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  • Book 20 - Lost at Sea

    Book 20 - Lost at Sea, by Bryan Lee O'Malley

    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "Raleigh doesn''t have a soul. A cat stole it - or at least that''s what she tells people - or at least that''s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying. How did such a shy teenage girl end up in a car with three of her hooligan classmates on a cross-country road trip? Being forced to interact with kids her own age is a new and alarming proposition for Raleigh, but maybe it''s just what she needs - or maybe it can help her find what she needs - or maybe it can help her to realize that what she needs has been with her all along."

    My take: A good coming -of-age story. It's not a linear story, so that can be a touch confusing, but it's all explained in the end.

    Number of pages: 168

    Total number of pages read: 5373

    Give it a rating out of 5: 4

  • Book 19 - Chicks Dig Time Lords

    Book 19 - Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O'Shea

    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "In "Chicks Digs Time Lords," a host of award-winning female novelists, academics and actresses come together to celebrate the phenomenon that is 'Doctor Who, ' discuss their inventive involvement with the show's fandom and examine why they adore the series. These essays will delight male and female readers alike by delving into the extraordinary aspects of being a female 'Doctor Who' enthusiast."

    My take: It's a fun, easy read, all about women like me who are fans of Doctor Who, many for as long as I have been. The one issue I have is that most of these reflective essays follow the same pattern: A) I first encountered the Doctor when I was.... My favourite Doctor and Companion(s) are... C) My thoughts on the new series are.... D) The challenges I have with the shows are... and E) I love the show anyways despite D) because.... That got a bit tedious. Otherwise, it shows I'm not alone!

    Number of pages: 186

    Total number of pages read: 5205

    Give it a rating out of 5: 4

  • Book 18 - Stardust

    Book 18 - Stardust: Being a Romance within the realms of Faerie, story by Neil Gaiman and illustrations by Charles Vess

    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "Tristran Thorn promised to bring back a fallen star. So he sets out on a journey to fulfill the request of his beloved, the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester-and stumbles into the enchanted realm that lies beyond the wall of his English country town."

    My take: Like the Princess Bride, this is a case where I saw the movie before I read (or had even heard of) the book. This is a beautifully illustrated story - it has a lot in common with the collections of fairy tales and folktales put out in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, but with a post-modern twist. It's the first thing I've read by Neil Gaiman so far, but now I'm intrigued and want to read more. Note: The story is quite explicit in a few parts, but nothing truly pornographic. The love scenes aren't just thrown in for shock value, they're a natural evolution of the story. However, it's really intended for mature audiences...

    Number of pages: 263

    Total number of pages read: 5019

    Give it a rating out of 5: 5

  • Book 17 - The Princess Bride

    Book 17 - The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure: the Good Parts Version, by William Goldman

    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "In 1941 a young boy lies bedridden from pneumonia. His perpetually disheveled and unattractive father, an immigrant from Florin with terribly broken English, shuffles into his bedroom carrying a book. The boy wants to know if it has any sports. His father says, "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles." And the little boy, though he doesnt know it, is about to change forever."

    My take: This is the book that inspired the film, which I love. I last read this about 15 years ago, and I finally got my own copy - the 30th Anniversary edition, ack! Reading it again reminded me of how much I enjoy the story, and how satisfying the film is (I HATE adaptations that mess around with the story and characters). A lot of fun, great for everyone over 10.

    Number of pages: 512

    Total number of pages read: 4756

    Give it a rating out of 5: 5

  • Book 16 - Inside the Tardis

    Book 16 - Inside the TARDIS: The Worlds of Doctor Who, by James Chapman

    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "In this study of a television institution--the first to draw extensively on the full riches of the BBC Written Archives--James Chapman explores the history of Doctor Who from its origins to the present day. He shows how the series has evolved to meet changing institutional and cultural contexts, while retaining its quirky, eccentric and distinctively British characteristics. And he demonstrates how the production history of the series has allowed it to renew and refresh its format in response to developments in the wider world of science fiction."

    My take: This was a pretty quick read.I don't think it would be of much interest to anyone who hasn't watched Doctor Who. But it was good for me to revisit the Doctor Who I grew up with, to remind me of the way the old series was. Unfortunately, it only comes forward as far as the relaunch in 2005. It'd be interesting to see what Chapman makes of David Tennant and Matt Smith. I'd also be interested in reading his other books on James Bond and on the British adventure series of the Sixties (the Avengers etc.).

    Number of pages: 232

    Total number of pages read: 4244

    Give it a rating out of 5: 4

  • Book 15 - Oishinbo: Japanese Culture

    Book 15 - Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine, Story by Tetsu Kariya, Art by Akira Hanasaki

    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "The subject of volume 1 is Nishon ryori, or Japanese cuisine, featuring stories on subjects like how to prepare a proper dashi (broth that is one of the building blocks of Japanese cooking), or matcha (the powdered green tea used in the tea ceremony), or red snapper sashimi."

    My take: Although this was the first volume in the series, this was the last one I was able to acquire, so I really didn't read the series in order (thankfully, it doesn't need to be). It's a good overview of the building blocks chefs use to make Japanese cuisine, and it really touches on the philosophy that drives, or should drive, the art of Japanese cooking.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this series. I learned a great deal about the food I encountered when I was in Japan, and it helped me to appreciate better the thought and care behind really good cooking.

    Number of pages: 272

    Total number of pages read: 4012

    Give it a rating out of 5: 5

  • Book 14 - Oishinbo: Vegetables

    Book 14 - Oishinbo: Vegetables, Story by Tetsu Kariya, Art by Akira Hanasaki
    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "The ingredient this time is vegetables, specifically cabbages and turnips. Who will win the Vegetable Showdown? Later, Yamaoka and Kurita help Tomii''s son get over his hatred of eggplant, and patch a rift between lovers using the power of asparagus."

    My take: I have to admit, I'm rather picky about vegetables, but I really enjoyed them when I was over there. As with the other volumes, there's an emphasis on the impact the environment and food production methods has on the quality of food produced, and there are clear, straightforward explanations for WHY the food we eat may not be as healthy as we think.

    Number of pages: 200

    Total number of pages read: 3740

    Give it a rating out of 5: 4.5

  • Book 13 - Oishinbo: Sake

    Book 13 - Oishinbo: Sake, Story by Tetsu Kariya, Art by Akira Hanasaki

    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "In this volume, the focus shifts from food to drink--specifically, to sake. For centuries different types of sake have played the same roles in Japan as wine and beer have in the West, from inexpensive everyday drink to refined single-batch rarities. Above all, sake has been enjoyed as an accompaniment to a meal, and after a revelatory moment at a local pub, Yamaoka decides that drink pairings must be an integral part of the Ultimate Menu. So which foods go best with which drinks? Sit down, pour yourself a glass, and read on!"

    My take: I think this was the most informative volume so far. I had no idea that sake was far more complex than it has been portrayed, or that it really needs to be treated like Western-style wine, otherwise it turns into plonk very quickly. I'll certainly bring this volume along when I go back to Japan, which I plan to someday, so I can try some real sake.

    Number of pages: 271

    Total number of pages read: 3540

    Give it a rating out of 5: 4.5

  • Book 12 - Oishinbo: The Joy of Rice

    Book 12 - Oishinbo: The Joy of Rice, Story by Tetsu Kariya, Art by Akira Hanasaki

    Synopsis (from Chapters.ca):

    "In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and company look into the single most essential food in Japanese cuisine: rice. Cultivated for millennia, a staple meal in itself and the basis of countless other dishes, rice is an important component not only of the Japanese kitchen but also of Japanese culture. When Yamaoka is asked by Tozai''s head chef for help in coming up with a new rice dish, what starts out as a simple culinary request rapidly grows into a disquisition into the past, present and future of Japan''s food culture."

    My take: This was one of the more fascinating volumes of Oishinbo, because it shows that great cooking is really in the details - how you wash rice, how much water you cook it with, even how you mould it to make rice balls all have an effect on the final product. Lessons, of course, which apply to all types of food!

    Number of pages: 268

    Total number of pages read: 3269

    Give it a rating out of 5: 4.5

  • Book 11 - Skim

    Book 11 - Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

    Synopsis: (from Chapters.ca)

    "Skim" is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth who goes to a private girls' school in the early '90s. When her classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself -- possibly because he's (maybe) gay -- the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. It's a weird time to fall in love, but that's what happens to Skim when she starts meeting secretly with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer. But then Ms. Archer abruptly leaves the school, and Skim has to cope with her confusion and isolation while her best friend, Lisa, tries to pull her into "real" life by setting up a hilarious double-date for the school's semi formal. Suicide, depression, love, homosexuality, crushes, cliques of popular, manipulative peers -- the whole gamut of teen life is explored in this poignant glimpse into the heartache of being 16.

    My view:
    In some ways I could relate to Skim's experiences, in others, I couldn't, being straight myself (obviously). But it's a beautifully drawn story. And it's interesting to see that while Skim is part-Japanese Canadian, it doesn't really play into the story at all.

    Number of pages read in this book: 142

    Total number of pages read: 3001

    Give it a rating out of 5: 4

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