional material for circus sideshows, charity drives, and art galleries. They were found on begging cards and in family albums. In Picturing Disability, Bogdan and his collaborators gather over 200 historical photographs showing how people with disabilities have been presented and exploring the contexts in which they were photographed. 
Rather than focus on the subjects, Bogdan turns his gaze on the people behind the camera. He examines the historic and cultural environment of the photographs to decipher the relationship between the images and the perspectives of the picture makers. In analyzing the visual rhetoric of these photographs, Bogdan identifies the wide variety of genres, from sideshow souvenirs to clinical photographs. Ranging from the 1860s, when photographs first became readily available, to the 1970s, when the disability rights movement became a force for significant change, Bogdan chronicles the evolution of disability image creation. Picturing Disability takes the reader beyond judging images as positive or slanderous to reveal how particular contexts generate specific emotions and lasting depictions."

Received an egalley for review from the publisher through NetGalley.

An absolutely fascinating book which though rather academic kept me spellbound and is an easy read.  This book deals with two topics I am most particularly interested in: 1) the treatment of the disabled in the early part of the 20th century and earlier and 2) unsettling or unique vintage photographs.  The author covers the periods from the 1860s to the 1970s, however, the majority of the photographs studied mainly fall between the 1880s and the 1930s.  The aspect that most drew me to this book and that I appreciated most was that the author investigates the photography of the disabled from the point of view of the purpose of the photographer and photograph within the era and society from which it comes.  There is no modern chastising.  The author warns in the Introduction that some people may find his treatise offensive because of this, but that is far from the intentions of his sociological intentions.  I found the book entirely engrossing since I am interested in the field.

The book is divided into chapters concentrating on one type/genre of photograph each.  Starting off with circus sideshow promotional photographs and beggar cards, while most insensitive by today's standards these are also some of the most controlled by the subject of the photograph as they more often than not were in charge of their own publicity.  The most disturbing chapters for me were the one on medical text photography (often eugenics texts), photographs from inside mental institutions and most surprisingly "art" photos which turn a person's deformities, pain, anguish into "art" to be critiqued for light, shadow, composition, etc.  The author even discusses the modern use of disabled people as featured in faked "natural" settings vs the truly natural family album photograph where the disabled friend or family member is included in a manner that does not call attention to their disability.  I enjoyed the book immensely!  The book is extremely readable and engrossing for anyone interested in or studying the topic.

Friday, May 10, 2013

115. Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Welborn

Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Welborn. Illustrated by Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

2001, Loyola Press, 304 pgs +index
Age: 8+

"Who are the saints, why are the lives of saints important for children, and what can children learn from the saints? In Loyola Kids Book of Saints, the first in the Loyola Kids series, best-selling author Amy Welborn answers these questions with exciting and inspiring stories, real-life applications, and important information about these heroes of the church. The more than 60 stories of saints for children in this book are divided thematically and cover saints throughout history from all over the world."

Purchased a copy from my local Catholic Bookstore.

Mini-biographies of more than sixty saints from across the ages, with both men and women equally represented and while the majority are from times long ago there is a steady collection of 19th and 20th century saints interwoven throughout.  We thoroughly enjoyed the well-written stories which are written to the child, asking them questions so they can relate to the person being discussed.  The saints' stories are age appropriate for all ages but the needed details have been presented so while we don't get the gory details of explicit martyrdom, the truth of what happened isn't avoided either.  Many types of saints are presented here.  In fact, the book is broken up into 15 Parts, with each part grouping 4-5 saints together under a theme: those who loved children, were creative, were teachers, helped the poor, traveled far, helped us to understand God, etc.  For each saint we are given their birth/death dates (if known) and feast day.  We are not told what the saints are known to be patron saints of though, and at first I found this annoying.  But after a while I was glad that focus was shifted from this often asked question about a saint to their actual life and accomplishments.  Following the biography is a very short discussion question that can be used for devotional, or family time.  We found some of these to be very thought provoking and stimulating.  A great book for this age group which includes all the famous saints you'd expect in such a book along with obscure, lesser known and multi-cultural ones.  Highly recommend for reading at home or use in the Catholic classroom.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

SHORT STORY: "In Gethsemane" by Stephen Gallagher

"In Gethsemane" by Stephen Gallagher
short story, 36 pgs

(Kindle US) - (Kindle CA)

Rating: 4/5

" In the years following the Great War, a skeptical conjuror and a spiritualist medium merge their interests to tour the regional lecture halls of the United Kingdom."

This short story now available as an e-read, was originally published in 1995 as part of an anthology.  I received a review copy from the publisher after enjoying The Bedlam Detective by the same author.  This Victorian period piece is a slowly mounting well-paced story of the Spiritualist movement and examines people's feelings about death vs the dead.  I really enjoyed the story and Gallagher has proven to be a writer I appreciate.  A fun look into this strange part of the Victorian era with a rather brooding ending.  The characters were well developed for a short story that was more about plot than character.  After the story are synopses of both "The Kingdom of Bones" and it's sequel "The Bedlam Detective".  Though this story takes place in the same time period it is not related to the two novels at all.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

113. The Strand Magazine Feb-May 2013

The Strand Magazine Feb-May 2013 (Subscription)

Pages: 80
Ages: 16+
First Published: Feb, 2013
Publisher: The Strand Magazine
Rating: 4/5

This was an interesting one to come into as I'd only ever read Stevenson before. I'd heard of Leonard, Collins and, of course, Spillane but never read them and all the other authors were new to me.

1. The Only Good Syrian Foot Soldier is a Dead One by Elmore Leonard - Certainly not a mystery, nor a genre story at all actually.  This short story features an actor whose career has ended up with him playing extras, mostly in battles scenes, who get killed.  We experience his latest role as a Syrian foot soldier and the egos and arrogance of the stars and directors around him.  The ending has shock value.  Well written, but not exactly exciting. 3/5

2. The Present by Robert Lopresti - A mother buys a present for her son and takes a break from carrying the heavy telescope when she starts watching a man and daughter having lunch in the food court. Only it doesn't take long for her to wonder whether the girl has been kidnapped and forms the basis of the story.  All's well that ends well until the ending gives us a startling look at the woman's own reality.  Well-written, good pacing.  4/5

3. Masterpiece by Jonathan Santlofer - An artist finds his muse and starts work on his masterpiece. Not exactly a mystery but suspenseful look at the consequences when everyone is out for themselves, expects the worst of the other, continually trying to get out of their own mess until it bites them in the end. Ha! 3/5

4. Washed Out by Michael Humfrey - A man return to his childhood home on St. Cecilia's for the first time in thirty years in this short 2 1/2 page story. His thoughts turn to his own home and his neighbours, then the disappearance of the neighbour's wife whom he seems to be the only one who knows where she went.  Short, but captivating and well-written. 3/5

5. In the After by John Gilstrap - Whoa!  Very good.  A man and his wife are tied up in there home and psychologically tortured as the person reveals who he is from the man's past and what he wants.  Creepy.  Loved it.  5/5

6. Not a Penny More by Jon Land - Noir-ish story of a man in a rut who takes a used car home for the weekend to try out and finds his life changed.  Is the car magic?  Passable story, ending is predictable. (3/5)

7. So Long, Chief by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane - My very first Mike Hammer story!  I didn't know what to expect since I absolutely hated the TV show with Stacy Keach so I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loved this!  Originally started in the mid-'70s, Collins finishes Spillane's work posthumously.  The old Chief of Police is ninety-odd years old, in the hospital and dying.  After Mike visits him the Chief is murdered with a knife to the ribs.  Mike sets off to find out why someone so badly needed to rush nature along.  Not my usual type of fare, but I really had fun with this seventies Private Eye case complete with mobsters and crooked cops.  (5/5)

8. Books and Reading. No 2. How Books Have to be Written by Robert Louis Stevenson - An entirely enticing essay written by RLS in 1882 and soon to be published in a new collection of essays by the author.  Written to children for children the author describes the second most important aspect of writing, and that is knowing what to leave out of your narrative.  It is very humorous and would have made an impression on young aspiring writers of the day.  He ends with a lengthy discussion between a "cheap" murder novel and Shakespeare's Macbeth.  While taking amusing potshots at Shakespeare his comparison concludes what makes it a great work rather than "a sham" by a "bad author".  Instructive and entertaining. (5/5)

Monday, May 6, 2013

112. The Woodshed Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Woodshed Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Illustrations by David Cunningham
The Alden Family Mysteries/The Boxcar Children, #7

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

1962, Albert Whitman, 159 pgs
Age: 7+

"A double puzzle involves an old friend of Aunt Jane's, romance, and a chase."

Bookmooched a copy.

One of the better mysteries in this wonderful children's series.  All the familiar faces are back as everyone gathers together at the Aldens.  For the first time the children do not go on a vacation for the summer, breaking the mold of all the previous books.  Aunt Jane moves back to their part of the country, moving into the old family home.  Even though the mystery is easily solved by an adult, for the first time in this series a genuine mystery with clues and ties to the past, including the Revolutionary War bring about an exciting story making this one of the finer stories in the collection.  At this point Henry is in college, Jessie a high school senior and Violet is ready to start high school after this summer so the dynamics of the children are changing too with Benny still being the only little one left.  Most of the minor characters are collected here but with the marriage of one, there is also the mention that some will be leaving and I'm thinking may be departing from the series at this time, while the marriage adds a new character who could easily fill the role played by the departing characters: adventure supervisor, adult companion etc.  Since I'm reading Warner's 19, I'm appreciating the flow of the basic plot continuity of reading them in numerical order as well.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

110. The Thirteenth Rose by Gail Bowen

The Thirteenth Rose by Gail Bowen
The World According to Charlie D. (#4)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Mar. 1, 2013, Raven Books, 85 pgs
Age: 18+

"For his Valentine's night call-in show, host Charlie D plans to offer his listeners two hours on the topic of "satisfaction." His in-studio guest is twenty-five-year-old Misty de Vol Burgh, formerly the highest-paid escort in the city but now happily married to eighty-three-year-old billionaire Henry Burgh.
It's all good fun until Charlie receives a chilling message: "It's take-out-the-garbage night. Time to kill all the hookers and wash the streets with blood." When Charlie is directed to a website that allows viewers to watch the murder of a prostitute in real time and promises that another killing will be broadcast live within the hour, the hunt is on. But The World According to Charlie D. has an audience of over a million listeners. The murderer could be anyone, anywhere. Charlie and his team have less than two hours to find and stop the killer."

Received a review copy from Library Thing's Early Review program.

This is part of a publisher's series called "Rapid Reads". These are very much adult books but are written on reading levels ranging from 2.0-6.0.  They are intended for adult literacy, ESL or persons simply looking for a one sitting read.  Honestly I didn't know what to expect from this particular book with an RL of 5.6.  The plot intrigued me and sounded like the usual serial killer thriller I like but ... would *I* enjoy a hi-low book for adults?  Yes!  I loved it.  A very quick read for me but also a highly intelligent, well-paced mystery/thriller (not for children!) from a popular Canadian mystery writer for adults (who I hadn't read before but am now eager to read).  I really enjoyed the character Charlie D.