The Sea Was a Fair Master

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Author: Calvin Demmer

My Rating: 5/5

 

I prefer one-piece horror stories versus mini stories. Correction, I used to prefer one-piece horror stories. Today that thought has changed.

The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 short horror stories varying from murder to androids. Given the 5/5 rating, I was not just pleasantly surprised but amazed how polished and addictive the stories were.

I also tend to find including humour in horror stories to be a risky move, but the humour in these stories were executed very well and added something extra to the stories instead of it falling flat and unneeded.

My favourite stories in the collection were Restroom Finds, Letting the Dead Grow and The Guests.

This was the first book I have read by this author and I certainly will be looking into his other works. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves horror, spooky short stories or is looking for something unique in the horror genre.

And guess what?! This is a brand new book that just came out today! You can order your copy here:

Be sure to follow Calvin Demmer on twitter @CalvinDemmer and check out his website at www.calvindemmer.com
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This is Not My Hat

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I recently finished a Readers Advisory for Children’s class in my Library Technology and Information program.

This course had a wide range of topics from ABC picture books to the Nancy Drew mystery series. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the course overall.

Looking back, my favourite book we covered in the course was Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat. 

It is a tale of a fish with a hat that fits him perfectly. Because this is not his hat, trouble begins to follow him.

The illustrations were entertaining but different as the colour scheme overall was not bright and cheery like a typical picture book.

While the story has a likeable protagonist, has a clear beginning, middle and end and a funny story, there is an extra element in this picture book that makes kids love this book.

While our little fish protagonist swims his way through the story, he is completely unaware of the problems lying ahead for him while at the same time the reader is fully aware of this through the illustrations and are clued into this well before the protagonist has any idea.

Kids love being “in on the joke” and this is why I think This is Not My Hat is such a hilarious and classic picture book to consider reading to any young child.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

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Author: Barbara Demick

My Rating: 5/5

 

It all started when I was watching the ABC 20/20 episode about what happened to Otto Wambier. (If you’re interested in watching the episode, you can look it up on YouTube.) Before, I knew North Korea was kind of a crazy country, but I had no idea it was an extreme communist country; and after watching the episode I just had to learn more about this “hermit kingdom.”

Nothing To Envy is a nonfiction book in which the author tells the stories of six North Korean citizens who managed to escape the most secretive state. This book is an incredible source of information of what life is really like in North Korea.

I really enjoyed this book because before, I had finished watching lots of documentaries on North Korea. It is not only hard to get into the country, having permission to film and interview citizens is even more difficult. When I watched the documentaries, I saw that the North Korean government wanted the films to only show the very best that North Korea has, not the bad and ugly. When you watch a documentary on North Korea that interviews the citizens, you do not get the personal opinions from the citizens; you get a propaganda machine spewed from the mouths of the citizens who claim to have a perfect life and have “nothing and nobody to envy.”

This book tells the true stories of so many North Korean citizens who do not live comfortably in the city Pyongyang, the wealthy capital of the country. A cushy and rich city where health care, food and shelter is easily accessible. This is the only city North Korea will let foreigners visit and documentary crews film; simply because they do not want people to know the poor and awful standards of living the rest of their country suffers in. This book engrossed me, and it read like a novel. The author extensively interviewed and researched the topics she covered. Because of these points, I easily gave this book a 5/5 star rating.

I honestly believe everyone should read this book, especially those who moan and groan about the evils of capitalism. Now, before I get your panties up in a twist, I am not all pro-capitalism or pro-Trump. All I am saying is, after reading this book, it gave me a fresh perspective on the advantages of capitalism, and above all, reminded me how fortunate I am to live in a capitalist country with internet access and free speech. Something, North Koreans, would be killed if caught participating in.

I recommend this to anybody and everyone. I strongly feel this is an essential book to read.

To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home

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Author: Chris Hansen (duh!)

My Rating: 4/5

 

Dateline’s To Catch a Predator has always been a classic guilty pleasure of mine. To this day, I still rewatch the episodes on YouTube. While the technology used in the show is basically outdated nowadays, the humour is always golden. I figured since Predator is Chris Hansen’s magnum opus of journalism, he probably wrote a book on the subject as well. I was right. I eagerly ordered this book off amazon and was not disappointed.

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Like the television show, this book is light and entertaining. Let me clarify that: the subject matter is, of course, far from light, but the writing and organization of this book is much easier to read over many other true crime books I have read in the past. Like the show, the technology the book contains is pretty much outdated. (Unless tons of people still use Yahoo chatrooms, but I think all the kids are with the smartphone apps nowadays)

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One of my favourite lines from the show

 

The book contains situations and scenes from the show, but also gives you a more behind-the-scenes look into the production and execution.

I really enjoyed this book mostly because like the show, I love seeing these asshole predators being questioned on the spot by Chris Hansen and stammering as they get caught in their own lies.

I gave this book 4/5 stars because it is an important look how easily online predators can find kids, but also how much extra information Chris Hansen includes in the book that you wouldn’t have known from just watching the show.

I would’ve given this 5/5 stars, but I felt many of the scenes were just repeated and retold from the show.

Apart from that, an excellent book to to consider reading if you enjoy the genre of True Crime and of course, if you have watched the tv show as well.

 

(I’m just going to leave these here as well:)

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The Sallie House Haunting: A True Story

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Author: Debra Lyn Pickman

My Rating: 5/5

Hauntings, more specifically; American Hauntings, seem to come a dime a dozen. I’ve read many, and the majority of them have never kept my interest. I don’t know if it is the same old ghost cliches or my serious doubt of their authenticity.

Here is the thing about The Sallie House Haunting: it has the same old poltergeist activities that you will find in any house haunting account. The Sallie House also gave me lots of doubts on whether this family were truly haunted or wanted to get their 15 minutes of fame.

However, there was an eerie feeling that kept me reading this book. Do I believe in ghosts? Yes and no. Do I think the majority of families claiming their house to be haunted is nothing but BS? Absolutely. And usually, those thoughts tend to make me lose interest in whatever “true story” haunting I am reading at the time.

So, what made me give this traditional haunted house story a 5/5 rating?

I’ll have to point out this book has a lot of typos, so the writing itself is far from perfect; but the way the story is written from a first person account, the way the author dealt with the supposed haunting….it was hypnotizing for me.

The author pours out her thoughts and feelings about what she is dealing with. I suppose what really was appealing about this haunting was that the author is an incredibly curious person. She doesn’t become super dramatic about how terrifying her ordeal was. While she believes in the paranormal, she wants to find out how, what and why. I also enjoyed this book because the author (the mother and wife of the family,) talks a lot of about the fact that her and her husband have completely different beliefs and views when it comes to the paranormal and their overall experiences.

I won’t give out spoilers for this book, but these are the basic facts: Debra and Tony Pickman and their newborn son move into a new house. They first realize the teddy bears in their son’s nursery start to move into the centre of the room by themselves. As time goes on they discover their house is haunted by a little girl named Sallie.

Tony is skeptical, while Debra embraces the new lonely little ghost girl into their family. Whether that was a good idea or not, you have to read the book to come to your own conclusion.

This is the first haunting account I can say actually scared me. For me, this book is exactly what I was looking when it comes to creepy and spooky. The story made me think after I finished reading it. Do I believe the Sallie House is actually haunting? I don’t know. All I know is the book scared the shit out of me, and I am quite shocked I have never heard of this haunted house before.

In The Sallie House, the author also describes her experience in having a paranormal tv crew come into their house to investigate. This part was also very interesting. I was  excited when I found out the actual documentary the author describes in her book is on YouTube. While the documentary itself is a cheesy and traditional paranormal show, it was cool to know I had read the behind the scenes information before watching the documentary.

Of course, if would rather watch a movie than read, I heavily recommend The Heartland Ghost. (I’m going to link the youtube video of it at the bottom of my review.)

5/5 for spooky. 5/5 for giving me actual goosebumps and 5/5 for making me wonder about this story days after I finished reading it.

Princess

Princess is a modernized children’s series based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic: A Little Princess.

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Author: Gabrielle Charbonnet

My Rating: 5/5

 

I first came across the first book: #1 Molly’s Heart, when I was very little, and fell in love with the story. At the time, ebooks were not a thing, and I couldn’t find the other two books in the series.

Recently, I have been getting back into reading on my kindle. While browsing the amazon ebook section I was delighted to find the two remaining books in the Princess series were available to download; and at a great price! I quickly downloaded them both and finished the series in less than a week.

To sum up the series in one word for me would be “cute.”

Molly is a young girl who is the daughter of a very successful and wealthy film director. When her father is called to film a documentary in a location that isn’t best suited for children, she is sent to a prestigious boarding school in Boston.

If you have read A Little Princess, you will find this retelling adorable and entertaining. I generally do not enjoy retellings of classics, but this one was so charming and excellent.

The series is broken into 3 children’s chapter books. From looking at the back of the first book, it says the series is aimed towards an 8-12 reading level age.

I liked how the author of this series kept the characters very similar to the characters in the classic. Molly is imaginative, loving and caring; just like Sara Crewe in A Little Princess.

I really enjoyed the modernized version and would recommend this to any young girls or those like me, who love the original classic.

Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

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Author(s): William Shakespeare (Creator) Richard Appignanesi (Adaptor)

Illustrator(s): Sonia Leong

My Rating: 1/5

 

My past few book reviews have all been all 5/5 reviews, so I figured it was time I review something I just detested.

First things first, I did not take the illustrations in account for this 1/5 rating. If I was to rate the story just based on the illustrations, I would give it 4/5. The illustrations were great.

For the story/adaption side of things, I just couldn’t finish the book. I only give 1/5 stars for books I just can’t finish out of boredom or frustration. (Sometimes both.)

Because I didn’t finish this manga, this review is going to be pretty quick.

I read Romeo and Juliet when I was in 7th grade, and when I came across this manga at work I wondered how a combo of Shakespeare and Manga would turn out. For me, they just don’t mix.

The Romeo and Juliet of this manga is sped up to modern times. I don’t think that was the problem. I just couldn’t like it or bother to continue and finish the story.

My take on this manga is this: If there is a recreation of one of the world’s biggest classics; especially turning it into manga form, there are always going to be a ton of mixed opinion about it. Some will love this story as it is a neat new spin on such a well known play. Some will think it was a meh attempt. Others just don’t think something as classic as Shakespeare should be adapted, period. And then some readers just didn’t like it; which is the category I fell into. I don’t know exactly what it was, I just couldn’t get into. I’d rather reread the play, to be honest.

However, I am writing this review to mention how I think it is very important and an excellent idea of putting classics such as this one, into a manga/graphic novel form. It is a great idea way to get kids, teens, adults (anyone really,) introduced to the world’s greatest classics.

For my personal reading enjoyment though, I won’t be picking up another classic-themed manga anytime soon.