Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A Bad Case of Ghosts - Barnes & the Brains Book 1 - Kenneth Oppel

A Bad Case of Ghosts
Barnes & the Brains Book 1

Kenneth Oppel (blog)
HarperTrophy Canada - Browse Inside

ISBN 9781554685288


These books are fun, light, easy reads, intended for children who are growing out of picture books but not yet ready to tackle full-length novels. Coming in at around 60 pages they can easily be read in a session or two. This story revolves around the beginning of the friendship of Barnes and the Brains. Giles Barnes has just moved and he finds the house, old, musty and creepy. On his second day in the new home, he notices two kids across the street staring at his house with some sort of electronic instrument. When he goes to meet them they say they are listening for ghosts and his house is haunted. Giles soon realizes this is the truth and his house if full of Ghost birds. That is when the fun really begins.


These stories seem to revolve around themes of friendship, self understanding and self worth, all wrapped up in fun and mysteries. Kenneth Oppel has created a great series with something to teach us all. The six books currently planned in this series were originally published by Scholastic between 1994 and 2004. Now they are being reissued by Harper Collins, in new editions with new cover art. Now to be honest, I prefer the original Scholastic covers, but that is just a matter of personal taste. Yet we can only hope that more books will soon come out in this grand series.

Barnes & The Brains Books
A Bad Case of Ghosts
A Strange Case of Magic
A Crazy Case of Robots
An incredible Case of Dinosaurs
A Weird Case of Super-Goo
A Creepy Case of Vampires

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)

The Silverwing Saga
Silverwing (1997)
Sunwing (1999)
Firewing (2002)
Darkwing (2007)

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)

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Solitary - Escape from Furnace 2 - Alexander Gordon Smith

Solitary
Escape from Furnace 2
Alexander Gordon Smith (blog)

US Edition
Farrar Straus & Giroux

ISBN (October 2010)

UK Edition

Faber & Faber

ISBN 9780571240913


Alexander Gordon Smith is a UK author who seems to be coming into his own. His first major book to his North American markets was Lockdown, Escape from Furnace book 1. It has been nominated for the American Library Association Quick Picks for Young Adults, with good reason and this sequel due out in North America later this year should also garner much praise. But for those who have read Lockdown and cannot wait until October for the US release, there is another alternative. The series is already on book 3 in the UK. Like book 1, this story takes place in Furnace Penitentiary, a super max prison for young offenders built into the earth.

This story continues immediately after the first story. Alex Sawyer has just attempted to escape from the prison no one has escaped from. Along with a few friends he has managed to get out of the prison and into an underground river. Soon he is in a maze of tunnels, vaults and caves under the prison. They say that hell is below heaven and that furnace is below hell; Alex is about to find out what is below furnace. As the title indicates, Alex ends up in solitary confinement. There he must battle not only his own personal demons but also he encounters some created by the prison and the staff as they have experimented on the young inmates in their charge.

This book is kind of a cross between Escape from Alcatraz, and The Island of Dr. Moreau but with a sadistic Nazi Concentration camp-like experiments or somewhat like the Saw movies. The book is a compulsive read; you will discover that you cannot put it down. What does hold you back is knowing that it is only book 2 in a 5 part series and that 2 have not even been published yet. The book is dark and as hideous as the experiments depicted. Our main character has fleeting thoughts of suicide and struggles to maintain not only hope, but the ability to keep trying and striving to find a way of escape.

The book begins with Alex telling us "I have a confession. I'm not a good person. ... I stole from the people I loved, and took the things that meant the most to them. ... So don't go fooling yourself that I'm an innocent victim, someone who didn't deserve to be locked up inside the hell on earth known as Furnace Penitentiary." His time in isolation forces him to honestly evaluate himself and his worth. And he finds himself wanting.

I am not sure I even want to imagine what being locked in a hole carved in rock would be like, yet Gordon Alexander Smith seems to not only place a character there, but enters his mind and that confined space, and gives us an incredible experience of it. In this book we learn more about Furnace and what is really happening there, but we are also left with more questions - hopefully some of which will be answered in book 3, Death Sentence.

As stated at the beginning, this book is currently only available in North America by overseas shipping. With how popular the first book is becoming it is surprising that the publisher is not pushing up the US releases to get caught up to the UK releases. This book was a great read, but I would not recommend it for all readers; it is very dark and in some places gruesome, but never to a point that it does not fit the story. I read it twice late at night, and though I do not often remember my dreams, both evenings I dreamed of Alex and his struggles. It is a story well told, and told well in the details. It leaves you cheering for the underdog even though he recognises he is not innocent, not good and has failed everyone who has ever known him. It is a good instalment in what is shaping up to be a great series.

Books By Alexander Gordon Smith:

Escape from Furnace:
Lockdown
Solitary
Death Sentence
Fugitives
Execution
Execution Epilogue - Short Story
The Night Children - Short Story

Fury Series:
The Fury

The Inventors:
The Inventors
The Inventors And The City of Stolen Souls

Non-Fiction:
1001 Questions and Answers
Inspired Creative Writing: 52 Brilliant Ideas from the Master Wordsmiths
The Solar System
Family Quiz
Writing Bestselling Children's Books: 52 Brilliant Ideas for Inspiring Young Readers

The Art Of Furnace
Author Profile Interview With Alexander Gordon Smith

Monday, 29 March 2010

A Crazy Case of Robots - Barnes & the Brains Book 3 - Kenneth Oppel

A Crazy Case of Robots
Barnes & the Brains Book 3

Kenneth Oppel (blog)

HarperTrophy Canada - Browse Inside
ISBN 9781554685301


This is one of the first three books released in a new series by Kenneth Oppel. First published in 1994 by Scholastic, now reprinted by Harper Collins, the first three books were released in February 2010, with three more slated for release in May. Kenneth Oppel on his blog talks about this series being written to be a resource between picture books and full novels for younger readers. It seems like it will do a good job and fill that niche.

Tina and Kevin Quark are child geniuses, and this year for the science fair Tina has created a fully functioning, learning Robot, the Tinatron 1000. But her parents will not let her keep it in the house. They persuade Giles Barnes' parents to allow it to stay with them, in part because Mrs. Barnes is a university professor and she can have high-end mathematical conversations with the Robot. But while Mrs. Barnes is trying to solve a difficult math solution, the Robot shorts out and starts to make mistakes. Soon it is missing and Giles and the Quarks are on the hunt for a lost and broken Robot.

It is a great fun read, for children of all ages.

Barnes & The Brains Books
A Bad Case of Ghosts
A Strange Case of Magic
A Crazy Case of Robots
An incredible Case of Dinosaurs
A Weird Case of Super-Goo
A Creepy Case of Vampires

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)

The Silverwing Saga
Silverwing (1997)
Sunwing (1999)
Firewing (2002)
Darkwing (2007)

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)

Friday, 26 March 2010

In the School of the Holy Spirit - Jacques Philippe

In the School of the Holy Spirit
Jacques Philippe
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781594170539

This is the last of Father Jacques Philippe's books for me to read, that is current available in English. I truly love his spiritual writings and they have eclipsed Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen in my favourite spiritual writers' category. If he had a few more available in English he might even surpass C.S. Lewis. His works are a short treatise on different aspects of the spiritual life. This book focuses on learning to listen to the Holy Spirit's leadings, to learn to follow the Spirit's leadings ever more closely. I am going to include the table of contents to show you the depth of this subject that is covered in under 100 pages.


Part I Holiness Is The Work of the Holy Spirit
1. The Task Is Beyond Our Power
2. Only God Knows Each Person's Road
3. Faithfulness To Grace Draws Down Further Graces

Part II How Can We Foster Inspiration
1. Practice Praise and Thanksgiving
2. Desire and Ask For Them
3. Resolve To Refuse God nothing
4. Practice Filial and Trusting Obedience
5. Practice Abandonment
6. Practice Detachment
7. Practice Silence and Peace
8. Persevere Faithfully in Prayer
9. Examine the Movements of our Hearts
10. Open Our Hearts to a Spiritual Director

Part III
1. Progressively Acquire a "Spiritual Sense"
2. Criteria Confirming that an Inspiration Comes from God

Appendices
I. A Prayer by Cardinal Mercer
II. Quotations from Fr. Louis Lallemant
III. Quotations from St. Francis de Sales
IV. Freedom and Submission
Much like all his other books, this book is easily accessible, almost any reader looking to grow in the spiritual life will be encouraged, challenged and supported by using this book as a tool to help them grow in their spiritual life. A few quotes to support that argument are:

"Almost nobody realizes it, but in my opinion it is just as important to help devout people become even holier - and faster - as it is to help sinners be converted. It benefits the Church just as much. The world will be saved by the prayers of the saints." p.10
"Holiness is not the realization of a given model of perfection that is identical for everyone. It is the emergence of an absolutely unique reality that God alone knows, and that he alone brings to fruition...Holiness is only revealed to us by degrees, as we journey on, and it is often something very different from what we imagine, so much so that the greatest obstacle on the path to holiness may be to cling too closely to the image we have of our own perfection." p.18

"Inspirations go in the same direction as our duties of state and do not divert us from them but, just the reverse, help us to fulfill them" p.48

"But it remains true that this criterion of consistence between divine inspiration and the demands of our state in life is an important one, and we could avoid many spiritual illusions simply by taking it into account." p.49
"An inspiration from God, if we follow it, will produce sound fruit: the fruits of peace, joy, charity, communion, and humility." p.49

"At more critical moments, when we have the impression that our life with our Lord is limping a little and needs reviving, it can be very good to go on retreat for a few days and pray more intensely for the light of the Holy Spirit." p.29

Those few examples will give you a taste of the wisdom that can be attained with the aid of this book

Other Books By Fr. Jacques PhilippeCalled to Life - Scepter
Searching for and Maintaining Peace - St Paul's Alba House
Time For God - Pauline Books and Media
Time For God - Sin
agTala
Time For God - Scepter
Interior Freedom - Scepter
In the School of the Holy Spirit - Scepter
I Choose to be Free: the Power of Faith Hope & Charity (a different edition of Interior Freedom) - Sinag Tala

(These are all his books I have been able to find in English; if you know of any others or how to get them, let me know please.)

Thursday, 25 March 2010

I Spy - A Skeleton - Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

I Spy - A Skeleton
Jean Marzollo
(Author)
Walter Wick (Illustrator)
Level 1 Reader
Cartwheel Books

An imprint of Scholastic
ISBN 9780545175395


Walter Wick's photography and illustrations in the I Spy and Can You See What I See books are amazing. This is a great light reader for young children. This book is intended to be a little spooky, a little creepy and yet still be a learning tool. It does that very well. It is fun to read and work through.

The Leveled readers from Scholastic are a great way to introduce your child to reading. The levels are:
Pre1: ABC's & First Words
Level 1: Sight words, words to sound out and simple sentences.
Level 2: New vocabulary and longer sentences.
Level 3: Reading for inspiration and information.
Each book has a level rating, a grade level, a reading level, a lexile level and a word count on the back.

Books by Walter Wick:

A Drop Of Water (1997)
Optical Tricks (1998)

Can You See What I See:
Can You See What I See (2002)
Dream Machine (2003)
Cool Collections (2004)
Night Before Christmas (2005)
Once Upon A Time (2006)
On A Scary Scary Night (2008)
Treasure Ship (2010)

Can You See What I See Seymour:
And The Juice Box (2004)
Makes New Friends (2006)

Can You See What I See Board Books:
Dinosaurs (2006)

Can You See What I See Readers:
Animals (2007)
Games (2007)
Nature (2008)
Toys (2008)

I Spy: (With Jean MarZollo)
I Spy (1992)
Christmas (1992)
Mystery (1993)
Fun House (1993)
Fantasy (1994)
School Days (1995)
Spooky Night (1997)
Treasure Hunt (1999)
A to Z (2009)
Thanksgiving (2010)
Spectacular (2011)
An Egg in a Nest (2011)

I Spy Challengers: (With Jean MarZollo)
Super Challenger! (1997)
Gold Challenger! (1998)
Extreme Challenger! (2000)
Year-Round Challenger! (2001)
Ultimate Challenger! (2003)
Super Extreme Challenger! (2009)

I Spy Readers: (With Jean MarZollo)
Funny Teeth (2003)
A Dinosaur's Eye (2003)
A School Bus (2003)
A Scary Monster (2004)
A Candy Cane (2004)
Lightening in the Sky (2005)
A Pumpkin (2005)
A Penguin (2005)
Santa Claus (2005)
A Balloon (2006)
A Butterfly (2007)
Merry Christmas (2007)
I Love You (2009)
A Skeleton (2010)

I Spy Board Books: (With Jean MarZollo)
Little Book (1997)
Little Animals (1998)
Little Wheels (1998)
Little Numbers (1999)
Little Christmas (1999)
Little Letters (2000)
Little Hearts (2011)
Little Bunnies (2001)

I Spy CD-Rom Games: (With Jean MarZollo)
Junior (1999)
Spooky Mansion (1999)
Puppet Playhouse (2000)
School Days (2000)
Treasure Hunt (2001)
Fantasy (2003)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Time for God - Jacques Philippe - Scepter

Time for God
Jacques Philippe
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781594170669

This is the third translation of this book I have read. It has a greater power and strength than the SinagTala translation. And it seems to have a slightly more direct approach than the translation by Pauline Books & Media. Reading it this time through in this new translation, I am sure I have discovered things and found themes I did not in my previous readings. I have attempted to read the original French version, and though I enjoy it as an exercise, with not having used my French in almost 25 years, I miss much of the meaning in the text. As such I am
reliant upon translators. Helena Scott did this new translation for Scepter and it is an excellent translation. At some point i would like to do a side by side comparison between the Scepter and Pauline version. I enjoy both and believe that both versions will end up in my spiritual reading from time to time.

This is a great little book about the prayer life. It is not so much an instruction manual in that it does not list step by step what to do, but it does give general direction on methods to try and pitfalls to avoid in trying to develop a prayer life. Father Jacques Philippe takes us on a tour through history and Christian traditions to show us what works for establishing mental prayer and a consistent prayer life. His words flow as if guided by the Holy Spirit and are easy to understand and practical enough to start
implementing as you read. A few quotes from this edition of the book will illustrate that point:
"Mental prayer is not a kind of Christian yoga." p.9

"The first, basic truth, without which we well not get very far, is that the life of prayer (or contemplative prayer, to use a different name for the same thing), is not the result of technique, but a gift we receive." p.9

"If the life of prayer is not a technique to be mastered but a grace to be received, a gift from God, then talk about prayer should not focus on describing methods or giving instructions, but on explaining the necessary conditions for receiving the gift." p.13

"It should be clear by now that the main battle in mental prayer is perseverance. God will give us the grace to persevere if we ask him for it trustingly and are firmly resolved to do whatever is up to us.´ p.23

"There is no spiritual progress without contemplative prayer." p.24


"If we make God our first concern, God will look after our affairs much better than we ever can. Let us acknowledge humbly that our natural tendency is to be too attached to our activities, to allow ourselves to be carried away by them till they fill our minds entirely." p.30
"As creatures of flesh and blood, we need the support of material things in order to attain to spiritual realities." p.58

"Realistically, though, we often do not have the option of praying at an ideal time, but must take advantage of the opportunities allowed us by our commitments." p.83

As can be seen for those few select quotes there is a lot of teaching packed into under 100 pages before the appendices. I find that Father Jacques Philippe writings are like a balm, they are soothing to the spirit and promoting healthy spiritual growth. He gives us the tools to become better at Christian. His extensive experience as a director at retreats has shaped his writings and crafted them to give the most support for the ordinary Christian trying to live life to the full. Rev. Jacques Philippe, ordained in 1985, he is a priest of the Community of the beatitudes.
Other Books By Fr. Jacques PhilippeCalled to Life - Scepter
Searching for and Maintaining Peace - St Paul's Alba House
Time For God - Pauline Books and Media
Time For God - Sin
agTala
Time For God - Scepter
Interior Freedom - Scepter
In the School of the Holy Spirit - Scepter
I Choose to be Free: the Power of Faith Hope & Charity (a different edition of Interior Freedom) - Sinag Tala

(These are all his books I have been able to find in English; if you know of any others or how to get them, let me know please.)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Firewing - Kenneth Oppel

Firewing
Kenneth Oppel (blog)
Harper Collins - Browse Inside
ISBN 9780006393023

To be honest, this is the only book so far in this series I have not really enjoyed. Maybe it is a little too dark, or maybe it was just the story, but either way, of the four books in this series, this is the only one I am not likely to read again. Shade, our hero from the first two books, has now grown and become a father himself. After an earthquake, his son Griffin is drawn into an underground world through a fissure that has opened up. Shade realizes that the legends say, if a living
being enters the underworld realm of the dead and does not escape quickly, its life will be lost. Shade is frantically searching for his son and soon realizes an old enemy is also in the underworld.

Oppel again uses mythology and legends and weaves a story of bats around them. It does fit with the other books in the series, I just happened to not enjoy it as much.

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)

Monday, 22 March 2010

Called to Life - Jacques Philippe

Called to Life
Jacques Philippe
Scepter Publishers
ISBN 9781594170690

Rev. Jacques Philippe is a priest of the Community of the Beatitudes. He was ordained in 1985 and preaches retreats in France and around the world. He has written several books, most now available in English translations from Scepter Publishers. I was first introduced to Fr. Philippe's books about 4 years ago while on retreat. That first book of his I read, Time With God is available in a few different translations. I have now read them all. I find his writing sublime and soothing to the spirit. His words are often gentle and persuasive and yet always stir up a desire for spiritual growth and improvement. His books, though to some extent
read like self-help books that are a dime a dozen in bookstores today, have a much greater depth and more lasting impact. This may be due in part to his years as a spiritual director, and his life and devotion to learning as a priest, but for the largest part from his examples it is obvious that he lives it. These truths have become evident to him and as such he reveals what God the father through the Holy Spirit has taught him. The other thing that attracts me to his writings is that he does not have an exclusively Roman Catholic focus; he knows his books can be of use to others, and because of his breadth of learning he draws upon many non-catholic examples, including Etty Hillesum and from Coptic or orthodox traditions.

This book Called to Life is his latest to be made available in English. I just finished reading it while on retreat and found that it spoke to exactly where I am at. Rather than rave about how great his book is I will leave you with numerous quotes that impacted me upon reading the book this first time.

"I shall insist that any call from God is a call to life. Our first vocation is to live, and a call cannot be from God unless it leads us to live in a more intense and beautiful way, engaging human life as it is with more confidence, in all aspects: physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual." p.4

"To be called is fundamental to the human condition." p.5

"I take my stand in the Christian camp, but I believe the following reflections have something to say to any person of good will." p.6

"Openness to God's calls frees us from pride. It sweeps aside the attitude of self-sufficiency, the pretence that one is the sole master of one's life. In its place comes dependency, availability to another, humility and confident submission." p.12

"Every authentic vocation is a calling to live ever more fully." p.24

"Live! I want you to Live! Here is the first and the most fundamental call to us from God." p.26

"We are called to undertake self-improvement, to open ourselves to the work of grace, to have such confidence of God that we no longer need to calculate or be on guard, but can be capable of love in all circumstances. Thus God's word draws us little by little from our human wisdom to the Wisdom of God." p.38

"The only remedy for this wound to human consciousness is the sense of our filiation, the discovery of our divine parentage." p.52

"Reading Scripture is taking a risk: that we will be asked to reorder our lives or told things we don't want to hear. We do not work on the Bible. It works on us." p.54

"Any understanding of the word should be reasonable - not narrowly rationalistic, but open to mystery, enlightened by faith, and in harmony with the teaching of the Church." p.55

"A good definition of freedom is: the capacity to live each situation positively, not being crushed, but of finding the way of belief and a more authentic life. This is the glorious freedom of the children of God that Christ acquired for us by his death and resurrection." p.58

"I have often observed that people in difficult situations who come to terms with their inability to understand everything and begin to ask what God wants of them here and now receive enlightenment little by little." p.61

"In problematic circumstances, progress lies in hearing the calls that are being addressed to us. 'Shema Israel, Listen Israel!' One must pass from 'What do I want from life?' to 'What does life want from me?' or, sometimes from 'What do I expect from those around me?' to 'What do those around me expect of me?' Whatever the words this conversion is always necessary and always fruitful." p.63

"But despite the vast diversity, the calls we receive are always in the end invitations to believe, hope or love." p.66

"And sometimes the priority has to be self-love: consenting to one's fragility and frailty, accepting oneself, ceasing to blame oneself. We must be attentive to the Spirit's call and discern his priorities at each particular point in our lives." p.73

His writings remind me of C.S. Lewis's spiritual works - they are short, concise and very penetrating. I can only hope that the sample of quotes above intrigues you enough to pick up this book and see where Fr. Philippe can take you on your spiritual journey.

Other Books By Fr. Jacques Philippe
Called to Life - Scepter
Searching for and Maintaining Peace - St Paul's Alba House
Time For God - Pauline Books and Media
Time For God - Sin
agTala
Time For God - Scepter
Interior Freedom - Scepter
In the School of the Holy Spirit - Scepter
I Choose to be Free: the Power of Faith Hope & Charity (a different edition of Interior Freedom) - Sinag Tala

(These are all his books I have been able to find in English; if you know of any others or how to get them, let me know please.)

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Confession of Saint Patrick and Letter to Coroticus - Translated by John Skinner

The Confession of Saint Patrick and Letter to Coroticus
John Skinner (Translated By)

John O'Donohue (Foreword)

Image Books

ISBN 9780385491631


This is a book I have read a few times now. Each time, I find it stirs me greatly both in thought and the desire for action. I would say that its greatest strength is that if you read it with an open heart and mind, you cannot but help to be stirred by the writings of this simple man who became a great bishop. I find that as I read it I have an ever-increasing desire to have my actions live up to my theology; to see the example of Patrick and strive to live it. I love St. Patrick's Rune or Lorica - Breastplate prayer, though I prefer Madeleine L'Engles' version from her book A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I memorized it years ago and still pray it often, though not as often as I should.

St. Patrick's Rune

"All heaven with its power
and the sun with its brightness and,
and the snow with its whiteness,
and the fire with all the strength it hath-
and lightning with its rapid wrath
and the winds with their swiftness along their path.
And the sea with its deepness,
and the rocks with their steepness
and the earth with its starkness-
all these I place
by God Almighty's help and grace
between myself and
the powers of darkness!"

I have never memorized the longer version found in this book, but really should. This book always reminds me to strive - to strive to listen to God, to strive to follow God and to strive to learn to be better at being.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories - Holly Black

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories
Holly Black
Big Mouth House
IBSN 9781931520638


This is a wonderful collection of short stories by Holly Black. The stories span everything from faeries to a girl challenging the devil to an eating contest. Holly Black's diversity as an author, and her skill, is exceedingly pleasurable to encounter. One of her characters states: "It was readers that needed to be protected, he thought. Books were something that happened to readers. Readers were the victims of books." If that is truly the case, this is a great book by which to be victimized.

The collection of stories includes:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
A Reversal of Fortune
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Night Market
The Dog King
Virgin
In Vodka Veritas
The Coat of Stars
Paper Cuts Scissors
Going Inside
The Land of Heart's Desire
The Poison Eaters

Most of these stories were previously published, but there are two new stories specifically crafted for this collection. These stories have an extremely dark edge and yet a poetic and often amazing sense of what it is to be human, and an assessment of humanity. If readers can be victimized by books, then they will be by this one. It will be an addiction that they cannot put down and one that will leave them wanting another fix.

Other Books by Holly Black:

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories (2010)

The Modern Faerie Tales
Tithe (2002)
Valiant (2005)
Ironside (2007)

The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Field Guide (2003)
The Seeing Stone (2003)
Lucinda's Secret (2003)
The Ironwood Tree (2004)
The Wrath of Mulgarath (2004)
Arthur Spiderwick's Notebook of Fantastical Observations (2005)
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You (2005)
Care and Feeding of Sprites (2006)


Beyond Spiderwick
The Nixie's Song (2007)
A Giant Problem (2008)
The Wyrm King (2009)

The Good Neighbors
Kin (2008)
Kith (2009)
Kind (2010)

The Curse Workers
White Cat (2010)
Red Glove (2011)
Black Heart (2012)

Anthologies
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd (2009)
Zombies vs. Unicorns (2010)
Welcome to Bordertown (2011)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge

Great reading all laid out for you. Scholastic Canada this summer is getting kids(of all ages) ready to READ FOR THE WORLD RECORD. This is a summer reading challenge where every minute counts, every minute that you read that is. Young readers can sign up now and do practice runs. Looks like a great opportunity and challenge. The reading list for different ages look amazing. So check them out and join the challenge. The current world record was set in 2009 when 35,846,094 minutes were logged and the top school had 683,057 minutes. The website has lots of information on the past few years challenges.

There are Reading lists for different age groups and for the older groups categories.

Ages 3-5 84-9
Ages 5-7 139-11
Ages 8-10 People and Places 29-3
Ages 8-10 Thrills & Chills 20-2
Ages 8-10 Friends & Fun 52-2
Ages 8-10 Fantasy & Adventure 34-2
Ages 10-12 People and Places 31-2
Ages
10-12 Thrills & Chills 32-3
Ages
10-12 Friends & Fun 44-2
Ages 10-12 Fantasy & Adventure 52-6
Young Adult People and Places 24-2
Young Adult Thrills & Chills 31-1
Young Adult Friends & Fun 37-3
Young Adult Fantasy & Adventure 34-5

(The first number is the total books in this category the second is how many I have read.) Some books appear in more than one category or a few even in more than one age group. But these look like awesome reading lists. I am going to try and double my numbers in each category by September.

Monday, 15 March 2010

My Favourite Teas

My Favourite Teas

This will be my thirteenth and final article on tea, for the time being. In each of my previous and specific tea articles I rated my favorite teas based on their type, Red, White, Green, Black, Mate, Fruit Blends, Wellness Blends and herbal. This article will list my top ten favorite teas that I keep around all the time and why. It was really hard narrowing it down to a list of just 10. Below the name of the tea is a description from the company's website, or catalogue.

1. Wonderful White - Teaopia - 10
White tea is a combination of White Tea, apple pieces, orange peel, ginger bits, cinnamon, lemongrass, coconut flakes, pistachio, red peppercorns, and corn flower blossoms.

2. Superberry White - Teaopia - 10
Superberry White Tea is a mixture of White Tea, apple pieces, schisandra berries, cranberries, goji berries, bilberries, and mallow flower blossoms. The combination of incredibly healthy White Tea with these true `super` berries makes a tea that everyone will want to have in their tea collection. This tea is high in antioxidants and helps strengthen the immune system.


3. Desert Sage - Republic of Tea - 10
Indigenous Herbs from the Deserts of the World Indigenous, Naturally Caffeine-Free Herbs from Desert Regions including rooibos, white sage, orange bergamot, mint, and lemon grass. The heady aroma of white sage evokes images of the high desert. Full-bodied rooibos and cool mint are added for a satisfying and complex brew.

4. Double Bergamot Earl Grey - Stash Tea - 10
In the Double Bergamot Earl Grey tea, the black tea base still serves as a solid foundation for this blend, but the oil of bergamot takes wing and soars to new unprecedented heights. The flavour is quite pronounced but not at all soapy or bitter which would happen with low grade oils. Is the flavour too strong? For a conservative drinker, maybe yes, but more adventurous types really seem to like it.

5. Goji Green - Teaopia - 10
Green Tea consists of organic sencha shokai, goji berries, schisandra berries, pomegranate flower blossoms and an all natural strawberry aroma. Get the benefits of Goji berries and Green Tea with this amazing blend.


6. Monk's Blend Tea - Teaopia - 10
Monk's Blend is a dramatic combination of Ceylon Black Tea, vanilla and grenadine. This flavoured tea has a mysterious background, as it is believed to have been developed by monks to fulfill their life's desires and used by Franciscan monks to keep them awake during periods of meditation. While we may not know the true history of Monk's blend, we do know that this tea is delicious and much desired by vanilla lovers.

7. Irish Breakfast - Twinings - 10
As its name suggests this combination of Assam broken and Sumatra teas is the perfect accompaniment to a morning breakfast. This full bodied, strong and malty tea provides a colourful cup with a defined flavour perfect any time of day for tea lovers.

8. Yerba Mate - Teaopia - 10
Yerba Mate is the beverage of choice in South American countries due to its well-balanced flavour and health benefits. This drink is high in anti-oxidants, essential minerals and vitamins, making it an extremely nutritious choice for health-conscious consumers. It should be noted that Yerba Mate is the only herbal blend that is naturally caffeinated, which makes it great for those trying to make the switch from coffee to a healthy alternative since it provides energy without side effects such as jittering and muscle tension.

9. Cactus Fig - Teaopia - 9
This flavoured tea is the perfect blend of Green Sencha, fig pieces, aloe vera, sandalwood and orange flowers. The combination provides an earthy yet sweet taste and aroma that is perfect any time of day.

10. Fit Active and Rise and Shine- Teaopia - 8
This Wellness Blend is a combination of apple pieces, rose hip peel, strawberry and raspberry leaves, elderberries, bramble berries, sunflower petals, vitamin C from the acerola cherry, and safflower and cornflower petals. This tea is a must have for all tea drinkers as it helps prevent the common cold and is very rich in vitamin C. Keep this Wellness Blend as part of your collection and watch how the health benefits transform your life.
A perfect combination of lapacho, honeybush, Yerba Mate, apple pieces, cinnamon bits, green Mate, chrysanthemum flowers, guarana powder, cola nut, pomegranate blossoms, marigold and aroma. This blend is considered a great stimulant without the side effects of coffee, which makes it wonderful for those trying to make the switch to tea.

I hope you have enjoyed my series on tea; I have enjoyed your many comments on facebook and my blog, I look forward to trying some of the teas you have suggested.

Articles in this Series:
0. Tea Tea Everywhere - Teaopia Mad Hatter Tea Party
1. Tea an Overview
2. Red Teas
3. Green Teas
4. White Teas
5. Black Teas
6. Matcha Tea

7. Yerba Mate
8. Fruit Blends
9. Wellness Blends
10. Herbal Teas
11. Purveyors of Fine Tea (my preferences.)
12. Custom Blending
13. My Favourite Teas

Top Ten Teas of 2010

Links:
Teaopia

Republic of Tea

Twinings Canada
Twinings UK
Stash Tea

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Wrong Book - Nick Bland

The Wrong Book
Nick Bland
Scholastic
ISBN 9780545980340


I really love Nick Bland's diversity as both an author and illustrator. This new book is no exception. It is the story of Nicholas Ickle, or at least the story Nicholas is trying to tell, but he keeps being interrupted by others, including an elephant, monsters, a pirate and a queen and even rats. Bland's illustrations are wonderful and amusing; the book will be fun for your family time and time again.

Books by Nick Bland:
A Monster Wrote Me a Letter (2005)
Aussie Jingle Bells (2006)
I Lost My Kisses (2007)
Donald Loves Drumming (2008)
The Very Cranky Bear (2008)
When Henry Caught Imaginitis (2008)
The Wrong Book (2009)
The Very Itchy Bear (2010)
Twinkle HB (2010)
The Runaway Hug (2011)

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Custom Blending Teas

Custom Blending Teas

As much as I love teas, and this being a twelfth article in a series on tea, it can attest, I also enjoy experimenting. I have been called a MacGyver in the kitchen, and I extend that experimentation to teas also. I love to try new things, and combine things I like. Here are some of my favourite custom blends. Each is made by combining equal parts, either by the cup or whole tin all from Teaopia.

Yerba Mate and Fit Active
Fit Active and Rise and Shine
Autumn Breeze and Natural Rooibos
Goji Green and Pomegranate Green
Super Berry White and Fit Active
Mate Citrus Buzz and Mate Sweet Energy
Cactus Fig and Mate Sweet Energy
Mate Citrus Buzz and Earl Grey Rooibos

The top three I keep mixed in tins and ready to go. The others I do often to give more variety to my tea drinking experience. It's like having more teas on hand. But a little caution needs to be taken with mixing custom blends and herbal teas. We must always remember we are dealing with chemical compounds in the form of plants and fruits for all teas. These teas can interact with each other or with other medicines a person is taking. Here are a few links to articles on medical caution:

Tea and Health
Herbalism - Wikipedia
Herb Drug Interactions

So please do use caution especially if you are on prescription medicine or already using herbal medicines. But enjoy yourself, experiment, try something new and have some fun. Come back and drop me a line with your favourite combinations, and what you have found that you think others should try. You might also extend your tea budget by extending flavoured teas by adding more of the base ingredient, which is often cheaper. For example I extend Mate Citrus Buzz by mixing with plain Yerba Mate. You get twice the tea and nearly the same taste for about a third less in cost. Or maybe you like the taste but find it a little too much - either way experiment and have fun with your tea consumption.

Articles in this Series:
0. Tea Tea Everywhere - Teaopia Mad Hatter Tea Party
1. Tea an Overview
2. Red Teas
3. Green Teas
4. White Teas
5. Black Teas
6. Matcha Tea
7. Yerba Mate
8. Fruit Blends
9. Wellness Blends
10. Herbal Teas
11. Purveyors of Fine Tea (my preferences.)
12. Custom Blending
13. My Favourite Teas

Top Ten Teas of 2010

Links:
Tea Blending - Wikipedia
Wellness Tea

Teaopia

Republic of Tea

Twinings Canada
Twinings UK
Jackson of Piccadilly
Distinctly Tea
Stash Tea
Tazo