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CanadianMother (Ontario)

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River Into Darkness 02 Compass Of The Soul
River Into Darkness 02 Compass Of The Soul
by Sean Russell
Edition: Paperback
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down!, Jan. 4 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed The Compass of the Soul, the second part of the River Into Darkness duology (which as another reviewer stated, is really one book split into two, so make sure you get both). This surprised me, because I had read the Moontide and Magic Rise first, and those books take place about thirty years after the River into Darkness events--so I thought what suspense can there be when I already know how everything turns out?

Well, there is a lot of suspense indeed in this book (as in Under the Vaulted Hills). Russell introduces a lot of new characters that are not in the later books, so I wanted to keep reading to see what happens to them. Mystery and suspense fill the plot right up till the last chapter. It was very hard for me to put this book down!

I will also say that many of the happenings here had richer meaning for me because of my knowledge of the later books (for example, Kent painting the Countess's portrait).

Furthermore, Russell did an excellent job developing the characters in this second book. They are all complex characters. Not a single one can be neatly categorized as "good" or "evil," but rather they are all various shades of grey. Personally I found the character I had the most sympathy for was the mage, Eldritch--although he was portrayed as the villain of the story.

Perhaps I would have liked to see a little more "wrap up" at the end of the book--for example, I would have dearly liked to see Averil Kent again, and the Countess as well--but all in all, it was a satisfactory ending. In my experience, Russell's books are more about the journey than they are about the ending. And this book does provide a fascinating journey, beautifully written too.

I would recommend any of Russell's books to fantasy readers. They're definitely a cut above the rest.

Klutz Extra Stuff: Paper Fashions Fancy
Klutz Extra Stuff: Paper Fashions Fancy
by Klutz
Edition: Misc. Supplies
Price: CDN$ 12.30
19 used & new from CDN$ 10.91

5.0 out of 5 stars My daughter loved this!, Dec 30 2008
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My daughter (who is 9) loves creating fashions using the Klutz kit, Paper Fashions Fancy, which is sort of like making clothes for paper dolls (although there are no dolls). This "Extra Stuff" package contains more patterned papers for making the fashions.

She opened up this package of extra materials today, and was just about beside herself with excitement. There are many of the original papers here, as well as many that she had not seen before. She is very eager now to design some new fashions.

As with the materials in the original kit, the paper quality is very good and the variety of patterns here is excellent. Good for many hours of creative play!

Beneath the Valuted Hills (The River Into Darkness, Book One)
Beneath the Valuted Hills (The River Into Darkness, Book One)
by Sean Russell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.99
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid fantasy read, Dec 30 2008
I enjoyed Beneath the Vaulted Hills. I read it soon after reading World Without End and Sea Without a Shore, which were written first but actually take place after the events of this book. Therefore, in this book I was able to see some characters I was familiar with, only at a younger age, such as the Countess of Chilton and the painter, Averil Kent. It was also most interesting to meet characters such as Erasmus Flattery and even the mage, Eldritch, who had passed into legend by the time of the other books.

It's difficult for me to say if I would have enjoyed this book so much if I hadn't already been acquainted with some of the characters. I can say that the passages of the book which take place within the caves were very suspenseful and well written. These passages take up quite a big chunk of the book, and after a while I was starting to feel the claustrophobia of the characters myself. I couldn't stop reading, because I felt as desperate as they did to find a way out!

The discovery that the characters find within those caves was also very interesting in light of what happens in Sea Without a Shore. Once again, this section would have lost some meaning without having that knowledge.

But still, this is a good book, a solid fantasy read. I like Russell's setting, which is similar to the 1700s in our world, a time when science and logic are overtaking the superstitions of the past. Certainly, if you choose to read this book, you MUST get Compass of the Soul, because very little is resolved at the end of this book. On its own it is not complete; it must be followed by the second part of the duology.

I would also recommend Russell's Swans' War Trilogy, if epic fantasy with a more medieval setting is more to your taste. This trilogy is very good, and more poetically written than these earlier books of Russell's.

Agnes Grey
Agnes Grey
by Anne Bronte
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 6.00
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly enjoyable, Dec 18 2008
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This review is from: Agnes Grey (Paperback)
I have read all the novels written by Emily and Charlotte Brontë, and enjoyed them very much. But I wasn't sure what to expect with Agnes Grey, as Anne Brontë is the sister that you never seem to hear about. I assumed that perhaps her writing didn't match the quality of her sisters' writing.

Well, I was wrong on that assumption. As a novel, Agnes Grey is wholly delightful. It follows the story of Agnes, a young lady who decides to work as a governess to help her impoverished family. She soon finds that the life of a governess isn't quite as satisfying as she had imagined! The first children she has to teach are absolute hellions, and after that she moves on to teach a group of teenage snobs who treat her like she is a lesser form of life--as many servants were treated in those times. I will reveal that Agnes does find happiness in the end of the novel, but not before she endures several years of loneliness and misery.

I was often very surprised at the realism in this book. Apparently critics at the time it was written were quite shocked by it. Anne Brontë does not shy away from descriptions that many of her contemporary novelists would avoid. For example, the descriptions of the beastly behaviours of the Bloomfield children, or the complaints of Lady Ashby of her husband's gambling and "opera women" do not seem tame enough to be found in an early Victorian novel. Of course to a modern reader these elements make the book all the more interesting, for they provide a clear picture of what life was like for women in the mid 1800s.

It IS different than the novels of Emily and Charlotte--namely, it is shorter, and simpler, and easier to read. But this would be a plus for many readers. I read it over several days, but a quick reader with time to spare could easily read it in one day.

I would highly recommend Agnes Grey to readers who have loved the novels of the elder Brontës. And for readers who have never read a novel by a member of this celebrated family, I would recommend this one first as it is undoubtedly the easiest. If you like Agnes Grey, then I would recommend moving onto the more challenging Jane Eyre (by Charlotte) or Wuthering Heights (by Emily). I would only recommend Shirley and Villette (by Charlotte) to more serious readers, as they are the more challenging and complex novels of the group.

A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning
A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning
by Karen Andreola
Edition: Paperback
9 used & new from CDN$ 33.03

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pay attention to the title..., Dec 14 2008
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Another reviewer was disappointed in this book because it was not a concise guide to Charlotte Mason's methods. I would agree that this book is more rambling than concise, but I would also point out that the title of the book is quite accurate. It is not titled "A Guide to Charlotte Mason" but A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning.

I think this title describes this lovely book perfectly. It is indeed not a clear guide to Charlotte Mason's ideas, but a companion to them, and the book is made up of Karen Andreola's personal ideas, and her stories of how she taught her children the "Charlotte Mason way."

Physically, this is an attractive book. It is a nice thick size, with heavy white paper, and is sprinkled with beautiful antique illustrations throughout.

The Victorian illustrations are the reader's first clue as to the author's love affair with the Victorian era. Some readers might be put off by the old fashioned tone and old fashioned ideas in this book. Others, like myself, might find it an interesting change. This is certainly the first homeschooling book I have read which includes instructions for knitting Victorian lace!

Ms. Andreola includes many other interesting tidbits towards the end of the book (after she has spent many chapters explaining the benefits of using "living" books, narration, etc)--for example she dedicates an entire chapter to playing with sand, and another on how to take your children on a pleasant picnic. I found these later chapters the most interesting, and I received some fresh ideas for our homeschool from them.

In short, this is a pleasant and helpful book to read for homeschooling mothers. It will especially appeal to those who admire not only CM's ideas on education, but the Victorian culture from which those ideas came forth. I'm not sure if this book would be a good introduction to Charlotte Mason--it is a bit rambling (in a nice way!) for that. For those wanting to know more about this method of education, I would look for websites to read first before I bought this book (there are many websites dedicated to CM out there).

But if you are a homeschooling mother who is already familiar with CM, or is already using her methods, and you are looking for a bit of inspiration, then this book is for you! I'm so glad I bought it myself, It is well worth the cost.

Sea without a Shore
Sea without a Shore
by Sean Russell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.99
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!, Dec 6 2008
This book picks up right where World Without End stops, without missing a beat. I started this book eager to find out what happens next, and I was relieved to find that Russell didn't bother reviewing events but just dove into the story.

The same fascinating story continues in this second book, but I actually enjoyed this book more. It seemed that Russell made this book more exciting by not only skipping some of the boring details (such as the sea battle in the first book that was really bogged down in details), but by adding in more points of view. We get to experience many varied points of view here, which adds a richness to the story. Tristam is still there, and he is still the main character, but we also get to spend a lot of time with Sir Averil Kent, Alissa Somers, Jaimy Flattery, Prince Wilam, and others.

Sea Without a Shore was a very suspenseful book, and by the time I had gotten to the halfway point I found it very difficult to put it down! The story just kept getting more and more intense and exciting, and as mysteries were solved more were created.

There were some interesting themes explored in this book though. If you can manage not to whip through it too quickly there is some interesting food for thought to be had--for example, many of the characters are thinking about what it means to age, and several of them have to chose between aging gracefully and artificially extending their youth.

My only complaint is that the ending isn't quite neat and tidy--actually, it seemed that Russell was leaving things open for another book, which I suppose was never written. I can't say more without creating spoilers.

Anyway, this book together with World Without End make for a very interesting and original fantasy duology. I would definitely recommend them to fantasy readers who are looking for something a bit different.

World without End
World without End
by Sean Russell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.99
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy on the quirky side, Nov. 23 2008
I previously read Russell's epic "Swan's War" trilogy and enjoyed it, so I thought I would try something else he had written.

World Without End, the first part of the "Moontide and Magic" duology, was a very different sort of book from Russell's newer epic fantasy. It was quirkier and in my mind read more like a suspenseful mystery novel. I did however enjoy this book quite a bit as well.

The story does not take place in a medieval setting, but rather in a time which feels to me similar to the late 1700s-early 1800s. It is the age of scientific discovery, "empiricism" as it is called, and Magic is something few people believe in any more. Naturally, as this is a fantasy novel we will find that Magic does indeed still exist in this world, although it is very hard at first for the scientific-minded main character, Tristam, to accept.

As the mysterious story unfolded I found it hard to stop reading. Russell created so many intriguing questions that the main character was trying to answer. Let me tell you, that although the story was a very interesting read, almost nothing was answered at the end of this book. In fact, a number of new questions arose in the very last chapter! So if you are going to give this book a try, do yourself a favour and pick up Sea Without a Shore at the same time, so you can read the continuation of the story without interruption.

Although I did enjoy this book, I gave it only 4 stars because the quality of the actual writing was lacking. I found the writing in Russell's newer series to be beautiful and lyrical, but the writing in this older book really felt quite wooden at times, like Russell was just mechanically describing the characters and events without any flair. And even more annoyingly, as the story went on it seemed that Russell wanted to stretch it out with some really tedious sections of description that I just had to skim over. Especially the part with the sea battle--it was much too long and contained all kinds of technical seafaring jargon that I found incredibly boring.

However, thankfully those few boring sections were easy to skim through and the greatest part of the story contained some interesting events and character development. The Duchess of Morland was especially interesting because her motives were so difficult to discern.

All in all, a worthwhile read and I look forward to reading the second book to find out how all these mysteres turn out for Tristam on his sea voyage.

Children of the Forest
Children of the Forest
by Elsa Beskow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 11.61
34 used & new from CDN$ 2.95

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful yet tiny volume, Oct. 16 2008
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This review is from: Children of the Forest (Hardcover)
As other reviewers have stated, Children of the Forest is a charming classic. There is no defined plot, but the book simply follows the family of "little people" who live in the forest for one year as they work and play amongst the trees. My 9 year old daughter really enjoys reading through this book. There is a sweetness and an innocence to this book that not many modern books possess.

I wanted to write this review just to make sure that potential buyers pay attention to the size of the edition they are buying. I did not carefully read Amazon's listed dimensions for this book and I expected to get a normal sized storybook--instead I got a very small pocket sized book. You know those small white Beatrix Potter hardcovers? This book is almost exactly the same size. Pocket size--which may be a positive feature if you'd like to take this book along on a nature walk, but I just thought I would mention in case others besides myself were hoping to get something larger.

M*A*S*H: Season Eleven
M*A*S*H: Season Eleven
2 used & new from CDN$ 13.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saved the best for last..., Oct. 14 2008
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This review is from: M*A*S*H: Season Eleven (DVD)
Now that I have purchased MASH Season Eleven on DVD, I have the entire series. I love watching these old episodes of this classic show that, in my opinion, is one of the best shows ever to be on television. I have seen every episode many times since I was a kid and still I never get tired of watching them.

I believe that with season eleven, they saved the best for last. Every single episode in this season was good, and a few of the episodes were especially poignant and memorable. This all culminates with the final two hour movie that closes off the series so completely and with such emotional intensity. I defy you to watch this final episode without a single tear!

Fans of this show should own all the DVDs, but for the more casual watchers, if you only buy one MASH DVD, I would highly recommend you get this last one, because the show only got better as time went on, and because the final episode is just excellent.

The Story of Canada
The Story of Canada
by Janet Lunn
Edition: Paperback
2 used & new from CDN$ 50.59

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great content, but flimsy edition, Oct. 8 2008
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This review is from: The Story of Canada (Paperback)
I am currently reading The Story of Canada with my almost-10 year old daughter for her homeschool history lessons.

I really like the content of this book--the information is broken up into sections short enough that kids don't get overwhelmed, but it is still written like a story, and well written too. The main text is sprinkled with interesting sidebars detailing various aspects of Canada's history--for example, in the section describing the beginnings of the fur trade, there is a box of information detailing how beaver hairs were used to make felt hats in Europe, with drawings of the types of hats that were made with it.

Coloured illustrations, maps and photographs abound in this book, which really make the history come alive.

In all, it's a wonderful book to share with your kids, except that the quality of this particular edition is sadly lacking. The cover is very thin and floppy. Our book got a bit of water spilled on the cover, and it quickly soaked right through so that the first third of the book is now wrinkled and water damaged. In a large reference book such as this I would expect to see a much thicker and better quality cover that would not be damaged so quickly and easily.

I do highly recommend the book, but if you do buy it you would do well to find it in hardcover.

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