Sunday, June 30, 2013

178 & 184: Saint Catherine Laboure & Saint Colette

178. Saint Catherine Laboure: Mary's Messenger by Sister Marie-Genevieve Roux & Sister Elisabeth Charpy. Illustrated by Augusta Curreli. Translated by Caroline Morson.
Along the Paths of the Gospel

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - Out of Print

2000, Pauline Books & Media, 71 pgs

Age: 7+

"When Catherine Laboure' was very young, her mother died. She learned that Mary, Jesus' Mother, would love and help her. Mary gave Catherine a message for all people, the message that Mary's love would help them in times of need. She will help you, too. Read this story to find out how the Blessed Mother visited Catherine, and how Catherine shared Mary's love through a very special symbol, the Miraculous Medal. Full color illustrations."

Purchased a new copy from an online Catholic bookstore.

I love this little series of palm-sized picture books on a selection of Saints.  There are a lot of Saint Catherines and I never know which is which.  Laboure is a rather modern saint, having lived in the 1800s and being canonized in 1947, she had visions of Mary and brought to us the Miraculous Medal and the statue of Mary holding the earth in her hands.  These were requests made of her from the Blessed Mother herself and otherwise Catherine was a person, born of poverty, who dedicated her life to Jesus as a Daughter of Charity (a religious group started by Saint Vincent de Paul) where she spent her life especially dedicated to the poor and elderly.  Though a small book in size it contains lots of text and is completely illustrated in light watercolours.  As with each book in the series, the last page contains a special prayer to the Lord of thanks for Saint Catherine and an entreaty to her for her prayers.

184 . Saint Colette: In the Footsteps of Saint Francis and Saint Clare by The Poor Clares of Poligny & Sister Elisabeth Charpy. Illustrated by Augusta Curreli. Translated by Caroline Morson.
Along the Paths of the Gospel

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - out of Print

1998, Pauline Books & Media, 72 pgs

Age: 7+

"Did you know that the name Colette comes from the name of Saint Nicholas? There was once a young woman named Colette who had a great desire to follow Jesus. She wanted to give him everything, just like Saint Francis and Saint Clare had. Colette became a saint, too! Find out how by reading her story. Full color illustrations on every page by Augusta Curelli."

Purchased a new copy from an online Catholic bookstore.

I found this volume particularly charming.  Once again it comes in the uniform palm-size picture book format of the series, however this book seemed more simple to read and understand than the previous two books I read in the series.  This seems to set well with the simple, gentle life that Colette wanted and strove to life.  From her birth to her death, this brief book manages to cover quite a bit of territory in telling the hopes, dreams, travels and accomplishments of the nun who wanted to bring the Religious of Assisi back to the simple, poor lifestyles of their founders Francis and Clare.  With the Pope's permission she was able to do just this by building small monasteries and abbeys for them to live in while following The Rule.  Colette seems to have been a very simple, down-to-earth, God-loving woman who wanted to teach this simple way of loving and following Jesus to others.  As with the previous books in the series, the last page offers an intercessionary prayer to Saint Colette.  This is a lovely little prayer asking for help to love, pray, share and forgive.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

192 . Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Lady Susan by Jane Austen.
The Art of the Novella

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

1794 (1st written); 1871 (1st published)
2011, Melville House Publishing, 84 pgs

Age: 18+

"Thus high-spirited tale, told through and exchange of letters, is unique in Jane Austen’s small body of work. It is the story of Lady Susan, a brilliant, beautiful and morally reprehensible coquette who delights in making men fall in love with her, deceiving their wives into friendship and even tormenting her own daughter, cruelly bending her to her will.
Austen clearly delighted in her wicked heroine — tracing Lady Susan’s maneuverings to remarry yet continue on with her lover, and to marry off her young daughter, with great wit, zest and unfailing panache."

Received a copy as part of this month's Bookclub selection.  The publisher has given us two light-hearted books with purple covers for Spring time reading.  I read most of Austen as a teenager but am not a fan of her now.  I basically find her bantering between the sexes and stories of women looking for a man to be "fluff".  This story was no different in my mind.  I was delighted to see this short novella written in the epistolary fashion though, as that is one of my favourite forms to read and the letters helped speed along the read while also causing Austen's usual bantering between sexes to be told in a one-sided narrative that helped me to not become vexed with the characters so.  I did not like any of the characters in the book, but only felt sorry for the neglected and emotionally abused daughter Frederica.  An OK story from an author I do not appreciate, as the masses do.

Friday, June 28, 2013

191 . The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley.
The Black Stallion, #1

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

1941, Random House, 188 pgs

Age: 8+

"First published in 1941, Walter Farley's best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black's first meeting on an ill-fated ship to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue, this beloved story will hold the rapt attention of readers new and old."

Bookmooched a copy.

This is a book I've wanted to read almost my whole life.  As a kid I loved animal stories but had an aversion to horse books but as I got older the urge to read this crept upon me until at last today I can finally say I've read "The Black Stallion" and plan on reading its sequel, which I managed to snatch up for a great deal on my Kindle a while back.  The writing is wonderful and there are so few references to technology or current events that one is only reminded that the story is taking place in the forties perhaps three times.  For me the book had three distinct parts: the shipwreck and Alex's time with Black on the island, his homecoming and settling in with Black, and the preparation for and finally running the race at the end.  The first and third parts were extraordinarily good but I found my attention lagging in the middle as I wondered if any excitement was going to happen again after the shipwreck and survival part of the beginning.  This is what keeps the book from gaining 5* from me.  However as the excitement mounts again at the end I just loved the writing of the man calling the race; it was so real I felt on the edge of my seat even though there is no doubt whatsoever as to how this story is going to end; it being a fairly predictable plot.  Alex and Henry are the main characters and the only ones of any real consequence, besides Black, and they are written very real with depth and background.  I couldn't help but see Henry in my mind as Mickey Rooney, though, one of my all time favourite actors who played him in the movie and TV series.  <3 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

190. The Sixth circle of Heck, Precocia: Where the Smartypants Kids Go by Dale E. Basye

Precocia: Where the Smartypants Kids Go  by Dale E. Basye. Illustrations by Bob Dob
Heck (The Sixth Circle)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Feb. 26, 2013, Random House, 422 pgs

Age: 8+

"When Bea "Elsa" Bubb, the Principal of Darkness, tells Milton and Marlo Fauster they've gotten too big for their britches, she sends them to Precocia, the circle of Heck for smartypants kids who grow up too fast. There, the children learn adult jobs. William the Kid teaches bill collection. Mozart teaches commercial jingles. And all the students are forced to act, dress, and talk like little adults. Soon, the Fausters realize that Precocia's vice principals Napoleon and Cleopatra want more than to hasten adulthood—they seem to want to eliminate childhood altogether. Can Milton and Marlo figure out their plan in time to stop it? 
Heck is a school in the afterlife where bad kids go for all eternity, or until they turn eighteen, whichever comes first. As in Dante's Inferno, there are nine circles of Heck, based on kids' various vices."

Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

At first I was of two minds as I read this entry in the Heck series as the author really went out on a limb and played out a plot involving alternate realities.  It made a good story in and of itself but I kept wondering what the heck (heehee) this had to do with the overall plot of the series and why we weren't in Heck anymore.  But Dale E. Basye manages to seamlessly bring it all together at the end; he had his fun with a wild plot and in the grand scheme it makes sense and takes the reader on a great adventure keeping the series fresh and exciting.  Remember this is the author who inserted *himself* into two of the books brilliantly!  Not anybody could pull that off and I've come to respect Basye as an author who knows how to write a series that the reader never knows what is going to happen next.  I love the title of the next book, "Wise Acres', and am thrilled to see it will be published at the end of this year (2013). Yeah!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Movie Break: World War Z

World War Z - (2013) (at the Theatre in UltraVox 3D)

I don't have a lot to say about this movie. I really enjoyed it as I am a fan of zombie movies. It was well done, not gross by any means but very, actually tremendously, intense. I am not a big Brad Pitt fan, never have been but he was good in this. His character was cool but low-key. And it certainly was Brad's movie! Not too many scenes without him. LOL. I have not read the book but it has always been on my tbr ever since it first came out. I'm not too bothered I saw the movie first as I've heard it is quite different from the book and even has a different ending. So this makes me interested in getting it read more than ever! Went to the theater with a friend and we decided to try out the UVX 3D experience. More money, cushy comfortable seating, loud sound and 3D, but I'd never choose this over just seeing the regular movie at the regular price.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

173. Waking Up In Heaven: A True Story of Brokenness, Heaven, and Life Again. by Crystal McVea and Alex Tresniowski

Waking Up In Heaven: A True Story of Brokenness, Heaven, and Life Again.  by Crystal McVea and Alex Tresniowski

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Apr. 2, 2013, Howard Books/Simon & Schuster, 239 pgs +readers guide

Age: 18+

"On December 10, 2009, Crystal McVea, a thirty-two-year-old mother of four, stopped breathing. Her face turned a dark shade of blue, then black. Her mother screamed for help, and a nurse tried to revive her . . . to no avail. Today, Crystal does not remember what happened in that hospital room during the nine minutes she was unconscious and unable to breathe on her own. She has no memory of the panic and the rushing nurses and the loud cries of “Code Blue.” She simply remembers drifting off. 
And she remembers waking up in heaven. For most of Crystal’s broken life, she felt utterly beyond the reach of God— if God was even real. Then came December 10—and the nine minutes that changed everything. Waking Up in Heaven invites readers along on a journey to witness the relentless pursuit of God in a life that was shattered and seemingly beyond hope, an awe-inspiring account of love, forgiveness, and redemption, and the healing power of God’s presence. 
And that is why I want to share my story with the world. Because I was a skeptic and a sinner, and I didn’t believe in God or in heaven. But God is real. Heaven is real. And God’s love for us is the realest thing of all."

Received a review copy from Simon and Schuster Canada.

A heart-wrenching, phenomenal book that tells the story of the life and death and life of a woman who lead a hard, lost life, then encountered God and is now living a joy filled life.  Crystal died for nine minutes and went to Heaven and this book is about that, but it is first and foremost about her life prior to that experience, which lead up to the moment of her death.  Crystal had a very hard life and always questioned the existence of God.  Her life was filled with sexual abuse, absent and neglectful parents, promiscuity, abortion, death of loved ones, feelings of worthlessness and whenever a little light shone on her broken life it felt to her as if another calamity was just beginning to happen.

All throughout the story of Crystal's life she inserts a chapter here and there to tell her story of being in Heaven.  It is beautiful and breathtaking.  Many ways it is like what we expect and have heard from others, but Crystal has a natural quality about her which conveys the awesomeness without trying to philosophize or theologize, like so many before her have done in their books.  She simply tells what she say, what she felt and what she can and can't remember.  No excuses.  I am a Catholic and Crystal is not but I found her vision of Heaven to be everything that my religion teaches us it is.  No where during her entire discussion of what she saw, felt and afterwards her thinking back upon it did she stray from the Catholic perspective of Heaven and I found this very exciting.  Thus can heartily recommend Catholics read this amazing journey.

I really appreciated Crystal's down-to-earth narrative voice of speaking humbly, telling her tale, not trying to answer the big questions, but only putting out there what she experienced, how she felt, in Heaven.  When in Heaven she was filled with God's love and she knew God's plan, she knew why things happen as they do.  On her return this enormous knowledge was simply gone.  As we know man is not meant to understand the mystery of God's way, but just think, when we reach Heaven we will feel the peace of enlightenment because God is just.  God is love.  God is good.

I love reading books like these.  I don't always agree with everything the person concludes about their experience once they are back and thinking with human rationalizing, but I do believe in their journeys and that God is giving us something to ponder, to perhaps make changes in our lives, or to continue on our paths because Heaven IS waiting for us.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

174. Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures: The Mount Rushmore Calamity

The Mount Rushmore Calamity by Sara Pennypacker. Created by Jeff Brown. Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures (1)

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

2009, Harper Collins, 96 pgs

Age: 7+
"Saddle up with Flat Stanley
Ever since Stanley was flattened by a bulletin board, every trip is an adventure!
The whole Lambchop family is off to see Mount Rushmore. But when Flat Stanley and his brother, Arthur, team up with a scrappy cowgirl named Calamity Jasper, their vacation turns into the Wild West experience of a lifetime. Pretty soon, they find themselves in a real tight spot—even for a flat boy like Stanley!"

Purchased the Kindle edition for my son to read.

Amazon credits this as *by* Jeff Brown and since I'd never heard of this follow up series I was rather disappointed to find out it is not written by him at all, only based on his character.  Anyway, the actual author, Sara Pennypacker, did a nice job here and I was well pleased with this start to a series about Stanley while he is still flat.  Now since he is cured in the original book, I guess we are to assume these adventures occur during that time.  I was always upset as a kid that Stanley was fixed as I thought that he would have had some great escapades while he was flat and this book goes to show just what he can get up to as the family takes a trip to Mt. Rushmore and Stanley's flat-ness saves the day.  Recommended for kids who like the "Andrew Lost" series.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

172. Dive! A Book of Deep-Sea Creatures by Melvin Berger

Dive! A Book of Deep-Sea Creatures  by Melvin Berger
Hello Reader! Science (Level 3)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2000, Scholastic/Cartwheel Books, 40 pgs

Age: 5+
"How giant is the giant squid? How do fish see in the darkness of the ocean floor? These questions and many more are answered in a nonfiction easy-reader that is filled with spectacular full-color photographs."

Purchased a used copy from a garage sale.

Melvin Berger is a prolific writer of science books for kids.  Writing books for all the major series throughout the decades.  He wrote a set of these books for "Hello Reader" where the title starts with an exclamatory word.  Most of them are now out of print, including this one (though says it is available), but a few other titles can be found under the Scholastic Reader series.  "Dive!" is a great non-fiction easy reader!  Filled with photographs, this is a subject that is sure to amaze and possibly creep any reader.  These fascinating creatures from the depths of the deep sea are so unique in behaviour and appearance that it is quite gripping to read about them.  Straightforward easy-to-read sentences make the text accessible to readers who are past the sound-it-out stage but some topic specific words will prove challenging.  Highly interesting!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

144. The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories by Saki

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories by Saki (H.H. Munro).  Illustrated by Edward Gorely

Rating: (4/5) (based on 22/27 stories)

(US) - (Canada)

collected from 1904-1923
June 18, 2013, New York Review Book Classics,  176 pgs
Age: 18+

"The whimsical, macabre tales of British writer H. H. Munro—better known as Saki—skewer the banality and hypocrisy of polite English society between the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of World War I. Saki’s heroes are enfants terribles who marshal their considerable wit and imagination against the cruelty and fatuousness of a decorous and doomed world. 
Here, Saki’s brilliantly polished dark gems are paired with illustrations by the peerless Edward Gorey, available for the first time in an English-language edition. The fragile elegance and creeping menace of Gorey’s pen-and-ink drawings perfectly complements Saki’s population of delicate ladies, mischief-making charges, spectral guests, sardonic house pets, flustered authority figures, and delightfully preposterous impostors."

Received an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley.

First I'll mention that I received an egalley for review purposes which did not include the illustrations so I can't comment on them, even though I do love Gorley so.  I had thought I'd read Saki before but this collection proves me wrong as I was not familiar with his work at all.  Written in the early 1900s, his stories are macabre little affairs reflecting upon his society and , in many, depicting children as clever but malicious villains.  The others show an adult with a vice (greed, pompous, proud, etc.) who is beaten at their own game and we watch them get "egg on their face."  All but one story here is a farce.  Dry, British, tongue in cheek black humour is the fare offered up here.  It did take me some time to get used to Saki's style while reading his works in this book but, but I came out appreciating his dark sense of humour and will be pleased to come across his name in future collections.  An enjoyable read.

My review copy is missing the first five stories.  I don't usually review incomplete review copies but I didn't know this at the time!

1. The Strategist - Rollo is invited to a party where he will be one of the boys with his mate Jack and the two  Wrotsley boys, hoping the cousin won't tag along.  Which would make them 2 against 3. There will be girls as well.  As he arrives he hears Jack's sister say she's sorry her brother couldn't make it and the Wrotsley cousin is being introduced.  Now it's 1 against 3.  What follows is a very strange party where the boys retire to the library to think of a word the girls must guess and while they are in the library Rollo is beaten.  He spends his time at the party thinking of ways to avoid going into the library.  Weird ... to say the least. (2/5)

2. Tobermory - A guest at a dinner party, where the guests have stayed several days, announces that his life's work has finally come to fruition; that of teaching animals human speech.  He has taught the household cat, Tobermory, to speak fluent English.  The cat, upon  presentation begins to dazzle the assembled by having a rather stuck-up attitude and is full of intimate details about all of the present.  Little did one realise just how much access a cat has to one's private life.  Upon embarrassing and telling dirty little secrets about all gathered the cat leaves and the party plans the murder of the now not-so-dear family pet.  Very tongue in cheek and funny. (5/5)

3. Mrs. Packletide's Tiger - This one is short compared to the first two and has Mrs. Packletide setting up a tiger hunt in India because she is jealous of the attention another local woman is getting and bagging a tiger should outdo her recent feat.  She gets her tiger but not exactly as she'd planned and shortshrifted in the end.  Another tongue in cheek farce.  A little giggle at the end.  (4/5)

4. The Stampeding of Lady Bastable - The last two stories have contained basically one sentence to make us aware that someone named "Clovis" was present in the room or at the events.  This has proved puzzling to me, however this story is about Clovis!  He is a mischievous 17-year old who in this story has his mother tries to pack off with Lady Bastable while she goes away for six days.  Clovis is not happy with this arrangement so he plays a prank on Lady B. based on her greatest fear. Very short but one can envision the farce in action.  Humorous!  (4/5)

5.  The Unrest-Cure - A great story to name the collection with as it's a fine example of Saki's humorous farce.  This was hilarious if somewhat politically incorrect to some tastes.  Clovis overhears a minister talking on a train about being in a rut while his companion suggests he needs to get busy with an "un" rest cure.  Clovis having learnt much about the minister from this eavesdropping plays a prank on the man by sending a telegram then arriving at his home.  He's concocted a story where the Bishop will be coming to stay the night, sending the household in an uproar.  The Bishop then mysteriously arrives, locks himself in the library and through Clovis, the Bishop's supposed secretary, imparts the news that he has decided to slaughter the Jews, of which this town happens to have 26.  Absolute hysterics ensue as the minister and his wife think the Bishop mad and that bloodshed is imminent in their home. (5/5)

6. Sredni Vashtar - Clovis is not in this story.  This story is a dark one compared to the others most certainly.  Here we have Conradin a sickly young orphan being looked after by an elderly, to him anyway, aunt.  The aunt is miserly, cross and not fond of children, making Conradin's life miserable.  He has made a place for himself at the bottom of the grounds in a shed where he has two pets; one he loves the most of anything in the world, a Houdan hen, the other a creature that frightens him but that also awes him, a polecat ferret whom he's named Sredni Vashtar, keeps locked up in a cage in a wardrobe and treats as a sort of god in his little world.  When the Woman decides he spends too much time in the shed and gets rid of the hen, Conradin internalizes his emotions and seeks an end to his misery with the Woman.  A dark, tense story with the child an equal villain to the Woman.  Kept me quite intrigued as I guessed but wasn't sure if it would end the way I thought it might.  A first look at Saki's darker side rather than black humour of the previous stories.  (5/5)

7. Adrian: A Chapter in Acclimatization - A farce. Lucas meets up with his Aunt Susan who inquires whom the lovely lad he was with the other day is.  Lucas arranges for his aunt to meet Adrian upon which she then takes it on herself to look after him and "show him a bit of the world".  Lucas advises her not to but she will do as she wants.  From this point on Lucas receives letters from Clovis who happens to be in the party, now in Switzerland, and the dreadful shenanigans that Adrian has been up to until finally the aunt can't stand it any more.  Very funny.  After reading the story though I started to think that based on what we know about Clovis, perhaps we are to believe that Clovis has framed Adrian.  Pondering this ... (4/5)

8. The Quest - Baby Momesby is lost.  Missing that is, and his mother is frantic in searching for him.  She happens upon Clovis in the garden who presents the theory that an escaped circus animal has eaten the poor tot.  Later a visiting neighbour, a Christian Scientist, says the child has only disappeared until they have enough faith that he has not disappeared.  The three discuss the matter in circles with the mother becoming more anxious.  Saki's usual farcical humour continues until not one but two toddlers have been secured from danger.  Cute, but not as fun as some of the others so far (3/5)

9. The Peace Offering - The Baroness asks Clovis's help in putting on an entertainment to help the county get over bitter feelings surrounding an upcoming election.  Clovis suggests a play and in the end decides upon the Greek Tragedy "The Return of Agamemnon".  Most of the story then falls into a study of witticisms as the two try to outdo each other as they both want centre stage.  Then on opening night, with a magnificent turn out from the entire country, the Baroness makes a political mistake.  A study of irony.  (3/5)

10. The Talking-Out of Tarrington - A man named Tarrington walks towards Clovis and his aunt.  The aunt wants nothing to do with him, recognizing him and knowing he will try to invite himself to a luncheon she is holding in the near future.  Clovis gives her leave that he will get rid of said interloper.  So the aunt skedaddles away advising Clovis pretend he doesn't know the man.  What then transpires is a farcical conversation between the two, in which the man eventual wanders off thinking it best not to want to attend any luncheon that Clovis would be attending and Clovis thinking what a good parliamentarian he would make.  LOL.  Witty. (3/5)

11. The Hounds of Fate - A down on his luck man who has never amounted to anything because of his own inclinations is wandering in the woods in the rain and finds refuge in a cottage.  The people there mistake him for their master Tom who left 4 yeas ago. The reluctantly decides the hounds of fate have lead him here and he takes on the persona, even after he learns that none of his neighbours or friends has any remaining like for the recently returned master.  His choices once again prove to lead him where the hounds of fate will.  A predictable but straightforward tragedy. (3/5)

12. The Boar-Pig - A woman and her daughter have not been invited to the lawn party of the season so they sneak in through the back way unobserved.  However, they are noticed by 13yo Matilda who decides to teach them a lesson by letting loose the boar who has been boarded up for the event.  The two women come across it in fear and thus commences a conversation of wits between the women and conniving Matilda as to whether she will help them get free of the boar.  Cute ending (3/5)

Am wondering at this point whether the devilish, conniving, rather heartless youths portrayed in these stories is a reflection of Saki's own opinion on children or his literary reflection on his society's (Edwardian) general attitude toward children.

13. The Open Window - Another story of a maliciously mischievous child.  This time a young lady tells  an ailing young man a tale which frightens the daylights out of him.  Very cleverly told with darkly humorous ending.  One of my favourites so far.  (5/5)

14. The Cobweb - I don't get the significance of the title for this one.  A young couple moves into the family heritage farm.  The wife feels uncomfortable as she has plans to spruce it up an modernize the running of it but the octogenarian ward of the kitchen who came with the house is not about to give up her lifetime rule.  The old lady starts predicting death and the wife can't help but be relieved when her demise will finally come; only it doesn't quite work out that way.  A gloomy, morbid tale well told. (4/5)

15. Fur - This time around we have two young ladies plotting to get a good birthday present out of a rich relative but when the birthday girl upsets her friend, the tables are turned and the plot turns upon herself.  A variation on the theme here and we just have an amusing story rather than any malice, as the birthday girl did act in a way as to deserve the mutiny from her friend.  (4/5)

16. The Guests - Two ladies in a small village are talking.  The one who has always lived there complains how nothing happens.  The other who has lived in places where things happen says she likes the quiet.  Then she relates one such story where, presumably in India, a Bishop, whom she was scarcely on speaking terms with, came to visit, they had a flood, and an extra guest.  A farcical romp.  The usual. (3/5)

17. The Penance - Back to the deviltry children are capable of only this time they provoke the guilty conscience of a man who has done them wrong and they exact penance from him with their menace.  Engaging.  I've become fond of these rather droll but macabre endings.  (4/5)

18. Bertie's Christmas Eve - 13yo Bertie's parents will be packing him off to Rhodesia soon.  For now it's Christmas Eve and a house party is underway.  One of the guests suggests that in Russia they believe that at the midnight hour they believe the barnyard animals can talk so they troop out to they stone barn where they have a few cows and sheep.  Bertie doesn't bother to go but as the hour strikes the adults hear the door closing and the key locking.  Bertie has locked them in for the night.  The usual sort of farce but I didn't really find this one funny.  (3/5)

19. Quail Seed - Very different from the others.. This is a light-hearted comedy of a local-shop owner who is lamenting the decline of business now that customers prefer shopping at "larger concerns".  Then he has a brain storm on how he can attract more business with an idea that will bring in both men and women.  Thus, he pulls off a stunt that tricks the whole village.  I guessed the ending but this was delightfully fun and great to see another side of Saki's writing.  (5/5)

20. Mark - An author is visited by an unrelenting encyclopedia salesman and he uses reverse psychology to get the intruder to leave.  Amusing but not up to par with some others.  (3/5)

21. Fate - Clovis is back but as a bystander, not a major player.  He's older now, he and a friend, 24 yo, are guests at a house party.  The friend is poor and makes his money by placing small but sure bets on the weekends.  This time he's decided to risk it all and bets more than he has on a billiards game.  Needless to say the game is not turning out in his favour and he ends up having to take fate into his own hands.  Another ok farce. (3/5)

22. The Seven Cream Jugs - The Pigeoncoates hear that young Wilfrid (the snatcher) has inherited vast estates and sums from that side of the family.  Having not seen him since a wee lad, now their silver wedding anniversary, they receive note that William is coming to visit.  How will they hide all the silver?  Turns out the eldest son on that side is always called Wilfrid and there are a host of them.  A case of mistaken identity causes a backfire that the Pigeoncoates reputation must suffer furthermore.  Cute with unexpected ending. (4/5)

Monday, June 17, 2013

169-170: Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science Energy Makes Things Happen & Forces Make Things Move

169. Energy Makes Things Happen by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  Illustrated by Paul Meisel.
Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science

Rating: (5/5)
(US) - (Canada)

2003, HarperCollins, 33 pgs

Age: 6+

"Did you know that energy comes from the food you eat? From the sun and wind? From fuel and heat?
You get energy every time you eat. You transfer energy to other things every time you play baseball. In this book, you can find out all the ways you and everyone on earth need energy to make things happen."
Purchased new from a homeschool retailer, a long time ago.

I've always loved this set of science books and it is a legacy to it's founder Dr. Franklyn M. Bradley, that it is still going strong over 50 years after he started it.  This book is very well written in an engaging style.  While obviously covering a wide range of topics briefly at only 33 pages it can only touch upon the topic but it manages to set a firm foundation.  I'm particularly pleased with how well the book goes about relating how all energy can be related back to the sun from giving a variety of very different examples such as a rock rolling down a hill to the more obvious milk we drink from the table.  At the end of the book there is even a "game" challenging you to try to trace anything that uses energy back to the sun.  Fun!  The artwork is nice.  Meisel has created  large groupings of multi-ethnic children that look natural and are not even noticeable that he made a conscious effort to do so.  Of course publisher's ask for this sort of thing but Meislel's work is completely natural, with the ethnic groups being complete examples of real-life.  I like how he made red-heads prominent as well. Good serious book in the series.

170. Forces Make Things Move by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  Illustrated by Paul Meisel.
Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada)

2005, HarperCollins, 33 pgs

Age: 6+

"There are forces at work whenever you throw a ball, run up the stairs, or push your big brother off the couch. Want to learn more about the forces around you? Read and find out!"

Purchased new from a homeschool retailer, a long time ago.

From such a simple, basic book manages to give a detailed explanation of just what force is and consequently gravity.  This book will have children moving, pushing and pulling as they read or hear the text.  It is a very kinetic text and the sometimes difficult science topic is explained effortlessly with detail and humour.  One note on the humour: big brother is frequently used as the nemesis in the book as the force or opposition to the force which could cause some problems if your kids get as mobile as this book may get them. Now this is funny, but I suggest you either switch it up. ie big sister, little sister, little brother, or change it to someone not actually present when reading the book, ie Uncle Fred.  The humour will remain but the chance of someone getting carried away is a lot less likely LOL.  A great book in the series.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

168. China by Anne Lonsdale.

China by Anne Lonsdale.  Illustrated by Wendy Yeo.
Oxford Children's Reference Library, 17

Rating: (4/5)

1971, Oxford University Press, 93 pgs +index

Age: 8+

Purchased a used ex-lib copy from a book sale.

This is an interesting book and especially interesting to read today from a sociological point of view because of the time period in which it was written.  A look at current China from the point of view of an early 1970s British author.  First of all the book is gorgeously illustrated in the Chinese ink water brush style by Wendy Yeo.  The pages alternate with a black/white illustration then a full colour illustration providing some beautiful art worthy of framing.  Secondly, the book is written in a wonderful storyteller narrative, occasionally breaking into telling myths and legends and turning history into a story; this makes the book entertaining as well as informative to read.  Why can't children's non-fiction still be written like this?  Each chapter is a two-page spread and contains a lot of information for such a presentation. The first 57 pages cover ancient history to the Communist October 1st.  That is 61% of the book.

Next is where the book becomes rather dated but is still quite useful and interesting as it looks at Communist China from within the context of its days under Mao from a British point of view.  Only three spreads are dedicated to "modern China", trying to be positive about the progress the government has made but emphasizing that people are still poor.  Next the book moves onto geographic regions and generally takes a historical approach again with topics such as the Yangtze, South China, etc. Then it moves onto agriculture such as tea, rice and bamboo again giving the history and describing the methods of farming which would have been current in 1971.  Then the heavily Chinese populated (or invaded) countries of Mongolia, Tibet, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong are explored next, again this is a quick historical recap up to the 70s. Finally the book ends with generalities such as Chinese animals, art and writing.  So while this part of the book does contain outdated information it is still interesting to read as source material from the time period.  While the book wasn't originally written as a pure history book, taken today, it reads like one and I found it very interesting and well-written.  Again, I'll stress the art is wonderful and worthy of framing.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

160. Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church by Scott Hahn

160. Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church by Scott Hahn.

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

May 28, 2013, Image/Random House, 146 pgs +bibliography
Nihil Obstat; Imprimatur

Age: 18+

"Long before the New Testament was a document, it was a sacrament. Jesus called the Eucharist by the name Christians subsequently gave to the latter books of the Holy Bible. It was the "New Covenant," the "New Testament," in his blood. Christians later extended the phrase to cover the books produced by the apostles and their companions; but they did so because these were the books that could be read at Mass. 
This simple and demonstrable historical fact has enormous implications for the way we read the Bible. In Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church, Dr. Scott Hahn undertakes an examination of some of Christianity's most basic terms to discover what they meant to the sacred authors, the apostolic preachers, and their first hearers. Moreover, at a time when the Church is embarking on a New Evangelization he draws lessons for Christians today to help solidify their understanding of the why it is Catholics do what Catholics do. 
Anyone acquainted with the rich body of writing that flows so inspiringly from the hand and heart of Dr. Hahn knows that he brings profound personal insight to his demonstrated theological expertise,” writes Cardinal Donald Wuerl in the foreword to the book. Consuming the Word continues in that illustrious tradition. It brings us a powerful and welcome guide as we take our place in the great and challenging work in sharing the Good News."

Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

I have anxiously been awaiting Dr. Hahn's newest book which has been expected for some time now.  This author has a way of totally blowing my mind with truths that just light up my world and positively show me the light of Christ.  Hahn's books are usually written for the layperson and very easy to read, Consuming the Word, however is his third book written for both the layperson and priest thus, as noted in the Preface, requiring just an extra bit of effort on the layperson's part but by no means does that make it "difficult" to read.

After reading this book I will never hear the words "New Testament" and think the same as I did before I read the book.  Hahn has us go back to the first century Christians and shows us how they thought and teaches us how to think like them.  So much of the meaning of the "Bible", the "Word" has been lost in modernity that we need to see what the "Word" meant to those who started following Jesus' orders understood it to be.  The New Testament is not a book, it is not written text; it is a divine being.  Jesus wrote no words.  The first century Christians had established traditions before they had written words.  That tradition was the Eucharist which started in the Upper Room when Jesus instituted it.  Reading this book is absolutely amazing as you see how the Eucharist came first, how it contains what we call "The New Testament" and how the NT came about *because of* the Liturgy.

As I read I would suddenly just have to stop because my mind would clear and it would all make sense as I saw and understood what Hahn was telling me.  I understand the importance of knowing what the original Hebrew and Greek words mean, especially when they have no exact Latin or English translation.  We must always remember to read the OT as a prophesy of the NT and the NT as a fulfillment of the OT.  But at the centre of it all is the spoken word, the actions, the divine being of Christ which is celebrated daily all over the world in the Sacraments, the Eucharist, the Liturgy, the Mass.

If you are Catholic, read this book.  If you have forgotten the real presence of Christ, read this book.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

155-157. Heroes in Training Books 1-3 by Joan Holub

155. Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams.  Illustrations by Craig Phillips.
Heroes in Training (1)

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Aug. 7, 2012, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 100 pgs
Age: 6-10

"After pulling a magical thunderbolt from a stone, ten-year-old Zeus goes on the adventure of a lifetime in this thrilling start to a brand-new series!
The terrible Titans—merciless giants who enjoy snacking on humans—have dominated the earth and put the world into chaos. But their rule is about to be put to the test as a group of young Olympians discover their powers and prepare to righteously rule the universe....  
Ten-year-old Zeus is mystified (and super-annoyed) by the fact that he keeps getting hit by lightening. Every. Single. Year. He also longs for adventure, as he has never been far from the cave where he grew up. 
Zeus gets his wish—and a lot more than he bargained for—when he is kidnapped by dangerous, giant Titans! In self-defense, Zeus grabs the first thing he sees—an actual thunderbolt he pulls from a stone that is covered in mysterious markings. Zeus is the only one who can decipher the markings, and sets off on a quest to rescue his fellow Olympians from the evil Cronus. Armed with his trusty thunderbolt (named Bolt, of course), Zeus is on an adventure of a lifetime—and a journey to fulfill his destiny as King of the Gods."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

A book for the younger age group, this is an exciting story that introduces kids to the world of Greek mythology.  Set at the time when King Cronus, the Titan, has devoured the Olympians we start off with Zeus being an abandoned orphan now 10 years old.  The book is pretty much all plot and action concentrating on Zeus and how he acquires his Thunderbolt.  He meets up with half-giants, harpies and eventually the Titans themselves.  Near the end of the book, fellow 10 year old Hera and Poseidon are introduced as the next quest is given to the threesome which leaves us ready for the next book.  While taking many liberties with Greek mythology the basics are there and this book for the youngest readers could open up an interest in the topic for those not ready yet for such books as the Percy Jackson series.  A fun story, very much action oriented.

156. Poseidon and the Sea of Fury by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams.  Illustrations by Craig Phillips.
Heroes in Training (2)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Dec.4, 2012, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 110 pgs
Age: 6-10

"A young Poseidon must triumph over aquatic terrors in this Heroes in Training adventure.  
The merciless Cronus and his Titan buddies are in hot pursuit of Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon, who plan to travel across the treacherous boiling sea in order to save a fellow Olympian. They have a boat, but they also have a problem: Poseidon can’t swim and is terrified of the water (well, really of the creatures that lurk in its depths). The group faces danger after danger as they battle singing sirens, a fishy and ferocious Titan named Oceanus, and people-eating monsters sent by Cronus himself. Can Poseidon overcome his fears and help his fellow heroes escape Cronus and his cronies?"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Great follow-up to the first book.  I enjoyed this one much more.  The kids’ personalities are shaping up and we have a trio on quest now making for better dynamics.  Their quest for this book is to find the trident, unfortunately none of them knows what a trident is but Hera is sure it will be her magic weapon.  As their magic stone heads them towards the boiling sea Poseidon is hilarious.  You see the future (unbeknownst to him) King of the seas is afraid of the water,  thinks it will melt him, can’t swim, gets sea sick and is generally miserable on the water.  Little by little as the quest does take them out upon the ocean Poseidon does learn some truths bout himself and his whiny, scaredy character receives some much needed self-confidence.  Again, this book is not true to Greek Mythology, many liberties have been taken but a basic storyline is in place that hopefully young readers will remember as they get older and venture further out into more closely tied mythology.  In this volume we meet the Sirens luring sailors to their deaths, the Titan Oceanus, creatures of the sea that want to help Poseidon, the Androphagoi.  It is while fighting Oceanus that they uncover their 4th member who was a prisoner of Oceanus, Hades.  Hera set off on her own mission this volume and we haven’t seen her since so as we enter the third volume we have the three boys, Zeus, Prometheus and Hades in search for the Helm of Darkness.  When and where will Hera return?  An action-packed volume for the younger reader that introduces them to Ancient Greek myths.

157. Hades and the Helm of Darkness by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams.  Illustrations by Craig Phillips.
Heroes in Training (3)

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Apr. 2, 2013, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 117 pgs
Age: 6-10

"The Heroes in Training are entering the Underworld—if Hades can conquer his canine fears, that is.
The Underworld usually isn’t really meant to be a fun place—but tell that to Hades! He loves the dark and the stinky smell of sulfur. However, there is one thing that Hades is not a fan of: dogs. And when Zeus and his fellow Olympians encounter Cerberus—a snarling, three-headed dog—Hades must conquer his fears and tame the hound so everyone can continue into the Underworld and deposit their Titan prisoner, Oceanus, back where he belongs! 
But with magical water that causes forgetfulness, hot beds of lava, and another epic battle with two more Titans standing in their way, will Zeus and his heroes make it out of the Underworld with everyone intact?"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

I am hooked on this young children's chapter book series!  While easy to read it is a fun, engrossing, action-packed quest adventure that is sure to please.  I love Greek mythology and it is keeping me entertained.  It certainly takes liberties with the original Greek tales it takes inspiration from, but it gets the basic details right and introduces youngsters to the main players in the world of Greek gods.  Obviously from the title we can tell that the quest for this book is to find Hades' Helm in The Underworld.  Along the way the current group of Olympians meet up with Charon, Cerberus, Mnemosyne, the furies and Thantos.  Since Hades joined the gang in the last book, it is only appropriate that Demeter, through her filial ties to the Underworld, is the new Olympian added to the group of heroes.  It's refreshing to see such a quality adventure quest series for this younger age group.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

154. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf

Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf.
The Art of the Novella

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Jan, 2011, Melville House, 212 pgs
Age: 18+

"Jacob’s Room was the first book in Virginia Woolf’s unique, experimental style, making it an important text of early Modernism. Ostensibly, the story is about the life of Jacob Flanders, the title character, who is evoked purely by other characters’ perceptions and memories of him. Jacob remains absent throughout. Elegiac in tone, the work beautifully memorializes the longing and pain of a generation that lost so many of its promising young men to World War I."

Received a new copy as.part of this months novella book club from the publisher.

Virginia Woolf is an author I've always felt I should have read so I was thrilled when this novella showed up in the mail as part of the book club I belong too.  The synapses didn't sound exactly thrilling but I was certainly game to reading this.  The book started out great for me a we got to know Betty Flanders, and through her, her little boy, the middle son, Jacob.  Then suddenly we are transported to Jacob at college and the story became very heavy for me as Jacob, his friend and professors rambled through academia.  Oh my, I wanted to use my 50-page rule and DNF this book around this point but I decided to persevere because 1) the purpose of my belonging to this book club is to widen my range of "classic" authors and 2) it wouldn't take me that long to read it.  So I gave myself 50 pages a day to read and finished in 4 days.  As I started each day it was a hard slog but as I got into it about 25 pages I was enjoying the experience and pleased with my read at the end of my daily "section".  There really isn't any plot here, I found Woolf's writing very vivid and expressive but sometimes was not sure what the point was.  I enjoyed the parts where the women were the main focus and we learned of Jacob through their eyes, though we never really know Jacob at all.  The parts where Jacob is the main focus or that are all men were really boring for me; I felt like Jacob needed a woman's touch to be interesting.  I've heard Woolf's style of writing, "stream of consciousness" talked about so often that I was rather disappointed that I didn't really see what the big deal was.  The narration does flow in a distracted sort of way with themes and topics popping up here and there as they come to mind but that didn't bother me; the only thing that annoyed me with the writing was that the omniscient, unknown narrator of this story would occasionally refer to themselves in the first person (*I* this, *I* that).  Who are they and why do I care what they think?  This suddenly feels like the author popping in and reminding me that I'm just reading her story.  I'm glad I read this; I didn't dislike it; I wasn't entertained but I did find it interesting.  I would, and do want to read Woolf's two famous books "To the Lighthouse" and "Mrs. Dalloway", just to say I have, and now at least I know what to expect and am not so daunted in picking them up.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

153. Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones by Holly Black. Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

May 7, 2013, McElderry Books, 256 pgs
Age: 10+

"Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.
But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.
Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?"

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Loved it!  Holly Black brings another scary ghost story for the elementary age group with deliciously Gothic illustrations by Eliza Wheeler.  A very quick read for me, this story examines the relationship between three children who have grown up together, 2 girls and a boy, now having reached middle school age and the dynamics of their friendship are changing as adolescence, though unwanted, creeps upon them.  Childhood games have to end sometime and unfortunately for Zach his are ended abruptly by an unsympathetic father, slowly mounting puberty starts to hit the girls first and makes the group of three pull out the old saying "three's a crowd" as the girls' feelings for Zach change.  Throughout this personal turmoil they are forced to make drastic decision when the ghost of a murdered girl contacts them through an eerie old doll and will not let them rest until they have put her bone to rest.  A delightful story both on the interaction level between the characters and the Gothic, creepy ghost story plot.  A perfect read for middle school readers.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

149. Crash by Lisa McMann

Crash by Lisa McMann
Visions, Book 1

Rating: (3.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Jan. 8. 2013, Simon & Schuster, 233 pgs
Age: 14+

"Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that. 
What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode...and nine body bags in the snow. 
The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember. 
In this riveting start to a gripping series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann, Jules has to act—and act fast—to keep her vision from becoming reality."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

This is a book that grabbed me from page one.  I almost read the entire book in one sitting but got called away.  McMann is a good writer and her plots are unique and compelling; Crash follows suit and had me turning pages as fast as I could read.  I did find this a little melodramatic with the characters of the parents rather unrealistic.  Finding out the secret was good, but it`s just too hard to believe these adults would really behave this way.  This caused me to have to suspend reality to fully enjoy the intensiveness and creativity of the plot but I've enjoyed all McMann`s other books so much that I`m giving her leeway here.  This is not her best work but it is good and I look forward to the sequel which is entitled `Bang`.  I`d like to predict at this point that the final book will be called `"Boom". :-)

Monday, June 3, 2013

148. The Distracted Preacher by Thomas Hardy

The Distracted Preacher by Thomas Hardy
The Art of the Novella

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (Kindle)

Jun. 2012, Melville House, 98 pgs
Age: 18+

"When young Mr. Stockdale arrives in a small village to fill in for the Methodist minister, he finds himself pining for his comely new landlady. But she leads a mysterious life, keeping odd hours and speaking in hushed tones. As his love for her grows, he’s soon at the center of a hilarious high-stakes adventure, complete with slapstick, hijinks, and a marauding band of cross-dressers. And he’s forced to choose: follow his heart or his higher purpose?"

Received a new copy from the publisher's book club.

I may or may not have read "The Mayor of Casterbridge" when I was young, but seeing as I can't remember we'll go with this being my first work by Hardy.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  From the Victorian era this is my favourite period of literature to read from and I found Hardy very easy and pleasant to read.  This is supposedly uncharacteristic of his usual work in that it is a comedic farce rather than a dark tragedy.  I really enjoyed the characters, the play between the sexes, and the minister's finding himself getting deeper and deeper into the nefarious doings.  This really spurs me on to wanting to read Hardy's other work as I love dark, Gothic stories and if his other writing is this easy to read I should enjoy it very much.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Most Popular Books in May

I've been looking at my stats a lot more often recently, never really had much interest in them before except to make sure I was getting traffic LOL.  Anyway, I've been finding it interesting to see which books I've reviewed are the most popular over time and thought I'd try listing the top 5 at the end of each month.  So here they are in order.

Most popular reviews read in May

There is a tie for first place!

1.  The Book of Revelation: from Feb. 19, 2011 - This has been my most read post for ages.  People must be very interested in the end times!  It has gone down to the number two position in recent time because the book that it is tied with this month has often been number as well.

1. Carrie by Stephen King from Sept. 11, 2007 - I'm presuming interest has increased in this title because of the upcoming October release of the new movie.  I'm not sure if I plan on watching it or not. What about you?

Can't believe it but there is also a tie for 2nd place.

2. Enter a Murderer by Ngaio Marsh from Oct. 5, 2007 - This one baffles me a bit and I'm sorry to say my review was unfavourable.  I love this series and author but this 2nd book in the series was a big flop.

2. By the Great Hornspoon by Sid Fleischman from Oct. 26, 2009 - Another I'm not too sure why it's so popular except that it is a fantastic children's book.

no more ties! And the hits are much lower for these recent reviews.

3rd place.  The Thirteenth Rose by Gail Bowen from May 4, 2013. A prolific Canadian mystery/thriller author.

4th. The Woodshed Mystery (The Boxcar Children) by Gertrude Chandler Warner from May 6, 2013 - this surprised me with how popular this review was on all the sites I post.

5th.  Life in the Ancient World by Bart Winer.  from May 23, 2013. A vintage children's history book written from a culturally Christian perspective.