Review – Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott


Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time, my name was not Alice.
Once upon a time, I didn't know how lucky I was.

When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends – her life. She learned to give up all her power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over. Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.

This is Alice’s story.
It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

Alice is a fifteen year old girl who lives with Ray, her kidnapper, abuser, molester, her Daddy. Alice wasn’t always a starved, beaten and sexually tormented teenager. She was another happier little girl, until the day 5 years ago when Ray kidnapped her during a fun school trip to the aquarium. But that little girl died, and now she goes on as Alice. A living dead girl.

This story is told from Alice’s point of view, and because of this I found myself unable to set this book down. Her story is so completely honest and devastating that it would have felt wrong to interrupt. Alice’s story is so heart-breaking that I became connected emotionally to her. The need for this child to have her say and find some peace was so strong, I thought that if only she could tell her story it would ease the pain of her existence. Surely this is a sign of talented writing, my feeling like I owed a character from a book my full attention or I would be guilty of somehow adding to her pain.

I’d like to say this was an enjoyable book to read, but I can’t. Alice’s pain was too real and Ray’s psychological problems too scary for any enjoyment. However, I do not regret reading Living Dead Girl. There were certain aspects that I felt gave a basic introduction into the circumstances of abuse. Although the highest percentage of abuse happens within a family circle, there are those abused children who, like Ray, grow up to kidnap and abuse strangers. It’s made clear during this story that Ray suffered at the hands of his own mother, making him both a victim and a perpetrator. Touchy subject, but this does happen. Something that has always bothered me is when people say they/their children would never let something like this happen to them, but they won’t know until they are in that situation. With Alice, is was interesting to see how she reacted to the survivors of abuse on the daytime soap operas, even as survivors they are blamed for what they’ve done and she sees this as just another kind of living death. Even worse than living like that, she has Ray’s threats of killing her old family should she try to leave. People could ask, “But why would you believe that? We could have helped.” But why wouldn’t she believe it? In her world Ray is God, she has no power over anything.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Living Dead Girl is Alice’s logic on certain things. She knows that the way her life appears to others, is not normal. Yet she is still baffled by their ease at ignoring what could be happening. When Ray decides that he would like another little girl to come live with them, Alice sees this as an escape for her. She has no doubt that with another Alice around, Ray will have no use for her, but even should he kill her, being away from him is worth it. Her feelings toward having a new girl also show how human instinct and the power of self-preservation can take-over – at one point Alice thinks to herself, “She will get his love and I will hold her down to take it all because then there will be none for me. I cannot save myself, and I do not want to save her.” and “Better her than me.”

As a final note, Living Dead Girl is listed as Young Adult fiction, for ages 16 and up. And even though there were no extremely graphic scenes found, I think that this book should be approached with a certain amount of maturity. Everyone with children will already know that not every teenager is the same. I’m sure that there are some kids (and adults) out there that would be very disturbed by this sensitive subject matter.

About The Author
Elizabeth Scott is the author of Bloom, Perfect You and Stealing Heaven. Something, Maybe, her newest title will be available in March 2009. For an interesting discussion with Elizabeth Scott, SimonSays has a podcast available for download here.

Title: Living Dead Girl
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Book Genre: Young Adult Fiction (16+)
Book Type: Hardcover 176 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 2008

Other Reviews
Book Addiction
Becky's Book Reviews
Tripping Toward Lucidity
Ticket To Anywhere
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Presenting Lenore
Melody's Reading Corner
The Friendly Book Nook
YA Fabulous!

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

Review – This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life--except that she's deeply unhappy. David expects the world of Violet but gives little of himself in return. When she meets Teddy, a roguish small-time bass player, Violet comes alive, and soon she's risking everything for the chance to find herself again. Also in the picture are David's hilariously high-strung sister, Sally, on the prowl for a successful husband, and Jeremy, the ESPN sportscaster savant who falls into her trap. For all their recklessness, Violet and Sally will discover that David and Jeremy have a few surprises of their own. THIS ONE IS MINE is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for more--and the often disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness.


After hearing that Maria Semple had been a writer for the TV show Mad About You, I knew I had to read her first novel. One of the things I enjoyed about Mad About You is that the two main characters, who are pretty average people, are surrounded by the weirdest characters. This is something I also enjoy in books, I crave personalities that are off-beat, bizarre and sometimes seem down-right crazy. This One Is Mine is perfect for this, as it’s pretty much impossible to find even one half-way normal person among the cast.

Another thing I found enjoyable about this novel, was the contrast between the two leading ladies. Violet is a wife and mother, living what would seem to most, the perfect life. While Sally, her sister-in-law is living the female equivalent of the bachelors life. But neither woman is happy with what they have, and both yearn for what the other has. However, they soon find out that what you want and what you have are not always so easy to mingle together.

I couldn’t say that I liked any of the characters in this story, they are all self-involved, materialistic, snobbish and way too concerned with quick, easy personal satisfaction. But, as horrible as I thought they were, I was quickly pulled into their stories. It was almost like watching a drunken idiot making a fool of himself – you know you should probably step-in, but you’re curious to know just how much of a disaster he’s gonna make and how he’s going to react once he sobers up.

This One Is Mine, is hard-edged chick-lit with lots of sex, cussing and downright dirty behaviour. This book doesn’t present any great messages on life, or teach you the values of morality. However, it will entertain. It’s a mixture of darker Desperate Housewives, lighter Jackie Collins with a twist of black comedy.   

About The Author
Maria Semple has written for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She has escaped from Los Angeles and lives with her family on an island off Seattle. This is her first novel.

Title: This One Is Mine
Author: Maria Semple
Book Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover 304 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: December 2008

Other Reviews
Books By TJBaff
Un-Mainstream Mom Reads
The Printed Page
A High And Hidden Place
Many more reviews here.

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

Sucked into Slacker-Supernova

This afternoon I came to the conclusion that the internet is definitely a major cause to me wasting time and getting nothing done. But it’s so frikkin’ entertaining! It’s my day off, I could have done laundry, groomed the dogs, caught up on reading, heck I could have even cleaned out the kids closets .. but instead I sat transfixed in front of the computer monitor watching something that cannot even be explained:

3 whole minutes of this – and I was entranced! It’s like “ohhhh look at those badgers … ahhh mushroom … ZOMG Snake!” Many brain cells destroyed with this video.

Then I see on the side of the screen these related videos and twenty minutes later I’ve become obsessed with movie trailers remade featuring The Muppets :D

Which of course led to this, the ultimate ‘stuck in my head’ song:

And there you have it – I am unarguably the easiest distracted person in the world,
with the attention span of an eggplant I’m sure.

But on a more book-related note, remember a few weeks back I had made up a blog award called the Well Worth Watching Award? Well, the uber-cool Lenore took this idea one step further and created an event on her blog where she will be interviewing bloggers in a Well Worth Watching Profile And she chose me to be her first guinea pig. Check out the link here to see our Q&A’s Thanks again Lenore, it was lots of  fun (she’s a great interviewer)

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

✉ Mailbox Monday ✉ 01-26-09

Time for another Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

I don’t know what happened this past week – I was attempting to hold back on the book addiction. But the boys both had gift cards left from Christmas and they sent me to the bookstore with a list of books they wanted. What was I supposed to do? It’s not as though I am strong-willed enough to not browse! *sigh*


  In The Mail 

Lives Of The Monster Dogs

Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlife

Fiction: A Novel


Random Cool Book Snags 

Bad Bloggers

Chris included a video of Plath on a recent post which made me want to re-read this.

Oh look at this - Chris again, he’s read a lot of DeLint and I liked the sound of this author.

Nymeth wrote an amazing review of this which made me desperate to read it myself.

Nymeth should really be the spokesperson for Hornby imo.

Lenore talked about the film version of this which looks awesome and I like to read the books first.

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

The Sunday Salon – A Little Bit Of Everything (or random chaos)

A few weeks back I said that I would be talking about Canada Reads 2009 in my Sunday Salon posts. And I fully intend to, except this week I am taking a break for a few reasons: A) I am not finished reading the book I had planned to talk about because B) the sinus infection from Hell has descended upon my cranium and C) I feel like my head is a balloon that some sadistic clown is trying to twist into an absurd Cthulhian creature


As I was updating a spreadsheet my hubs uses to keep track of his Star Wars books, I was getting really annoyed by the excessively long titles. But then I got to wondering what was the world’s longest title for a book and my Google searching led me to find this book by Nigel Tomm which contains 670 words. And even with all those words I still have no idea what it’s about :/

Here is a pic of the book cover, and below is the entire title.

“Selected Works of Nigel Tomm (2006/2007) (Shakespeare's Sonnets Remixed 2006 / Shakespeare's Hamlet Remixed 2007 / Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Remixed 2007 / Including Previously Unpublished Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender Remix 2007) Nigel Tomm is The Winner of The Anonymous Writers Club Award 2006 for The Best Anonymous Writer / Deconstructed Poetry Award 2006 for Innovations and Teamwork in Poetry / Decadence Prize 2007 for The Lifestyle / Flashy Rococo Coco Award 2006 for Flashy Thoughts / Baby Boomers Award 2006 for The Best Marketing / Anonymous Artists Prize 2007 for The Best Anonymous Artist / Life Academy Award 2006 for Ignorance of Some Aspects of Life / Graphomania Award 2007 for Writing / Formal English Institute Award 2006 for English Grammar Improvements / House of Original Remixes Award 2006 for Creativity / WordKillers Award 2006 for Killing Some Words Sometimes in Some Books / iStyle Award 2006 for Being Unnamed Style Icon / Librarians Under Sixty Award 2007 for Staying Young / Comedy Association Award 2007 for The Best Drama / Happy Dramatists Award 2006 for The Realest Reality Show / New Forms Award 2006 for Rediscovering Something Old / Best of The Best Award 2007 for Being The Best of The Bests / Alaska Lifetime Achievement Prize 2006 for Bringing The Sun to Canada / Flaming Unisex Award 2007 for Coming to Flaming Unisex Awards / Random Books Award 2006 for Random Words Which Sometimes Sell / Happy Housekeepers Award 2007 for Being an Example to Follow / Wild Foresters Award 2006 for Saving Trees from Book Lovers / Writing Bodybuilders Award 2007 for Keeping Nice Forms / Life Coaching Without Words Award 2006 for Bringing New Life to Some Words / Writing for Writing Foundation Award 2007 for Rewriting Some Writings / Speaking Parrots Award 2007 for Some Fresh Phrases / CopyPasters Award 2007 for Recopying Shakespeare / Silent People Award 2006 for Talking about Silence / Strange Books Award 2006 for The Best Back Cover Text / I Don't Care Award 2006 for Something We All Don't Care / Happy Clowns Award 2006 for The Biggest Sad Smile / Nonexistence Award 2007 for Trying to Believe in Existence / MTV eBooks Award 2007 for The Best Male Reader / Bicycle Fans Award 2006 for not Writing About Bicycles / Cool Firemen Award 2006 for New Flames in Literature / Penguin Lovers Prize 2007 for Being Vegetarian / Green Grass Award 2006 for Frustrated Ecology in Hamlet Remixed / Vintage Love Award 2006 for Writing About Old School Love / New Letters Award 2006 for Some Useless Innovations / Retired Encyclopedists Award 2007 for Universality in Rewriting / Nice Web Developers Award 2007 for Fresh Look / Space Lovers Award 2006 for Exploration of Literary Cosmos / Monotony Award 2006 for The Best Performance / Homemade Video Award 2007 for The Best Home Interior / Illusory Zoo Committee Prize 2007 for The Best Animal Character / Degenerated Politicians Award 2006 for Belief in Moral Norms / F***ing Teenagers Award 2007 for The Best Kiss / Tomorrow Morning's Fragrances Association Award 2006 for Smelling Words / London Punks Foundation Award 2007 for Ultra Cool Book with Hip Ending / Pessimistic Bankers Prize 2007 for Fresh Ideas on Pessimism / Soft-Hardcore Erotica Award 2006 for Remixed Feelings / Slow Talking Runners Award 2007 for Some Sweet Chats about Nothing / Honest Jet-Setters Prize 2006 for Being Honest to Honest People / Good Looking Pop Stars Award 2006 for The Best Interview Act / Disorientated Literary Agents Award 2006 for Trusting Nobody / Archaic Victorian Baroque Award 2007 for Crossing Borders Between Borders / Multicultural Context Prize 2006 for Multiculturalism in Books / Two Happy People Award 2007 for Mixed Palette of Happiness / Fragile Machines Prize 2007 for The Best Text on Robotic Psychology / Passionate Red Cherries Award 2006 for Dynamic Use of The Word 'Cool' / Late 1950s Award 2007 for Neutrality on Some Remixed Questions / Classical Counterculture Award 2006 for Development of Remix Cult”

Surely everyone must have seen those giant coffee table books filled with photos. Some people actually do keep them lying around on their living room tables and shelves, I’ve seen a lot of homes sporting books featuring landscapes, favorite animals, those god-awful Geddes babies, motorcycles/cars and numerous other things. Well, I have to admit that I have a few of these myself – although my particular photo delight is kind of strange – I love pictorials featuring barns, abandoned buildings and outhouses! Yup I love photos of unusual outdoor toilets. What thrills me to no end is that some of the most beautiful shithouse photos are taken by a local photographer named Sherman Hines. (He does take many other types of photos too) There is even a Museum named after the man. In Liverpool, Nova Scotia you can visit the Sherman Hines Museum of Photography where you can see lots of exhibits about the history of photography and also many different collections.

My skills with a camera are pretty pathetic and I know I’ll never have a book of my own photos – unless it’s a people with their heads half missing themed book – but regardless of that fact I still like to take pics of any interesting structures we happen upon. Here are two that I took in September that I really quite like.


Onto more strangeness, I thought I would share some of the weird things I’ve learned about authors. I’m a complete freak for trivia and useless facts, my head is filled with this stuff.


William S. Burroughs author of Naked Lunch, shot and killed his wife during a party. Not intending to harm her, he  was merely trying to shoot a glass that was sitting on top of her head, as part of a drunken party game.



Famous writer Graham Greene faced a possible prison sentence after being sued by Shirley Temple in 1937. Apparently she wasn’t too happy about a film review he did, in which he wrote: "Her admirers - middle-aged men and clergymen - respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire."  Not that I’m a prude or anything, but I have to agree. I wouldn’t doubt that there are still lots of dirty old men collecting her movies. Seriously I have issues with parents who deck their kids up like prosti-tots and parade them around beauty shows. (Hope I don’t get any calls from lawyers … meh)

Strange Last Words

  • "LSD, 100 micrograms I.M." Aldous Huxley  1894 – 1963
  • “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies - I think that's a record.” Dylan Thomas 1914 – 1953
  • "Lord help my poor soul." Edgar Allan Poe 1809 – 1849
  • “Kill me, or else you are a murderer!” Franz Kafka 1883 – 1924
  •  "And now what?" This one is from Kafka’s Metamorphosis but it’s my favorite.

I’d definitely recommend checking out John Greens site for more info on Famous Last Words. After reading his book Looking For Alaska I became kind of addicted to the subject of last words. And everyone has probably seen this video, but it’s awesome – so if you’ve been hiding under a rock here is John Greens 50 Famous Last Words in 4 Minutes.


So there you are, a whole plethora of chaotically random stuff. Anybody else have any weird habits when it comes to books or facts? Or am I alone in being strange?
Oh one last thing … it’s more trivia. Who knows what famous author choked to death on a household item? Gold star if you can also tell me what it was this writer shouldn’t have put into their mouth.
And no it wasn’t a cat!

UPDATE: Amy from
My Friend Amy answered this bit of author trivia correctly.
Tennessee Williams choked to death on the cover of an eyedropper bottle. He normally held the cover between his teeth while tilting his head back to insert drops into his eyes. Authorities suspect the use of drugs and/or alcohol may have caused his gag reflex to be defective.

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

Review – The Academy by Bentley Little

With a promise of more freedom, and the chance to get out from under the thumbs of a reactionary school board, the teachers of Tyler High have voted to become a charter school. Instructors and parents alike are thrilled with the prospect of independence – and yet…
The formerly laid-back principal has become unusually strict. With her toadying secretary, she seems to be running the show. That isn’t all. The janitors no longer work nights because of what they hear. The students are frightened  by what they see. And things that defy rational explanations are happening on school grounds. But there is an explanation – it’s just not something that anyone can begin to believe…or hope to survive.


Bentley Little has always been a favourite horror author of mine. The books I enjoy most by Little are the ones that follow a very simple formula. Take something very ordinary and twist it slowly, until you’ve reached a conclusion that is utterly unbelievable. Sounds pretty easy, however with Bentley Little in control, it’s unclear to the reader just when (and how) things got so f*cked up. With his stories, it’s not until the world is shaking under the weight of perversion, that you realize there’s no turning back. “It was just a normal day, like any other, until … and then … oh good lord what’s going on …. arrgghhh!”

So let’s talk about The Academy. Tyler High is a typical high school operating under the rules and regulations of the school board, which means that the teachers really don’t have much freedom in what and how they teach their students. Religion and political affiliation of school board members reflects on the approved curriculum, so when the staff and parents of Tyler High find out they are going to become an independent school, free from what they feel is harming the educational system, of course they are ecstatic. But they never really considered what a powerful position this will put the principal and the charter committee in. While they gain independence from one awful bureaucracy, they slowly come to see they have lost any protection from this new assembly of power.

Building a wall around the school to protect students? Well okay, it does provide safety to the students. Creating a group of student hall monitors? Sure, that would mean less students skipping. A new school uniform for all students and staff? Alright, school solidarity and all that. Mandatory parental participation in school events? What a great way to get dead-beat parents involved with their kids education. Take all these examples one at a time and they seem acceptable, if a bit over-done. But flesh out these ideas and you’ll get an idea of where the horror comes sneaking in. Is that wall to keep people out or keep people in? The hall monitors are very much like the Hitler Youth – organized, powerful and trained to use violent means as they see fit. Regular public strip downs to ensure that your Tyler High underwear are clean. And that parental involvement may include posing nude for art classes, failure to do so results in large monetary fines or harsh physical punishments.

Pretty strange how commonplace things, can be tweaked like that. That’s the appeal Bentley Little’s writing holds for me. I like feeling comfortable, while behind the scenes things are mutating and suddenly the rug is pulled out from under me. The characters that fill his stories are also average Joe's, so it’s interesting to consider how you would react if placed in their situations. He also has an incredible ability to satirize all the things in life we would never consider abnormal. Some of his books make alot of sense in a very paranoid, conspiracy-seeking way. As a parent, I’ve always felt the educational system a farce, but never would I have imagined this alternative. However after reading The Academy I’ll have fun at the next PTA meeting thinking about just what goes on behind closed doors. Overall Bentley Little’s horror is fun escapist reading for me, but there is quite a bit behind his words that could inspire a person to look a bit closer and not take everything at face-value.

(Ever wonder about the Wal-Mart craze that seems to have taken over the world? Check out The Store by Bentley Little – good, clean, All-American fun) :P

About The Author 
Born in Arizona shortly after his mother attended the world premiere of Psycho, Bentley Little is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of numerous previous novels and The Collection, a book of short stories. He has worked as a technical writer, reporter/photographer, library assistant, salesclerk, phone book deliveryman, video arcade attendant, newspaper deliveryman, furniture mover, and rodeo gatekeeper. The son of a Russian artist and American educator, he and his Chinese wife were married by the justice of the peace in Tombstone, Arizona.

Title: The Academy
Author: Bentley Little
Reading Level: Mature
Book Type: Paperback 400 pgs.
Publisher: Signet (Penguin)
Publication Date: August 2008

Un-Mainstream Mom Reads
Jenn's Bookshelf

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

Review – Before I Die by Jenny Downham


Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is sex. Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa's feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallized in the precious weeks before Tessa's time finally runs out.



The basic story behind Before I Die, is exactly what the title suggests. The main character, 16 year-old Tessa, has been living with terminal cancer for the past few years, but now she is at the point where she must either let the disease run it’s course or spend her last days undergoing painful treatments that may kill her just as easily as the cancer itself. Her final decision is to forego treatments and live the rest of her life with pride intact, fighting the killer inside on her own terms. Realizing how precious these days will be, she fully intends to make the most of it, doing all the things she wishes to, regardless of what others think. This is Tessa’s life, Tessa’s time and Tessa’s choice.

One of the first things that appealed to me, while reading this book was the family dynamics involved. Tessa’s parents divorced when she was a child and her father has been raising her and her younger brother. When she is first diagnosed with leukemia, her dad changes his work schedule in order to be home and available for his children. It seems as though he makes every attempt to keep their lives normal, and also he gives Tessa the freedom to actively decide on how they will handle her medical decisions. The mother, on the other hand, is a absentee parent who has not had any experience with Tessa’s condition, so when she makes a return during this last stretch it is very interesting to see how she reacts emotionally to just how serious this is. I found myself thinking that perhaps the mother created a distance between herself and Tessa in an act of subconscious self-denial, maybe by not witnessing the daily struggles she was protecting herself from thinking of her inevitable loss.

A character that deserves mention is Tessa’s younger brother Cal. When Cal is first introduced to the story, he comes off as a bratty little snot, making jokes about his Tessa dying and displaying a slight jealousy of the attention she receives. But further in, it becomes obvious that this is the way that Cal has been protecting himself, he loves his sister but doesn’t appear to possess the maturity needed to emotionally express these feelings. And Tessa, as a caring older sister, respects Cal and goes along with the teasing as a way of acknowledging that she understands his confusion.

During Tessa’s illness, she has spent alot of time in bed recuperating, and thinking. She thinks alot about the things that she may never get the chance to experience and as these things pop into her mind she begins scribbling them on the wall above her bed. This is what leads to her list of things to do before she dies. Things like sex, drugs, driving and many other normal things that teens do. Knowing she could never do these things on her own, she enlists the help of her best friend Zoey, an outgoing and daring girl. They manage to check off a few things, but Zoey, dealing with her own problems, begins to lose her zest and Tessa becomes the out-of-control part of the duo. There is much more to this friendship, but spoilers would be hard to avoid.

As Tessa experiences new things, she faces a realization that love is something she wants desperately to feel, but also knows that the pain it would involve is a feeling she is loathe to share with someone. However, life is never easy and sometimes love won’t take no for an answer. So with the boy next door, Adam, Tessa takes the first steps towards a real relationship. And though it seems unfair to both of them, they realize that sometimes the length of a relationship is not important but what you make of the time you have.

Before I Die is not the type of book I would generally read, there are so many stories out there about dying kids and the clichés are sometimes unavoidable. However, I am so happy that I did read this one, in fact, if you were to choose any book from this theme, I would highly recommend Before I Die as the best. For me the main enjoyment was the characters, relationships and family dynamic, but it was also beautifully written. Where some books may be overly sentimental and sappy, Before I Die was touching, emotionally powerful but real. And when reading YA fiction that deals with teens and serious issue, realism and authenticity are extremely important to me. Finding a story that is both natural and original is a tough search, but this book is perfect. 

About The Author
Jenny Downham trained as an actor and worked in alternative theatre before starting to write. Before I Die is her first novel. She lives in London.

Title: Before I Die
Author: Jenny Downham
Reading Level: Young Adult
Book Type: Hardcover 336 pgs.
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Publication Date: September 2007

Other Reviews:
Becky's Book Reviews
Bart's Bookshelf
Out Of The Blue

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

TSS – Canada Reads: Highlight on Fruit by Brian Francis

The Book
Brian Francis
ECW Press 

What do you get when you cross the Virgin Mary with Brooke Shields, a 200-pound thirteen-year-old with a trash-talking beauty queen wannabe, and throw in a couple of talking nipples? One of the most laugh-out-loud books you’ll read all year. Meet Peter Paddington. Life hasn’t exactly been kind to him. At thirteen he’s overweight, the subject of his classmates’ ridicule, at the mercy of his menopausal mother, and the victim of too many bad movie-of-the-week story lines. As if being the only boy in grade 8 with hairy legs wasn’t bad enough…
When Peter’s nipples begin speaking to him one day and inform him of their diabolical plan to expose his secret desires, Peter finds himself cornered in a world that seems to have no tolerance for difference. Peter finds solace in “The Bedtime Movies” – perfect-world fantasies that lull him to sleep every night. But when the line between Peter’s fantasy world and his reality begins to blur, no one is safe from the depths of Peter’s imagination – especially Peter Himself.

My Thoughts
Set in Ontario, Canada during the 1980’s Fruit is the story of Peter Paddington and his plans to completely change his life in time for grade 9. Peter has a bit of a weight problem and believes that if he could only get rid of his man-boobs his social life would surely improve. Not even sure of his actual weight, Peter instead judges by how many knuckles disappear when he puts his finger in his belly-button. Last time he checked, he was not impressed with the knuckle measurement, and to top it all off his nipples have made a rather drastic decision to pop out like cherries. Masking tape in hand Peter puts a stop to that, only to find that his nipples have taken on a life of their own – and they’re nasty little buggers too.

Sounds pretty strange eh? But taken as a whole this book is really a wonderful coming-of-age story told from a perspective not often found in novels. Peter’s narrative is imaginative, sweet and heart-breaking. His voice is one of childish honesty, where he tells things like they are. Perhaps this is how most boys are in that small space between innocent boyhood and testosterone driven manhood, but I’ve never read a story quite like this. I loved reading about all Peter’s thoughts on life – choosing between Home Ec. class which he adores or Woodshop which is not so great – the descriptions of all the social groups at school and how he fits amongst them – the daily interactions with his older sisters – dealing with a mother who may be slightly off-kilter – the pressure of trying to be who and what a father would want as a son. These are just a few of the things that Peter faces. But he faces then head-on and does his best, and that is what makes Peter Paddington such an attractive and enjoyable character.

Something else I found particularly enjoyable about this book, was the issue of Peter’s sexuality. While it appears obvious to the reader that Peter may prefer boys more than girls, Peter himself does not seem to grasp this idea. He does know something is going on, but still acts as though it is a choice a person makes rather than a natural preference. It is never addressed outright in the book that Peter is gay, but many sections skirt the topic as Peter comes closer to understanding. And as the reader follows along with Peter we get to experience the confusion, feelings of guilt and also the euphoric joys he experiences when daydreaming about the perfect boy.

By the end of the book, I was a total fangirl of Peter Paddington. Regardless of whether or not he loses weight, gets his nipples under control or achieves social stardom – I’m positive he will be a success. Fruit is a fantastic read that covers some pretty important topics for adolescents and adults, but told in an honest and humorous way, that makes this story, and Peter himself, come to life. I was very sorry to turn the final page, and must say that I would be more than ecstatic to follow along on Peter’s further adventures if the author chose to write a sequel ;) 

About The Author
Brian Francis 

Brian Francis has worked as a freelance writer for a variety of magazines and newspapers. Fruit, his first novel, was published in Canada by ECW Press and in the U.S. by MacAdam Cage. The American paperback edition was published by Harper Perennial under the title The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington.
Fruit was named in NOW Magazine’s Top 10 Books of the Year, picked as a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” title and was an Extended Book Sense selected title.
In 2000, Francis received the Emerging Author Award from the Writers’ Union of Canada. You can find his most recent fiction in the influential annual anthology 07: Best Canadian Stories.
Francis grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto.

If you take a look at the Canada Reads page for Brian Francis you can find all kinds of fun things. I especially enjoyed reading his responses on favourite Canadian books – the fact that he broke the rules and mentioned Flowers In The Attic (a non-canuck read) as a guilty pleasure was awesome, he says, “So bad yet so good.”  He has also created a playlist for his book, these are so much fun and an added bonus is that the music in keeping with the book’s setting is from the 80’s.

Check out these audio clips of Brian – there is an uncut interview with the author, a brief response to what he thinks his books chances of winning Canada Reads are (I agree that the purple cover definitely gives him an edge on the competition) and also make sure you listen to the 2 clips of the author reading from his book – This guy is fabulous - I loved reading the book, but I’m positive that listening to it would make it so much more awesome! Brian Francis has the perfect voice to fully capture the personality of Peter Paddington. The voice of a story-teller for sure.

About The Panelist
Jen Sookfong Lee

Born and raised in East Vancouver, Jen Sookfong Lee always knew she would be a writer despite her father’s suggestion that she should become a lawyer because “she likes to talk back.” She was 10 years old when she wrote her first short story — a horror story involving a witch, a scrappy little girl and a casserole dish. Jen was featured in Knopf Canada’s New Faces of Fiction campaign when her first novel, The End of East, was published 20 years later, in 2007. Her book spans almost the entire 20th century, and explores Chinese-Canadian history through the eyes of the Chan family.
Jen’s literary repertoire also includes poetry and magazine writing. In 1993, when she was just 17, she was a finalist in the Stephen Leacock Poetry Contest, and her work is included in the poetry anthology From This New World. On the spoken word front, Jen has appeared at literary festivals and reading series across North America, including the Vancouver International Writers Festival and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Jen is the Westcoast Words columnist on CBC Radio One’s afternoon show On the Coast and has occasionally co-hosted CBC’s Studio One Book Club in Vancouver.

Jen Sookfong Lee has her own website, which I highly recommend checking out, where you can read all about her life and her writing. On her blog she has written about her involvement with Canada Reads, including why she came to choose Fruit and how she plans to defend this book. Here is a brief explanation:

Here's my defence of Fruit in a nutshell:
Fruit by Brian Francis should win Canada Reads because every single one of us has felt like a stranger in our own bodies, confounded by our growths and seemingly nonsensical urges. Peter, the novel's 13-year-old narrator, is appalled when his nipples begin talking to him. Don't kid yourself; we've all had moments like this, when hormones and parents and high school all come together in a conspiratorial way to make us feel like aliens who will never, ever fit into the human race. And that's why Fruit should be read by every Canadian, because somewhere, deep inside, we are all awkward adolescents who will never understand what our lives have become.   - The Fruit Is Out Of The Bag

Over at the CBC site you can also listen to a very interesting audio clip of Jen Sookfong Lee discussing books, reading and how literature has impacted her life. I especially enjoyed hearing her thoughts on Harriet The Spy, how trashy romances introduced her to sex and how reading a book that featured a Chinese-Canadian character inspired her to write.

Jen Sookfong Lee is the author of the novel The End Of The East.

A moving portrait of three generations of the Chan family living in Vancouver's Chinatown. Sammy Chan was sure she'd escaped her family obligations when she fled Vancouver six years ago, but with her sister's upcoming marriage, her turn has come to care for their aging mother. Abandoned by all four of her older sisters, jobless and stuck in a city she resents, Sammy finds herself cobbling together a makeshift family history and delving into stories that began in 1913, when her grandfather, Seid Quan, then eighteen years old, first stepped on Canadian soil. The End of East weaves in and out of the past and the present, picking up the threads of the Chan family's stories: Seid Quan, whose loneliness in this foreign country is profound even as he joins the Chinatown community; Shew Lin, whose hopes for her family are threatened by her own misguided actions; Pon Man, who struggles with obligation and desire; and Siu Sang, who tries to be the caregiver everyone expects, even as she feels herself unravelling. And in the background, five little girls grow up under the weight of family expectations. As the past unfolds around her, Sammy finds herself embroiled in a volatile mixture of a dangerous love affair, a difficult and duty-filled relationship with her mother, and the still-fresh memories of her father's long illness. An exquisite and evocative debut from one of Canada's bright new literary stars, The End of East sets family conflicts against the backdrop of Vancouver's Chinatown - a city within a city where dreams are shattered as quickly as they're built, and where history repeats itself through the generations.    - The End Of The East @ Fantastic Fiction

Previous Canada Reads 2009 Posts

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

Review - Boneyard Volume 1 by Richard Moore


Michael Paris has inherited a plot in the remote town of Raven Hollow. As he arrives, he gets to find out what a doozie that is. He’s basically inherited a cemetery that the villagers want razed! Why? It’s haunted with apparently frightening creatures putting a curse on the whole town! But when Paris actually gets to meet some of the denizens of his inherited headache, it turns out that they ain’t all that bad (the vamp, in fact, is quite cute) and maybe the evil is not where it may seem… Spoofs all the clichés of the horror genre!


My Thoughts
Boneyard Volume 1 is another graphic novel I picked up while at the library. Knowing nothing about this comic beforehand, it took nothing more than a brief glance through the pages for me to know I would love this.

The basic premise is simple enough looking at first, but within this first volume there are many clues that make me think this story line will develop into a very strong plot. Michael Paris does indeed inherit a graveyard from a grandfather he never got to know. And this particular cemetery has a whole crowd of interesting, albeit strange, characters. Abbey, the vampire lady, is a wonderful leading lady. She’s classy, smart and obviously in charge. Another chick living in this boneyard is Nessie, an incorrigible flirt, despite the fact that her husband Brutus is always watching silently. There is also a group of poker-playing, alcohol-swilling guys who take Michael Paris out for a night on the town (Undead Nudie Bar included). There’s many other characters running around, but along with Abbey, my favourite had to be Edgar, the talking, snobbish and quite hilarious raven.

This first volume in the series did a bang-up job of introducing the citizens and setting of Raven Hollow. It set in motion some sub-plots that I hope to learn more about in future issues, such as; how Paris’s grandfather came to be the caretaker, a possible romantic angle and the threats facing the boneyard itself. Also intriguing is the mystery surrounding how the graveyard came to be the home of these paranormal beings.

Along with a solid storyline, great characters, witty dialogue and lots of humour is the gorgeous artwork. I loved that these illustrations are lighter in tone than most graphic novels. They have a cartoonish feeling to them that blends well with the more mature tone of the writing. A good example would be Abbey, she is a vampire that manages to come across as sexy, but innocent – not the typical femme fatale. Ralph, a werewolf, who wears a leather jacket and studded dog collar looks like a big puppy dog playing ‘the bad boy’, but when he gets mad his wolfish side is clearly evident. With wonderful details and a warm palette of colours this is a real treat.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and will definitely be picking up the next ones.

Check out more about Richard Moore and the Boneyard series here.
Published by
Nantier - Beall - Minoustchine Publishing

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.