Sunday, December 29, 2013

Master Challenge List 2014

2015 Challenges



FINISHED

8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge
ends June 30, 2015
read 13 books by, about or set in Canada/Canadians
Progress:
Jul: 1/13
Aug: 5/13
Sept: 7/13
Oct: 11/13
Nov: 15/13 (finished)



2014 Challenges

These are all the challenges and projects I will be participating in during 2014.



    FINISHED
7th Graphic Novel & Manga Challenge 2014
ends Dec. 31. 2014
Silver Age: read and review 52 books during the year
Progress:
Jan: 16/52
Feb: 47/52
Apr: 102/52
May: 141/52
Jun: 175/52
Jul: 200/52
Aug: 218/52
Sept: 240/52
Oct: 267/52
Nov: 291/52

*****


    FINISHED
2014 ARC Reading Challenge
ends Dec. 31 2014
Level Platinum: Read 40 or more ARCS
Progress:
Jan: 10/40
Feb: 16/40
Apr: 28/40
May: 47/40
Jun: 54/40
Jul: 60/40
Aug: 61/40
Sept: 63/40
Oct: 71/40
Nov: Stopped keeping count
*****



    The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge
ends Dec. 31, 2014
Read 12 books from list
Progress: 
Jan: 1/12
Feb: 2/12
Apr: 4/12
May: 5/12
Jun: 6/12
Jul: 7/12
Aug: 8/12
Sep: 9/12
Oct: 10/12
Nov: 11/12

*****












   2014 Horror Reading Challenge

ends Dec. 31, 2014
1-5 Horror Books - Running Scared
Progress:
Jan: 1/5
Feb: 1/5
Apr: 3/5
May: 3/5
Jun: 3/5
Jul: 3/5
Aug: 3/5
Sep: 3/5
Oct: 3/5
Nov: 3/5

***** 

FINISHED










2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

ends Dec. 31, 2014
Victorian reader - 5 books (Sign-up level) finished
Renaissance Reader - 10 books  finished
Medieval Reader - 15 books  finished
Ancient History - 25 books  finished
Prehistory - 50+
Progress: 
Jan: 2/5
Feb: 8/5
Apr: 15/15
May: 17/25
Jun. 17/25
Jul: 18/25
Aug: 23/25
Sep: 27/25
Oct: 32/25
Nov: 38/25


*****

FINISHED











 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

ends Dec. 31, 2014
11-20 - A Friendly Hug (Sign-Up Level)
21-30 - First Kiss
31-40 - Sweet Summer Fling
41-50 - Could this be love?
50+ - Married With Children
Progress:
Jan: 13/20
Feb: 28/30
Apr: 41/50
May: 44/50
Jun: 49/50
Jul: 53/50
Aug: 55/50
Sep: 59/50
Oct: 64/50
Nov: 65/50



FINISHED




2014 Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge


ends Dec. 31, 2014
Bronze -10
Silver - 25
Progress:
Jan: 2/10
Feb: 4/10
Apr: 8/10
May: 11/10
FINISHED
Jun: 13/25
Jul: 15/25
Aug: 17/25
Sep: 17/25
Oct: 19/25
Nov: 22/25

*****


I'm currently involved in these perpetual challenges or projects

Chronological Stephen King - I started this project in 2007, hit a snag for a few years, then since 2011 have started each year off with a Stephen King book.  Other than that this is a long-term project with no goals or objectives other than an "I hope to maybe accomplish "such 'n such" this year.

This year I will be starting 2014 off with "Cujo", a very short book and not my usual January commitment to an epic tome.  Looking forward to it. If I can get a hold of the 1980 anthology "Dark Forces" where "The Mist" original appeared I will read it next, otherwise I will wait until it comes up in its slightly edited version later on in the short story collect "Skeleton Crew" Then comes the last Bachman book in my omnibus, "The Running Man".  I also loved this and am looking forward to this short read as well.

Next up is "The Gunslinger" and my dilemma about this which I've been thinking heavily about ever since I started this project.  I've only read the first three in this series and this time I want to read the revised edition of the first book, so I'm going to go a little out of chrono. order here and what I've decided to do is read the first three Dark Tower books when I get to book 3 on the chronological order list.  Then I'll read the last three as they appear, which is one after another, further down the line.  Sooo, skipping Gunslinger at this point and moving right along to "Creepshow" the comic book and since these are all so short I should have no problem finishing up with the collection of novellas Different Seasons.  Hopefully this will be a good year for knocking off some titles since they are all shorties!

Besides reading the books, I also want to go off on side trips to watch select movies (not all because some of the old ones are pretty dumb) and read graphic novels based on the books I've read.  This currently leaves me in the middle of reading "The Stand" graphic novels and I still have "The Stand" mini series to watch, plus I would now like to re-watch Christopher Walken's "Dead Zone" and I suppose I could line up the TV series now too.  I wonder if it would be too intense for my son. 2013's reading didn't add anything new here so hopefully I can get caught up with all this!  Because ... this year's reading will bring in a lot of extras in the movie department.

1. Carrie
2. 'Salem's Lot
3. Rage
4. The Shining
5. Night Shift
6. The Stand
7. The Long Walk
8. The Dead Zone
9. Firestarter
10. Roadwork
11. Danse Macabre
12. Cujo
13. The Mist
14. The Running Man
15. Creepshow (had a very hard time finding a copy to read!)
16. Different Seasons

**********

Newbery Challenge (ongoing) - I intend on continuing this never-ending quest to read all the Newbery winners. For the last several years I have been very lame and only read the new winner each year.  Last year (2013) I didn't even manage that ;-P . So once again I will try and do better!

ETA (Aug, 2014) - I have actually read some older ones this year plus a couple of honors!

**********

Geographical Project - see progress here

In 2013 I finally finished all my Canadian Provinces & Territories.  Yahoo! so I started a second cross-country tour, visiting 3 provinces.

I had 9 States left at the beginning of last year and only managed to whittle that down by two.  So I start 2014 with these 7 States:

Delaware
Idaho
Kentucky
Montana
Nevada
Rhode Island
Utah

I'm actively keeping an eye out for unique countries adding a grand total of 10 new ones last year!  It's getting hard to think outside the box now though, so I'm open to any books taking place in obscure parts of the world.  Check to see where I've already been.

**********

2014 Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge - FINISHED


I have so many books on my ereaders and so many of them come from Netgalley or Edelweiss that I was pledging to myself to spend more time e-reading this year.  Then I stumbled upon this challenge and thought, yes!  A challenge to keep me in line.  Now I want to read more than this but I'm going to set my goal low so I don't feel pressured.  I'm thinking 1 per month so I'll sign up for the second level of 10 books and hope to level up from there.  I'm self imposing a no graphic novels rule because if I included those then that's all that would be included here and my purpose wouldn't be served!  For more information and to sign-up click here

Post reviews here.

Jan.1-Dec. 31 (2014) Goal:  10 books

Bronze – 10 books
1. The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond
2. Little Joe by Michel E. Glasscock II
3. The Kept by James Scott
4. The Trial of Dr. Kate by  Michael E Glasscock III 
5. Going Home by A. American
7. Apocalyptic Organ Grinder by William Todd Rose
10. Surviving Home by A. American

Silver - 25 books
15. Children Are Naughty by Vincent Cuvellier
21. The Widow Smalls and Other Stories by Jamie Lisa Forbes
22. Escaping Home by A. American
23. My Uncle Gus the Garden Gnome by Jackie French
24. My Gran the Gorilla by Jackie French

Dec, 19 - FINISHED Silver (Yeah!)



444. Advent Meditations With Fulton J. Sheen

Sunday Christian Book Review




Advent Meditations With Fulton J. Sheen 

(3/5)

2007, Liguori Publications, 31 pgs

(18+)

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

Was gifted a secondhand copy from a friend when she was clearing off her shelves.

This is a little book to be used for daily morning devotions during Advent.  It contains enough readings for a complete 4 week Advent so can be used any year.  This year (2013) Advent was over on a Tues. so there were still 4 more days left over.  Every morning before I got out of bed, I did my daily reading and had the sentiments to ponder upon for the day.  This is very short, sweet and simple, taking less than 5 minutes each day.  Each day is the same: labeled with the day of the week, a title connected to the day's theme, a quote by Fulton Sheen, then the title of his book where the quote came from and finally a relevant quote from scripture.  Nothing very special, but a nice little book to use for one year anyway.  I will pass it on to someone else near Advent next year.  This booklet is only available through the publisher but is available on the Kindle.  It has also been combined into a larger book (now available) which contains this and has been lengthened to continue on through the twelve days of Christmas and includes extra material, "Advent and Christmas With Fulton J. Sheen"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

440. Killing Hour by Paul Cleave

Killing Hour by Paul Cleave.
Christchurch Murders, #2

Rating: (3/5)

Apr. 23 2013, Atria Books/Simon Schuster, 374 pgs

Ages: (18+)

"Imagine waking up covered in blood—but it’s not your blood. There’s a nasty bump on your head, and you can’t remember a thing about last night. The morning paper reports that two young women were brutally murdered. You recognize their names. Pieces of the night before come back to you through the haze. And now you’re the suspect in their grisly deaths. Welcome to Charlie’s world. 

In this heart-pounding thriller, only the dead know what happened last night. On the run, Charlie suspects a man named Cyris, but no one believes that Cyris exists. Not the police and not Charlie’s ex-wife Jo, though she wants to trust that the man she once loved is innocent. Soon, Charlie has Jo bound and gagged in the trunk of his car, fleeing across the countryside while the killing hour approaches yet again."

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Originally published in 2007 in the author's native New Zealand, Cleave starts this first US edition with an Introduction explaining this book's origins which is informative for a reader interested in Cleave's work from a chronological point of view.  It was enlightening to me and my read of this book which was actually his first written but second published.  Not nearly as good as "The Cleaner", lacking the fine-tuning of that thriller, this is nevertheless still an engaging mystery that had me baffled the entire time.  I could not for the life of me figure out what was going on and that kept me reading and turning the pages even through the parts that got a bit dull.  The story is on high-powered overdrive from the get-go and Cleave does have some spots where he is unable to hold the adrenaline and as mentioned it becomes dull, but the unique plot keeps it moving over these humps.  As to being part of a series, it really is a stand-alone.  There is mention of the case from the first book and the same detective is in charge of both cases, though he is not a major character in either book.  Mention is also made of the Private Detective who will be featured in the next few books and which forms another sub-series within Cleave's overall Christchurch mystery series.

Friday, December 27, 2013

446. The Christmas Star by Ace Collins

The Christmas Star by Ace Collins

Rating: (4/5)

Oct. 1 2012, Abington Press, 214 pgs +Discussion Questions

Ages: (18+) (good YA crossover)

"Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. At Christmas, the final decoration Marge Reed hangs on the family’s tree is that medal. Rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed that shining star represents loss, pain, and suffering. 

Yet a message delivered by one of Robert’s fellow soldiers and a mystery letter found in a Bible put a father’s sacrifice and faith into perspective and bring new meaning to not just the star hanging on the Christmas tree but the events of the very first Christmas. Then, when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that Jimmy has never known."

Received an unsolicited review copy from the publisher.

I received a surprise review copy of this last year but it was too late to read it for Christmas.  It's not exactly my type of book, but it did have elements I like and I do like Christian fiction when it's good so I put it aside to try for this Christmas.  I didn't really expect much as I've never heard of the author before and the publisher's blurb did sound a bit sappy, but the historical era, and the coming of age story did intrigue.  I was very pleased to find myself quickly several chapters into the book before I even took a breather.  The writing is very good.  The book is decidedly Christian but not preachy or tiresomely evangelical (I'm Catholic).  I found the story realistic as a 16 year-old boy tries to deal with the death of his Marine father during the war.  He heads down the wrong road and the story became darker than I'd expected it to, which is a good thing in my books.  My only problem is the book had been entirely believable and should have ended without the last three pages, these final pages bring about a happy, sweet, sugar-coated ending that is not believable and in my opinion undoes all the purpose for the growing and lessons learned by the main character throughout the book.  Otherwise a good Christmas read and I'm going to save it in my box of Christmas books to share with guests on future Christmases.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 Horror Reading Challenge - DNF



Horror used to be one of my favourite genres and I don't read as much of it as I used to but I make up for that by getting my fix from many of the horror graphic novels I read.  I am however, doing my Stephen King project (look in the sidebar), and after reading Danse Macabre in 2013 I've added a lot of horror books and authors to the tbr making this challenge perfect for me.  I'm really looking forward to getting back into this genre more, but I'm going to put a self-imposed ban on including graphic novels for this challenge or else it would all be GN's since I *do* read a lot of of horror graphic novels.  I'm going to make my goal obtainable by choosing the first level "Running Scared" but hope to work my way up to at least the next level.  For more information and to sign up click here.

Post reviews here

Jan.1-Dec. 31 (2014) Goal:  5 books
1-5 Horror Books - Running Scared
1. Cujo by Stephen King
2. Dark Forces: The 25th Anniversary Edition edited by Kirby McCauley
3. Apocalyptic Organ Grinder by William Todd Rose
4.
5.

THIS IS THE ONLY CHALLENGE I DID NOT COMPLETE IN 2014.



442. Goosebumps: Don't Go to Sleep by R.L. Stine

Don't Go to Sleep by R.L. Stine
Goosebumps, #54

Rating: (3/5)

1997, Scholastic, 118 pgs

Ages: (8+)

"Matt hates his tiny bedroom. It's so small it's practically a closet! Still, Matt's mom refuses to let him sleep in the guest room. After all, they might have guests. Some day. Or year.

Then Matt does it. Late one night. When everyone's in bed. He sneaks into the guest room and falls asleep.

Poor Matt. He should have listened to his mom. Because when Matt wakes up, his whole life has changed. For the worse. And every time he falls asleep, he wakes up in a new nightmare. . . .."

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

I've read exactly one Goosebumps book before this and that was about 15 years ago.  That one was about a plant in the basement (or something like that) and at the time I thought it was alright for what it was.  Anyway, I promised my son if he read a chapter book and liked it I would read it after him.  He is an autistic 13yob and surprised everybody, mostly himself, by reading this chapter book, without pictures!, in one evening and was actually engrossed.  Thank you Goosebumps!  I may be reading more of these in the future. LOL.  Mayhaps I have a horror fan in the making...

Anyway, the main character is 12 years old making the book quite suitable for older reluctant readers.  The chapters all end with cliffhangers bringing that just-one-more-chapter rush to your reading.  And most of all the story was entertaining, actually well-written, had realistic dialogue and climaxed with a spooky ending.  I can understand why Stephen King gives R.L. Stine kudos for the work he does.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

436. A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories for the Christmas Season by Katherine Paterson

A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories for the Christmas Season by Katherine Paterson

Rating: (3/5)


Aug. 30 2013, Westminster John Knox Press, 185 pgs

Age: (ALL AGES)

"This compilation includes stories of real-life people such as a shopping mall's night watchman, a lonely widower, a pregnant teenage runaway, a political prisoner in China, a grieving mother, and a privileged American, who have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas because of loss, pain, greed or circumstances. Through unexpected and uplifting ways, each is reminded of the first Christmas story and the vision of hope and peace it offers the world. They realize that even in the darkness, the light and song of Christmas can be seen and heard.

This heart-warming gift book, filled with stories of real people finding hope, courage, and faith amidst life's circumstances, radiates the spirit of the season and reminds each of us what Christmas truly means. Originally written to be read during her church's Christmas Eve service, this collection of holiday stories is perfect for individuals, families, and churches to read and share during the season."

Received an egalley for review from Netgalley.

Paterson's husband is a minister and these are stories she wrote to be read on Christmas Eve in her Church over the years.  They have all been previously published in various collections, but are all gathered together here in one place for the first time.  These are sweet, gentle stories that pull at the heart-strings, some a little too hard.  Paterson is a wonderful writer so I found all the stories readable, many of them were just too soppy and sugar-coated for my tastes.  Almost, but not all, do make mention of Christ and these are generally decidedly Christian stories.  Though there are a couple with just a general Christmas theme.  The stories averaged out to 3.5* but the book in general is more of a 3 for me.  People who will get the most out of the book, enjoy it most, will be those who attend a church with a minister/pastor who has a wife and small family.

After browsing through the stories again now, regardless of how I rated them when I read them, the ones that stay with me are: Merit Badges, Broken Windows and my Name is Joseph.

1. Exultate Jubilate (1995) - A typical Christmas grump of a Dad who decides not to attend Church with the family this year and while home alone a mysterious stranger arrives.  The stranger invites himself in and they end up with Mozart's Kyrie on the stereo and the Dad has a change of heart about the spirit of Christmas.  A tender story. (3/5)

2. Star Lady (1995) - A story about bringing the love and joy of God to the old and poor no matter how poor you are yourself.  Is a nice story with a heartfelt message but gets rather mixed up with the second message the author is trying to tell.  The second message is that irreverent happy clappy churches are much more "fun" than traditional churches which revere and worship the trinity with adoration.  The old lady and I are quite happy with our choir singing "Alleluia"s thank you very much. (2.5/5)

3. In the Desert, a Highway (1995) - Lovely story.  Set on the cusp of the Cultural Revolution in China, an old man saves a woman's life and she says she will do anything for him. He comes to her that night confessing to be a Christian and so she begins to read his Bible to the illiterate man.  This is an act punishable by death if they were ever caught.  Eventually they end up in a re-education camp and the Sacred Word brings them each peace in different way.  Touching! (4/5)

4. On the Night of His Birth: Mary's Story (1985) - Just a few pages long, a lovely story to read on Christmas.  Mary is awake and musing on her new born babe and the circumstances in which she finds herself.  (4/5)

5. Angels and Other Strangers (1979) - A white woman stuck in a snow storm on Christmas Eve is helped by a black man.  She is afraid of him, thinking he may have bad motives but her little boy thinks he is an angel.  (3/5)

6. Merit Badges (1995) - A girl scout gets "bushwhacked" into visiting a senior at a nursing home during the Christmas season.  She ends up liking her old lady but the two of them run into a problem when the rules say that minors are not allowed to visit unchaperoned.  A very sweet story about the meaning of joy.  (4/5)

7. Guests (1979) - Same simple, lovely quality story as most of the others here.  A pastor in WWII Japan is alone, his secret congregation has diminished to none, his wife and children killed by allied bombs.  Then that next Christmas he celebrates the service alone and halfway through a little Korean girl (Koreans were brought over as slave workers by the Japanese) sneaks in and he introduces her to the King. (3/5)

8. Watchman, Tell Us of the Night (1995) - A night security watchman out of the habit of prayer because of the downward trend of his circumstances prays for a miracle while working Christmas Eve.  He learns first hand that Christmas really is about Jesus.  Another sweet story. (3/5)

9. Why the Chimes Almost Rang (19??) - A little girl tries to make something really special happen on Christmas Eve at Church but knows nothing like that is bound to happen for real when she stumbles upon a homeless woman and her little boy stealing food from the food closet for the needy.  Quite moving and my favourite in the collection so far.  (5/5)

10. Broken Windows (1979) - This one is a cut above the others in being more than just sweet it manages to have a sincere message.  An aging pastor is having a hard time writing his Christmas Eve sermon which he wants to base Psalm 51:17 "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart, These, O God, You will not despise." He ends up meeting a very poor mother and children and having a revelation about the words of the creed "he descended into hell".  Well written. (5/5)

11. My Name Is Joseph (1995) - A tribal member from high in the hills tells his story from boyhood in the mountains of Central America in a village with a Catholic Priest.  Joseph (Jose)'s life story takes him many places with many feelings towards God and faith until eventually his life is comparable to the Holy Family's as a network of nuns and priests smuggles his family and pregnant wife through Mexico across the US border.  A reminder of the Christ child's birth.  Eloquent. (5/5)

12. Woodrow Kennington Works Practically a Miracle (1979) -  Another nice quaint story.  A five year old is hard put out when a new baby comes home.  The older brother, twelve, is very accepting but sets out to help the young sister adjust.  She goes from one extreme of being bad-tempered to overly religious until there first Christmas Eve with the baby, when she learns the love of family. (4/5)

13. No Room in the Inn (1995) - I just keep saying the stories are lovely at this point and this one is as well.  Country folks in a diner during a storm just before Christmas are worried about Armenians suffering through an earthquake they've just heard about on the news but they are so caught up in their own selves they miss the people most in need right upon their own doorstep. (4/5)

14. The Handmaid of the Lord (1995) - I can't say I liked this one.  Some people may find it sweet and charming but I'm more cynical.  A little girl feels badly done to this whole year that her new baby brother is born, she's minister's daughter, 3rd of 4 children and doesn't have a good New Testament name like the others.  She's upset at God, moans and whines, and wants a big part in the pageant.  Doesn't get it of course, then something happens and she has to fill in and she's filled with righteousness at the end.  Blah!  (2/5)

15. A Stubborn Sweetness (1995) - A soppy story story of an embittered dying father and his alienated son both finding their way back to God.  Meh. (2.5/5)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

430. Ink Me by Richard Scrimger

Ink Me by Richard Scrimger
Seven: The Series

Rating: (3/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct. 10 2012, Orca Books, 224 pgs

Age: (10+)

"Bunny (real name Bernard) doesn't understand why his late grandfather wants him to get a tattoo. Actually, Bunny doesn't understand a lot of things, so it's good that his older brother, Spencer, is happy to explain things to him. But this is a task Bunny is supposed to do on his own, and nobody is more surprised than Bunny when, after he gets tattooed, he is befriended by a kid named Jaden and adopted into Jaden's gang. The gang hangs out at a gym, where Bunny learns to fight, but when it finally dawns on him that the gang is involved in some pretty shady—and dangerous—business, Bunny is torn between his loyalty to his new friends and doing what he knows is right."

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

This series has no particular reading order and I picked this one next because two of the books take place within Canada so I thought I'd get to one of those next and this author was totally new to me; I'd never even heard of him before.  I've highly enjoyed every book in this series so far but have to say this one did not do much for me.  The significance of the Grandfather is quickly forgotten in this entry after Bernard (everyone calls him Bunny) gets the tattoo as instructed in the will.  Every now nd then he is mentioned but we have no idea what purpose this quest had for Bunny.  His tattoo quickly gets him (a white boy) accepted into an all black street gang and involved in gang activities, mostly reckless but harmless, until a deal goes down involving drugs, guns and money.  The book starts with Bunny being asked to write his account of what happened in a police station and this is how the book proceeds; Bunny's written narrative.  The book is hard to read as Bunny is somewhat illiterate and the writing is full of spelling mistakes and words are written in his own vernacular.  Bunny is also not quite ... right.  Nothing is ever said what is wrong with him.  But he continually refers to himself as "stupid" and not smart enough; he also has a fixation with counting mundane things.  My impression was that he may have been autistic.  I didn't find the story very believable as Bunny obviously needs to be watched over to some degree and his parents leave him to his own devices to the extent that it is neglectful, his acceptance into the gang is questionable and how he gets away with giving the impression he's someone he's not is also.  On top of all that the question of why this all happens in the first place is too pat of an explanation, quickly accepted by all.  I enjoyed parts of it, especially the race relations when the black gang accepts Bunny as a member and Bunny's colourless (raceless) viewpoint of people, which is often a symptom of autism, and his naive yet profound race questions.

From this point my next book in the series is quite obvious as Bunny has a brother who has his own quest and he is mentioned often in this book with his texts to Bunny playing a major role in what transpires in this story.  So next up will be Ted Staunton's Jump Cut.

Friday, December 20, 2013

425. The Unwanteds: Island of Fire by Lisa McMann

Island of Fire by Lisa McMann.
The Unwanteds (Book 3)

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sep. 3 2013, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 451 pgs

Age: (10+)

"The magical world of Artimé is gone. The Unwanteds have no food, no water, and no hope. And everyone is looking to Alex Stowe for answers.

Overwhelmed and feeling totally helpless, Alex knows it’s up to him to find a way to restore Artimé, rescue his captive friends, and free Megan from her voice-stealing necklace of thorns—three impossible tasks. But could help lie with the silent, orange-eyed newcomers?

Meanwhile, Alex’s twin brother Aaron continues to build his army in the stark land of Quill, preparing for the ultimate showdown with the Unwanteds. But a shocking twist reveals that Alex and Aaron share a common enemy more dangerous than either could have imagined..."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

I'm really enjoying this dystopian series that brings magic to the table making it more of a fantasy than science fiction.  Most of McMann's books are firmly aimed at teens, but The Unwanteds is her foray into upper elementary and she writes just as well for this age group.  The plot is quite intricate and I can't say much without giving away plot points from this story or the previous books, however this one picks up exactly where the last one finished off and it is essential to read the books in order.  Island of Fire concentrates mostly on the Artime half of Quill (the magic side) and reveals the answers to some secrets but only leaves the characters with more questions.  Their world (consisting of two islands at this point) is opened up to include a third, just as mysterious and unusual as the other.  A great compelling read!  The series' Facebook page claims this is going to be a seven book series! Much more to my tastes than the Harry Potter books ever were, but this will appeal to fans of those books.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Movie Break: Philomena (2013)



Philomena
(2013) (at the theatre)

We actually went to see Catching Fire but there were only three seats left in the theatre so declined them and went to see this instead.  We just loved it.  A very positive Catholic movie.  Of course it deals with tragedy and how things were in orphanages during the fifties, not just Catholic ones but all of them really at that time and the plight of unwed mothers.  Judi Dench was brilliant as usual and her character's unwavering faith through all her hardships is a role model we can all only hope to aspire to ourselves.  The contrast between her and the bitter ex-Catholic was remarkable.  We both loved the film.  Stars: Judi Dench

Documentray Break: The Queen's Mother-in-Law



The Queen's Mother-in-Law (2012)
(aired on Canada TV as: The Other Queen Mother
(watched on Channel 4oD)

 A one hour TV documentary.  My friend called me up to say this was on TV but my husband was watching sports (as usual) so I looked for it online and watched it from the British Channel 4.  This is an absolutely fascinating biography of Prince Phillip's mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg.  It tells of Phillip's strange and unusual childhood and a story not well-known to many at all.  Princess Alice spent much time in mental institutions and ended up becoming a Catholic nun.  Absolutely fascinating story, tragic yet heart lifting and also adds a new dimension to the bumbling, stoic Prince Phillip we all think we know so well.

Captain Underpants Books 8 and 9! Grab Onto Your Waistband!

These are my last two Underpants reviews.  I've now read the whole series!  I'm really quite amazed I read this for my own enjoyment and had such a fun time with it.  Book #9 ends as if it is the end of the series but then announces that book 10 will be the last Captain Underpants.  After #10 we are left feeling the series is over but recent news brings us relief that books 11 & 12 will be forthcoming over the next two years, 2014 & 2015.  Tra-la-laaa!


417. Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People by Dav Pilkey.
Captain Underpants, #8

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2006, Scholastic, 176 pgs

Age: (7+)

"When we last saw George and Harold, they were about to take their pet pterodactyl, Crackers, back to the Cretaceous period in the Purple Potty time machine. But things didn't work out quite as they had hoped. They've entered an absurd alternative reality where teachers are nice, kids are allowed to read banned books, and the cafeteria food doesn't smell like dirty diapers. even worse, they've discovered alternative versions of themselves-Evil George and Evil Harold- who plan to unleash some preposterous plans on Piqua, Ohio. Now, it's up to George and Harold to defeat the evil twins and THEIR superhero, Captain Blunderpants."

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Dav Pilkey does it again!  He continues with his usual tropes as expected but like last book manages to keep them fresh; for instance the switching of letters on the sign doesn't happen until after the "before I tell that story I must tell this story" bit.  I love this book.  Pilkey is back in perfect form!  The kids go to an alternate world where everything in their lives is backwards.  Added to the story is their grandparents who accidentally drink the last of the super juice creating Boxer Boy and Great-Granny Girdle.  The whole book was laugh-out funny.  One of my favourites in the series.  Once again as has been happening in the last few books, the set up is made for the next book with the introduction of the arrival of the next villain who is the return of an old favourite!


*****


419. Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers by Dav Pilkey.
Captain Underpants, #9

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug. 28, 2012, Scholastic, 304 pgs

Age: (7+)

"When we last saw our heroes, George and Harold, they were under arrest and headed for prison. Then Harold foolishly uttered the fateful words "What could be worse than going to jail for the rest of our lives?" and changed the course of human history. 

In this ninth epic novel, Dav Pilkey takes readers back in time to the carefree days of kindergarten, when the worst thing George and Harold had to face was NOT evil mad scientists or alien cafeteria ladies but a sixth-grade bully named Kipper Krupp, the nephew of their clueless school principal. And because George and Harold don't actually invent Captain Underpants until fourth grade, the two clever kindergartners are on their own -- using their brains to beat the bully."

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Every Captain Underpants book is called an "epic novel", well, this time Pilkey has certainly presented fans with "the" Epic Captain Underpants novel.  It is huge for a start (over 300 pages) and the plot is so convoluted it contains about three stories in one!  This has got to be the best book in the entire series and I've already read book 10, but this one makes me want to read #10 again just to follow what happens next.  After six years between books 8 & 9 being published, Pilkey put everything he had into this book; it is absolutely hilarious.  Taking us into a future that was meant to be, a future that could have been and the one that really happened.  We also go way back to when George and Harold were in kindergarten and first met.  The majority of the book takes place within this storyline and is fantastic!  I just loved it!

*****

Read my review of Book 10: Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers.  This was actually the very first Cap. U. book I ever read!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

414. Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule

Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule.

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct. 8 2013, Gallery Books/Simon Schuster, 339 pgs

Age: (18+)

"In Practice to Deceive, her first book-length investigative chronicle since In the Still of the Night, Rule unravels a shattering case of Christmastime murder off the coast of Washington State—presented with the clarity, authority, and emotional depth that Rule’s readers expect. It’s a case with enough drama, greed, sex, and scandal to be called “The Real Housewives of Whidbey Island,” but this was not reality television. This was murder: pure, cruel, ugly, and senseless. And someone had to pay the price. 

Nestled in Puget Sound, Whidbey Island is a gem of the Pacific Northwest; accessible only by ferry and the soaring Deception Pass Bridge, it is known for its artistic communities and stunning natural beauty. Life there is low-key, insular, and the island’s year-round residents tend to know one another’s business. But when the blooddrenched body of Russel Douglas was discovered the day after Christmas in his SUV in a hidden driveway near Whidbey’s most exclusive mansions, the whole island was shocked. A single bullet between his eyes was the cause of death, but no one could imagine who among them could plot such a devious, cold-blooded crime. At first, police suspected suicide, tragically common at the height of the holiday season. But when they found no gun in or near the SUV, Russel’s manner of death became homicide. Like a cast of characters from a classic mystery novel, a host of Whidbey residents fell under suspicion. 

Brenna Douglas was Russel’s estranged and soon-to-be-ex wife, who allowed him to come home for a Christmas visit with their children. The couple owned the popular Just B’s salon. Brenna’s good friend Peggy Sue Thomas worked there, and Brenna complained often to her that Russel was physically and emotionally abusive. Peggy Sue’s own life has been one of extremes. Married three times, hers is a rags-to-riches-and-back-again tale in which she’s played many roles: aircraft mechanic, basketball coach, the “drop-dead gorgeous” beauty queen as a former Ms. Washington, Las Vegas limousine driver, million-dollar horse breeder, wealthy divorcée. But in 2003, her love affair with married guitarist Jim Huden led the two Whidbey Island natives to pursue their ultimate dreams of wealth and privilege—even at the expense of human life."

Borrowed a copy from my public library.

What a tangled story of tragedy and crime this was!  Not exactly what one expects from Rule, no tale of a serial killer or a brutal mass slaying or even an horrific crime of passion.  Here we have an assassination style style murder of a regular Joe that took ten years to solve.  The victim was an ordinary guy, loved by most, lead a normal life and hardly anyone had anything to say against him.  Unfortunately, because of this we don't get to know much about him; the book is most certainly about the weird, tangled lives of the killer (s). Rule's investigative reporting uncovers a trail of tragedy for the Stackhouse family beginning with the brutal rape and murder of the mother of six young children and ending with the devious connivings of a step-daughter of that family decades later.  The book reads like a novel and was quite the page turner.  I don't usually read this type of crime preferring the ones I mentioned at the beginning, but there were just so many twists and turns with this investigation, and the lives of the people involved in the crime were so soap-opera like that if it weren't real it would hardly be believable in a novel.  I'd never heard of this case before, so I had the added advantage of not knowing how things were going to turn out, causing an element of suspense.  I love Rule's writing.  She tells these true crime tales so well, with respect to the victims and their families and though this is not one of her best books it is an incredible read of a tangled web that left authorities frustrated for an entire decade.

Monday, December 16, 2013

413. The Great Houdini by Monica Kulling.

The Great Houdini by Monica Kulling. Illustrated by Anne Reas.
Step into Reading, Step 4

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1999, Random House, 48 pgs

Age: (7+)

"Harry Houdini was a great escape artist, but perhaps his greatest trick was becoming the famous magician that we have come to know. As a child, Houdini worked hard--and even quit school--to help support his family. But his dream always was to become a great magician and performer. He practiced day and night, thinking up new tricks and more and more dangerous stunts. His intense ambition paid off, and soon Harry Houdini became known worldwide! This kid-appealing Step 4 traces Houdini's life from his poor beginnings to his eventual success as the most famous mystical magician and escape artist of all time."

Borrowed a copy from my public library.

Monica Kulling has written several biographies in this easy reader series and she has a deft hand relating an entertaining story of a person's life in a manner that will make kids curious about these people.  Houdini is a larger than life figure who has an interesting story to hear.  His feats are exciting even today and this is a well-written short chapter book that focuses mainly on his career as an escape artist.  The book is nicely illustrated and there are two actual photographs as well, which help make the man seem even more real to the modern child.  I don't think I ever realized this before but Houdini has a Canadian connection in that the fatal punch that ended his life happened in Montreal.  A recommended book in the series.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

408. Alfred Hitchcock Presents A Hangman's Dozen

A Hangman's Dozen edited by Alfred Hitchcock.

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1962,  Dell Publishing, 222 pgs

Age: (18+)

"Swing and sway the Alfie way! There's nothing that Alfred Hitchcock likes better than a gentle summer breeze - if there are a few hanging bodies swinging in it. It's not that Alfie likes punishment, you understand. But usually where there's punishment, there's a crime to be found, and now Alfie wants to show you what fiendish fun the best of crimes can be as he digs into his treasure trove of gruesome goodies to unearth 15 of his very favorite terror tales."

Purchased a secondhand copy from a book sale.

The book opens with a short introductory essay purportedly by Alfred Hitchcock and each story is introduced in a short eerie blurb also supposedly by Hitchcock.  And so we feel as if the great man himself is leading us through this collection of stories he has perhaps picked especially for us.  It is quite a varied collection with some masters of the short story mixed with some unknowns.  A couple of real gems are mixed in here with the OK and a couple of duds, but overall a decent enough satisfying collection of eerie tales of murder, mayhem and perhaps something not quite of this world.

1. Bomb #14 by Jack Ritchie (1957) - A quick story of the police capturing a serial bomber whose 14th bomb has just killed the two bomb experts there to diffuse it.  Pretty obvious what is going to happen from the start but readable.  (3/5)

2. The Forgiving Ghost by C.B. Gilford (1961) - A fun ghost story of a man who is haunted and tricked by the ghost of his wife, whom he just murdered.  (3.5/5)

3. The Children of Noah by Richard Matheson (1957) -  I've only read few stories by this author and this has left me with a taste for more!  This is not a mystery but more what would be called a horror story of a man who enters a town population 67 and gets pulled over for speeding.  Things get scarier from there ... (4/5)

4. An Attractive Family by Robert Arthur (1957) - Ha!  This was a good mystery.  The final solution was a little far-fetched but it was a well written piece nonetheless.  A family of three: mother, son and uncle are plotting their third murder. (4/5)

5. Let the Sucker Beware by Charles Einstein (1958) - This isn't a mystery either, more of a morality tale with a twist ending that starts with the O. Henry quote, "In the West a sucker is born every minute; but in New York they appear in chunks of roe ...".  Quite short and rather boring.  Writing isn't bad, though. (2/5)

6. Fair Game by John Cortez (1957) - Six stories in and this is the best story so far.  Really enjoyed this!  A tale of slow-mounting suspense.  A local man is hired by a rich man and his young wife to be his guide while he goes deer hunting, all of them staying in the woods in a cabin for the season.  Something is going to happen right from the beginning and you never quite know what as the story becomes more intense until the unexpected ending.  (5/5)

7. The Curious Facts Preceding My Execution by Richard Stark (1960) - A man describes all the things that happened on the day he kills his wife.  Pretty boring. (1/5)

8. Your Witness by Helen Nielsen (1958) - Typical tale of the shyster lawyer who gets his in the end.  Predictable but readable. (2/5)

9. Blackout by Richard Denning (1961) - Decent little thriller of a drunk man who enters the police station and admits to a homicide.  Checking into his story brings about several twists (3/5)

10. The October Game by Ray Bradbury (1948) - This is a freaky little horror story about a man who wants to hurt his wife as much as he possibly can, murder and divorce are both too quick and the pain wouldn't last long enough, no, he wants her to suffer. (5/5)

11. Stop Calling Me "Mister" by Jonathan Craig (1956) - A man gives us the low down on how he plans and executes a murder.  Not much. (2/5)

12. The Last Escape by Jay Street (1960) - An escape artist magician wants to do the water escape trick and finally talks his agent into letting him do it.  The magician and his wife have not been getting along well lately.  It is fairly easy to guess what is going to happen but the author pulls out a nice, startling twist at the end that leaves you with a chill.  (4/5)

13. Not a Laughing Matter by Evan Hunter (1958) - Decent little piece of a down and out, once famous, now ex-drunk, actor who gets a short bit part and plans the murder of the manager.  A nifty realization comes at the end.  (3/5)

14. Most Agreeably Poisoned by Fletcher Flora (1957) - A lover's triangle results in a game of Russian roulette with poisoned glasses of port.  A sophisticated, yet dull, battle of words. (2.5/5)

15. The Best-Friend Murder by Donald E. Westlake (1959) - Nice finish to this collection.  I've always enjoyed a Westlake short.  A college student runs from the dorm admitting that he's just killed his best friend and fellow aspiring writer.  But even with a body, report from the examiner and a signed confession Detective Levine feels there is something strange about this case and works a few extra hours on his own to see what's up. (4/5)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

403. Danse Macabre by Stephen King

Danse Macabre by Stephen King

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1981, Revision 1983, 2010 added Foreword, Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster, 438 pgs +Appendixes/Index

Age: (18+)

"From the author of dozens of #1 New York Times bestsellers and the creator of many unforgettable movies comes a vivid, intelligent, and nostalgic journey through three decades of horror as experienced through the eyes of the most popular writer in the genre. In 1981, years before he sat down to tackle On Writing, Stephen King decided to address the topic of what makes horror horrifying and what makes terror terrifying. Here, in ten brilliantly written chapters, King delivers one colorful observation after another about the great stories, books, and films that comprise the horror genre—from Frankenstein and Dracula to The Exorcist, The Twilight Zone, and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers.

Danse Macabre is an enjoyably entertaining tour through Stephen King’s beloved world of horror."

Purchased new from an online retailer.

I'm re-reading Stephen King's books in chronological order and this was the next book in line.  I can now tell exactly how old I was when I originally read his books because this was the first one I bought (well was gifted) brand new from the bookstore.  Every July (my bday) and Christmas my dad would give me any new Stephen King books that had come out as presents; so I was 13 when I got this one.  I was really looking forward to this, King's first foray into non-fiction, as my first read of it had been soooo enlightening.  I wanted to get my hands on every book he mentioned, watch every movie he named but it being pre-internet days that was a very hard task indeed.  Now that I re-read the book thirty years later I find that I've watched a great many of the mentioned movies and the major books listed but not all of them so I still had some titles and authors to add to my tbr.

It's a great book and so interesting to read.  Parts of the book are biographical telling about young Steve's life as a kid when he connected with this world of the macabre, but mostly it is his treatise on the horror story genre and what it includes both the good and the bad.  The movie section was enjoyable but my favourite part was the longest section: on books, of course.  Steve has a great writing voice and it's like taking to someone about a topic you both love over a couple of beers.  The only part that was disappointing was the section on TV.  The book shows its age here, written in 1981, King is writing from an era of Mork & Mindy, The Dukes of Hazzard and Fantasy Island to name a few.  King has no use for television whatsoever, feeling that all who lower themselves to its level, actors, directors, writers are entering an abyss of no return.  He does manage to tell about a few gems, in his opinion, and he recommends such as Outer Limits and Dark Shadows.  The book was written over quite a period of time which shows as when he first starts the book he mentions his own books: . Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining (and the corresponding movies), further on Night Shift and The Stand and towards book's end The Dead Zone is mentioned once.  He had also of course published Firestarter by the time this book was on the shelves.

Since his opinions and views of television are so outdated from now, where horror is a staple on the tube with King even being behind some ventures himself (Kingdom Hospital),  I would sincerely love a follow-up to this book.  Two ideas I have Uncle Steve, if you are listening: 1) continue with another book following the same theme horror movies, TV, books from the 80s to the 2010's. or 2) A new book just on horror and TV where King can expound on the very short chapter he included in this book and then go on to talk about what happened with horror on TV after the sitcom driven slump of the 80s up to the present.  Why was Buffy a big hit in the 90s? Why is Walking Dead so hot today?  Great book for the history of the genre but really worthy of a modern follow-up since there is so much more to say when his opinions are rooted in the eighties.

402. Help For the Haunted by John Searles

Help For the Haunted by John Searles

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sep 17 2013, William Morrow, 368 pgs

Age: (18+)

"It begins with a call one snowy February night. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searches for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years.

Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works and the quirky tenderness of John Irving's novels, Help for the Haunted is told in the captivating voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about what happened on that winter night."

Received a review copy from the publisher.

Oh my!  This book had me spellbound.  I was glued to my seat reading late into the night with this one!  Just because of the title I thought at first it was going to be a ghost story but no, no, no this is an intense psychological suspense which held me in its grip right until the very end.  I just couldn't believe who the killer ended up being, I was so shocked but then part of me was like, "Oh, wow!  That makes so much sense."  There had been clues and when I had finished I immediately had an impulse to start all over again to see if I could find them.  Now that I knew what to look for, LOL.  I don't often feel like re-reading a mystery.  I just loved everything about it: the setting, the characters, the doll, the paranormal topic.  I have read sooo many books this year but this is one of my favourites of the year, especially, for a mystery; it deals with so many unique topics and it stays creepy from beginning to end.  Loved it!  Wonder if Searles' other books are anywhere near this good?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let's Read and Find Out about Science Books

I collect books from this series from the sixties and seventies, mostly for the illustrators.  Though I will choose books based on author or topic or sometimes just its vintage appeal.  I've always used any of these books in my homeschool though and now I'm clearing off the shelves and deciding which to keep for my personal collection now that the kiddos are teenagers or grown.

396. Volcanoes by Franklyn M. Branley. Illustrated by Marc Simont
Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science Book

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)
(links to current 2008 edition)

1985, Thomas Y. Crowell, 32 pgs
(current 2008, HarperCollins)

Age: (4+)

"Volcanoes are one of nature's great wonders. For years they can stand dormant, but once active they can erupt in tremendous explosions of power. Some eruptions are so big, they change the earth's climate. Luckily, geologists can now approximate when an eruption will occur. What are the causes of an eruption and what are the warning signs? Read and find out!"

Purchased a used copy from my library's sale shelf.

This set of science books has always been one of my favourites when I was homeschooling, and Branley's books were among the best.  He was the originator of the series in the first place back in the sixties.  This book is not too in-depth; it mostly looks at famous historical volcanoes, going into brief detail about plate tectonics, earthquakes, the Ring of Fire and volcano formation.  Marc Simont (most well-known for his illustration of the Nate the Great series)) has drawn adorable illustrations which I think are lovely.  This is a nice gentle introduction to volcanoes for the little ones.  The book has been updated in 2008 with the same text but more realistic illustrations by Megan Lloyd.  I've glanced some samples of it online and it looks nice, but I'm partial to Simont's work myself.  I have the original first edition hardcover of this and will be keeping it in my collection.


*****


401. Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll by Franklyn M. Branley. Illustrated by Ed Emberley
Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science Book

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)
(link to current revised edition)

1964, Thomas Y. Crowell, 32 pgs
(current 1999, HarperCollins)

Age: (4+)

"Did you know that lightning bolts can be over a mile long? Or that they may come from clouds that are ten miles high? Storms can be scary, but not if you know what causes them. Before the next thunderstorm, grab this book by veteran science team Franklyn Branley and True Kelley and learn what causes the flash, crash, rumble, and roll of thunderstorms!"

Purchased a used copy from my library's sale shelf.

My review is of the original 1964 Ed Emberley illustrated edition.  The current volume for sale has revised text and new illustrations.  In fact, this book has been through a few revisions through the years.  The text of this edition is a little out-dated, we don't really use terms like "sonic boom" anymore and frankly the text isn't exactly entertaining either.  I usually am quite fond of Branley's contributions to this series but he became a little dry and technical with this one as he does fit a lot of information into this picture book.  The text covers all about what thunder and lightning are and how they are made, how to stay safe in a storm and why not to be afraid of storms.  What I do like about this book and why I'm keeping this first edition for my collection is Emberley's illustrations.  He has used a plethora of techniques: foam stamps, stencils, paint splattering and his drawing style as shown in his "how to draw" books is in fine form here.


*****


398. Giraffes at Home by Ann Cooke. Illustrated by Robert Quackenbush
Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science Book

Rating: (3/5)

(US) - Out of Print

1972, Thomas Y. Crowell, 32 pgs

Age: (4+)

"Describes the physical characteristics, habits, and natural environment of giraffes."

Purchased a used copy from my library's sale shelf.

This is a simple picture book about giraffes on the grasslands.  We learn where they live, what they eat, their digestive system, prey, how their long necks work and the neck's role in mating.  Along with the birth of a baby giraffe we watch how one is taken care of until it is ready to go out on its own.  Illustrated by the prolific Quackenbush, his style is realistic and attractive.  As was popular at this time the book alternates b/w spreads with 3-colour spreads (using green, blue and orange for the palette).  Provides a basic introduction to the topic.  While not one of the best books in the series, Quackenbush is a fine illustrator and I love the colours.  Keeping for my collection.


*****


405. Ant Cities by Arthur Dorros
Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Book

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1987, HarperTrophy, 32 pgs

Age: (4+)

"Did you ever wonder where an ant goes when it disappears into an anthill? Underneath the hill there may be miles of tunnels and hundreds of rooms. Read to find out how to make your own ant farm!"

Purchased a used copy from a thrift shop.

The text in this early reader picture book is delightful.  Brief and yet full of information and just about anything one could think to ask about basic facts of ants and then some.  Children will become fascinated and want their own ant farm as described on the last page.  I'd like to try another ant farm myself now!  I just don't like the illustrations; Dorros draws wish-washy scenes and the faces on his kids make them all appear to be grimacing; however, he does have an incredible talent for drawing the intricate mazes of the insides of an ant hill.  There are many of such drawings and they are fascinating to look at.  Worth the buy.  However this is too modern for my collection and is off to the thrift store.


*****


411. Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder. Illustrated by Gasetano di Palma

Rating: (2/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)
(link to current revised edition)

1963, Thomas Y. Crowell, 32 pgs
(current 1999, HarperCollins)

Age: (4+)

"While watching winter’s snows blanket the Earth, what child hasn’t wondered, ‘What will the rabbits do? Or the birds?’ This wonderfully simple Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science book explains the many ways animals have of coping with harsh weather. Helen K. Davie’s elegant illustrations perfectly evoke the season."

Purchased a used copy from a thrift shop.

This review is for the original 1963 edition.  The version currently available for sale has a completely revised text and new illustrations by a different artist.  I haven't seen the new edition but honestly can see why this was changed as it doesn't do anything for me.  The text is quite boring, simply telling what different forest animals do in the winter.  Each page moving onto another animal.  The illustration is quite ugly done in two colours brown and black.  The animals are sketched in pencil/ink and are very detailed and life-like but then the backgrounds done probably in charcoal or chalk are very scribbly and plain; the cover illustration is not representative at all!  So when all is said in done the only thing I liked was the animal sketches so I won't be keeping this one for my collection.  There is that rare occassion when an update can't do worse than the original.