Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Allan Stratton - Author Profile

Allan Stratton is an award winning author and playwright. He published his first play while still in high school. He has lived in Stratford, New York, Montreal, and now resides in Toronto. His work both fiction and plays often have an edge or unique twist. Recently he took some time to answer some questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More. So in his own words here's Allan.

1. You have worn many different creative hats, actor, playwright, author and more. What is your preferred medium and why?

I work on what excites me most; at the moment that's fiction. I love the ability to write large-scale fantasies and quest narratives as well as character-driven dramas. In fiction the sky is the limit, but a play's cast size is limited by the cost of feeding the actors. Ditto for settings. In The Grave Robber's Apprentice, there's a scene where Hans and Angela sled down a mountain in a coffin in advance of a thundering avalanche. That's a little tricky to do in the theatre.

But all storytelling media are related. I learned how to construct tight story structures and natural dialogue from my work as a playwright. Similarly, my actor's training has given me a keen understanding of the need for characters to have high stakes; it's trained me to think inside my characters' heads.

2. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

I love public speaking and education and argument, so I might have been a lawyer or a teacher. Being a tour guide to exotic travel destinations would also have been fun.

3. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

Hard work and talent aren't enough; you also need some luck. I've seen the arts ruin so many lives it gives me chills. I always urge young people who want to go into the arts to make sure they have something to fall back on - also to only go into the arts if it's the only only only thing they want to do. The arts can be so cruel; you have to have the passion to withstand hard times.

4. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

James Reaney. I was in the original production of his play Listen to the Wind when I was in grade nine. He published my first play, The Rusting Heart, when I was in grade twelve - the first work I ever had professionally produced. (On CBC radio.) Also Chris Newton. He produced my first stage play at the Vancouver Playhouse and hired me to adapt a Labiche farce for the Shaw Festival. Also Graham Harley who produced my first two big stage hits - Nurse Jane Goes To Hawaii and Rexy!, which brought me critical visibility and the ability to live solely from my writing.

But mainly my Mom - the most courageous and inspiring person I've ever known. Her unconditional love and encouragement has sustained me though my darkest days.

5. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

None consciously. When I was a teenager I wrote some theatre-of-the-absurd knock-offs. But as you grow up you develop your own voice - which is the sum of who you are and how you see the world.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

Yikes. Ideas come from dreams, characters, situations, suggestions - from everywhere. I mull them for months figuring out problems in the material and possible ways to solve them. Then I write a preliminary outline - which is always subject to change as the story and characters grow. Then I start and work consecutively through the story. Each morning I'll start by revising what went before to get me into the flow of the piece. When I hit a logjam I take a break and mull and mull and mull. I need to see and feel a scene before I write it. And etceteras. All the while I'm reading my new material to a handful of key friends who are quite ruthless with me; if they don't get something, I know there's a problem. Then there's lots of back and forth with my editors. From idea to this point is about a year-and-a-half. But finally it's done. Whew! And then the wait for the next idea. (I keep a folder of ideas as they come to me, but I hardly ever use them.)

7. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?

I'm working on another 'tween fantasy, The Curse of the Dream Witch which will be coming out here and elsewhere in 2013. And I'm about to begin revisions for a comic adult novel, The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish.

8. What of your books is your favorite and why?

That's like asking a parent to name their favourite child.

9. What of your books was the hardest to write and why?

Every book, like every child, has its own challenges. Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii was the hardest from the point of view of farce structure. Chanda's Secrets from the point of view of making sure it was accurate to the subSaharan experience. Chanda's Wars for the bush-tracking sections. The Grave Robber's Apprentice for its total change from my previous work. None have burst like Athena from the head of Zeus, although each have had sections that wrote themselves.

10. In your book The Grave Robber's Apprentice two people both on the run end up working together. What was the original inspiration behind this story?

Shakespearian motifs: a family separated by the sea; an evil usurping uncle; plays-within-plays; tales of prophecies and witches, of innocence and experience, of identity as characters discover their true selves.

11. In the description for The Grave Robber's Apprentice it states "Together, Hans and Angela gallop through dark forests, treacherous lands and secret passageways on their quest to uncover the truth about Hans' shadowy past and save Angela's parents from the archduke's monstrous asylum. In this world of highwaymen, hermits and dancing bears, anything is possible-even for a grave robber's apprentice." How did you decide to combine such elements into a story that looks like an incredible adventure?

It built up piece by piece, one discovery leading to the next. But as mentioned, Shakespeare was my model, also in terms of the various types and range of characters from high to low.

12. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

Oh yes. Chanda's Wars came to me in a nightmare. In the weeks before the inspiration, I'd been wondering what happened to Chanda after Chanda's Secrets. One night, I woke up in a panic from a dream filled with soldiers and fire, and I said out loud, "Soly and Iris have been kidnapped. I have to save them." By the way, I also talk out loud a lot. I'm so glad for Bluetooth. People used to think I was crazy; now they just think I'm on the phone.

13. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

Well, I think that professor said it perfectly. Because we don't just learn a set of facts; we learn processes to put those facts together in new and creative ways.

14. Some of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

Theft is theft. Some people steal products from bricks and mortar stores. Other people steal electronically. When stores are trashed during riots, some people steal because everyone else is doing it. Well, it's still stealing.

15. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

If I discovered I was losing a fortune, I would. But I don't want my life to turn into sentry duty. With the ever-expanding number of sites, chasing thieves is like playing Whack-A-Mole.

16. What was your favorite role you play on stage and why?

I loved originating the lead role, M.C., in Sharon Pollack's The Komagata Maru Incident and the leading role of Mackenzie King in James Reaney's The dismissal. I also loved playing Matt in the Fantasticks because it gave me the chance to sing a terrific score and got me my Actors Equity card.

17. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

Henry Fielding, James Reaney, Edward Albee, Ionesco, Mordecai Richler, Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Tom Stoppard.

18. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

To the above add Carl Hiaassen, Barbara Gowdy, Jonathon Franzen, Tony Kushner, David Hare, Carol Churchill, Michael Frayn and David Sedaris.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

The Donnelley's Trilogy, Tom Jones, Angels in America, King Lear, The Invention of Love, Wuthering Heights, The Brothers Karamazov, Benefactors, Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, the Bible. Okay, the last one is a cheat because it's a collection of books - but the stories are great, and besides, it's long and I only get to have ten.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

1) Read, read, read. Write, write, write.
2) When in doubt, cut it out.
3) What does each character want? What will they do to get it?

Thank you Allan for spending the time answering questions for us. I look forward to reading more of your books.

Writings by Allan Stratton:
Novels:
Phoenix Lottery (2000)
Leslie's Journal (2000)
Chanda's Secrets (2004)
Chanda's Wars (2008)
Borderline (2010)
The Grave Robber's Apprentice (2012)

Plays:
Bingo! (aka 72 Under The O) (1977)
Nurse Jane Goes To Hawaii (1980)
Rexy! (1981)
Joggers (1982)
Friends Of A Feather (1984)
Papers (1985)
The Hundred and One Miracles of Hope Chance (1987)
Bag Babies (1990)
A Flush of Tories (1991)
Dracula (1995)

Author Profile and Interview with Allan Stratton.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Judy Moody And the NOT Bummer Summer - Megan McDonald - Book 10a

Judy Moody And the NOT Bummer Summer
Judy Moody Book 10a
Megan McDonald (Author)
Candlewick
Movie Tie-In Edition
ISBN 9780763653514
eISBN 9780763654504

This is a review of the movie tie-in edition of this book. It was released with the movie. This spring they will be releasing a standard edition with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds. I can say having read 4 books so far, in either the Judy Moody or Stink Moody series, I missed the illustrations. The sketches and drawings by Reynolds really add to the story. With this edition, just having still photos from the movie it seemed like something was missing as I read the book. The story by Megan McDonald was still great, but the team of McDonald and Reynolds is amazing. I am already planning on reading the standard edition when it comes out just so I can read it with the illustrations. That being said, it was still a fun read and a great story.

In this adventure, Judy Moody has planned the perfect summer for herself and her friends. They will have a challenge to see who can accumulate the most points as the ultimate way to have a NOT bummer summer. They can earn thrill points, dare points, and bonus points by doing various activities. But Judy did not know that Rocky was going to Circus camp and Amy going to Borneo. Her plans for the summer seem to evaporate. But the kids come up with a work around where they will each do challenges separately and share what they did and how many points they got.

The chapters are:
No More Snoresville
Funk-a-delic
Bored-e-o
Aunt Awful
Gross grub Club
Thrills and Spills
Puke Monster
Goliath Glue
Poop Picnic
Frankenscreamer
Code Bigfoot
The Chase Is On
Thrill-a-delic

But soon even that seems to slip out of Judy's grasp as her parents need to fly across the country to help her grandparents. She is stuck at home with no travel, and an Aunt she doesn't know. Can her summer get any worse? Her younger brother Stink has joined a Big foot Club and is trying to capture Big Foot as there have been numerous sightings in town. So you have to read to find out if Judy can find a way to have a NOT bummer summer, or will she hide out in her room until school starts again, and also to find out more about Stink and Bigfoot. This is a great story in an awesome series. These books each stand apart so you can read them in any order. So if you haven't read a Judy Moody book, give this one a try, and if you have I know you will love it.


Books by Megan McDonald and Peter H Reynolds:
Judy Moody books:
1. Judy Moody
2. Judy Moody Gets Famous!
3. Judy Moody Saves the World!
4. Judy Moody Predicts the Future
5. Judy Moody, M.D. The Doctor Is In
6. Judy Moody Declares Independence
7. Judy Moody Around the World in 8½ Days
8. Judy Moody Goes to College
9. Judy Moody: Girl Detective
10. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer
10a. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (Movie Tie-In Edition)
11. Judy Moody and the Bad Luck Charm

Judy Moody Activity Books:
Judy Moody's Double Rare Way Not Boring Book of Fun Stuff to Do
Judy Moody's Way Wacky Uber Awesome Book of MORE Fun Stuff to Do
Judy Moody's Mini-Mysteries and Other Sneaky Stuff for Super-Sleuths


Stink Moody Books:
1. Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid
2. Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker
3. Stink and the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers
4. Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express
5. Stink: Solar System Superhero'
6. Stink and The Ultimate Thumb-Wrestling Smackdown
7. Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk

Stink-O-Pedia Volume 1:
Super Stink-y Stuff from A to Z
Stink-O-Pedia Volume 2: More Stink-y Stuff from A to Z

Judy and Stink Books:
Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday
Judy Moody and Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt


Stink and Judy Moody a Visual Bibliography


Books by Megan McDonald:Sisters Club:
Sisters Club 1
Sisters Club 2
Rule of Three
Sisters Club 3 Cloudy With a Chance of Boys

Monday, 27 February 2012

Toadally Primal Smoothies - Primal Toad - AKA Todd Dosenberry

Toadally Primal Smoothies
Primal Toad (AKA Todd Dosenberry)

Todd has created an incredible primal smoothie book. It is ever growing with more recipes. It has an awesome index, and some ingredients I know you will never have thought to put into a smoothie. There will be enough variety that no matter your personal taste you will find many new and wonderful beverages. Todd takes us through the process from choosing ingredients to the finished product. The categories of smoothies are:

Low Carb
Dessert
Chocolate
Coffee
Kombucha
Avocado
Green
Coconut
Almond Milk
Dairy
Odds & Ends

With over 100 recipes currently it is an amazing collection. I have tried about 20 so far, a few not to my liking based on my preferences, but all of them were nutritious and well worth trying. I have a found a few that are new favorites including The Mint N Kale, Tropical Protein Boost and Papaya Avacado Coconut. Each recipe is on a separate page with a color photo, ingredients needed, nutritional data and vitamin and mineral breakdown (See sample below). It is a great tool in your health and fitness arsena. If you're Primal or Paleo, it will be an amazing resource, if you're health conscious it will give you some awesome variety to try.

Just as a side note, if you buy direct from Toad's website you get free updates for life!



Other Fitness Articles:Fall 2011 Programs
Workout program March 2012
My Gear February 2012
Fitness My Retrospective

TRX Articles:
TRX an Introduction
TRX Force

TRX Force Tactical
TRX Essential Flexibility

My P90X Series:
Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options, P90X at 120 Days Out
Health & Fitness Book Reviews:The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation - Mark Sisson
The Ten Commandments Of Lifting Weights - Jared Zimmerer
Toadally Primal Smoothies - Todd Dosenberry
Caveman Resurection - Jeff Pickett
40 Days to Optimal Health - Dr. Scott Morris
Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon
The Primal Blueprint - Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting - Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove
Bench Press by: Sven Lindqvist
Sly Moves by: Sylvester Stallone
Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul by: Dr. Kevin Vost
Body for Life 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strenght by: Bill Phillips
Lose Fat Not Faith by Jeremy R. Likeness
Living The Good Life: Your Guide to Health and Success by: David Patchell-Evans
Dump your Trainer by: Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Fitness My Gear February 2012

Because I work out predominantly at home I often get asked about the gear I use. In the past I have written some specific articles on specific pieces this will be a piece on what I have and my current wish list.

PowerBlock's

I wrote a separate review of my PowerBlock set a while ago. My set replaces 28 pairs of dumbbells and 2565lbs of free weights. The set of dumbbells replaced by this kit is:

2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 15, 17.5, 20, 25, 27.5, 30, 35, 37.5, 40, 45, 47.5, 50, 55, 57.5, 60, 65, 67.5, 70, 75, 77.5, 80, 85, 87.5 and 90lbs.

This set is expandable by another 30lbs per side but at the current cost I doubt I will ever do it.


PowerBlock Barbell

PowerBlock no longer sells this and it only works with the older Pro and Elite sets of Powerblock But I love it.

PowerBlock KettleBlock

PowerBlock makes two different models of the KettleBlock. A 20LB model and the 40, the 40 is also upgradeable to 55. It is a great tool. The weights included are:

8, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40

It was a great investment. I wish the handle could take cores like the regular PowerBlock's. If you have newer Urethane sets you can buy a Kettle Handle for your normal weights, will be rectangle not square but they will get the job done. I really want the upgrade to take these to 55lbs.

York Barbell 306 Inline-to-Decline Bench

I got this bench this year for Christmas as an upgrade for an older Model York. It has no uprights for bench or squat use, but the variety of positions make up for that. It has 5 different back positions and 3 different seat positions. Best bang for the buck at $145 and for another $99 a preacher curl attachment.

Thera-Band Bands

Various lengths and resistance also a door anchor. I have short ones tied with loops for leg lifts and longer ones for pulls.


Nike Medicine Balls

I tried a lot of different size and styles of medicine balls before I decided on the Nike Balls. I love the weight, slight variations in size and that they are designed for both indoor and outdoor use. I have added mine slowly over time and currently have:

4, 6, 8, 10 pound balls.

They have held up very well and I love them. I want to add more.

Fitter First Balance Board

This is my newest piece of equipment. I got it because I have small feet and have injured my ankles in the past. I am using this to help strengthen them and develop better balance. Currently I am just using it for body weight but plan on eventually adding weighted exercises.

Gaiam Yoga Mat

At first I bought a cheap mat and within a few weeks it has started breaking down. This one has held up really well. I have used it for Yoga, Plyometrics and more.

Gaiam Yoga Block

My flexibility sucks. But I like using these they help me get towards poses that I just cannot do yet. With the three different sides there are progression they let me keep trying and improving.

PowerStands

These were one of the best investments I ever made. They have changed the design since I got mine. I tried numerous before buying these

Thera-Band Pro Series Exercise Ball

What I like about the Thera-Band Balls is they are specifically geared to different heights. I got mine while doing physio therapy and have used it for years. I use it for pushups, plank, seated press, and numerous other exercises.


Wish List

1. Medicine Balls:
a. 12 lb
b. 16lb
2. Rings Suspension System
3. Both Side Up Ball:
4. Wall Mounted Chin Up Bar
5. York Barbell FTS Press Squat Stand


Other Fitness Articles:
Fall 2011 Programs
Workout program March 2012
My Gear February 2012
Fitness My Retrospective

TRX Articles:
TRX an Introduction
TRX Force

TRX Force Tactical
TRX Essential Flexibility

My P90X Series:
Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options, P90X at 120 Days Out

Health & Fitness Book Reviews:
The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation - Mark Sisson
The Ten Commandments Of Lifting Weights - Jared Zimmerer

Toadally Primal Smoothies - Todd Dosenberry
Caveman Resurection - Jeff Pickett
40 Days to Optimal Health - Dr. Scott Morris
Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon
The Primal Blueprint - Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting - Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove
Bench Press by: Sven Lindqvist
Sly Moves by: Sylvester Stallone
Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul by: Dr. Kevin Vost
Body for Life 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strenght by: Bill Phillips
Lose Fat Not Faith by Jeremy R. Likeness
Living The Good Life: Your Guide to Health and Success by: David Patchell-Evans
Dump your Trainer by: Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen


Saturday, 25 February 2012

Fitness My Retrospective

2000-2004
My exercise over the last 20 years has been a series of ups and downs. Back in 2000 at the age of 30 I realized I really needed to lose some weight and work at getting healthier. I bought a used exercise bike for $10 from Kijiji and started with 10 minutes a day and added a minute a day until I was up over 2 hours a day when the restraining bolt snapped from heat fatigue. About that same time I got a great offer to join GoodLife as a Student and did so. I spent the rest of that year doing cardio and circuit training. I made good progress but in 2001 I decided to do Body for Life. During the twelve weeks I went from 204lbs to 190lbs and from 22.9 to 11.9% body fat. Things were going well and I was in my second 12 week challenge I pulled a muscle in my back and had reoccurring problems for over a year. I went from working out 2 hours a day 7 days a week to being very inconsistent. Over the next few years I was married, moved out of town, back to town and was no longer walking distance to the gym.

2005-2009
Then in 2005 I tore my rotator cuff in an accident at work. For the next year I was doing physio therapy 5 days a week. Then had surgery and then another year and a half of physio therapy. Permanent restrictions were put on my working. No repetitive or sustained work at shoulder height or above, no lifting above shoulder height of 10lbs or at shoulder height of 15 lbs. These were now permanent restrictions - something I will have to abide by the rest of my working life. I wrote a three part series for my University Newspaper Imprint called 'From Injury Back to Work Again' on this experience:

Part I - The road to recovery
Part II - The first year
Part III - The light at the end of the tunnel

Other than physio I did not do any exercise during this time other than walking. During this time I also donated Bone Marrow through what is now the One Match stem cell and marrow network. I wrote a 4 part series on that experience:

Part 1 - There's more than blood in you to give
Part 2 - The Callback
Part 3 - The Donation
Part 4 - The Followup

2009-2012
Also during this time our first child was born. While I was at the park with her I saw dad's that could not keep up with even toddlers, and I was not there yet but did not want to be either. So I decided to start working out again and jumped in to do P90X in 2009 again I wrote a 6 part series on P90X:

Phase I Nearly 40 and 40 Pounds to Lose
Phase II The Fitness Journey of a 40 year old undergraduate
Gear to Bring It for P90X
Phase III The 90 Days of P90X is really just the beginning
Fitness Options
P90X at 120 Days Out

I love P90X and working out with Tony Horton. During the 12 weeks I went from 244 to 211lbs and from 34.7 to 18% body fat. During the next two years I did pretty good working or 5-7 days a week then when our third child was born in late in 2010 I just could not get up at 4am and workout before being at work for 6:30AM. From mid 2010-Presnt I did do some health challenges through trifit we have an in house consultant and they constantly have different great programs on the go. In the summer of 2011, I decided to get back to weights. Tam our consultant from trifit has created 3 awesome workout programs for me. I have been tracking my workouts in both a Google Document and a Macro Enabled Excel Sheet with Random Workout Generator. And currently I am in the middle of a Winning At Losing challenge a 12 week program. And lately I have discovered Fitocracy an amazing workout website that turns exercise into a social game. On Fitocracy you earn points for every workout, there are achievement badges you can earn, Quests you can compete in, groups you join an amazing forums board and more.

The reason I took this look back was to help me look forward and work on the road map for the future to make sure I don't fall off the fitness train again. One of my biggest goals in life is finding balance between Mind, Body and Spiritual development. This exercise was to help with finding and maintaining that balance.


Other Fitness Articles:
Fall 2011 Programs
Workout program March 2012
My Gear February 2012
Fitness My Retrospective

TRX Articles:
TRX an Introduction
TRX Force

TRX Force Tactical
TRX Essential Flexibility

My P90X Series:
Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options, P90X at 120 Days Out

Health & Fitness Book Reviews:
The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation - Mark Sisson
The Ten Commandments Of Lifting Weights - Jared Zimmerer

Toadally Primal Smoothies - Todd Dosenberry
Caveman Resurection - Jeff Pickett
40 Days to Optimal Health - Dr. Scott Morris
Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon
The Primal Blueprint - Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting - Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove
Bench Press by: Sven Lindqvist
Sly Moves by: Sylvester Stallone
Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul by: Dr. Kevin Vost
Body for Life 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strenght by: Bill Phillips
Lose Fat Not Faith by Jeremy R. Likeness
Living The Good Life: Your Guide to Health and Success by: David Patchell-Evans
Dump your Trainer by: Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen


Friday, 24 February 2012

The Grave Robbers Apprentice - Allan Stratton

The Grave Robbers Apprentice
Allan Stratton
Harper Collins Canada
ISBN 9781554688258

This is the first book that I have read by Allan Stratton and it was impressive. I read this book in one sitting. In some ways it is a classic coming-of-age story, but it is the coming of age of both a boy and a girl. Both Angela and Hans have a past they are running from. But Hans also has a past that he is unaware of. Together they end up on the road. They are running from a terrible evil that is looking to exterminate them both. Sometimes it is what we don't know that is the most important and will become the pivot point in our lives. And that is the case in this story.

This story had an evil arch duke, a young countess, a young man, a necromancer, a Wolf King with numerous beasts, a hermit and hermitage on a mountain side, and more. The story unravels at a breakneck pace. It was a race from evil to the hermitage of Peter and then back to the capital. This was a great read and youth will love the adventure.

Writings by Allan Stratton:
Novels:
Phoenix Lottery (2000)
Leslie's Journal (2000)
Chanda's Secrets (2004)
Chanda's Wars (2008)
Borderline (2010)
The Grave Robber's Apprentice (2012)

Plays:
Bingo! (aka 72 Under The O) (1977)
Nurse Jane Goes To Hawaii (1980)
Rexy! (1981)
Joggers (1982)
Friends Of A Feather (1984)
Papers (1985)
The Hundred and One Miracles of Hope Chance (1987)
Bag Babies (1990)
A Flush of Tories (1991)
Dracula (1995)

Author Profile and Interview with Allan Stratton.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Sideshow: Ten original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists, and Other Matters Odd and Magical - Ed. Deborah Noyes

Sideshow
Ten original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists, and Other Matters Odd and Magical
Deborah Noyes (Editor)
Candlewick
ISBN 9780763637521

In the last few years I have become a huge fan of anthologies. I usually pick them up because I know an author or two in the collection, but usually find a few new authors to look into deeper. This book was no different. I picked it up for three reasons: first, it was from Candlewick and I have yet to read anything from them that was not enjoyable. Second and third, Cecil Castellucci and Cynthia Leitich Smith both had stories in the collection, and I have read almost all of their respective works. The contributors are:

Contributors:
David Almond
Aimee Bender
Cecil Castellucci
Shawn Cheng
Annette Curtis Klause
Margo Lanagan
Danica Novgorodoff
Matt Phelan
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Vivian Vande Velde

The subtitle of this book is Ten original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists, and Other Matters Odd and Magical. It lived up to that title. These stories are great, from circus freaks to family secrets. Some stories will haunt, some will disturb and all will entertain.

The individual stories are:

The Bearded Girl - Aimee Bender
Those Psychics on TV - Vivian Vande Velde
Year of the Rat - Danica Novorodoff
The Mummy's Daughter - Annette Curtis Klause
When God Came to Kathleen's Garden - David Almond
The Shadow Troupe - Shawn Cheng
Cat Calls - Cynthia Leitich Smith
The Bread Box - Cecil Castellucci
Living Curiosities - Margo Lanagan
Jargo! - Matt Phelan

This was a great collection. Pick it up and maybe you also will discover some new authors from which to read.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Mac At Work - David Sparks


Mac At Work
David Sparks
Wiley
ISBN 9780470877005


I need to preface this review with a couple of facts. First, I work full time in IT. I am the prime/lead for supporting a small number of Macs and a large Windows organization. Second, I have used a Mac as my main machine at work for over a year and I have written three Apple certification exams over the last year to better be able to support them in the workplace. Third, I am not now nor ever likely to be a 'Mac Guy'. There are things I appreciate about the hardware and software. I got this book because I wanted to get more out of my Mac at work. I wanted to be able to do more than test problems other Mac users are having, and using it as a VM host for my Windows machine.

David Sparks is a 'Mac Guy'. He thinks they are great. It is evident on his website macsparky.com and through this and other writings. He is passionate about what Macs can do and to some extent what they cannot do. He writes with a depth and breadth of experience few users will ever have. He seems to try all the key software in a category and build a list based on strengths, weakness and cost factors. He is very fair in his approach. Here is the table of contents and the breakdown of how he tackles his subject of using a Mac at work.

Part I: Mac Fundamentals
Chapter 1: A Tour of the Mac
Chapter 2: Backing Up
Chapter 3: Useful Utilities

Part II: Communications and Connections
Chapter 4: The Internet and Your Mac
Chapter 5: Using E-Mail
Chapter 6: Contact and Calendars
Chapter 7: Macs and Mobile Devices
Chapter 8: Talking to Your Mac

Part III Business Basics
Chapter 9: Task Management
Chapter 10: Notes and Outlines
Chapter 11: Word Processing
Chapter 12: Managing PDF Files
Chapter 13: Graphics for Business
Chapter 14: presentations

Part IV: Advance Business
Chapter 15: Spreadsheets
Chapter 16: Databases
Chapter 17: Project Management
Chapter 18: Billing and Invoicing
Chapter 19: the paperless Mac

Part V: Advanced Topics
Chapter 20: Networking
Chapter 21: Synchronization
Chapter 22: Windows on Your Mac
Chapter 23: Security
Chapter 24: Mac Automation

Part IV: Appendixes
Debunking Myths about Macs
Index

After having read this book, I have tried a number of new programs, a few utilities and other tools to make the Mac more useful for me at work. It has done that. Second it highlighted a number of applications I can go back to end- users with and make suggestions for them going forward. The book was well written, engaging and would be accessible by almost anyone who has the ability to use a computer. I have only two real problems with the book - first, he says that IT should be able to support a Mac in most organizations, and to some extent that is true, but doing so comes at a higher cost in time and support required. Macs might fit in a small office more easily but in a Windows Active Directory situation there will always be hurdles to overcome and problems will crop up regularly. Second, in the section on debunking myths, he says they do not cost more but with Apples to Apple comparison processor, ram, HD speed and capacity, they cost about 1.5 times more than a PC. When you add to that, in most large organizations, adding a Virtual Machine client, licensing for Windows and any software that is duplicate on both OS's it can come to between two and three times the cost to run a Mac.
Overall this was a great book. I am glad I read it and even if I do not apply a lot of the techniques, tools, and tricks outlined, the average Mac end-user will get a great deal from the book. If you choose to use a Mac or if you need to use a Mac, there will be something in this book that will make your life easier and more productive.

On a side note there is also a companion volume out now called iPad At Work that looks very interesting.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

I'm Here - Peter H. Reynolds

I'm Here
Peter H. Reynolds
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

an imprint of Simon and Schuster

ISBN 9781416996491

I've read a number of Peter H. Reynolds' books over the last ten years or so. Every time I read a new one I am surprised by his insight, and the powerful messages he shows children. With his characteristic style, simple drawings with lots of white space, he communicates a great message. This story moved me and I love sharing it with my children and friends of our family. Reynolds has a gift for communicating to children, for instilling hope, courage and for inspiring them. I give this book the highest recommendation I can.

Books by Peter H Reynolds:
The North Star
ish
The Dot
Rose's Garden
I'm Here


Books by Megan McDonald and Peter H Reynolds:
Judy Moody books:
1. Judy Moody
2. Judy Moody Gets Famous!
3. Judy Moody Saves the World!
4. Judy Moody Predicts the Future
5. Judy Moody, M.D. The Doctor Is In
6. Judy Moody Declares Independence
7. Judy Moody Around the World in 8½ Days
8. Judy Moody Goes to College
9. Judy Moody: Girl Detective
10. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer
11. Judy Moody and the Bad Luck Charm

Judy Moody Activity Books:
Judy Moody's Double Rare Way Not Boring Book of Fun Stuff to Do
Judy Moody's Way Wacky Uber Awesome Book of MORE Fun Stuff to Do
Judy Moody's Mini-Mysteries and Other Sneaky Stuff for Super-Sleuths


Stink Moody Books:
1. Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid
2. Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker
3. Stink and the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers
4. Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express
5. Stink: Solar System Superhero'
6. Stink and The Ultimate Thumb-Wrestling Smackdown
7. Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk

Stink-O-Pedia Volume 1:
Super Stink-y Stuff from A to Z
Stink-O-Pedia Volume 2: More Stink-y Stuff from A to Z

Judy and Stink Books:
Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday
Judy Moody and Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt


Stink and Judy Moody a Visual Bibliography

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Kiss For You? - Joan Holub and Caroline Jayne Church

A Kiss For You?
Joan Holub (Author)
Caroline Jayne Church (Illustrator)
Cartwheel Books an Imprint of
Scholastic
ISBN 9780545349680

This book has 8 pages including the cover with a magnetized fold-out hand that makes part of the story on each page. When my wife read this she loved it and could not wait to share it with our children. It is a great story with awesome illustrations. A hand to kiss, a hand to wave, a hand to pat, a hand to high five, a hand to hold and a hand to blow a kiss, a hand to wave, a hand to blow a kiss good bye. It is an amazing little book.

Books by Caroline Jane Church:
Leaf Trouble
Here Comes Halloween!
Here Comes Easter!
Here Comes Christmas!

The More We Get Together
You Are My Sunshine
Goodnight I Love You

Books Illustrated by Carolyne Jayne Church:
I Love You Through And Through
How Do I Love You
A Kiss For You


Friday, 17 February 2012

How To Think Like A Neandertal - Thomas Wynn & Frederick L. Coolidge

How To Think Like A Neandertal
Thomas Wynn
Frederick L. Coolidge
Oxford University Press
OUP Canada
ISBN 978019974282


The title and cover of this book immediately grabbed my attention. First, and they allude to this a few times in the book, is the series of commercials for car insurance with the slogan 'So easy even a caveman could do it'. And second, is the number of people I know who have applied Paleo or Primal caveman diet as part of their lifestyle and fitness regime. Those two points caused me to pick up the book. But this academic exercise was so much more than I could have expected. It was fascinating, and I found repeatedly that I could not put it down, or alternately had to put it down and really ponder and think about what the authors had just espoused. It was an incredible read and I have recommended it to about a dozen people, a few who told me they were hooked part way into the first chapter. The structure of the book is:

1. True Grit
2. The Caveman Diet
3. Zen and the Art of Spear Making
4. A Focus on Family
5. It's Symbolic
6. Speaking of Tongues
7. A Neandertal Walked into a Bar . . .
8. To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
9. You've Got Personality
10. Thinking Like a Neandertal
Glossary
Index

This was a magnificent read. I have read science fiction about Neandertals such as Robert J. Sawyer's Hominid trilogy, The Neandertal Parallaz: Hominids, Humans and Hybrids. And I've seen numerous science fiction movies with some level of Neandertal involvement. But this book looks at the historic evidence, weighing commonly accepted theories and disputed theories. It compares and contrasts what we find in the archeological records about Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis and Homo Sapiens Sapiens. It also compares the records with current hunter-gatherer tribes and also with some other primates both existing and ancient. They present the evidence, examine theories and present their opinion, often very convincingly. This book was the first academic level book I have read in the two years since I finished university. After reading it, the first thing I did was check to see if they have written other books and I did not care the topic. This book was very well written, is of an academic caliber but accessible to most readers, and very insightful about where we come from and how we got here. I loved it and think you will also.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Enter to Win I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers
Barry Lyga
Hachette Book Group Canada
LB Teens
ISBN 9780316125840

I have read over 800 books in the past five years and this is one of the best! Like a corss between the Mentalist and Dexter but amped up!

"What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?

Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could--from the criminal's point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret--could he be more like his father than anyone knows?"

Win an advanced readers copy of this book, donated by
Hachette Book Group Canada.Here is how you enter:
+1 Leave a comment with your e-mail or contact info. (you have to do this one. (if you do not want to post your email address, use the gmail.me button on the sidebar to email me.)
+1 Link to this contest on your blog. (You get an entry for every place you link)
+1 Link to this contest on your Facebook/Myspace
+1 Tweet this contest
+1 Follow me on Twitter: SRMcEvoy
+1 Follow this blog on Facebook: NetworkedBlogs
* Please provide evidence that you did the above (links will do).

Contest closes March 15th 2012 and winner will be announced the following day. The winner will be randomly drawn from all ballots. Will ship anywhere in North America.

Also check out Goth Girl Follies and other books by Barry Lyga.



Books by Barry Lyga:


I Hunt Killers:
I Hunt Killers (2012)
Game - I Hunt Killers #2 (2013)
Blood of My Blood - I Hunt Killers # 3 (2014)

I Hunt Killers Short Stories:
Lucky Day (2014)
Career Day (2012)
Neutral Mask (2013)
Blood Boy (2014)

Brookdale High:
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl (2006)
Boy Toy (2007)
Hero Type (2008)
Goth Girl Rising (2009)

Archvillian:
Archvillain #1 (2010)
The Mad Mask - Archvillian #2 (2011)
Yesterday Again - Archvillian #3 (2013)

Other Books By Barry Lyga:
Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A definitive Guide (with Alison A.W. Lyga - 2004)
Wolverine: Worst Day Ever (2009)
MangaMan (with Colleen Dorren 2011)

Unsoul'd (2013)
After The Red Rain (2015)

Contributed to:

Geektastic (2009)
Who Done It? (2013)

Author Profile and Interview with Barry Lyga

Author Profile and Interview with Randall Banner