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Nicola Mansfield RSS Feed (Ontario, Canada)

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5 More Perfect Days (25 Perfect Days)
5 More Perfect Days (25 Perfect Days)
Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars ... place between the events of the original novel "25 Perfect Days". Brings back many characters and a must ..., May 28, 2016
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Five more stories which take place between the events of the original novel "25 Perfect Days". Brings back many characters and a must read for fans of the first book. Since it is a short novella, it only whets my appetite for more books.

December Park
December Park
by Ronald Damien Malfi
Edition: Paperback
Price: $5.48
79 used & new from $2.95

3.0 out of 5 stars It defies my definition of any genre and yet I liked the book, May 26, 2016
This review is from: December Park (Paperback)
This is a hard book for me to review; I was under the impression it was a horror. It most certainly is not. As I read I came to think it was a thriller, but it hardly is that either. It defies my definition of any genre and yet I liked the book, very much. More than anything it is a coming of age story, five boys on the cusp of manhood in the early 1990s, set against the backdrop of their town being gripped by fear from a rash of disappearing young teens. The boys become obsessed with finding out who is responsible. The papers have nicknamed the perpetrator "The Piper" and while no bodies are found it's assumed there is a serial killer on the loose. So, the boys spend the summer finding a couple of clues, hanging out in the park which has been deemed a "no go" area by the authorities and travelling all over town on their bikes exploring old abandoned places they haven't visited since they were kids, or ever. The story is more about the boys, this last summer together (though they don't know it), getting to know them, their camaraderie. They are the only friends each other has, mostly, they are not toughs but they smoke and don't do well at school, not really belonging to any clique other than each other. I really enjoyed the story in a "Stand By Me" kind of way, the creepy background gives it some suspense and there are a few intense moments but nothing really ever happens until the final pages for a book with over 600 pages. The ending is a rush, a twist, a surprise, and wrapped up somewhat too neatly with some questions never answered. So not a wholly satisfying ending, and yet in the grand scheme, I felt the boys' relationship was the main theme and that did end satisfyingly and bittersweet. If I'd known from the outset I was reading a coming of age story, and hadn't been expecting horror or thriller, I'd have rated the book higher.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (Vintage International)
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (Vintage International)
by Alan Sillitoe
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.32
118 used & new from $1.49

3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoy character stories and they are well-written gloomy fare but ..., May 25, 2016
3.5/5 A collection of stories with the running theme of life for the working class British man pre & post-WWII. The main focus of each piece is a character study, with their being little to even no plot. I enjoy character stories and they are well-written gloomy fare but still I must admit they just really didn't do anything for me as a whole. Fortunately, I understood the historical and societal era the tales depicted as this is where and how my father grew up. Even though the book has a brief biographical afterword about the author I do wish there had been an Introduction which introduced us to his writing.

1. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner - A novella taking up 29% of the entire book, this story has no plot but is the running commentary of the thoughts of a 17yo in an institution for juvenile delinquents as he trains for the annual sports day competition representing the institute as their long-distance runner. I'm guessing this takes place in the late 1950s, the youth contemplates on why he will always be of the criminal element, doesn't ever plan to change and is quite proud of the fact. His thoughts all have to do with the British class system and his contempt for anyone in authority or "lords and ladies". I didn't care for the youth at all as he was a petty thief with petty ideas of "sticking it to the man." That said, the story made me think of my dad who I do respect greatly and was by no means ever petty nor a criminal, but he was raised the same as this youth. My dad was born during WWII in Yorkshire and this youth used some slang making me think he came from the same region. This youth was a Teddy Boy, as was my dad though for him it was more of a fashion statement than the accompanying rebellious behaviour. This youth's family were working class and the father died of cancer contracted from the factory industry he worked for. My father's family was the same and *his* dad died of lung cancer caused by working in the textile mills. A well-written story which touched me in a certain personal way but I didn't particularly like or agree with anything it was trying to say about man and society. (3/5)
PS - I've since learned these stories take place in Nottingham, which is south of Yorkshire, but the characters use a lot of words and turns of phrase I'm familiar with.

2. Uncle Ernest - A character study. A depressing story of Ernest, an upholsterer, survivor of WWI, suffering from shellshock but no one knows not even him. He lives a lonely life, working which he's successful at, and spending the profits at the pub, he's always dirty. He has no reason to live, thinking of his drudgery of life, no friends, no family. Then one day two hungry little girls come into the diner where he eats lunch and sit at his table. He feeds them and it becomes a regular affair, the elder of the two is aggressive and takes advantage of him eventually getting presents for themselves as well as food. But Ernest is simple and now has a reason to live, he loves these girls like daughters, they are the light of his life. People begin to notice and one day the police come to him saying they've been watching and tell him it isn't right for a man his age to be giving money and presents to little girls. He must stop and never see them again or he'll end up before the magistrate. So Ernest turns dim and walks back into a pub with the glasses of ale welcoming him back. Well-written gloomy study of a typical type of man from this time in Britain. (4/5)

3. Mr Raynor the School-Teacher - This story looks at Raynor, a teacher who sits on his high stool looking through the window lusting after the drapery shop girls across the street. It's no secret as he tunes out his class often. He is particularly remembering an 18yo who left a few weeks back as she was killed. Raynor occasionally returns attention to his current class of final year 14yo boys and eventually straps the most belligerent one which turns into a tussle but Raynor holds his own and maintains an order for his class. Raynor is certainly not likeable, but he is probably a common example of a teacher from this era and place in Britain. We come to note that as a teacher he understands his boys and isn't a bad teacher when all is said and done. There is also plenty to think about regarding the girl and her death. (4/5)

4. The Fishing-Boat Picture - A sad story of love that takes place before WWII. A young couple marries; the woman is headstrong and cocky while the man is a nonconfrontational reader. They argue a lot and six years later the woman runs off with a painter. They remain legally married. Ten years later she turns up at his doorstep, characteristically changed and visits him once a week thereafter during the war until her death. He became happy in his quiet way after she left him but after her death, he finds out the suffering life she lead during those years. He examines their relationship, and love, and perhaps how they could have done something to make it work. A bleak but soul-searching story. My favourite so far. (5/5)

5. Noah's Ark - Two boys with only a few pence set off for the fair that's arrived in town. We learn a lot about the boys and their backgrounds as they walk along. Once at the fair, the streetwise boy shows the other all the tricks to come up with money at such an event and they steal, find, trick, and beg themselves enough to have a great day. The Noah's Ark is what we commonly refer to as a carousel and the one shows the other how to ride it for free. This is the main thing the most honest boy had wanted to experience at the fair.He get's on the ride but the attendant is onto him and chases him the entire ride. Everything ends well, but it leaves you with a bittersweet feeling that people make the most of what they have, but dishonesty gets its just reward in the end. (3/5)

6. On Saturday Afternoon - This is about a man who tries to hang himself. But it's actually about the narrator reflecting back on an incident that took place when he was 10 years old and he watched, even abetted, a stranger trying to hang himself. We know little of the man but get to know the narrator's life and circumstances, working class poor. We learn a lot about the narrator's dad, the family's anger and lot in life. It's illegal for this man to have tried suicide and he is arrested, sent to hospital, because his life is not his own, The narrator disagrees about this and makes a case. I disagree as our lives are certainly not our own, they belong to God, and while not a cause to be arrested anymore, suicides should be treated with mental health resources. I did like the narrator's reasoning on why he would never kill himself because of his "stick-to-itiveness". Well-written, a good gloomy topic but again I don't agree with the sentiment it tries to make. (4/5)

7. The Match - Most of the story rambles on about a "football" match and the home team loses like they always do. The two mates talk about it as they walk home; they live next door to each other. One is newly married, in love with a pretty pregnant wife. The other, Fred, has three children ages 14 and down. The last bit of the story describes the domestic unrest and abuse going on in the home as his friend and wife hear the ends of it next door. Too bad all the sports just zoned me out on this one. (2/5)

8. The Disgrace of Jim Scarfedale - Well, this is a sorry meandering story that narrates certain events and the eventual outcome of Jim Scarsdale by a 15yo neighbour who spied in a secret cranny to hear every word that went on in his house. Jim was a mamma's boy, tied to his mam's apron springs who one day in his 40s announced he was getting married. It only lasts six months and he returns home to mamma. But what happens to him in the end, is a shocker. Quite a bit of social commentary and eventually focussing on whether his upbringing connects to his crimes in the end. A bleak story but I probably enjoyed this as much if not better than "The Fishing Boat Picture". (5/5)

9. The Decline and Fall of Frankie Buller - This a sad story of a mentally challenged man-boy. W e don't know what's wrong with him. The time is between the wars and his father won a medal in WWI and was returned shellshocked. Frankie, clearly 10 years older than the neighbourhood 15yos is obsessed and fascinated with war. He's a good tactician and leads his gang into victory over other neighbourhood gangs. The narrator was one of those 15yo boys. He then tells us of meeting up with Frankie again when he visits home, the final time realising Frankie has had electric shock therapy. I like depressing stories like this but felt disconnected from not getting any sense for the characters. (3/5)

A Biography of Alan Sillitoe by Ruth Fainlight - Written by Sillitoe's widow, this is a brief biography of the events of his life. There are pictures included. However, it sheds no light on his stories or his writing. I'm assuming there may biological elements as before WWII he quit school at 14 to work in a local factory. (not rated)

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse Omnibus
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse Omnibus
by Gainax
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.67
54 used & new from $12.38

3.0 out of 5 stars A nice omnibus edition with colour pages at the beginning of ..., May 25, 2016
 Collects all 4 volumes of this mini-series spin-off. A nice omnibus edition with colour pages at the beginning of each volume and paper a bit nicer than what you find in viz's omnibus editions. I've read the original Evangelion series, but am not a super fan or anything like that so can't really go in-depth about characters, etc. However, this is a very different take on the series and is set prior to the original series and basically takes a completely different spin on the story It's still science fiction but no giant mecha fighting machines. Shinji and Kaworu are the main character emphasis and the story is based on "angels" (the enemy) inhabiting human bodies. I really enjoyed the story though I found at points it seemed to have continuity problems. It was fun to revisit all the characters even if they were presented differently, they still had the same basic personalities. While this is still a serious story, it is certainly much lighter than the immensely heavy original series. I don't watch anime so am only speaking from a reader's pov, but I found this a worthwhile read and entertaining reimagining of the series.

Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession
Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession
by Scott Hahn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.00
135 used & new from $1.83

5.0 out of 5 stars It's a wonderful book, which goes without saying, May 21, 2016
I usually get carried away and write big long review's for Scott Hahn's books but I'm going to this time. "Lord Have Mercy" is a much more personal book for the reader than any other book I've read of his. It's a wonderful book, which goes without saying, whenever I've read Hahn, I've underlined so many things and filled it with maarginalia. Scott takes us though "Confession", which is known by many different names though the ages and even now we know long er call it that but "Reconciliation". As one can expect from the author he delves into the origins of the sacrament from its use, practice and purpose in the Old Testament. He goes deeply into the whys and wherefores with his usual light bulb moments and engrossing information. But it is when he starts getting into the how that the book becomes personal for the reader, as I personally experienced anyway. How we should practice confession as Catholics, examine our consciences, how often, the actual "healing power" of the sacrament for those who practice it as a staple of Catholicity. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a powerful and exhilerating practice of our faaith but it is also easy to slip out of the habit and this book gives much food for thought, is so very educational and uplifting.

Far Out Fairy Tales: Five Full-Color Graphic Novels
Far Out Fairy Tales: Five Full-Color Graphic Novels
by Benjamin Harper
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.95
39 used & new from $6.74

4.0 out of 5 stars I was thrilled to find "Oddly Normal" author Otis Frampton among those names but his ended up not being my favourite, that honou, May 21, 2016
An omnibus collection of five previously published graphic novel retellings of fairytales by Capstone. These are wild, silly "far out" pastiches and written by familiar names who often write for Capstone. I was thrilled to find "Oddly Normal" author Otis Frampton among those names but his ended up not being my favourite, that honour goes to "Super Billy Goats Gruff" by Sean Tulien. The art is superb throughout and while a few different artists' work appears it is mostly cohesive together, only one did not suit my tastes. Overall, an excellent collection for fairy tale enthusiasts. Also, each story ends with a page of text telling the original story and it's history and is followed by a graphic visual of the changes between the original and the "Far Out" version.

1. Ninja-rella by Joey Comeau (Omar Lozano) - The art is wonderful. It's very angular, bold and colourful! The story is very similar to the Perrault tale we are all familiar with few exceptions but the theme. Cinderella is into being a ninja and changes her name after her mum dies. She practices all the time with a glass Katana sword. After being orphaned the steps treat her as we expect but the story changes when Ninja-rella dreams of going to the ball so she can meet the prince and become his personal bodyguard! Thankfully, her Godninja shows up just in time. Cute! (4/5)

2. Red Riding Hood, Superhero by Otis Frampton - I was thrilled to see this comic by the author of the "Oddly Normal" series. Of course, the art is great and there are lots of funny moments of dialogue. This retelling totally refreshes the original. The only basic element the same is in which Red named Ruby, is on her way to see her Granny and intercepted by the Big Bad Wolf. However, BBW is out to kidnap Granny who just happens to be the President of the United States. The story is full of action as she takes on Professor Grimm, a man who was bitten by a radioactive wolf, now a werewolf. We even get a flasback to Riding Hood's origin story of her superpowers which reside in the cape/hood and it's pretty cute. Another fun tale for the intended audience. (4/5)

3. Super Billy Goats Gruff by Sean Tulien (Fernando Cano) - This one is hilarious. Only slightly keeps some basic elements of the original tale. The three goats set off over the hill to find some grass to eat and end up eating three strange shaped mushrooms which zap them straight into a video game. All the essential video game tropes ensue including fighting level bosses until they beat the creature on the bridge and return to their own world. Another example of wonderful art similar in style to the previous stories. My favourite so far. (5/5)

4. Snow White and the Seven Robots by Louise Simonson (Jimena Sanchez) - Overall, this is the best written story in the book but my least favourite art. The style is completely different, which makes it stand out in a collection like this and it just doesn't do anything for me. The story, however, is well-told and the most entertaining here. It stays very close to the original tale, without much deviation except it has been set in outer space on an alien planet, Techworld. Also, it's not Snow's beauty which causes envy but her intelligence. I really enjoyed this one! (5/5)

5. Hansel & Gretel & Zombies by Benjamin Harper (Fernando Cano) - This is just silly. It doesn't follow the original story much as you would probably expect, what with everybody being zombies. However, all the plot points are there: being lost in the forest, the candy house, Hansel being plumped up, etc. It has a nice happy ending for everybody including the witch. My least favourite story in the collection but the art is by the same artist as the "Billy Goats" story so it is good. (3/5)

by Melissa Mendes
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.66
38 used & new from $7.56

4.0 out of 5 stars The family is poor, can't afford a pet dog, May 21, 2016
This review is from: Lou (Paperback)
3.5/5 A seemingly simple look at childhood which presents a deeper story than one would first surmise. The art is basic and unpretentious hand drawings and the story seems to take place over one summer as the kids don't go to school. Lou and her brother are about 12 and 6 and spend every waking minute bickering, arguing and together. The also have a teenager brother who works at a pizza shop. The family is poor, can't afford a pet dog, but dad brings one home anyway. The book mostly examines the dynamics of the two bickering siblings; mum seems to be depressed, with it all we get a glimpse of the parents past, how mum dropped out of college, they met in a bar, she got pregnant, they got married, he works landscaping with his dad. To add excitement we also have a mysterious but also somehow sad story of the pizza store owner being beaten up by what appears to be mafia types, the owner disappears and the teenage son who has appeared to be a punk layabout so far steps up and starts running the shop. Everything comes to a head one night when the little boy runs away when being babysat by the teen while the parents are out celebrating their anniversary. An engaging story, rather bittersweet, but also optimistic. I would read more from the author.

The Twilight Children
The Twilight Children
by Gilbert Hernandez
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.68
57 used & new from $6.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This has a really cool cover and interesting plot that is going to appeal ..., May 18, 2016
This review is from: The Twilight Children (Paperback)
This has a really cool cover and interesting plot that is going to appeal to a lot of people. Unfortunately, I found it hardly made any sense and have no feelings about the plot or characters, or any real sense what it was all about. I also thought the dialogue was very bad. The art is great though!

Noragami: Stray God 14
Noragami: Stray God 14
by Adachitoka
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.28
53 used & new from $4.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Great volume!, May 18, 2016
This review is from: Noragami: Stray God 14 (Paperback)
Two stories running concurrently here with both revealing secrets. Hiroyi's brother arrives to help the family out and eventually a family secret is revealed. Meanwhile, Bishamon has to deal with one of her shinji who was injured in the last volume. It's something she wants to keep secret from everyone else though so she asks for Yato's help but it's something that can't be cured. Then Kazuma gets all weird and reveals something he's been keeping secret! Great volume!

Noragami: Stray God 13
Noragami: Stray God 13
by Adachitoka
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.39
52 used & new from $4.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Hiyori confronts Yato's father and when he tell's her it's ..., May 18, 2016
This review is from: Noragami: Stray God 13 (Paperback)
Hiyori confronts Yato's father and when he tell's her it's dangerous to mess with him she "accepts his challenge". And thus, this whole volume concerns the consequences of that exchange and concentrates on Hiyori, her family and her role in the Far Shore. Tons of action, battle and emotion. An ending I've seen coming for a while now but have been dreading. Wondering how this will change the dynamics in the future volumes!

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