Monday, November 23, 2015

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Young Adult Non-fiction Echoes of Courage

Two short audiobooks from the summer, courtesy of YA Sync. YA Sync is the most awesome program around - two free audiobooks each week, pairing a classic and a newer young adult book. Just get on their mailing list and you'll get a reminder to download the books each week. That's the only hard part - the books are only available a week at a time. Don't forget - it will hopefully start up again in May 2016.

Courage Has No Color : The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America's First Black Paratroopers - Tanya Lee Stone (3 h 3 min)

Good historic look at integration in the US Army during the second world war with the first black paratroopers. The hypocrisy of the Americans fighting tyranny in Europe and Asia when their own citizens were unable to fight with them is galling.

Courage Has No Color was paired with Under a War-Torn Sky by L. M. Elliott

Echoes of an Angel: The Miraculous True Story of a Boy Who Lost His Eyes but Could Still See- Aquanetta Gordon (7 h 23 min)
I remember seeing an episode of 20/20 featuring Ben Underwood, the blind boy who used echolocation to move around and was fascinated. This is the book written by his mother about Ben's life. Her book focuses on her (and Ben's) Christian faith as they deal with the health issues of Ben and the difficulties in their lives. I would have been more interested in the science of his clicking technique to 'see', but that is not the fault of the book. It is heavily Christian, and I mostly enjoyed it, but had more about the mother and her life than I was interested in. Again, not the book's fault - this is her story she wrote. Ben was very inspiring in all that he faced, and he was a very special human, and could make a person wonder about angels on earth.
Echoes of an Angel was paired with Budda Boy by Kathe Koja

Monday, November 16, 2015

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Nontraditional Nonfiction

Nonfiction November 2015 

This week we will be focusing on the nontraditional side of reading nonfiction. Nonfiction comes in many forms. There are the traditional hardcover or paperback print books, of course, but then you also have e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, and enhanced books complete with artifacts. So many choices! Do you find yourself drawn to or away from nontraditional nonfiction? Do you enjoy some nontraditional formats, but not others? Perhaps you have recommendations for readers who want to dive into nontraditional formats.  We want to hear all about it this week!  hosted by Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books)

What a perfect topic for me! Looking at my numbers, this year I read 14/15 nonfiction books (so far) that were audiobooks. The only book that wasn't audio was a graphic novel. For me, audiobooks are how I 'read' nonfiction. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but nonfiction books are how I started listening to audiobooks in the first place. Audio isn't my strongest input of information so I didn't know how well I could hold characters in my head. However, nonfiction books are just like listening to CBC radio - little documentaries or stories for 20 minutes to half an hour or more.

Looking back to 2012, the first audiobooks I listened to were If You Ask Me by Betty White and then Bossypants by Tina Fey, reviewed here. Interestingly, I'm still listening to memoirs by comedians this year, including Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, and Martin Short.

The next type of audiobooks I listened to that year were science type books - Annoying by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman, and Quiet by Susan Cain. Science and memoirs are my two biggest categories of nonfiction books and I'm only limited by my library's selection.

Or am I? I've found a loophole in acquiring audiobooks from my library. Since all the interactions are done online, I asked my sister, who lives in a different province in a larger city, for access to her online library. (I gave her my account number as well.) Now we each have two libraries to choose from. Her library has more choices, but often longer waits for books. Digital books are automatically deleted on the due date, so no overdue fines are possible. Of course, automatic deletions leads to my saddest audiobook adventure - a book being deleted when I only had less than one hour left in the book! So, if your library doesn't have a great selection, find a relative or trusted friend in a large city and trade library cards.

Just browsing the nonfiction audiobook section of my library has led me to listen to some books I may not have considered. Reasons why I pick certain audiobooks - they are available, I recognize the author, they are short, they are available, they are short, I've heard of the title, I am cheap and listen only to audiobooks I can get at  my (or my sister's) library. Libraries like requests so always feel free to ask your library to get a book you'd like to listen to.

Some nonfiction books are the perfect blend of topic and narrator, and don't underestimate the effect a good narrator has on an audiobook. I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and loved it, but I've heard other bloggers rave about the audio version enough to make me think about listening to it. It's no surprise to see Cassandra Campbell as the narrator of that book - she's always great! Some authors read their own books as well, like Malcolm Gladwell and all the comedians.

Great topic this week! Does anyone else listen to nonfiction audiobooks?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

BOOKS: Dancing Barefoot, In the Garden of the Beasts

 Nonfiction November 2015

Two reviews from January. That's a long time ago, isn't it? Details are sketchy, but I do have an overall vibe from these books.

In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin - Erik Larson, 12 h 52 min

I read and really liked Larson's book, Devil in the White City. I also picked up  Thunderstruck at a used book sale, but available audiobook can trump hard copy at times. Part of what I liked about Devil in the White City was how Larson told two stories at once - the crazy serial killer and World Fair being held in Chicago. In the Garden of the Beasts isn't quite two separate stories like that. An American diplomat and his family are sent to Berlin in the 1933, as the Nazi's are taking off. The family, the Dodds, primarily the father,William E and his daughter, Martha were not memorable. Not horrible enough to hate, not virtuous enough to cheer for. Just there in Berlin with horrible people doing horrible things.  It's not fun reading about how the Nazi's came to such power, and the horrible things they were doing as people saw and couldn't or wouldn't do anything to stop it. The facts are true, and looking at it from the Ambassador's family was a on-the-ground unique way of telling the story, but it wasn't quite enough for me. I'll try another Larson, but I don't think this was his best.

Dancing Barefoot - Wil Wheaton, 2 h 11 min

I listened to Wheaton read Ready Player One, and he was adorable as usual. I think these were some stories left over from his other book, Just A Geek: Unflinchingly Honest Tales of the Search for Life, Love, and Fulfillment Beyond the Starship Enterprise, or from his blog. Dancing Barefoot is five essays on Wheaton's life. Easy to listen to, Wheaton is around my age, so we have the same cultural markers. If you are a Wheaton fan, or Trekkie, you'll enjoy this one.

Friday, November 13, 2015

BOOKS: Great Canadian Writers (who happen to be women)

Did I not write about any of these books yet this year? They were all fabulous, each in their own way.  I shouldn't be surprised because they are written by some quality writers, who happen to be Canadian, and who happen to be women.

Rush Home Road - Lori Lansens, 416 pages
Also read: The Girls, The Wife's Tale 

Did I like this better than The Wife's Tale? Maybe, this was very good, and so different from her other books. It's the end of the underground railroad, but in modern day Ontario. A five year old girl Sharla is left with her seventy year old neighbour, Addy. That shouldn't be allowed to happen obviously, but no one has ever been looking out for Sharla, and Addy ends up being the best thing for her. And it turns out Addy needed Sharla too. The introduction of Sharla sends Addy back remembering her life as a child and young girl. Life can be tough for women, what with the lying men all around. I just loved how Lansens framed the story with the back and forth in time, how she incorporated the history of the African community in Canada, and the evolution of the delightful character of Addy.

Next up: Lansens' latest book, The Mountain Story

The Empty Room - Lauren B Davis, 320 pages
already read: Our Daily Bread

How bad is it when an alcoholic reaches rock bottom? Horrifically bad. Colleen is nearly fifty, and in such denial. Most of the novel takes place over one very long, very depressing day in Colleen's life, essentially a country song as she loses nearly everything (job, apartment, friends) and the only coping mechanism she has had, alcohol, is letting her down. She's very close to drinking herself to death. How engrossing the story, how inside Colleen's head we get is a testament to the author.
 Next up: The Stubborn Season, or The Radiant City, or Against a Darkening Sky (which looks really good, it's the latest!)

Republic of Love - Carol Shields, 384 pages
Also read: every other novel Shields wrote

This was the last novel I had left to read by Shields, and I'd been putting it off. What if I don't like it? What if I do, and then there are no more? You can see the dilemma. I did like it, and now there are no more for me. This one ends up being one of my favourites, along side Unless. It's a simple story, about two people, finding love. That's it. There are no big dramatics, everything is watching these two different people, who have not been able to 'settle down' get together. Much of the book is waiting for them to meet. It's delicious waiting to see how their Venn diagram of acquaintances will eventually overlap.
Next up: no more novels :(

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

BOOKS: Korean Deli and Vanished Smile

Nonfiction November 2015

I'm going to take advantage of Nonfiction November to review all the nonfiction books I read this year. Two books from November are My Korean Deli and Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa.

My Korean Deli - Ben Ryder Howe, 8h 47 min 
read by Bronson Pinchot

The author, an editor at The Paris Review with George Plimpton, along with his wife, decide to buy a deli for his mother-in-law, a Korean immigrant. The author suffers from culture shock all around him - at home living with his in-laws and working at the deli in the evening. A self-proclaimed WASP from New England, working in a Brooklyn deli with his hard working mother-in-law showcases all his differences. Pinchot does a great job reading, and the story is easy to listen to. George Plimpton is also a character in the story, because I think he was a character wherever he went. I like reading about life in New York and quite enjoyed this slice of life memoir.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa - R.A. Scotti, 6 h 44 min read by Kathe Mazur (who also read Quiet)

In 1911, Mona Lisa disappeared from the Louvre. She stayed missing for 2 years before reappearing. The mystery is never completely solved, but this book looks at several theories, the facts of the case, and all the related information about Paris, art forgery and theft, and how Mona Lisa went from a painting on the wall to the most famous and loved painting in the world. I quite enjoyed following the trail of clues and the side tracks that make up the whole story. 

Monday, November 9, 2015


This week in Nonfiction November, participants are asked to pair a fiction book with a nonfiction book that you would recommend. I listened to Modern Romance this summer and was pleasantly surprised. I expected a stand up routine type comedy book by actor Aziz Ansari about the dating scene. Instead, I was treated to actual science experiments and results, with statistics and everything. My little science heart beat wildly.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, (6 h 14 minutes)
How do people meet now a days? What is texting etiquette in modern dating? Aziz Ansari, comedian and actor from Parks and Recreation, wrote this social science study of modern romance along with Eric Klinenber. They did research, interviewed people in the dating scene now, and older people from previous generations. They analysed data and made statistics - this book is more than just comedy.
Aziz read the audiobook, and his humour is throughout. My over-riding thought as I listened to the audiobook was be so thankful I'm not, and will not be, dating in this age of smart phones, Tinder apps, and sexting.

What better book to pair this look at attempts at romance and looking for love than with the classic chick lit book, the girl who struggled with the dating scene to hilarious results: Bridget Jones!

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

There isn't much for me to say about one of my favourite books of all time. It's funny, has Mark Darcy, and never fails to make me smile. If you really like Bridget, the books continue with The Edge of Reason and Mad About the Boy. Realizing that Bridget Jones is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen made this book even better. How fabulous! And then the whole Colin Firth as Mark Darcy in the movie adds a level of meta that can't be beat.

My second pairing is The Martian by Andy Weir along with Packing for Mars by Mary Roach and An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. It's a bit of a cheat because I haven't read The Martian yet, but I fully intend to soon! I'm on a list at the library, and my sister promises me I'll love it, and I believe her. I can say with great belief that both of these nonfiction astronaut books are extremely readable and either fun (Packing for Mars) or inspirational (Life on Earth)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Your Year in Nonfiction

Jumping in to this a week late, but I found myself listening to two nonfiction books in a row this week, so it seems fated. Hosted by several bloggers, [Leslie (Regular RuminationKatie (Doing Dewey,Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books) and Kim (Sophisticated Dorkness) ]  more information can be found here. Each week there are different prompts, and it ends with a read-a-long discussion of I Am Malala. I just checked my library, and unfortunately, I won't be reading along with Malala. By the length of the waiting list, I may get it for next November!
Nonfiction November 2015

Week One: Your Year in Nonfiction

Some numbers: 
13 nonfiction reads, and all but one (a graphic novel) were audiobooks. (Nonfiction books are how I got myself listening to audiobooks. It felt more like I was listening to a documentary on CBC that just continued whenever I wanted it to.)  
Four were about comedians (Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, and Martin Short). Two other books by actors: Wil Wheaton's book of essays and Aziz Ansari"s study into Modern Romance.
I also read 2 books which, while novels, were fictionalized accounts of real people (Malcolm X, and Beryl Markham) where I learned so much that I felt like it was a biography. 

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? 
Can I pick two? Cause they were very different? 
Brain on Fire  by Susannah Cahalan was a  look at the author's descent into madness, which turned out to be a brain infection. Very scary. She pieced together, based on her journals and her parents, plus hospital records, what all happened to her during her illness. 

 I Must Say: My Life as Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short and read by himself. Mostly for making me like him far more than I usually do, this book impressed me. It's still full of full-on Martin, but the famous people he knows, and how they broke into the big time, plus his beautiful marriage and unabashed Canadian-ism made me a fan.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 
Probably Quiet by Susan Cain, a book about and for introverts. I also recommend How I Killed Pluto and Why it had it Coming by Mike Brown often to my high school physics students because it's a pretty good look at how Pluto got demoted.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? 
Um, everything? Nonfiction is about learning; about people, and history, and science, and philosophy and life. I tend to read more memoirs and science related topics and I don't see that changing very much.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
Remembering how much I like nonfiction when I pick it up, thinking about the nonfiction I've read this year, and maybe finding what are some other great nonfiction books books to add to my list.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015



Practically after the fact, here I am blogging about RIP X, previously hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, now looked after by Estella's Revenge.

What's not to love about
Dark Fantasy.

The only rules of RIP X are
1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.
(there's a link up here for reviews)

They make the creepiest, scariest, best reading books around. I feel I've primarily read these books this year, with several great books by Mo Hayder, Karin Slaughter, and all the Miss Marples I devoured earlier this year. I still want to record the books I've read or listened to this fall season that fit the bill.

So far I've read or listened to:

1. The Taken - Inger Ash Wolfe (audbiobook)

Great Canadian mystery series, reviewed here.

 2. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman (audiobook)

A re-read, but first time on audio. I loved this when I read it in 2007, the perfect mix of mythology and modern London. I enjoyed it just as much this time with the author himself reading his 'preferred text.' Poor old Richard has his life turned upside down when he saves young Door from the street.

Underworld London must make riding the Tube so much more exciting, imagining what is just beyond what we can see.

3. Fractured - Karin Slaughter (2nd in Will Trent series)

This second book, as we get to know Will Trent a bit better, is hitting its stride with characters around Will becoming clearer. Having grown up in foster care, Will keeps running into old 'housemates,' who do not want to recognize their acquaintance. Will and his new partner are investigating the brutal slaying of a rich teenage girl in her home. Next book: Undone.

4. The Nature of the Beast - Louise Penny (audiobook)
 Book 11 of the Inspt Gamauche series, reviewed here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

BOOKS: Canadian mystery series

Couple of Canadian mystery series that are very good. Both on Audio.

The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe, book 2 (audiobook, 11h 10 min)

This is the second book with Det. Insp. Hazel Micallef of a small Ontario town. Poor Hazel is recovering from her back injury, living with her ex-husband and his new wife, trying to get back to work, but struggling with pain, and pretty much everything else in her life. She has a small loyal team helping her solve a mystery that is being written about in the paper as she attempts to investigate. Meanwhile, there is a live feed on the internet planning to kill someone, and taunting Hazel as she goes.

The characters are done very well, very real with conflicting behaviours. Sixty-two year old Hazel is still battling with her mother.  This was a great mystery, not too convoluted but intriguing and gritty. I'm looking forward to the next, and as of now, last book, A Door in the River.

The Nature of the Beast - Louise Penny, book 11, audiobook (12h 40 min)

First audiobook after the death of the original narrator, Ralph Cosham. Robert Bathurst does an admirable job and embodies Gamauche just as Cosham did. Slight British accent seems odd in Quebec, but c'est la vie!

Gamauche is still retired in Three Pines. The little boy in the village who cries wolf is eventually found murdered. A large weapon is found in the woods, the kind Saddam Hussein might commission in his quest to destroy. So, the police and CSIS are called in. (Slight quibble. In Canada, we say C-sis but Bathurst spelled out the acronym, like you might for FBI, every time. Threw me every time) Although not in charge, Gamauche, the Patron, is still in charge of his former team, and they rely on him.
I like these stories, but I find the reliance on Art and its Significance to be odd. Assuming that an image on a gun holds the same symbolism that an English teacher reads into a short story strains my credibility. Just because there are artists and poets (Clara and Ruth, delightful as always) in the village, doesn't mean everything is a symbol. But here it is, and Gamauche uses them solve the mystery.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

BOOKS: Audio Classics

 Classics are classics for a reason. Reading them can sometimes feel like deja vous, because the characters and plots are in the popular culture. And yet, reading them is still new, and adds to your own knowledge bank. Sometimes it feels a bit like taking a vitamin, it's good for you; but some vitamins are good on their own, like Vitamin C! I have mixed results with classics, but I still always appreciate the originality of the 'classic.' Thanks to the YA Sync program for providing all, except Rainbow Valley.

Dracula - Bram Stoker (audiobook)
I have never been a vampire fan, but this was a good original story, the one that started it all. I liked the epistolary style, full of letters and diaries from many different characters. I listened to this in the summer and I know I enjoyed it though it was a tad long. However, details are escaping me. Dr Vanhelsing, the virtuous Victorian women, one of whom was smarter and more capable than the men would acknowledge. Good on Stoker for writing that, and for all the original vampire lore.

 Around the World in 80 Days - Jules Verne (audiobook)

Not exactly what I thought it was, but this was a rollicking good adventure, as Phileas Fogg attempts to win a bet and travel around the world. His poor servant Passepartout is one of the best parts, as are the interactions with the Detective following them who believes Fogg is a thief. Delays, mix-ups, and old-timey travel keep the reader hoping for Fogg to make it back to London.

Lord of the Flies - William Golding (audiobook)
I decided to give Lord of the Flies another chance. The first read was in grade ten English, and I hated it. In retrospect, I thought maybe I hated it because it was a book we studied, so it was analyzed, examined, and broken down. Sometimes that can ruin a book. But, no. I hated it because of the awful characters, the survivalist theme, the belief that man is basically evil, especially if left to their own devices. It is too depressing to think that way. I know there are 'bad' people, but I think they are everywhere, and some situations just allow them to flourish and this was a prime example.

I also may have been put off by the author note at the beginning of the audiobook, where Golding defended not having girls in the story because he didn't know any and had never been a girl. Weak.

Rainbow Valley - LM Montgomery
Another reread, but first time on audiobook. Not all books have been available on audiobook for my rereading this year. Anne disappears a bit in this one with her children and the manse children taking over the story, particularly the manse children. Even children with parents can be orphans as we watch these siblings try to 'raise themselves' as their widowed father is barely hanging on writing his sermons after the death of his wife. Lots of old grudges, sacrifices, and gossip  - lots of fun in a Montgomery early 1900s Canada.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

BOOK: Book Club Reviews, Historical Style

Book reviews, book club style.

It's always interesting when books you read independently end up having a connection of sorts. I'm sure it is possible to connect any two books, but our last two book club books have been historical fiction, both set around 1800, and in the same part of the world, across the English Channel from each other. From the story of Josephine at the start of the French Revolution, to the story of Mary Anning at the start of a new era in science/geology, both book were very interesting, well written, and felt educational as well as entertaining. Win for book club choices! (We only pick from books our library has book club sets for, and that are available when Mary goes to get them, so sometimes our choices can be limited!)

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B - Sandra Gulland, 436 pages

Confession: I knew practically nothing about the French Revolution other than some big names and the whole - Let them eat cake! Didn't finish Les Miserables or ever watch the musical. Couldn't even have given a rough estimate of dates. So, I found this book very educational, and I do want to read more about that time now. I did discover at the end of the book that this was the first of several books about Josephine. In fact, she only meets Napolean Bonaparte at the very end of the book, and he is the one who calls her Josephine. She wasn't Josephine until the last 50 pages! That certainly kept me reading.

This book tells the story up to the point where Rose, a girl from the island of Martinique, marries Napoleon. Before that, she travels to France for an arranged  (crappy) marriage, has two children, makes some important friends, and develops a real sense of responsibility for the people around her. Her husband was important in the French government, part of the revolution as well, but really, as a rich guy, was playing both sides.
Gulland has written a very readable tale, all the more remarkable because it is based on true facts. Gulland became obsessed with Josephine and spent years researching her life, resulting in this trilogy - The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B; Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe; and The Last Great Dance on Earth. I will definitely look into reading the rest of the series.

Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier, 305 pages

I've always been a big fan of Chevalier and her take on historical fiction. I've just about read all her books now, and have not been disappointed. Best known for The Girl With the Pearl Earring, her book The Lady and the Unicorn is my favourite. Remarkable Creatures will be near the top of my favourites by her.

So, what did I learn about here? Mary Anning, the fossil collector from the very early 1800s. I know I've enjoyed a book when I find myself looking up information about the characters after I've read the book, and find myself wanting to visit the area. Lyme Regis in Dorset, England is a prime location of fossil finding. There is a museum there on the site of Mary's original house that would be very cool to see. The fossils that Mary found changed the view of the history of Earth, and started the classification of dinosaurs.

Good historical fiction for me focuses on the characters and people and the facts become part of the story. Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot were two women leading unconventional lives in 1800. Neither married and with an age difference of twenty years, they became good friends and fossil hunters on the beach in Lyme. Different social stations added to the difficulties, but they managed to become experts, and eventually had men coming to buy their fossils, or learn from them. No easy feat for women who couldn't even vote at that time. The developing scientific thought, the poverty, women's roles, and the social classes provide lots of areas of discussion, and make a very well rounded, readable book.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Auto Buy Authors

Top 10 Tuesday 

The topic this week for Top Ten Tuesday hosted at The Broke and the Bookish is Auto Buy Authors. Since I don't actually buy many books, this is as much a list of  MRE (must read everything) as it is auto buy. 

In the words of that beer actor, I don't buy many books, but when I do, I buy these authors.

 1. Maeve Binchy 
Although she has died, new books keep getting published, new collections of short stories, like Chestnut Street, which is the last new book I bought.

2. Tracy Chevalier
I still have a few of her books left to read, The Last Runaway and Remarkable Creatures. I'm rationing her books

3. Tana French
Oh, I buy these mysteries as soon as they come out.

4. Lori Lansens
Great Canadian author. I want to get her newest book, The Mountain Story soon.

5. Mary Lawson
Another great Canadian author, not very prolific, but all  excellent.

6. Kate Atkinson
I'm still missing Jackson Brody, but also still reading her newer books.

7. Mo Hayder
Creepy detective series with Jack Caffrey. Kinda like Criminal Minds as it's just at my threshold of being able to read without nightmares.

8. Gillian Flynn
Big fan after reading all of her thrillers. Stop making movies and instead write another book!

9. Emma Donaghue
I've really enjoyed the diversity of her writing style and topics, and I still have a few more in her back list to read.

10. Lisa Lutz
Never fails to disappoint with her humour and there is a new release, How to Start a Fire that I must get a hold of.

Hey! What do my authors all have in common? Can you guess?

Monday, August 17, 2015


All of these books were excellent!

X - Ilyasah Shabazz (audiobook)

Really good 'memoir', written by Malcom X's daughter. It is classified as fiction, but I felt like I learned a lot about his early life. I listened to this around the time/just after the (multiple) incidents with police and African-American deaths, and it was so sad. How have things not changed at all?

I should watch one of the movies about Malcom X.

Dodger - Terry Pratchett (audiobook)

Pratchett does not disappoint - see Good Omens for reference. Funny, educational (the guy who cleaned up the London sewers appears) and meta - what more could a person want? A young tosher named Dodger gets mixed up with a different class of people (Charles Dickens, Disraeli, Angela Burdett-Coutts) after rescuing a young lady. Much happens, including a run in with Sweeney Todd and maybe love. It's not Dodger from the Dickens book, but maybe how Dodger developed? I love that this was paired with Great Expectations.

Must watch the Sweeney Todd musical movie.
Must listen to Great Expectations, and then watch the movie.

Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices - Walter Dean Myers (audiobook)

This was certainly different, but might be a better way to 'read' poems. Sort of a Canterbury Tales, each poem is a biography of a person from Harlem, read by different readers. Each is short, and unique, and wonderful. I tried to just listen to one or two at a time, and then come back. I definitely felt the 'feel' of Harlem.

A Corner of White - Jaclyn Moriarty (audiobook)

While it took a while for me to get into this one, I persevered having read and enjoyed Moriarty books before. There are two worlds, which have to be developed and set up with characters and back stories which was took a while. One in London and the other the kingdom of Cello. Once the two worlds connected however, I was hooked. I loved the references to Newton and science a lot, and the characters of Madeline and Elliot, although young adult, where very real, and facing tough decisions.

I was a tad disappointed to discover it's part of a trilogy and that I couldn't get the second, The Cracks in the Kingdom on audiobook. However, I would read the next one definitely as the last chapter or two had a lot of new information, and makes the reader want to find out what happens!

The Explorers Club - Nell Benjamin (audiobook)

A little play acted out by the Los Angeles Theatre Works  which had a Important of Being Ernest vibe to it. (The LATW will show up again with a wonderful version of In the Heat of the Night). Set in the late 1800s, focusing on explorers and anthropologists in London and a feisty woman trying to gain entrance in the Explorer's Club. There are misunderstandings, word play, and plenty of 'there, there, deary' misogyny/British Empire dismissals. Silly boys.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession


 The topic this week for Top Ten Tuesday hosted at The Broke and the Bookish is Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession. Two audiobooks each week from YA Sync is taking up the majority of the last books entering my home.

 The Journey by Katherine Lasky (bought, 2nd hand store)
 Youngest daughter, 12, decided to read the Guardians of Ga'hoole by Kathryn Lasky after finishing all the Dear Canada books. We checked the library and the second book, The Journey was unavailable. They only had one copy and it had been boxed up at a library undergoing renovations. We checked out the used book stores and got lucky at the second one.


Dark Fire by CJ Sansom (library)
Grabbed this at the library even though I don't need library books. It's been a while since I've read the first in this series.

The Explorer's Club by Nell Benjamin (YA Sync audiobook)
Listened to this already - a two hour full cast production of the play. Reminded me of The Importance of Being Ernest with the absurd British Victorian humour.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (YA Sync audiobook)
Last year there was Time Machine which I never got listened to. After The Explorer's Club, this will be perfect. I like how Sync matches up a classic with a modern book.

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman (book club book, borrowed from library kit)
Do all libraries have book club kits you can borrow? My little book club only reads books we can get through the library. Although it's the 12th in the Tess Monaghan series, it reads pretty easily so far, but I may have a new series to read.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (borrowed, sister's audio library online in another city)
Another short one, I waited 4 months for this and listened to it in one night. 

Orphan Train by Cristina Baker Kline (borrowed, school library)
I grabbed this before my teacher friend could return it to the school library. This was the only book I borrowed from our school library for the summer - I was restrained!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (YA Sync audiobook)
Hoping this goes much better than it originally did in grade ten. I think I'm ready for it!

 Monster by Walter Dean Myers (YA Sync audiobook)
The second Walter Dean Myers book this summer. Also very short, about a 16 year old on trial for murder.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (YA Sync audiobook)
Part of the Code Name Verity series, I recently listened to Code Name Verity leftover from last summer, so I am ready for Rose.

Monday, July 13, 2015

BOOKS: Bailey Prize Books + One Other

I like to follow the Bailey Prize each year. Formerly the Orange Prize, it recognizes women writers in English. This year I requested some popular books from the library and they arrived around the same time, some with shorter times to read, all over 350 pages. This all happened in June, my busiest school month of the year. To add extra activities this year, all three kids graduated from their schools and are moving up to the next level. So to say June was busy is an understatement!

oldest boy graduated from high school

Prom night with his date and me
I enjoyed these Bailey books to varying degrees. Just after I finished these nominated books, I stumbled across another book which maybe should have been on the Bailey list this year. I hope its omission is due to release/qualifying dates and that it will be there next year, because it was a great read! It also reassured me that I can read books with unique form and structure, that I can get a book that is a little different, because after some of the books from the shortlist, I was questioning myself. Granted, I think if I had been discussing some of these books with other people, my enjoyment may have gone up.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, 368 pages (2015 shortlist)

By far the most readable of this group of Bailey Prize nominees. Tyler writes of a Baltimore family, and their history, told in stories, as families do. Much of the book revolves around the family home - how it was built, how it came into their possession, their lives in it, and then as it leaves. Sometimes it meanders a little too much, I didn't love all the characters (two in particular were pretty selfish) but it was a great family tale.This actually felt similar in theme and characters to Emily, Alone.

 How To Be Both by Ali Smith (2015 winner)
 The Winner! As chosen by the judges, but not me. There were parts of this that I did like, particularly the first half which has the present day narrator, a teenager dealing with her mother's death. The second half follows a 16th century painter whose painting was a focus of the first half. I've read that there are copies of the book which allow the reader to pick which part to read first. That would have been interesting to see. Smith is known for playing with her writing, the composition, the characters and it was not linear or traditional in any way. I'm okay with that, but since it was focused so much on the art, and art in society my interest or understanding lagged. Thinking about some of the elements after the fact is giving me fonder memories than I had as I read it. The role of women, the painter as a spirit in the 21st century, the mystery of the mother and how she died (did I miss something?): I liked all that. But maybe it was just too hard for my little brain to think about during the end of June, a particularly tiring time for me at work. Let's say wrong book at the wrong time.

The Bees by Laline Paull, 352 pages (2015 shortlist)
The title does not lie - this is about bees. One in particular, Flora 717, seems to be a bit Divergent* (able to morph into different roles in the hive) so the reader gets to experience many different locations. I'm torn on this one, because it was interesting, (but I knew there was Queen trouble early, and knew that Flora would be involved. Does that make it predictable?) but dear Lord, the bees! I'm sure there are some issues with what bees think and do, but it seemed realistic to me. I would have enjoyed a shorter version, because a lot happened at the very end, and seemed rushed.
Also, June.
*Divergent, by Veronica Roth, a YA dystopian novel, recently made into a movie.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill (2015 longlist)

Much like O'Neill's first book, Lullabies for Little Criminals, she writes about a bohemian, Quebecois life on Boulevard Saint-Laurant. Nicolas and Nouschka are twins of a (locally) famous singer. They were part of his television show when they were children, so are famous in their own right. What happens to 'famous' people after the fame fades? How do they get that rush, that adrenaline?

This took place during one of the Quebec referendums and I remember that time. Reading from a Quebec point of view was a nice Canadian touch. (Because Quebecois are still Canadians after the referendum.)

What I find fascinating about O'Neill's characters and her writing is that I have no idea what they are going to do or say. Their experience is so far outside my world, that it boggles my mind. Nouschka said what? (great analogies) She did what? (pretty raunchy by times) Nicolas did what? (pretty much a criminal) Nouschka is a touch more grounded, and is trying to settle down (how I'd describe it) after a pretty ridiculous childhood.I recognize that people live this way, but it is not something I enjoy imagining.

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill (audiobook, a little over 3 hours)
Apparently, The New York Times Book Review calling this book “joyously demanding.” I flew through this in one evening, captivated by the voice of the narrator, only referred to as The Wife but did not find it nearly as demanding as the books on the Bailey list above.
The author herself read the book and she was very good. The beginning felt random, as the narrator in her twenties tries to find love, finds many boyfriends instead. She wants to write, be an artist. Then suddenly finds love, gets married and has a baby. All of this is only clear by putting it all together in an overview. It is linear in the sense that there is an order, but it is stream of consciousness style narration. And I usually hate that! But here it worked for me. In her thirties, the baby grows, her career stalls, and her marriage gets rocky. A similar book for me would be The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan. There are random bits, images, anecdotes, that you have to put together to get the full picture.
I heard of this book from AMB at The Misforturne of Knowing and her review made me want to read this. I'm so glad I did. Go read her, and her husband's reviews because they do a fabulous job of actually analyzing the book.