Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hump Day Hottie

One of the blogs I follow does a Hump Day Hottie post and well since I like me the boys, thought I would totally steal and modify the idea.  For the next few Wednesdays I will post a pic of my favorite celebrity hottie.  They may not be to your taste, but would love your opinions on them.

So for the 1st official Rayment Hump Day Hottie -- I give you Canada's own Nathan Fillion (Hot, Intelligent, Charitable, Sweet and a man who knows how to make fun of himself)

For more info

Just Because part 2

Jacob was most offended that I posted a pic of his baby brother and totally left him out.  So in order to prevent Jake's future tell all book  --  here is a pic of my adorable other son.  Will also take requests for babysitting!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My 1st Contest: 25 Followers


Ok, boys and girls, I am going to have me a contest - that just sounds wrong, usually it is me entering the contests not  hosting them

I'm just going to start simple and go for 25 Followers. Here's the facts jack.

Once I get 25 followers I will be giving away the following

Grand Prize: 2 books from the Book Depository (To total aprox $22)
1st Prize: 1st choice of 2 books(+1 free raffle entry in my upcoming charity Raffle)
2nd Prize: 2nd choice of 2 books
3rd Prize: 3rd choice of 2 books
4th Prize: 4th choice of 2 books
5th Prize: 5th choice of 2 books
6th Prize: 6th choice of 2 books
7th Prize: 7th choice of 2 books 

Book Selection
  • The Cougar Club: Susan McBride (Signed) 
  • Devil May Cry: Sherrilyn Kenyon (Signed)
  • Just because it's not wrong, doesn't make it right: Barbara Coloroso (Signed)
  • Wings of a Bee: Julie Roorda (Signed)
  • Meerkat Mail: Emily Gravett (Signed) 
  • Shiver: Maggie Stiefvater
  • Junkyard Dog: Monique Polak
  • All Together Dead - Charlaine Harris
  •  My Wife's Affair: Nancy Woodruff (ARC)
  • A Black Tie Affair - Sherrill Bodine
  • Bitten - Kelly Armstrong 
  • The Edge of the World: Kevin J Anderson (ARC)
  • Wildthorn: Jane Eagland (ARC)
  • Love Struck: Chantel Simmons (ARC)
  • Confections of a Closet Master Baker: Gesine Bullock Prado (ARC)
  • Leftovers: Heather Waldorf (ARC)
  • Home Free: Sharon Jennings
  • Countess of Scandal: Laurel McKee  (2 Copies)
  • Deloume Road: Mathew Hooton
  • Knights of Pleasure: Margaret Mallory
  • The Creation of Eve: Lynn Cullen (ARC)
  • Think Twice: Lisa Scottoline (ARC)
  • The Heights - Peter Hedges (ARC)
  •  The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge
  • Vanishing Habitats: Robert Bateman
  • Young Zeus
  • Smile - Raina Telgemeier
  • Doing Dangerously Well: Carole Enahoro
  • What I saw and how I lied: Judy Blundell
  • The Deadly Sister: Eliot Schrefer (ARC)
  • Countdown by Deborah Wiles (ARC)
  • Would You by Marthe Jocelyn
  • The Summer Before: The babysitters club

I will than add another prize level for every 10 new followers that I add during this contest, so be sure to spread the word for more chances to win more books


You must mention what your favorite book or Author is. You must be a follower and leave your email address. I need to be able to contact you if you win.

Open to Canada and U.S. (Trying to foster Canada US relations)

+3 you promote this contest and leave the link.
+1 Comment on what you like to see in a book review
+5 I'm on your blog roll
+2 if you watch Castle or Chuck
+5 you follow
+1 for Canadian/American Joke
+1 total your entries

Contest Ends May 5, 2010 (which is also my 40th bday)

Just Because

I needed a smile today, so I thought you might all as well -- Isn't he adorable -- Don't you just want to come over and babysit -- hey I have to try

In my Mailbox

My Wife's Affair: Library Thing
Creation of Eve: Library Thing
Countess of Scandal: Book Junkie
Countess of Scandal: Not sure

Think Twice: Good Reads

All from Scholastic to Review

Magic School Bus
Missile Mouse
My Brother Charlie
The Babysitters Club
Vanishing Habitats

35 Films from Clint Eastwood: Ellen Show
7 in 7 Cargo Kit: Family Jewels Blog

Mini Review: Knight of Pleasure by Margaret Mallory

Knights of Pleasure
by Margaret Mallory
Hachette Book Group Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-446-55338-4

Description: THE GREATEST PASSION: Lady Isobel Hume is an expert swordswoman who knows how to choose her battles. When the king asks her to wed a French nobleman to form a political alliance, she agrees. But that's before the devilishly charming Sir Stephen Carleton captures her heart-and tempts her to betray her betrothed, her king, and her country.  IS WORTH THE GREATEST PERIL: Sir Stephen Carleton enjoys his many female admirers-until he dedicates himself to winning the lovely Isobel. So when a threat against the king leads Isobel into mortal danger, Stephen has a chance to prove that he is more than a knight of pleasure...and that love can conquer all.

Review: I have read quite a few blogs in which people have mentioned how much they enjoyed this book, and well, I am jumping on the bandwagon. It is a delightful light read, perfect for an afternoon at the beach, a hot bubble bath or in front of a fireplace on a cold Canadian winters night (well maybe not this years winter, but you get the picture).   

The characters are interesting and not one dimensional which is something you don't often find in historical romance novels.  The book has a riveting storyline that intertwines adventure and history so masterfully that I dare you to put it down.  I do have to be honest, a couple of times I just wanted to smack Lady Isobel for some of her actions, but they ARE the actions of a women of that time, so it really shouldn't annoy me so. (But it does!) I don't want to spoil anything so I won't go into detail, because I hate when someone gives too much of the story away.  The secondary characters are interesting and would like to know more about them, especially the 2 french orphans.  The ending is really beautiful though, and not too sugary which is something else I dislike.  One of the blogs I had read mentioned that there was graphic violence and sex, but I beg to disagree. It is sensual without being overly graphic and the violence is not overly violent (dude, if you are reading a book set in medieval times -- there is going to be violence, that is how life was back then).  

I would recommend to those who enjoy historical romances that are not wishy washy/lovey dovey.  It is also pretty accurate historically, which many of you know is something that I require to really enjoy a historical romance.

The above was received as a prize from Libby's Library News

Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater and Info about future contest

by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0-545-12326-6
392 Pages
Ages: I would recommend 13 + due to some sexual content and mild violence

Description: For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf - her wolf - is a haunting presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human -- until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. Its her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears and the temperature drops, Sam must fight to stay human or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Jen's Review: Damn you Maggie Stiefvater, I didn't get any sleep last night, because I was so involved in Shiver.  Now I am half asleep at work and getting a little snippy with the college students -- it's ok, they deserve it sometimes.  I loved Shiver, it reminded me of some of the YA I read so long ago when I was also young (shut up Jeff, not THAT long ago) I remember many a night where I just couldn't go to bed until I had finished a particular story. I remember that feeling of passion, it made you feel young. This novel made me feel that way again -- well until I got up the next morning only after having 4 hours of sleep.

This is a skillfully written and wonderfully original take on the shape-shifting genre.  It reminded me a little of the novel Twilight, but I found it far better written and much more appropriate for the YA genre.  The story was so deftly written that you could not put it down -- and I didn't thank you very much.  The characters - well with the exception that some were umm -- werewolves (and don't exist right Jake?) are very realistic and the dialogue not contrived.  Another thing I particularly liked was at the beginning of each chapter it listed the outside temperature. This helped convey the sense of urgency in the story.

I wish I was more articulate to be able to express how fantastic this book was.  This novel really stands out against many of the other YA paranormal fiction being written right now.  A lot of the paranormal YA I have read lately has far too much disturbing adult content (I mean come on guys Edward is a little creepy,can you say stalker) for the typical 11 - 13 year old girls who are reading it. I am looking forward to reading more of Maggie Stiefvater.  I recommend this book to pretty much anyone over the age of 13 (and those younger mature readers like I was).

Now to pass this on downstairs to Natasha who is going to read and review it as well.

I received this book from Scholastic Canada in exchange for an honest review.

In the next couple of days I will be creating a 25 Followers contest and the prizes will be some of the books I have reviewed -- so start passing on my blog info.

Mom and Me Mondays: Scholastic Canada Edition

In honor of Earth Day, the first 2 titles we are reviewing deal with environmental issues

Vanishing Habitats
Robert Bateman
Scholastic Canada (My fav publisher)
48 Stunningly illustrated pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-98621-2
Ages: Anybody can enjoy the artwork alone, but recommended Ages 8 and up

Scholastic Canada Description: In Vanishing Habitats, internationally famous artist and naturalist Robert Bateman shares his love and knowledge of the worlds habitats. Through his paintings and stories, he describes the threats facing all kinds of animals, ranging from Snow Monkeys, Jaguars, and Bison to exotic birds such as Roseate Spoonbills and Burrowing Owls. In this beautiful and inspiring book, he explains why these animals and their homes are in danger and describes what steps can be taken to save them.

Mom's Note before review: My boy does NOT LIKE books that deal with sad or scary issues and it always colours his reviews.  His rating usually reflects the subject matter and not the book itself.  Hmm, wonder where he gets that from -- If Mom reads a book in which something unpleasant happens to an innocent child, that book usually is put down and never finished! (the exception are books which I have to review and honestly it usually colours my review as well)

Jake's Review: Mom this is a bit of a downer, but the pictures are really beautiful -- especially your favorite the Otter.  The picture of the lonely Polar Bear at the end made me really sad. I think this would be a good book for kids who don't know about global warming and they can learn how to treat the earth better.  Mom, stop making me turn back to the page with the otter -- I know --  Otters cute, must save world for them, I get it already!  Let me finish talking about the book so I can get back to playing Mario with Dad.  Parents with young kids should read this book and than explain the book to their kids using easier words.  I would make this book less sad with not so many big words -- you can't even pronounce some of them -- its Bear not Beer!  I really like the pictures, they look like ones that we have all over the house (hmm note to self - maybe I have a few too many Robert Bateman prints if Jake actually notices)
Rating: 5/10  (Again it talks about difficult subjects which Jake does not like to read about)

Mom's Review: No surprise here, I loved this book.  The artwork is outstanding and yes I am a huge fan of Robert Bateman so that colours my review as well. My god whenever I look at one of his paintings I feel that I could reach out and touch the animal!  If anyone has some cash I really would like an ORIGINAL Robert Bateman "On the brink - River Otters"  I seriously digress - sorry. In the wonderfully written book parents will learn as much as their children about vanishing habitats all over the world. It is explained very simply with very little finger pointing so that children will learn to pay more attention to the changing world around them without feeling like they are being nagged.  I agree with Jake that there could have been some simpler language used for the target audience, but it does make a fantastic teaching tool.  I would really recommend this book for inclusion into both the school library AND the classroom library.  It's unusual to find this subject matter handled so deftly with so little sanctimonious preaching that often turns kids off. 
Rating: 9/10

The Magic School Bus and the climate challenge
by Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0-590-10826-3
48 pages
Ages: 7-10 

Scholastic Canada Description: Ms. Frizzles students are putting on a play about global warming, and they need some cold, hard facts. The Friz knows just where to find them! A hope on the Magic School Bus takes the kids on a whirlwind tour. From the Arctic to the equator, they see telltale signs of climate change. But to get the really big picture, the class has to get really small so they can see exactly what is in the air and why it is making the world warmer. What they find gives them a real cause for concern! Luckily, the Friz has some hands-on advice. With their knack for making science accessible, Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen give this hot topic a refreshing, kid-friendly spin that will inspire all to do their part. Ms. Frizzle and the class are up for the climate challenge. Are you?

Jake's Review
: This book is lots of fun, but  a little too long. I liked that it has lots of things to look for on each page. I liked how alot of the little added things on each page were written on a small piece of lined paper. Some of the pages were too busy and my eyes hurt after looking at them.  Boy we need to change a lot of things around the house so we can help the environment more.  I promise not to leave the fridge door open and also not to leave the water running all the time. Wow, I didn't know how bad some of the stuff we do is for the earth.  Mom you have to turn off the computer more, you leave it on much too long (really sucks getting narced on by your 8 year old)  Mom we need to get a clothes line to put out our clothes to dry (note to self, must never ever let Jake read this book again, I detest hanging clothes on a line, I'm sorry I do everything else I can to help, I have to draw the line for my sanity - do you know how many frickin clothes my littlest hellion uses)  I like how cool of a teacher Ms Frizz is, I think we need a lot more teachers like her, because than I would actually listen in class.  She explains things in such a fun and simple way -- she dresses kind of odd though, sort of like some of the people you work with mom -- maybe she's part  Librarian (Smart assed little kid I have raised eh?) I'm going to tell my teacher about this book tomorrow, maybe she can get it for our class. (Thinking mom will donate this one!)
Rating: 8/10

Mom's Review:
A little holier than though preaching, but its heart is in the right place.   I have really enjoyed these books over the years, because they really appeal to the kids, and I agree with Jake, that if we had a lot more teachers like Frizz. schools would be so much more affective.   The book has taken a very sensitive subject and made it very kid friendly and fun.  It is very inspirational and written in a way that makes kids want to get up and help. They are our future!   I find some of the pages too busy for my old fogey brain, but  I think that is why kids like it so much.  Always something new to find on each page.   I would really recommend this book be added to any public or school library as well to parents of children from 7-10 to open up discussions on the environment.  Great Earth Day book!
Rating: 8.5/10

Elisha Cooper
Orchard Books (An imprint of Scholastic)
ISBN: 978-0-545-07075-1
48 Pages
Ages: 4+

Scholastic Canada Description: Society of Illustrators 2006 Gold Medal recipient, Elisha Cooper, captures the smell, taste, and feel of the changing seasons on a farm.

There is so much to look at and learn about on a farm - animals, tractors, crops, and barns. And children feeding animals for morning chores! With lyrical writing and beautiful illustrations that capture the rhythms of the changing seasons, Elisha Cooper brings the farm to life.

Jake's Review: I hate the pictures in this book, they are too small and blurry.  This books is snoreville, do I have to finish it? I never want to work on a farm it looks like way too much work and you never have any fun, because you are always doing chores.  That's all I have to say mom.
Review: 2/10

Mom's Review: I have to agree with Jake on a couple of points.  I agree, the artwork is far too sophisticated for the target audience.  Also the language does not appeal to the target audience and does not give the impression of farm work being very interesting to those that it is being geared towards.  It is beautifully written and the artwork is exquisite but I really wouldn't recommend it for an 8 year old boy.  It would be a wonderful addition to a classroom library in which the teacher would read and discuss with the students.  One improvement would be to make the book more compact so it highlights the artwork. With the larger format, the artwork is far too sparse, and gets lost.  I did really enjoy the personalization of the farm animals and the writers obvious love for the land
Review: 6/10

My Brother Charlie 

by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Illustrations by Shane W. Evans
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0-545-09466-5

Scholastic Canada Description:
Callie is very proud of her brother Charlie. He?s good at so many things  --  swimming, playing the piano, running fast. And Charlie has a special way with animals, especially their dog, Harriett. But sometimes Charlie gets very quiet. His words get locked inside him, and he seems far away. Then, when Callie and Charlie start to play, Charlie is back to laughing, holding hands, having fun. Charlie is like any other boy ? and he has autism. In this story, told from a sister?s point of view, we meet a family whose oldest son teaches them important lessons about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love. 

Holly Robinson Peete, bestselling author, actress, and national autism spokesperson, has paired with her daughter, Ryan, to co-author this uplifting book based on their own personal experiences with Holly?s son and Ryan?s brother, RJ, who has autism.

Jake's Review:  Mom this book reminds me of me and how I have Spina Bifida. Lots of people treat me differently because I am a little different than them and they don't understand me. (Sorry, my tears are blurring the screen) Sometimes people are really mean to me like kids treat the boy in the book.  He is just like Chad at school who has autism and I like playing with him. You just have to play with him a little differently and keep away from him when he is in one of his moods.  I would be Charlie's friend if he went to my school, I like kids that are different like me - they don't treat me like I am weird.  I liked how you could almost feel the pictures, like in those touch and feel baby books of Jesse's (Jake, dude, those BABY books, used to be yours) The pictures are drawn kinda weird though.
Rating: 9/10

Mom's Review: This book had a very personal response from me, since my child has "special needs" as well.  I cannot tell you how many times we are treated differently and ignorantly because people don't understand.  Some of the things that have been said to Jake or to our family are just plain rude.  I try to use these situations to educate those about spina bifida, but I cannot tell you how many times I just want to smack people because of their ignorance. (Just so you know, I never have, but have been tempted -- even to friends and family who haven't thought before they have said something)
Now back to the book.  This is a beautiful, sensitive and simple explanation of Autism written by Holly Robinson Peete (Yup you old timers Officer Judy Hoffs from 21 Jump street) and her daughter Ryan.  Ryan's twin brother R.J. has Autism and wanted to help the world understand her brother and those other families/friends who are living with Autism.  I loved how they explained that the little boy Charlie loves them, but his words to express this just get locked up inside him.  It is the most wonderfully true and thoughtful explanation of the struggle that autistic children deal with.   It also did an exceptional job of explaining the struggles that siblings have to deal with when their brother/sister has Autism.  It also explains how frustrating it is for Charlie that he has autism, and how he wishes he didn't have it either.  Many books deal with how the families cope, but don't usually mention how frustrating it is for the person that is autistic.    I loved the line about how Charlie has Autism, but Autism doesn't have Charlie.    The fact that this book is told through the voice of the twin sister makes it more realistic and heartfelt.  Information card at the back is fantastic as it tells other kids that autistic children are just as much fun to play with, if you give them a chance.
Review: 10/10

I received all of the books from Scholastic Canada in exchange for a review.  

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Cougar Club by Susan McBride: Review

Sorry guys this is going to be a short review, my brain has gone mushy after answering too many reference questions

The Cougar Club

Susan McBride
Avon (Harper Collins)
ISBN: 978-0-06-177126-2
Pages: 309
Received copy as a prize (signed too) from the Cougar Tales website

Publishers Description: Meet three women who aren't about to run and hide just because the world says they should be on the shelf and out of circulation.

Her life seems perfect until she loses her high-powered advertising job and catches her live-in lover in a compromising positionwith his computer!

This sexy TV news anchor is in danger of being replaced by a twentysomething blond bimbo. Wasn't it just yesterday that she was the up-and-coming star?

A married dermatologist, Elise thinks her plastic surgeon husband is playing doctor with someone else.

Kat firmly believes that aging gracefully isn't about giving up; it's about living life with your engine on overdrive. So this unofficial "Cougar Club" quickly learns three things about survival of the fittest in today's youth-obsessed society: True friendship never dies, the only way to live is real, and you're never too old to follow your heart.

Review: Some of my enjoyment of this book came from the fact that I read it while on vacation at Smugglers Notch and the fact that it wasn't another dark and twisted piece of Canadian literature. That being said I really enjoyed this one. It is light and laugh your ass off funny at times and other times makes you really think about womens lives after they hit the big 40 (and I am less than 2 months away from that big #)

The characters are interesting, if not horribly realistic. I do have to say that I REALLY didn't like the character of Carla and honestly just wanted to smack her alot, but it didn't really affect my overall enjoyment of the story. I just wanted more of Kat or Elise and so much less of Carla the irritating whiny bitch (Sorry have to be honest) I loved the friendship between the 3 ladies and it really reminded me of that saying "A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway" The book really is more about true and lasting friendships than being a Cougar, but that is why I think I liked it so much. Susan McBride has created a realistic example of female friendship. The women in this story have rebuilt their friendship and learned the importance of maintaining closeness with your true friends who love you no matter what. It was really nice to read about how healthy it can be for women to provide support to one another, and most importantly to just let loose and have fun!

I know a lot of people have a problem with the term Cougar, since it is often used in such a negative light, but don't let that stop you from buying the book. I also don't think there is anything wrong with being a Cougar -- men have been dating women way younger than them for centuries.

My only little complaint is that things got tided up a little too quickly and at times the plot was slightly predictable, who didn't guess that Elise's husband was going to be gay. Other than that I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to ANY women over the age of 30.

This is my first Susan McBride story and I will definitely be checking out more by her. Now I am off to the Reference desk to ogle some of the sexy young Firefighting Students (Only the ones over 25 though-- any younger and it just gets creepy no matter if you are a guy or a girl)

Ghosted by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall: Review

Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall
Random House Canada
ISBN: 978-0-679-3 1452 3
400 Pages

Publishers Description: Mason, a struggling writer, comes in from the cold after five years of drifting. His childhood friend, Chaz, a small-time gangster, loans him an apartment and finds him a job selling hotdogs. But instead of getting his act together, Mason drinks too much, does too many drugs and loses too much money at poker, digging himself even more deeply in debt to Chaz, who also happens to be his drug dealer. Talk about a vicious circle.

Then Mason has a bright idea. He'll find the cash to pay Chaz back by becoming a ghostwriter of suicide notes, a fitting use of his talents. The trouble is that Mason is hard-wired to rescue people, and no one needs rescuing more than the suicidal. Except maybe the woman he is falling in love with Willy, a wheelchair-bound, heroin-smoking beauty.

What happens when someone already wrestling with his own demons immerses himself in the tragedies of other people's lives? In this case, a lot: a hotdog cart is totaled, a convict sprung, a funeral faked, a head scalped, a horse stolen. Terrible secrets are brought to the light and suicide morphs into murder. Then, just when it looks like Mason is finally going down, he faces the biggest test of all. He'll either become the death-defying hero of his own dreams or lose everything and everybody he's ever loved.

Review: Well kiddies, this is going to be a hard one to review, because well, quite frankly I just didn't like the story. Now I want you all to know, it has nothing to do with his ability as a writer, because he definitely has talent.  It's just that I don't like books that deal with some of the more unpleasant people in this world, and quite frankly there are things I can live without knowing.

To illustrate the above point, here is a passage from the novel. I can't even type the beginning of the passage because it is just too graphic and horrific.

Then I said, "If you don't, I will break this bottle inside you.  It took a while but eventually she said "My name is Becky, and I will be 8 next week".  "That means you are seven" I said, and filled her mouth with her underwear. It had blue ducks and blood on it"

Seriously, no one needs tor read something like that. I know there are damaged people like this out there who really should be shot down like the rabid dogs they are (no Jen, tell us what you really feel) but we don't need to have a description of what they do when they rape a child. Honestly, after reading the passage, I had to put the book down for a couple of days, because I was seriously disgusted. 

The characters are very realistic and the storyline very unusual and at times I was very impressed with the author's creativity. Sometimes the dialogue was laugh your ass off funny.

"He flipped open the tape deck. "Gowan? So if you got trapped in here you'd have to listen to Gowan for the rest of your life?"

Other times the storyline was hopeful and you felt yourself cheering the protagonist on but than the hope was sort of dashed on you.  I really enjoyed a couple of the characters and just found them to be interesting and realistic, Chaz (A sort of nice drug dealer) and Dr Francis (incredibly realistic troubled Dr). Even the main character of Mason, a down and out sort of guy, was sort of likable. I just got pissed at him, because he was constantly doing really stupid things, when he knew better. Bishop-Stall really excels at the development of his characters which really bring them to life.  Also his description of a shelter are so painstakingly real that you can tell that the author has definitely spent time in one.  The last couple chapters are just brilliantly written and made me feel better about forcing myself to read the damn book.

Please, if you like a dark and gritty tale, that has a Palahniuk flavour to it, go out and get a copy, because the author is seriously talented.  At times I did enjoy reading it, but those times were few and far between.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Smugglers Notch, Vermont

Smugglers Notch
Jeffersonville, Vermont

Last year we all attended the Ski Show in Toronto in order to look for a March Break Ski Vacation.  My hubby and 8 year old boy love to Ski, so all I was looking for was somewhere where Jesse (17 mths) and I could also find something to do.  Last year we went to Holiday Valley in  Ellicottville, NY. Jeff and Jake had a great time, but I was bored to tears since there was nothing for Jesse and I to do.  As we were going through aisle after aisle of Quebec resorts (and thinking to myself, Crap I so don't want to vacation in Quebec AGAIN), all of sudden I spied a very colourful booth for Smugglers Notch, Vermont.

I have to be honest, as a non-skier I had never even heard of Smugglers Notch before, but it looked very family friendly compared to all the swanky resorts we had just passed through.   After spending almost 40 minutes with them in which Jake and Jesse were also attended too, I was convinced that this was the place we were looking for.  The price was far higher than we had wanted to spend, but we decided "what the hell, we can really tighten our belts so we can go.  They even had me convinced that I would learn to ski and LOVE it (ok, not totally convinced, but at least here my little hellion would have something to do other than torture me).  So we booked it on the spot and spend the next months drooling over the brochure and hearing from tons of people how they had been to Smugglers Notch and it was one of the best vacations they ever had with their family.  Even my sister liked it and she doesn't even ski -- yup it runs in the Porter side of the family.

Our vacation stared on March 14th with a very uneventful 8.5 hour car ride. The weather was pretty icky and the ride long and boring, but at least Jesse didn't lose it too many times. A big thanks to Jake who helped us keep our little minion occupied and happy. Poor little bugger had to watch far too many episodes of the Wiggles and Dora in order to appease his little brother.  Being the Tim Horton's junkie I am, I also mapped out where all the Tim Hortons were along the way ( note to Tim's, your info is out of date), after Jeff missed the exit for the supposed last Tim's before the U.S., we managed to find a Timmy's in Morrisville. PHEW!  The ride through New York and most of Vermont was really depressing. Many of the towns we passed through looked like they had gone through some seriously bad economic times.  By the time we had almost reached Jeffersonville Vermont, Jeff was cursing the CAA TripTik for sending us this way, and damn we should have just gone the Montreal route (That decision sure came back to haunt him later -- more on that later in this post)

We reached Smugglers Notch at 4:30 that evening and when we got there it was raining cats and dogs and I have to be honest, I was a little disappointed.   I guess I was expecting everything to be snowcovered and it pretty much looked the same as the green in Ontario.  That was pretty much the only disappointment I had all week. We got checked in by an extremely pleasant and helpful checkout girl.  Let me tell you the Americans are SOOOOOO much better at customer service than our Canadian counterpoints.  The whole week at the resort we were helped out in a friendly (but not overly friendly) manner and everyone just seemed to love their job.  I had a few issues with some of the Ski instructors which I will go into later, but even those issues were minor.

Since this review is getting way too long already, I will try to give less useless details for the rest. Really who cares about my Timmy's addiction and the weather.

Our room wasn't anything special, but it was comfortable, clean and had pretty much everything you needed.  It even had the most incredible Laz-y boy chair which I ended up sleeping on for 3 nights (the pull out sofa was not comfortable at all -- and I so did not want to sleep in the room with the boys). I am still dreaming about the comfort of that chair and that heavenly blanket that I seriously considered smuggling home with me.  The only 3 real complaints about the lodgings were that the shower head was ancient and I had the worst showers, the pillows were puny and there wasn't enough of them and that pull out couch needs to be buried in a shallow unmarked grave NOW.  The location of the lodge, however, made up for any of the trivial discomforts. I could walk to pretty much everything and after a tired day of skiing, it was only steps back from the lifts to our room.  This was key for me since I had to tote Jesse around a lot (terrain wasn't good for our useless stroller).  I could have taken a shuttle bus anytime, but I like to walk as many of you know.  You gotta contact Jen Maier of Urban Moms ( (More on this incredible women later)  who was also visiting Smuggs at the same time to find out about the shuttles.  I did hear from many of the people I met, that the shuttle was great.

The restaurants were a little overpriced, but nothing too outrageous. The food was yummy, if a little on the unhealthy side (Vermonters really like their cheese!)  The wait staff were all extremely competent and helpful and a couple of them were FANTASTIC.   We mostly ate at the Morse Mountain Grille and Riga Bello's, since the food at these two places appealed to Jake the most.  I would highly recommend the soups at any of the restaurants, since they were all fantastic.  The desserts were to die for too.  You have to try the Spaghetti and steroid meatballs at Riga Bello's, they were delish (Although be prepared for some gas the next day, sorry to be indelicate, but Jeff smelled NASTY).  For more info about the one restaurant we didn't get a chance to go to (read there is no way in Hell Jesse would behave in a nice restaurant), Hearth and Candle, please see Jen Maiers review.  Oh yeah almost forgot on Monday there was a Friendly Pirate night at the Morse Mountain Grille. If you got kids under 5 they would totally love this. Jesse was fascinated by the pirate and the costumed characters and giggled his little head off. 

If you are a new skier like me, I highly recommend you rent your equipment at Smuggs. The staff were lots of fun, friendly and extremely helpful.  There was lots of joking around about renting the ski's that would prevent me from falling on my butt too many times and also ones that came with a homing beacon for when they came flinging off me. Not sure if the fee was steep or not, but it sure was cheaper than buying my own.  Most importantly, especially for klutzy me, was that you can rent a helmet! 

One of the incredible things at Smuggs, is their Snow Sport University.  In our package we received 5 1.5 hour lessons for both Jake and I.  They would have included lessons for Jeff to, but he declined, since well he is a man and thinks he is too good for lessons : )  Jake had a great time and learned so many different skills in his lessons. The kids program is fantastic with the most incredible instructors who not only like kids, they also know how to work with them.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about this program.  Jake's ability to ski has improved so much, that he actually skied a small black diamond run.  This is even more impressive to me since Jake has Spina Bifida and when he was born, they didn't even think he would be able to walk unassisted.   Thank god, he inherited Jeff's family's skiing ability and not my side.

Now my experience was hit and miss depending on who the instructor was.  The first 2 days I spent with a wonderful instructor who knew that I could ski, if I could just get over the panic of what I was doing.  He spent a lot of time just watching me and telling me I was doing great -- he also kept trying to kick me up to the next level since he thought my skill was better than I did.  He was very patient and calming and I really enjoyed my lessons with him.  So, on the 3rd day I took his advice and moved up to the level 2's.  I was getting more confident, but I was EXTREMELY nervous about riding the chair lift - and rightly so as it turns out.  I had explained as plainly as I could (and this I am good at) that I was terrified of the lift and had NEVER been on one before. And what does the moron instructor (think his name was Francois) do -- yup he sticks me on the lift with another newbie.  Shannon(Sharon) from Brampton and I ended up on the top of the mountain (Instead of the halfway point) because he never explained to us what we were supposed to do in order to get off of the damn thing.  Luckily the girls from my previous lessons had seen what happened and shouted out to my hubby what happened.  While the 2 of us were deciding how we were going to get back down (Which included us taking off our ski's and walking down) Jeff (aka hubby) came up and told us that he was going to help us down.  Well I tried to do the first two steep hills (steep to a newbie I must enforce) and well that didn't end up to well. The 1st one ended with my feet dangling over what I thought was a huge cliff (probably was a ditch, but hey I was in full out terror mode) and the second hill ended up with me sliding down on my arse. By this time I was freaking out, so Jeff got me to wrap myself around him and he skied me down almost to where the rest our group was.  Shannon(Sharon) was amazing and just took it nice and easy and didn't panic or fall down once, but hey she is a Pediatrician, so I am guessing she knows how to calm down the panic response.  We joined our group and finished off the lesson with the other instructor who looked like Billy Bob Thornton (Think his name was Wayne). He taught us a lot of different skills on how to slow down and I picked up quite a few pointers that helped me out. However, I don't think he understood that for me, I just needed lots and lots of practice at stopping myself from panicing. I found that most of the instructors had no patience with the fact that you were terrified and this is one area, I think they could use some improvement on. 

   After the lesson was over I spent the rest of the afternoon skiing with Jake and Jeff and found myself become much more confident and decidely less terrified. However, Jeff helped me off the lift everytime -- I would totally panic each time I tried to get off.  So on day 4  I once again explained to the Instructor (Billy Bob lookalike) that I was still terrified to get off the lift and could I go with someone who could help me.  Yup, my friends, another mistake.  This time my seat map, Alabama (not her name, where she came from) tried to help, but she managed to get off and I was pushed back on the chair and on my way up to the top again.  This time Jeff was no where to be found and there was no one to help me, so they suggested I ride the lift back down.  It was very humiliating but I used my sense of humour to get through it. Jeff saw me coming down on the lift and told me he would meet me at the bottom. This time, I really had enough of the instructors and asked Jeff to ski with me and  help out instead.  Being the good husband, and knowing I would probably never ski again if he didn't help, agreed.  We ended up having a great time and my ability and confidence grew in leaps and bounds. We even decided the next day, to skip my lesson and just ski together in the morning. It was awesome and he was really proud of me, I even managed to get off the last chair lift ride without his help.  So to make a long story short, way to feckin late for that, if you are terrified of skiing get a private lesson, but if you are just a newbie the SSU is a great way to learn.

Now I really cannot give an accurate review of the hills since I only skied the 2 green runs and I am a newbie, but I thought they were amazing and they seemed to have runs for all abilities.  Jeff thought the skiing was great, but he didn't try anything too difficult as Jake was with him most of the time. I would recommend reading others reviews of the runs for better information.  The lift operators were friendly and helpful and they were great at communicating with you  (well with the exception of the halfway point for some reason, I think they put the unhelpful ones there)

The FunZone was a great place to go for after skiing with the kids. There are lots of fun things to do there for kids of any age.  They have a special play area for kids under 8, which I think they should change to kids under 6. The older kids were a little too crazy to be doing the same things as the little toddlers.  Jesse had a great time in this section, and he especially loved the bouncy castle.  It was a great place to tire out your kids before bedtime or on a rainy day.

The swimming pool and hot tubs beside the FunZone were nice, if overly chlorinated (but I guess that is better than catching something nasty).  Both Jesse and Jake enjoyed the swimming area. Only complaint here is that there was no shallow area and since Jake is terrified of deeper water, it wasn't very relaxing for us.   Loved the fact that there was one hot tub for families and one hot tub for adults only.  Great for those who have older kids and you can get away from them for a little while. Since Jesse is too young to immerse in the hot tub, he sat on my lap and we kicked his feet in the hot water. He loved it and cried when we had to leave.

On Thursday night they have tons of activities for the whole family. There was hot chocolate and marshmallows for the kids around the bonfire, a play geared to the younger audiences (Jesse loved this and tried to take part in it) and a spectacular Torch light parade and fireworks.  It was a memorable last night for us!

The best part and the biggest reason we will be going back to Smugglers Notch next year is the Treasures child care facility.  This place is every parents dream and the kids there are having so much fun, they won't even know you have left them.  It is a state of the art child care centre that is open from 8:30 - 4:00pm EVERY DAY.  They have radiant floor heating (so no stress trying to keep Jesse's shoes on, because they encourage no shoes), bright colourful giant fish tanks in every room, child friendly bathrooms, one-way observation windows,  and the most incredibly trained and friendly child care providers you have ever met.The building is even designed to give you the ability to ski in and ski out of there every day.

The facility caters to children from as early as 6 weeks all the way up to 3 years.  For those between the ages of 2.5 and 3.5 they even can learn to ski for an extra charge.  I cannot say enough about how impressed I was with both the facility and the staff.

Each morning I received a security card, that would have to be returned in order to pick up Jesse, which made me feel like he was in safe hands. They would then call up one of the lovely girls from the Little Dippers room where Jesse would be hanging out to come meet us in the hallway.  We would have a little chat each day about Jesse's mood and then they would ask him if he was ready to play and off they went, with Jesse not making ANY Fuss!  In fact as soon as I mentioned we were going to see Cora, Carin, Brenda and Ninette he would almost run out the door of the chalet.  The place is perfectly set up for --hmm how to I put this nicely -- little curious adventurers like Jesse.  There are tons of bright and interesting toys and kids are welcome to explore their surroundings, so this was something my little hellion could not get enough of.  The staff there are incredible and the kids are having an amazing time and they will not even miss you while you are gone. In fact I felt guilty picking Jesse up early one day since he was having such an amazing time with all the kids.

Healthy child friendly food is provided, but they are more than willing to serve your child his food from home instead -- again since Jesse is so fussy with his food - this was great for us.  They have plenty of activities through the day to keep the kids interested and happy. They also spend a lot of time in their spacious outdoor play yard which Jesse loved and we really appreciated it as well.  You can actually observe them playing outside while you are on the ski lift or skiing down Morse mountain.  For the older kids there are also trips to the Fun Zone where they have a special section with smaller bouncy play areas.

Each day we got a report on Jesse's day that included what he ate, when he slept, diaper changing times, staff that cared for him, what games he played and some special personal notes about him. Quite frankly since Jesse can be quite -- again how do I put this nicely - spirited, we are always nervous when we pick him up from daycare.  No worries here, they always grabbed us aside to tell us how wonderful, fun, friendly and curious he was.  Honestly, at first I thought they were just trying to make us feel good, but when I thought about it it made sense.  At Treasures everything is set up so that he can explore and not be locked in, and lack of freedom or exploring time are what set my little hellion off into tantrum time.  I already miss having Jesse at Treasures and wish I could have brought the whole facility home with me, it is the PERFECT place for the little ones.   This was also included in our package that we got at the ski show.

By chance through Facebook I found out that Jen Maier from was going to be at Smuggs at the same time. We made plans to meet up and chat.  She is a truly amazing women and we had a wonderful chat on a bench on a spectacular Vermont afternoon. I highly recommend you check out her site and join, you will not regret it.

The ride back to Bolton will be described as the Highway from Hell.  Jeff decided to save time and come back via the Montreal route and boy that was one horrible mistake! First we got to just outside of Montreal during rush hour which cost us a 1.5 hour delay and than they closed off the 401 just outside of Kingston and sent us and 5 million other drivers onto a 1 lane highway 2.  That second detour added another 2.5 hours on to our drive. So -- our supposed quicker trip took us an extra 4.5 hours and we got home at 2:30am. I won't go in to the horrors of Jesse on that ride, but I will commend Jake on helping us through it. In fact we were so impressed with him, we treated him to a $40 present from Toys R Us the next day. He was a real trooper.

Forgot to mention. Forget trying to connect to the Internet at their so-called "business centre" It was $6.95 for 15 minutes -- Can you say  HIGHWAY ROBBERY.  There are other options for connecting through your lodge if you have a laptop or Iphone, but since I am too poor to have either of those, it wasn't an option.

Now for some stuff to help you or provide you further information.  You can also contact me and I hopefully can answer any questions you have - or at least point you in the right direction

Packages and rates:   (also check out Toronto Ski Show where you might get a way better rate like we did)
Lessons and Programs:

Insider Tips:

   1. Beware of using Mapquest or other online navigational systems for your driving directions. The road from Stowe through Smugglers Pass (Rte. 108) is closed all winter, so consult the Smugglers Notch web site for the best route in.
   2. Book early. Youll get next years vacation at this years prices if you book before the end of this season. There are also special deals during the season, such as free childcare in January.
   3. Familiarize yourself with the Smugglers Notch web site, which is loaded with useful information that will help you get oriented more quickly once you arrive. Especially helpful: The Read Before You Pack page and free Perfect Winter Vacation Planning Guide, which can be downloaded or ordered online.
   4. If youre renting equipment, take care of fittings when you arrive to avoid the next mornings rush. The rental shop stays open until 8pm.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mom and Me Monday Review: Silver Birch Edition: Inside Hockey

Ok, I do know its not Monday, but I just ran out of time yesterday. We just got back from a weeks vacation in Vermont and I am terribly behind in EVERYTHING.  I will be posting about my trip later this week on my other blog.  Enough babbling here is our review

Inside Hockey
by Keltie Thomas
Illustrations by Keltie Thomas
Publisher: Maple Tree Press Inc
ISBN: 978-1-897349-29-8
64 Pages
Ages: 7-12

Publishers Description: Keltie Thomas introduces young readers to the wild side of professional hockey, past and present, in this entertaining and informative book. Illustrated with photographs and humorous drawings, Inside Hockey! recounts the facts, adventures, and rare anecdotes that continue to make hockey one of North Americas most popular sports. It's all here the stories about the superstars (male and female), the rules that changed the game, and the dazzling science behind the sport. Thomas profiles such unforgettable characters as the player who would rather fight than score, a goalie who sewed an elastic mesh net between his legs to catch the puck, and the guy who talked to the goalposts like they were old friends. Special categories include Legends on Ice, Strange but True, and Science at Play. This is the perfect trivia contest book, too, with the stories behind the greatest goal scorers, crazy goalies, practical jokers and hijinks, superstitions, the most ferocious fights, players overcoming obstacles, and the enduring obsession with that Cup called Stanley.

Jake's Review: "Mom did you know Wayne Gretzky's nickname is "The Great One", Did you know that Patrick Roy talks to his goal post, Did you know GIRLS play hockey and they are good at it."  "Jake, shut up and just read the book to yourself. We can talk about it after you are done it all" "But Mom, did you know .."
This book is AWESOME, can I play hockey now (Arrgh from Mom).  I loved all the stuff about the OLD hockey players and all of the stuff they did.  That is cool that they never wore helmets or masks.  Hey Mom, Did you know that Jacque Plante (won't mention how he pronounced it) was the first goalie who wore a face mask all the time?"  Actually Jake, yes I did know -- I saw the Heritage Canada Commercial. Mom, can you buy me this book?

Rating: 10/10

Mom's Review: Jake did you know that Tim Horton was actually a hockey player, not just a darn good coffee, and he never made it into this book.  See your Mom does know SOMETHING about Hockey!  I loved this book alone for the fact that Jake, my little boy who knows NOTHING about hockey, actually became interested in the sport and now wants to watch hockey with Daddy. Yeah for me, now I can watch the other TV in peace while the 2 of them watch hockey together!  It was a great book for talking with your kids about how the game has changed over the years and about some of the Canada's greats.  Ok, Jeff talked to him mostly, but I threw in a few words now and than. I am Canadian after all and do know a few things about Hockey  -- now if someone could just explain to me what the difference is between "Off-side" and "2 line pass"  The format of the book is perfect for this age range and the illustrations really enhance the text. I enjoyed reading it also since I have such a trivia nut -- now I have a chance in the Sports category of trivial pursuit.  I recommend this highly for any Canadian child to read. Lots of fun for both boys and girls!
Rating: 10/10

Beautiful Blogger Award

I received this award from Reading With Tequila. Thank you!

Here's the rules:

1. Thank and link to the person that gave you the award
2. Pass the award onto 15 bloggers you've recently discovered and think are fantastic
3. Contact said Blogs and let them know they've won
4. State 7 things about yourself

7 things about me
  1. I was voted least likely to become a Lesbian in College  -- Not a shot against Lesbians - I just really like the boys!
  2. I read in the bathroom to get away from my boys and have peace and quiet
  3. I have been known to cry during McDonalds commercials and episodes of ST:TNG
  4. Even though they drive me crazy I love my husband and boys more than anything -- even Baileys, Boys and Books
  5. Successful and beautiful people make me tongue twisted and really shy
  6. I want to be a Childrens Librarian
  7. I'm a Library Technician with a potty mouth and a tattoo of an Otter on my left shoulder
I am passing this award onto
  1. My Disorganized Ramblings
  2. Dark Faerie Tales 
  3. Cougar Tales 
  4. Vampirewire 
  5. Larissas Life
  6. The Misadventures Of Super Librarian 
  7. The Book Resort 
  8. The Bibliophilic Book Blog 
  9. Park-Avenue Princess 
  10. Libby's Library News 
  11. In Which a Girl Reads 
  12. Stacy's Books 
  13. Carol's Notebook 
  14. Blood Lines 
  15. Cheryls Book Nook

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mommy and Me Monday (Early this week due to other circumstances) - Silver Birch Edition

A Bear in War
Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat
Illustrated by Brian Deines
Publisher:Key Porter Books Ltd
ISBN : 9781554700974
40 Pages
Ages 4-8 (+Teachers and crybaby moms)

Publisher Description:  In 1916, at the height of the First World War, a Canadian teddy bear travelled all the way to France in a care package destined for Lawrence Browning Rogers--a gift from his ten-year-old daughter, Aileen. When Teddy returned from the front lines, more than a year later, he did so alone: Lieutenant Rogers, along with many other Canadian soldiers, died at the battle of Passchendaele. Today, Teddy resides in a glass display case at the Canadian War Museum--one of the most beloved exhibits in the building. Small and brown and nothing at all like a modern stuffed bear, Teddy has an amazing story to tell. In 2002 Lawrence''s granddaughter, Roberta Rogers Innes, found Teddy, the letters and other war memorabilia inside a large family briefcase. As she delved deeper, Roberta discovered how a Canadian family''s strength was tested during the First World War and how a tiny bear became an enduring memento of their love. Now, in A Bear in War , Stephanie Innes (Roberta''s daughter) and Harry Endrulat share Teddy''s remarkable story--from his life in East Farnham, Quebec, and his voyage overseas to his eventual journey home. Each chapter in Teddy''s tale is brought to life through Brian Deines'' poignant art. The result is a powerful, moving piece of literature--a picture book destined to become a Canadian classic.

Jake, Jeff and I all very much disagree on this book.

Jake's Review: I don't like this book. It is about war which is bad. The story is sad and I don't want to read it again. (Mom's note -- I saw him with a few tears in his eyes while reading it).
Rating: 1/10

Mom's Review: What a beautiful and poignant story and I totally cried while reading it.  The story is told from the eyes of a Teddy bear on the day he is given to a little Quebec girl with polio during WWI .  It is based on the true story of a Canadian soldier who was sent his daughters teddy bear to keep him company in the trenches and when he died it was returned to his daughter (Hmm, you're understanding why I cried). Through Teddy and Aileen's eyes you learn about family life, polio and war in a touching and sensitive manner.  It was a great story for starting a dialogue about war with Jake. Jeff and I discussed it with Jake and I explained to him about how his great grandfather Porter fought in the war and some of his experiences.  This may be a hard read for sensitive children (and crybaby mommies) so I advise you to read it with your children so that you can talk about it.  The illustrations are lovely to look at and really bring the story to life.  I highly recommend this for Teachers, as it is a sensitively done introduction to WW1 and how it affected family life in Canada. 
Rating: 9/10

Jeff's Comments: Why do they make kids read this sad crap.  Life is hard enough as it is and they should be reading fun escapism stuff instead (This started a lively discussion between us -- Don't even get me started about our differences on the holocaust movies we watched in high school)

The Insecto-Files
Helaine Becker
Maple Tree Press
64 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-897349-46-5
Ages: 8-12

Publisher Description: Most experts believe there are over 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects digging, boring, flying, crawling, and excreting their way in and around the Earth. Thats about a billion billion bugs for every single person. And thats not even counting their close relatives, the arachnids, which include spiders, lice, ticks, scorpions, and mites. So, if we humans really are that outnumbered, wouldnt it be a good idea to learn a little more about our insect overlords? Helaine Beckers latest activities guide does just that. Following the same format as her critically acclaimed Science on the Loose, which demystified science through fun and silly experiments, The Insecto-Files investigates the hidden lives of insects. It blends little-known facts about bugs with a wealth of easy-to-do activities that are as entertaining as they are educational. Packed with Beckers trademark blend of energy, irreverence, and information, The Insecto-Files offers budding entomologists a gleeful guerrilla approach to learning about the wonderful world of bugs.

 Jake's Review: This book is totally wicked!! I think its cool to learn about what is inside and outside the books. The pictures are really funny, especially the one with the T-Rex holding a fly swatter and swatting at the dragon fly.  Also liked the picture and the facts about the "periodical cicadas". They can get a certain fanny-loving fungus that causes their bums to fall off (said with the typical grin of an 8 yr old boy when he says bum). I liked that they had experiments that we can do at home. Jake: Mom, can we do some of the experiments.  Mom: Jake its 9:00pm and the book is due back to the library tomorrow. Jake: So can we do one of the experiments? Mom: Jake go to bed!
Rating: 9/10

Mom's Review: I liked this book, just for the simple fact that my kid WANTED to read it.  That's pretty much enough for me to give it a good review.  However, that won't help you guys decide whether you want to read it or not so here is a bit more.  This book is a perfect introduction to insects for boys (and for the less squeamish of us girls).  The illustrations are funny and the facts are stated in simple and fun terminology (Fanny-loving fungus -- I love it!!!) The collection of original experiments and activities encourages kids in an entertaining way to think, do and learn, and the little buggers don't even know it. For fellow parents concerns -- each experiment can be safely performed at home using everyday equipment and ingredients with minimum fuss. If we had more time with the book, I definitely would have done some of the experiments. 
Rating: 9/10

The above books are from the Albion Bolton Public Library and nobody paid us nothing for either of us to review them. In fact it is Jake's homework!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review of Just Dance for Wii by Ubisoft

Just Dance
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Genre(s): Dancing
Players: 4 
ReceivedFree from Bzz Agent for review Purposes - Retails for about $39 Cdn

I was very excited about getting a copy of this to review, but I was quite disappointed.  Jeff, Jake and I put Jesse to bed a couple of weeks ago and than ran (and I mean ran) downstairs excited to try this one out. 

Boy that excitement died out pretty quickly. The graphics are extremely amateurish, considering all the developments in the gaming industry.  There are only approximately 30 songs, that I am sure we will get tired of them pretty quickly and the game itself doesn't measure your performance accurately.  I imagine this is due to the fact that there are no peripherals. Instead the game uses the Wiimote to judge how well you mirror the movements of the on-screen figure. Since Jake and I, hmm how to put this nicely, have the dance skills of an infant, I can't say how accurate the read the game gets is, but honestly it seems pretty random.  Many a time I scored higher than Jeff, who actually has rhythm and is an excellent dancer (yes I did boast that I got a better mark, but that led to quite a few sarcastic comments about my lack of rhythm)

I do have to say it was fun to play at times, especially when watching my uncoordinated little boy try to keep up with the onscreen dancer.  Jake really enjoyed playing it and asked if him and Nathanial (8 yrs old too) could play with it.  The two of them played it for over an hour the next day and had tons of fun. So basically, its a great game for 8 yr old boys and for drinking wine and watching your kids play it for your entertainment (us parents really enjoy the simple things)

If you let the faults with the game go, it is worth a few larks.  It would be worth approximately $10-15, but I wouldn't pay more than that for it.

I have started to lend it out to some of my friends and will also post their reviews about it, so you get a broader range of opinions. 

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Bzzagent:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review: The Heights by Peter Hedges

The Heights
Peter Hedges
March 2010
304 Pages
Dutton, Penguin Books
ISBN 9780525951131
Received free from Library Things Member Giveaway Program

Description: Tim Welch is a popular history teacher at the Montague Academy, an exclusive private school in Brooklyn Heights. As he says, "I was an odd-looking, gawky kid but I like to think my rocky start forced me to develop empathy, kindness, and a tendency to be enthusiastic. All of this, I'm now convinced, helped in my quest to be worthy of Kate Oliver." Now, Kate is not inherently ordinary. But she aspires to be. She stays home with their two young sons in a modest apartment trying desperately to become the parent she never had. They are seemingly the last middle-class family in the Heights, whose world is turned upside down by Anna Brody, the new neighbor who moves into the most expensive brownstone in Brooklyn, sending the local society into a tailspin.

Anna is not only beautiful and wealthy; she's also mysterious. And for reasons Kate doesn't quite understand, even as all the Range Rover- driving moms jockey for invitations into Anna's circle, Anna sets her sights on Kate and Tim and brings them into her world.

Jen's Review: I had a feeling I would like this one, just because the author wrote the screenplay for two delightful movies that I love, About a Boy and Dan in Real Life. He has a talent for creating characters that are flawed, complex but lovable. In other words Real!   I really enjoyed this novel and did not want to put it down. It is a deftly told tale of the dangers of keeping secrets in a marriage. The storyline was compelling and the characters interesting, almost like you know people just like them.   The writing is crisp and at times laugh out loud funny -- trust me, I snorted on the bus many a time! 

I loved the scene where Kate called Tim to tell him that there son had finally pooped in the potty.  This is the world I belong to and it is truly the little things in life that parents often treasure and celebrate. This is where Peter Hedges excels in both his novels and his screenplays, he captures some of these "real" moments beautifully and truthfully. Many a time while reading this I felt myself nodding vigorously along with some of his observations on life, marriage and children.  As a married (For 16 years) mom with two small boys I have understood and felt the emotions that Kate is struggling with.  I felt  myself  hoping that even though Tim and Kate were in a situation that has destroyed many a marriage, that they would make it.

My only disappointment with the novel, was the character of Anna.  I didn't find her character very developed, almost like she was a caricature of  a real person.  I really could not understand the fascination that the other characters had for her.

Most importantly for me, there was an illusion to a happy ending for the couple.  Maybe this makes me a simple person, but I NEED a happy ending for me to truly enjoy a story.

Some of my favorite quotes or passages.

"I amused them and even myself, and for a few hours I was not only the mother I never had, I was the mother of all mothers"

"Hurry home, okay? We won't flush until you get here"

"I remembered something Tim once said: Children fall asleep so you can love them again"

"I mean he's begging me for it, so I make Dan the Bear an offer "Fine sweetie. Make a million by Easter and you can F*** me in the A**"  ...
Some Men wait their whole lives to overhear this kind of conversation. Unfortunately, it was time to go pick up Teddy and Sam from preschool, so I stood up to leave.  From the stunned expressions on their collective faces, it became clear that while they hadn't noticed me before, they noticed me now..... So to put them at ease, I turned and said. "Forgive the intrusion, but what happens if he doesn't make the money?"  Claudia paused. "I haven't provided for t hat" "My suggestion for what it's worth, if he doesn't make the million by Easter -- then YOU f*** him in the a**.  Then Claudia slapped her knee and roared triumphantly "Yes!"

I will be surprised if this novel is not turned into a movie.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mom and Me Mondays

Hi Everyone, this is going to me a once a week post in which Jake and I review some picture or middle grade school books.  We will both give our opinions, because I really believe that we should hear from the people that the books are for, and not just from the opinion of parents, teachers or librarians.  I also think it will be good for Jake to be able to learn to express himself more and build his confidence.

Chester's Masterpiece
Melanie Watt (& Chester)
Kids Can Press
ISBN: 978-1-55453-566-8
32 Pages
Ages: 4 - 8 (I believe ANY age, would enjoy it)
Purchased at S&B books at the OLA 2010 - book is signed to Jesse from Melanie

Description:  Chesters finally ready to write his own masterpiece he just needs to get pesky writer-illustrator MГ©lanie Watt out of the way. Chesters solo attempts at storytelling are messy, to say the least, but hes determined to go it alone. But wheres his story going? After several alternative (but always unhappy) endings, Chester is confronted by a problem he never bargained for.

Jake's Review: I love this book, why is it signed to Jesse? This book made me laugh.  I really liked how the mouse and Melanie argue with Chester all the time.  It made me laugh when Chester ran out of ink and couldn't communicate anymore.  Chester looked funny when he was dressed as a mime.  I liked the last page where you find out that Chester has dumped all of Melanie's stuff in the kitty litter.
Rating: 10/10

Mom's Review: Ok Jake, you are not the only kid in the family.  You have 2 books already signed by Melanie Watt and far more books than Jesse.  Jesse should have one too -- now leave me alone so I can write my review.  But MOM -- Jesse just eats books!  I know Jake, but I'm hoping he grows out of it (at this Jeff laughs hysterically and says don't think so).  Ok, now back to the review.  I'm prejudiced with this one, since I absolutely adore Melanie Watt and all of her work.  It would have to be pretty crappy (Yes Jake, I know I owe you a quarter for using crappy) for me not to like it.  However, I wouldn't be lying or exaggerating  when I say this book is outstanding. Both parents and kids of all ages will fall in love with Chester's Masterpiece and i dare you not to giggle out-loud while looking through it.  The illustrations are adorable and the characters just plain delightful.  I loved watching Jake while he read it, because he really took his time looking at everything and was constantly giggling out loud.  A very simple and lovingly done story about the creative process involved in creating a story/book.   One of my favorite things about Melanie Watt's picture books is that she makes everything interesting, even the verso information, which lets face it, most people just skip over. With Melanie you read and look at every single part of the book.
Rating: 10/10

The King's Taster
Kenneth Oppel, Paintings by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher
HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 978-000-200-700-9
Ages: 3-6
Received Free from HarperCollins at OLA 2010 - book signed to Jesse

Description: Max is the cooks dog. And because he is also the kings taster, Max gets to feast on wild boar! cheese pies! rose pudding! No wonder Max loves his job. Who wouldnt want to dine on these delicious dishes? The new king, thats who. Max and the cook must find a new recipeand fast. Otherwise, if the new king has his way, theyll be losing more than just their jobs!

Jake's Review: This book is boring and I don't like it.  The dog is cute and I like the picture where he does this (Imagine Jake sticking out his tongue, just like the dog on the cover).  I didn't like how the cook was going to have his head cut off because the picky little boy didn't like any of the foods. The King is not a nice little boy and I don't like him.  I liked the end part when the cook and the dog didn't have to work for the little boy anymore. Wouldn't read it again though
Rating: 4.5/10

Mom's Review: I wanted to like this book, but I have to be honest, I really didn't. There were some cute parts for instance when the child king gets busted for eating candy, but it was few and far between.  I found the art far too sophisticated for the target audience, but adults will definitely appreciate it. The illustrations were quite unusual and I would have to say I liked them, but not for a picture book.  I found the characters to be unremarkable and totally forgettable. The whole premise of the story was a fantastic idea, but in this case I believe it was poorly executed.  I have read other works by Kenneth Oppel and have enjoyed him, but not in this case. 
Rating: 4/10

Friday, March 5, 2010

Canadian Library Association Announces 2010 Book of the Year for Children Award Shortlist

Thinking I am going to check out some of these and give my reviews of them

Canadian Library Association Announces 2010 Book of the Year for Children Award Shortlist
(Ottawa, March 2, 2010) The Canadian Association of Childrens Librarians, Section of the Canadian Association of Public Libraries, a Division of the CLA, is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2010 Book of the Year for Children Award.
This notable award recognizes a Canadian author of an outstanding book published in Canada in 2009, which appeals to children up to and including age 12.
This year, the committee was presented with 162 books, of which 49 were ultimately long-listed for thorough reading and review.  The wealth of extraordinary childrens writers in Canada made this a phenomenal task.  On behalf of the children of Canada, we salute the efforts and accomplishments of these writers, and we thank them and their publishers for providing our children with an inspired collection of new titles.
The finalists for the 2010 CLA Book of the Year for Children Award, in alphabetical order by author, are:
  • Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, Book 1 by R. J. Anderson (HarperCollins)
  • Walking Backward by Catherine Austen (Orca)
  • Watching Jimmy by Nancy Hartry (Tundra)
  • Zoobreak by Gordon Korman (Scholastic)
  • Dragon Seer by Janet McNaughton (HarperCollins)
  • Blue Mountain Trouble by Martin Mordecai (Scholastic)
  • Vanishing Girl by Shane Peacock (Tundra)
  • The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade (HarperCollins)
  • Puppet by Eva Weisman (Tundra)
  • Rex Zero, The Great Pretender by Tim Wynne-Jones (Groundwood)
Respectfully submitted on behalf of the 2009-2010 CLA Book of the Year for Children Award Committee:
Helen Kubiw, Teacher-librarian, Guelph - Chair
Myra Junyk, Literacy Advocate and Author, Toronto
Kathryn Weisman, Teacher-librarian (retired), Vancouver
Alexandra Yarrow, Librarian, Ottawa

The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothГЁques is Canadas largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy. 
For more information contact: Helen Kubiw at (519) 763-7040 x 409