Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Easy Bake Coven by Liz Shulte

Review from ebook

Selene is a young woman who never seems to be wholly involved in life, but a witch with both human and paranormal issues. A girl who appears to have everything including a wonderful man in her life, but cannot commit. A witch with a coven, a teacher of yoga, alone in life except for a grandmother. This is our protagonist, an amateur witch who discovers she was the real thing all along. But wait! What and who is this stranger who is shadowing her but meaning no harm, only trying to protect her? When her grandmother is the victim of assault in her own home, thrown down the stairs, how does her grandmother know this stranger? Is her grandmother human, half-elf or elf? Is she a witch? Selene has no idea of what her life really is and denies what she is told.

I found this an interesting story, I could almost feel I was in the story at times. The tale winds around in many directions and kept my interest throughout. Her friends in her coven notice something different about her yet can't seem to pinpoint it. Could she really be as the strange Cheney says she is? This book is passionate, surreal, and delightful, fraught with danger and magic. Liz Shulte has a number of books in the vein of this and two other series. Light paranormal early in the book, it becomes more adult mid-read graduating into a clash to usurp a throne. All this fits well into the book but the final two chapters leave me stunned and confused. Perhaps the answer lies in another book? Guess I'll have to wait and see because this easy bake coven has definitely grown up in this book. Young adult+ rating.

Friday, August 8, 2014

I'm Movin' On - the Life and Legacy of Hank Snow by Vernon Oickle

Published by Nimbus

Hank Snow, a man who certainly has 'been everywhere'...a Canadian and international legend in his time and on through his legacy of country music. This biography by Vernon Oikle is a bit of an eye opener. We watched his burgeoning career, having been too young to see his beginnings. Born in 1914, his early life brutal and difficult, a life that began in the years of WW1, the Spanish 'flu, starvation and desperation in the small town of Brooklyn in Nova Scotia, Canada. This book follows his life from birth past death on to his post-mortem accolades. He may have been 'movin' on' but what he accomplished in his lifetime will fortunately remain with us. There are some wonderful old photos in the book, too.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves country music, ambition, accomplishment, and determination to succeed. Learn how one man accomplished so many dreams. I thought I knew Hank Snow's music, but soon discovered I didn't know much of anything. I knew his voice, but never understood his instrumental skills. Nor did I realize just how many hit songs he wrote that became huge hits for other vocalists of the '40s to '60s in particular, some who were in a completely different genre.

His legacy is not just his music, his fame, nor his name. His legacy includes the societies he set up and backed up for abused children. This, perhaps, was his biggest focus outside of music. As an abused child himself, he wanted to make a difference in the treatment of children. If he could have, he would have ended child abuse. That is how important this was to his life.

Hank Snow began his career as Jack Snow, regardless of the fact that his name was actually Clarence. This is just one of many strange facts scattered throughout this book. I wonder how many people living today remember that he began his career as a trick rider and yodeler. I wonder how many know that he wrote and recorded that still remain as best sellers. Today, in the digital world, this is a man who would have been in the forefront of writing songs for today’s country stars. He has so many awards, accolades, a museum and yearly festival in New Brunswick, where he was born, and inducted into so many Halls of Fame. A man who came from nothing but never gave up his dream. A man whose music goes on today, even 100 years after his birth.

The Hollywood Detective by Martha Steinway

Published by Venatrix

Quirky and entertaining take on the hard-boiled detectives of the '40s

Kind of a cheeky, fun version of the old '40s-type detective stories. Certainly not noir, but it has its moments. This detective with the messy office finds that the secretary he thinks he has hired is much better at being an associate investigator. More than a match for our 'hero'. A missing girl is the focus, but what happens to her is not only a mystery but with a wild rampage going on in the city it becomes very difficult to get close enough to solve the case. The book has unique moments and I quite enjoyed it as such. A fast, lighter read but the ending is definitely scary and surprising. I'm quite interested to find out what these two get up to in the next installment.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Published by Simon & Schuster Canada

A story of exploitation, broken trust, secrets and changes to come
A very unusual book, told from two main sources. Yes, there is a museum and it is fascinating, but there are dark secrets hidden here. The museum is owned by a refugee who lives alone on Coney Island with his young daughter, who tells one part of the story, and a housekeeper. Both are called monsters, though they are the most caring in the story. The girl is very young at the beginning of her story, and one hundred percent under the control of her father, though she is not aware of it. Nor is she aware of what his plan for her future is.

The second storyteller is an Orthodox Jew, a refugee from the Ukraine who lives with his father and both work in the textile mills in Boston. A young boy on the verge of rebellion at the beginning. He renounces his faith when he believes his father tried to commit suicide.

It is a time in New York when men were in charge and women were treated as possessions, a time when class distinction was not only strongly defined but often corrupt and hidden crime was rampant, a time when 'hired' help was more often than not mistreated. Also a time of workhouses where children and women were forced to work for a pittance and often accidents occurred. Such is the case when a fire breaks out while the workers are locked within. You thought this happened only in other countries? Murders and assaults occur while eyes remain closed. This is New York in the 1800s and early 1900s. Manhattan was not much more than a swamp at certain times of the year. Coney Island was just becoming the famous park and beach it would one day be. For the boy who renounced his faith he has found beauty in nature. For the girl living at the museum, she has found horror. Will the two ever be able to find each other in time?

Through all the brutality of the times, this story is beautiful in many ways. It flows between two sides, much like the Hudson River, featured so often in the story and integral to it in many ways. It is a story of betrayal, but also a love story of two storytellers. There is connection between many of the characters, and the spark of life, love and humanity exists and blooms against all odds. Alice Hoffman has not only captured the essence of early New York, she has integrated two historical events seamlessly, and recreated the crises so vividly you can almost feel the heat. Though the characters are fictional, the events are real. This is a wonderful story of compassion within a nightmare world. This story I will carry with me for a long time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Shadow Lantern by Teresa Flavin

Published by Candlewick Press (July 2014) Templar

I was excited to receive this book for review, but what I didn't realize at the time was that it is not really a stand-alone but rather the final installment in a series. That said, I did enjoy the book and fairly quickly adjusted myself to what may have gone before. In fact, I hope to purchase the two previous books. This series by Teresa Flavin, judging from this book, is a fascinating journey of magic and time travel that I'm sure juvenile readers will enjoy as I did.

There is some confusion in trying to read this single book without knowing exactly what went on before, although there are many references in this book to the previous ones, enough possibly to keep the momentum flowing from one book to another. Enough to clue the reader in to what went before, and how the situation came to be in this book. Not to say too much about what happened previously, there is plenty of excitement and especially so when it comes to Hallowe'en night and the school community party.

The main characters in the present are teens Sunni, Blaise, Maddy and Dean. Among the adults are the parents and Mr. Bell, who is mainly in charge of the party, Angus, a former art forger who is Mr. Bell's cousin, and the mysterious Munroe, who claims to capture spirits on film and is giving a performance of a magical projecting lantern with hand-painted glass slides, a strange shadow lantern. From the past, we have Fausto Corvo in 1582, a purported magician and artist who combines the two, Lady Ishbel once alive and now a spirit in the present and Soranzo who would like to get his hands on Corvo's paintings.

Enigma Night is being planned for Hallowe'en night at Blackhope Tower, the place where so much has (and will) happen. Sunni and Blaise have disappeared from that tower in the past and it has a great deal to do with a Corvo painting that is housed there. Why was there a labyrinth in the tower room, why did skeletons pop up on it from thin air, why and how did it disappear? Munro is setting up a display and talks about his wonderful find, the antique and magical Oculus, apparently originally commissioned by Corvo. Is it possible that Corvo's secrets are trapped inside? The lamp is very unusual, but what is more unusual is what it does, something Sunni and Blaise will discover to their shock and amazement. What has happened to Mr. Bell, the art teacher who is mainly in charge of the party? He has disappeared. What causes the tower to begin to self-destruct? This book is full of fun, magic, adventure, and secret codes, perfect entertainment for the juvenile set. I enjoyed it to the point that I will probably obtain the other two books in the series, The Blackhope Enigma and The Crimson Shard.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Clubbed (a Booktown Mystery) by Lorna Barrett

 Published by Berkley Prime Crime

Death by books - a case full of murder.
A unique voice among cozy authors, capable of making us want more with every book, Lorna Barrett has returned to Booktown with this latest outing, Book 8 of the series. Lorna has given us many unusual ways for a killer to kill, and this book is no exception.

Angelica has taken over the Chamber of Commerce in a vote against former Chamber president Bob Kelly. But where is he? For reasons unknown, he has disappeared...or has he? The receptionist for the Chamber is not a person anyone would really attempt to make a friend. She is downright nasty...could that be the reason for her literal downfall? A tremendous crash brings Angelica and sister Tricia running and once again Tricia has found a body. No wonder she is known as the 'town jinx' and often assumed to be the suspect! But Tricia has many more things to confuse her and take up her time. With an ex-husband and ex-boyfriend trying to get back in favor with her, she also is, naturally, sleuthing to clear her name and solve the murder along with sister Angelica. Why was Betsy Dittmeyer so nasty? What secret has she harbored that sister Joelle needs to know? What is she hiding and who didn't want anyone to find out?

Meanwhile, it appears there is a new boon coming...a virtual explosion of future residents in the picture, along with Angelica's determination to expand the coverage of the Chamber of Commerce there should be a re-awakening of the small town and Tricia is privy to some of the newcomers already on the way, a secret that many people seem to know.

With this latest book, aside from the secrets, mysteries, murder and possible attempted murder, the author has left some tantalizing bits of what may be to come in a future book and indeed I, for one, am hoping that Booktown will survive it's latest crisis. Recipes are included in the book.
-Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Defy the Night - a Novel by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn

Published by Kergel Publications

An absolutely wonderful book of hope and horror in early WWII

As a Canadian child born in 1940, this book had special meaning to me, not as a child participant, but as one whose father was at war while I was young, my brother even younger. In fact, whenever my brother was asked where his Daddy was he pointed to a picture on the wall.

I found this book more full of life with characters who had endured so little of family life, than many books I've read in the past. It tells the story of the internment camps, later changed to prison camps, in the south of France, of the people, mostly women, who risked their lives to bring children out of the camps to safe homes. France was under the rule of the Vichy Government at this time. Though this is a book of fiction, it is only fictional as to locations and names. The two camps specifically mentioned, Rivesaltes and Gurs are real and can be visited as they are still there and the CIMADE is a real rescue group. The rest is based on real people, real homes, real situations. The internment camps were used to enclose behind strong fences with barbed wire, 'undesirables': refugees from the Spanish Civil War which had just ended, gypsies, and foreign Jews. At this time, French Jews were still free, although many were in the 'Occupied' zone of France. The story covers 1941 and early 1942, a time before the camps became deportation camps from which the internees were sent to the death camps in Germany.

Heather and Lydia Munn have done excellent research and the writing is amazing. I was drawn in so completely I couldn't stop reading. The story begins with young teens in a rationing line-up. Many of their friends, kids who are immigrants from the 'wrong' countries, have already been placed into internment camps. Magali is fifteen and has a very strong will, but a compassionate heart. She and her friend Rosa like to meet the train and happen to note a young woman with four children get off the train and immediately be questioned about why she is in Tanieux. The woman instantly appears to be in command, intimidating the mayor, at the same time asking for directions. This is how the two girls become acquainted with Paquerette as they help her with the suitcases and children. The woman appears to be completely exhausted. They soon learn about her job through CIMADE, a Christian care agency, of rescuing children from the camps.

This story is told in the first person by Magali. She urgently feels she should be involved in bringing the children out, even knowing it is dangerous, that she is probably too young and Paquerette leaves to get more children almost as soon as she arrives. But Paquerette wants to take her to share the load, if her parents will allow it, even if only once.

We follow her story through her thoughts and actions, her horror, devastation and self-deprecation when she places her friend and personal 'Joan of Arc', Paquerette, in mortal danger when she is arrested because of an action by Magali. The characters in this book are strong, compassionate, and selfless. There are some natural character flaws as the teens grow up in such a dangerous and secretive situation wrought with hardship, but as they mature they are as strong and faithful as any adult could be.

The running theme is passion, care, fear, heroism and danger. This goes for all involved: the mothers who give up their children to save them, the secrets that must be kept hidden at all costs, the necessity to be fearful in order to perform well, and the very real danger of being caught. This is a book I would definitely encourage people of most ages to read, from perhaps even 12 to any adult. Written as a Young Adult book, I think that is too limited. Much as I thought I knew, I learned a lot more in this book.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Published by Scribner Publishing
Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

Amazing true story, beautiful, horrific, courageous. I couldn't stop reading.
This book will take your breath away. From an abusive household in Alberta, Canada as a child whose escape is found in old National Geographic books, Amanda has no idea how much she is learning about escaping into her mind or how much she will need this in her future. Her future as she sees it is travelling to the many countries she reads about. After she and her brothers move with her mother to a safe house, she starts planning for a future to include this travel.

Amanda Lindhout's memoir is a masterpiece of how the mind can change itself whenever it needs to, how it compensates, over-rides, and deals with the worst kinds of trauma to keep lifeblood flowing. But not to get ahead of myself, first Amanda finds a way to earn enough money to finance a trip to South America. The first of many trips interspersed with coming home to work for more money. As a cocktail waitress, she has advanced through the ranks until she is in a place to earn high tips, enough to make a trip every year. This takes her to countries in South and Central America, Asia and Africa as what she considers a beginning to many more amazing places. The writing in this stage of the book is absolutely wonderful, bringing to mind all those National Geographics, while she backpacks her way through these countries, we feel we are seeing what she is seeing, experiencing what she is experiencing. She makes us feel what she is feeling, and it is consistently beautiful. Some countries like India and Pakistan she visits more than once, but then she begins to expand her horizons: Afghanistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Ethiopia....

Between trips she turns again to cocktail waitressing, but her need to be somewhere exotic takes over every year, and each trip she gets deeper into dangerous territory. She travels fr a time with a freelance photographer, decides that next trip she wants to show the world to everyone. She becomes a freelance photojournalist, occasionally selling photos and stories to various papers and magazines. She has teamed up with Nigel, another freelance photographer, an Australian. When she decides to head into war zones, she asks him to join her and he semi-reluctantly does. Here the book shifts dramatically. It is 2008 and she has chosen to go into Somalia.

Once in Somalia, known as the 'most dangerous country in the world,' everything changes. Although at first she and Nigel are enjoying the relatively 'safe' city of Mogadishu, on the fourth day she, Nigel, and their drivers are abducted by extremist Muslims. Assuming that all North Americans are rich, their abductors set an impossibly high ransom, which their parents are unable to even come near to paying and their respective governments have no intention of paying. Thus begins their ordeal which will last for 463 days of captivity and isolation. Kept in one room at first, they pretend they want to convert to Islam as a way of staying alive. They are visited sometimes by their captors wanting to learn English, and to teach them the Koran.

As time goes by and their captors' demands are not met, they are moved from house to house, always in the dark. Nigel and Amanda escape from one of the houses and are recaptured. From that point on, the two are completely separated and are shackled; Amanda gets the brunt of punishment as a woman, which includes rape, beatings and torture but she is able to separate herself in her mind from what is happening, a product of her childhood days. She is kept in complete darkness, later she is also bound and gagged. As fever takes over, beatings and rape continue almost daily but she is now living in her mind and guided by a calmness brought on by what seems to be a voice and is able to use different approaches to this separation of her being and her mind. Her mind's eye sees a beautiful house, one that she constructs room by room, floor by floor, until it reaches the sky. A focus for survival.

When finally rescued, neither Amanda nor Nigel are able to comprehend the fact that they are free. They can't comprehend that the food they are given is meant for them, they are fearful it will be taken away or they will be beaten. Both are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it will take a long time to learn how to handle that. It may never be gone. But Amanda has built that inner strength from her ordeals and although the fear is always with her, she becomes forgiving of many things, including forgiving herself. In the collaboration of writing this book, both Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett must have shared some very difficult and intimate moments, I can't even begin to know how hard this would have been. I commend both for how they went for it no holds barred.

In the Epilogue, we learn that she founds a non-profit organization, the Global Enrichment Foundation to help provide and support education in Somalia, and partnering with other groups, funding scholarships to thirty-six Somalian women attending university, among other projects. This book is gut-wrenchingly real, powerful, and well-written; although the memories and fears of the atrocities are obviously very much a part of her, she has chosen to move on with her life in a positive way.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Divine Sanctuary by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Published by Imajin Books
Cover design by Ryan Doan

I loved the first two books in the Divine trilogy, I am thrilled to be reading this, the third and final book. It is also with sorrow at leaving behind the characters that Cheryl Kaye Tardif has given us. This book can be read as a standalone but reading the first two will enhance the experience.

The Prologue takes us into the past of Jasmine or Jasi as she prefers, the main character, as a recurring dream, vision or could it be a ghost, always featuring the same girl but this girl ages with time. First seen in Jasi's closet as an abused child, now she appears anywhere, anytime.

Jasi is a member of the PSI branch of the CFBI. This special branch is comprised almost entirely of agents who have psychic abilities of various types. In Jasi's case, she is a Pyro-Psychic, able to feel what a pyromaniac feels as he kills by fire, her skills brought to the fore when she smells smoke. Thus, she has to approach a suspect fire after breathing pure oxygen to keep from contaminating what she is smelling. Her team works as a tightly-knit group, each with their own abilities...except Brandon who is an arson expert and brings his own set of skills to the table.

A heart-wrenching call from a friend sends the team out in search of a missing woman, a well-known reporter who has been out of touch for five days. She had been investigating a story about missing women, and had gone incognito into the 'Sanctuary.' The premise of the Sanctuary is to rescue the homeless and downtrodden, but does it? It seems very much like a cult. The leader appears to sincerely believe what he is doing is helping people. But does he? Is he really the sincere person he seems to be?

Jasi's group has free reign to search the grounds, in fact she and Brandon are even given the use of a cottage in the compound. Granted, many of the women act afraid to talk to them or else flatly refuse to, but the team has no trouble talking to most of them and they can't really find anything. The story revolves around trying to find a foothold to learn about so many missing women who may or may not have been at Sanctuary.

But secrets may be buried deeper than anyone imagines, even the members of Sanctuary. A horrific murder has taken place within the compound, supposedly the result of accident, but Jasi has seen something different, another in the group, Natassia who is a Victim Empath and 'sees' what the victim's last sight was agrees with Jasi. The body in the walk-in furnace, was it really an accident? The shattered bones discovered, are they really from bears hunting other animals?

I love the author's way with expression, description, and energy in her books and this is no exception. These people come alive. Through the PSI group's interaction with their special gifts the search moves outside, their psi-impressions have shown horrible and terrifying deeds very quickly a mind-blowing chase is on. The pace picks up to excruciating time-crunching as the horror of what is really happening begins to be realized.

With all the horror and life-threatening sport going on, with all the sorrow around, there is some good to come out of it all, almost missed but fortunately there is an overwhelmingly stubborn ghost in connection with the also stubborn Jasi, and the end of the trilogy is surprising and satisfying. I cried.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mysteries Have No Boundaries by Nancy Gettelman

Published by Nightengale Press

Nancy Gettelman's books are written with a distinct style. I always feel that I am in the midst of each of the books I've read, even though they are taking place in different places around the world and the mystery part of each book is very different. In this book, her characters are an enthusiastic group of friends new and old.

Sara and Robb Schneider are from Milwaukee, WI and headed to the International Convention of Brew Pub Owners being held in Victoria, BC. Robb, as owner/operator of a Craft Brewery, has attended some of these conventions before and is looking forward to seeing old friends. After leaving the cold of Wisconsin behind Sara is enchanted with Victoria at first sight. The city is already budding out with flowers everywhere. They've booked into the Empress Hotel, an old and very impressive structure, fit for royalty.

Meeting Robb's friends, Sara feels right at home, and is thrilled to learn that her new friends are planning on taking her sight-seeing. There is one sad fact overshadowing this adventure; their house guest's husband goes missing while sent to the north on a government project working with the Inuits. But she is determined to join the girls in showing Sara around. This plot-line runs as a thread throughout the first portion of the story while Sara continues to be enthralled with the beauty she sees all around. All but one of the wives are warm and friendly, but one seems tense and doesn't always accompany them. Her husband is about to go to the Alberta tar sands for a couple of weeks.

Nancy Gettleman's gift is to take us wherever her character goes, and see what she sees. The reader might as well be sitting right in the car with them, wandering through Butchart Gardens, or dining in the Bengal Room of the Empress. Though I've lived most of my life in Vancouver and often visited Victoria, I learned several new things, which I always enjoy in a book. This book is character driven, and even the location seems to be one of the characters. But wait. This is a murder mystery, not necessarily the victim you might expect, not necessarily the location you might expect and definitely not the method. What is the motive? What is the method? That is the mystery.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

Published by Doubleday Canada

This book touched a chord with me. Although it takes place in World War I, I felt memories return to me at the same age as Alfie; mine from World War II. John Boyne is spot on with this story and has a fantastic ability to recreate this time period and the horrors that went with it, without losing sight of his youthful audience.  This book is suggested for the 9 to 12 year range, but I believe it would be interesting to a wider range.

Alfie is an only child and has just had his fifth birthday as the story begins. This is his story, but also the story of all London where suddenly all the Dads are off to war, Mothers off to work and/or taking in work and children left alone. Alfie's best friend Kalena Janacek and her father have been sent away to the Isle of Wight to an internment camp, his Dad Georgie is at war and his Dad's best friend Joe as a conscientious objector, a conchie as they call him, is dragged off to jail and badly beaten. All life as he knew it is changed, and changed him with it.

Alfie decides he should do his part, too, so he takes Mr. Janacek's shoeshine kit and starts working at the train station, skipping school three days a week. This is a tale of survival, constant fear and worry, death, innovation and love of family. When letters no longer come from Georgie, Alfie's father, he believes the worst. His mother tries to ease his fears by telling him he can't write because he is on a secret mission but Alfie doesn't believe her.

Chance is a strange thing. While Alfie, now nine, is shining the shoes of a well-dressed man at the station, a wind happens to gust through the station and catch all the papers the man is holding. Alfie rushes to collect them all and chances to see his father listed as a patient at a hospital in England. From this point on the story veers as Alfie plots to see his father. This story is very well-written, compelling and compassionate, as much as a coming of age story. Alfie's complicated plans are admirable if ill-conceived. In a four year period, many things can change, and especially with children, who always seem to grow up too soon, but during war often become grown up through necessity as Alfie did. With love, though, anything is possible.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Griffin and the Dinosaur by Marc Aronson with Adrienne Mayor

Published by National Geographic Kids
Illustrated by Chris Muller

An exciting adventure in a way, this story begins with Adrienne Mayor born in 1946, as a young schoolgirl who is fascinated by mythology and in particular with the story of the Griffin. How does a shy, quiet kid from Souix Falls, South Dakota, come to develop a new field of research - geomythology? This book by Marc Aronson follows her path as student from country to country as she searches through ancient texts about mythical creatures. This is no easy task as she learns ancient languages in order to read these texts.

How Adrienne is able to discover what others miss is the way she thinks. She is sure that these ancient people had to have seen something real, even if only bones. She knows she is onto something meaningful and very early in history. At first she knows very little about these early dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, but she is determined and learns. Her goal is set on the Griffin. There must have been bones of a real animal to influence the people of the time. Therefore, she must go back through the pages of time to find one thing. Where did the first story come from, and why? The Griffin was said to protect gold. Where was gold found along with prehistoric bones? This is how she progressed until finally finding the link from paleontology to her "Griffin."

A fascinating story for young and old, a detective story of how to seek and find from the most ancient of times.

Monday, June 9, 2014

NGK - Everything Mythology by Blake Hoena and NG Explorer Adrienne Mayor

Illustrated by Gonzalo Ordonez and Margaret Salter
Published by National Geographic Kids

Begin Your Quest for Facts, Photos, and Fun Fit for Gods and Goddesses

What could be more exciting than reading and learning about all those amazing Mythological beings, especially illustrated in brilliant colour! This is an amazing book that fits many categories. Even this grandmother learned from it! Readers will learn mythological origins, why these origins came to be, how they evolved and changed over the years and what the main purpose of each was. What is more, we will all learn the equivalent myths from around the world, and how some myths became blended. But that is not all. There are demi-gods (half-human), deities, demons, heroes and helpful demons. Also the book will connect the mythological beings with their original geographical locations. Myths were a way of learning about the world, why nature does certain things, and how they protect us.

But mythology is ever growing. It does not stay still. As the human race progresses, so does the evolution of myths, changing with the times. I found this book to not just be informative, but to be very interesting, containing various projects for children and teens to do  and also the family trees of the earliest mythological beings and how they crossed to other races to keep the stories going. A cross-section of very old worlds and their own mythological beasts are sufficient to pique the interest of children 8 and up. Some wording may be a little difficult for younger readers due to some of the words used to describe their places in historical mythology from the Romans, Greeks, Hindi, South American, African, Wales, Australia, Asia, North American and more. Otherwise I would recommend it at any age. Author Blake Hoena and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Adrienne Mayor have done an excellent and enjoyable presentation with this book.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Mysterious Something in the Light - The Life of Raymond Chandler by Tom Williams

Published by The Chicago Review Press

Raymond Chandler - July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959
Though the subject of Raymond Chandler was an exciting one to my mind, I often found this book to be a little repetitive. However, the complexity of this man was quite fascinating and I did learn a lot from this biographical history. Unfortunately, many of his formative early years seem to be based more on supposition than researched facts, but perhaps there were few facts available to research. On the other hand, he was a prolific letter-writer even while young and much of the biography is based on quoted snippets from those letters. Born the son of an alcoholic, it is not surprising that though he abhorred alcoholism, he would fall into the same trap, regardless of how he felt about it.

Chandler appears to have been a lonely boy who never really completely grew up. The need to be important and powerful, the need to have close friends and a wife who loves him wholeheartedly plays as a theme throughout the book. I felt for him, a tribute to Tom Williams, who obviously 'got' him. Raymond Chandler, a world-famous author whose work lives on decades after his death, is definitely an enigma, but I feel at his core he is a little boy lost, often has no idea of his impact and yet irrationally thinks he does.

The author is not just giving nod to a list of Chandler's books, but looks at them, takes them apart and puts them back together again, using his own comments. In fact, that is exactly how Chandler himself looked and learned how to write a book. He lived in Chicago and in Los Angeles in what might be called their heyday, but was at the time gangster-ruled. Chicago had nothing on Los Angeles for corruption. Here we are not talking about Hollywood but the fast rise to wealth from oil, the collapse of morals from the Depression and the resulting city corruption. He was a product of his time, yet in his mind he lived in an earlier time.

Here, then, is the root of Ray Chandler's books and his association, in writing, of his character Philip Marlowe, and later to his screenplays. I think it is honest to say his personal life revolved around three main themes: His deep love for his older wife to whom he was married until her death; his commitment to literary writing rather than grinding out corruption and murder, but with a similar theme; his alcoholism. A brilliant man, but complicated and driven.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Legends, Oddities & Mysteries - including UFO experiences in New Brunswick by Dorothy Dearborn

Illustrated by Carol Taylor
Published by Nimbus Publishing

This little book is a fast read of short stories. Good one to read while in a waiting room or coffee shop. My copy is 122 pages long. I'm not too sure that legends is the right word, these might more rightly be called folklore but then legends are born in folklore. Certainly the book contains many oddities, best known perhaps is the Magnetic Hill, a well-known tourist attraction, and certainly the "gull" doors of the Bricklin car were odd at the time. Ahead of its time, but through excessive spending it went the way of the Dodo bird. I actually remember it. Some of the stories are well-documented and these are dealt with by the Dorothy Dearborn in her own unique voice as well as the voices of the actual witnesses.

Real people made contributions to the author and granted permission to use their names. To me this puts a truer light on the oddness of the incidents. One of the quirkiest and humorous stories is "The Great Submarine Chase of 1914". A particularly strange legendary one is "Kingston's Lunar Rogue and Mysterious Stranger". Several of the stories are quite amusing. There are ghost stories, stories of buried treasure, facts, and finally a section on UFOs in New Brunswick. I've heard that the Maritimes are a hot spot for UFOs and even USOs so it seems natural these stories would be included. All said, the book is quite interesting although most of the stories are only a couple of pages or so long. A fascinating look into New Brunswick's unique history and lore.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dangerous Wind: a Carol Golden Novel by Alan Cook

Reviewed from Kindle e-book

Well documented and thought out presentation of deceit and revelation of conspiracy

Alan Cook often combines a bona-fide murder mystery and adventure story with reality...a well documented and thought out presentation of deceit and revelation of conspiracy. This book is no different, in fact as it delves into international financial institutions and governmental bailouts, I would say he has done a great deal of research on the subject.

This is the 3rd book in the series. If you have not been following the adventures of Carol Golden, she is still trying to recover memories she has forgotten having suffered amnesia. Now, after a quick "abduction" while buying chocolates for her grandmother, she finds herself again facing the man who helped her regain what memories she has. Now she is about to go undercover with these two agents (her abductors and now team-mates) to locate, and possibly kill, a man she has been told was her lover in college. A man she has no recollection of. A worldwide seven-continent chase ensues, making this one of the most interesting chase books I've read.

Her former mentor has said that the man they are looking for is trying to bring down the Western World; she has been told this man is financially ruining the countries by security transactions causing banks to lose billions and possibly causing banks to fail. Cook's books usually contain the use of logic and/or mathematics puzzles and games, as played out by Carol in solving mysteries and personally, I enjoy these. In this case she is able to break an important code. But all is not as it seems. Is she on the right side or the wrong side? Has she been duped? Unbelievable end twist! I really enjoyed this book with its suspense, characters, some humor and most of all its glimpse of the world.

The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Published by Forge Fiction

Politicians do make for strange bedfellows...and this may be the strangest yet.

Hank Phillippi Ryan writes power-driven fiction that mimics the high-stakes political and investigative reporting theme that just may be closer to the truth than we want. She knows exactly what she is writing about from her own life experience of investigative reporting. The main character is Jane Ryland, former top reporter for television who has been blackballed for not revealing her source in a high profile murder.

Taken on a six-month trial by a newspaper editor who happens to believe in her, she finds herself whisked away to political rallies, interviews and press releases. She also interviews the Lassiter's wife for background. At the same time, her good friend Jake is investigating a series of deaths that may or may not be connected to each other and just may be vindicating Jane for not revealing her source which got her fired from her last job along with an unbelievable debt.

Non-stop action in this story, don't put it down, you might miss something! This book is fascinating in its tension, thriller action and mystery. Who is the stunning but elusive Mrs. Wilks? Is there a serial killer? Just when you think you have the answers, the story takes a 180 and starts you on a new thread. The final answers are surprising. Will Jake and Jane throw caution to the wind and begin a relationship? Well, that will have to be another story.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Alive After Friday by Rod Hoisington

Reviewed from print book

Blockbuster beginning to this latest of the adventures of Sandy Reid. Blocked in by an SUV and a truck, her little Miata convertible doesn't have a chance, nor does Sandy. She realizes too late that this isn't just a traffic jam. She is being abducted, blindfolded and ducktaped across her mouth. Meanwhile, her law partner and boyfriend Chip, are waiting for her to celebrate winning a very large lawsuit, $400,000 in fact, half of which is coming to Sandy. On the other hand, the abductors want to relieve her of all of that money.

Taken to the swamps of Florida, kneeling in muck still unable to see or speak, with a gun against the back of her head, Sandy is just waiting for the final moment. But it isn't her that will be killed if she doesn't get them the money, it is Chip and it is within two days. Rod Hoisington certainly knows how to get the reader's attention.

On her release from her captors it's off and running for Sandy as she frantically tries to round up the money with her law partner, co-recipient of the award, while at the same time trying to solve who "Dick and Jane", who take great care to not be seen, are. Of course, Sandy is one tough cookie, and she is determined to solve the crimes of abduction and extortion, but finds herself blocked in every direction. But getting the money and placing it in almost plain view is not the best plan in her mind, and soon it is clear it was the worst possible plan. Because there is now a dead body and the money is gone.

Warned off from investigating as usual, of course she will not leave it up to the law! This is too important, if "Dick and Jane" didn't get the money, Chip has only hours to live. Where first there seem to be no leads, soon she racks up too many in her panic. With her lawyer partner and friend Martin trying to keep her safe, he has his hands mighty full.

Rod Hoisington knows how to keep us on the edge of our seats. A unexpected and sudden loss, some hilarious confusion, dead bodies, and a little help from the police, all are packaged into a bundle of too many strings, but with her cop friends, Martin her professional partner, almost diametrically different in character, and her own out-of-the-box methods, one finally pulls the right string. Great surprise ending! Are there changes in store? I couldn't put the book down, and it's not often that I will read a book at one go. Intriguing 5th installment of the Sandy Reid series, one of the best.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Information Graphics - Animal Kingdom by Nicholas Blechman

Researched by Simon Rogers
Published by Big Picture Press - imprint of Candlewick Press

Information Graphics - Understand the facts in the blink of an eye.
This colorful, entertaining yet educational book comes in tabbed sections for ease of finding the information you want. Such sections as Species, Senses, Record Breakers, and so on. An encyclopedia of information on a small scale, but with a lot of what children might want to know. It may come as a surprise just how much can be covered in this book. With Information Graphics, and Nicholas Blechman's splendid contribution to format and illustration, the information is right before your eyes in graphic form, for instance the Hippo visible on the cover clearly shows that it has the largest mouth and the Pelican can just as obviously show that his mouth (beak) can 'hold more than his belly can'. The pages will hold up to wear and tear, made of stiff stock.

Not only will children learn about vertebrates and invertebrates, cold-blooded and warm-blooded, but such things as what animal can hold its breath the longest, what animal has the largest brain (no, it's not a human), how does a Hammerhead Shark see, what animal has the biggest mouth and which one has the longest tongue. Other sections can tell you how much water a camel can drink in what amount of time. Kids will love this book for both the graphics and the odd things they will learn. Recommended for children 6-9, I think some a bit younger and some a bit older myself because of the interesting facts. A great way to see the world of animals in a memorable way.

Relatively Dead (Carol Golden) by Alan Cook

Reviewed from Kindle e-book

Who is killing off the Jasons? In this, the second book of the Carol Golden series, Carol, whose real name is Cynthia Akai, has regained her identity if not her full memory. With her identity, she also has a grandmother much to her delight. As far as she knows, this is her only living relative and she is living with her grandmother who is in early dementia. But her grandmother has a cousin, Jason, in California where much of this adventure takes place.

Somewhat confusing at times with all the Jasons, this book delves into such things as genealogy, Ponzi schemes and murder. Family members are dying off as fast as Carol finds them. She is working with a forensic genealogist and the tension builds as the family dwindles. Are the two seemingly unrelated plot-lines really related? Will she be able to save her Irish cousins? And who is Tom Kelly? The action picks up speed as more cousins come to light, bringing with it a surprise ending

What I like about Alan Cook's books is what are obviously personal interests of his, making the stories read with authenticity. Descriptions of cities and countryside ring true as do his scenarios involving walking and hiking. Logic and mathematics problems, even code-breaking often come into play. I love learning something new from the stories I read and this one ran true to form.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Jade Pirate - Elizabeth Latimer Pirate Hunter series by Deborah Cannon

Published by Createspace

Great adventure, mixing history with fantasy
The Latimer girls, their friends and CJ the parrot are on the hunt again. In this, the second book of the series, they are once again searching for their missing father supposedly lost at sea. While their cousin is working as a marine physicist on a classified mission on an oceanographic research vessel in China, they are enjoying their day at the market when Elizabeth notices a shop with little wooden boats exactly like her father used to make, right down to his unique signature graphic. Thus begins another rollicking adventure through the vortex, this time into the days when pirates ruled the China Sea.

I love this young adult adventure series by Deborah Cannon, full of humour, murderous attacks, kidnapping and Elizabeth's feelings escalating between two young men, one from the past...or is it the from her own time. Though she finds her father in the home of Cho, and escapes with him, he is again kidnapped. Will she find her father again? Will he know her if she does? Fraught with danger, this is a great adventure, mixing history with fantasy as their search for their father and Cho, a modern day pirate and his captor, goes deep into the pirate world of the greatest pirate on the China Seas in the 1800s, Cheng I Sao, Mrs. Cheng.

The biggest problem facing our group, other than staying alive, is to avoid changing history. Lulu at home is keeping track of that on her I-phone and indeed history has been changed a few times; they must correct all the wrongs. Great characters, along with CJ the irascible but irresistible parrot and the mysterious Daniel, all in all, this is an exciting storyline, built on fact and fiction both. This book has all the elements of excitement for young adults, early teens, and adults.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Newfoundland Drugstores - a history by John K. Crellin

Published by Flanker Press
Reviewed for Edwards Book Club

I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading this book. Perhaps because I have a personal interest in the subject, indeed I recall many of the concoctions that were still in use in the 1940s as well as remembering stories heard about the various "chemists" in my own ancestry. But I must stick to the book.

This is really an evolution of apothecaries and drugstores from the early 19th century through it's growth. John K. Crellin has written a well-researched, presented and illustrated history in general but particularly in Newfoundland. At the time, Newfoundland was not a part of Canada, so most associated companies and ideas were British. At one time many of the medicines were mixed with mortar and pestle, though some were imported from Britain and France. The changes in the present and into the future are worthy of note. We learn that drugstores have at one time or another contained besides medicine, such things as candy, cosmetics, perfumes, sodas, books and other items usually expected in other stores. We appear at this point with our huge drugstores, we might say we have come full circle.

I enjoyed reading this book and learning so much of the past and present. How the druggists handled crises, their doctoring skills, among others. This is a capsule of the evolution of drugstores everywhere, but in Newfoundland the history is abundant. A very interesting part of a history we all share in a way.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain - a Novel by Adrianne Harun

Published by Penguin Group Canada

Adrianne Harun has nailed it!

I live along Highway 16. Adrianne Harun has taken this "Highway of Tears" and created an amazing fantasy based on the disappearances of mostly aboriginal girls, a case that defies solving to this day. Mixing reality, myth, the plight of small logging towns in northern British Columbia, and the boredom of mixed-race youth and hopelessness of the poor, she has run with this fascinating story. Her descriptive prose, the stories told by Leo's Uncle Lud, and a man who is unknown yet known, and a mysterious young girl--is she really the Snow Woman?--all combine to make this story compelling. The devil has many faces.

The characterizations and mindsets are spot on, too often found in these small one-store towns in the forests of British Columbia. Youngsters must work, alcoholism is rife, and in their free time they make their own entertainment, whether good or bad. A group of friends stick together, surviving the odds. Adrianne has taken on these elements and many others to give us a mythical yet not unknown reality, mixed it up and turned out full-blown a novel we can feel. Sad though these stories are, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was mesmerized and found it hard to put the book down, not wanting to lose a single thread. Remember her name, I'm sure we will be hearing it in the future.
Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Really Dead - a Ria Butler Mystery by J.E. Forman

Published by Dundurn

When action is called on this set, they really mean business!
An entertaining romp in the British Virgin Islands as a TV reality show is in the multiple forms of production. Ria Butler is just returning from a trip in the Andes when she receives a call from her brother's friend to come to the British Virgin Islands. Forget Galapagos and the promised photo for her niece of a blue-footed boobie, she is on her way via a number of flights.

As a travel writer, Ria Butler has seen many strange and interesting things, but nothing could have prepared her for what she finds when she arrives on the set of the reality show her brother James is producing. When she finally gets to the island where filming takes place she finds herself unable to avoid being under surveillance everywhere. How will she be able to find out from Rob, James' friend, what prompted his urgent call that James may be in trouble?

On her arrival James certainly seems to have both hands and more full with his room-mate, presumably not the trouble referred to. Ria does smell a mystery, though, and her curiosity expands the more she gets to know the cast and crew, but goes into overdrive when it comes to James' partner the obnoxious Dan, and Albert the mysterious courier, curiously coming and going at odd times flying between the islands and Toronto, delivering canvas bags one way and carrying a metal case back.

When action is called on this set, they really mean business! Fast-paced and unexpected action. As a reality show, competition runs in the extreme with the finale about to be filmed. With the assistance from afar of Ria's boyfriend Glenn, an investigative reporter, the mystery deepens. A young member of the crew has disappeared and left behind her luggage and her severed foot...or was that a production prop? Why do the police in Toronto say she is at home and whole? I loved this book, not just for the mystery and intrigue, but for the feel of the excitement, practical jokes, hustle and bustle of TV production. Well-written and taut, great characters, J.E. Forman knows what she's talking about. I'm happy to learn this book is first in the "Ria Butler series," a series I'm sure will have a long run.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Grandma Says: Weather Lore from Meteorologist Cindy Day

Published by Nimbus Publishing
Reviewed for Edwards Book Club

I was so excited to have the opportunity to read and review this little book. Besides the wonderful old sayings our grandparents and great-grandparents had about the weather, Cindy Day is a 25-year veteran of meteorology most recently seen on CTV.

Many of us have heard the saying "Red sky at night, Sailors delight; Red sky at morning, Sailors take warning" but the one my Grandma used to say, especially if we were on a car trip, was "If there's enough blue sky to mend a pair of Dutchman's breeches, the weather will be fine." Now, please take no offence to this, in Grandma's day the men and boys in Holland wore very wide-legged pants that came in at the ankle, hence if there were clouds in the sky but a big blue patch among them, the day would turn out fine. I was happy about seeing this one because I'd never heard anyone other than Grandma (and myself) say it!

This little treasure, divided by seasonal weather sayings, gives us the sayings of the past, but the added bonus is the meteorological science connecting the dots. We are given the how and why these sayings would come about and how true or not they were. I enjoyed this book tremendously, and now I know how so many of these weather 'wisdoms' came about, Groundhog's spring predictions aside, many are much more realistic. This is a remarkable opportunity to learn why these sayings were so often on the mark and what science tells us how they worked. For me, this was a happy trip down memory lane, but put it all together and it's a cohesive book of lore and science, which don't clash at all. A Globe and Mail year-end top 20 Bestseller. Recommended for any age.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Silent Assassin (Dan Morgan #2) by Leo J. Maloney

Published by Pinnacle

Who or what is the silent assassin? You may begin to wonder as you get into this book. Maybe a unique unit of non-identities who miraculously come back alive...most of the time. Maybe the good one, maybe the bad one, maybe a conspiracy. Seat of the pants innovative methods of attack and rescue are consistently used or developed in this high, above top security, group of individuals as slick as a single entity. Country-jumping...or maybe not since they rarely have any idea where they are going, nor often where they are when they get there.

I was drawn in very quickly. The writing was great and kept me on my toes. If I stopped to backtrack to check something out I invariably got left behind in the action from which I had come. Such are the heroes and heroines and yes, often assassins who keep the country safe, the world on track, and on whose quick actions and snap decisions the reader can count on...if you can keep up. 'Cobra' is well-named.

If you like a book you won't want to put down, this is it! Spies in covert operations, cloak and dagger is only a cliche; innocent businesses that may or may not house something very dark and very deep, non-traditional inventions, technology breaking the limits of invention. CIA and FBI forget it, some groups have far surpassed their capabilities and with the hand-picked staff, tightly kept secrets, covert operators, and rife with tension this group kept me going full blast! Leo J. Maloney is an author to take the breath away.

What's Going On At UAardvark? by Lawrence S. Wittner

Reviewed as ebook

What is going on is more real than one might think. This hilarious political satire shows a bit of light onto how universities are falling victim to greed and corporate involvement from within administration and where the money is pocketed. Great satirical writing! Some references will be easily recognizable to many academics and students in academia.

The book is fast-paced, very entertaining in its portrayal of the infiltration of corporations in places of learning. A revolt is bound to happen, but how, when and by whom? The characters, or perhaps more correctly caricatures in the book are probably in evidence already. In fact, they are so well-drawn I felt myself back working in university joking with my friends about what we perceived at the time. I'll leave it to the readers to enjoy those who populate this book.

Lawrence S. Wittner gives us lots of laughs and monkeys in a barrel while presenting a story that is already an issue in many places of learning. Revolts? Yes, if they are not here yet they will be. Congratulations on presenting with with great tongue-in-cheek humour what the future could and quite possibly will be. A word of warning, wear a thick skin when you read, but take the caricatures with their personalities as they come.