Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop - 2 International Prizes

Hello everyone, I am so happy to be participating in the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop!!  And I am extra excited because I am offering TWO prizes to TWO SEPARATE WINNERS.
This hop is being sponsored by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Buried in Books, thank you so much for putting this together.  There are over 300 participants and you can find the list below.

And now for the first giveaway... I am giving away $15 CDN at the Book Depository for a book or books of your choice.  This giveaway is International, so long as the Book Depository delivers to you.

And the second, extra special giveaway... the amazing and inspirational professional life and creativity coach, Janet Whitehead of Musings and Mud Studio is giving away a set of all five “Li’l Workbooks – BIG AHA’s” self-discovery e-books, value $50.  This prize is also International.  You can find my interview with Janet below.  I have to say that this is a great prize - I have used several of these workbooks myself and they are amazing for honing in on your creativity and overcoming blocks.

Entering is very easy, all you have to do is fill in the entry form found at the end of the interview.  I will need your name and email address.  You do not have to follow my blog, but following is always appreciated.  If you would like to, feel free to find me also on:  Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

The contest runs from September 1-7 and the winners will be contacted by email and posted on my blog on September 8.  The winners will have 48 hours to get back to me or new winners will be chosen.  I will choose the winners using

Good luck everyone, and don't forget to check out the other great blogs participating in this hop.

My interview with Janet Whitehead: 

Janet, you are immersed in all things about creative people and creative projects… how did that happen (short version)?
Two things…
  1. I was always an advocate for the artist, writer, and the adventurer even as a child. I think I sensed, even early on, that our traditional ‘left brain’ systems do not support the more ‘right brain dominant’ person.
It is true that we know our purpose when we are young, but it’s pretty darn hard to keep that clear. My life has meandered into all kinds of events and places, but when I finally spent time with my own creative process.. well, all kinds of crazy, wonderful and bizarre things happened. I love that!
  1. As it happens, I am a typical creative being, if there is such a thing, so showing up to my true self can be interrupted by all sorts of things like procrastination, rebellion, doubt, perfectionism, facebook, etc. Perhaps that is why I went into life coaching and creativity coaching and have developed the expertise in working with the more right brain inclined… as a way of also keeping me engaged in my works!!
Do you have a tip for writers?
I adore debunking the myths and beliefs that keep creative souls from showing up to their writing projects. A famous author once said in a workshop, “Real writers write on yellow foolscap.” Aaghh! I could imagine all the people who have listened to him now sitting in coffee shops with blank yellow foolscap, feeling almost guilty that they would rather be profusely writing something on their blog, or on just about anything else besides foolscap.
I’ve been known to give workshop participants a piece of yellow foolscap, have them write a few words, then proclaim them to now officially be ‘real writers and henceforth we shall find their way to show up to their written works.’ Tip: Real writers write.

Tell us about your written works?
The Demise of Noshud Hafta is a book I wrote and illustrated in clay, as part of a solo art show. There were moments I regretted announcing randomly to the curator of a National Art Gallery that I’d like to illustrate my story in clay… but the satisfaction completing it was worth every second of perseverance. The first round of this self-published book has sold out.. and now I just need to do round two!
Currently available are my “Li’l Workbooks, BIG AHA’s” series of self-discovery workbooks. Well, playbooks, really. I recognized that there are a lot of self-discovery books that give advice but not the means to find an individual’s own answers. Let’s face it, creative people do not like to be told what to do. They rebel because they are meant to be accessing their own answers and thoughts. In creating the workbooks, I took a risk: I trusted that individuals do have their own answers and that they simply need a little guiding process that inspires them to get the pen out and find them. Every day, I’m glad I took the risk because they are making people happy, empowered and inspired.
I have a rather eclectic mix of other books in the works, my favourite being my novel in progress.

Oh, do tell us about the novel in progress!
Okay.. here’s the synopsis:
This is the story of magic and altering time and dogs that fly and people who died and beings who introduced themselves as faeries… and this is a story of pottery.
It's about smashed fingers, smashed dreams, smashed faeries and the value of throwing up your arms and saying "whatever."
It's about impossible things being possible and "Rolling Stones" playing on unplugged radios.
It's about walking through walls and it's about faerie sex. (That chapter nearly stopped me in my writing tracks.)
This is the true story of my life: The tragic loss of loved ones; the magic of faerie-like beings showing up in my clay, on my pages, and in my home – which they did, by the way, very much to my dismay - at least at first.
And now, the faeries insist they will simply keep blowing themselves up in the kiln until I tell our story.
This is the story that blurs your boundaries between reality and fantasy and leaves you wishing you could find your way into my world, albeit without the tragedies.
As you can imagine, this has not been a simple story to write. Hell, if it were fantasy it would have been easy… but this is my life.
It's been a novel in progress for quite some time, because seriously, how does one tell a story of magic and faeries and people who died? How does one tell the stories I don't tell, when one knows they have to be here?
One begins. That's all, I suppose.
They are perched on my desk, these little mystical beings, wondering if I'll ever finish the damn book and tell their story. I'm pretty sure they don't know the meaning of 'damn', but they do what they can to converse with me in a way I can understand. Faeries…well, at first they introduced themselves to me as faeries, but they are not the type that you might imagine play in the forest.

What books have inspired you?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Nine Modern Day Muses and a Bodyguard by Jill Badonsky

Thanks for being here today, Janet, as always, you continue to inspire me.
Love your blog, Coreena. Thank you for the invite to be here!

Janet L. Whitehead is an author, artist, professional life coach and creativity coach with, clearly, a rather interesting life story.
You can also find Janet on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Trailer: You Will Call Me Drog

You Will Call Me Drog is a new middle school book by Sue Cowing, due to be published by Carolrhoda Books on Sept 1, 2011.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Parker is a normal sixth grader—or he was normal before the puppet. It’s just an old hand puppet, sticking out of a garbage can, and even though Parker's best friend says leave it, Parker brings the puppet home and tries it on. Or maybe it tries him on. "You will call me Drog!" the puppet commands once they’re alone. And now, no matter how hard Parker tries, he can't get Drog off his hand.

Drog is sarcastic, cruel, unpredictable, and loud—everything Parker isn't. Worse yet, no one believes that Drog—not Parker—is the one saying the outrageous things that get Parker into trouble. Then Drog starts sharpening his snarky wit on the most fragile parts of Parker's life—like his parents' divorce. Parker's shocked, but deep down he agrees with Drog a little. Perhaps Drog is saying things Parker wants to say after all.

Maybe the only way to get rid of Drog is to truly listen to him.

And, now for the trailer: 
This book looks so interesting, and I love the title - can't wait to read it!

Wordless Wednessday: Spring Flowers

It is Wordless Wednesday.  You can click on the link to get a list of the participants.

These are spring flowers from my garden.

(c) Coreena McBurnie, 2011.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Book Review: The Magnificent Mummy Maker by Elvira Woodruff

Book:  The Magnificent Mummy Maker by Elvira Woodruff, audiobook read by Lloyd James, Scholastic Paperbacks, 1995, 144 pages, middle school fiction.

Source:  Library.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Has a mummy’s spirit really moved into Andy’s body?!

What do you do when it seems like everyone in your family has done something magnificent—everyone, that is, except you? That’s Andy’s problem. He just wants to do something special.

When his class visits an Egyptian exhibit, he figures it’ll be just another field trip. But he’s wrong, because somehow a mummy’s spirit seems to have given him a weird magic power. Suddenly, Andy’s magnificent—all he has to do is wish for whatever he wants! But being extraordinary has its drawbacks. And Andy soon learns to be very, very careful of what he wishes for….

My Thoughts: 
I recently took a road trip with my kids and we listened to this audio book on the way.  It was great - one of the quietest trips we had ever done.  Every time a disc finished, the kids begged for the next one as they were so engrossed in the story.

The story is cute, it is about a ten year old boy named Andy, whose mother died when he was a baby and whose father has remarried.  His new step mother comes with a new step brother, also a ten year old boy, but one who is good at doing everything he sets his mind to, unlike Andy.  Andy is average, not gifted like his step brother, Jason.  He feels left out and lonely and he misses his mom.

Woodruff does a good job here, exploring the feelings that kids of blended families would feel, all of the mixed up emotions, resentments and assumptions.  I can really imagine the kids feeling and acting the way that she presents and this would probably be comforting for kids who are in similar situations - or who feel sibling rivalry even without the blended family part.

There is also a great fantasy element to the book, with Andy channeling the spirit of the mummy.  This part is a bit spooky and mysterious and adds a fun tension to the book.  I love the imagination the author uses here and how it is used to ultimately resolve the story.

I can see middle grade kids really enjoying this book, especially if they have an interest in mythology.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

BookDivergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth, HarperCollins Children's Books, 2011, 496 pages, young adult dystopian.

Source: Library.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

My Thoughts:
Okay, now I see what all of the fuss was about.  Finally, I read Divergent after reading what seems like endless reviews singing its praises.  Once I started reading, I could hardly put it down and tore right through it.  This is certainly one of the best dystopian books I have read.  There is tension, humour, camaraderie, strong characters, romance, and an exploration of human nature. 

I really enjoyed Veronica Roth's writing - she did such a good job of creating her world. It is vivid and clear and I could easily picture the world divided into its factions.  I found it interesting that Roth didn't elaborate on how the world got to where it is in her story or even how long it had been there, she just used some innuendo about wars and left the rest up to the reader.  There were a few times, however, when the writing was unclear and distracting because I could not tell who was talking.

I always love a strong but human heroine, and Divergent has this.  Tris is great.  She is born into the Abnegation faction, where people are supposed to be selfless.  This doesn't sit well with her and we agonize with her as she chooses whether to stay with her family or pursues what she feels is her true calling.  The book is told in the first person present from Tris's point of view, so we get an intimate glimpse into her world.  I liked the relationships between the friends and how this evolves, and how Tris struggles with her choices. This feels so real and I felt for her with this terrible choice, and then later, how she survives her training, learns to make friends, and struggles with her secret.  It is also great how Tris learns about herself, comes into her own, and learns to take care of herself.  She is strong, resourceful and passionate.

And then there is Four, the love interest and trainer for the candidates.  I love that he wasn't a jerk and that there wasn't a love triangle.  Four could be harsh, but his actions were always well thought out and not malicious. He is an intersting character, who is obviously strong, but also very human.

The set up of the five factions is interesting, a way to explore human nature by separating out various traits. The book explores the problems of only developing one part of your personality, and how this can lead to problems.  It started off as a way for people to strengthen their gifts, but turned out as causing unrest and prejudice.  I love how Roth delves into these issues, along with questions of the implication of choices and "who am I?"

I highly recommend this book to those who like dystopian novels and exciting adventure.  Part of me felt like I was participating an a crazy "survivor-like" episode, with the candidates having to deal with one crazy situation after another to earn their place in the faction.  I can hardly wait for the next book, called Insurgent, to come out to find out what will happen next.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Book Review: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Book:  The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, Alladin, expected publication August 30, 2011, 390 pages, Middle School fiction.

Source:  Simon & Schuster galley grab.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.

Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret—behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.

In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.

But it's a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

My Thoughts:
What a fun book!!  It was full of great characters, interesting animals, imagination and creativity.  The first page had me hooked and I could hardly put it down until I was done.

The world that Lisa McMann creates is incredible and she does a fantastic job.  Quill is a distinctly dreary and horrible place, gray and even covered with mesh fencing.  The people come off lifeless and resigned.  Artime, on the other hand, is its polar opposite, full of vitality, energy and life.  Even the statues are living and there are wonderful, magical creatures such as a winged tortoise and squirrelicorns.  Then there is the fighting techniques that the kids learn, such as putting someone to sleep with a soliloquy, painting yourself invisible, and a blinding someone using a highlighter pen.

The characters in this book really drew me in - I so felt for Alex and his dilemma, being deemed Unwanted while his twin brother is Wanted; then when he goes to Artime instead of being killed, his desire to help his brother and save him from his dismal life in Quill.   Also, even in Artime, Alex feels out of place and separate from his friends when they all qualify for the special military training and he does not.  Alex gets moody and sullen, and I could sympathize with his confusion.  I also felt that the friendships and rivalries were authentic and well thought out.

I loved the questions that McMann poses in this book - she deals with some interesting, larger issues, primarily the way society tends to value academics over artistic talent and creativity, and the importance of free will.  She explores how much we have to lose if we cut ourselves off from our creativity and shows us how important it is to our humanity.  I found it interesting how much she linked creativity to cleverness, and how people can be incredibly intelligent, but without creativity, their ideas will be lacking and things will eventually fall apart.

This is a great book that I think middle school aged kids and even early teens will love.  McMann's amazing imagination and creativity is sure to get kids interested in this well written and fun book.  I know that my own 12 year old son was looking over my shoulder as I was reading this and has made me promise to buy it when it comes out - I can see my 8 year old loving this as well.  I also imagine that it would be a good one to teach in the classroom because the story would keep the kids captivated and there are lots of rich discussion topics. 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Book Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

BookCity of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009, 541 pages.

Source:  purchased.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters -- never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her new found powers to help save the Glass City -- whatever the cost?

Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the final installment of the New York Times bestselling trilogy The Mortal Instruments.

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed reading this installment and found it much better than City of Ashes.  There was lots of tension, action, twists and turns.  Again, I found myself impressed with Cassandra Clare's writing and ability to create an interesting fantasy world within the real world.  The world changes in this book as the characters travel to Idris, the City of Glass, which is outside the normal world - it was nice to have a change of setting and focus.  

I enjoyed the characters more in this book and am glad that the Clary/Jace story line took a turn as I didn't like their brother/sister storyline.  Clary starts to grow into herself more in this book as she has had some time now to get used to being a Shadowhunter and her strengths are being more revealed and she acts more purposefully and less by accident.  It is also nice to see Jace act like less of a jerk.  

Again, I found some of the more minor characters to be some of the most interesting, such as Alec, Magnus, Isabelle, and Simon.  In fact, some of the best scenes for breaking the tension and adding humour were between Simon and Jace.  

This was supposed to be the final installment of the series, and it does tie up all of the loose ends, but Cassandra Clare has written more, with the City of Fallen Angels already out and more books planned - it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Wordless Wednessday

Hello, it is Wordless Wednesday.  You can click on the link to get a list of the participants.

Arbutus trees at Helliwell Park, Hornby Island, BC.

(c) Coreena McBurnie, 2011.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Book Review: Doodling by Jonathan Gould

Book:  Doodling by Jonathan Gould, self published ebook, 2011, 36 pages.

Source:  purchased with coupon from the author from Smashwords.

Synopsis (from Smashwords):
After Neville Lansdowne falls off the world (because it's moving too fast), he finds himself adrift in an asteroid field full of eccentric characters and experiences some most unexpected adventures. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver’s Travels) in this engaging comic fantasy.

My Thoughts:
I loved this story!  It was fun, well written and imaginative.  Doodling is a short book of 36 pages about a man named Neville who finds the world is moving too fast and he cannot keep up any more, so he jumps off into an asteroid belt where he meets a variety of different characters.

This is a type of cautionary tale, with the silly, funny story of Neville roaming through the asteroid belt trying to figure out a way to stop the world from crashing into them.  Then there is the allegorical story, with its deeper meaning and engaging questions about human beings and their priorities.  Gould questions in a simple way why and how we do things, but is not preachy or judgemental.  I found his writing to be observant, witty and engaging.

Doodling is well worth the read, especially if you want something different and thoughtful, as well as a good laugh.  It will entertain and get you to think at the same time.  You can go to Smashwords to download it and it is even free with the coupon code FT52H unitl the end of August.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Book Review: The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins

BookThe Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins, audiobook narrated by James Daniel Wilson, Fiewal & Friends, 2007, 288 pages.

Source:  Library.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A boy arrives at a remote village in the dead of night. His name is Ludlow Fitch—and he is running from a most terrible past. What he is about to learn is that in this village is the life he has dreamed of—a safe place to live, and a job, as the assistant to a mysterious pawnbroker who trades people’s deepest, darkest secrets for cash. Ludlow’s job is to neatly transcribe the confessions in an ancient leather-bound tome: The Black Book of Secrets.

Ludlow yearns to trust his mentor, who refuses to disclose any information on his past experiences or future intentions. What the pawnbroker does not know is, in a town brimming with secrets, the most troubling may be held by his new apprentice.

My Thoughts:
I listened to the audio book of this story and absolutely loved it.  It really held my (and my 12 year old son's) interest.  The narrator, James Daniel Wilson is dynamic and great with voices and certainly carried the story along really well.

This is a dark and Victorian-esque story that takes place in a fictional place, though it has a lot of resemblance to London.  There is almost a Charles Dickens feel to the story of the mal-treated twelve year old Ludlow who escapes from terrible alcoholic parents who want to pull out his teeth and sell them so they can buy more gin.  Ludlow escapes and finds himself in Pagus Parvus and working for a secret pawnbroker named Jeb Zabbidou.  Jeb pays people for their secrets and writes them down in the Black Book of Secrets. 

Both characters are new to Pagus Parvus and soon learn that the town is full of secrets, most of which revolve around Jeremiah Ratchet, who is the scheming, corrupt overlord of the area.

I was completely taken with the story and the descriptions.  I could just picture some of the horrible scenarios described, and I am sure that imaginative kids who like horror stories will love these tales as they appear throughout the book.

Ludlow is a great character and I totally felt for him, being brought up by such terrible parents and having to make decisions he didn't like just to survive.  It was interesting to watch his struggles as Jeb puts his faith in him and Ludlow has to decide how to act and who to trust.  He also asks the questions that nag at the reader about Jeb, such as who is he, where does his money come from, how can he afford to pay for secrets, what does he get out of the situation?

The whole book is full of darkness, mystery and intrigue, as well as being entertaining and well written.  As the story goes on, this tension only builds.  The other thing I really liked was that the story and its ultimate conclusion are different from other things I've read and I loved the imagination and originality of the book.  I even enjoyed the pacing, with the overall story moving along and being broken up with the interludes of the villagers secrets.

I would highly recommend this book for the middle school crowd, especially if they like a bit of darkness in their books or enjoy books such as Lemony Snicket, and I will certainly be in the lookout for more books from this author.  She has written several other books (check her web site by clicking on her name above) which are companion-type books in that they are all stand alone books with some overlapping characters and setting (at least from what I understand). 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Weekend Poem Blog Hop

Hello, I'm back doing the Weekend Poem in Your Blog Hop,Hosted by What She Read.
If you're just joining us for the first time, you can post a poem about anything at all (yours or someone else's) then link back to What She Read and visit other poem-rich bloggers.

Today I am featuring the poetry of a friend of mine, Hope of Hope-Full Universe.  She is an amazing poet and artist - I absolutely love her positive, whimsical attitude and the wonderful colours in her art.  Her work always makes me smile and feel happy, so I thought it would be fun to share it here.  If you like her work, you can check out her Facebook Page here for more.
Hope is the master of the haiku, amongst other things.  Here are some examples:
inspiration comes
at the strangest of all times
keep a pen handy
random acts of kindness
make the world go round and round
so take time today!
refreshing, cooling
the breeze blows gently today
trees sway happily
imagine free will
of mind, body and spirit
harnessed into one
they are laughing and
dancing, carefree, existing
'bout campfire. FAERIES!
what do i need? BrAiNs?!
probably, since i feel like
a hungry zombie
each tiny step is
just a little bit closer
to your highest goal
take a deep breath, relax
you can do it, whatever
you put your mind to!
"Sunflower Medley"  by Hope Mikal
 Poems and picture (c) Hope Mikal.
Reading Hope's poems make me want to try to write haiku's today.  Anyone want to join me?  The structure is three lines, first line 5 syllables, second line 7 syllables, third line 5 syllables.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Book Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Book:  Ruby Red (Eidelstein-Trilogie #1) by Kerstin Gier, translated by Anthea Bell, Henry Holt & Co.,  2011 (first published in German in 2009), 324 pages.

Source:  won in contest from My Bookish Ways and the publisher - thank you so much!!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed reading this book, it kept me reading and was fairly quick, but also had a good amount of suspense, mystery and intrigue.  In fact, each chapter was written to keep the reader wanting more.  Even the cover is quite beautiful and drew me in.

The story is told in the first person and takes place in present day London, with time traveling to Victorian London.  Gwyneth has just learned that she has inherited the family gene for time traveling.  Everyone thought her cousin Charlotte was the one who had inherited the gene, so Gwen has not been prepared while Charlotte has been.  This sets up a rivalry between Gwen and Charlotte when they realize that the table have been turned, and I anticipate some interesting things in the rest of the series.  I can totally picture the whole family dynamics that took place, right down to the matriarch grandmother and the snobby aunt.

Gwyneth is an interesting character, but at the same time can be quite mindless and forgetful.  Most of the time this makes her endearing and funny, but occasionally this does get annoying.  She also shows some good growth during the book with the potential for a lot more in the next books.  I love her enthusiasm and the way that she jumps right in when she realizes that she is a time traveler, but also her trepidation in telling her mother is also real and understandable coming from a teen aged girl.  Gwen's best friend, Lesley is great and is a nice foil for Gwen - she is smart and enthusiastic and the relationship between her and Gwen seems authentic.

Then there is the good looking and charming Gideon, who is set up to be the perfect romantic interest.  He is a relatively minor character in this book, with the potential to be a great character in the next one.  The only thing that bothers me about his character was the ending - I felt that his reactions to what happened at the end were a bit forced.

My other frustration with the book was Gwen's mother.  I could not understand why she would not sit down with Gwen and tell her what was going on, especially after Gwen started time traveling.  However, she probably has her reasons which may come out in the next books.

I really enjoyed the story and the time traveling.  There is lots of detail and what feels like a good historical accuracy.  It certainly leaves the reader wanting to know more and there is foreshadowing of big things to come.  I except the second in the series, Sapphire Blue, whose translation is due out next year, to be quite exciting and explosive.  At times it felt like this book spent most of its time setting up the bigger story, which left this one a little bit unsatisfying, but I am willing to forgive this because I think it is setting up something great.  I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in young adult fantasy, especially if they like time traveling.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Wordless Wednessday

I'm trying something new today, Wordless Wednesday.  You can click on the link to get a list of the participants.  This photo is taken from the deck of our cabin on Hornby Island, BC.  You can see the eagle on the beach - so peaceful!

(c) Coreena McBurnie, 2011.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Book Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

Book:  City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2) by Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2008, 453 pages.

Source:  purchased

Synopsis:  (from Goodreads):
As readers of series starter City of Bones already know, teenager Clary Fray is a Shadowhunter, a demon slayer who has the gift (?) of spotting Downworlder werewolves, vampires, and faeries. She is also an adolescent in an abnormally dysfunctional family: Her mom is in a magically induced coma and her father is probably insane and undoubtedly evil. All of which places Clary in situations that would challenge even the most talented average American girl.

My Thoughts
This is the second in The Mortal Instruments series, in which Clary, who has recently discovered a whole world of Shadowhunters, demons, vampires and werewolves, hiding in the real world.  I love the idea of a whole world hiding in plain sight, as it were.  In this book, Clary and the Shadowhunters are trying to stop Valentine, her father, from using demons to take over the world.

The story is exciting and there is lots of action.  However, I still did not like this book as much as the first one, City of Bones.  I felt as if this was a transition book, with everyone running around and reacting to things rather than a strong overall story.  I know there is the plot of stopping Valentine, but everyone just keeps reacting.

I was also a little disappointed that Clary was not stronger.  After the first book, I was hoping that she would become a more take charge, competent character.  I felt like she spent running around after others and when she did do something, it was by accident.  However, she is still young and this book did only take place days after the first one, so I still hold out hope for her.

This novel, like the first, does have some interesting twists and foreshadows even more - which definitely keeps the reader reading and waiting for the next book.  I don't want to say too much about this, but I am hoping for some big shake ups in the third book.

Jace, the young, good looking jerk from the first book, does soften a bit in this one, which is nice.  I am not sure about the relationship between Clary and Jace though.  I don't want to give away any of the plot (if you have not read City of Bones, you may want to stop reading now), but I don't like the story line of them being brother and sister, but still having a romantic attraction.  I can also see the foreshadowing that they are not actually brother and sister, but they think that they are and I find the whole scenario a bit much and kind of creepy.

I found some of the other characters in this book to be the most interesting, for example, Simon, Mangus, Alec and Isabelle.  They are really good, interesting supporting characters with a lot of personality and are not as caught up in feeling so morose (except for maybe Alec).

I did enjoy reading City of Ashes - it is a fun summer read, and will certainly read the next in the series.  I can really see teenage girls liking this book, as well as those who like urban fantasy.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Book Review: The Tooth Fairy by Judd Palmer

BookThe Tooth Fairy (Preposterous Fables for Unusual Children #1) by Judd Palmer, Bayiux Arts, Inc., 2002, 120 pages.

Source:  library.

I was attracted to this book in the library because of the series name, Preposterous Fables for Unusual Children and I thought that my eight year old son would enjoy reading it.  We ended up reading it together, and it was fun.  It is a fairly short book with nice illustrations by the author and quite small pages.   

The Tooth Fairy is about a twelve year old girl named Abigail, who has The Greatest Teeth in the World.  She lives with her Grandfather who has no teeth at all.  Abigail has never lost any teeth because her Grandfather will not let the Tooth Fairy near the house.  However, one day, Abigail gets a loose tooth and is determined to find the Tooth Fairy's castle, so she sets out on her adventure.

This book incorperates many of the traditional elements of fairy tales, but is still an original story.  I liked how determined and self sufficient Abigail was - she saw a problem and set out to solve it.  Her Grandfather is a funny character, sitting toothless in his attic with his many birds, but trying to protect Abigail in his way.

Both my son and I really enjoyed reading this book.  It is easy to read, but still has a good vocabulary as well as a bit of an old fashioned feel to it.  Abigail has lots of adventures that are fun and exciting for kids to read.  Also, there a cute moral at the end of the book about resisting the nature of things. 

The story started off as a puppet show by the author and has the kind of adventure and suspense that kids starting to get into chapter books, probably grades two to four, are sure to enjoy.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Book Review: The Gate of Days by Guillaume Prevost

Book:  The Gate of Days (The Book of Time #2) by Guillaume Prevost, translated by William Rodarmor, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008, 256 pages.

Source:  Library.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Sam Faulkner now knows his father is trapped in Vlad Tepes's castle, but he can't save him without the seven coins that will allow him to direct his travel to the right year in Time. So he sets off on a desperate journey through the ages to collect the coins -- to the oracle at Delphi, Pompeii before Mt. Vesuvius -- even Chicago in 1932, where he meets his seven-year-old grandfather. But things get wilder still when he finally finds his father, who is sick, dying, raving . . . and who insists they must rescue Sam's dead mother from Time!

My Thoughts:
The Gate of Days is another time traveling adventure full of stories of Sam visiting various places in search of his father.  In many ways, this book is an extension of the the first one - it picks up right where the other left off.  Again, the history involved seems genuine and well researched.

I enjoyed Sam and Lily's (Sam's cousin) characters and liked how they evolved in this book.  They both grew and used their brains to figure out the puzzle.

Sam's aunt and her boyfriend are a bit over the top, though I have a feeling that his aunt's nervous disposition may have some purpose in the last book (this is just a guess).

The book begins great and pulls us right in, not only with a burglary, but with the mystery of who the burglar is.  Prevost adds more depth to the story with the addition of the burglar and his tattoo of the horns with the circle in it, and how this theme is carried out through the book.

And then there is the great cliff hanger ending - I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in order to see how this series ends.  I can really see middle school and early teens liking this book, especially ones who like history and adventure stories.  I can also see the book appealing to both boys and girls.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Book Review: Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberrry

Book: Dust & Decay (Benny Imura #2) by Jonathan Maberry, Simon & Schuster, Aug. 30, 2011.

Source:  Egalley from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Six months have passed since the terrifying battle with Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer in the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot & Ruin. It's also six months since Benny Imura and Nix Riley saw something in the air that changed their lives. Now, after months of rigorous training with Benny's zombie-hunter brother Tom, Benny and Nix are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future. Lilah the Lost Girl and Benny's best friend Lou Chong are going with them.

Sounds easy. Sounds wonderful. Except that everything that can go wrong does. Before they can even leave there is a shocking zombie attack in town. But as soon as they step into the Rot & Ruin they are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, insane murderers and the horrors of Gameland –where teenagers are forced to fight for their lives in the zombie pits. Worst of all…could the evil Charlie Pink-eye still be alive?

In the great Rot & Ruin everything wants to kill you. Everything…and not everyone in Benny's small band of travelers will make it out alive.

My Thoughts:
Wow, what a book!  I could barely put this down, it is so intense and action packed.  This is the second installment of the Benny Imura series, the first being Rot & Ruin.  These are young adult thriller zombie books with a decidedly human twist. 

Dust & Decay sees Benny Imura, his brother Tom, and their friends Nix, Chong and Lilah sevens month after destroying Gameland.  They have trained and are leaving the safety of town to go after the airplane they saw fly past, and to go after a different life.

This book really drew me in, right from the first lines, and each chapter had me wanting to read the next one.  Maberry's writing is often fast and abrupt, which adds to the pace of the book.  I loved how the humour, tension, action and horror mixed with the human story and how invested we become in the characters. There were also some great twists and turns.  I don't want to give anything away, but I even shed a few tears at the end, I was so wrapped up in the story.  The addition of a page from Nix's journal here and there was a good one as it answered a lot of the questions about the back story and asked a lot of the same questions I had about the zombies and the Rot & Ruin.

I enjoyed how the characters developed in this story, particularly Benny and Chong.   Benny has really matured.  I loved his ambivalence about going out into the Rot & Ruin as this seemed authentic and human.  It would be difficult for most people to leave the world they know and its safety for the danger and uncertainty of a new life, especially a dangerous one.  However, he has made his decision, and once he is out in the Rot & Ruin, his training and level headedness shows.

Chong was also great and showed real growth.  He seems authentic in his desire to go out into the Rot & Ruin, to have the adventure, but only for one day.  He doesn't take the situation completely seriously, just a I could see many teens doing.  The consequences of his actions put him in a position to show what he is really made of and examine himself, which he does.  It is sad to see him lose his last shred of innocence, especially because I felt for him.

There are also great female characters in this book in Nix and Lilah.  They are strong and can fend for themselves, something missing in many books where the girls have to be saved all of the time or are only accidentally strong.  Nix is smart and hurting from the events of the first book, but she can certainly hold her own.  Lilah is all brawn and "street smart" but learns more about her human side as the book goes on.

What I especially love about this series is how Maberry explores what it means to be human.  Dust & Decay explores various themes along these lines:  what it is to really live - is it OK to bury your head in the sand and exist and be safe, or is it better to take risks and be free and live?; the nature of evil - how intention and free will is needed to be evil; and how people act without laws - will evil and fear dominate with lawlessness, do we need a moral compass to tell us how to behave?

Something I haven't mentioned yet are the zombies.  Yes, this is definitely a zombie book and there are lots of zombies and graphically violent scenes.  There is also an underlying level of violence to the whole book, between the zombies and the bounty hunters.  I am not normally one for violent books, but the scenes do fit the story and do not seem out of place or gratuitous.

I loved this book and would easily recommend it to those who like zombie or action and adventure books or are OK with violent scenes.  There are great male and female characters in this book, which should appeal to both boys and girls.  I can see the length being initially off putting for some kids, but if they can get into it, the fast pace should carry them along.  My own son who is 12 loved Rot & Ruin and  has made me promise to buy him a print copy of Dust & Decay when it comes out at the end of August.  Personally, I can't wait to see what is next for Benny and his friends in the next book.

If anyone has any suggestions of other books along these lines, or are just great books, I would love to hear your suggestions.  I am always on the lookout for new books to read.  Thanks!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Book Review: The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

Book:  The Throne of Fire (Kane Chronicles #2) by Rick Riordan, Hyperion Books for Children, 2011, 452 pages.

Source:  purchased.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven't given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians.

And now their most threatening enemy yet - the chaos snake Apophis - is rising. If they don't prevent him from breaking free in a few days' time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it's a typical week for the Kane family.

To have any chance of battling the Forces of Chaos, the Kanes must revive the sun god Ra. But that would be a feat more powerful than any magician has ever accomplished.

First they have to search the world for the three sections of the Book of Ra, then they have to learn how to chant its spells. Oh, and did we mention that no one knows where Ra is exactly?

Narrated in two different wisecracking voices, featuring a large cast of new and unforgettable characters, and with adventures spanning the globe, this second installment in the Kane Chronicles is nothing short of a thrill ride.

My Thoughts:
I love Rick Riordan's books, and this one is no exception.  I am especially partial to books with ancient mythology in them, and Riordan provides this along with fun, interesting books full of adventure.  It feels like Riordan has done his research and that there is authenticity in the mythological parts of the story.  I also love how he blends Egyptian mythology into modern every day life and how different realities can exist at the same time, a kind of urban fantasy feel.  The Throne of Fire is the second in this series, where brother and sister team, Carter and Sadie have to save the world from some angry Egyptian gods.

The Throne of Fire is narrated in the first person alternately between Carter and Sadie.  They are typical brother and sisters, who fight and argue, but who ultimately care for each other.  Their relationship adds a good dimension to the book and is also a fun source of humour, which is needed in this fast paced adventure story.

Rick Riordan does some nice foreshadowing in this book (for example, how Sadie and Carter understand how the magic works), which I like because it adds depth to the story.  This also helps with the character development, especially of Sadie.

In this installment, Riordan introduces some interesting new characters who gain the reader's sympathy and really add to the story.  I hope we see them again in the third book.  I really liked the kids from the school that Sadie and Carter are teaching and the dynamics of that.  There are also some of the characters from the first book, but, for the most part, they play only minor roles.

As much as I enjoy the story and adventure of Rick Riordan novels, I do find the number of sentence fragments to be off putting.  This seems to be a trend in a lot of novels lately, however, and is quite disappointing.  It must make school teachers cringe as they try to teach grammar to kids.  I also found that the writing was slightly repetitive.

I can see middle school kids, both boys and girls, enjoying this book, especially if they like adventure and Egyptian mythology.  The interplay between excitement and humour should be appealing to kids.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Book Review: April Fool by William Deverell

BookApril Fool by William Deverell, McClelland & Stewart, 2006, 448 pages. 

Source:  purchased.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
An irresistible story of justice heading off the rails.

Arthur Beauchamp, the scholarly, self-doubting legend of the B.C. criminal bar (and one of Deverell’s most amiable — and crafty — protagonists), is enjoying his retirement as a hobbyist farmer on B.C.’s Garibaldi Island when he is dragged back to court to defend an old client. Nick “the Owl” Faloon, once one of the world’s top jewel thieves, has been accused of raping and murdering a psychologist. Beauchamp has scarcely registered how unlikely it is that the diminutive Faloon has hurt anyone when his own personal life takes an abrupt turn. His new wife, Margaret Blake, organic farmer and environmental activist, has taken up residence fifty feet above ground in a tree she is determined to save for the eagles and from the loggers. Beauchamp shuttles between Vancouver and the island, doing what he can to save the tree and get his wife back — and defend Faloon.

Part courtroom thriller, part classic whodunit, April Fool sees Deverell writing at the top of his form as he puts these characters through some entertaining and very surprising twists and turns.

My Thoughts:
I read this book while sitting on a beach on an island very near to Garibaldi Island, where Arthur Beauchamp, the main character, lives.  I love all of the description of island life and the pace of things on the island.  There is some great description of the forests and people - Deverell has a great vocabulary and he uses it. 

April Fool is told in the present tense, something that was a bit hard to get used to.  There was often changes in point of view and the characters went back into their thoughts, then I felt jarred as they returned to the present.  I imagine this was a way to separate the past and present, but it kept taking me out of the story.

The beginning of the book was intreguing and certainly made me want to find out who had committed the crime and how they had done it.  Faloon is a thief and he starts off by stealing from guests in a local resort.  There is great authentic sounding detail here, as there is with all of the crime description - it would seem that Deverell has done his research.  The flip side of this is that he used a lot of criminal slang vocabulary that the reader had to interpret.  Again, this was offputting at times as it drew me out of the story if it wasn't immediately obvious what the word meant.

This is a book in two parts, the crime and investigation and then the courtroom drama.  Both were carried off well and we were carried along with Beauchamp as he not only wanted to defend his client, but be able to solve the crime and point the finger at the real criminal in a dramatic gesture.

I enjoyed Arthur Beauchamp, and this is the second book I have read featuring this character.  However, I also found him annoying at times.  At first his insecurities about his wife were amusing, but after awhile they just got to be annoying.  I found it difficult to believe that a man of his age would be so insecure about his wife and I did get tired hearing about it.  Again, there was a flip side to this, Deverell was able to use this relationship to compare to others in the book and the dynamics of marriage, for example the womanizing, urban lawyer in marriage councelling, and the Viagra popping lawyer keeping a mistress.

In the end, I did enjoy April Fool, but did not love it.  There was just too much repitition in the descriptions and the main character stopped being charming.  I did enjoy the mystery of who committed the crime and the suspense of Beauchamp's wife trying to save the forest from development.  There are definitely some local political issues at work here.