Welcome

A Bookaholic, Pro-life, Pro-Family, Catholic, with Asperger's, who reads and writes as her obsession. These are the ramblings of the books I read.

I sometimes go through stages of "genre love", I'm addicted to mystery thrillers, Catholic theology, memoirs, 20th century Chinese historical fiction & Victorian fiction and non-fiction, but you'll find I read an even wider variety of books than that, both fiction and non-fiction. 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, with a nod towards what parents can expect to find that might or might not be objectionable.

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

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Smasher by Dick King-Smith

Smasher by Dick King-Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I thought I hadn't read this before but not too many pages in I realized I had. My eldest son was quite fond of this author so we've had a lot of his books in the house and I still have some left, but my youngest never took to them. Smasher is a cute book. A bit of a take on the ugly duckling story. This is an easy chapter book as well. Probably good for average 3rd grade readers. This is a realistic story of a "throwback" puppy of a litter; he's not weak or a runt. In fact he's the biggest and strongest, but looks nothing like the mother or other pups and is, in the farmer's opinion down right ugly. Smasher truly owns his name by causing all sorts of trouble from chasing chickens and sheep to entering the house, stealing a steak, whizzing in the living room and causing major havoc. Mrs. Farmer has enough and orders the pup begone. In this heart-warming story the kind-hearted farmer has grown too fond of "Smasher" to get rid of him so instead secretly spends three months training him. On his first day back to the farm Smasher surprises everyone with a skill no one knew he had. Now he can earn his bread and board as a house dog! I'm not familiar with the illustrator but Richard Bernal has adorable old-fashioned drawings that let the story remain ageless. Though the text does tell us their are "video recording machines".



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Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is my third book by Jennifer Brown, which I enjoyed, but not to the degree of the other two. This book is much more laid back that the others with no major crisis or climax that the story is propelling towards. Of course, things happen, an event starts the two siblings running away together in the first place. 16yo Jennifer is in major trouble at school, perfect Jennifer, and she reacts in haste by grabbing her severely OCD incapacitated older (19yo) brother and running away on a road trip across the country, hoping to meet up with an old friend they haven't seen in three years. This is a character driven novel and the particular type of writing I like the best. However here we don't ever really get to know the characters all that well. Jennifer is the narrator and she is unreliable as she goes through many stresses and delusions until she straightens herself out by the end. But there are two key themes that kept my interest and investment in these characters, especially Grayson the psychologically challenged brother. I, myself have a diagnosis of OCD but not to anywhere near the degree of Grayson's but being a member of the mental health community I related to a lot of what was going on in this family's life. Grayson has become the centre of the family's attention, any slight "normal" achievement is applauded and practically televised. The mother's whole life has become nothing but caring for Grayson, worrying about him, praising his little "normal" accomplishments but at the same time just waiting for the moment when that one "god-awful-no-return-horrible) thing will happen. As the mother of an autistic child myself, this mother rubbed me the wrong way with everything she did as my parenting style is sooo different (ie treating the special needs child just the same as the other children in the house, not using the illness/diagnosis as a crutch for why they can't do things, focusing on the positives they can do and running forward with them, 'nough said). Anyway, younger sister Jennifer is really just running away from her own problems, including possible expulsion, but she's decided to use this "exposure therapy" Grayson's therapists' have talked about that her mother just can't agree to and while they are on the road trip she doesn't coddle Grayson, exposes him to things he doesn't like and leaves him to his own resources, whether he has really changed by the end of the book is debatable; it may be that Jennifer's outlook towards Grayson is the thing that changed. But one thing we do notice is that both these young adults have got to know each other so much better and formed a bond that will last the rest of their lives; they have also got to know their own selves much more and that they are capable of so much more than they had thought. When they do get home, they are going to have a set of completely shocked parents who are going to have to do their own soul-searching and make some personal changes. Ms. Brown is a wonderful writer and I did like this book, it is a heartfelt relationship/sibling story, but doesn't have quite the excitement of the previous two I've read so far. Looking forward to exploring the author's other books.



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BOOK TOUR: Beyond the Pale edited by Henry Herz

Beyond the Pale edited by Henry Herz
Published: July, 2014; Birchtree Publishing

Rating: (4.5/5)

This is an absolutely fantastic collection of fantasy stories aimed at older Young Adults written by top-notch authors that all centre around the abstract theme of that thin veil that separates our world from the beyond. With most anthologies as a reader I always expect a mixed bag with perhaps a dud or two but Beyond the Pale is without exception the best collection of short stories I've read this year and this is my 10th.  The stories range from great to excellent. Most of the authors I had heard of, several I'd already read and the others I would read again.  A couple of my all-time favourite authors are included here also: Peter S. Beagle and Jane Yolen.  Superb!

1. Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela by Saladin Ahmed (2009) - A fine story to open this collection with!  Hard to describe its genre as just what exactly but mostly it resembles a tale of the Arabian Nights with touches of Frankenstein, mythological creatures or perhaps demons and a narrative similar to Dracula's Jonathan Harker as he tells the tale of his strange journey and the summons he receives.  Well done! (4/5)

2. The Children of the Shark God by Peter S. Beagle (2010) - I love this author and have read a lot of his work.  This story grabbed me from the first paragraph as I entered the folkloric story of the shark god.  The plot is quite simple and basic, one done many times, of the god transforming into human form, taking a maiden as his wife and siring offspring, here it is twins.  He only returns to visit the wife once a year but the children are never told who their father is.  It is Beagle's magical writing that transcends this tale beyond the typical plot.  It is beautiful and ends up dealing with death (as much of his work does) and the selfishness of wallowing in one's own grief over the death of a loved one. Lovely! (5/5)

3. Misery by Heather Brewer (2012) - Misery is a small town but no one knows how it got its name.  Certainly no one is ever miserable.  They are all quite jolly, to a degree.  They do wish, perhaps that Misery had colours, like somewhere they've been before, but no, Misery is black, white and shades of grey. And every year every one has a day when they get a Gift from the one with the psychic connection able to give the Gifts.  Alek is afraid his Gift will be bad this year, not because it has ever happened to anyone before, but because he has an inner sense about it. And when Alek receives his Gift it is something the gift giver has only given once before.  Nothing. (not just *not* a present). Nothingness. The absence of being... Creepy. Loved it (5/5)

4. Shadow Children by Heather Brewer (2010) - This is a new author for me so I was hoping this would be as good as the previous story by her, and no disappointment here.  Total creep-out!  Little brother Jon is afraid of the monsters in his room at night and big brother Dax is stuck babysitting him.  Dax thinks to let Jon "cry it out" leaving him in the dark a little longer but the piercing scream sends him running.  Then the two of them are battling not their just their own lives but the lives of the entire human race.  Creepy!! (5/5)

5. Evan Hand by Jim Butcher (2010)- I'm not a Dresden Files reader; tried the first book and it didn't work for me.  This story takes place in that world and is told by Marcone.  It's an ok story about the underworld involving demons, etc and has a bit of a Cal MacDonald vibe. But Cal is waaay better.  Harry is not actually in this story.  First story I didn't love. (3/5)

6. Red Run by Kami Garcia (2012)- Oh, a ghost story!  A girl goes out along a haunted road at night to get the ghost who has killed six people over the years including her older brother.  Really, really, really good.  Everything a ghost story needs and very tense at the end, not knowing what is going to happen.  I hadn't heard of this author before.  (5/5)

7. Pale Rider by Nancy Holder (2012) - Awesome!  This is longer than any others yet and could be the story the title of the anthology is based on.  This story actually feels very much like the prologue of a novel; it is so in depth, and even though it ends perfectly a whole novel could follow up from the story.  Eight years after the end of the world a an African-American girl is found by a German young man and taken to Germany, there she discovers her magical talent and together they search for the answers that caused the great apocalypse.  Wonderful fantasy about fairies and goblins.  (5/5)

8. Frost Child by Gillian Philip (2011) - This starts with an editor's note explaining the story is a prequel to the author's novel "Firebrand". It is a haunting story of how a little girl came to be found and brought back to her own people and yet she is quite different.  A tale of the Sithe, witches and kelpies.  The girl is a fascinating creature but there is a darkness about her that is not evil, but uncomfortable.  Well-written.  I haven't read this author before (4/5)

9. South by Gillian Philip (2012) - Another haunting story of the sea but selkies this time.  I love selkies! A generational story of a man who falls in love with a selkie, their daughter and eventually her son, his grandchild.  A beautiful story, told skillfully with just a hint of darkness in the atmosphere.  Selkies are my absolute favourite mythological creature.  Both of these stories were good.  I will have to look into this author. (4/5)

10. A Knot of Toads by Jane Yolen (2005) - Fantastic!  I'm a long-time fan of Jane Yolen and this tale of witches, curses and days of yore is spellbinding.  There are three knots mentioned in the tale and as each is recognised and undone in it's own way, a family loosens the ties the Old Witches have on them but not before the current patriarch is frightened to death by what he has found out.  Wonderful!  (5/5)

11. The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones by Nancy & Belle Holder (2006) - As the editor's note proclaims the book will finish off like any great meal with a "light dessert".  This is a fun, cute reimagining of the Dracula story but peopled with mice and rats.  The story concentrates on the storm at sea and the count's attacks upon Lightning (Lucy).  Cute. (4/5)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

8th annual Canadian Book Challenge



I've already signed-up but I'm a little late getting this post up.  I had plans to read a bit more than I got around to this month but oh, well.  Here we go!

I've been in this challenge of John's since day 1 and while he always mixes things up and makes it fun for us every year the challenge is always the same.  Running from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 read 13 books by Canadians, about Canadians or set in Canada.  I don't usually have a theme or anything that organized but this year I am going to try and read a "Dear Canada" book each month.  Big fail for July, though technically it is July 31, and I've just started my first one :-)

Post reviews here.

1. Two Issues of Teen Titans Go! by J. Torres
2.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Children Are Naughty by Vincent Cuvellier

Children Are Naughty by Vincent Cuvellier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I adore the illustration of this book. It is just like something done in the 40s or 50s. The text is very droll and tongue-in-cheek so it is the art which brings out the humour and has you looking at all the details on each page. This is a translation of a French book and as such is probably cultural in its approach to humour. I can see it not being to the taste of all English readers. There is no moral or lesson here. We simply go through pages of various ways in which children misbehave themselves. All very realistic, but the illustration makes it funny as does the dry humour of the text. Finally, at the end, with tongue firmly planted in cheek we are told that parents, of course, were not naughty when *they* were children and to finish it off we conclude that the only good child is a sleeping one; then, of course, they are just lovely! I thought this was very fun and cute in a non-cute way, if you know what I mean. But I will warn that I can readily see some people not appreciating this type of humour at all.



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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mid-Year Favourites Jan-Jun 2014: Short Story Collections & Misc

Now that we are in the middle of the year I thought I'd gather together my favourites so far for the year from Jan to June 2014.  Since I read soooo many books I've divided them up into categories and am keeping track of them that way.  So far I've done 

Nonfiction (Adult/Juvenile)
Fiction (Adult/YA)
Juvenile Novels
Picture Books & Easy Readers

Today I finish off with my last category which is Short Story Collections.  I read one short story every day.  Sometimes a short story is not so short and it will take me two days and there are a few days here and there when life interrupts and I don't read a storyat all, but I am pretty consistent.  I've been doing this since 2009 off and on but it became a regular thing in 2011 and now it's just habit.

It's pretty much impossible to give a (5/5) to a collection of short stories because invariably there is going to be a dud or two amongst the gems of even the best collections.  I prefer to read books which collect stories by one author which I call "collections" as they give a sense of the author but it is always fun to read a collection of stories that share a theme, I call these "anthologies".

I've read 6 collections of short stories so far this year from Jan-Jun, 2014.  Four of them are collections of one author, the other two anthologies containing various authors based on a theme.  Since there are no full (5/5) rated books in this list.  I will give you my top two favourites which both achieved a (4/5).  These both happen to be collections of one particular author each.


Short Story Collections

1.Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock (4/5)
2. The Birds: and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier (4/5)



And that is it for my best of lists for this half of 2014. I do have two remaining "odd" categories left.

Single Short Stories - I only read one and I rated it very badly, so not a best.
Poetry - Again I only read one so it can hardly be the best of anything. But here's the link anyway
1. Flower Fairies of the Garden by Cicely Mary Barker (5/5)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Newbery Reading Project

This is a re-read for me. The first time I read it aloud to my eldest about 15 years ago and we both loved it so much. I went on to read several more of the author's books after that, also enjoying them. I was looking forward to this re-read. I was a little disappointed as the story was much slower than I had remembered and at first I actually thought it was boring. So it did take me some time to get into it this time, though I hardly remembered the story except the basic plot. I did find my groove though, and settled down with this old-fashioned story, set in a different time in a different world, pre-WWII Netherlands. This is a sweet story about children and their love for animals, storks in this case. It's a time when children roamed the countryside all day long, unsupervised. The first good chunk of the book sets up the plot and not a lot of events happen, though Dejong is a beautiful writer and we soon feel the sense of this time, this place and these people. Once the hunt for the wheel begins, action enters the story and each individual child has an event happen along the way. Some of these adventures are what we would consider today, well anytime really!, quite dangerous and make for exciting reading. It dramatically contrasts what childhood was like in those bygone days compared to today. Everyone will shake their heads but, some will be with regret, others with thankfulness, that those times have passed. I do think this is a beautifully written story, with a lovely message; a sweet story in a way, but a real one as well, these children are hardly all sugar-and-spice. Unfortunately, I don't think it is a book many modern-day children will have the patience to read themselves and I recommend it be used as a read-aloud. There is so much to discuss! I'm a huge fan of Maurice Sendak but his illustrations in this book are only middle of the road, recognisable as his work certainly but nothing special.



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