Review – The Crazy School by Cornelia Read

Madeline Dare has at last escaped rust-belt Syracuse, New York, for the lush Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. After her husband’s job offer falls through, Maddie signs on as a teacher at the Santangelo Academy, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers.
Behind the academy’s ornate gates, she discovers a disorienting world in which students and teachers alike must submit to the founder’s bizarre therapeutic regimen. But when Maddie questions his methods she’s appalled to find her fellow teachers more likely to turn on one another than stand up for themselves, much less protect the students in their care. A chilling event confirms Maddie’s worst suspicions, leading her to suspect an even darker secret, one that lies at the academy’s very heart. Cut off from the outside world, Maddie must join forces with a small band of the school’s most violently rebellious students – kids who, despite their troubled grip on reality, may well prove to be her only chance of survival.

How often do you find yourself finishing a book, only to realize once you’re done that it was actually a follow-up to a previous novel? I’ve done this too many times to count. The Crazy School is Cornelia Read’s second chapter in the Madeline Dare collection (Of which she is now working on number 3 to my immense joy.) But, even after finding out this information afterwards, nothing was lost by reading out of order. There are no gaping holes or misunderstood mentions, in fact, the mystery of Maddie “Bunny” Dare’s past is only intensified. By this I mean to say that, as a reader, you know something happened in her past, and it’s a whopper of a big thing, but it doesn’t detract from the time, place and circumstance that Maddie finds herself in at this point. Now ask yourself, how often do you come across an author that creates a character focused series, that is satisfying no matter what order you read the series in? Personally I’ve found this skill in story-telling rare.

Let’s take a look at that last sentence again, I referred to Cornelia Read’s ‘story-telling skill.’ According to the dictionary, a storyteller is one whom writes or tells stories or one whom relates anecdotes. Now I’m going to say that Cornelia Read is all of the above because not only has she written an amazing mystery story, she has also based this story on her own personal experiences. On her website she has a page of links, where you can find lots of interviews and information. The big revelation for me was the interview in which the author stated that both of her books (Field Of Darkness & Crazy School) were ninety-something percent autobiographical. Wow! Maddie makes my list of top ten characters, but what I’m dying to know is how much of Maddie is actually Cornelia. Seriously if the author is even half of what Maddie is, Cornelia freaking rocks :)

So why am I so crazy about Maddie, well for starters it’s her voice. Not her voice-voice of course, but her way with words. I like how she talks like a real person, using phrases that come up quite often in everyday conversations, for example she calls her students ‘Dude’, replies sarcastically to things with ‘ya think’, and makes traditional phrases her own, like this one that I particularly enjoyed ‘crappe diem.’ It’s not only these small tokens of reality though, it’s the way that the story seems so much more powerful just from the easy-going narrative. Conversations are made more personal:

”There’s Gerald,” she whispered.
”I can’t talk to him anyway,” I said, “on the advice of my attorney.”
“’My attorney.’” She chuckled a little. “Well, la-dee-dah.”
”Oh please,” I snapped, “who died and made you Annie Hall?”

Maddie’s colorful inner dialogue concerning other character’s makes them all the more realistic:

When not stricken with TMJ, Mindy chewed gum with her mouth open. She was from Ohio. Every inch of furniture throughout her campus apartment was jammed with stuffed animals, all of them pink. She’d brought the canopy bed her parents gave her as a sweet-sixteen present with her all the way from Dayton. We couldn’t stand each other, but I hated her more. She was so shallow she couldn’t even dislike people properly. I despised her receding chin and her stupid fluffy perm and her stupid fluffy pink sweaters and her fucking giggle. It made me happy that she was fat, since I’d dropped twenty pounds doing time at Santangelo, having been too fucked up to eat much of anything. I pushed the little piles of lettuce and cottage cheese around my plate just to annoy her.

She’s the type of character that you either want to be best friends with or be like yourself. But you don’t want to get on her bad side, as she’d likely tear you to shreds. The best part about this character is that no matter how hard-assed, cool or sarcastic she may seem, there is compassion and honest goodness beneath this rough exterior. To the people that know her well, Maddie is the most caring person in the world. While the other teachers at Santangelo appear to flaunt how good they are for helping troubled teens, Madeline Dare ignores how the outside world may judge her and concentrates all her efforts on the kids themselves. They need help and she tries to give it to them any way she can, even if it means changing up the curriculum or bending some rules. She is the defender of the crazy kids, because instead of categorizing them and working around their problems, she moves past these things and relates to them as people. And the wonderful thing about this is that the kids know they have problems, and respect Maddie more because she doesn’t allow these issues to define them in her eyes. And those kids, they are amazing. Mooney, Fay, Sitzman and Weisner, despite all the shit they’ve done, been through, or are facing, you can’t help but see the remarkable people they could be.

Normally I try to keep a nice balance in my reviews of character/story/writing, but letting my thoughts run on The Crazy School, it’s obvious that the people involved in the story have made the most impact on me as a reader. There is so much more I could say about, but I’ll leave it at this. This book is terrific, an enjoyable read, written with style and saying so much about people and their behaviour. I highly recommend this, and Cornelia Read’s previous novel A Field Of Darkness.  

About The Author
Cornelia Read grew up in New York, California, and Hawaii. She is a reformed debutante who currently lives in Berkeley with her husband and twin daughters. To learn more about the author, you can visit her website at and her group blog with authors Jim Born, Paul Levine, Patty Smiley and Jacqueline Winspear at The Crazy School is her second novel featuring Madeline Dare, the first is titled A Field Of Darkness.

Title: The Crazy School
Author: Cornelia Read
Book Genre: Mystery / Thriller Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover 336 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 2008

Other Works
Invisible Boy (2009)
The Crazy School (2008)
A Field of Darkness (2006) 
Hungry Enough (2007)*

*From A Hell of a Woman anthology

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

Wondrous Words Wednesday 02•25•09

It’s that time again, Wondrous Words Wednesday, where we gather together and share our brand spanking new vocabulary. If you’ve stumbled over any words in your reading and found yourself reaching for a handy-dandy dictionary, hop over to BermudaOnion's Weblog and mention your newly learned words. Or just take a peek at all the Wondrous Words that had everyone else confuddled :P


Here are the words I’ve added to my vocabulary from this week’s reading:

• hyperesthesia

Source – From the short story The Great God Pan by M. John Harrison
Usage – “I was left with an embarrassment, a ghost, a hyperesthesia of middle age.”
Definition – An abnormal, unusual or pathological increase in sensitivity to sensory stimuli, as of the skin to touch or the ear to sound. Also called oxyesthesia.

• sylphy 

Source – Found in The Crazy School by Cornelia Read 
Usage – “Sitzman took me up on it and for a second I thought LeChance would, too, but Fay Perry peeked around the doorway at him, all sylphy and golden, with those enormous gray eyes.” 
Definition – I couldn’t find a definition for this exact word, perhaps the more correct version would of been sylph-like. Anyway here is what I found for sylph: a slender, graceful woman or girl or (in folklore) one of a race of supernatural beings supposed to inhabit the air.

• prestidigitation

Source – Found in Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic 
Usage – “In an act of prestidigitation typical of the way my father juggled his public appearance and private reality, the evidence is simultaneously hidden and revealed.”
Definition – Performance of or skill in performing magic or conjuring tricks with the hands; sleight of hand; deceitful cleverness.

That last word “Prestidigitation” bothers me, because I was taught to take words apart to define them, and once the definition is found it becomes so obvious from the “digitation” part. But try as I may, I can never remember this one. Anyone else have any words they feel they should know the definition of, but can’t remember when the time comes?

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

Small Pleasures & Random Grrrs

Just a random kind of post, I’ve been feeling pretty yucky lately. You know those colds you get that make you feel all achy and blah, but never really morph into a full-blown cold/flu. Well, that’s what I’ve been like all week. Sigh, I sound all whiny I know, but I just wish I’d either get a frikkin’ cold or not. Like what? are my immune system cells just sitting around taunting the virus cells, like velvet rope bouncers until finally the cold bugs decide to either go around the corner to the next club, or bust through into ‘Club Jo’ and kick some ass?

So in my ‘feeling sorry for myself’ mood, I’ve actually gotten quite a bit of reading done. Thursday we had a snow-storm (pathetically small one) but work was dead so I finished off The Crazy School by Cornelia Read – it was fantastic, but only once I’d finished had I realized it was the second in a series. The really great thing was that it didn’t seem to have ruined anything by reading it out of order. Friday I finished up Poe’s Children: The New Horror a collection of horror stories by Peter Straub. “The New Horror” – umm yeah not so much. If anything this seemed like a tired remix of other anthologies, the newest story was from 2006 and every story was previously published in some other work. Worst of all Straub’s introduction came across as pompous, the gist I got from it was that the new evolution of horror is writing that transcends the horror genre and possesses literary merit. Don’t get me wrong, there are good stories such as  Neil Gaiman’s October In The Chair, but again this story has been in countless anthologies.

Also this week has been pretty good in terms of what I’ve been watching. It started off dismally with a trip to the theatre to catch the new Friday The 13th. Gah! What utter crap, really I would rather sit through a High School Musical marathon than have to watch another godawful Michael Bay remake. As the credits rolled and the giggly little high school girls talked about how hawt Jared Padelecki was all I could do was shake my head and say, “Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw, horror is dead.” Things looked up later that  night as I started watching Season 2 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I can’t even express how fun this show  is – really it’s the way Friends should have been, seriously any show that has a character who dates a pre-op tranny because of how great she/he will be after the operation is bound to have some good laughs! For tonight or choketomorrow I dusted off my Blockbuster membership card and rented some movies, first being a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk – I would have his babies if he asked – I picked up Choke, based on his book of the same name, and Savage Grace, which is also based on a book, it’s a dramatization of the controversial true story of the famous Baekeland family, who were the founders of the Bakelite Plastics corporation. It stars Julianne Moore, one of my all-time favourite actresses which is a bonus.

Now today, Saturday, what to read? I’ve got lots of things started, to be started, to be finished. Then a small pleasure happened along. There’s a back-story involved so here’s a brief re-cap: Earlier this week as I was catching up on my Google Reader I came across Kim’s (of Sophisticated Dorkiness)  wonderful review of Saturday by Ian McEwan. Hubs happened to be sitting there as I responded that this is a book I’ve always wanted to read. Fast forward to this morning, I’m sitting around the house not doing much, hubs is out trying to track down a steel rim for his car – note: avoid Nova  Scotia potholes at all costs! – anyways, the phone rings and it’s hubs asking me whether I would prefer a hard or softcover copy of Saturday … awwww even my cold, black heart melted a bit at the thoughtfulness. To add a little context to just how special this is, the hubs is the type of guy that I could ask him to pick up a loaf of bread, put a reminder note in his pocket, call the store ahead of time, tie string to every one of his fingers and call to remind him while he’s at the cash register and yet he will arrive home without the loaf of bread. So him remembering that I was looking for this book was BLOODY AMAZING!! Here is my favourite picture of us together, me sporting a rare smile – I really don’t like having my photo taken. And the hubs sporting a rare full head of hair – he’s been shaving his head for ages now, it’s hard to remember what he used to look like :P

Normally, I don’t quite go on so much, well I try not to. But I’m in a weird mood today. So what’s you’re week been like? Any good movies you’ve seen or are looking forward to watching? Tell me what you like to watch on TV, I’m so behind on the times TV wise. Or just tell me about the potholes from your week – the real ones or the metaphorical ones – feel a need to rant about something that bummed you out this week – Go For It! Make me feel like less of a whiner :P Or share the small pleasures that you experienced lately, that perfect cup of mocha, the stranger you exchanged a few kind words with or the random sight that made you smile.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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

Wondrous Words Wednesday 02•18•09

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a cool new meme that Kathy from BermudaOnion recently came up with. The basic idea is for participants to share new (to them) words they’ve come across in their reading. This is a great opportunity to expand our vocabularies and maybe even try out some of the new and wondrous words we learn. I’m excited about this meme, but then I was always the kid who looked forward to spelling tests :P

Here are a few words (and an expression) I’ve come across this week, that made me reach for the dictionary:

• auguries

Source - Found in The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby 
Usage - ”Despite all these various auguries, I hadn’t necessarily expected to read every word of the Lowell biography, but Hamilton is such a good writer, and Lowell’s life was so tumultuous, that it was gone in a couple of days, like an Elmore Leonard novel.”
Definition - from the word augury, an omen, token, or indication. A sign of something coming.

• phaeton 

Source - From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 
Usage - ”Then he turned sharply, and without another word climbed into his phaeton, which was waiting at the curbstone, and drove severely away.” 
Definition - A four-wheeled carriage (with or without a top), open, or having no side pieces, in front of the seat. It is drawn by one or two horses.

• fin de siècle

Source - Stumbled across this expression in the novel About The Author by John Colapinto 
- ”It’s a fin de siècle Bright Lights, Big City, with a GenX twist and some post-mo juju thrown in for good measure.
Definition - French term meaning the end of the century, mostly used in English to signify, belonging to, or characteristic of, the close of the 19th century. Modern or up-to-date.

Come across any great new words, phrases or expressions this week? Or would you just like to see what’s prompted people to define? Then head over to BermudaOnion Weblog’s for Wondrous Words Wednesday.

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

Words Undone…

Decided I’d try something different today. My reading habits was also to finish a book no matter whether I was enjoying it or not. But that seems too much like punishing myself. So now I have implemented The Rule Of 50:

"Believe me, nobody is going to get any points in heaven by slogging their way through a book they aren't enjoying but think they ought to read. I live by what I call 'the rule of fifty,' which acknowledges that time is short and the world of books is immense. If you're fifty years old or younger, give every book about fifty pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up. If you're over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100. The result is the number of pages you should read before deciding.”

-from Book Lust by Nancy Pearl

Anyways, since I have a few books that I won’t be finishing, I also won’t be writing up reviews for them. But then it occurred to me – lots of times I come across books that others haven’t enjoyed for one reason or another and I end up really liking them. So what I am going to do is blog a bit of info about those books that, with the best of intentions, I began but didn’t finish. But rather than saying “blah this book sucked” I’d like this to be more along the lines of “well this wasn’t for me, but maybe you might like it.” Yeah, obviously this is one of my spur of the moment type ideas, but hey may as well giv’er a go.

“Leave undone whatever you hesitate to do.”  - Kenko Yoshida

Dora Borealis
Daccia Bloomfield

Pages Read
77 of 234

Percent read

“It’s a ghost story.”
”For kids or for adults?” She asks.
”Grown-ups, I guess. But it’s also a love story. You know, it’s a love story and a story about urban angst and coming of age and a ghost story all in one.”
”Hmmm. Sounds pretty complicated.”
She has no idea

Creepy, explicit, and strangely endearing, Dora Borealis is a story of coming of age… a bit late. Written in the era of the open relationship, it’s a novel about searching for a connection in a city hooked on missed connections and explores what it means to be literally haunted. Part of the pampered generation that has grown up too comfortably, Flip calls himself a writer but never writes. He spends most of his time tortured by the girl he’s been in love with since he was eight and falling for a woman he’s just met. And you? You’re invited to witness the carnage.

I picked up Dora Borealis at the library when I was looking for some new-to-me Canadian authors. The cover was just gorgeous and after having caught my eye I took a peek at the book description and thought “wow, this sounds like something I would really like.” But for some reason every time I pick this book up I find my eyes wandering off the pages. And so, now it is due back at the library. I really enjoy the writing, so by including this book here as an unfinished read, perhaps someday I will take another shot at it.

Here is an example of the main character’s (Flip) narrative voice, this passage in particular is one that stuck with me despite it’s simplistic tone.

The phone rings. I like to know what I’m taking in by the mouth, and I especially like to know what I am taking in by the ear. In keeping with this tendency to want to control my intake, I have assigned each and every one of my loved ones a special ringtone. Lamb’s got “Take My Breath Away.” Dad’s got “Don’t Let Me Down.” Maybe, when I’m lucky enough to be her man, Dora will have “Bang A Gong.”

There is another section of the book where Flip is asking his best friend Lamb questions about a man she is seeing, it’s a habit of theirs to discuss her sexual hijinks but right in the middle of the sex talk he suddenly asks:

“What did he smell like?” I asked.
”He smelled like good soap.”

They then continue talking about the man’s performance in bed. But that one exchange was so honest and abrupt in the midst of a graphic discussion it left an impression. I could almost smell the scent of human skin fresh out of the shower. Without any in-depth description these few words left me with an almost sensory reaction. Weird :/

Hmm, I think I may end up doing this again. Even though this book has been dropped off in the library return slot, by writing down my impression of it I’ve found myself thinking that even an unfinished book adds something to my life as a reader.

What do you think? How much thought do you put into a given up on book? Do you ever find yourself thinking of trying again? Are there some books you know you won’t finish, but yet you still find something good in them?

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

TSS - Canada Reads: Spotlight on The Book of Negroes (& special contest)

The Book 
The Book of Negroes
Lawrence Hill 
© 2007

“Let me begin with a caveat to any and all who find these pages. Do not trust large bodies of water, and do not cross them. If you, dear reader, have an African hue and find yourself led toward water with vanishing shores, seize your freedom by any means necessary.”

When Aminata Diallo sits down to pen the story of her life in London, England, at the dawn of the nineteenth century, she has a world of experience behind her. Abducted from her village in West Africa as an eleven-year-old child and forced to walk in a coffle – a string of slaves – for months to the sea, Aminata is put to work on an indigo plantation on the sea islands of South Carolina. She survives by using midwifery skills learned at her mother’s side and by drawing on a strength of character inherited form both parents. But Aminata remains trapped, narrowly avoiding the violence that cuts short so many lives around her. Eventually, she has the chance to register her name in the “Book Of Negroes,” a historic British military ledger allowing 3000 Black Loyalists passage on ships sailing from Manhattan to Nova Scotia.

This remarkable novel transports the reader from an African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from a soured refuge in Nova Scotia to the coast of Sierra Leone, in a back to Africa odyssey of 1200 former slaves. The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent fiction, a woman who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex.

Mother – Daughter (in law) Book Chat

Instead of the traditional book review, I decided to provide some highlights of a discussion I had with my mother-in-law Alvina, who shares my passion for reading. Her home is truly a book-lover’s paradise, with reading materials nestled in every cranny, fiction and non-fiction covering an array of topics, lands and eras. And once you’ve found a novel to spend some time with,  there is her personal hideout - a beautifully designed den awaiting any bibliophile’s arrival, complete with floor to ceiling bookshelves, and a deliciously comfy leather chair to curl up in while reading.
Exploring the themes and history behind this novel with her, provided me many insights into the story that I had not thought of during my reading. It was terrific to share our thoughts on the topics that Lawrence Hill covers in his novel, as our reading, and personal, histories provided contrasting, yet complimentary views and opinions.

Canada Reads is an event that Alvina introduced me to a few years back, so when I asked what motivated her to read The Book of Negroes I already had a pretty clear idea that she had read it as one of this years line-up. However she also stated that her enjoyment of the Canada Reads event was a terrific way of being introduced to books and authors that she otherwise may never have experienced. She recalled being a follower of Canada Reads since Michael Ondaatje’s novel In The Skin of A Lion won the competition in 2002.

Having finished The Book of Negroes long before me, I asked Alvina what she enjoyed most from the book. It was the research that the author put into the novel that first came to mind, which I enjoyed hearing about because it wasn’t something that I had put much thought into. Alvina goes on to describe that Lawrence Hill showed a dedication to the historical accuracy of his book by making sure he had every detail strongly resolved before setting his story in motion. The presentation of the story and it’s historical perspective was also given without an accusatory tone, rather it was a well-rounded tale of one woman’s life and struggles during a horrible time.

Another thing, that Alvina enjoyed while reading was the writing style itself. Although it is filled with factual and historical incidents covering a long period of time and many different locales, it had a polished style that was easy to read and follow. The story being told from the main characters, Aminata’s, point of view was also wonderful as her recurring journal style narrative kept the story flowing smoothly.

When discussing Aminata, the main story-teller, Alvina was incredibly impressed with how strong this woman was. Her will to survive despite the tumultuous life she has been handed is extremely admirable. Aminata is unwilling to let life’s hardships break her, and struggles to overcome what holds her back. I found it especially interesting when Alvina noted that not only is Aminata’s determination applaudable, but also that of many of the secondary characters in the novel, because not only does the author show the trials the slave must face, but also that of other individuals involved, which is a perspective not often visible.

The Book of Negroes is a book that shows a part of history that many feel has no positive side, so when I asked Alvina what her favourite or most memorable part of the story was I wasn’t expecting such an insightful answer.  But her answer made me consider how Aminata really was an exceptionally strong woman to persevere and find happiness in a situation that seemed to defy comfort or pleasure. Alvina’s answer to my question was to point out a part of the story in which Aminata has found a structured and safe life as a slave. She is not a free person, yet she is free from fear and manages to maintain a strong friendship, and also develop a relationship with a local gentleman. Alvina found this part of the book was enjoyable because it again showed Aminata’s strength to find happiness and live her life fully.

Alvina also mentioned how intrigued she was by Aminata’s descriptions of returning to her African home, to search out the tiny village of her youth. It was the characters resolve to find her heritage and put to rest the questions that had followed her throughout her life. Was her homeland what she remembered? How had things changed in her absence and would she find happiness upon returning to the place she had often dreamed of?

In the end, The Book of Negroes was not what Alvina had expected, but it was a story that she enjoyed more than she had anticipated. Her copy will retain a spot in her library, as she feels the book has much to be gained from future readings. When asked who she thought the book would be a good read for, Alvina’s first comment was one that I agree with fully; you do not need to be of African ancestry to enjoy this. The Book of Negroes is a wonderful look into the life of a slave, but also it provides a great perspective of all heritages, from British, Canadian, American and African, that were involved in this particular historical time. The Book of Negroes is a novel that can be read both as an educational text and as a moving story of personal strength.

So there you have it, I know I left out a lot of things we discussed, but I think this covers some of the most important aspects of our discussion. I hope that you enjoyed reading this re-cap, as much as I enjoyed participating in it.

Huge thanks to Alvina for having me over for a book chat! I enjoyed myself so much, I’m thinking we are totally gonna have to do this again – considering the size of your TBR pile I know we can find out another book to read and chat about over frozen yoghurts xoxox

About The Author 
Lawrence Hill

Lawrence Hill’s fiction and non-fiction books have received glowing reviews, won numerous awards and brought him a legion of fans.
Hill’s writing often explores issues of identity and belonging, as in his first two novels: Any Known Blood (1997) and Some Great Thing (1992), which was read on CBC Radio’s Between the Covers.
His bestselling memoir, Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada (2001), describes the lives of his black father and white mother, who emigrated from the U.S. to Canada.
The Book of Negroes, Hill’s third novel, was selected as one of the year’s best books by the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen and Quill & Quire. Published as Someone Knows My Name in the U.S., the book has proven equally popular south of the border.
Hill began his writing career as a reporter for the Globe and Mail and the Winnipeg Free Press. He has won a National Magazine Award, as well as an American Wilbur Award for his film documentary, Seeking Salvation: A History of the Black Church in Canada.
His most recent non-fiction book, The Deserter's Tale: the Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq (2007), was co-written with Joshua Key and released in Canada, the U.S., Australia and numerous European countries. Hill grew up in Don Mills, Ontario, and now lives in Burlington, Ontario

Official Lawrence Hill Website

Lawrence Hill is very involved with school, and literary conferences as a speaker and also participates in book festivals giving readings and appearing in discussion panels. Check out his schedule here to find out about upcoming events where Lawrence Hill will be appearing.

Also highly recommended is the collection of audio clips to be found at the CBC online media archives. Some of the highlights include a passage read by the author, an explanation that gives a view on why The Book of Negroes has a different title for the US release, and also a clip of Hill discussing why story-telling is such an important thing for Aminata, the main narrator from The Book of Negroes.

The above video is an terrific interview with Lawrence Hill that I found via and wanted to share.

About The Panelist
Avi Lewis

Avi Lewis is an incisive speaker and thinker, and for almost two decades, he’s used those skills as the host of a series of television programs — at home and abroad.
In 2008, Avi hosted the weekly television show Inside USA on the Al-Jazeera English television network. The series examines the issues at stake in the U.S. presidential election, taking Avi across the Americas, from Appalachia and Hawaii to Argentina and Haiti.
Avi’s previous programs include On The Map with Avi Lewis (international news analysis, 2007), The Big Picture with Avi Lewis (documentaries combined with town hall debates, 2006) and counterSpin (current affairs discussion, which Avi hosted and produced, 1998-2001). All three programs aired on CBC Newsworld.
Avi also hosted The New Music on Citytv (1996-98), and won a Gemini Award for his coverage of the 1993 federal election as MuchMusic’s political specialist.
He received another four Gemini nominations in 2004 for his first feature documentary, The Take. The documentary follows Argentina’s new movement of worker-run factories, and it won the International Jury prize at the American Film Institute festival in Los Angeles.

Avi Lewis presents 4 reasons why you should read The Book of Negroes in an interesting article on the Canada Reads 2009 blogsite. Here is a short summary of those reasons:

  • First, it’s a totally gripping page-turner of a novel.
  • Second, the central character Aminata Diallo is an unforgettable, original voice with a capacity for insight that rings as true as the call of a circling bird.
  • Third, the novel complicates one of our cherished Canadian myths. Ask any Canadian about slavery, and two of the first words you’re likely to hear are “Underground Railroad.”
  • Finally, the novel transports us into the living, breathing reality of one of those monumental historical facts that is too easy to file away in our minds and hearts with thumbnail images of frozen suffering.

I highly recommend reading this article in it’s entirety, and getting Avi’s full perspective on these 4 reasons.

And because I’m always thinking of songs that go along perfectly with books while I’m reading, here are some songs that Avi Lewis suggests for a playlist to accompany The Book of Negroes:

The Giveaway

Now, the official Canada Reads 2009 debates are coming up soon (March 2) and I’m just over halfway done with the books, so I thought it would be the perfect time for a giveaway! But you’re gonna half to work for this one :)

Just recently when I was reading through the Canada Reads blog, I came across a post where the blogger, Lee, discusses how Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale share the similarities of being stories told from the perspective of strong females who both must try to conquer a life of hardship and persecution.

There is a particular passage from The Book of Negroes where the main character says “I have long loved the written word, and come to see in it the power of the sleeping lion. This is my name. This is who I am. This is how I got here. In the absence of an audience, I will write down my story so that it waits like a restful beast with lungs breathing and heart beating.

Lee responds to this by saying “I think it’s that idea, above all, that I loved best in these two seemingly disparate books. It’s also why I get a bit testy when I hear of parents complaining about the more challenging titles featured on high school reading lists. Because isn’t the power that comes from words — be they brutal or depressing or political — exactly the kind of power that teens should be armed with as they prepare to graduate from high school?”

Yes, yes the giveaway – I’m getting there! What I would like is your opinion regarding this, it can be a simple sentence or you can rant away. Just read the blog post - Word Power: Lee muses on The Handmaid's Tale and The Book of Negroes and then come back here and let me know what you think.

Up for grabs is 3 copies of The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, so that means I will randomly select 3 commentors to win! This is open to all readers worldwide and I will draw the winners Friday March 6 at midnight.

Previous Canada Reads 2009 Posts

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

Review – Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Read.  Watch. Uncover.
Skeleton Creek


Something mysterious is happening in Skeleton Creek.
Something scary. Something sinister.

Ryan came close to it … and nearly died.
Now he’s trapped in his house. He can’t
trust anyone – not even himself.

He is forbidden from seeing his best friend, Sarah.
So while Ryan is isolated and alone, she
plunges back into the mystery, putting her
life on the line to get to the truth.

Ryan is desperately trying to write down the full
story. And while he does, Sarah takes videos of what
she finds, then sends him the links so he can watch.

Together, they discover:
The past is dangerous. The present is haunted.
And the future is deadly.



My Thoughts 
When I first heard about this new book from Patrick Carman I was excited to say the least. Having volunteered with a school library I knew about his previous books for children and had seen how much kids enjoyed reading them, especially the Elyon series. So there’s one point for being an author that gets children excited about reading. But I’m a life-long reader and it takes a bit more to get me truly excited about a book, so why was I so worked up awaiting Skeleton Creek? The answer is the format. Books have traditionally been about the writing and the story, but nowadays with most books being translated into the movie format, I’ve seen too many people skipping the books in favour of the film. And with kids this is especially distressing, because not only do they have the option of movies but many books are also making the jump over to video games. What I mean to say is that with technology being a part of our everyday lives it’s easy skip the book, to play the game, watch the movie – but that means you may miss out on the original message that designers and producers did not think crossed over well into their medium. However, Patrick Carman came up with the perfect solution! Why not take all three formats, mix them together and see what happens. And the final product, Skeleton Creek is a phenomenal thing indeed. Check out this video clip, where Carman shares his thoughts on Skeleton Creek’s design.

So, the idea is a great one, but how does it play out? Amazingly! The book starts out with a journal entry from Ryan, his first line: “There was a moment not long ago when I thought: This is it. I’m Dead.” Wow, how’s that for an intro. From there the reader is pulled straight into Ryan’s story. The diary format works really well in making the reader feel they have stumbled upon Ryan’s personal account of what happened. Because of past events, Ryan has been forbidden contact with his best friend Sarah. But kids being kids, they find a way around this using the internet. Sarah, not able to see or phone Ryan uses her video skills to upload filmed messages to her website. Ryan, being the type who wants everything written down, includes website passwords so that Sarah’s videos can still be included in his journal. Along with the passwords, Ryan also prints out hardcopies of relevant emails and clues, which he then glues into his journal. All of this information taken together as a whole, creates a very engaging story, that pulls the reader into an interactive mystery, to find the secret behind Skeleton Creek.

I found myself feeling very connected to Ryan as the story progressed. During his forced separation from Sarah and while reliving the horror of what happened to them, he becomes paranoid and on-edge, as he gathers clues that confuse things even more, he starts to question his own mind and the people he knows. This emotional instability came across wonderfully in the writing. Likewise the videos perfectly capture Sarah’s stubborn drive to uncover what is going on. She is driven, and slightly careless, but as you watch her in the videos you start to form an idea of how successful she could someday become as an investigative journalist. Alone, the two main characters probably have no chance, but together they create the perfect team, one worried and cautious, the other foolhardy and brave. One to consider and tell the story, the other to capture and show it.

Ghosts, gold, secret societies, conspiracies. The ending of Skeleton Creek left me wordless, and I eagerly await the next instalment. Until then, there’s lots of interesting things going on around the internet and I will be watching for the next appearance of Ryan and Sarah.

About The Author
Patrick Carman is the award-winning author of many books for young adults and children. He grew up in Salem, Oregon, and graduated from Willamette University. His birthday is February 27th, 1966. He spent a decade living in Portland, where he worked in advertising, game design, and technology.
Patrick Carman has been a life long writer and storyteller. He writes books for young adults and children for Scholastic and Little Brown Books for Young Readers. His bestselling series include The Land of Elyon, Atherton, and Elliot’s Park. Mr. Carman’s books have been translated into approximately two dozen languages.
Mr, Carman spends his free time supporting literacy campaigns and community organizations, working with, mountain biking, fly fishing, doing crosswords, playing Scrabble and basketball, reading, and (more than anything else) spending time with his wife and two daughters.

Title: Skeleton Creek
Author: Patrick Carman
Reading Level: Ages 10 and up
Book Type: Hardcover 192 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: February 2009

Explore Skeleton Creek
Skeleton Creek Is Real
Live Friday The 13th Webcast
Portfolio Days (music from SC)
Sarah @ MySpace
Joe Bush ?

Other Reviews
UnMainstream Mom Reads
Ms. Bookish  
Sharon Loves Books And Cats
YA Fabulous!

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

Weekly Geeks 2009-05 … Eye Of The Beholder

Judge a Book By Its Cover!
This week it's all about judging books by their covers! Pick a book--any book, really--and search out multiple book cover images for that book. They could span a decade or two (or more)...Or they could span several countries. Which cover is your favourite? Which one is your least favourite? Which one best 'captures' what the book is about?

Further details on Weekly Geeks found here.

I’ve decided to focus on Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
My favourite covers are #4 and #10, my least favoured are #3, #5 and #9.

If you judged a book by it’s cover, which of these Brave New Worlds would you be more likely to pick up?
Which would you pass right by without a second glance?

#1 – Chatto and Windus 1932 #2 – Bantam 1952
This is a first edition cover and for the age of it I like the use of color as a way of showing separation. 

Lol – I love these pulp-style covers, and as horrid as this looks it does contain the savage, the desirable woman and the modern city in the background.

#3 – Flamingo 1977 #4Harper Perennial 1998
This is a cover that I hate, the clones are appropriate to the book, but it reminds me of the movie I, Robot (which I was not impressed with)

Clones again, yet I like this cover for the way they are presented as faceless, sexless, and all marching to the same beat. There is something attractive about the color scheme also, with the glare of white representing their ‘good’ origin.

#5 – Penguin Readers UK 1999 #6 – Vintage Books 2004

I see this representing one person among a group who cannot conform – but it would be more appropriate to have a male because Lenina, the main female in BNW is more conformist than not.

Again the faceless being is related to everyone being the same and the fetus could be seen as a representation of how babies are  being pre-designed and mass produced. A product rather than a person.
#7 – HarperCollins 2004 #8 – Harper Modern Classics 2005
The capsule is a great reference to SOMA – a drug in BNW used to control people. “"All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects."

Since people in BNW were judged alot on materialistic things/looks, this blue-eyed, blond-haired mannequin-like face strikes me as making a connection to the Aryan power movement.

#9 – Pearson Longman 2005 #10 – Harper Perennial Modern Classics 2006
More faceless, mannequin like clone troops. Not too original and a bit more bland than the others. The title design in this one is a complete turn-off, it blends into the background and it’s strangely spaced. The mixture of technology with humans is a good connection. The gears could be taken to mean every person is engineered to smoothly interact with all others to make the world one machine comprised of parts that don’t work individually.
#11 – Vintage Canada 2007 #12 – Penguin 2008
The egg is another reference to the design and incubation of humans. The zipper perhaps saying that  the human inside has no control, rather it is the creator that decides when they are ready to hatch. This is the only cover that focuses on the creator of the brave new world, although his clones are still present as he seems to watch over them. For me it is a little too reminiscent of 1984’s Big Brother ideal.

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

Sparkly Vampires … Bleechh

The Twilight Series, I’m sure everyone is completely sick of reading review of these books by now. So, I’m going to keep this quick and short. I just finished reading the last book today. The feeling of relief is immense. But also a feeling of uncomfortable foreboding. The main reason for this is that I’m completely depressed at the world-wide Twilight madness that has taken hold of the younger generation – yes, I know that many adults are in love with the series too, but as adults they are responsible for their own decisions of what they read. Here are some of my main complaints about the series:

  • Bella is a very poor heroine for young girls to look up to.
  • The idea of Bella being so obsessively in love at such a young age.
  • Edward as the ideal boyfriend is beyond thought without Bella having any comparison.
  • The way that Bella so easily leaves family/friends and isolates herself.
  • The idea of using marriage as a way to solve problems.
  • Bella’s lack of parental supervision.
  • Little to no character development, with the exception of Jacob.
  • Certain descriptions being repeated over and over again (OK Edward is beautiful, I get it)
  • The introduction of so many secondary characters with no real background/follow-up.
  • A monotonous ending that seemed to go on forever, with not a trace of tension or action.
  • Sparkly vampires – umm no.

Anyways, those are just things that irk me about the series. My main complaint is that kids (teen girls especially) are going so incredibly crazy about the Twilight series. I didn’t enjoy Bella’s being created as such an obsessive character, but seeing the obsession of fans is tens times worse. If fans were just really excited about the books that would be fine, but when you see kids screaming and fighting over a book or T-shirt, then there is something wrong. Hopefully, these fans have the sense to seperate the fictional characters from the actors portraying them, because these stars aren’t setting too wonderful of an example either.


Anyways, these are just my thoughts. I didn’t care for these books, but if you do that’s fine too. The world would be a very dull place if we all agreed on everything. Oh and I have to share this totally awesome artist that I stumbled across – Jae Waller – her website is called Mill City Fiasco and she has lots of fun stuff there. Here is one of her comix that I thought was hilarious and is appropriate for this post:

Other Reviews
YA Fabulous!
Kiss My Book

Have you reviewed this book too?
Let me know and I’ll add your link to the list :)

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

Review – Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail Volume 1

Cute girl wizard Lucy wants to join the Fairy Tail, a club for the most powerful wizards. But instead, her ambitions land her in the clutches of a gang of unsavoury pirates led by a devious magician. Her only hope is Natsu, a strange boy she happens to meet on her travels. Natsu’s not your typical hero–he gets motion sickness, eats like a pig, and his best friend is a talking cat. With friends like this, is Lucy better off with her enemies?


Fairy Tail Volume 2

Beautiful celestial wizard Lucy has teamed up with the crazy fire wizard Natsu and his bizarre flying cat, Happy. Their job: to steal a book from the notorious Duke Everlue. But the eccentric Everlue has killed wizards before, and Lucy’s team is walking right into his death trap!


My Thoughts
The Fairy Tail wizards guild is where everyone with magical tendencies would like to end up, and Lucy is no exception. She dreams of one day being a part of this group. But as amazing as the Fairy Tail guild is, they also have a pretty bad reputation – they seem to be the type that gets a job done with no thought as to the destruction they may cause along the way. They also seem to be a very party and fun oriented bunch.

Volume 1 introduces the reader to three main characters, Lucy, Natsu and Happy. Lucy is a sorceress who uses the magic of her Gate Keys to summon magical spirits. It appears that many of the better Gate Keys call to creatures which are related to star signs. Natsu is a very powerful wizard, raised by a dragon, he has the ability to gain nourishment from eating fire, which also allows him to expel flames from any part of his body. Happy is Natsu’s feline side-kick, his magical talent lets him grow wings that make him able to fly.

Each of these characters have their own particular personality, Lucy acts sort of spoiled, but not in a snobby way, she is very self-confident and likes to think she can get by on her looks alone, even though she seems smart. Natsu is just strange, he is obviously powerful and he loves to fight, and eat, but he cannot travel on any sort of transport without getting sea/car-sick. His background is pretty vague so far, but it’s clear there’s something special about him. Happy is just what his name suggests, an all-around good cat, he provides lots of comical asides.

After reading Volume 1, I was very curious to see where this series was heading. I enjoyed the characters and the basic idea, so I picked up Volume 2. Even though it does introduce more characters and furthers the story, there was just something I wasn’t getting. Maybe if I were to read a few more volumes I would enjoy myself more, but at this point I’m going to set Fairy Tail aside. My only concrete complaint about the series was certain aspects of the illustrations, at points in the story when characters are feeling different emotions there entire persona is drawn differently. The majority of the time they appear as they are portrayed on the covers, but at other times they become cartoonish or sketched looking. This bothers me. I like artistic continuity in my manga.

About The Author
Hiro Mashima is a Japanese manga artist most known for his manga Groove Adventure Rave, published by Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine, from 1999 to 2005. The series was later adapted into an anime. However, the anime adaption was cancelled before it could complete the series. In 2003, he collected some of his one-shot titles in two volumes: Mashima-en- Vol.1 & 2. Those stories include, among others, Cocona, "Xmas Hearts" and "Fairy Tail", a sort of prototype for his last work. In 2006, he began his current ongoing series, Fairy Tail, serialized in Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine. He also published the one-shot manga Monster Soul during the same year.


Title: Fairy Tale Volume 1 & 2
Author: Hiro Mashima
Book Genre: Manga (Japanese)
Book Type: Trade Paperback 208 pages
Publisher: Del Ray
Publication Date: March 2008
Other Reviews
Fairy Tail Volume 1 @ The Written World
Fairy Tail Volume 2 @ The Written World

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

Library Loot – 04•02•09

Library Loot is a weekly event hosted by Eva of A Striped Armchair and Alessandra from Out Of The Blue.

To take part, simply let everyone know what you discovered on your latest trip to the Library. And don’t forget to check out what great books everyone else checked out this week for ideas for your own future library jaunts.

This fun event happens weekly, from Wednesday through to the following  Tuesday, with a new round beginning the next day. So it’s easy to participate no matter what day you visit the library.

My library visit this week was a quick run in and out, I usually always browse a bit, but when I walked in I saw that I had a ton of books waiting that I had requested online. One great thing about having an online library system is that as I’m reading through blogs and reviews if I spot a book I’m interested in I just pop over to the Library website and place a hold on it.

That picture shows exactly where I sit when I get home from the library. Right down on the floor, like a little kid at Christmas time, with my bookish loot spread around me. So here is what I picked up this week, and why.

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