Can't Stop Reading

Lucky for me I get a hefty discount at work, because I just can't seem to stop myself!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Oh Suzanne Nelson, why do you always suck me in?! Yesterday another one of those ridiculous S.A.S.S. books came in to the store. And today when I finished The Darcy Spirit and was feeling depressed because that is the last one, I picked it up.

This is hard to admit, but I have now read all six of the books in this most ridiculous of series. I will say though, that this one was slighly more interesting than the others. This time, we're going with Cat to Mexico. And instead of rigorous classes, the kids are working on building a school for orphans, and their studies are really cool sounding field trips that teach them about Mexico's culture and geography.

That's pretty much the most interesting part. And that's only because I don't really know a whole heck of a lot about Mexico, myself. Other than that stuff, the book is pretty much the same as all the others, what with friendship dilemmas and new boyfriends and all.

I will try and read something worthwhile to post about tonight, though it is so gorgeous out today, I wouldn't count on it if I were you!

S.A.S.S. Heart and Salsa by Suzanne Nelson
ISBN 0142406473
224 pages

Monday, May 29, 2006

I have been slacking off this weekend because it was my birthday. And also I'm lazy. Today I'm reading the last in the Elizabeth Aston Darcy trilogy. Again, I'm not going to post about it, because though it is just as good (if not better) than the others, I have nothing exciting and new to say about it.

So instead I'll treat you to a wordless picture book. When I was little I had a wordless picture book that I loved. And I had a story all made up that went along with it. If any adults deviated from my set words, they were immediately corrected. That is pretty much the sum total of my experience with wordless books. I think, generally, that I am not really creative enough to deal with them. So when Ben's Big Dig came in a few months ago, I was wary. But I shouldn't have been.

The "story" is that Ben is driven rather unwillingly to visit an elderly female (grandmother? aunt? you decide!) who makes an insane number of pies. Really, there are pies on every available surface. Late at night, Ben can't sleep, so he decides to dig a hole in the ground out back, trusty sock monkey in tow. Ben digs and he digs, and finally, he hits something: water! Ben and various aquatic creatures shoot up through the hole making quite the mess. Fortunately, elderly lady is awake by this time, and she saves the day by blocking the giant hole with pies. Weird, eh?

Dirk van Stralen's illustrations add to the weird feel. For instance, Ben has no mouth until the last page, and his sock monkey always looks like he was off doing something suspicious, and just came back to sit unanimatedly in time for him to be drawn into the picture.

Although the basic story will stay the same, thanks to the pictures, the details will change from telling to telling in this wonderfully creative book. Unless you're reading to a tyrant like me.

Ben's Big Dig story Daniel Wakeman illustrated by Dirk van Stralen
ISBN 1551433842
32 pages

Friday, May 26, 2006

So last night my youngest sister came home for the summer. Which translates to: instead of reading, I watched a bad teen movie featuring Hilary Duff. However, I made up for it by staying in bed reading till 11 today. Oh the sacrifices I make for the good of the blogosphere! Ha!

So the book I finished up is one of the many Sarah Dessen ones that came in this week (side note: I popped into the store today on my day off to drop off something and sold the librarian from my old high school Dessen's entire backlist). This Lullaby is just as good as Just Listen, her newest. Its about Remy, who's mother is entering into marriage number five. Remy's way of coping with the insanity is to date many boys, but all according to her rules, which basically involve not getting attached, and dumping them after about two months. But then she meets Dexter. So yeah, its a little predictable, what with Dexter being Remy's complete opposite (they balance each other out!), but I don't care. I have decided Dessen is one of my new favourite authors. She is going to be one of those people (like Marian Keyes) who I can turn to when I am feeling a little low, and I will know what I'm getting into. See, I am not one of those people who likes to be challenged with my reading material. I kind of prefer a nice snuggly duvet of a book. So huffah to Sarah Dessen!

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
ISBN 0670035300
352 pages

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I am feeling a little overwhelmed today. Because a few weeks ago when I read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, I went a little nuts and ordered her entire backlist. That is the joy of working at a bookstore, you see. I don't have to worry about bill-paying and such. Though I'm sure I'll sell them (I have a high school librarian coming in tomorrow), there are certainly a lot of them. So yesterday instead I read Welcome to Wahoo. And I'm glad I did.

Victoria is one of those girls you read about in tabloids. Kind of like the Hilton sisters, but smarter and funnier. Not that that's saying much. But yeah, Victoria is hilarious. Anyways, so she's having a great time at her boarding school in Switzerland, when her world is turned upside down. She and one of her father's bodyguards must leave Europe under assumed names and live in the small town of Wahoo, Nebraska, while her father and his family are being hunted by Sicilians. Oh, and they only have $5000.

What follows is Victoria's take on small town American life, and the hilarious results of her enrollment at a "typical" American high school.

The only part I didn't like about the book was the ending. I can't really say much more without ruining the story, but suffice to say, it was a bit of a letdown. Despite that, its definitely worth a read.

Welcome to Wahoo by Dennis & Elise Carr
ISBN 1582346968
229 pages

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I have always said that I am not a fan of short stories. But I've read a few books of them in the last few years that I've really liked. I begin to think that junior high has traumatized me, turning me off short stories and poetry. I think that it is just Alice Munro and her ilk that I don't like.... I'm not quite ready to plunge back into poetry yet though.

I mention this because Girls Night Out came into the store the other day. Its a bunch of stories by chicklit authors and the proceeds go towards WarChild. Well, I thought to myself, that is a good cause, maybe it's worth checking out. And it was.

The only story I didn't enjoy was Candace Bushnell's. Which is no real surprise, as I tend not to enjoy her work. Her characters are always awful, mean, unhappy and frankly, revolting human beings, with no redeeming characteristics that I can see. So skip that one.

My favourite was Lolly Winston's story Only Some People about one of those bickering couples, Mr. and Mrs. B, who both fantasize of divorce, until Mr. B has a heart attack.

I also really enjoyed Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus' piece about a party. It's about how even when you are exhausted and just want to go to bed, the possibility of seeing that guy will make you run home and shower and tear through your wardrobe and hobble to a party you don't want to go to in heels you can't even properly fit in, all in hopes of seeing that guy. And then how he doesn't show up until you've gone home and removed all your makeup and just run down to the corner deli to get something to eat.

Meg Cabot's hilarious email exchange in Party Planner is just that. For anyone who's ever done something stupid at work.

I could do this for every story, because they were all perfect. Or you could go pick up the book, support a good cause, and have a great evening in.

Girls Night Out edited by Carole Matthews & Sarah Mlynowski
ISBN 0143054457
304 pages

Kathryn Lasky is one of those authors that blows my mind. She's insanely prolific; I have a feeling if I was an author I'd be lucky to get one book done every few years.

Anyways, this picture book of hers isn't new, but I like it, so here it is:

Everyone knows the story of the Emperor and his new clothes, but whatever happened to his old clothes? Well apparently a very nice (and rather goofy looking) farmer named Henry came across them. One at a time, Henry finds various items of clothing tossed by the roadside. He trades his old farming clothes for silk stockings, high-heeled shoes, pantaloons, a doublet and a wig. This is my favourite line: "Henry did not know the word regal, but that is how he felt- high and mighty, as if he could walk on clouds, as if the mountains would bow and the stars might even clap."

But when Henry gets back to his farm, he finds that his new duds are not the most practical apparel for a farmer. And frankly, his animals aren't impressed either, and they laugh at his attempts to look after them in the new clothes. Fortunately, Henry is a sensible, amiable type, and he realizes that he's more of an overalls type of a guy, and he and his animals live happily ever after.

Lasky's prose is spot on, and illustrator David Catrow's paintings are stupendous. The price of the book is worth it for the shoes alone.

The Emperor's Old Clothes written by Kathryn Lasky illustrated by David Catrow
ISBN 0152163484
32 pages

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Well, I'm back from the emerald city! I had a great time, shopping and sightseeing and such, and read absolutely nothing. Except an article about the conspiracy behind the death of Biggie Smalls in an old Rolling Stone. That LAPD is up to no good, I tell ya!

Anyhoo, I am a little lacking in the sleep department, so today is a picture book. Jez Alborough has written too many books to count. My favourite is Duck in the Truck, which is pretty funny. That duck cracks me up every time!

Alborough is also a master of the one or two word picture book. Tall is his newest offering in that vein. The first page introduces us to a small chimpanzee who looks rather dejected as he describes himself as "small." But then he notices a rock to stand on, and feels "tall!" That is, until a lizard comes around, making him feel small again. On and on it goes until our friend is standing on the head of a giraffe, when he begins to wobble as he shouts "fall!" Fortunately, Mama is there to save Bobo, and you know, when you're being held by your mum, being "small" is actually a pretty nice feeling.

Bobo the chimp has also been featured in Hug, another cute one or two word picture book. The books are great, and would be super fun to read with a small child. Except that I hate the name Bobo. Don't you? It just sounds weird and not good. But since we don't learn the name till the end of the book, that is not much of an objection, is it?

Tall written and illustrated by Jez Alborough
ISBN 0763627844
40 pages

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I didn't post anything yesterday, because I was finishing up The Sea of Monsters, which is the second book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. It was great, but everything I said about the first book applies. Namely, its hilarious and fun and you need to go read it. If you need more info, check out my review of the first one, The Lightning Thief.

Also, I'm heading out on a road trip to Seattle this weekend with my good friend Katie, so the posting will probably not be happening. I'm leaving tomorrow, and I won't be back till Monday night. My provisions for this weekend of fun include: The Queen's Soprano by Carol Dines, a biography of Queen Christina of Sweden, the latest issue of Quill & Quire, and The Princess and the Captain. So hopefully I'll have some good stuff to write about when I get back.

Meanwhile, here are a few picture books for your perusal. First up is Rob Scotton's follow up to his hilarious Russell the Sheep, which I adored. In this adventure, Russell finds a scrap of paper that convinces him he must find the lost treasure of Frogsbottom. So obviously the first step is to create a Super-Duper Treasure Seeker. Just as Russell is about to give up on the whole search, his treasure seeker locates something at the bottom of a tree. Russell pulls up an old chest of junk, including an ancient camera, and has a great time with friends and family, taking hilarious pictures. It turns out that even old junk can be a treasure.

I don't think that Scotton's biggest strength is his writing, which for the most part, could be described as serviceable. However, his illustrations are such that I can't imagine anyone cares. Russell is probably one of my favourite picture book characters in the last few years. Especially once I saw his schematic for the Super-Duper Treasure Seeker. Truly, Scotton knows good sheep.

I will admit to being pretty excited when I saw this next one come into the store. I adored Julie of the Wolves when I was a kid. Unfortunately, Jean Craighead George's Luck did not live up to my expectations. Luck is a migration story of a Sandhill Crane. George has chosen to tell this as a story, cramming in as many facts as possible, as we follow Luck from Texas to Siberia. My biggest problem with this book is the lack of afterword, or what have you, that gives straight facts. At one point George refers to the migration pattern being 20 million years old. Really? That's the kind of thing that she could have expanded on at the back of the book, making this all the more valuable. How much of what she wrote is fact, and how much fiction? This lack especially bothered me because as fiction, the book didn't do much for me. Luck isn't really a character, he's just a bird that we're following. I also didn't love Wendell Minor's illustrations. They kind of reminded me of the illustrations you find in old kids books from the forties and fifties, which always turned me off.

The Baabaasheep Quartet is another sheep story. Just in case you couldn't tell from the title. This one is about four sheep who move to the city. But wherever they go, they just don't fit in. They decide that getting a job will help them meet people, but they don't seem suited for any of the activities they choose. When they work as gardeners, they eat the flowers; when they knit for newborns at the hospital, they knit things with four legs; when they try lawn bowling, their hooves make holes in the green. What are these poor sheep to do? Finally, one of their number finds a rather bedraggled poster for a baabaasheep quartet contest. Pefect! They think. They'll fit right in with all the other sheep. But it turns out the poster read barbershop quartet, and the sheep feel as out of place as ever. Until they decide that the show must go on, with a little help from paper cutout mustaches and hats. Well, the sheep end up singing three encores, winning the grand prize, and going on to tour the world, as the only world famous baabaasheep quartet. Huzzah! Author/illustrator Watts' pictures of these rather ridiculous sheep add wonderfully to the humour. Have any creatures ever looked so out of place as these sheep? Superb.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
ISBN 0786856866
288 pages

The Queen's Soprano by Carol Dines
ISBN 0152054774
318 pages

Christina, Queen of Sweden by Veronica Buckley
ISBN 1841157368

The Princess and the Captain by Anne-Laure Bondoux
ISBN 0747584354
433 pages

Russell and the Lost Treasure by Rob Scotton
ISBN 0060598514
32 pages

Luck written by Jean Craighead George illustrated by Wendell Minor
ISBN 0060082011
32 pages

The Baabaasheep Quartet by Leslie Elizabeth Watts
ISBN 1550418904
32 pages

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Oh the excitement! Last night I got my 1,000th visitor! Thanks guys!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Is there anything so nice as discovering a new (to you) book by a favourite author? Yesterday, Rodzina by Karen Cushman came in to the store. I have loved Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy and her other books set in the middle ages. Rodzina, however, is set in the US, during the nineteenth century.

Rodzina is an orphan, living in Chicago. She ends up on an orphan train, bound for the west (Cushman includes a great author's note that details the history of orphan trains). Rodzina spend most of her time on the train daydreaming that her Polish family is still alive, and that the whole orphan business is a mistake. But she also spends a good portion of the time on the train looking after the younger orphans, and worrying that she'll end up being a slave for some cruel person. Eventually, Rodzina finds a happy ending for herself in California, a place she imagines her parents would also love.

I think one of Cushman's great strengths as a writer is her ability to make you learn without you realizing it. All of her books are historically accurate, and she obviously works really hard on the research end of things. But, unlike some authors, you don't notice it right off the bat. In her books, story and character come first, and the setting never takes centre stage. Though Rodzina is no Midwife's Apprentice, its still a great novel of the American West.

Rodzina by Karen Cushman
ISBN 044041993x
215 pages

Monday, May 15, 2006

Today I have been reading the first of Elizabeth Aston's Darcy books that just came in, but I'm not finished it yet, and I don't know that I'll talk about it here, as I think I would be saying pretty much the same things I've already said.

So instead I'll talk about My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the World. I know what you are thinking here. You are thinking, but I thought you hated cats! Why all the reviews of cat books. Well, my friends, it is an unfortunate fact of life that many people think cats are great, and therefore, write, read and buy books about them. Shocking, I know, but it is something I must deal with, day in and day out. Rather ridiculous customers cooing over books with cats on the covers, or specially requesting books about cats, or whatnot.

Fortunately, Gilles Bachelet has found the antidote! A book that appears to be about a cat, but is in fact, about an elephant! See, Bachelet's cat is not so much a cat, as an elephant. And even though he behaves rather like a cat ("when he's not eating, he's sleeping. When he's not sleeping, he's eating"), there are a few differences. When an elephant chases a ball of yarn around your apartment, for instance, its not something you can ignore.

Thought this book doesn't have a story per se, I think younger kids would definitely get a kick out of the irony of a book about a cat, featuring illustrations of an elephant. And at 24 pages, it ends just in time, before the joke gets too old.

My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the World by Gilles Bachelet
ISBN 081094913X
24 pages

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I think we all know by now that I have a terrible attraction to bad teen novels. So when Rhymes with Witches came into the store, with it's pink cover, I snatched it right up.

Its an interesting idea, I'll say that much. Jane is a rather unpopular freshman, when she's approached by the Bitches. They're the most popular clique in high school, and everyone adores them. There are only ever four Bitches at a time, one from each grade, and Jane becomes the freshman Bitch. But these girls aren't regular popular. It turns out that they gain their popularity be stealing small items from other girls, and the creepy mythology teacher (Lurl the Pearl) somehow takes the popularity from whatever unfortunate girl the item belongs to and bestows it on the Bitches. Hm.

Anyways, Jane hates the "for one to rise, another must fall" part of being a Bitch, and ends up sacrificing her popularity to save a girl who's been bullied by one of the other Bitches. And that's it. Jane doesn't save the day, or break up the terrible tradition, or go on to be popular for her own sake or anything. She just ends going back to being another peon in high school, only this time, without the best friend she ditched to get into the Bitches in the first place.

Although I enjoyed this book for the most part, I really didn't like the ending. It kind of felt like author Lauren Myracle just ran out of ideas and decided to end the book. Despite that, I think this would be a great book for any girls who go to one of those horrendously cliquey schools. Its nice to think that its not your fault you're not popular: blame witchcraft!

Rhymes with Witches by Lauren Myracle
ISBN 0810992159
249 pages

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Dear Fish by Chris Gall is an imaginative story about a boy named Peter Alan. Peter Alan (never just Peter) is spending the day at the beach with his family. He spends much of the day checking out tide pools and such, and decides to write a note, inviting the fish to come visit him. As an extra incentive, he mentions that his mother makes really great pie.

Well, the next day, it seems as though the fish have taken him up on his offer, and the town is besieged with sea creatures. Each page features a sea creature of some sort getting into trouble, and a nice chorus of sounds, all in their own font. For example "Down at the ballpark, it was the bottom of the ninth inning. Without looking, Casey McGraw grabbed a bat from the dugout and ran to the plate. The crowd hushed as he swung with all his might. And with a SMACK, a CRUNCH, a MUNCH, and a GULP, the game was over." The illustration on this page features a baseball player swinging a long skinny fish with a baseball between it's teeth.

All the illustrations are great, for that matter. They are done in a really cool retro style, and each page contains several visual jokes about the fish.

In the end, Peter Alan pops a note into the bathtub for the fish: "Dear Fish, Than you for coming to see us. You are nice, but you are fish. You should live at home. Plus, I think I hear your mothers calling you. Sincerely, Peter Alan."

Eventually, things get back to normal, and Peter Alan's family returns for a day at the beach. But then something catches Peter Alan's eye... it looks rather like a letter, that starts with "Dear Humans...."

A big part of the wonder of this book is the illustrations, which are truly fabulous. I also loved the endpapers (my mum is obsessed with endpapers, so I always notice them), which feature various species of ocean creatures, all nicely labelled.

Dear Fish written and illustrated by Chris Gall
ISBN 0316058475
36 pages

Friday, May 12, 2006

Okay, I have been reading all about the furor surrounding the New York Times Book Review's announcement of the "Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years" (see the list here). I haven't read a single one of them personally, but in the world of kiddie lit bloggers, the more relevant controversy is that not a single children's book was among them. Fuse #8 is challenging everyone to think of children's books that should have made the list. Feel free to contribute in the comments section here. And Book of the Day is challenging us to come up with other not-necessarily-kids book contributions here.

I have to say, what disturbed me most, was not so much the lack of children's books (I have gotten used to children's literature not being considered "real" literature by most people- even though that kind of reaction creates an undeniable urge to kick shins on my part) but that most of the books were written by middle aged white men. About middle aged white men. And really now, it is what, 2006? And we are still obsessed with middle aged white men? And frankly, if I am going to read about middle aged white men, I'm going to read Paul Auster, not John Updike.

I'm not much of a poetry person, so when all these novels in verse started coming out, I was a little skeptical. But I've read a few now, and they've all been very good. However, I cannot say that any of them were inextricably linked to their own form. So far they would have made perfectly good (if somewhat longer) novels. On the plus side, they make for nice short reads.

Anyways, that is my lead in to Pieces of Georgia. Its about Georgia, who is thirteen, and for the most part, a loner. Her best friend is Tiffany, and she is a total jock, spending most of her time at various sports activities, leaving Georgia lots of time to hang out with her dog, and her sketchbook.

Georgia, her father, and the aforementioned dog live in a trailer on a horse farm. Georgia's father spends all his time working at construction sites, so Georgia keeps busy drawing and looking after the horses. That is until her school councillor gives her a red leather journal, and suggests that Georgia use it to write down her thoughts. She even suggests Georgia write to her mother. See, Georgia's mother died when she was seven.

So the book itself is a rather extended letter to Georgia's mother, as she deals with her grief-stricken father, Tiffany's new Ritalin addiction, and her discovery of the art of the Wyeth family.

By far the best parts are Georgia's multiple trips to the Wyeth museum, and her wonder at the paintings housed there. Though I must say, Bryant did a really nice job of a realistic happy ending. One that had me sobbing, I might add.

Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant
ISBN 0375832599
176 pages

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wow. Okay, so I've just finished Just Listen by Sarah Dessen. I read this one on Leila from Bookshelves of Doom's recommendation. Its pretty great.

Annabel is the youngest of three sisters, all of whom have been involved in modelling. But things seem to be falling apart. Annabel is starting the new school year as a social outcast, and her middle sister has just been released from a treatment centre for annorexia.

Then Annabel meets Owen, another social misfit from school, and he draws her into his world of obscure music and extreme honesty. But Annabel has never been really honest with anyone, herself included. She's the nice one, who doesn't rock the boat.

I have to say, my favourite part about this book was the relationship between the sisters. How all of them rebelled against their 'roles' within the family. I know all families have that sort of thing going on, but I found it especially interesting because I come from a family with three sisters. I'm the oldest, and I don't think anyone in our family could be described as the 'nice one' in the same way that Annabel is, but the roles are there. And I know that those roles have caused conflict. Certainly a big part of Dessen's story is not just how people react to events, but how Annabel perceives they react to events. Which is not at all the same thing, and I know we've all been guilty of doing it.

So, run out and read this one, or, I suspect, anything else by Sarah Dessen. I know my to-be-read pile has just gotten a lot higher.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
ISBN 0670061050
371 pages

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reasons today is going to be awesome:

1. Last night's episode of Gilmore Girls was amazing.
2. My cold is almost gone.
3. I woke up this morning singing Patsy Cline.
4. I am wearing my painful, but oh so cute button shoes.
5. Today is my "Friday" and I'm off for two days starting tomorrow.
6. My car radio was on full blast when I started it this morning, and it was playing NIN!

So last night I watched tv and read the newest Gossip Girls novel. I will say that I have enjoyed these books in the past. In the same way that every now and then I enjoy going to McDonald's. I know its bad for me, but it tastes so good! Until a few hours later, when I start to feel totally disgusting. Unfortunately, Gossip Girls hits me before McDonald's. About two chapters in I started to feel gross for reading this book.

I haven't read all these books, but they all follow the same characters, mostly rich kids who live in New York. The only descriptions the author provides are ones of the name brand clothes the characters are wearing. You never know what a place looks like, only the clothes. And even then, only if they are expensive. The poor characters never have their clothes described.

Anyways, I used to enjoy these books in the same sick fascinated way I enjoyed reading about those crazy Hiltons, but I think I have reached full capacity for this kind of thing. Even for a summer beach read (or summer cold), this one was not satisfying. Get thee to a Marian Keyes novel, I say! (Or Karen Rivers, or Louise Rennison, or Susan Juby, or Carolyn Mackler, or even Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout).

P.S. I'm a total tool; I've gone and "misplaced" Enna Burning. So I have to wait for a new copy to come in before I can review it. Cue me hitting my head against a wall.

Gossip Girls #9: Only in Your Dreams by Cecily von Ziegesar
ISBN 0316011827
232 pages

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Okay, so hangover turned into a cold. I haven't had a cold in like, two years and it is hitting me hard. Or it could be that I'm just a big baby. That does seem more likely. Anyways, my cure for the cold has always been a combination of couch and tv, so the reading is suffering. Hopefully I'll be feeling better tomorrow or the next day.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

So today I was feeling a little under the weather (read: hungover), and my poor dehydrated brain was not really up to Shannon Hale. So I picked up Louisa McCormack's Six Weeks to Toxic. I would just like to start off by saying that I adore the cover. In fact, I picked this book to read today because of the cover. And the fact that I love crazy tights, but have never felt like I am kooky enough to pull them off. I am more of a jeans and flip flops kind of girl. But I suppose I should talk about the content of the book, and not just the cover.

Bess is almost 35, and living in Toronto. She's a foley artist, which mean she does all the noises for movies (footsteps, car doors slamming, etc.). Her best friend of 16 years is Maxine. Now the book is billed as a friendship break-up novel, so its obvious from the get go that by the end of the book, Maxine and Bess won't be friends anymore. Here is the problem I had with this book: Maxine is a super bitch. She's terrible. And Bess doesn't seem like one of those people with no self-confidence who will put up with that kind of thing for 16 years. Why would anyone put up with someone like Maxine for 16 years? Beyond the fact that she's mean, she's also shallow, and totally OCD. She's boring! And the friendship breakup was very anticlimatic. I was all excited for the big screaming fight, but nada.

What McCormack is good at though, is detail. Bess' day to day life is brim full of all sorts of weird interactions with her friends and family that made me laugh. I think that maybe she was really trying to write a book for women that was Important, and was over ambitious. At any rate, though I wouldn't highly recommend this one, I'll be curious to see what she puts out in the future.

Six Weeks to Toxic by Louisa McCormack
ISBN 1552637654
271 pages

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I am about to start reading Enna Burning by Shannon Hale (Thanks, Margaret!), but in the mean time, I'll do a picture book for youse guys.

Brave Charlotte is about a flock of sheep. Charlotte is not like the other sheep, who sit around and eat grass and not much else. Charlotte goes on adventures, climbing trees, mountains, and swimming through streams. One day the shepherd falls and breaks his leg, and as Jack, the sheepdog is too old to make it all the way to the valley, Charlotte goes in his stead. She brings the farmer back, and all's well that ends well.

Although I have liked Henrike Wilson's art in other books, I don't think his illustrations were goofy and light-hearted enough for a book about a sheep who climbs trees. I also thought parts of the story seemed odd. When Charlotte makes the trek to find the farmer, it takes almost all night. And why is Jack the sheepdog not retired if he is too old to get help? I was also enjoying, in the first few pages, the refrain of the older sheep whenever Charlotte has another adventure. Tut tut tut! they said. But about half way through the book, the stopped tutting and moved on to other exclamations.

Although I liked the message about individuality, I don't think this one had the extra something special that a great picture book has.

Brave Charlotte written by Anu Stohner illustrated by Henrike Wilson
ISBN 074758043X
32 pages

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Okay, so. The other day I read Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper. It could be Merigle. The font makes it kind of hard to tell. Okay, just checked, it is Mericle.

Now that that pressing issue is sorted, let's talk about the book. It's the story of Emily, who is in middle school, and trying to deal with a rather complicated life. Her parents spend all their time fighting, her serveral friends go together like "tuna fish salad and ice cream," and she's stuck on "crush island." Fortunately, she gets a birthday package from her mum's best friend that includes a set of 'flashcards of my life' to fill out. This is much less daunting than the usual blank journals she gets, so Emily gets to work filling out the cards.

What follows is Emily's story told through a combination of first person narrative, flashcards, and really funny sketches. Though the ending was a little to tied up nicely for my taste, I think this book would be wonderful for those pre-teen girls who aspire to read teen novels, but are maybe a little young. Emily is an exceedingly endearing character, and I very much enjoyed this book.

Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper
ISBN 0316756210
240 pages

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

It has been a while since I've done any fantasy, so I picked up Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief. When I met the publisher's rep back in February, she was all excited about the sequel to this one coming out (The Sea of Monsters), but I shrugged it off. I shouldn't have. I really enjoyed it.

Percy (short for Perseus) Jackson is on his sixth school in six years. He has all sorts of learning disabilities, including ADHD and dyslexia. When he's attacked by his math teacher and disintegrates her with a pen/sword, he realizes that in fact, he is a half-blood. His father is a god, and his mother a mortal. Because it turns out that the ancient Greek gods weren't myths. They really do exist, and their home, Mount Olympus, has followed the seat of Western Civilization for centuries. It's currently hanging out on top of the Empire State building in New York City.

Anyways, with the help of a satyr named Grover, Percy makes his way to Camp Half-Blood, a safe place for the children of gods to hang out and train. There Percy is assigned a quest of monumental importance. Hades has convinced Zeus that Poseidon stole his thunderbolt, and World War Three is about to break out. Poseidon claims innocence of any wrong doing and assigns Percy the job of going down to Hades to get the thunderbolt back. Along to help him are Annabeth (daughter of Athena) and Grover the satyr.

Beyond being a really fun adventure story, the book is funny. For instance, once the kids reach Hades, they are directed into three lines, "two marked ATTENDANT ON DUTY, and one marked EZ DEATH. The EZ DEATH line was moving right along. The other two were crawling." It’s full of lines like that.

Though Riordan does a great job with describing each god and mythical animal he brings in, I still think it'd be handy to have something like this on hand. Just in case.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
ISBN 0786838655
400 pages

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Now I know I just talked about Sarah Ellis' The Queen's Feet not too long ago, but I was digging through the shelves yesterday and I found her Several Lives of Orphan Jack, and I thought, hey, I haven't read this! I suspect because it came out back in 2003 and I was busy reading about Canadian foreign policy, and the importance of church pews in 16th century England that year.

So I picked it up and gave it a read through. I'm going to try really hard here not to be gushy. This book was so good. Jack (also known as Otherjack) lives at an orphanage, where he spends most of his time learning from Little Truths for the Instruction of Boys, and his free time reading the dictionary (missing the entries for letters A and B) that was his Christmas present a few years back.

Now that Otherjack is twelve, he's assigned an apprenticeship as a bookkeeper, which he imagines involves keeping books safe. Well, it turns out that he's not so great at what bookkeeping actually entails, and he decides (with some advice from his stomach. No, really) there's nothing for it but to run away. He drops the "other" and goes back to being Jack and runs off to sea. Though he does make it to a town on the water, he never makes it to sea, at least not in this book (please Sarah Ellis, I desperately need more Jack in my life!).

In Aberbog, the staid town where fetches up, Jack decides to sell whims, thoughts, concepts, plans, opinions, impressions, notions and fancies in order to feed himself (and his rather opinionated stomach). Well the potato-faced mayor has something to say about that, and plans to have Jack arrested. Thankfully, the good citizens of Aberbog have had their minds opened by Jack and help him escape to safety.

There isn't really a plot to this book, which I'm normally not a big fan of. But Ellis' hilarious prose more than makes up for it. I was trying to decide what bit of the book I wanted to quote, and I realized that I couldn't choose. The whole thing makes me wish I had someone here with me, so I could tell them, listen, listen! And then read them the whole book. In other words, go out and get this one, right now!

The Several Lives of Orphan Jack written by Sarah Ellis illustrated by Bruno St-Aubin
ISBN 0888996187
84 pages

Monday, May 01, 2006

I was all excited today because I was sure the Canpar guy would bring me a package from Random House containing Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist which I read about over at Bookshelves of Doom a few weeks ago. Sadly, it was not to be. So you all will have to do with some picture books instead.

First up is Move! by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. This book is all about the different ways that animals move, i.e. floating, running, climbing, slithering. There are two things I love about this book. The first is the illustrations. They are cut paper collages, and each animal is so well done, it takes my breath away. I have always been a big fan of collage, and these two are masters. The second thing I love is the transition from animal to animal. So smooth, it’s like buttah! Each page contains two animals, each moving the same way, for instance, a jacana dives to catch a fish, and beside him, a blue whale also dives. The following page shows a blue whale swimming in the sea, and an armadillo swimming across a stream, etc. I also really appreciated the two pages at the back of the book that take the time to explain each animal, its habitat, and average size (including both imperial and metric measurements!). A great book for pre-schoolers through grade 2.

Next up is another collage book: Look! Look! Look! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace and Linda K. Friedlaender. Phew, those names are certainly a mouthful! Anyways, this is a great art book for the younger set. The story revolves around three young mice, who find an art postcard and decide to study it. The postcard is a portrait of an Elizabethan woman, and the mice do a great job of deconstructing the colors and shapes used by the artist. What I think this book best accomplishes is showing kids how to look at paintings and see more than just the surface. This book would be a great one to read to a class before a trip to the museum or art gallery. Appropriate for about the same ages as the previous one.

When You Were Small is a gorgeously old fashioned book. Every night, Henry asks his father to tell him about when he was small. Henry's dad has a bit of a sense of humor, and all the anecdotes he relates (one per page) involve a very small Henry indeed. (See how old-fashioned?! I said "indeed"). For instance, when Henry was small, his father tells him, "you rode on the cat's back like you were an emperor and he was an elephant." Julie Morstad's charming line illustrations fit so nicely in with author Sara O'Leary's text that I truly cannot imagine a better pairing.

The other day I was laughing about a send up of the classic Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Apparently it is not beloved by everyone. I do like it for the most part, myself, but I can see why others would have a problem with it. For those, I suggest Sleepy Boy. This is a lovely story about a sleepy boy who will not sleep. It is not at all silly, even though it features a not so sleepy kid and lions. Really, it is quite gentle, and author Polly Kanevsky does an amazing job with the language. It is light years away from the over the top sweetness of Munsch's story, and yet remains wonderfully touching. This is Kanevsky's first book, and I have to say, bravo! I hope she does plenty more. Every parent should own this wonderful bedtime story

Move! written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
ISBN 061864637X
32 pages

Look! Look! Look! written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace with Linda K. Friedlaender
ISBN 0761452826
40 pages

When You Were Small written by Sara O'Leary illustrated by Julie Morstad
ISBN 1894965361
32 pages

I'm feeling very accomplished today. Wanna know why? Because I read Lois Lowry's newest book, and I didn't cry! I don't think I've ever read a Lois Lowry book and not bawled like a baby.

So the book that I narrowly avoided crying over is called Gossamer. It's about Littlest One, and her teacher Thin Elderly who are dream givers. Dream givers are tiny beings assigned to a house to touch various objects around the place and then give dreams to the inhabitants. The inhabitants of this particular house are a rather lonely old lady and her dog Toby. Until John comes. John is eight years old, and very angry, with an abusive past. At first Littlest has a hard time finding good things to give to John for dreams, but she digs deep and gets the job done, defeating the Horde of Sinisteeds, terrible beasts that bring nightmares.

This book is nothing short of wonderful, thanks to Lowry's skills. I think her accomplishment is all the more impressive because I can see how this story could have been terrible if handled differently. Littlest One and the other dream givers are so dear, that the book could easily have been overly saccharine. Thank goodness for Lois Lowry!

Gossamer by Lois Lowry
ISBN 0618685502
140 pages

You know what is weird? My mother is a published writer, and she knows many other writers. So I have been around writers for much of my life, but still, STILL, I get really excited and nervous whenever I meet them. Well, maybe not all of them, but the ones I like. Last night my store held a book launch for Katherine Gordon's new book Made to Measure. It’s about land surveying in British Columbia. I am normally a big fan of historical type books, but I don't think I'll be getting into this one. I could easily sprain my wrist trying to read it. However, apparently, Katherine is friends with Sylvia Olsen! Sylvia is married to a first nations man and writes great YA fiction about first nations and white people. My favorite so far has been White Girl. So Sylvia Olsen was here last night. I got all aflutter, and did not manage to mention that I love her. It probably didn't help that she spent the whole hour she was here talking about Cowichan sweaters. Apparently her newest book will be about sweaters. Hmm.

Anyways, this is a very long-winded introduction to the fact that Kim Antieau has posted a comment a few posts down about my review of her book! Yay! She also has a blog she wants y'all to check out, here. I will try and read up on some of it today, and if I like what I see, I'll add it to the blogroll for your convenience. I really like the idea of an author blog, as it allows readers to really get to know their favorite authors. So far I am LOVING Lois Lowry's blog, which should not surprise me, as her books have always been nothing but fabulous. Speaking of which, I am reading her newest, Gossamer right now, and I should get back to it, so I can post about it.