Shoebox Funeral

Title: Shoebox Funeral
Author: Elizabeth Voltz
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Elizabeth Voltz grew up on a farm in Wolf Creek. She is one of ten kids. She is the second youngest. She often made her own fun by playing with the animals on the farm, particularly the cats. However, this also meant she had to bury her beloved friends starting from a young age. This memoir tells of her experiences with these animals.

I could relate to a lot of what she talked about in regards to the pet cats. She distinguished between the house cats and the barn cats. At my house, we feed a lot of stray cats. I like to play with some of the kittens and they all have names. I understood the emotional attachment she got to them, even when they weren’t really her pets. Often this attachment leads to heartbreak when they get sick or injured beyond recovery.

This is a well written book. I enjoyed a lot of it, but the heartbreaking stories of having to bury pets were too much for me. I’ve had to do that before and it dredged up too many unhappy memories. This is a good book, but too emotional for me.

The Hockey Saint

Title: The Hockey Saint
Author: Howard Shapiro
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

Tom Leonard is a hockey player and a sophomore in university. His coach made him assistant captain for the team and he may get a full scholarship for his next year at school. He lives with his grandmother because his parents were killed in a car accident when he was a kid. He loves hockey and his favourite player is Jeremiah Jacobson. When he finds out where Jeremiah lives, he goes and sits outside his house, just to think about the problems in his life. Jeremiah goes outside and starts talking to Tom. Jeremiah tells Tom that he lost his father as a child too, so he understands what Tom is feeling. He invites Tom to go out with him the next day.

When Tom meets him the next day, they go to a food bank where Jeremiah volunteers every week. Tom assumed that Jeremiah went there to sign autographs but he wants to help people. Then he takes Tom to his next stop at a hospital to visit with veterans and children with cancer. Jeremiah continues to defy Tom’s expectations of who a stereotypical athlete should be.

Tom learns that his idol is very generous. Jeremiah is a famous hockey player who uses his status to help people who are less fortunate. Tom is shocked when he does this without asking for recognition. There are some celebrities that do this in the real world. Celebrities, whether they are athletes, singers, actors, or another profession, have a lot of influence over large portions of the population so they could make a positive impact on the world if they use their influence in a good way. However, many don’t use their power to make positive changes.

This is a really good graphic novel because of the way it looks at helping people who are less fortunate. Tom’s assumptions of Jeremiah looking for recognition of his good deeds are also knocked down. I like this positive message in the story. It is the third graphic novel in a trilogy from Howard Shapiro. The first one is called The Stereotypical Freaks. You can find my review of it here.

The Book of Summer

Title: The Book of Summer
Author: Michelle Gable
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Bess Codman has returned to her family’s summer home in Nantucket. Her father asked her to go there to help her mom move out of their house. The cliff that the house is built on has been eroding away and the house is in danger of being destroyed. However, her mother, Cissy, refuses to leave. Instead, Cissy keeps asking the city council for help in building barriers between the ocean and the house so it can be saved. Bess was planning on going back to her family’s home for her cousin’s wedding. Bess is divorcing her husband, but she hasn’t told her mom the real reason why.

Bess’s narrative is interspersed with excerpts from the Book of Summer. The Book of Summer is a guest book that her grandmother started for people to write about their experiences at Cliff House every summer. The narrative returns to Bess’s grandmother Ruby’s young adulthood during World War II. Bess’s and Ruby’s lives are parallel in many ways as they get married and mature.

This is a great summer read, since the story follows multiple summers at Cliff House over a span of about seventy years. The multiple narratives are great and each chapter has a cliffhanger, which made me want to read more. There are also some newsletters from the town in it too, giving the town’s perspective of Cissy’s dilemma.

Though it mostly shows the summers that these family members spent at Cliff House, it gives a full picture of their lives. Some of the most pivotal moments in their lives happened at Cliff House, including marriages and deaths.

I really liked the drama in this book. There were lots of unpredictable plot twists that were really exciting. It’s a perfect read for this upcoming summer!

Just Jen

Title: Just Jen: Thriving Through Multiple Sclerosis
Author: Jen Powley
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Roseway Publishing
Release Date: May 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Jen Powley was diagnosed with Mulitple Sclerosis at the age of 15. Now she is in her late 30s and has written a memoir about living with MS.

Jen grew up in Alberta and later moved to Halifax, where she has earned multiple degrees. Despite the many challenges she has faced since her diagnosis, Jen never gave up. Rather than dismissing her dreams, she adapted them to her new situation. For example, since she is now in a wheelchair, it would be impossible for her to go rockclimbing like she always dreamed of doing. Instead, she had a colleague strap her to his back while he propelled down the side of a building, making her feel like she was rock climbing.

Jen’s story highlights how inaccessible the world is. When she attended a lecture, she noticed that the wheelchair ramp only led to the seats on the end of the aisles rather than the front podium. This shows that the architect imagined someone in a wheelchair attending a lecture in that room but not actually giving the lecture.

Jen has a great sense of humour. This came across in her narrative. She dictated her book with the help of her assistants because she does not have the use of her hands anymore. It’s amazing that this technology allowed Jen to tell the story of her life.

I had the pleasure of seeing Jen speak at the Festival of Literary Diversity. She is truly inspiring. She has faced many challenges but she never let them stop her. Jen is also very talented, as demonstrated through her poignant, humourous, and touching narrative.

New Release: Ocean of Secrets Vol. 1

Title: Ocean of Secrets Vol. 1
Author: Sophie Chan
Genre: Graphic Novel, Manga
Publisher: Tokyopop
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: ★★

When Lia, an orphan, falls into the ocean during a storm, she is rescued by Moira and Albert. Not only did she fall into the sea, but she fell into a different world. Moira and Albert are runaways who stole their ship. They show Lia the secrets of their mysterious world, and solve the mystery of the King’s long lost daughter.

This story is simple. It moved very slowly. There could have been more details to make it more exciting.

I liked the twist at the end, when they discover the identity of the lost princess. However, the story was so short, I wasn’t really invested in the characters. The idea behind the plot was good. However, if it was more detailed, I would have felt more of a connection to the story and the characters.

Seven Days in May

Title: Seven Days in May
Author: Kim Izzo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harper 360
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

The year is 1915. Sydney is a fighter for women’s rights in New York. Her sister Brooke is focused on getting married so she will have a title. They inherited fortunes from their father. Brooke gets engaged to Edward Thorpe-Tracey, whose family owns an estate in England. However, the estate is falling apart so his family need a fortune to save it. Edward goes over to New York to escort the sisters to England for the wedding. Meanwhile in London, Isabel works in Room 40, deciphering messages pertaining to the war. She learns that the ship called the Lusitania is now a target for the Germans. But she also finds out that the First Lord Churchill wants to allow a ship with American passengers to be attacked so the Americans will join the war. Isabel is determined to stop this from happening. Just before Edward, Sydney, and Brooke board the Lusitania in New York, everyone sees an ad in the newspaper from the Germans that says the Lusitania is being targeted and warning them not to get on it. Despite this warning, the passengers get on. They all head out on the seven day journey across the Atlantic.

This story followed multiple perspectives: Sydney, Edward, and Isabel. I liked that two sides of the situation were demonstrated, the passengers and the English who were trying to prevent the attack.

All of the characters also had their own problems that they had to deal with as well as facing the problem of a possible attack from the Germans. This reflects the actual war, since everyone faced an imminent threat, but they still had to deal with their own lives.

This story is based on true events. Some of the characters were real people, though the main characters are fictional. I love when authors are able to blend fact and fiction to create a beautiful story. This author also has personal ties to the story which are revealed at the end.

I chose to read this book because I liked The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo. Though this novel is very different from that one because it is historical fiction, I really enjoyed it! I learned about an impactful attack in World War I that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

New Release: Betty Boop

Title: Betty Boop
Author: Roger Langridge
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Betty Boop works as a waitress at the Oop-A-Doop club. Sometimes she sings, despite complaints from her boss about not doing her proper job. She lives with her grandfather, who they call Grampy. Grampy is very gullible. A creature named Lenny Lizardlips wants to get Grampy’s house. He sends his henchmen to Grampy’s house, and each time Grampy signs the house over to them, believing their story of why they need the house. Betty has to rush home from work every time to save their home from Lenny Lizardlips. Her friends Bimbo, Sandy, and Koko help her out too.

This is the first Betty Boop story I’ve read. I was familiar with most of the characters from their appearances in other places in pop culture.

This story was very entertaining. Many of the characters sing throughout the comics, such as Betty, Skat Skellington (the club singer), and Lenny Lizardlips. They sang songs about what was happening to them in the moment.

I liked how each comic had the same general outline, with Grampy selling their house and Betty having to go to his rescue. However, the last comic had a great twist at the end that I didn’t see coming!

I enjoyed this graphic novel, and I look forward to reading more Betty Boop comics in the future.

Abracadabra

Title: Abracadabra
Author: Bevin Rolfs Spencer
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Release Date: April 1, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Mozart, Lucy, Estaban, and PJ are the Backyard Players. They put on plays in Mozart’s backyard for their neighbours. When they are looking for the props for their latest play, they find a magic wand with a note. They have five chances to use the wand, but they have to use the magic word. They guess that the magic word is “Abracadabra,” but when Esteban waves the wand, it turns PJ into a pig! They go to the magic shop where the wand is from to try to figure out how to turn PJ back into a boy before they have to perform their play that evening.

This is a really cute story. It’s great for middle grade readers! It’s funny because every time they think of a new magic word to use to try and change PJ back, they make it worse by giving him wings or a tail.

One thing that bothered me in the story is that the pictures didn’t always match up with what was happening in the story. For example, the words say that Esteban waves the wand, but in the picture that accompanies that chapter Mozart waves it. There were a few instances where this happened so it was confusing. This could also have been fixed in the final copy because I was reading a ARC.

This is a funny story, and I hope there are more to come!

London Book Haul

I wish I had more room in my luggage for all the books I saw! There were some amazing books at all the attractions I visited.

The Adventures of Alice Laselles was the first book I purchased. It was written by Queen Victoria when she was ten years old. I had never heard of it, so I’m so excited to read it when I get home!

These Dark Wings is the first book in The Ravenmaster Trilogy. I bought it at The Raven Shop in the Tower of London. I love the ravens at the Tower. This book sounds awesome!

I purchased the other three books at Foyles. I have wanted to read Belgravia for a long time! I’m a huge fan of Downton Abbey and Julian Fellowes. I am also excited to read Lucy Worsley’s novel My Name is Victoria. As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Queen Victoria. The Sun Is Also A Star was half price, so I couldn’t resist since I just finished Nicola Yoon’s other novel Everything Everything.

I think this is a pretty great book haul from London. I just wish I had unlimited luggage space to bring home all the books!L

Jelly Bean Summer

Title: Jelly Bean Summer
Author: Joyce Magnin
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: Jabberwocky
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Joyce Anne is an eleven-year-old girl who shares a bedroom with her older sister Elaine and Elaine’s pet guinea pig, Jelly Bean. Her older brother is missing in the Vietnam War. Her missing brother causes a lot of tension in her house. Elaine constantly claims to see UFOs in the sky. One day, Joyce gets sick of hearing about her sister’s UFO sightings and she decides to move to the roof. She brings a tent up along with some books and binoculars to keep an eye on the neighbours. As she watches the other houses, she sees a teenage boy standing on another roof, also looking through binoculars. They write on papers and hold them up to each other to communicate. When Joyce goes over to meet the boy, Brian, she learns that his brother died in the war. His mother also died long ago so he just lives with his father. But his father doesn’t want to take care of him anymore. He thinks Brian would be better off living with his aunt in Arizona. Brian is currently working on a car so that he can drive it to Arizona, but he needs money to finish the job. Joyce has the idea to create a miniature UFO and sell tickets for people to see it. The problem is that Joyce will need her sister’s help to build it. Can they put aside their differences to help the cute boy from down the street?

I liked the way this story demonstrated the effects of the Vietnam war on the families of the soldiers. It changed the way that Brian’s family and Joyce’s family lived. It also gave Joyce and Brian something in common (both having brothers who fought in the war), despite their age difference.

I didn’t feel a strong connection with the characters. They all seemed a little one-dimensional, including Joyce who is the main character and the narrator. She has a one-track mind, and only focuses on helping Brian get his car working.

I also struggled with the title of the book. I don’t think it is descriptive of what actually happens. Jelly Bean, the guinea pig, is only a small part of the story. I think the title could have told more about the plot of the novel.