Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This has been sitting on my shelf for a few months and I wish I had read it sooner because I just adored it! At first it feels like the usual YA dystopian fare, this time with the outcast society of deformed people, with children, especially girls being abandoned at birth. Our narrator is an older teen girl, on the brink of womanhood, with a cleft palate being raised in a camp for outcast children way out in the woods, with only a couple of others and an elderly caretaker. I fell in love with the main character right away and the beginning setting of the camp, which at first reminded me of the society in Wyndham's "The Chrysalids" but without any of the religious themes. This changes though as the world expands beyond the camp. What I particularly liked about this book and what makes it different and unique in this, somewhat overdone genre that is still a favourite of mine, is the absence of any government, rebel group or movement to overthrow the government. These sorts of books are often about how the people realize they are being oppressed, they join together, go after the government dictatorship and bring it down. "Whisper", refreshingly does not even introduce us to the government of this world. The story is simply about a few outcast youths, the downtrodden of this society, and their march forward in life. They are not political. Gradually through the eyes of Whisper, her boyfriend, missing an arm, and a little girl they've grown up with, who has webbed digits, we discover what is wrong with this world and are given enough clues to put together what has possibly happened; why the deformities are becoming more rampant, who seems to be in charge, etc. There is some technology and knowledge in the world but it belongs to the elite and the society (perhaps world) reminded me of what one assumes places like Calcutta must be like. With the poverty and ruralness outside, then the population gradually becoming denser the closer one comes to the city and once one arrives, the horrific difference between the poverty stricken areas and the parts where the affluent live. The book brings a lot of issues to think about and the perseverance of the main character to keep her dignity and strive to make a better life for herself and her loved ones, in the world she lives in, without changing the world itself, is more realistic than most teen dystopias written these days. The more I think about it the more I realize I was taken with Whisper. The book doesn't seem to leave any threads hanging, except that the character's lives will continue on from here, so I'm thinking (hoping!) this is a complete book by itself and not a trilogy or series. (I'm so tired of them...) Though I think the author could write another story taking place in the same "world", expanding the world building, perhaps showing us a farming family, or characters working in a factory. Some readers may want more than just the hints given about SWINC. Whatever direction she goes, I'll be looking out for the author's next book.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Welcome To Camp Nightmare (Goosebumps, #9) by R.L. Stine

Welcome To Camp Nightmare (Classic Goosebumps, #14) (Goosebumps, #9)Welcome To Camp Nightmare (Goosebumps, #9) by R.L. Stine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good one! Starts out totally creepy and doesn't let up until the end. Billy narrates his own story of summer camp and weird things happen right from the bus trip out there, things get dangerous, spooky, kids disappear, etc. until the final twist ending. Which is pretty good even though I did figure it out but what you don't see coming is the extra, extra twist on the last page, last paragraph that cues that awesome Twilight Zone music for a super horror story ending. Fun!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Running Man by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King

The Bachman Books: Four Early Novels The Running Man by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reason for Reading: I'm in the process of of re/reading all of Stephen King's works in chronological order.This is the last book in this collection I had to read.  After having read through the entire book over the time period of a few years I've concluded that "The Long Walk" is my favourite novel here, which I do remember enjoying a lot the first time around also. My least favourite was "Roadwork", though I'll say I didn't not like any of them. Taken together on average I rate the complete collection a 4 out of 5. Click the link for the review of the whole collection in one place.

The Running Man - This is the book that I was most looking forward to re-reading in this collection. The first time I read it, the movie hadn't been made yet and I found this an incredibly scary tale as it felt so real. More real than The Long Walk at that time, which is also a deadly game show sci-fi. This time it didn't affect me as much because it wasn't very believable in our time and age. King's vision of 2025 from his vantage point of 1982 just isn't possible; the world has changed too much since then. Pollution is no longer our major concern and all the smoking, etc just wouldn't fly anymore. However going beyond that, it is a good story. A government run state happily killing off it's poor, sick and unproductive, so-called useless people is a possible reality if the current death culture, eugenics centred society that exists today continues. This is a grim book with no hope. It starts off with us, and the main character, knowing he will die at the end. But it is a good chase story and I think it is a well-written Bachman book. Unfortunately, the movie does spoil reading this for me now as I couldn't get Arnold Schwarzenegger out of my head as Ben, nor Richard Dawson as the TV Host. For those who don't know though the book and the movie may have the same basic plot (a game show to the death) but the similarity ends there. They completely re-wrote the plot and characters for the movie version so don't pass up the book because of your opinion of the movie.

Interestingly enough, I found a reference to the King Universe here, when Ben ends up at an airport in Derry, Maine. I love looking for the connections between the books now that I'm reading these in chrono order; but I knew Derry from future books such as "It" so I had to Google and see if this was the first time Derry was ever mentioned by King and technically, it is! It is debatable though because this was published as a Bachman book and in the same year, 1982, under his own name King published the collection "Different Seasons" which contains the novella "The Body", which doesn't take place in Derry but does mention it in passing as a nearby town. So we can see King establishing his universe already and this is the year that astute readers should have made the connection between Bachman and King as he has now given it away. (4/5)

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Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Monday What Are You Reading This Week

This is what I'm reading this week. 

Row One:  From The Bachman Books I am reading the last book in this collection "The Running Man".  This is part of my ongoing reading of Stephen King in chronological order project.  It's the book I've been looking forward to re-reading the most in the collection. The SK Universe is a standby which I read the section on each book after I've read it; so I'll be reading the Running Man section this week. The Edgar Allan Poe is my current short story collection, as usual I read one story a day.  I'm currently on story #8.  The highlight of the week was a humorous tale called "The Angel of the Odd"

Row Two:  Empty Mansions has been on my tbr for ages and I'm so glad I've finally started it.  It's a big book but it is turning out to be a fast read.  It is doing double duty as qualifying for my current non-fiction and my current ebook. The Bible is a year long project, am reading this study Bible and completing the four Gospels, reading Luke now. Monster Soul is my current manga.  It's the first in a new series but I haven't started it yet.

Row Three:  Book 4 of Ariol just came out so I'm backtracking and giving this cute-looking kids's graphic novel series a go with the first one: Just a Donkey Like You and Me.  I just loved the author's adult graphic novel The Photographer. I hope to read all four books in the series this week.

Hosted weekly by super-awesome Sheila from BookJourney.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

2014 ARC Reading Challenge - FINISHED


I join Teddy's ARC challenge every year since I read so many of the darn things.  I have a self-imposed rule that I only include books with 100+ pages and Teddy has adjusted the levels a bit this year but I'm still joining the last level as usual. For more information and to sign up go here.

I will be joining the top level and listing my books below:

Post reviews here.

Jan.1-Dec. 31 (2014) Goal: 40 books
Level Platinum: Read 40 or more ARCS
1. Weight Loss Surgery: The Real Skinny by Nick Nicholson, M.D
2. Button Man: Get Harry Ex by John Wagner
5. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 06 by John Wagner & Allan Grant
6. Magi Vol. 3 by Shinobu Ohtaka
7. The Future of Catholicism by Michael Coren
8. The Sandman and the War of Dreams by William Joyce
9. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Vol. 18 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
10. Dragon Ball (3-in-1), Vol. 3 by Akira Toriyama
11. Vinland Saga Book Two by Makoto Yukimura  
14. Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth 02 by Gerry Finley-Day
15. Ballet Shoes for Anna by Noel Streatfeild
16. Bleach (3-in-1) Vol. 19-20-21 by Tite Kubo 
18. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, V19 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
20. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
22. Magi, Volume 4 by Shinobu Ohtaka
23. Tiger & Bunny 4 by Mizuki Sakakibara
24. Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 by Jinsei Kataoka
25. Mr. Puzzle Super Collection! by Chris Eliopoulos
26. The Seven Deadly Sins 1 by Nakaba Suzuki
27. Dragonball (3-in-1) Vol. 10-11-12 by Akira Toriyama
28. Paradise by Toni Morrison
29. 9000 Miles of Fatherhood by Kirk Millson 
30. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 20 by Hiroshi Shiibashi
31. Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell
34. Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 2 by Jinsei Kataoka
35. The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff
36. Sunny, Vol. 3 by Taiyo Matsumoto
39. Sweet Rein, Vol. 2 by Sakura Tsukuba

And More
41. Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 5 by Ohtaka Shinobu
42. Monster Soul Vol. 1 by Hiro Mashima
43. Phantom Thief Jeanne, Vol. 2 by Arina Tanemura
44. Banzai Battalion: Just Another Bug Hunt by John Wagner & Alan Grant
46. Whisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn
48. Gangsta, Vol. 2 by Kohske   JUNE
49. The Son by Jo Nesbo
51. Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
52. The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi
53. Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
55. Millennium Snow, Vol. 3 by Bisco Hatori        JULY
57. Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi
58. UQ Holder 2 by Ken Akamatsu
59. The Seven Deadly Sins 3 by Nakaba Suzuki
60. Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 6  by Shinobu Ohtaka
61. Always Emily by Michaela MacColl   AUG
62. Cop Town by Karin Slaughter  SEP
63. Monster Soul 2 by Hiro Mashima
64. Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl  OCT
65. Iris Brave by Ali B
66. Noragami: Stray God, Vol. 1 by Adachitoka
67. The Sixteen by Ali B
68. The Heroic Legend of Arslan 1 by Yoshiki Tanaka
69. The Seven Deadly Sins 4 by Nakaba Suzuki
70. Vinland Saga, 5 by Makoto Yukimura
71. Death at Chinatown by Frances McNamara
72. The Heroic Legend of Arslan 2 by Yoshiki Tanaka   NOV
(the challenge hasn't had a linky for months)

The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success by Kevin Dutton

The Wisdom of PsychopathsThe Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success by Kevin Dutton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a great interest in neuroscience, specifically the psychology of the brain and the title of this book grabbed me from the beginning. First, though, this book is not about serial killers. Yes, there are a few mentioned throughout and the book ends with a small section on them but this book is about people who are not criminals. People who possess the same qualities as psychopaths and thus, can be labelled psychopaths, but are functional within society. It then goes on to discuss how these people operate in society and the professions they succeed at. While the book does mention serial killers, and saints and spies, (as in the title) it mostly concentrates on the business, government and medical fields; talking to and taking case examples from CEOs, stock market traders, MI5 agents, lawyers and surgeons. Dutton's writing style flows nicely and the book is not difficult to read but I would not call it an easy read as it is clinical in presentation and deals with statistics and test results. It is a book for the lay person but one who knows something about the topic to begin with. I found the information very interesting and would say it has broadened my knowledge of the subject. There is some discussion of cognitive behavioural therapy that I found enlightening and answered my questions on why a couple of my therapists/psychiatrists gave up in frustration trying to use it on me. LOL I've always been able to tell they're going that route and tell them no to bother using CBT on me. Btw, I'm not psychotic in any shape or form! A good read that I'll be keeping in my collection.

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Surviving Home by A. American

Surviving Home  (Going Home, #2)Surviving Home by A. American

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The follow-up to "Going Home" doesn't disappoint. An action-packed read with a continuous pace that doesn't let up. The three male characters from the first book return, each back to their "home" and the book's narrative continuously shifts from one to the other. I've grown invested in the characters though I don't know if like would be the correct word to use as they are all morally reprehensible to me. Well, I guess I do like them in spite of their morals. LOL. This is just such a fun book and reads like a TV show to me; I can just see it all playing out in my head. The pace is fantastic and it was a page-turner. The book ends on an exciting note and I can't wait to read the next book. If you like military, gung-ho, survivalist themes you'll love this series.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

It's Monday What Are You Reading This Week

This is what I'm reading this week.

Row One: The two Stephen King books are kinda in limbo.  "Running Man" from the Bachman Books is coming up this month, perhapsby the end of the week. The SK Universe is a standby which I read the section on each book after I've read it. Started the Edgar Allan Poe as my short story collection yesterday, will be reading one story a day as usual.

Row Two: Surviving Home is the sequel to Going Home and I'm loving it. This is my current ebook read. The Wisdom of Psychopaths is awesome and is my current non-fiction read, rather heady and science-y but I love neuro-science. The Bible is a year long project, am reading this study Bible and completing the four Gospels, just getting into Luke now.

Row Three: Grimm's Oz, finished this last night, review to come on my other blog. Current manga Zatchbell #13.  Current graphic novel Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Weibe, so far I have loved his work!

Hosted weekly by super-awesome Sheila from BookJourney.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Little Tales of Misogyny by Patricia Highsmith

Little Tales of MisogynyLittle Tales of Misogyny by Patricia Highsmith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What a bunch of complete and utter rot. I have always wanted to read Patricia Highsmith. Strangers on a Train is one of my favourite movies, Ever! and I really enjoyed the Mr. Ripley movie. I have a lot of her books and just haven't got around to them yet. The back of this collection of extremely short, short stories labels them as "mystery/fiction". This is not mystery in any shape or form. I do not know what to make of these stories. If you read my notes that follow as I read the book you'll see my confusion and distaste for the material progress as I went along. I presume these stories are some sort of farcical feminist literature. I found them vulgar, stupid and not in the least humorous at all.

1. The Hand - Gruesome little parable as to the inappropriateness of referring to marriage as asking for "her hand". (4/5)

2. Oona, the Jolly Cave Woman - Don't get this. A "cave woman" is raped at an early age and then over the years admired by all the men, giving herself freely, maintaining the population practically by herself and then the first man to fall in love's (perhaps ever in the tribe) jealous wife kills Oona with the result that the man starts making images of Oona, then statues, worshipping her and eventually is killed himself by a jealous wife whose husband buys such a statue. Anyway I feel hate from the story but can't help feeling it might be a story made up to give a background for the famous "Venus of Willendorf" statue. (2/5)

3. The Coquette - Lying and playing around with people's hearts will turn around on yourself in the end especially when the people involved are a nasty woman and stupid men. (2/5)

4. The Female Novelist - A neurotic woman does nothing but think, talk and write about her past husbands' and lovers' infidelities that her current husband seems bound for the same end ... to her satisfaction? (1/5)

Uggh! These are horrible stories! What am I supposed to be getting from them? I know it's some kind of feminist twaddle, but am I supposed to have feelings for these vile women? On to the next one:

5. The Dancer - Sigh ... Two ballroom dancers are lovers and do a tango where the man enacts almost strangling the woman which is a huge hit but then the woman stops sleeping with the man to raise his ardour and takes on other lovers. The man does not like being teased this way and the ending comes as no shock. (1/5)

6. The Invalid, or, The Bedridden - Well for some reason I did find this funny. A woman pretends injury and consequent permanent invalidity to capture a husband, though she is always up to a trip to Cannes in August. It takes the husband 11 years to catch on and then he does the expected gaining a much more satisfying life. (4/5)

7. The Artist - This is odd compared to the other stories. A women takes up the arts, moving from one to another in succession eventually leaving her husband alone, lonely and doing all the housework himself until as usual the woman's death ends the relationship, only this time it is an accident. In this story, neither the man or woman is portrayed as selfish, evil or stupid like the other ones. The woman is actually sympathetic. She talks of wanting beauty and she is obviously looking for something in her life. They are both lonely figures; the woman looking for something to fulfill herself, the man losing the companionship of his wife. (4/5)

Strange. Why in the middle of the book do we suddenly not have a vile, manipulative woman?? I can't figure out what Highsmith is getting at here. Onward I go.

8. The Middle-Class Housewife - Oh God. What do I say. A daughter takes her poor mother to a Women's Lib rally at a local church which ends in mob violence and death after the mother questions "free state nurseries". Poor woman. Thank God we haven't descended that far into Hell yet in this socialist country. (1/5)

9. The Fully Licensed Whore, or, the Wife - Oh boy, with a title like that I think I'm in for another viscous woman story. Yep! A woman gets married, two months pregnant with another man's son, so that she can live a life of amorous affairs and be a licensed, legal "player of the field". Again we can either feel sorry for the man or just disregard him for being so stupid as to fall for her schemes. (2/5)

Just to let my readers know. I am aware that these stories are supposed to be some sort of satire. Perhaps a reader with feminist attitudes would have tears rolling down their face at the absurdity of these tales. I'm getting nothing though. Just quick little stories about icky people and they are so nasty they are not funny, to me, anyway.

10. The Breeder - This title cannot mean good things. A man literally goes mad after fathering seventeen children with his wife in not even so many years. Don't know what to say here, they are both as bad but really it boils down to having respect and communication in a proper marriage which neither of them had. Yick. (2/5)

11. The Mobile Bed-Object - The "bed-object" is a 23-year-old woman who is a professional mistress. She enjoys this, travels all over the world and beats boredom when her men trade her to others. However, she realizes that her youth is going for this business and she must retire soon so starts thinking of how to build a nest egg. While she thinks she is using men, they are using her. This story I felt for the woman, although she was a hard schemer who took advantage of men. The men were unsympathetic as they were users with no emotions at all. So while, I didn't like the woman, and she gets what can be expected by those in her lifestyle at the end, she at least is not a totally unsympathetic creature. (3/5)

BTW, these last two stories were very long for this collection: 6 pages!

12. The Perfect Little Lady - A vile scheming little girl who turns into the same as a teenager, gleeful when her opponents suffer misfortune. (3/5)

13. The Silent Mother-in-Law - Edna lives with her daughter and son-in-law and afraid of ever being the butt of mother-in-law jokes remains utterly silent on all accounts, actually infuriating the couple so much that one night they come home from a party, take off their clothes and ring the bell to get a rise out of her. I think there is something I'm not getting in this one; I had to read the ending a few times but it is alluding me. (2/5)

14. The Prude - A mother is determined that her 4 daughters be virgins at the altar as she and her husband were. They disobey and the story glorys in how fornication has made the girls' lives so much more wonderful, happier and prosperous than their morally astute parents. Bleck! (0/5)

15. The Victim - What to make of this ... I suppose we could call it a fable to be told to girls to warn them against dressing like sluts and attracting the attention and consequences such attire and accompanying behaviour is most likely to garner. Is this humour? Even so, it basically insults everyone, male and female, feminists and those who embrace womanhood. Another yick. But the story does get some points for writing and plotting. (2/5)

16. The Evangelist - I'm just shaking my head, really. A woman finds profound religion and becomes a street preacher, then she becomes famous around the world and like all these stories meets an untimely demise. Ridiculous. (1/5)

Thank goodness the last one!

17. The Perfectionist - The most bizarre story of the lot but at least this woman is not vile or viscous and does not end up dead. The poor dear has a nervous break down and ends up knitting every day from 6am to 2am. (0/5)

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Bang by Lisa McMann

Bang (Visions, #2)Bang by Lisa McMann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a great fan of Lisa McMann and while I was a little underwhelmed with the first in this series, "bang" more than met my expectations. I found the story much more believable this time around and had another page-turner in my hands. Not as good as her "Wake" trilogy but certainly for the YA audience also as the content is very mature. The teen characters make for good reading even though the adults are a little less than believable. The ending is finite but it sets up the next book and I'm pleased with where it leaves us dangling. I had worried the plot was going to go in a predictable direction for the third book but this ending has us pointed in a completely different direction. Also, while I had thought it would be cool for the 3rd book to be titled "Boom", I now know that the final book in the trilogy will be out next month and is called "Gasp".

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

The Boy on the PorchThe Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! The most beautiful book I've read in ages. Very simple, but amazingly tender and powerful. Creech tells a tale with a lot of unanswered questions that leaves the reader wanting to know so much more about what happened. And yet there is a feeling of accomplishment, that lives have been touched as in real life we don't always know how, but it *does* make a difference. We are shown a small part of that difference when the lives of a couple cross paths with an abandoned boy on their porch. Splendidly written. It is with shame that I admit I have not read this award winning author before. Two things particularly stand out for me. The first is the timelessness of the story. It has no time period. We know the story takes place in the past as there are no modern conveniences, no one uses a phone and yet it is not that long ago as there are cars and attitudes feel closer to today than ages past. Is it the 40s, 50s or is it just a very rural, isolated area? The other aura of mystery surrounding the tale is the boy's condition. Being the mother of an autistic boy myself it seems very certain to me that Jacob is a non-verbal autistic, gifted in music and art whose stims consist of tapping. But his *condition* is never addressed directly or really ever a concern as to what his exact problem is. Jacob is just different and John and Marta who don't know much about children anyway accept him as he is and work with his abilities and what he *can* do. I loved this approach and found it so refreshing! The climax can possibly be seen as sad but the denouement brings a lasting tender sort of happiness and a reality that is genuine in the lives of foster parents and children. The final pages do however bring some closure along with those aching unanswered questions.

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The Backwash of War: The Classic Account of a First World War Field-Hospital by Ellen N. La Motte

The Backwash of War: The Classic Account of a First World War Field-HospitalThe Backwash of War: The Classic Account of a First World War Field-Hospital by Ellen N. La Motte

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

AUG 5 - Opens with an introduction by the publisher setting up a background on the author and the circumstances under which the book was written. Is then followed by the author's introduction to the 1934 edition which discusses the books suppression during the war years. Then includes the original 1916 author introduction. This is an interesting first hand account of the WWI French front from a field nurse's point of view. It is a short book and makes fast reading with each chapter being a vignette of a different patient and the medical case he represents. Ms. Motte is very candid in her discussions of the wounded and the treatment making the book probably graphic for its time, though not so much for the modern day reader. While I found the book interesting as a contemporary piece of history from the war, I didn't connect with the author's voice at all. She is quite stand-offish and never really gives a personality or emotion to her storytelling. Oddly enough, we never get to know the author as she never refers to herself when telling her stories. She refers to "the nurse" or "the Directrice", which I came to conclude was her in the third person. A couple of times she does speak of herself as "I" but this is only during two passages in which she goes on a personal discourse of her opinion of war, and yet these are also removed from any emotion as they are written sarcastically. She speaks in a condescending tone of how war, the bureaucracy, etc. must be, is perfect, is right, and yet it fair oozes with sarcasm showing her true meaning and thoughts but missing the mark on connecting with the reader's sentiments. In my opinion, these passages could well have been the reason the book was "banned" in the latter years of the war, due to there anti-propaganda message.

I've read a lot of first-hand accounts of war and perhaps it has conditioned me a bit, but I am more inclined to think that this author, while showing a fair enough account of her experiences, was just not a good enough writer to get any emotion across to the reader. There are much more well-written accounts that are also moving and poignant, neither of which I find "Backwash" to be.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ambrose captured my heart! I love him so much, like a mother and as a vision of myself when I was 12/13. Ambrose is a nerd, gets picked on at school, has an overprotective single mother, wears strange clothes, speaks without thinking, has no social graces but can play a mean game of Scrabble. Ambrose probably has Asperger's but why he is this way isn't addressed; it's simply the story of a boy learning to be who he is, get along with others, and actually be happy. I fell in love with Ambrose right away as he reminded me of myself. I'm an aspie and saw myself in Ambrose in so many ways. He is a dear, tender child who often says the most awkward things as he has no filter before speaking. This isn't the story of his problem though, it is a story of a mother and son who, after thirteen years, finally learn to get on with there lives since the death of the father/husband. Ambrose uses Scrabble to get out into the world and meet people similar to himself thus giving him self-confidence and the strength to be firm with his mother as the two of them both ultimately struggle for a place to call home. Beautifully written, a page turner, and a book where I just wish I didn't have to say goodbye to the main character. Farewell, Ambrose.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

9000 Miles of Fatherhood: A True Story by Kirk Millson

9,000 Miles of Fatherhood9,000 Miles of Fatherhood by Kirk Millson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always enjoy good travelogues whether they be about the people who travel or the places they go. Sometimes, like Kirk Millson's book, the story is more about the travellers than it is about where they travelled. A recently "down-sized" man and his average son take a 4-month journey south through Mexico to reach Panama's Darien Gap, The End of the Road. By today's standards this is not exactly safe country to travel through by oneself and could be likened to having a modern day "wild west" atmosphere and philosophy of life. The two travel through Mexico and Guatemala. Then bus it to Costa Rico where they finally travel to their destination in Panama. The blurbs from the book mention an "emotionally estranged", "timid" "D Student" to describer Kirk's son, Peter. However, as soon as the book starts I found through Kirk's own voice that Peter really was pretty much an ordinary 21st century kid and Kirk was the one who was "emotionally estranged". So Peter didn't have the greatest dad and this trip together gave them the chance to bond in a way they may not have been able to otherwise. Kirk let his emotional guard down, learned to say "I love you", show affection, be a dad and a friend but always a Dad first. Peter got a wonderful opportunity when he was removed from 21st century consumerism and that contributed to his own personal growth during this trip but I felt his dad's own changes were the ones that would have made the most positive and lasting effects on the boy as a whole. This is a fun read, Kirk has a fine storyteller's voice and is willing to be the first to make fun of himself. This is dangerous territory they have ventured into and not surprisingly they meet up with the bad element from the get go. They have some close calls with bandits, bad cops, and burglars but from the book's tone we know they are going to be ok so can enjoy the tales told with verve and enthusiasm and, yes, lots of humour. Kirk and Peter also met many fine, friendly people on their tour as well and overall this is a enjoyable read for those who wish they could just pack up and travel. The book does have a specific charm though for an audience of father's with young teen sons. I'm a mother but my son is thirteen and I found myself wishing he and his father could have strong bonds over dangerous tales to tell together, like back in the old days. A good read.

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