A Bookaholic, Pro-life, Pro-Family, Pro-Oxford Comma, Catholic (with Asperger's) who reads and writes as her obsession. I've been reading over 400 books a year lately. These are my ramblings on the books I read.

I sometimes go through stages of "genre love", I'm addicted to
mystery thrillers, memoirs, 20th century Chinese historical fiction, Victorian fiction and nonfiction, Catholic theology and short story anthologies; but you'll find I read an even wider variety of books than that. I have a teensy fascination with macabre non-fiction books about death and anything about insane asylums.

I also tend to post a lot of reviews of
juvenile/teen books.

I also blog about
graphic novels and manga on a separate BLOG.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Funny Things I Heard At The Bus Stop, Volume 1 by Angela Giroux

Funny Things I Heard At The Bus Stop, Volume 1 by Angela Giroux

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 97 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Red Alien Media

I picked this up quite some time ago when it was a freebie and am pleased to have found such a little treasure. Ms. Giroux proves to be a talented writer and wonderful storyteller. She has the narrative voice for elementary children down pat. The kids in these stories spoke and behaved realisticly. An impressive collection of short stories making a nice reader for advanced 2nd to 4th graders.

1. Prologue - Sets the framework as the narrator, a fifth-grader, introduces the kids who walk to the school bus stop together and says they tell stories, lots of stories. He's going to tell us four of his favourites. (Though there do end up being six stories in the collection.)

2. The Last Napkin - A funny little tale from a napkin's point of view from the factory to the napkin holder and the woes of being the last napkin in the pack. Uses the word "crap", needlessly. (3/5)

3. A Visit From Nonna Esmeralda - Nicely surprised at how well written this one was. Silly story really, but well told. Aiden's Nonna arrives from Italy for the first time with an amazing present for everyone except all Aiden gets is a cracked clay pot. Then Nonna takes him into the kitchen and shows him what the pot can do and Aiden realizes he has the most amazing present of all. (5/5)

4. My English Teacher is a Secret Agent - A third-grade class gets a very strange substitute English teacher. The narrator and his friend put all the evidence together and figure out he must be a secret agent. Very mysterious and well-written. (5/5)

5. The Mysterious Window - What a wonderful story! City-dweller Samantha's family go to visit Uncle Sam in the country and he gives her his little mysterious window which opens up a magical world for her. I knew how this was going to end, but children in the target age range for this storybook will be dazzled by the enchanting ending. The pacing is very good here too; the suspense builds up and up until the surprise finish. My favourite story! (5/5)

6. My Summer Vacation - What a Ride! - A fair opens for the summer and 9yo Peter is so excited, especially about the roller coaster. On his first visit, he finds he is old enough to ride the coaster but 2-inches too short. He spends the summer coming up with various ways to make himself taller to trick the ride operator. Very silly but amusing and I'm sure kids will find Peter very relatable. (4/5)

7. Frazzle Berries - A little monkey goes to get berries for her mummy and has a tale to tell when she gets back home with only five left. This story is out of place. On the whole, it is a cute little story about sharing but it doesn't belong in this collection. With the other stories being superbly written for 2nd-4th graders, this one comes in feeling like a bedtime story for toddlers. (2/5)

8. Epilogue - Narrator tells us he'll be back with more stories.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paperback, 276 pages
Published November 12th, 2013 by Thomas Nelson Publishers
(first published January 1st, 2011)

Wow. Wow. Wow. What an awesome, tragic and inspiring story! Just absolutely uplifting! I started this and was hooked from the first sentence barely able to put it down. Martin provides us with such an immense insight into the value of life, one that doctors washed their hands of, one doctors said should be left to die, a life people thought worthless, a life many objectified and abused. Just imagine being fully cognizant, inside your own body, but unable to communicate in any manner, no sounds, no movements, nothing, a "vegetable". Martin knew God was real and with him in the darkness just as he knew God knew he, Martin, was real. With God's presence, he persevered until one day a caregiver convinced others that there was more to Martin than they all thought. An inspiring story of love and the preciousness of all life. A must read!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Until You Are Dead, Dead, Dead: The Hanging of Albert Edwin Batson by Jim Bradshaw

Until You Are Dead, Dead, Dead: The Hanging of Albert Edwin Batson by Jim Bradshaw

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 192 pages
Published November 1st, 2014 by University Press of Mississippi

This is a true story of the case of Albert Edwin Batson who was hanged for killing a family of six in the early 1900s Louisiana. The book is from an academic press and as such does not read like a story as many of the true crime books I usually read. I found the book a bit hard to read at first, very much like a newspaper. It is full of direct quotes from the newspapers and the author's narrative between is journalistic in style too. However, once the mother comes on the scene things become much more interesting and I got quite involved having a hard time putting it down. It is a very interesting case and shows a very early example of "trial by media". The book relates the case and the two trials through the newspapers of the time as a transcript was not taken. Batson was found guilty twice and hanged for the crime but maintained his innocence throughout. There are many, many troubling things about the nonexistent police inquiry and the following trials. The first was acquitted on a technicality. Batson was the only suspect considered, witnesses were few and unreliable, all evidence was circumstantial and the jury was rigged in favour of capital punishment, a "hanging jury". We will never know if he was guilty or not, but reading the book clearly shows that life imprisonment was an option for sentencing and was in fact recommended by the governor's board at the last stages only to fall on deaf ears. If Batson had spent his life in prison would his determined mother and supporters have had the time to find real evidence of the true perpetrator?

The Settling Earth: A Collection of Short Stories by Rebecca Burns

The Settling Earth: A Collection of Short Stories by Rebecca Burns

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paperback, 128 pages
Published December 16th, 2014 by Odyssey Books

A lyrical, poignant collection of interrelated stories of pioneer life in New Zealand. Each tells it's own finite story but combined they present a dark, lonely tale of a community of people living within reach of Christchurch, the nearest town. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.

1. A Pickled Egg (2008) - A woman ponders upon how she came to be in this new country so unlike the old as she occasionally pats her stomach. Nothing happens but sets a lovely scene and a good beginning to the collection. (3/5)

2. Mr. William Sanderson Strikes for Home (2009) - A man is walking home from visiting a brothel and has been provoked into bringing a Maori with him. Mr. Sanderson'sthoughts are quite vehemently racist against the native as they walk towards his home and things turn nasty when the Maori dares to mention from whence they met. Near the end, we are given the hint that this man is the husband of the woman from the first story. Well-written and infused with a heavy atmosphere. I'm intrigued. (4/5)

3. Miss Swainson's Girl (2009)- Back to the boardinghouse and to a girl briefly mentioned in the previous story. Her story of how she came to be here is told in all its tragedy and her current life takes a turn for the worse. Intense and emotional. (5/5)

4. Dottie - A very slight mention in the previous story brings us to this home. A baby farm. A terrible, dark story of fallen women, societal conventions, the inability of man to forgive sins and finally saving grace. Haunting. (5/5)

5. Port and Oranges - Very interesting! We are back to the boarding house and a character study of the madam, Miss Swainson, of her background and how she came to be here in New Zealand and in this position. At this point two new characters emerge and there is the promise of the beginning of a story yet to tell, but at the same time, if it is not revisited one can make an assumption as to how this thread would have proceeded. (5/5)

At this point, I find myself very taken with the stories. Each seems to be a character study of a different person. There are small connections between some of the people, thus pulling the stories together in a cohesive unit. Onward!

6. Tenderness - We have to go back to story 4 to recall the character focused on in this story. We know nothing about her and this character study focuses on her pov, emotions and state of mind. In the end, it manages to tell us a bit more of what happened after story four but overall, I felt no connection to this character and the story was a bit of a drudge.(2/5)

7. Dressed for the funeral - This is the longest story so far, but a very quick read. We meet a new character, Phillipa (Pip) and for the first half of the story the entire events of a funeral and Pip's reminiscences are completely fresh to this collection. Then half-way through Pip overhears a group of women talking about the discovery of the baby farm in story 4. Here the story takes an anxious turn and the plight of women wanting a career during this era is explored. Emotional and compelling. (5/5)

8. Ink and Red Lace - A disturbing and dark story with no connection to the others except for the barest hint of the red lace. Set out on a ranch the atmosphere matches the tone. Excellent. My favorite in the collection so far! (5/5)

9. The Beast - This takes the husband from the last story back to his childhood and we learn the reason for some of his ways. It also has some mythical elements. OK (3/5)

10. Balance by Shelly Davies - This final story is written by a different author to give the Maori point of view and nicely brings the book full circle. We hearken back to story 2 and Mr. Sanderson and the Maori man, Haimona, arrive at the Sanderson's. Hans from the last story is here as well. As things play out Haimona's thoughts tell us what he thinks of these white people, how he interprets their proprieties and actions that are purely show and yet at the same time he wants the luxury they live in. Answers some questions left hanging in the other stories and wraps the collection up on a fine note. (4/5)

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (Tales from Deckawoo Drive #1) by Kate DiCamillo

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardcover, 96 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Candlewick Press

Tales from Deckawoo Drive (#1)

I saw this on display when I was at the library picking up a hold. I love the Mercy Watson books and was so excited to see this new series. Featuring characters from the Mercy Watson books, this one stars Leroy Ninker who first showed up on Deckawoo Drive as a thief. He now works at a drive-in theatre dreaming of being a cowboy. He's got all the clothes and the lingo, but he's missing one thing, the horse. An adorable, sweet, funny story. I just loved it. This is a step up from the Mercy books, being an early chapter book with b/w illustrations by the same illustrator. The story doesn't feature Mercy and almost entirely takes place away from Deckawoo Drive but at the end Leroy ends up there, meets Mercy and the book ends with that familiar scene of everybody around the breakfast table at the Watson's. Wonderful! I can't wait to see who the next book will feature!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dear Canada:Banished from Our Home: The Acadian Diary of Angélique Richard, Grand-Pre, Acadia, 1755 by Sharon Stewart

Dear Canada:Banished from Our Home: The Acadian Diary of Angélique Richard, Grand-Pre, Acadia, 1755 by Sharon Stewart

Hardcover, 203 pages
Published 2004 by Scholastic Canada

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dear Canada series

This book tells one of Canada's most tragic tales that brought about the near-extinction of a people through ethnic and religious intolerance, the Expulsion of the Acadians. This is the story of that episode through the eyes of the second eldest daughter of a large family. It is a heartbreaking story of loss and shameful, needless relocation of a people who were not wanted where they came from nor where they were sent. Hated either because they were French or Catholic, or both, the story brings to mind that world issues of today are no different than the ones of the past. A well-written, fast-paced story even though one knows ultimately how it will end due to the title, if one isn't familiar with the history. The book has a heavy atmosphere; I felt sad for the most part with the loss and death, and the ending only gives a bittersweet dose of happiness. The historical details are presented well through the emotional story and I'd say this would make a good introduction to the topic, especially with the historical notes included at the back of the book. I thought I didn't know this author, but taking a look at her backlist of titles, I realize I have read one other of her historical fictions a very long time ago. An emotional entry in the series.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Christine by Stephen King

Christine by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paperback, 503 pages
Published September 7th, 2004 by Signet (first published 1983)

I've been re-reading King's works for the last several years now. The last few books were not horror stories so I was looking forward to getting back to the genre with this one. However, "Christine" is about on par with "Firestarter" with me. The book drags on as the entire first half is set-up. It is not until about page 250 that anyone gets killed. There is a limited number of characters here for such a hefty book; I much prefer when King carries a large cast as in Salem's Lot or The Shining as he is a master at weaving their stories together. Christine spends so much time droning on about the few characters involved that I actually didn't care for any of them deeply. I had no real liking for anyone; they could have all died and I wouldn't have been surprised and Christine/Roland D. LeBay didn't instill any terror in me as the villain. Nothing of particular note stands out in this one for me. It was readable but too slow and drawn out for my tastes. The ending to this book though is different from previous ones to this point as while there is a finite ending, much more so than ever before there is a real impression that the evil still exists and more of the story is out there to be told.

I always look for connections while reading with King's multiverse, but didn't find anything related to previous books here.