Wednesday, September 20, 2017

BOOKS: Mystery, mystery, mystery

It's RIP season and I've been reading some great mysteries and keeping up with my mystery series'.

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen, 304 pages
Book 11

Georgiana Rannoch, 34th in line to the throne, may have finally caught Darcy O'Mara, but he's run off again on whatever job it is he has, leaving Georgie alone in Ireland. She visits Queen Mary to get permission to marry a Catholic, and Queen Mary sends her on a mission to again spy on the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson. (On a side note, I've been watching The Crown on Netflix, and every time David shows up, things get delicious. It really compliments this series!) Georgie heads to Italy, runs into Belinda, her mother appears, someone dies, yadda yadda yadda. A classic locked door murder with everyone in the house, including Mrs Simpson and David, suspects. Georgie to the rescue. I thought this was a nice, tight mystery, and of course, I loved it when Darcy inevitably showed up.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, 496 pages

For fans of Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle, I highly recommend this book. It's actually two books in one, as an author submits his novel, which is a mystery very much like an Agatha Christie mystery. Then, the editor has to solve a mystery based on the book and the author, and becomes the detective in her own real life mystery. Crazy, and so meta! The Atticus Pund mystery itself was good, much like a Miss Marple, small village mystery. Then how Horowitz overlapped solving the real life mystery, which involves solving the Pund mystery, was genius. At times, my head was spinning with how many parallels were happening, and I could not put it down.

Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason, 352 pages                                                    I like how Indridason has gone back to Detective Erlunder's beginning days on the force in Reykjavik. This mystery was also two mysteries being solved simultaneously. Erlunder and his mentor Marion are investigating the death of an Icelander who worked on the American Base. This is set during the late 1970s when the cold war tensions are high. At the same time, Erlunder has found a cold case of a missing girl from the 60s. Both are done well, and I'm just happy to be getting more Erlunder.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books on My Fall TBR List

The topic this week is the ever popular (to me) TBR list. Check out the Broke and the Bookish for more lists.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Nonfiction, Marconi and a murder. Science and true crime - sounds like a winner!

This is Not My Life by Diane Schoemperlen
Canadian nonfiction, a Charles Taylor Prize finalist, 

Death by Black Hole and other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson
I've got this one on my desk at school and I am trying to read one essay a day. I bet the title essay has the word 'spaghettification' in it

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
The last in a YA fantasy trilogy that is so different from any other book. I'm looking forward to the end of this world-travelling book.

The Queen's Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal
Finally, this appeared on my audio-library list. I'm #3 on 2 copies, so hopefully will listen to this one soon. The next book, The Paris Spy is also available, but I'll wait a bit to listen to that one

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
This is supposed to be a suspenseful read by Lutz; I've only read her humourous books thus far. Seems perfect for the RIP season

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
I haven't been too interested in many of the Booker Prize nominated books, but I saw several rave reviews at Librarything for Home Fire; I've previously read Burnt Shadows by Shamsie

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I've been in line since June for this one. It has since been nominated and made the short list for the Booker Prize. I've listened to Saunders short story collection, Tenth of December, and this one also is supposed to be done well on audio.

Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Avian World by Candace Savage
Seems like a good fall book, this is a short, nonfiction book about those crazy crows

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
A good, classic Canadian novel, Laurence has written some lovely novels and it is time to get to her most famous one.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten books from ten years ago


 Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. The topic this week is favourite books from when you started blogging. It was ten years ago (which I forgot to mention last February) that I started blogging, so by January in 2008, I had posted a list of hte books I read and highlighted the top ten + one of the year. I read a lot of good books that year! If I look back at the list I'm not sure these are the ten I would have picked but there is nothing wrong with any of these and I have fond memories of each. Some of the books from 2008 that I didn't pick as best include Half a Yellow Sun, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, The Road, and The Tale of Despereaux. Those could easily be on a top ten list from that year.

Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland
I just finished a Coupland book in August (Marshall McLuhan) and this was the book that made a huge Coupland fan. I went on to read many, many more.
 The Gun Seller - Hugh Laurie
 I still remember what a crazy, fun book this was. A spy-thriller comedy. This was during the House days and the book I read from the library was signed! I should have kept the book and paid for a new one for the library.

The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
I loved it at the time, but I only ended up reading one more Gregory epic novel. I'm sure I'd still enjoy her books and I don't know why I haven't read more.
the perks of being a wallflower - stephen chbosky 
My fourteen year old daughter just read and loved this book this summer. She saw the movie on Netflix, and then wanted to read it from the library. We recently bought her her own copy. Classic teen book with all the feels.

The Bone People - Kerri Hulme
 So many reasons why I shouldn't have liked this but it hit me at the right time and I loved it. Hulme never really wrote anything else at this level. The Bone People won the Booker Prize in 1985.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling
Can it be ten years since The Deathly Hallows was released?  I stayed up late late the night I got this book so as not to be surprised by anything online. Plus, others in the house wanted to read it and weren't as fast readers as I am.

I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak
Here's a book I think is time for a reread. I have such great memories of how much I enjoyed this book and this was my first Zusak.
Never Let Me Go - Kazou Ishiguro
My first Ishiguro but not my last! I went on to read five of Ishiguro's novels and he is such a good writer. None of the books are similar in style or topic and this one was so deliciously creepy.
Cloud of Bones - Bernice Morgan
Morgan, the Newfoundland writer, has written so few books. In fact, this is the last book she wrote from 2007. This was released over ten years after her previous books, Random Passage and Waiting for Time, so maybe she's working on a new novel.
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
I listened to Neverwhere last year and it was still a wonderful, delightful fantasy through the London underground. Still recommend. And I'm still reading Gaiman - I read The Graveyard Book this spring.
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving   
Another long, epic novel. I think I read this at the end of the year so the recentness may have led to it being on my top ten list for that year. It was a great read, but I don't have the 'you must read this' memory of Owen Meany.  
Have you read any/all of these great books from ten years ago?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

BOOKS: Not Memoirs

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming (6 h 29 min)
read by the author

The chance to listen to Alan Cumming's wonderful Scottish accent for over six hours is but one delightful part of this audiobook. I am most familiar with Cumming from The Good Wife television show in which he does not have an accent. Or rather, he adopts an American accent.

This dark memoir recounts growing up with his horrible father. Really terrible man who appeared to hate his sons, and especially Alan. How Alan maintained a somewhat positive attitude is amazing, and probably due to his loving mother.

Cumming is asked to be part of the television show that looks into heritage and tracks DNA, hoping to learn about the mysterious death of his grandfather. This involves looking into his past, which brings up all the crap with his father. The history and the show combine to force him to face his past. It's done rather suspensefully, so I won't reveal, but it was a great listen.

Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying by Wayson Choy 208 pages

Wayson Choy is a Chinese-Canadian author, most noted for his novel, The Jade Peony. I read The Jade Peony back when it was a contender for Canada Reads 2010.

This memoir follows his near death experience of a asthma-heart attack. While not married, he is surrounded by close and good friends who rally round to support him. He spends months in the hospital, recovering and gaining strength. The first half of the book was good. Choy is clearly a good writer and it is well done. The Chinese spiritual aspect was interesting.
But by the second half when he fell back to his old ways (hoarding and not planning) and suffered a second attack, I felt somewhat less sympathy. I thought it was a book about learning? The book just seemed to end, or at the least, I didn't feel the arc and ending I expect from any book, even a memoir.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

BOOK: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (14 h 43 min)

Read by the author;  Booker Prize Shortlist 2013

I like when the author reads the book. They emphasize what they feel is important and Ozeki was able to read the Japanese phrases.

I also like parallel stories. Ruth is a writer living on an island off Vancouver; Nao is a sad teenage girl living in Japan; Haruki #1 is getting ready for a WW2 kamikaze attack. Ruth discovers Nao's diary on the shore, washed up from Pacific Ocean currents. The stories continue as Ruth reads Nao's diary and gets more involved in Nao's story as it progresses. Nao is planning to commit suicide but wants to record the story of her great-grandmother's life first.

 “A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”  There are some big ideas with time, relating, quantum mechanics, and some magical realism. This quote from a review on Librarything explains the big ideas:

The author asks the reader to question our perceptions of reality and whether we are actually creating our reality and affecting the reality of others. She went a little heavy on quantum physics towards the end, but the book really wakes you up about living in the now (Nao, pronounced "now" is the name of the main Japanese character), and takes a look at the good and evil in all of us.

Some books are both readable and have layers of ideas that present themselves if you dig deeper. Not surprising that A Tale for the Time Being was nominated for several book prizes. I enjoyed listening to it, was concerned for the characters and interested in what happened next. After reading other people's  reviews at LT, I have an even better appreciation of what Ozeki was trying to accomplish. This would probably make a good book club read.

Monday, September 4, 2017

CHALLENGE: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII

Estella's Revenge is now hosting the annual Readers Imbibing Peril XII, the challenge about

Dark Fantasy.

I've participated in RIP every year and these are my kind of books. Here's the list of books I have around here, or that I want to read:

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason
The Queen's Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal (on audio request)
Thunderstruck by Erik Larsen
The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier
A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

BOOK: Marshall McLuhan by Douglas Coupland

Marshall McLuhan by Douglas Coupland, 243 pages
Extraordinary Canadians Series

The medium is the message

a global village

the impact of the internet

Coupland was probably the perfect author to write about McLuhan as he pushes the same limits and experiments with the medium as the famous professor. It may not be the proper way to write a biography, but I also felt like I got an insight into Coupland as well as McLuhan. (He includes a chapter from one of his books, Generation A "inspired by Marshall, in which the collapse of the inner voice - and the sense of self - collides with the eternal plane.")

McLuhan was weird. Very cerebral, gave lectures which involved him just talking and talking and then sometimes something profound happened. He didn't get along with many colleagues, and yet he did predict the effect of media and provoked new ideas. Quite honestly, I have very little idea what his ideas are about, but the fact that Coupland does makes me impressed even more with one of my favourite authors.

The book includes pages describing each of McLuhan's books on resale pages; famous phrases like 'the global village' and 'marshall macluhan' are anagrammed; paragraphs are re-written in different fonts. Coupland plays with form and conventions - just listing Marshall's friends and foes, for example. Coupland is even able to deal with some of Marshall's more extreme views, for example on homosexuality, without judging MM on today's standards.

If you ever wanted to find out a bit about Marshall McLuhan and why he is so famous among academic types, this would be a great place to start. Also for fans of Douglas Coupland.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Hidden Gem Nonfiction Books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. The topic this week is Top Ten Hidden Gems in your chosen genre. 2017 is my year of nonfiction books, so I'm looking for hidden gems in nonfiction. Hidden gems are tricky, because it could just be I didn't happen to hear of it before - maybe it is well known by other people! I'm going to pick books that I had very little expectation or notice of and then was completely impressed once I read it. 

 The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
Akin to Anne Frank, ten Boom tells the story of hiding Jews in their home in Holland during WW2. A story of quiet courage, I was surprised to never have heard of it before listening to it last year.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Crazy story of a reporter whose brain turned on her and her amazing recovery. The fact that the infection was discovered and she wasn't left to languish in a mental hospital is due to her parents diligence. Even how she reconstructed her month after the fact is impressive.

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez
Intelligence gathering and counter intelligence is so much in the news today so this story of the freeing of the Iranian hostages in 1980 is a timely read. It is also an inside look into the CIA and how they operate in crazy times. I'm pretty sure the movie took liberties, so the book would be great background.

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
The cover of the book attracts most people but they stay for the writing and the story. I also went back for the sequel, She Got Up Off the Couch

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker
I just read this one and reviewed it last week. If you only read one book about food, this is the one. 

Survivor: The Ultimate Game by Mark Burnett
I'm a huge Survivor fan and can remember watching the very first episode. This book is a behind the scene look at the very first season. It's not long but will take you back to all that went on the first time.

Dispatches From the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters and Survival by Anderson Cooper
It's been ten years since I read this but I still remember enjoying it. Cooper (I've been a fan since The Mole!) combines his own personal memoir with three or four big events he's covered. Wars in Iraq and Sarajevo, tsunami of 2006, and finally, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are the backdrop to his own life. This is just reminding me I haven't listened to his latest book with his mother, The Rainbow Comes and Goes.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
Not sure if this is considered a hidden gem, but the life lessons Hadfield imparts in his memoir are inspiring. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend it. He is a Canadian treasure.

I'd Like to Apologize To Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High by Tony Danza
Maybe it is because I am a teacher and I always liked Tony Danza, but this is really every teacher's dream. Have someone come into the classroom for an extended time and see what it is really like. There was a TV series that went with this and I'm not sure which came first. We've had student teachers who have come back to the school who do apologize to their former teachers - it's very funny!

 Gretzky's Tears: Hockey, Canada and the Day Everything by Stephen Brunt
This is a little more niche as every Canadian remembers where they were when they heard that Gretzky got traded from Edmonton to LA. (I was in the car with my parents, driving home from work.) I am mostly including this book to be able to mention what a good writer Stephen Brunt is. I've also read his Searching for Bobby Orr and I have a Blue Jays book to read as well. So if you want to read a sports book, he's your guy.

Friday, August 25, 2017

BOOKS: Summer (really good) Reads

I read a few very good books this summer. Very good. All are books I'll take to school and share around with my colleagues.

My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante (audiobook)
First in the Neopolitan series, I listened to the story of two young girls growing up poor in Naples in the1950s. Lila and Lenu are rather more like frenemies with their love lives and schooling rivalries. The next book, The Story of a New Name, is in print for me, so it will be interesting to see how the story changes. I liked it, not loved it, but know that many readers have become obsessed with the friendship. It was also listed on Modern Feminist books to read.

Redshirts - John Scalzi, 320 pages
What a hoot! The premise is from the old Star Trek shows, where the expendable crew member was always dressed in a red shirt. The beginning of the book, new crew members are getting leery of being chosen for an away trip in a futuristic world of space exploration because so many are killed. But never the captain or first officer. Eventually, things get weird(er) as new information develops. Some space time travel later, the book ends very cool. Fans of science fiction or meta-fiction will greatly enjoy this one.
Girl at War - Sara Novic, 336 pages
Bailey Prize for Women Longlist 2016
I heard good things about this book and it did not disappoint. Set during the Serb-Croatia war in the 1990s, but written in two time lines, Girl at War was done very well. War stories are horrible, and this is a war story. But the recentness of the war while simultaneously being a war that wasn't in the news enough made me think about wars 'over there.'
Tiny, Beautiful Things - Cheryl Strayed, 368 pages

A book of advice columns? Not my usual cuppa, but based on rave reviews and best of lists, I picked it up. Part memoir, part advice, Cheryl Strayed relates her life with bad decisions and early death of her mother to connect with her readers. It's a good book to pick at, like a short story collection as each letter and answer are powerful. It's all about living your best life, communicating with your loved ones, and not being afraid of doing scary things.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

BOOK: American Eclipse by David Baron

American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron, read by Johnathan Yan (8 h 43 min)

How timely! I found this on the 'just added' of my library's audiobook collection, and was able to borrow it immediately last week. Thus, I was able to listen to it during the craziness of the most recent eclipse. 

American Eclipse investigates the hoopla surrounding the 1878 eclipse similar to this years. American scientists used the event to stake their seat at the world's science table, in particular, following Thomas Edison, James Craig Watson, and Maria Mitchell. (see previous books with Edison, and Mitchell)

Lots of interesting tangents and rivals as each scientist plans to attend the eclipse. With Mitchell, the role of women in science. Times have changed and much can be related back to Maria Mitchell and her determination. Edison still comes off as an arrogant idiot, but he did invent a lot of stuff. Watson was one I wasn't familiar with. He was looking for the planet Vulcan, believed to travel closer to the sun than Mercury and so unable to be seen. He thought he found it, but luckily died before Einstein was able to disprove the 'planet'. 

The eclipse here in PEI was only about 35%. We made a pin hole camera and were able to see the bit we could. Apparently, the next big North American full solar eclipse will be perpendicular to this one and the totality will pass through western PEI in 2024. See y'all then!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Back to School Freebie (Classics I Want to Read)

Listing the classics I've loved, and hated, last week got me thinking about what classics I still want to read. The definition of classic is always tricky. To me, it's a book from a long time ago, more than fifty, that is still considered a book that should be read. Fifty seems old, but now it's as old as me!
I started this list before I realized that Top Ten Tuesday was back. So, let's call this Classics I Wish I'd Read in School.

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence (1974)
The first book I list deviates from my own criteria! But I've enjoyed Laurence's Manawaka's cycle books and this is the most famous one. I've been saving it for the end. I wish we'd read more Canadian books while I was in school.

By the Pricking of My Thumb by Agatha Christie (1968)
All Agatha Christie books count as classics in my mind, and I picked this fourth Tommy and Tuppence book up at a yard sale a while ago. I love how the short (4) T&T series has the couple age from young to old.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
I started this book years ago at a site that was posting a chapter a day and got along okay, but then I hit my Waterloo, which was the battle of Waterloo. Is that where that phrase comes from - reading Les Miserables and hitting the background of the battle scenes? Once I finish Les Miserables, then I can watch the movie!

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
This is supposed to be a great read, lots of adventure! It's a large one which makes it hard to pick up.

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915)
This is one of those books whose lore is entrenched in popular culture. It was a YA Sync free audiobooks this summer and is quite short. I'm looking forward to listening to it.

Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier (1938)
I really can't wait to read a duMaurier! I'm not even sure why I haven't got around to it yet, but I am determined to get to this soon. Sounds like a good fall book.

Emma (1816) or Sense and Sensibility (1811) by Jane Austen
I'd still like to try another couple Austen's having only read Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. Plus there are movie versions to watch as well.

The Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (1974)
Not quite fifty years old, but this is one that gets glowing reviews amongst book bloggers so it is always on my to be eventually read.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)
I expect I'd rather listen to Great Expectations, but it is so long. I may just end up watching the PBS movie that I've got saved on my DVR. I haven't read any of Dickens' long epic novels.