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Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
by Vicki Myron
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.62
125 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dewey, Jan. 5 2009
I love cats, I love libraries and I love cats that live in libraries or book shops. There is this little used bookshop in downtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada that is graced with the presence of a feline. During my first visit to this shop I was kneeling down on the floor looking at some books and reached out to touch a big fluffy pillow which turned out to be one big fat fluffy cat, I was delighted!

When I heard of "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World" by Vicki Myron I had to read it. The first chapter about the rescue of Dewey from the returned book bin on the coldest night of the year is touching and it brought tears to my eyes. I also enjoyed reading about Dewey recovering and loving everyone he meets, but after the first few chapters the book just stops being magical and pretty much becomes a story that any cat owner could write. I was not that interested in the author's life and wanted to hear more about Dewey and his antics.

Austenland: A Novel
Austenland: A Novel
by Shannon Hale
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.34
64 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Austenland, Jan. 5 2009
This review is from: Austenland: A Novel (Paperback)
"Austenland" by Shannon Hale is about a New York woman named Jane who is obsessed with Colin Firth who plays Mr. Darcy in the BBC adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice". Jane's wealthy aunt leaves Jane a trip to a resort in England that caters to Austen obsessed fans. Jane's experience at this resort tends to be a bit more realistic then she was expecting and in the end she may end up with her own Mr. Darcy.

Being a fan of "Pride and Prejudice" both the book and the BBC adaptation, I just had to read this book. I did like it, but I found it lacking in depth and missing substance. It is a light hearted quick read, but if you are looking for the intensity and the beauty of conversation that is found in "Pride and Prejudice" you will be disappointed.

Mister Pip
Mister Pip
by Lloyd Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.39
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mister Pip, Dec 27 2008
This review is from: Mister Pip (Paperback)
I read "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens during my first year of University and I did not like it at all, but I must say I always remembered Miss Havisham and the creepy scene of her in her wedding gown and the cob webs have stuck in my mind for many years. Obviously the book did have some effect on me and whenever I find someone reading "Great Expectations", which is not very often, I inquire how Pip is doing.

"Mister Pip" by Lloyd Jones is patterned after the plot of "Great Expectations" and obviously the title is from the main character Pip in "Great Expectations".

Matilda lives on the copper rich Bougainville Island and the civil war of the 1990's is the backdrop of this novel. Matilda is thirteen years old and lives with her mother, her father is living is Australia like a "white man" and Matilda and her mother are waiting endlessly to join him.

Matilda's village is deserted by the all the white people including all the teachers, only one white man remains, the eccentric Mr Watts. Mr Watts takes up the task of educating the village children and he accomplishes this in two ways, one by getting parents to come and teach the children anything they think is important and the other by reading to the children "Great Expectations".

The children are enraptured by the story of Pip and it changes who they are. Matilda's mother does not like this fictional character Pip and her hatred of the novel leads to severe consequences for her whole village and for herself and her daughter.

The Redskins come to the village and destroy all of the material items the people possess and they demand to see Mr Pip, his name was written in the sand. Mr Watts tells them Pip is a fictional character from a book, but when he is unable to produce the book, the Redskins destroy the village.

I found the ending of the book to be spell bounding, the return of the Redskins to find Mr Pip and the consequences of them feeling mislead are devastating. Matilda faces horrifying life changing events which lead to her finding a new life, very much like Pip from "Great Expectations".

Princess Ben
Princess Ben
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from CDN$ 2.27

2.0 out of 5 stars Princess Ben, Dec 21 2008
This review is from: Princess Ben (Hardcover)
All the elements for a grand fairy-tale are contained in this book, but it just does not pull it off. The story contains hidden magical rooms, dragons, talking mirrors, spells, broomsticks and numerous references to other fairy tales.

Princess Ben is a fat rebellious princess who loses her parents and becomes the heir to the throne. She is put through monarch schooling to prepare her to rule her people, but she is not interested in the finer arts of governing. She mostly thinks only of food and the comfort it brings to her. Benevolence is eventually locked into a castle tower where she learns the art of magic and is able to escape the castle. Her escape by broomstick leads her to enemy territory, where she becomes a prisoner war, with her enemy mistaking her for a young boy. She eventually manages to escape and returns home. Due to her experiences as a prisoner of war, she is a better behaved princess who wins the heart of her people and eventually she marries her prince.

I found myself having a hard time liking Princess Ben, her character just was not well developed and her Prince Florian is interesting, but his character is not explored enough to really understand who he is and why he falls in love with Princess Ben.

The fact that Princess Ben is fat is intriguing, but by the end of the story she is slimmed down and everyone rejoices over that fact, so slim is better?

I was left wondering what the whole point of the story was. Was it about being over weight and still being able to be a Princess, was it about finding yourself during tough times or was it a love story? There simply are too many themes in the book and none of them are fully explored and the books leaves you feeling unsatisfied.

The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.16
63 used & new from CDN$ 1.53

4.0 out of 5 stars The Catcher in the Rye, Dec 10 2008
This review is from: The Catcher in the Rye (Paperback)
"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger is written in first person. Holden Caulfield tells the story of his expulsion from Pencey, a college preparatory school and of his experiences in New York City while he is missing in action. It is evident from the beginning of the book that Holden is about to crash and burn. Holden looks at everything as being phoney and has a negative outlook of his friends and teachers, but he does have a soft spot for his younger sister Phoebe, for a friend named Jane and for his family.

Phoebe, Holden's younger sister has a power over Holden, and she is able to understand him in ways others are not; I love it when Phoebe tells Holden to stop swearing (I often felt like telling him myself). Holden's main reason for finally seeking the help he needs is Phoebe, though younger she is more mature than Holden in a number of areas and she rescues him from himself.

By the end of the book, Holden is in a psychiatric hospital, which is a relief because it was painful to read about him falling apart and no one was smart enough to get him the help he needed.

As much as I loathed Holden and his foul mouth and his hypocrisy, everything he hated in others was mirrored by his own actions and he was blind to it, I found I liked him and I wanted him to make things work out in the end. Kids unfortunately grow up and face situations that can no longer be blocked out by adults and the kids either survive them (some scarred) or they do not survive. Holden in the end does survive, but is scarred and his attitude seems little changed, but he is still breathing and I guess that is something.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel
by Lisa See
Edition: Hardcover
52 used & new from CDN$ 0.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Dec 3 2008
"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" occurs in China during the eighteen hundreds. Lily the narrator of the story has reached the age of eighty years and is recounting her life. She wants forgiveness from those who have passed on before her, especially from her laotong Snow Flower. A laotong is a lifetime relationship, that is formed between two females and the commitment runs deeper than the bond between a husband and wife.

Foot binding is explained in explicit detail near the beginning of the book. I was riveted to this chapter and read most of it with my mouth hanging open in terror. If you decide not to read the book, make sure you at least read the chapter on foot binding; it will change your perception of life.

The whole point of foot binding was to make the female more provocative and attractive for her husband; perfect feet also provided better choices for a high-quality husband. Lily's mother is able to create perfect feet during the foot binding process for Lily, but she also suffers a tragedy with another one of her daughters during the process. When feet are bound some suffer severe damage that leaves them unable to walk unaided and one in ten die from the procedure due to infection.

Snow Flower and Lily have an intriguing relationship and the book revolves around their lives from when they are young girls to when they are married and baring children and then to their grave. Lily enjoys the more providential life and has a hard time accepting Snow Flower's life. Lily believes Snow Flower's problems are of her own doing. It is not until the end, that Lily sees the true and bitter facts of Snow Flower's life. Lily's final words for Snow Flower are: "But if the dead continue to have the needs and desires of the living, then I'm reaching out to Snow Flower and the others who witnessed it all. Please hear my words. Please forgive me."

This book does not speak highly of males; the males in the book due to the era of time treat the women like property. The origin of foot binding is controversial and no set reason for the beginning of the practice has been found, but I think it may have to do with controlling women, for in binding their feet they are basically handicapped for life and have to rely on their husbands for everything.

I enjoyed this book, but I found the depth of the characters lacking, I just did not become overly attached to them. Creating new best friend in books is one of the reasons I read, but while a great read, I did not make any best friends in "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" just acquaintances.

Manga Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Manga Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.95
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A Midsummer Night's Dream (Manga Shakespeare), Nov. 22 2008
I usually do not like abridged books, I feel the original full text should be read and savoured, not a shortened and edited text.

That being said, it is important for teens who read the manga versions of Shakespeare to realize that what they are reading is a summarized version. Hopefully the manga adaptation will get teens to seek out the real thing.

I have seen "A Midsummer Night's Dream" numerous times in the theatre. In Edmonton, Alberta there is a Shakespeare festival every year and the stage is outdoors which adds a nice ambiance to the play. Midsummer is one of my favourites that I have attended in Edmonton. Puck is my favourite character, I love the way he mixes the lovers up in a jumble of emotions.

This manga edition I gave three stars to because I found the art work not up to par with other graphic novels. If you look at the physical hands of the characters, most of them seem distorted and disproportioned.

The Uncommon Reader
The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.85
89 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Uncommon Reader, Nov. 17 2008
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Paperback)
I completed this book weeks before I wrote the review. Perusing other people's reviews I found that most people loved this book and rewarded it four or more stars, and I kept saying to myself "Did I miss something?"

Queen Elizabeth is led by her misbehaving dogs to a library on wheels outside the Buckingham Palace. Out of duty she borrows a book from the library and thus starts her passion for reading and other queenly duties become less important. Her equerries do not appreciate the new well-read Queen and try to thwart her reading.

It is interesting following the Queen's progress as a reader and it is pleasurable when she reads books that I have read (it made me feel well read having read some of the books mentioned in this book).

"The Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett does portray the progress of a neophyte reader into an experienced reader with great accuracy. I was even moved when the Queen came to comprehend the power reading has on its subjects. I could definitely relate to the Queen taking her books with her everywhere, in case she had a spare moment and could read.

The book itself as a whole did not appeal to me, maybe because I do not support monarchs (bitter subject for this Canadian). Not a bad book, but definitely one I wished I had borrowed from the library and not bought. The book is light hearted and just not satisfying, it seems to be lacking substance, and I appreciated the humour, but wanted more of the dark side. For example the Queen's husband is mentioned in passing and it appears he does not embrace the Queen's passion for the written word, it would have been intriguing to learn more of their relationship and how the Queen's reading changed their marriage.

Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.42
67 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Mice and Men, Nov. 16 2008
I love stories that make you contemplate them for days or weeks after you have finished them and even superior are stories that stay with you for a lifetime. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck classifies as one of those books in my life.

The only problem with the book is that it is short, but maybe that is what makes it so appealing. It is a simple story with complex themes, which involve so many layers of characters and problems in society.

George and Lennie are travelling companions, with George being the leader who is slight in body build and Lennie being mentally handicapped and large in stature. George and Lennie travel from farm to farm looking for labour. Lennie is sworn into silence during the interviews because if the employer finds out Lennie is mentally handicapped they will not hire him. Lennie has to remain silent until they see how strong he is and how much work he can do, Lennie is able to work more then most men combined.

If this was all there was to George and Lennie the book would be done, but Lennie has a problem. Lennie loves soft things and cannot stop himself from stroking them. It is tolerable when he accidentally kills mice while stroking them and even the death of the puppy is forgivable though a greater crime, but when it comes to the death of a human the crime becomes too great even if not done in malice.

I often wondered throughout the book why George stuck with Lennie, and the book never explains why in a clear way that makes the reader say "Oh, that's why he stayed". Sometimes I thought it was out of kindness, other times I thought it was because Lennie was stronger physically and George needed him to get and keep employment, and other times I considered it may have been due to the need of human companionship.

"Of Mice and Men" is unquestionably a book I will read again and I am certain it will feel like welcoming an old friend.

A Northern Light: A Novel
A Northern Light: A Novel
by Jennifer Donnelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.29
131 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Northern Light, Nov. 6 2008
"A Gathering Light" is the title of this book in the United Kingdom, but here in North America it is titled "A Northern Light" why the change of title, I have no idea.

I enjoyed this book, it would definitely appeal to fans of "The Word of the Day", and the book's heroine is a word collector named Mattie Gokey.

Mattie Gokey's mother has died from cancer and Mattie is burdened with the chore of raising her sisters while her father struggles to put food on the table. Royal Loomis a good looking neighbour boy has been paying attention to Mattie and helping her out whenever he can and taking her for thrilling rides on his buckboard.

Mattie is an intelligent girl with a gift for words and she is able to express herself with the pen. Her teacher encourages her to write and to finish her high school education and to apply for a college education in New York City. Mattie is accepted into a college, but there is her family to consider, the money to consider and there is Royal Loomis to consider.

In the background of the life of Mattie, there is a murder mystery that adds an extra dimension to the book and makes it an intriguing read.

A delight to read, I loved the word duels between Mattie and her best friend Weaver who is a young intelligent African-American who will not put up with racism and is willing to fight for his rights, which he does numerous times throughout the book.

The book has a funny way of jumping through time that could be confusing to younger readers, but then again this book is not meant for younger readers, so it should not pose a problem.

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