Tuesday, 30 April 2013

'Defiance' and 'Bates Motel' Review Update

Because it's our birthday, we're taking an extra day off for writing this Saturday, during which we also plan to enjoy Free Comic Book Day at our local comic book shop with our brother. Therefore, our reviews for 'Defiance' and 'Bates Motel' may be a bit late. 

Review: 'Bates Motel: The Truth'

'Bates Motel: The Truth,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin. Directed by Tucker Gates. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore.  Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. EST on Mondays on A&E, or catch up on full episodes at http://www.aetv.com/bates-motel/.

The sex slave ring storyline comes to a head in this episode, so hang on. It starts with Norma (Vera Farmiga, pictured) trying to come to terms with the fact that her boyfriend, Deputy Zack Shelby (Mike Vogel), is part of a sex slave ring. 

She doesn't handle it well. In fact, she goes a bit nutters, running off and trying to go see Zack, which Norman (Freddie Highmore, pictured on the right) thinks is a really bad idea. With difficulty, he convinces Norma to wait and do things the right way; and with Norma's help, he also convinces Emma (Olivia Cooke) to wait to tell the police. 

Then Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Norman go to Keith Summers' (Earl Brown) boat to look for Keith's belt, the incriminating evidence Zack has against Norma. But whilst they're out, Zack visits Norma, who must then act as if everything's normal whilst there's a sex slave in her hotel. 

Dylan also confesses to his boss that he killed Ethan's (Terry Chen) murderer; Dylan's boss tells him he did good, and also tells him how to get rid of the evidence. 

There's a terrific shoot-out scene in this episode, along with yet another shocking revelation as we finally find out what really happened to Norman's father. 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Review: 'Cat Breeds of the World' by Desmond Morris

Cat Breeds of the World by Desmond Morris, 1999, Viking, $19.95, hardbound, 256 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: Striking. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

This is one of the first books we ever owned on cat breeds, and it still stands out as an exceptional book. One note we may make as to improvements that could be made: there aren't any pictures of the coat colours and patterns, which we would very much like to see. 

That being said, the book is remarkable, not only in its beautiful colour photographs, but in its information on cats in general and the different breeds in particular. The information on cats as a species is found in the introduction, which is 20 pages long and includes topics such as 'Breed Popularity,' 'Cat Shows,' 'Abnormal Breeds,' and 'Feline Anatomy.' For ourselves, some of the more intriguing information comes under the heading 'Feline Anatomy'; here is where we learn that the majority of blue-eyed white cats are genetically deaf due to a malformation in the inner ear (cats who have one blue eye are deaf only in one ear); that cats' third eyelid is called the haw; and that whiskers are not only feelers, but act as air-current detectors. 

After the introduction come the chapters on specific breeds. Here we are treated not only to pictures of felines representing each breed, but to facts and folklore on the breeds. A brief description of appearance is given, personality is evaluated, and the colour forms which are acceptable for each breed are noted. Also listed are breed clubs. 

If you like this one, try: Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds by J. Anne Helgren. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

'The Following': An Update

We've unfortunately missed the last few episodes of this season's 'The Following.' We tried to tape one episode, and it didn't work; then we taped 'Defiance,' but found out our VCR/DVR won't record anything we're not watching. So we were unable to watch 'The Following' whilst taping 'Defiance,' and because we thought we might like to keep 'Defiance' for our own video library, we made a choice and chose 'Defiance.' 

Little did we realise that SyFy Channel was going to give an encore presentation of all the 'Defiance' episodes. We should have known; SyFy does that quite frequently with its new and more popular shows. We also should have checked the SyFy Channel schedule online. But we didn't. 

We regret any disappointment this may have caused. We hope to find 'The Following' episodes we haven't seen online and review them for this blog soon; we also hope that in the meantime our readers will enjoy the 'Defiance' reviews we write. 

Review: 'Defiance: Pilot'

'Defiance: Pilot,' 2013, SyFy. Written by Rockne S. O'Bannon and Kevin Murphy and Michael Taylor. Directed by Scott Stewart. Starring Grant Bowler, Stephanie Leonidas, Graham Greene, Tony Curran, and Julie Benz. Rated TV-14 for language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 9.00 p.m. Mondays on SyFy Channel, or watch full episodes at http://www.defiance.com/en/series/episodes/pilot.

Set in 2046, this series takes place after the Votan races have terraformed Earth and settled there. There was a war (the Pale War), but the pilot doesn't go into that too much, so we're likely to be treated to more information as the series goes on. We do know that there are eight races living on Earth now (presumably this means humanity, along with the seven Votan races). 

We also know that the hero of the show, Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler, pictured on the right), fought in the Pale War as part of the 9th Division, 'the Defiant Few.' There was a battle called 'Defiance,' and it's from that battle that the town in the show got its name. 

Travelling with Nolan is his adopted daughter, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas, pictured), an Irathient who was rescued by Nolan during the war. We don't know exactly what sort of trouble Irisa was in, but she says Nolan saved her by murdering her parents. 

Nolan and Irisa are wanderers and scavengers, taking what they can get from wherever they go in order to eke out a living and try to hit the big time. Their goal is to get to the beaches of Antarctica (remember, Earth has been terraformed), which they've heard is 'paradise.' They finally have a chance to do that when they find a terrasphere, which will sell for a hefty price. 

Unfortunately, they get separated from their prize when they're forced into the  woods by spirit riders (think alien bikers) and Irisa is injured. They're saved from becoming lunch for some creatures that give new meaning to the term 'wolf spider' by a man named Gary Clancey. Clancey is the lawkeeper of a nearby town called (you guessed it) Defiance. 

Defiance is run by the new mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz). Rosewater is unsure of herself and her abilities to be mayor; she's stepping into some big shoes. Her predecessor, however, is only too happy to step down. 

Other characters include Deputy Tommy LaSalle (Dewshane Williams); Kenya (Mia Kirshner), the keeper of the town bar/brothel NeedWant; Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), a Castithan and the leader of Defiance's underworld; Stahna (Jaime Murray), Datak's wife, also a Castithan; Alak (Jesse Rath), Datak's son; Rafe McKawley (Graham Greene), a mine owner and Defiance's richest, most powerful human; Christie McKawley (Nicole Munoz), Rafe's daughter, who is in love with Alak; Ben (Douglas Nyback), an Indogene and Amanda's assistant; and Doc Yewll (Trenna Keating), also an Indogene. 

The relationships between all the characters is fascinating, as are the numerous races. There's also plenty of action, CGI, and other special effects. The aliens' makeup must take hours to accomplish, but it's worth it, and there are really cool weapons and methods of transportation, such as the roller Nolan and Irisa had at the beginning of the episode. And the storyline and back story keep one interested. We were sorry to see the first two hours end.  

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel' and 'Defiance'

Our reviews for 'Bates Motel' and 'Defiance' this week may be a bit late; we decided to take an all-day writing day. 


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Review: 'The Best of Carly Simon' by Carly Simon

'The Best of Carly Simon' by Carly Simon, 1975, Elektra. Cover: pretty. We don't have the CD jacket, and so don't know whether lyrics are included.

We've always liked Carly Simon. This CD has some of her greatest hits, including one of our favourites, 'You're So Vain.' It also has 'That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be,' a depressing song about the dark side of marriage, about doing what's expected rather than what you want. 

'Legend in Your Own Time' is about a chap who does his own thing but is missing out on love; then there's 'Haven't Got Time for the Pain,' about a woman who was used to heartache but who is now happy due to the love in her life; and '(We Have) No Secrets,' about a woman who knows everything about her guy and wishes she didn't. And be sure to listen to the grooving 'Night Owl,' which showcases a piano and saxophone alongside Simon's lovely voice. 

This is a good album, filled with a nice variety of Simon's songs. 

Favourite lyrics include: 'Well you're where you should be all the time/And when you're not you're with/Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend' ('You're So Vain'). 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: Ocean View'

'Bates Motel: Ocean View,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Jeff Wadlow. Directed by David Straiton. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. EST on Mondays on A&E, or you can watch full episodes at http://www.aetv.com/bates-motel/.

In this episode, Norma (Vera Farmiga) has been arrested for the murder of Keith Summers (Earl Brown). She sits in jail, furious at Norman (Freddie Highmore) for going out to see a girl whilst she worried. She won't let Norman or Dylan (Max Thieriot) help her; but Norman goes home, finds the deed to the motel, and uses it for collateral to post her bail. On the way home the next day, Norma forces Norman out of the car 10 miles from home. A serious rift is continuing to form between the two. 

Meanwhile, Norman is trying to get in touch with Bradley (Nicola Peltz), who he had sex with the night before. He also tells Emma (Olivia Cooke) that he found 'the manga girl' -- the Chinese sex slave he and Emma have been trying to find -- but that she has disappeared again. Emma does some digging based on what little he tells her, and finds out that Keith Summers had a boat where the girl might now be hidden. Emma and Norman go looking, and find the girl, whose name is Jiao (Diana Bang). 

Dylan thinks Norman should get away from Norma; he's set on getting a place of his own for him and Norman to live. He borrows money from his co-worker Ethan (Terry Chen), who is shot soon after by a man who owes money to Dylan and Ethan's boss. What Dylan does later is something of a shock. 

This is another exciting, enthralling episode. The dynamic between Norman and Norma continues to intrigue, and we're seeing a bit more of how threatened each feels when the other has someone else in their life. 

Review: 'Butterflies and Moths' by Barbara Taylor

Butterflies and Moths by Barbara Taylor, 1996, DK Pockets, $6.95, softbound, 160 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: quite attractive. Where we got it: gift. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

This is one of the first books we ever got on butterflies and moths, and it's still one of the best. It's a pocket guide, meaning it can fit in your pocket, but it comes with a wealth of information. For example, in the lengthy introduction, the reader learns the difference between butterflies and moths, the life cycle of butterflies and moths, and a bit about the types of moths and butterflies. This is another book that isn't strictly for kids, but that anyone of any age will love. 

There are also sections on wings and flight, scales and colour, and the senses of butterflies and moths. 

Then the book is divided into habitats -- temperate woodlands, wetlands, arctic and mountains, etc. -- and information is given about each habitat. Here we find the different butterflies and moths who frequent these habitats, as well as extra bits of information about the butterflies and moths depicted here. 

There's also a handy reference section, which includes information on classification, threatened habitats, how to properly observe butterflies and moths, and much more.

If you weren't a butterfly or moth fan before you picked up this book, you will be before you put it down.  

If you like this one, try: The Exquisite Butterfly Companion by Hazel Davies.  

Friday, 19 April 2013

Review: 'The Exquisite Butterfly Companion' by Hazel Davies

The Exquisite Butterfly Companion: The Science and Beauty of 100 Butterflies by Hazel Davies, 2011, Sterling Publishing Company, $14.95, softbound but comes in a box, 88 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: Exquisite. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

You can get this beautiful book on Nook for only $2.99; however, then you would be missing the 100 punch-out paper butterflies, as well as the protective (and equally exquisite) box and ribbon. It isn't strictly a children's book, but kids would love it; however, you might not want to hand it over to them until they're old enough to take proper care of it.

The book doesn't contain only butterflies, but branches out into moths: the Madagascan sunset moth (black with sunset colours), the owl moth (made up of golden-brown and black patterns), and the giant leopard moth (who has lovely black markings on a white background), to name only three of the 20 moth species depicted here.There are a total of 80 butterflies represented.

But the book isn't just beautiful photographs (though it may be worth the price for those alone); there's plenty of fascinating information to be had: chapters on the differences between butterflies and moths; life cycles; feeding; survival strategies, camouflages, and toxins; migration (including a section specifically on monarchs); and conservation. The introduction is full of interesting information, too; for instance, in the Middle Ages, butterflies were thought to be faeries intent on stealing butter and milk. 

At the back of the book are paper butterfly projects for you to do with the punch-out paper butterflies. You can turn one of your paper butterflies into a butterfly flyer, or you can make a glider or a mobile, or you can pin the paper butterflies and moths in a humane display (rather than pinning actual butterflies and moths).

Definitely try this one if you're interested in butterflies or moths. 

If you like this one, try: Butterflies and Moths by Barbara Taylor.

Don't forget to check out the other sites on the tour!

Paper Tigers (papertigers.org) 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Blog Tour

Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

Books in the Moonlight (booksinthemoonlight.wordpress.com) 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Review: 'Piano Man' by Billy Joel

'Piano Man' by Billy Joel, 1973, Columbia. Cover: not the most attractive we've seen. We don't have the CD, so we don't know if it comes with lyrics or not.

This is a terrific album and includes some of Billy Joel's best songs. Perhaps most notable (certainly one of our favourites) is the title track, about a man who plays piano at a bar and the people he sees there. The piano figures heavily not only in this song but throughout the album; the harmonica, banjo, sax, and organ are also put to good use on various tracks.

'Travelin' Prayer' is a prayer for a man's girlfriend to be all right whilst the man in her life isn't with her. There's a frantic beat to this song, a contrast to the idea of it being a prayer, which would normally be expected to be more sedate. But it works well, giving the impression that the man's prayer is a desperate one. Then there's 'Ain't No Crime,' a song about human nature; 'You're My Home,' a touching track about deep love; and 'Stop in Nevada,' told from the woman's point of view, about starting over. 

The songs are strong, with a depth of emotion one likes to hear; the music is catchy, and Joel has a good voice. 

Note: mild language and sex. 

Favourite lyrics include: 'He say, Son can you play me a melody/I'm not really sure how it goes/But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete/When I wore a younger man's clothes' ('Piano Man'); 'Well he never traveled heavy/Yes he always rode alone,/And he soon put many older guns to shame/Well he never had a sweetheart/Though he finally found a home/Underneath the boothill grave that bears his name' ('The Ballad of Billy the Kid'). 

Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

Ms. Yingling Reads (msyinglingreads.blogspot.com)
It’s About Time, MaMaw (itsabouttimemamaw.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: Trust Me'

'Bates Motel: Trust Me,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Kerry Ehrin. Directed by Johan Renck. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. on Mondays on A&E, or you can watch complete episodes and get behind-the-scenes information at http://www.aetv.com/bates-motel/.

As one might guess from the title, this episode is all about trust: who can trust whom, and how far that trust can go. 

A slight rift is forming between Norman (Freddie Highmore) and his mother (Vera Farmiga); Norman returns from Deputy Shelby's (Mike Vogel) house and tells Norma Shelby has a Chinese girl locked up in his basement. Norma, who knows Norman 'sometimes sees and hears things that aren't there,' thinks he's been hallucinating; her refusal to believe him causes Norman to confide instead in his half-brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot). In fact, he tells him everything, from Keith Summers' (Earl Brown) attack on Norma to the murder and the Chinese girl -- everything.

Heartened that Norman feels he can trust him, Dylan says he'll help. The first thing he does is convince Norman to go to Bradley's (Nicola Peltz) house when she texts him -- to allow himself to be a 17-year-old for a while. This results in an action Norman may regret when next he sees Emma (Olivia Cooke). 

The tension between Norma and Dylan finally comes to a head, though things aren't resolved yet; and the murder investigation continues, with a hand (Keith's?) being found in the water. All in all, quite a good episode.  

Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

Kid Lit Reviews (Kid-Lit-Reviews.com) also on Twitter (@KidLitReviews1)   

Blog Tour

Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

Kid Lit Reviews (Kid-Lit-Reviews.com) also on Twitter (@KidLitReviews1)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Review: 'the Garden of My Imaan' by Farhana Zia

The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia, 2013, Peachtree Publishers, $15.95, hardbound, 236 pages. Category/Genre: mainstream/religion. Cover: nicely done. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

This is a tender coming-of-age story told fromthe point of view of fifth grader Aliya, who is Muslim and of Indian descent. 

Aliya has a lot of typical problems for a girl her age: there's a bully at school who singles her out, there's a mean girl and her entourage who single her out, and Aliya's little brother is a tattle-tale. But she also has some problems that most of the other kids in her school don't have: because she's Muslim, she fears that people will single her out even more, and she'll become a target for ridicule. 

She's also trying to follow her faith without standing out. So: should she wear the hijab (a scarf tied around the head to show modesty) as some of her friends in church do? Should she fast on weekdays, when all the other kids at school would know? 

Then a new girl, Marwa, comes to school -- and wears the hijab and fasts every day during Ramadan. At first, Aliya thinks Marwa is drawing too much unwanted attention to herself. But as she spends more time with Marwa, Aliya   begins to see things in a different light. She begins to admire Marwa for her quiet confidence. 

Meanwhile, Aliya has two very important projects to work on, one for social studies class, and the other for her religious studies class in church. For the religious studies class, Aliya tries writing letters to Allah (God), and finds that this makes her feel good. But she doesn't seem to be developing and changing the way her teacher wants her to be. Not only that, but she has no idea what to do for her social studies project, which is supposed to help people embrace each other's differences. 

The story moves forward as Aliya looks deeper into herself and does begin to change and grow -- slowly, and realistically. 

This is an exceptional book, with humour, angst, and tension. The characters are true to life and likeable. 

Age range: 8-12. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions?   

Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour!

3 Bookworms http://www.lettersnumbersandbooksohmy.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter @3Bookworms.

Interview: Emily Rivet

Emily Rivet is a publicist and all-around nice lady at Peachtree Publishers. It was she who invited us to the Peachtree blog tour this year. We thought it would be great to interview her and see what it takes to be a publicist these days. 

What qualities make a good publicist? There are several skills/qualities that are needed to succeed as a publicist, but I'd emphasise being attentive and organised. Publicists work on several deadlines at a time, and it's impossible to stay on top of everything if you don't have these qualities. Responding to emails quickly and making sure important information is always at your fingertips (ex: names, contact information, dates, deadlines, etc.) will also go a long way in helping maintain good relationships with your network of reviewers. 

A publicist also needs to be familiar with social media and comfortable reaching out to people in order to build up a community. There can be a bit of trial and error -- what works for one company may not work for you, so you have to be willing to try different things and see what readers respond to. I've had a great time jumping in and introducing Peachtree to new readers by adding content to the blog, joining conversations and supporting our reviewers on Twitter and Facebook. (We also recently started a Pintrest page!) Book bloggers are some of the most supportive, gracious people. Even though I haven't met many of our bloggers in person, I definitely count them among my bookish friends! 

What is the most important thing you do in your job? Communicate! That's a pretty broad umbrella that covers most of what I do, but it really is the most important thing. I may think our books are great and our authors/illustrators are fabulous, but if I don't effectively communicate that via social media, in conversations at a conference, in phone calls with event organisers looking to book an author, etc., then I haven't done my job.

Moreover, if I haven't made the connection to someone why this specific book or author is a great fit for their bookstore, classroom, or library, then that's a missed opportunity. We market a lot to schools and libraries, so we are always researching curriculum and common core standards and what is being studied in schools at what age so that we can get the right books into students' hands. Knowing your audience/reader is a big part of any publicity/marketing job. 

On a day-to-day basis, I respond to media requests and mail out books to our reviewers. If our reviewers don't get the books then (well, I'd rather not think about the end of that sentence!). 

What is the hardest part of your job? Right now, the commute! Atlanta traffic doesn't play. When I first started, the hardest part was getting the 'voice' of our social media marketing down. I can't tell you how many versions of our blog posts I went through before the finals were published. It's hard to get out of strict, journalistic writing (which I studied in school) and retrain yourself to write in a different style. I figured it out quickly enough and haven't looked back!

What is the most rewarding part of your job? I love hearing about how much someone enjoyed a book. A book takes on a life of its own once it leaves our office and it's so much fun to see how far it goes. We get letters in the mail from classrooms writing to thank an author for visiting -- I open these before sending them on to the authors and they always make me smile. My favourite was a collection of letters addressed to Larabee because, in the story, he helps deliver the mail but never gets any mail of his own! These kids decided to take matters into their own hands and make his day (and they made mine, too)! 

When did you first realise you wanted to be a publicist? 

How did you get into this line of work? I'm combining these two questions because they happened simultaneously! When I was in school I was nearing the end of my junior year without a clue as to what I wanted to do for a career. I was a journalism major but I didn't want to go into news writing or broadcast reporting like most of my classmates. I realised (at the suggestion of some close friends who, apparently, knew me better than I knew myself) that I wanted to work in the book industry. (More on that story here.) I quickly began searching for publishers in the southeast and found Peachtree. I loved their catalog and they were conveniently located in Atlanta, just south of my hometown in the suburbs. 

What's funny is that I applied for an editorial internship but (thankfully) Melissa Bloomfield intercepted my resume and thought I'd be a better fit for publicity. She was right! Long story short, I had an awesome summer working for her and we kept in touch after I graduated and I started as her assistant at Peachtree in 2011. 

Do you have any advice for people wanting to do this for a living? Read a lot and pay attention to what's going on in the industry. Familiarise yourself with how books get publicised -- where do you, as a reader, find new books? How do you hear about what your favourite author is doing? Who is the book reviews editor for your local newspaper? Sign up for newsletters, follow book blogs, and get involved with your local literary community -- you can't go wrong!  

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Review: 'The Following: The Curse'

Regrettably, we missed this episode of 'The Following,' and so are, for the nonce, unable to review it. We shall try to amend this as soon as possible, as the episode may be available for viewing online in a day or two. However, don't expect our review to post until at least Sunday next. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Review: 'Greatest Hits' by Bangles

'Greatest Hits' by Bangles, 1990, Columbia. Cover: interesting. 

A classic 80's band, Bangles have done some really good songs, and a lot of them are on this album. 

We particularly like the rendition of Paul Simon's desolate 'Hazy Shade of Winter' (which has a great beat as performed by Bangles) and the haunting 'Following,' about a love that goes both ways even though the guy says he doesn't want her following him. We also like the peppy 'Walk Like an Egyptian.'

There are other love songs, like 'Eternal Flame,' 'Be with You' (about a woman wanting the guy to feel like she does), 'I'll Set You Free' (about a love ending due to distance), and 'Where Were You When I Needed You' (about a love that ended because the guy wasn't there when the girl needed him). 

Other songs include 'Hero Takes a Fall,' 'Going Down to Liverpool' (a cheery song about taking it easy), and 'Manic Monday' (written by Prince, about the daily grind).  

Bangles have a knack for creating danceable beats and sing-along tunes, and they have terrific harmony. It doesn't matter that they were popular twenty years ago; their songs endure.    

Favourite lyrics include: 'Look around/Leaves are brown/And the sky/Is a hazy shade of winter' ('Hazy Shade of Winter'). 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: What's Wrong with Norman'

'Bates Motel: What's Wrong with Norman,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Jeff Wadlow. Directed by Paul Edwards. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. EST Mondays on A&E. Or watch full episodes at http://www.aetv.com/bates-motel/. 

Things are heating up for Norman (Freddie Highmore) and his mother (Vera Farmiga) as the police get a search warrant for their house. The police find the victim's belt in Norman's room; he was keeping it as a souvenir for reasons he can't explain. (One of the first clues we get that Norman isn't normal.) 

Norman keeps busy helping Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) find out what happened to the girl in the book Norman has. He also passes out in class, for unknown reasons. He's having disturbing thoughts about his teacher (Keegan Connor Tracy) and can't remember coming at his half-brother (Max Thierot) with a meat tenderiser. He is slowly discovering, as we are, that something is very wrong. 

Norma, meanwhile, makes a dinner date with Deputy Zack Shelby (Mike Vogel)  in an attempt to smooth things over on the belt front. Norman doesn't like this, and he has an hallucination in which his mother tells him to find the belt,  which Shelby has hidden somewhere. What he finds instead is quite the revelation. 


Monday, 8 April 2013

Review: 'Carry Me! Animal Babies on the Move' by Susan Stockdale

Carry Me! Animal Babies on the Move, Susan Stockdale, 2005, Peachtree Publishers, $7.95, softbound, 28 pages. Category/Genre: reference. Cover: colourful and attractive. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 

This picture book by Susan Stockdale tells all the different ways animals carry their babies. From pouches (such as kangaroos use) to arms (such as European beavers use), animals have interesting and clever ways of carrying their young. 

Readers may be surprised by some of the ways animals carry their offspring; the American alligator, for instance, carries her young in her jaws -- probably the safest place for them to be! 

There are a couple of pages in the back of the book wherein Stockdale gives information on where each of the featured animals lives. 

Stockdale's signature artwork is filled with colour and detail, and is quite pleasant to look at. Kids will love seeing all the animal babies hitching a ride -- and so will adults. 

Age range: four and up. 

If you like this one, try: Stripes of All Types by Susan Stockdale. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Review: 'The Following: Whips and Regret'

'The Following: Whips and Regret,' 2013, Fox. Written by Kevin Williamson and Rebecca Dameron. Directed by Marcos Siega. Starring Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, and Shawn Ashmore. Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 9.00 p.m. EST on Monday. 

This week, Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon, pictured) dives back into the bottle after having lost Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea) to Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). Agent Debra Parker (Annie Parisse) goes to pull him out of his funk, and the two end up following a clue to an S&M establishment, 'Whips and Regret.' Here they find that Vince McKinley (Christopher Denham), one of Carroll's followers, has been frequenting the place and using it as a method to smuggle explosives and the like. 

Meanwhile, Carroll looks forward to meeting Matthews again and rekindling their relationship. Matthews, of course, only wants to see her son again. She has little freedom on the compound; in addition, her head was covered when she was brought there, so she doesn't know where she is. And, one may surmise, she isn't about to leave her son. She is being well guarded, and the followers have been given permission by Carroll to use force if necessary, as long as they don't hurt Matthews' face. 

There is an interesting bit in this episode in which the FBI find a training compound used by Carroll's followers. The compound was, we thought, an intriguing idea, and the surprise which awaits the FBI there was equally compelling. 

There are, of course, a few flaws to the show, one being that Matthews is pretty stupid; no-one in their right mind would allow themselves to be captured by a group of serial killers. However, the rest of the show is so far engaging enough to get past that. 

Here's hoping the series continues to enthrall.  

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Review: 'The Water Is Wide' by Alex Beaton

'The Water Is Wide' by Alex Beaton, 1995, Glenfinnan Music, Ltd. Cover: nifty. We don't have the inside of this one, so we don't know if lyrics are included. 

This album, particularly the title song, has special meaning for us. We borrowed it out of Mom's personal music library; Mom and Dad (especially Mom) loved Alex Beaton. He's a family favourite. 

The title song is probably our favourite, for personal reasons. It's touching and deep, and has a beautiful melody. 

Another reason we love this CD is because it has so many ship songs on it (three in all). 'White Squall' is about a sailor reminiscing on a young man lost at sea under his supervision. The story takes place in the lakes of Wiarton, where people even now lose their lives to the squalls. 'Jeannie C.' is about a shipwreck in which not only a mate was lost, but the ship herself; the man singing will never go to sea again. It's a sad song, as are most ship songs, 'The Mary Ellen Carter,' being the exception. This song is about men rebuilding a ship that was lost. It also carries the message to 'rise again' in the face of adversity. 

Other songs include 'No Man's Land,' about a man wondering what life and death were like for a 19-year-old soldier whose grave he's visiting. Then there's 'Forty Five Years,' about a man still madly in love with his wife after decades of being together. 'The Lily of the West,' which has had lyrical changes depending on the artist who sang it, is about a man who kills his rival and still loves the woman who betrayed him.

Most of the songs on this album are touching, moving, or outright sad. It's not the album to listen to on a bad day.     

Note: mild language. 

Favourite lyrics include: 'Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean/Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?' ('No Man's Land'); 'So it's just my luck to have the watch, with nothing left to do/But watch the deadly waters glide as we roll north to the "Soo,"/And wonder when they'll turn again and pitch us to the rail/And whirl off one more youngster in the gale' ('White Squall'); 'I'll never know just what we struck/But strike we did like thunder/John Price gave a cry and pitched overside/Now it's forever he's gone under' ('Jeannie C.').

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: Nice Town You Picked, Norma . . . '

'Bates Motel: Nice Town You Picked, Norma . . . ' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Kerry Ehrin. Directed by Tucker Gates. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for dialogue, sexual situations, language, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. EST on Mondays on A&E.

In this episode, Dylan (Max Thierot), Norman's half-brother, shows up unexpectedly on the Bates' doorstep. He has no money and no job, and expects to live with his mother and Norman. This situation doesn't please Norma at all; she and Dylan don't get on -- he's got a knack for pushing her buttons, and seems to enjoy it. Norman is, at first, rather nonplussed, but he grows to dislike Dylan as well. 

But that isn't the Bates' only problem: the police are still sniffing around, looking for clues to the whereabouts of Keith Summers, the man Norma killed. Sheriff Alex Romero was friends with Summers, so the hunt is personal for him. Not only that, but the father of Norman's friend (and possible love interest) Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz) shows up badly burnt. And Norman and his friend (and possible love interest) Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) uncover a pot field. 

The plot underscores the illegal activities going on in this seemingly idyllic town, which, Deputy Shelby says, has an 'eye for an eye' mentality. We see grisly evidence of that in the final scene. 

We also see a bit of how Norma and Norman's relationship is maybe a little too close: Norma is not only unabashed about undressing in front of Norman, she also declares that it isn't weird. Norman is uncomfortable with it, but he doesn't argue the point. 

Chris Bacon composes the music for this series, and we must point out that it's quite good, and sets the tone nicely.  

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Monday, 1 April 2013

On the Bookshelf: Books to Be Read April 2013

We barely got finished with 'Transformed' by Debbie Kump; now we're working harder on 'Discount Armageddon' by Seannan McGuire. 

This is a good book so far; McGuire has impressed us before, with 'Rosemary and Rue,' though we have yet to finish that one. Here's hoping this will be the start of a terrific series. 

Review: 'Claude in the City' by Alex T. Smith

Claude in the City, Alex T. Smith, 2013, Peachtree Publishers, $12.95, hardbound, 94 pages. Category/Genre: mainstream. Cover: gives an insight as to what's to come in the book. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Claude is a dog. He wears a red beret, and his best friend is Sir Bobblysock (who is a sock and very bobbly). The two live with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes. Every day, Claude waits for Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes to leave for work before starting on an adventure.

This time, Claude and Sir Bobblysock go to the City. Here they find all sorts of amazing things: tall, tall buildings, pigeons, cafes, shops of all sorts (including -- wonderful! -- a beret shop), and an art gallery. Claude even does something remarkable in the City. 

But the next morning, Sir Bobblysock isn't himself. So Claude takes him to the hospital. There Claude tries on a doctor's smock and is himself confused for a doctor. Fortunately, Claude figures out what to do just at the last moment; and by then, Sir Bobblysocks is ready to go home. 

This is a very unusual book, with quirky artwork and silliness abounding. Kids will enjoy the pictures, which often say as much as the text. 

Note: there is a depiction of lingerie and a statue of a naked bum. But it's all in good fun. 

If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 

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