Monday, July 29, 2013

Blood Sinister by Celia Rees

I really enjoyed the way the mystery of the book was revealed slowly through the main character Ellen Reading her ancestor's diaries. It allowed the story and the characters to be revealed at a steady pace. The use of Ellen's illness managed to create a sense of anticipation for the next clue. Overall the story was quite tame for a vampire tale. While I like the characters and the relationship between Ellen and Her grandmother, the relationship between Ellen and Andy could have used more depth And more intensity. I also really liked the character of nurse Jenny and appreciated her role in the end chapters but felt that the Swiftness with which Ellen and Andy trusted her and reveal their secrets and the ease with which Jenny accepted their story and willingly took on such great risk required more suspension of disbelief than this reader could muster. 

The cover art on this book was what grabbed my interest and it having a 'mature read' sticker from the Scholastic book fair let me to believe that it was going to be a deeper more intense and more intricate story and it actually turned out to be. Overall this was a satisfactory book for younger YA readers who may be interested in vampire mystery but who are not looking for the intensity or violence and gore that is common in this genre. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure

A female pharaoh? A woman general in the Kahn's army? A female Viking raider? No way, you say? Look again. Appearances can be deceiving ? Based on legends, poems, letters and first-hand accounts, these seven biographical tales tell of women who disguised themselves as men. From ancient Egypt through the Middle Ages to the 19th century, this historically accurate graphic treatment is perfect to transport readers back to bygone eras. The lives of these daring women were often filled with danger and the fear of discovery. However, for the sake of freedom, ambition, love or adventure, these women risked everything. No Girls Allowed brings a contemporary edge to a part of history largely untold ? until now.

An informative and stylish read, No Girls Allowed tells of brave and creative girls and women throughout the ages who defied the social restrictions of their gender.  I would have liked to have seen colour in the illustrations, but the feeling of inspiration still came through.  I especially liked that the tales ended with an update or sorts on the women, what happened to them when known and what was likely to have happened when not known.  These are not simply tales of individuals but of the influence and affects they had on those around them and on other women of the time.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


whelve:  means to turn something over and hide something underneath; to bury something

scaramouche: a cowardly buffoon

lopeholt: a place that is safe; refuge

What wEIRD wORDS do you know?  Share in the comments.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone

When Felicity's glamorous parents leave her with distant relatives in Maine, Felicity isn't happy.  Her Uncle Gideon hides things.  There's an odd person in the house who won't come out of his room.  And the only kids around is too handsome for his own good.  Felicity is on her own, but soon she know that she needs help.  Gideon is getting coded letters from Felicity's parent, and she's sure they're in trouble.  Can Felicity crack the code, heal the family, and save her parents ... all while surviving her first big crush?

I did enjoy this book, which was a surprise given that the cover and back cover synopsis gave no hint to a major part of the story.  When I started reading, I had no idea that this was actually a WWII story or that it took place anytime but the present.  That did cause a bit of confusion at the beginning and I am not sure I would have chosen this book for my weekend read had I known.  Once I understood the setting, the story started to flow.  Stone is quite good at conveying the emotions and mindset of Felicity and her motivations.  Her experiences as a youth in London during the bombings, sneaking on a ship to Maine with her parents and being left in the care of relatives she has never met are well described. As a reader, I was able to understand the isolation and fear she felt.  Young readers not yet familiar with the events surrounding WWII, the bombing of London, the redistribution of English children for safety and how America struggled with the timing of entering the war, will learn in a non-graphic and age appropriate telling.

There was an aspect of the story that I felt was somewhat out of place in this story and, perhaps, in a book for young readers. Some of the secrets and tension that Felicity must deal with concerns a falling out between her parents and the relatives she come to stay with. I found this thread of the story to be unnecessary and somewhat out of place.  I think another cause for the familial falling out would have been welcomed.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Whatever After Series

A brand-new series for middle-grade readers.
Every time Abby and Jonah enter their basement mirror, they find themselves messing up a different fairy tale!

I read the first in the series, Fairest of All
Mirror, mirror, on the basement wall . . .Once upon a time my brother and I were normal kids. The next minute? The mirror in our basement slurped us up and magically transported us inside Snow White's fairy tale.
I know it sounds crazy, but it's true.
But hey -- we're heroes! We stopped Snow White from eating the poisoned apple. Hooray! Or not. If Snow White doesn't die, she won't get to meet her prince. And then she won't get her happy ending. Oops.
Now it's up to us to:
- Avoid getting poisoned
- Sneak into a castle
- Fix Snow White's story
And then, fingers crossed, find our way home.
This is a cute series told from the point of view of the quirky, likable and lively Abby.  The humour is genuine and relatable for young girls. Perfect for grades 2 & 3, it is a great precursor to Meg Cabot books.  The familiarity of fairy tales makes this series very approachable for reluctant readers.  It explores how changing one part of a story can affect the outcome.  A large part of the appeal is the empowerment Abby gains as she realizes her actions affect the storybook world and that her ability to empathize with the characters and devise plans make her an important and valuable part of the new story.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


doolally:  refers to a person who is  insane, irrational or crazy

esquivalience: a copyright or plagiarism trap
quartervois:   crossroads

What wEIRD wORDS do you know?  Share in the comments.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Behind the Gates by Eva Gray (Tomorrow Girls Series)

The first in the Tomorrow Girls four book series, Behind the Gates sets the background for a near-future post-war world where young teens are sent away to safety.  North America struggles to survive a war with the mysterious group known as  The Alliance.  Canada is rumored to be saturated  Alliance agents.  Our main character Louisa, has grown up sheltered from the war due to the advantaged provided by her wealthy parents.  Her best friend Maddie is a somewhat more aware of how harsh life can be.  Her parents are both soldiers and not nearly as well off as Louisa's family.  The wealthy are able to send their children off to safety by paying for admittance into secret boarding schools.  Not even their parents will know where they are located. Communication is forbidden.
Louisa is nervous about being sent away to a boarding school -- but she's excited, too. And she has her best friend, Maddie, to keep her company. The girls have to pretend to be twin sisters, which Louisa thinks just adds to the adventure! Country Manor School isn't all excitement, though. Louisa isn't sure how she feels about her new roommates: athletic but snobby Rosie and everything's-a-conspiracy Evelyn. Even Maddie seems different away from home, quiet and worried all the time. Still, Louisa loves CMS -- the survival skills classes, the fresh air. She doesn't even miss not having a TV, or the internet, or any contact with home. It's for their own safety, after all. Or is it?

I wasn't expecting much from this book other than a quick read and hopefully some smart-not-silly female protagonists.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I fell easily into the narrative, travelling along with Louisa and Maddie.  Hints of tension lace the story from the beginning preparing the reader for the big reveal.  Louisa feels safe at her new school and even enjoys the unusual but exciting classes.  Still,  she and her roommates can't help but notice that there's something odd about their classes and surroundings.

I liked this book not only for the characters and plot, but because it is clearly written for brand-new teens.  The popularity of dystopian novels has captured the interest of many of my younger students whose  comprehension and reading maturity have not yet reached the level in the most popular titles.  Eva Gray managed to bring to life a dystopian world without the violence and bloodshed and moral ambiguity found in much of the genre.
She also manages to leave the reader hanging on the last page, prompting a mad rush to get the next in the series.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill

I truly did not expect to like this book. I picked it up with a sigh, thinking that here I go again, starting another book I probably didn't want to read in the first place.   The story of tree planters held almost no appeal to me. So, I began the first page ready to be disappointed. By the third page I knew I liked the author's writing style. By the tenth page I found myself enjoying the descriptions of Vancouver island and the almost alien landscape the tree planters were traveling through.

Her writing is tangible, the words enveloping me as a reader.   I can feel the dirt under my fingernails, the sweat clinging to the back of my neck.  As I turn the pages I feel like I should be looking around to make eye contact with the people Gill is talking about.

I keep asking myself who would want to do this kind of work? The conditions, the filth,  the isolation, the hours and the alienness of the terrain has it permanently removed it from every conceivable list of  jobs I could ever fathom.

I told myself that I'm not interested in this book it's not a topic I have any interest in. Still, I keep turning the pages and continuing on.  I can see why this book was nominated for an award  - the topic is unique and the writing itself draws the reader into the story.

The drawback for me was the immense amount of information about the history of trees and forestry industry in the book.   At first it felt like it was handed out in bits and peppered through stories, and that was fine as I found it quite interesting.  Yet as the book continued I found myself drowning in the information and details.    As a result it took me almost a full week to read this 250 page book.

The author,Charlotte Gill, has a much different take on this lifestyle than I do. Where I would find the filth, exhaustion and repetition overwhelming and not something that I would want to spend a career doing, never mind a single season, she finds that she has a love for it.

"Some people think planting trees is as boring and crazy making at stuffing envelopes or at climbing a StairMaster. I love my job for exactly the opposite reason because it is so full of things. There are so many living creatures to touch and smell and look at in the field that it's often a little intoxicating. A setting so full of all-enveloping sensation that it just sweeps you up and spirits you anyway like Vegas does to gamblers or Mount Everest to climbers."

Tree planting sounds like one of those jobs you would need to have a calling to.  It sounds as though it may be one of the last frontier style ways of life that can be experienced in today's world.  For me, this book has been interesting and illuminating.  And I am quite happy (and thankful) to leave it to those who have been called.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


argute:  shrewd

geason: rare; amazing; extraordinary; uncommon
transmundane:  spiritual; something that extents into the spiritual world or exists there; not earthly

What wEIRD wORDS do you know?  Share in the comments.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Duped! by Andreas Schroeder and Remy Simard

Duped! True Stories of the World's Best Swindlers

9 tales of famous scams
each includes illustrations and a few graphic novel styled pages
covers the main players, how the scam played out, motives, why it was successful, how it ended and what happened to the schemers and victims after.
Includes quick fact boxes with interesting  information about the time, country, inventions, etc. related to the scam

If this interests you, have a look at Schroeder and Simard's next collaboration  Robbers!  In the same style, this outing examines real life stories of thievery and mayhem.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Library Look..unique architecture

While privately lamenting the lack of funds to redecorate my school libraries - some non-institutional paint colour, a reading area, etc.-I let my mind wander and imagine how I could re-carpet  repaint, build new shelves, move network drops to rearrange the computers, do something/anything with those hideous ceiling tiles and on, and on...   Then I started picturing how to make the library building itself something that would stand out.  Not being an architect, I wondered what others had done.

Check out these custom libraries..would you like to have one of these spaces near you?

1) Biblioteca Sandro Penna, Italy

Photo credit:

While this first reminded me of a tube from a hamster habitat, I like the uniqueness.

2. Stuttgart City Library

Photo credit: Axel Brunst Photography
Putting The Focus On Books:  The Stuttgart City Library looks like an Apple store designed by M.C. Escher. On the outside, it's a perfect cube whose walls align exactly with the four compass points. On the inside, it's pure white with sharp angles and a soaring five-story atrium surrounded by Escher-esque stairs and rectangular furniture. Since opening in 2011, the ultra-modern library—designed by Korean architect Eun Young Yi—has been praised as one of the world's most gorgeous libraries and disparaged for its harshness and sterility. The design lacks the coziness that some people look for in a library but the stark whiteness of the environment itself puts all the focus on the colorful books lining the shelves... and there's no denying it's beautiful.

3. Vasconcelos Library

Entering The Matrix:Mexico City's 409,000-square-foot Vasconcelos Library is known as the Megabiblioteca (megalibrary), making it sound as much like Godzilla's arch nemesis as a haven for bibliophiles. Alberto Kalach, who designed the building after winning Mexico's first international architecture competition in more than a century, created a space that appears to have been taken straight out of a Matrix-inspired dream—with books on crystal shelves that seem to be suspended in mid-air, huge industrial steel fittings, and five grid-like levels with turquoise tinted glass floors. The 500,000 volumes overlook an open courtyard featuring enormous striped whale bones floating from the ceiling. Of course. The whole shebang is surrounded by a massive botanical garden.

4. Plans for the national library of the Czech Republic

(image via: Treehugger)
The new national library of the Czech Republic is still in its initial design stages but from the look of the plans, it’s anything but bookish. Materials to be used include unpolished white marble, mirror-finished stainless steel and an abundance of new greenery. A three dimensional construct for the third millennium, the library will have a working capacity of 10 million volumes when completed.
(image via: Treehugger)
Set on the edge of the huge Letna Park in Prague, the library is said to be democratic architecture in a democratic state, as Czechs express long-suppressed desires for freedom of thought that are uniquely suited to the concept of a library.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


pronk:  means a weak or foolish person

mogigraphia: writer's cramp

bouquinist: a person who deals in second hand books; a used book salesperson

What wEIRD wORDS do you know?  Share in the comments.