Saturday, 29 September 2007

Twisted by: Laurie Halse Anderson

Twisted
Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking Press
ISBN 9780670061013

Laurie Halse Anderson is the author of 5 novels and 3 picture books. Her books have been nominated for numerous awards and many recommendations. Each of her books that I have
read has been excellent and this one is no exception. The dust jacket states "Everybody told me to be a man … Nobody told me how." Anderson captures the essence of the journey from a boy to a man.

Tyler Miller had been caught defacing school property, and now he is a hero to some, and an outcast to others, and is trying to find his way in the world. He has done community service all summer at the school, and worked for a landscaping company.

Now he must return to school and face the students and teachers who know what he did and the punishment he received for it. The school year begins badly; at a party he is knocked into a tray of glasses and cuts the feet of the Alpha female of the school, who happens to be the women of his dreams, Bethany Milbury.


Tyler is forced to take Bethany a cake as an apology for the accident. They become friends, and seem to be sort of dating. Then Bethany gets trashed at a party, and Tyler does the right thing. Yet Tyler broke his curfew from the court and that is just the beginning of some serious problems in his life. Unfortunately someone takes advantage of Bethany while she is drunk and most people think it is Tyler because of his reputation.

Most people think he did it. The cops keep coming by. He is attacked in school and out of school. He struggles with what to do, how to be a man. Can he learn how to be a man; can he take control of his life that seems completely out of control?

This book does an amazing job of capturing the angst of growing up, of finding your place in the world. It shows clearly the transition from boy to man, and then end of high school and moving on to the rest of life.

Anderson, as a woman, surprised me with he ability to write about becoming a man; her insight and clarity are awesome. This book should become a classic. Much like her earlier novel Speak I believe this book should be on the reading list for every high school or university Children's Literature course.

The book leaves you wanting more. The reader will want to know what happens next. Where is Tyler in a year, 3, 5 or 10? These questions will haunt you after you finish the book.

Anderson's blog is Mad Woman in the Forest.

(First Published in Imprint 2007-09-28 as 'Short Titles With Varied Depths.')
For my review of Speak click here.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Business Communications by: Brounstein, Bell & Smith

Business Communication:
Communicate Effectively In Any Business Environment
Marty Brounstein, Arthur H. Bell & Dayle M. Smith
Wiley
ISBN 9780471790778

This book was just released in the spring of 2007. The authors did extensive research and used the materials in the classroom. This is an excellent resource and would be a good tool on the bookshelf in any office or business, or for any student who has to prepare business reports. Like Work term reports. The book goes through the do's and don'ts of business communication and the new business etiquette in an electronic age.

The Sections of the book are:
Part I: Foundations of Business Communication
Part II: The Writing process
Part III: Letters, Memos, E-Mail, and Other Brief Messages
Part IV: Developing Speaking Skills
Part V: Reports and Proposals
Part VI: Employment Messages

This book is packed full of new features and online support to help make the information more accessible and easily applicable, either in the classroom or in the office. There is a website: www.wiley.com/college/brounstein
It has a pretest and a posttest for each chapter to check your knowledge. You can use the pretest to determine where to focus your effort in the chapter, and the posttest to see how you did. There is also a quiz at the end of each chapter to make sure you have grasped the concepts in that chapter. The book also has some information on new laws regarding emails and the use of them in court and as legal documents.

Some of the other features are an extensive Glossary, and a number of appendices with samples of most of the documents discussed in the book. Also included in each chapter are extensive samples and examples of the different styles commonly used in business documents.

In my experience, most textbooks are not well written, or easily accessible to the student or a person looking to work through it on their own. I have a professor at UW who changed textbooks every term because he could never find one he was satisfied with for more than one term. This book would not fall into that category. It is user-friendly, well organized, comprehensible and useful. This book will be referenced for years to come. If you're writing positive business letters, negative messages or trying to write persuasively, this book will give you examples aplenty and the skills to maximize your business communication. Most of those skills will be transferable into writings reports and essays during your time at UW.

This book will be an asset to you throughout your student career and beyond!

(First Published in Imprint 2007-09-29 as 'Short Titles with Varied Depths.')

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Unleashing the Inner Geek


Finding My Inner Geek


As some of you know from earlier posts I have been retraining and working on some computer certifications to help me get back into the workforce after an injury. This first picture is a screen shot of my computer taken a few days back. I am running a host machine running Microsoft Vista Home Premium, on it I am running a mix of operating systems in VMWare and Microsoft Virtual PC. The guest systems are:



Mac OSX
Windows 98
Windows 2K (2000)
Windows 2003 Server
Windows XP Professional.
Dam Small Linux

You can see the Mac OS under the Linux and Windows. I have come to realize how much of an inner geek I have. I rebooted the Windows till I got a screen shot of all three in startup screen's.(Picture 3) I have also gone back as far as Windows 3.11 on Dos 6.2. It is fun playing in the old OS's and remembering how to do networking and such through them. It should come in handy working in IT.


There are a few applications to playing in such a way. The first is you can run a number of different operating systems without having to set up multi-boot. The second is if you have old software you need that will not run on a new system, you can now use it and have the benefits of the newer operating system.


This final picture is a shot of all the Microsoft Windows I have installed in virtual Machine's either at home or at school. Geeks of the world Unite, or since I am dyslexic 'Geeks of the World Untie'.

(Click on images for larger views.)

Articles in this Series:


Mac VS PC an It Guys Perspective
Inner Geek - Updated June 2011
Inner Geek - Updated December 2011

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Catholic Carnival 137 - School Daze

The Carnival is up at 'Mommy Monster Inc.' this week's is called 'school daze' It is large and it is good. It almost seams that everybody showed up for the pregame bbq. There are some amazing posts this week, so be sure to check them out.


Check out the Catholic Carnival submission form complete with screenshots in this post: BlogCarnival.com Submission form.

Or join the Google group to be made aware of call for submissions and when new Carnivals are up and where they are up.

The Catholic Carnival FAQ.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Darkwing by: Kenneth Oppel

Darkwing
Kenneth Oppel
(blog)
Harper Collins - Browse Inside

ISBN 9780002007443

This book can either be seen as a first book in a new series or as the 4th in an old series, written as a prequel. If it is a prequel it might be a record-breaker for time span. For Darkwing is a book set 65 million years ago. It is the story of a bat named Dusk, who does not know that he is a bat. He was born of a species named chriopter, and son of the Colony's leader Icaron. However Dusk is different - his sails(wings) are furless, his coloring is darker, and he is stronger in the shoulders and chest than other chriopters.

The story is set in the animal world in a time when the dinosaurs were in the process of dying off, and most other species were becoming overpopulated. Thus, nature, in an attempt to balance the ecosystem, was allowing to emerge, new breads of predators.

Oppel writes amazing books, as is evident by his numerous awards and nominations. His accolades include over a million copies of the Silverwing trilogy, The Governor General's Award, a Michael L. Printz Honor book, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award and many others. He has accumulated book awards both at home in Canada and across the pond in the UK.

In Oppel's writings, he crafts his words and draws you into the world in ways you have never seen or imagined. Silverwing, written from a bat's perspective, is written without using any color - all the descriptions are in black, white, silvers and grays, as seen from the bat's perspective. In the same way, this book told from multiple first person perspectives, helps you see a prehistoric world from the animal's eye, whether it is the bat or Miacas.

In this book we follow Dusk and his colony as they try to find a new home in the world, after being driven from their family tree by Carnassial, who was driven from his pride for becoming a carnivore and is the leader of a smaller pride. Both Dusk and Carnassial must come to realize that the world is not as it was, and is changing fast. They must each come to grips with their differences, and help their families find their new place in the world.

The story is very well written, and will compel you to keep reading. As you turn the pages quicker and quicker, you will realize that as things in the world that long ago were racing towards change, you also will find yourself racing for the end of the book.

This book can either be seen as a prequel to the Silverwing trilogy, or as this reviewer hopes, the first in a new series about the bats from long ago. Either way Darkwing is a book to be enjoyed again and again.

(First Published in Imprint as 'Imprint's Reading' 2007-09-14)

The Silverwing Saga
Silverwing
Sunwing
Firewing
Darkwing

Books by Kenneth Oppel:

Half Brother (2010)
The Devil's Cure (2000)
Dead Water Zone (1992)
The Live-Forever Machine (1990)

Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein
This Dark Endeavour (2011)
Such Wicked Intent (2012)

Airborn Series
Airborn (2004)
Skybreaker (2005)
Starclimber (2008)

Children's Fiction:

The King's Taster (2009)
Peg and the Yeti (2004)
Peg and the Whale (2000)
Emma's Emu (1995)
Galactic Snapshots (1993)
Cosmic Snapshots (1993)
Follow That Star (1992)
Cosimo Cat (1990)
Colin's Fantastic Video Adventure (1985)

Barnes and the Brains
A Bad Case of Ghosts (1993)
A Strange Case of Magic (1994)
A Crazy Case of Robots (1994)
An Incredible Case of Dinosaurs (1994)
A Weird Case of Super-Goo (1997)
A Creepy Case of Vampires (2002)

Friday, 14 September 2007

Holly Cole by Holly Cole

'Holly Cole'
Holly Cole
Alert Records

2007
ASIN B000N60HDQ

Holly Cole in her 9th Studio album, this self titled CD Holly Cole is absolutely stunning.

This is her first studio recording since 2004 and it is more than worth the wait. The album on first listen is both haunting and familiar. Cole has tapped the best sounds of her previous, she parades us through the ranges of her voice and style, she draws us in and tosses us out.


This album classified as Jazz is a mix of all that is good in vocal jazz; rowdy honky-tonk, to smoky smoldering songs that burn your heart.


One of the most stunning tracks is Cole's own 'Larger Than Life' a song that reveals that Cole is not only a student of the Jazz Masters but destined to become one herself.

'The House is Haunted by the Echo' is deep, dark and melodious reminiscent of her version of 'Trust in Me' from earlier albums. Cole's greatest power is that she is a story teller, and with her voice, she makes the jazz classics or standby's her own.

Cole is amazing on this album, and if you ever get the chance to see her life do not pass it up. My only regret about this album is that there is no scat, however with that said there is not one of the 11 tracks I would want to drop from the album to hear some of Cole's scat!

(First published in Imprint in 'Imprint's Playlist 9.14' 2007-09-14.)
Note: This Cd has also been released under the title 'Charade' in some markets.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

In Conversation With God: Volume #4: Ordinary Time: Weeks 13-23 By: Francis Fernandez Carvajal

In Conversation With God
Volume #4: Ordinary Time: Weeks 13-23
By: Francis Fernandez
ISBN 090613823X
Scepter Press
7 Volume Set
ISBN 0906138191

When I started writing the reviews of this series last year, I did not think it would be that hard to write separate reviews on each book in the series. I think the books are awesome and would benefit any Christian in their spiritual life. The volumes that deal with special feasts or Easter & Christmas were easy to write about. But the volumes covering ordinary time are much harder to write about, so see my write-up below about the series as a whole, or check out some of the specific reviews linked below. And God bless.

Scepter Press
in North America has just reprinted them again last fall.


About the Complete Series:

The complete series is worth the money, time and effort. This is an amazing Catholic meditation and daily reflection series. The seven volumes have daily readings for each day of the church year, as well as volumes 6 & 7 being special Feast Days. The readings draw heavily upon the writings of Josemaria Escriva the founder of Opus Dei, Pope John Paul II, and the daily readings from the common liturgy for that day. The Sundays have three sets of readings, depending on whether we are in year A, B, or C in the church readings. These devotions are all about 6 pages long and divided into 3 sections. They can all be read as a complete section, or part in the morning, midday and evening as they each have three sections. I find that with every day there is so much meat in these devotions that I am already planning on reading them again next year.


This series was originally published in Spanish and was completed in January 1991; the English translation was completed in 1993. It has been immensely popular since they first started coming out in1988. They are published around the world, and have helped thousands of readers in enriching their spiritual lives.

There is a complete subject, and biblical reference index in volume 7; unfortunately the earlier volumes' indexes only go as far as that volume #. The indexes are subject and reference quoted by church Fathers, Popes and Saints. These books will draw anyone deeper into a faith and a life of action based upon that faith.

The 7 Volume's are:
Volume #1 Advent and Christmastide
Volume #2 Lent and Eastertide
Volume #3 Ordinary Time Weeks 1-12
Volume #4 Ordinary Time Weeks 13-23
Volume #5 Ordinary Time Weeks 24-34
Volume #6 Special Feasts January-June
Volume #7 Special Feats July -December

Complete Set 7 Volumes


Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Catholic Carnival 136


The Carnival is up at 'just another day of Catholic pondering' this week's is called 'Catholic Carnival 136! Game Day!' It is large and it is good. It almost seams that everybody showed up for the pregame bbq. There are some amazing posts this week, so be sure to check them out.


Check out the Catholic Carnival submission form complete with screenshots in this post: BlogCarnival.com Submission form.

Or join the Google group to be made aware of call for submissions and when new Carnivals are up and where they are up.

The Catholic Carnival FAQ.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Sad News Weekend


It has been a weekend of sad new. Madeleine L'Engle has passed away at the age of 88. L'Engle most known for her two Newbury Award winning children's books, also wrote adult fiction, theology and poetry. I had the opportunity to meet her at a conference a few years back and found her as delightful and charming as many of her characters. I have to date only read 31 of her books and can say I enjoyed each of them. L'Engle's books have inspired children and adults alike. She was often on the forefront of pushing the limits in confronting social issues. Many Waters raises questions about Women in Old Testament narratives, A Live Coal in the Sea deals with a male victim of sexual abuse. She was a creative and literary genius who will be missed by many.

Another genius Kathy Shaidle has closed the lid on her 7 year old blog relapsedcatholic.com fortunately for use she has started a new one Five Feet of Fury to continue her daily postings and to raise many questions that need to be asked. Hopefully her genius and creativity will be with us for years to come.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

2nd Anniversary

It's the second anniversary of this blog, and I have been reflecting on a lot of things over the past few weeks. As many of you have noticed I did not blog for almost a month. I thank you for your notes and emails. It was much appreciated. I feel the need to tell you a story, the story of how I became a book reviewer and how I became a blogger. In part it will be the story or my life and my family, and in part an update for some of my earliest readers, and for some of my more recent readers it will be an update to some of the events you are aware of through this blog.

I write because I must write, I am not sure I could ever go long without writing in some form. I have been a person who has kept journals since my first time in university. I currently am on volume #34 since August 1994 when I started using the Blueline A19 series of journals. I have used each colour that they come in and now just stick to the green. I have also keep these some style journals for a number of jobs, and for working out. I write because I must. I love the quote "The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it." By Leo Rosten. If 3 years ago you would have told me I would be a published writer I would have laughed in your face, and maybe gone so far as to call you a fool. You see I have a dual-form of dyslexia, when I graduated public school I was told I would never finish high school, but not only did I finish, I finished early and with distinction. The summer between grade 7 and grade 8 my parents sent me to a private summer school, we were in class 8 hours a day 5 days a week, most of the summer brake, but I went from reading at a grade 3 level to reading at a university level and fell in love with books. From that point to now I have probably averaged more than 3 books a week outside of my school reading. What I read has changed from time to time. In high school I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, at university I went through phases of the classics, and contemporary writers, and when I became serious about being a Christian I began devouring Christian books. Recently when I returned to the Catholic church that became a strong focus. Yet I do find I go through phases in reading, children's lit, sci-fi, literature spiritual … always with a mix for at any given point I have 20 or so books on the go.

A
few years back I was working at a book store, I developed some relationships with people in the publishing industry and started receiving ARC's (Advance Reader Copies) or Review/Desk Copies of books. I started writing reviews for these publishers, excerpts of which were used on dust jackets or advertising campaigns. After about 6 months of this, I said to myself "Self, you are already reading these books and writing the reviews maybe you should try publishing the reviews." So I contacted my school newspaper Imprint and asked if they wanted some book reviews. That went well, and I have been primarily writing for them ever since. I have also published book reviews in 5 other publications (see sidebar). The blog started because friends who did not have access to the publications I wrote for wanted to read my reviews. As such the blog has been primarily an information blog. However most of my time for the past 2 years to read, and write has come about by accident.

Quite literally by accident, 2 years ago tomorrow I tore my rotator cuff at work, I had a tear in the supraspinatus tendon. I have been off work since that time. I was a foreman for a landscape irrigation company when I was injured. I went to physiotherapy 5 days a week for a year and last October had surgery. They cleaned up the scar tissue on the tendon and closed the tear, and shaved part of the bone off both above and below to give it more room when it gets inflamed. The surgery has worked wonders, and though the shoulder will never have the strength it had before the injury, pain and sleep are much better since the surgery. With this time off work and at home I decided to try and hone my craft as a writer. I tried to post a review a week, whether one was published that week or not. That first year off work I read nearly 200 books. This past year things have slowed down but that is because I now have a nearly 1 year old daughter.

So now we know I write because I must, and I published by accident. Now for some info on my life. This past two years has been very hard, emotionally, spiritually and of course physically. I don't like not being able to work. I have permanent restrictions because of the injury of no lifting at shoulder height of 15lbs and above shoulder height of 10lbs and no repetitive motion or sustained work at shoulder height or above. I do not enjoy having a daughter and a son on the way and not being able to provide for them the way I think I should. I sometimes find it hard to hope, when after 2 years of prying for a job and hundreds of applications I have only had 2 interviews. It is hard because we have been on reduced income for 2 years because of my injury and inability to work my old job or find a new fulltme job. I am upset with myself because I have gained so much waist in the 2 years off work with my injury.

Yet it has not all been bad. My first born Abby was born and I got to spend most of her first year home with her. I had the opportunity to donate bone marrow and write a three part series about it, part 1, part 2 and part 3. I have also had the opportunity to really focus on writing and developing my reviewing style, I have also written news and feature stories. And we now have a second child on the way, Liam Patrick is due January 7th. I have also been able to do a few websites for non for profits, and an academic association. All my websites can be seen from here.

I took August off of blogging for a few reasons, first I am back in school through work insurance to try and become employable again. I have done my Microsoft Office Specialist Certifications for Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Outlook. I did in 4 weeks what usually takes 10-12 weeks in class, and during that 19 days in school wrote all 5 pretests and certification exams. Starting Monday I am doing a network specialist course which includes CompTIA A+ Certified Technician, CompTIA Network + and the Microsoft Certified Professional training courses. I am in college 5 hours a day, plus an hour a day lab time for these courses. On my MOS courses I averages over 95% on both theory and practical for each course and passed my Certification exams on the first attempt. These new courses starting Monday should be a little more challenging but not too difficult. I will also still be at university taking 1 course Monday evenings RS 266 Religion in Popular Film. I am only a few credits away from graduating university and want to try and finish that.

I want to say thank you to so many people. People in know in real life and some I only know through the blogsphere. This past winter my computer was about to die and through some people, most of whom I have never met I got a new computer to be able to keep writing. To people who used to be on my email update and prayer request list, Thank you. To all the kind generous supportive people in the blogsphere, Thank You. It is really the people in our lives who make it worth living. Andrea and I have always been surrounded by good friends and family, and through the blogging world I have discovered many more great people who pour into our life through their writing, their blogs, their personal notes and through the witness of the life they live. There are way to many people to name so here I will say a generic Thank you!

I am sorry this post is so long and rambling, but I just wanted to share some of what has gone on and why I am here even after 2 years. I just hope it makes some sense, and helps you make sense of me.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Sacred Visions Ed: Andrew M. Greeley & Michael Cassutt

Sacred Visions
Edited by Andrew M. Greeley and Michael Cassutt

TOR

ISBN 0312851731


I have found that it is hard to review a collection of writings from different authors. In part, because it can be trite to state which is your favorite story and which is your least. It is also unfair to compare the writing styles of the different authors. Collections serve a variety of purposes; the first is to give you samples of a number of authors' writings, and the second is often that those writings are grouped by type or style or purpose. This collection fits both categories. It is a collection from 12 authors writing about the universal questions of faith and ethics, within a Catholic context and of a science fiction of fantasy theme. Four of the pieces were specifically commissioned for this volume and the other eight are classics of Science Fiction, including the short story form of two award winning novels.

The works included are:

  • Gus - Jack McDevitt
  • The Pope of the Chimps - Robert Silverberg
  • Curious Elation - Michael Cassutt
  • Trinity - Nancy Kress
  • Saint Theresa of the Aliens - James Patrick Kelly
  • Our Lady of the Endless Sky - Jeff Duntemann
  • The Seraph from Its Sepulcher - Gene Wolfe
  • A Case of Conscience - James Blish
  • Xorinda the Witch - Andrew M. Greeley
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller Jr.
  • The Quest for Saint Aquin - Anthony Boucher
  • And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire - R.A. Lafferty

I first read this book years ago. Now I pick it up from time to time and randomly read stories. The stories are varied and powerful; they will evoke emotions, faith, doubt and awe.

This collection is some of the best religious science fiction I have ever read. It will be a good read for any Catholic, or a Christian who would like a different look into the Catholic faith. It will also be a good read for fans of science fiction, for some of the works included are considered masterpieces in the genre.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Catholic Carnival 135

The Carnival is up at 'A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars' this week is simply called 'Catholic Carnival 135'! A great is somewhat smaller than normal Carnival, maybe everyone is busy with back to school.

I feel like a cad but I have missed the last 5 Carnivals, I also did not get any blogging done in that time frame.Sorry to all the bloggers who put the time and effort into the carnivals. Here they are:
Catholic Carnival 134
Catholic Carnival 133
Catholic Carnival 132
Catholic Carnival 131 A Delayed Work in Progress
Catholic Carnival 130

Check out the Catholic Carnival submission form complete with screenshots in this post: BlogCarnival.com Submission form.

Or join the Google group to be made aware of call for submissions and when new Carnivals are up and where they are up.

The Catholic Carnival FAQ.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

The Valiant Papers by: Calvin Miller

The Valiant Papers
Calvin Miller

Zondervan
ISBN 0310292913


This book looks from the cover like it would be part of Singer Trilogy from its unusual shape (4 ½ X 8 ½
inches) and pen and ink drawings on the cover and throughout the book. Yet it is written in a completely different style.

Instead of being a narrative poem, it is the story of a life - the story of a life told from the perspective of the person's guardian angel. The story is written as though it were true, and Miller found this strange manuscript that disappeared as he copied it.

The book chronicles the life of a businessman who lives an unsavory lifestyle, until just before the end when he becomes a Christian. It tells of the changes he attempts to make in his life, both the successes and the failures.

It is an interesting read. Yet I doubt the 'Angelic' perspective in the book. The Angel seems too whiny and human to have been an angel and the actual author of the book. I would state that it is an OK book by an author who has achieved greatness in some of his other writings.

Other Miller Books:
The Singer
The Song
The Finale
The Valiant Papers
The Philippian Fragment (Currently OP)