Category Archives: reads

Celebrating books and the written word. Featuring book reviews and more.

Hana’s Story NEEDED to be Told

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine

An educator in a small museum in Japan asked for some artifacts for an exhibit she was preparing on the Holocaust. One of the items she received was an empty suitcase with a girl’s name painted on the front of it. This peaked her curiosity and she set forth to discover all that she could about this Hana Brady.

The book felt a little disjointed. One part of it was the search through historical documents to find out who this young girl was and what happened to her. Another part was a story about all of the things she went through, including losing her parents, being sent away, and finally ending up at a concentration camp. It felt like these should have been two separate books. I couldn’t understand how the author or the museum curator knew all of these facts about Hana. I also did not understand why this suitcase was so fascinating that it sparked all of this research.

After reading it, I watched the documentary film, Inside Hana’s Suitcase, and I think it told the story much better. In it, I found out that the suitcase they discovered wasn’t even the original one Hana has. It was a recreation, painstakingly made from photographs. The original has been destroyed in an act of arson.

It’s amazing to think how Hana’s story could have ended several times over the years and how we are left with the suitcase, this book, and several documentaries. Her story needed to be told.

My List of 2018 Reads – A cool place to find out about all sorts of books

Escape From the Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

I have to admit that I don’t like the genre of mystery. It’s not appealing to me to see someone solve a murder. Detective fiction seems too formulaic and improbable for me to truly get into the story.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library sounded like a great way to explore the genre, however. It was on a list of titles to explore for my Children’s Materials class and as a library sciences student, it sounded promising.

I have to say, I really loved this book. I identified with the main character and his love for board games. It definitely didn’t fit my definition of a mystery either. Perhaps not all mysteries involve murder and gumshoe detectives. Perhaps there are more like this that require you to solve subtle puzzles and put together clues.

My List of 2018 Reads – I’ve read a lot more than  I have blogged about this year. But I will catch up.

Justice League Stand-Alones

Aquaman – Vol. 1: The Drowning

This is the start of a new era for Aquaman. He wants to work closely with the people of Earth and hopes that a new embassy will help him achieve peace between the land and the sea. Of course, there are those on both sides that don’t want to see that happen.

This was a good read, but I think with the movie version of Aquaman coming out soon will change the way people see Aquaman and a new reboot might be needed.

Green Lantern: Earth One

This is an alternative take on Green Lantern mythology. It is not the first time Earth One has been featured in the comics, but if you are unfamiliar with the concept this is not the Earth that we live on. Things are not ideal on the planet, which has caused Hal Jordan to work in space for Ferris Galactic.

While doing some mining of an asteriod, Jordan discovers an old spaceship that has a dead alien in it, a large disabled robot, and a power ring and lantern. He becomes the first of a new line of Green Lanterns. The corp had been forgotten about somehow but it looks like there is a new dawn.

I enjoyed this futuristic reimagining of Green Lantern’s origin and look forward to reading more. I can’t wait for Volume Two!

My List of 2018 Reads – I’ve read a lot more than  I have blogged about this year. But I will catch up.

The Third Doctor Returns

Doctor Who – Heralds of Destruction

The Third Doctor is no longer exiled on Earth. The TARDIS works and he is ready to go on an adventure, but before he can, a strange spaceship crashes and begins what looks to be a full-scale invasion.

Fortunately for the Doctor, his previous incarnation shows up  to help him battle this new foe. And just like the television series, UNIT is right there fighting alongside them. It feels like a natural continuation of the television series. The humour, action, and adventure are all there. And it just feels right.

This graphic novel has some great Easter Eggs for Doctor Who fans both new and old. It ties into the original series as well as the new incarnation by making references to the Tenth Doctor.

Unfortunately, this was the only mini-series produced for this incarnation of the Doctor. It was a great read and I would have loved to have seen more.

My List of 2018 Reads – a detailed personal reading log

Life Goals of a Twelve-Year-Old


The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

Did you ever make a list of life goals when you were young? Have you ever revisited it? That, in essence, is the plot of this novel by Lori Nelson Spielman.

It revolves around a thirty-something woman who wrote a list when she was twelve years old. She crumpled up the paper and threw in the garbage without a second thought. Her mother, however, rescued it from the trash, kept it for over twenty years, and wrote a special condition into her will that would have her complete the list.

Believing that some of her goals were childish, she wasn’t sure she wanted to complete the list. She couldn’t understand why her mother was making her do it. Maybe her inheritance wasn’t worth it.

Her mother knew her in a way she didn’t know herself. She had a plan and wanted to see her daughter become the woman she knew she could be. And it all started with a piece of paper that was simply thrown away.

It was nice to see how every goal served a purpose in her life. Things worked out and her mother was still helping her and protecting her from beyond the grave.

I really enjoyed this book and I think you will too.

My List of 2018 Reads

Iron Fist Finds Himself

Iron Fist – The Trial of the Seven Masters

This is the first Iron Fist comic that I have ever read. It’s not the first time I’ve come across the character, however. I have read stories that featured him in several different titles, but I never really got into the character. I enjoyed the Netflix series though, so when I saw this book at the library, I figured it was worth the read.

It starts out with Danny Rand being in a rather low point in his life. He hasn’t been able to access his chi for a while but still feels the need to fight, so he goes into several underground fight clubs. He wins but still feels empty.

After one of these fights, he is approached by a fighter with skills that appear to equal his own. He gets invited to a tournament on an island he has never heard. Urgent to find himself again, and with very little options, Rand agrees and follows him to the island.

Will Rand find himself once more, or is this secret island society using him for some purpose?

This was a good read. It hasn’t sold me on the character though. I am not left eager to read more of the title. But I would like to see a second season of the Netflix show.

My List of 2018 Readsupdated all year long

Toronto Sounds Terrible (And it Shouldn’t)

Toronto Sound: Vol. 1 – A Memoir of the City’s Rising Producers by KLFTN

I was really looking forward to reading this book. As a hip-hop historian, I wanted to dive into the history of beatmakers and producers from Canada. The cover art is amazing and looks great when the book is completely unfolded. Unfortunately, that is the only thing impressive about it.

Don’t get me wrong, the stories in this book are ones that hip-hop fans in Canada should know. They are just told in a way that is flat and boring. I had to stop reading the book due to the blatant grammar errors that distracted me from both the history and the stories. It is really difficult to read a book that has not had any editing or polishing done to it.

Horrible sentence fragments like this one, “Then the labels would pay attention with the exception of Beat Factory” are used throughout the book. Unnecessary words, awkward phrasing, and persistent grammar errors made it impossible for me to enjoy the book. I had to stop reading it.

I wasn’t sure that I should even write about it here on my blog. In fact, I have been wrestling with this for months now. I thought perhaps I could come back to it later and see something worthwhile that would allow me to continue reading. Unfortunately, it really is a terrible book that would have benefited from having an experienced editor or co-writer shaping it into a book worthy of publication.

The book covers thirty years of hip-hop history with a focus on the groundbreaking event series “Battle of the Beatmakers.” Superstar producer Boi-1da began his career at the very first edition of the event back in 2005. He took home top prize three years in a row and went on to create some of the biggest records to come out of Canada.

It would have been nice to have been able to read about the event and how it helped shape young producers. It did a great job in developing the scene and giving producers a chance to grown their skills and showcase their talent. These kinds of competitions have become even more popular in the last several years. Canada’s history in it is fascinating as well. Unfortunately, this is not the outlet to tell the story. Either that or a major reworking of the book is necessary.

Since the book has “Volume One” in its title, and I hopeful that they will be able to craft an improved second chapter with a new writer, co-writer, or editing team. If they do it right, I will read it. If not, it will end up in the recycling bin (which is where this one belongs).

My List of 2018 Reads (coming soon)

My List of 2018 Reads

I like to keep track of what I read and I think this is a great platform to do that. I blog about every single book I read, keep track of the number of books and the genre, and put them all together in a annual reading log that I update frequently. This is the 2018 edition of my personal reading log.

I hope that you will find it useful as well. Maybe you can learn about a book you would like to read. Perhaps I can influence  you to read something you might not otherwise of read.

Since starting this series back in 2012, I have read, on average, 65 books a year. This includes graphic novels, teaching-related books, non-fiction, and novels.

Let’s see how I do this year.

Happy Reading!

NOVELS

All Our Wrong Todays
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Mr. Mercedes
The Life List

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Aquaman – 1 title (The Drowning)
Doctor Who – 1 title (Heralds of Destruction)
Green Lantern – 1 title (Earth One)
Iron First – 1 title (The Trial of the Seven Masters)
We Stand On Guard – 1 title (We Stand on Guard)

TEACHING RELATED BOOKS

coming soon

WRITING BOOKS

coming soon

MUSIC RELATED

Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting
Hip-Hop DJs
The Anthology of Rap
Toronto Sound: Vol 1

NON-FICTION

Hana’s Suitcase
Start With Why

MEMOIR

coming soon

Total Books Read in 2018: 15

Always Start With Why

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Remember when Oprah gave away a car to everyone in the audience of her talk show?

Do you remember what car she gave away?

Or even what brand of car it was?

My guess is that you do not.

According to Simon Sinek, this is because this giveaway didn’t tie in to what the company was all about.

Sinek writes, “For a message to have real impact, to affect behavior and seed loyalty, it needs more than publicity. It needs to publicize some higher-purpose cause or belief to which those with similar values and beliefs can relate. Only then, can the message create some lasting mass market success . . . Why the stunt is being performed, beyond the desire to generate press must be clear.”

The Oprah car event benefited Oprah because she seemed to really care about her audience. She was generous on her program often. This stunt fit into her “why.” It was what her show was all about. Conversely, no one was sure why the car manufacturer donated their cars. It didn’t make sense to their “why” and so their role in the stunt was forgotten.

Creative Zen vs the iPod

“Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player but it clearly ruled the market and completely eclipsed the original creator and manufacturer, Creative Technology.”

Creative is responsible for the Soundblaster audio technology that enabled home computers to have sound. This was a huge development in home computing and paved the way for the iPod. The curious thing is that Creative came out with a much superior product well before the iPod was launched.

Apple didn’t introduce the iPod until nearly two years after the Creative Zen entered the market. “Given their history in digital sound, Creative is more qualified than Apple to introduce a digital music project.” So why did they fail?

Here is the answer . . . We didn’t feel the need to own an MP3 player until the iPod had become popular. Apple gave us a reason to have such a device, whereas Creative simply told us what their product was. The very succinct phrase, “1,000 songs in our pocket” was all we needed to buy in. The why was there and it was very apparent.

I didn’t know this history at the time, but did a lot of research before buying an MP3 player. I decided to purchase a Creative Zen because, for all intents and purposes, it is a superior product. Creative could have ruled the market if they had put forth their message of why instead of what.

This was an interesting read. It is something that I have known in education for some time. If I want to motivate students, I need to teach to a sense of purpose. The students need to know why we are doing what we are doing in class. This helps them buy into the work and enhances learning. Maybe starting with why is what we all need to do.

My List of 2018 Reads – coming soon

Adventures in Record Collecting

Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting by Eilon Paz

There is something beautiful about a record collection. This book captures that perfectly with amazing photographs. Every picture has a quotation that gives us an inside glimpse into the collection itself and the mind of the DJ, music lover, radio host, or musician. It’s vinyl porn with a purpose.

William “The Gaslamp Killer” Bensussen says, “Even after the apocalypse you could still get vegetable oil and run two tables and speakers. That’s what I hope to be doing at the end of the world – spinning all this wonderful music, dancing, and being in love.” 

I have no idea how that would work. I am sure there are ways to power a turntable with conventional activity. You could manually spin a record and it would still produce sound, so this is a very romantic idea.

Rich Medina suggests getting plastic sleeves to protect your collection. He admits that they are expensive but “totally worth it for preserving the cosmetic and sonic integrity of your stash.” He has damaged records and learned this lesson the hard way. He believes in protecting your records in as many ways as possible and closes with this thought, “the record you disrespect in storage will soon embarrass you in front of a dance floor.”

There is plenty of discussion in the book about classic samples including this one. Do you recognize this from rap songs?

I love everything about this book. I read it from cover to cover even though it begs for you to open it up randomly and discover something new. There are great interviews with Questlove, Giles Peterson, Four Tet, Joe Busard, and more.

Let’s close off with this thought, “Records are time capsules. They’re emotional, spiritual, energetically bound pieces of vinyl. They were cut with force and energy, not by a programmer.”

My List of 2018 Reads – a continually updated account of everything I read this year (coming soon)