Monday, September 1, 2014

BOOK: Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, 324 pages

book 1 of 8 in the series

This was a surprising fun romp through 1932 London. Lady Georgiana is thirty-fourth in line for the throne of England, but flat broke. She lands in London from Scotland after being cut off by her brother who gets the title and the castle, with nothing but her royal connections to help her get by. She tries to get a job, tries to avoid getting set up to marry a fish-face prince, and then finds a dead body in her bath-tub.

I`m not usually a fan of cozy mysteries but this one worked for me. I am delighted to see that there are seven more books in the series. Lady Georgiana has pluck and the desire to make it on her own, and this first book certainly has a lot of examples of how difficult it was for her to live on her own and the differences between the classes still in the 1930s. She finds work ``opening up the London house` for others of her set, but forgets and tries to enter at the front door. Having to dig the coal out of the basement and start a fire for herself is a whole other adventure.

The mystery was thin (even I figured out who the murderer was, and I`m terrible at that!) but I still enjoyed it. There were a number of other great characters - her brother Binky, HRH the queen, her Cockney grandfather, and a few other friends from her set also eking out a sustenance, while trying to maintain a certain lifestyle. It often involved crashing weddings for a good meal.

I look forward to more adventures amongst Georgiana`s circle as she learns to stand on her own.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

BOOK: Road Ends by Mary Lawson

Road Ends by Mary Lawson, 311 pages

review copy from Random House Canada

I loved Crow Lake  and couldn`t wait to read Mary Lawson`s latest book. (Why I haven`t read her other book, The Other Side of the Bridge, is a good question. Must get on that.)

There are as many things to love about Road Ends as there were in Crow Lake. At the end of Road Ends, some of the characters from Crow Lake appear, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed Crow Lake again. Actually, one of the characters was a minor character at the diner and I didn`t even realize it.

Simple story, complex characters, a family drama.  A family of boys with one girl, and distant unengaged parents struggling to get by, when finally the girl has enough and manages to leave. A tragedy in the town throws the eldest son into a tailspin and he is unable to put his university education to any use. The father struggles with his memories of his childhood while dreaming of travelling instead of being a bank manager. They are as stuck as you can be in a snow drift in Northern Ontario.

The characters are so real, so imperfect but not ridiculously so. Just normal everyday struggles with responsibility and duty and love. There is a good dose of depression running around the town, but Northern Ontario, late 1960s: life was tough for everyone. Mary Lawson lets us look through the curtains at this one family, and they are compelling.

Her writing is so easy, so clear with atmosphere, and pacing. I liked that the three main characters (father, son and daughter) each took turns narrating the story and we got to see their viewpoint. The timeline also flipped back and forth which kept me very engaged. And hopeful.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

CHALLENGE: R. I. P. IX



This is the ninth year of Carl`s best challenge - Reader`s Imbibing Peril, full of creepy, scary reads. It kicks off the fall season, from now until the end of October. Bounce over there to check on more detailed information - he loves visitors!
I've participated almost every year and these are my favorite kinds of books.

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Dark Fantasy
Gothic
Horror
Supernatural

Peril the First:  Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

There are several other Perils to consider, and the goal is to be able to participate however you like. There are short story, movies, (I`m sure I watched Breaking Bad completely last fall) and even a read-a-long, The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. I`ll listen to the audiobook of this one!




If I am picking just four, these would be them. (Cool, all female mystery authors). 

the new Tana French: The Secret Place
the new Louise Penny: A Long Way Home (5 in line for the audiobook)
The Prime Minister`s Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal (audiobook)
Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

But there are a ton of other mysteries I`ve managed to pick up over the years that I`d love to get to. There`s some Harry Bosch to get caught up on, a little Jack Caffrey would be good as they are always super creepy. I haven`t read any Harry Hole in a while, or Deon Meyer. It might also be time for a Stephen King short story collection - Just After Sunset, which scares me just thinking of the title.

List of Books Read: 
1.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read



The topic this week at The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday:

Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read (whether because they think it's a "you" book or it's just been generally recommended so often)

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay  - but this is my book club book this month, so I will actually read it!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova - I know everyone says this is a great book, but I just haven't managed to pick it up yet

Game of Thrones George R Martin - I can't watch the shows until I read these, right?

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards - I missed the train when this book was everywhere.

The Mermaid's Singing by Val McDermid - recommended by a colleague who loves mysteries as well.

Rebus Mysteries by Ian Rankin - My parents read Rebus, and I do like mysteries, but some days, there are already so many mysteries to read, starting a new series is too much.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - Jennyreads insisted that this was better than The Goldfinch, a book that annoyed me a lot, so I may give it a try, someday.

The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien- in the words of my cousin - Suck it up and read these!

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen - a fun mystery series recc'd by a friend that I do plan to investigate

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read Mysteries




The topic this week at The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday: 

Top Ten Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read Mysteries

only each blogger fills in the genre they like to read. Mysteries are my go-to favourite reads.
Nearly all of the books suggested here are from ongoing series, and I tried to pick the first in the series. Series like these always get better, and while individual books are good, it's the ongoing development of characters that really impresses. I tried to divide them into categories, and I left out so many! No Scandi-crime here, no intense thrillers, no cosy mysteries, no American present day; so many other countries and historical time-periods have been omitted. But these are some really good books, that happen to be mysteries.

Classic Mysteries:
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Historical Mysteries:
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (England, after WWI)
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (12th century England)

African Mysteries
Thirteen Hours by Deon Myers (South Africa)
Wife of the Gods by Kwai Quartey (Ghana)

Police Procedurals
87th Precinct series by Ed McBain (New York City)
Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri (Sicily, Italy)

Favorite Female Authors
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (England)
The Likeness by Tana French (Ireland)


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

LIST: Books I'm very excited about

Remember Gods Behaving Badly?

 I read this back in 2008 and it was a great read - the first time I kind of 'got' how the Greek gods worked, and why they were fun. It was a funny, great book. Well, Marie Phillips has a new book coming out, The Table of Less Valued Knights and I (and Random House) am very excited.  It sounds like the same kind of fun, easy read, but with Arthur, or some version of the knights. Maybe Monty Python-esque? Merely a flesh wound!


For even more fun, there is even a Less Valued Knight Name Generator. 

You may now refer to me as Sir Flarn Deathstorm, Ruiner of Maps.

Other upcoming books that I am very excited about - so excited, I might even buy the hard-cover copy when they come out on September 2. Both on the same date? That's not fair!


 Sarah Waters - The Paying Guest

1920s London.
After WW1.
The changing class structure.

As a Downton Abbey fan, I'd be excited by the setting, but it's Sarah Waters! Fingersmith, The Little Stranger, Night Watch

It's already mentioned as a Booker Prize candidate.







Tana French - The Secret Place

This series, The Dublin Murder Squad has been getting better and better with each book. The main character changes in each book but is connected some how to a previous cop.

In the Woods
The Likeness
Faithful Place
Broken Harbour

One of my favourite mystery series on the go.




Sunday, July 20, 2014

BOOK: Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn by Jo Baker, 331 pages

review copy from Random House Canada

I was telling my (Pride & Prejudice loving) friend I had this book I was looking forward to for the summer, called Longbourn. She stopped, looked at me with a frisson of recognition, and said, "Who lives at Longbourn?" She knew it was a  literature reference to a house, the house where Elizabeth Bennett lived. It only took a minute, but she was as hooked by the premise as I was. And I'm not even a P&P freak like her.

I wanted a great book to start the summer, and it was as wonderful as I'd hoped. Historical fiction, with the Pride and Prejudice plot happening parallel, and a dear love story. Upstairs, Downstairs, and Downton Abbey have shown the fascination for both the aristocrats and the servants and this book gives us a look at the lives below Lizzie and Jane and Lydia. Mrs Bennett is as tiring for the servants as you could imagine; Wickham even more of an ass.

Sarah is the orphaned housegirl, James arrives as the mysterious footman, but there is definitely more to his story than is originally let on. I liked how Baker structured the book; two thirds in the now, and then the background history of the servants and how they ended up where they did, especially James. The characters of Sarah and James, (and the black footman, Ptolemy Bingley) were well developed, and showed the frustration of, while  not being a slave, having very few options for living or loving.

The characters and plot are compelling enough that I don't think you would have to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this on its own as historical fiction, but naturally, having the background of Lizzie and Mr Darcy adds another level of enjoyment. I had been picking away at the book for a few weeks, but last night I reached the point of no return and could not put it down. I had to read to the end. And now I must run this wonderful book out to my friend. She's going to love it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

BOOK: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (12 h, 16 min)

Three sisters in 1880s Paris trying to survive. Their father has died, the mother is a laundress (when she isn't drunk). Antoinette is seventeen and trying to look after her younger sisters, but she also wants a life and is drawn to a bad fellow, Emil. She gets her sisters into the Paris Opera to study ballet, even after she herself got kicked out. Marie, who alternates narrating with Antoinette, gets noticed by Edgar Degas and begins to pose for him. Marie was the real-life model for the statuette, 'Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.'

It's a rough world for the girls in Paris, and many bad things happen to them - the brothels, jails, taverns, and men who 'support' the petit-rats, ballet dancers in training. Listening, I couldn't determine where the story was going for a long time; just survival and the girls. Eventually, boyfriend Emil gets charged with some crimes and this trial comes between the sisters. The quote from Le Figaro sums it up "No social being is less protected than the young Parisian girl -- by laws, regulations, and social customs."

Much art work is referenced in this well researched book. In fact, this page has a picture of each piece of art mentioned, and the quote that goes with it. It's things like this, even after the fact, that can improve a book's experience for me. I didn't realize that many of the characters are based on real people, including the van Goethem sisters, and Emil and his buddy who are put on trial. There is another level of the book which references a theory at the time that physiology and facial features determined a person's destiny. Between the art incorporated, the real life characters, the city of Paris in the 1880s as a character, the ballet experience, and the specific sisters' relationship, this was a great read for Paris in July.



Monday, July 14, 2014

CHALLENGE: Cook it Up!


Here's Trish's big idea: (taken from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity)

What: Pull those cookbooks off the shelves–you know, the ones with pages you can turn–and use them! You can outline how you’d like to proceed–one cookbook a month? Or three recipes a month from any cookbook? Or even check out new cookbooks from the library. You make the rules!
When: I will put up a linky on the first Saturday of the month (I meant for this post to publish last Saturday…). Write your post whenever you’d like (and if you’d like), but don’t forget to come link up.
Where/How: Presumably your blogs but no worries if you’d rather just post on twitter or instagram (Tag me! @TriniCapini). Or just come back here at the beginning of the month and comment. I think you’ll have better luck if you blog but I also don’t want anyone to stress.
Why: Because if you’re like me, you have a giant stack of cookbooks that are collecting dust. I’m bad about searching the internet for a specific recipe rather than looking at my own cookbooks. Let’s put our cookbooks to use!

This sounds like a grand idea, and corresponds well with my 'summer is when I try to do things since I don't have to correct and I got a good night's sleep'. I don't have any great plan, but we moved to a new house in April, and now have a lovely big kitchen, with a place for everything, and even still some empty cupboards in the kitchen, it's that big! I have many lovely cookbooks, so I am just going to try to open some up and make some things over the summer.

I even started today.

I decided I wanted to make fajitas for supper tonight and got out my Mexican Recipes book by Better Homes and Gardens. I keep the marinade recipe that I cut out of the newspaper in the front. While browsing, I decided to make guacamole for the first time. Blend that avacado up in my fake magic bullet! Cool. (I'm a new eater of avacado.)

Since this was early this morning I made these plans (early around here is 11 am - we enjoy our summer), I thought I'd try out the new griddle my husband bought last week and make my own tortillas. We bought the griddle because we have lots of storage space and it even took me a few minutes to even find where my husband put it away.

While most of my tortillas look more like Africa than a circle, I felt I was getting my rolling technique by the last one. They tasted fine, even though I mixed up by baking soda and powder so ended up putting both in. I'd definitely make both guacamole and the tortillas again.

So, two new recipes and I used two different appliances. Score.

The only thing missing from this lovely supper was a homemade margarita. Next time.




Here's a few pictures from my new kitchen. I can't seem to get a good picture of the sink in the corner because of the light from the windows. Another time.






Thursday, July 3, 2014

CHALLENGE: Canadian Book Challenge 8



First time I didn't complete the Canadian Book Challenge! I read 11 (all of which were excellent!) and reviewed six. I did manage to read one Douglas Coupland, and doubled up on Margaret Atwood. New last year was the number of audiobooks, which I am finding a great way to get some more reading (and housekeeping) done. (As long as I get posted before Independence Day, I'm not late!)

Read for CBC 7
1.  Indian Horse - Richard Wagamese
2.  The Woman Upstairs - Claire Messud (audiobook)
3.  Cockroach - Rawi Hage
4.  How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny (audiobook)
5. Dead in Their Vaulted Arches - Alan Bradley
6. The Bear - Claire Cameron
7. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield
8. The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
9. MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
10. Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People - Douglas Coupland
11. The Silent Wife - ASA Harrison (audiobook)


Same rules as last year: read at least 13 books, by or about Canadians, and review them, linking up at The Book Mine Set. I shall try again, with the exact same list of books I had last year.

Pool of Books (left over from last year or the year before)
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Diamond Dreams by Stephen Brunt
Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot
The Age of Longing by Richard B Wright
The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
 Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
 The Fire-Dwellers by Margaret Laurence
 Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
 In the Skin of the Lion by Michael Ondaatje

BOOKS I GOT READ: 
1. The Painted Girls - Cathy Marie Buchanan
2. Frog Music - Emma Donaghue
3. Road Ends - Mary Lawson
4.

Friday, June 27, 2014

CHALLENGE: Paris in July 2014


I've started the last three four summers participating in Paris in July, hosted by Tamara (Thyme for Tea), Belleza (dolcebelleza), Adria (Adria in Paris), and Karen (A Wondering Life). I've read some fabulous books:
Read in 2013        Read in 2012         Read in 2011           Read in 2010

There are plenty of options; it is not just about reading, and I've seen a couple of movies for this challenge as well. Why not try:
- Reading a French book - fiction or non-fiction
- Watching a French movie
- Listening to French music
- Cooking French food
- Experiencing French art, architecture or travel

This year, I plan to listen to The Painted Girls by Cathy Buchanan.

Monday, June 23, 2014

MEME: Brought to You by the Letter...


Simon at Stuck in a Book has started a Meme about your favourite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via random.org. If you'd like to join in, comment in the comment section and I'll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.) My letter, as assigned by Simon is K.



Favourite Book - It turns out there are not a lot of books that start with K. After perusing some book titles, I think K is a harder letter than Q or V, Simon. I didn't really have a book that stood out for me, but I came up with The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini, with a runner-up The Known World by Edward P Jones (Pulitzer Prize 2004). The Kite Runner was a great if depressing book that I read years ago. I didn't really like The Known World when I read it, but parts of it kept coming back to me and so my overall remembrance is a good one. The K book I want to read is Kiss the Joy As it Flies by the wonderful Sheree Fitch.



Favourite Author - This was the easiest : Stephen King. I've been a fan of his since I was a teenager, and am still reading his books. The book of his I want to read next is 11/22/63. But there is also the non-fiction book he wrote with Stewart O'Nan about the Red Sox...



 
Favourite Song - This is much tougher. I went to iTunes to see what my options were. Some songs have been played a lot by One Direction (Kiss You) and Ed Sherren (Kiss Me), but I suspect those are from my 14 year old daughter as I don't recognize them at all. I think my favourite K song has to be Kindred Spirits from the Anne of Green Gables musical. It's certainly the song I'd know all the words to.



Favourite Film - The King's Speech was such a great movie! I do adore Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, and this was done so well.  (It just edges my teenage pick of The Karate Kid and the delightful Czech film, Kolya.)


Favourite Object -My favourite object that starts with a K is a knife, because without a knife, how would I cut my barbequed steak?

Thanks Simon, that was fun! Anyone else want to play? Ask for a letter, and you shall receive.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books on My Summer TBR

Only one day late! There is nothing that is more fun for me than imagining summer reads. As a teacher, I get my summers 'off', and I imagine myself arising early, going for a walk as the sun is rising, coming home, drinking coffee while sitting outside, and reading a great book. Sitting at the beach - reading a book. The reality (and my laziness) are a different picture, and I usually imagine many more books than can actually get read and I'll not arise early very often and the children will have demands.  I generally read the about the same number of books in the summer as I would any other random two months. But the dreaming is fun!


1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This was given to me by another reading colleague, and I can't wait to dive in

2. Longbourn by Jo Baker
Longbourn looks so delicious - historical, Pride and Prejudice, the servants in a parallel story. I really can't wait for this one.

3. Road Ends by Mary Lawson
I still remember Crow Lake as one of my top books. The emotion, and family connections, and bleak Canadian landscape. I plan to savour this one!

4. Angelica's Smile by Andrea Camilleri
The 17th book in the Inspector Montalbano series comes out on June 24th and I can't wait to get it and see what Salvo is up to on Sicily.


5. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
I am waiting to get this audiobook from the library -   "A chilling psychological thriller about a marriage..."


6. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
I've had this one far too long, and by such a great author, I know I'll enjoy this epic.


7. Elegy for Eddie and Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
I intend to finish up this series this summer, and await the next book she may write about Maisie.

8. The Last Word by Lisa Lutz
The final in the Spellman family series, this will be a fun, quick read, perfect for some weekend of a soccer tournament when I'll be outside all weekend.


9. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson or some other non-fiction book.
A murder + Marconi developing the radio? Lovely mash up of my two favorite reads - science and murder.

10. This is where I can't find another book for the list, but I can find 50. On one of the last days of the school year, I'll head to our school library and snag a few new titles for the summer. Our librarian is the best - she orders lots of new titles for the 'avid' and 'mature' readers. Plus, she'll suggest a number of great reads that I'll have to take. We really enable each other in book titles. (Plus, I have Game of Thrones here to read. If I don't read them in the summer, when ever will I?)








Saturday, June 14, 2014

BOOKS: The Burgess Boys, Still Life With Bread Crumbs, Maddaddam

A few of the books I read from the Bailey Prize for Fiction, longlist edition.


The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, 336 pages

I loved Olive Kitteridge (and this is one of my favorite reviews I wrote) so I had high expectations. It wasn't as good as Olive, but I did enjoy it. It was similar in that it looked at a family, from Maine. The prologue began as a mother and daughter were talking about the Burgess boys from their small Maine town, and then it backtracked to tell the story. Unless I missed something, that never seemed to get resolved; I never noticed those women again. It's a story about families, and the stories and roles that people play in the family lore. (I actually forgot a lot of details in the plot, and just refreshed myself reading some reviews at librarything) My fuzzy recollection and impression was about the two brothers, and how they go back to Maine to help our their sister and her son, when the nephew gets in trouble. It's hard to judge families, and all the experiences that led them to the present can never be fully explained.  Good, solid read and I am keeping Strout on my list of authors to read more from.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, 252 pages

Other than the horrifying 'romance' label my library slapped on this book, I quite liked it. A famous photographer rents a cabin in a small town as she tries to get her life back together financially after a quiet spell. She's trying to make some sense of her life, and meets some people in the meantime. A gentle romance develops (not enough to label it as such); this is more in the tradition of men looking back on their lives and trying to make sense of things. I liked this one quite a bit; it might even be my favorite of the nominated books.




Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood, 13 h 24 m

Although I have been listening to many audiobooks this year, I am a very visual reader. Thus, I think I miss things when I listen to books. I think I missed stuff in this book. In some ways, it is a very simple book - simple dialogue (representing the starting over of civilization?), and it was hard to grasp a sense of the plot. Lots of time is spent looking back at Zeb's life and adventures as he tells his stories to Ren, and Zeb's connection to Adam One, and everything that led up to the present day. I really liked The Year of the Flood, and was not interested in Oryx & Crake, but now I'd like to go back and see how it all started. What actually happened? How did Oryx and Crake get so powerful?

The Crakers were interesting and Atwood does a great job of world-creating, but overall it was just an okay book. There were three narrators reading different parts of the story, but I don't know if that was really necessary. On the plus side, I really like the cover! Something about the colours really works for me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

BOOKS: Burial Rites and The Lowland



The Bailey Prize, the prize formerly known as the Orange Prize, which readers here will know I follow, has announced its winner:  A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride! Hurray, for one of two books from the short list that I didn't get read. Figures. It's not even being released in Canada until September 2014.

The Shortlist for 2014 included:
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah I read last summer. Mostly good, but the ending was weak. Half a Yellow Sun was her better book by far.
  • Hannah Kent, Burial Rites Read it in June, liked it, see below
  • Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland  Read it in May, neutral reaction?
  • Audrey Magee, The Undertaking Did not get read, and was only released in Canada in May
  • Eimear McBride, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing I managed to read last year's winner (May We Be Forgiven) as this book was being awarded the prize. I guess I'll read this one next year.
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch In which I reacted to all the praise by being probably unfairly harsh, but still, the book is overrated.


A Few Bailey Prize for Women Shortlisted Books:


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, 352 pages

I'm neutral about this book - didn't love it, didn't hate it (hello, The Goldfinch) but it also didn't affect me in a way that caused me to have any great reaction and my memories are a tad fuzzy. (Which, although The Goldfinch drove me nuts, I still remember a lot of details about that book) Two brothers again, starting out in India during the rebellion. One brother escapes to the United States, and builds a life with very little contact to India. The brother who remained was a much more of an activist, and is killed by the police. The US brother comes home, and then marries the pregnant widow. They proceed to live a life in America, but not really together. The mysteries of families, and what holds them together.I did like how everyone's lives turned out but I found it started slow.


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent,  336 pages

An Icelandic mystery from the early 1800s, pieced together and imagined by first time novelist, Hannah Kent. I saw this described as Alias Grace + Kristin Lavrensdatter + Arnaldur Indridason, which is perfect, and why I did enjoy this book. Part of the appeal is the Icelandic setting, when Iceland was still under Danish rule. I liked the look at women's life, at Iceland in general, and the gradual telling of doomed Agnes' story. Good solid read.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Favorite Books of the Year, so far...

Hellooo. I'm still here. We got moved, and then soccer started and life got busy. For example, tonight, all three kids had a practice at 6 pm, at different places. The new house is wonderful, we are enjoying the extra space (and shower!). I'll 'give a tour' eventually, when I get some respectable photos. Let's say that will be my first summer vacation project.
Seeing this prompt in my InoReader (aka Google Reader) was just the easy thing for me to get back on the blogging wagon. I have been reading, and listening (a lot more listening this year) to lots of great books. One more week of correcting stuff, and then reading gets a lot easier. It's not that I don't read during the school year, but I read guiltily, knowing I have a pile of correcting to do. Losing the guilt part is the best.

Favorite Books of the Year, so far...

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - the 15 hour audiobook (narrated by Wil Wheaton) that was so good I couldn't turn it off. So much fun with the 80s memories! There is a reason this is recommended in so many lists of great audiobooks.

2. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding - I'm a huge Bridget fan, and I loved this finale for her. She's still silly, but she has grown up tons. If she wasn't still making rash decisions, and getting into scrapes, she wouldn't be Bridget, even at fifty years old. I certainly missed Mark, but so did Bridget, and my heart broke several times with her.

3. How the Light Gets In  by Louise Penny- Another audiobook that got me hooked, actually better than the last few in the series.  I appreciated the characters a lot more. It helped there was lots of Ruth, and little Jean-Guy and Peter. This tied up the huge story arc of the in-house battles that have been going on, although the whole premise was a tad far-fetched.

4. One More Thing by BJ Novak - Delightful, wry, humourous morsels that are close to short stories, but almost too short to even be that much. They beg to be re-read, as I do like the funny.

5. The Bear by Claire Cameron - This gets compared to Room by Emma Donaghue, but only because of the five year old narrator. Dear little Anna has to get her young brother out of the woods after her parents are eaten by a bear. Her perspective keeps things from getting too horrifically bad because her brain won't let her process too much at once. Surprisingly hopeful!

6. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - I've been meaning and wanting to read this for a few years, since I read American Gods. If American Gods is an epic tale, Anansi Boys is the little sibling, that goes along with its older cooler brother. It's a family tale, very well-done by Gaiman, of whom we expect nothing less. A nice surprising read.

7. Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen - I just finished this one, but it was a very nice, gentle book. Horrifically, it had a 'romance' sticker on it from the library. I wouldn't class if that way, but there was a nice love story gradually happening.

8. Reality Boy by AS King - I haven't been reading much Young Adult these days, but I would recommend this one easily. Gerald is a very angry teenager, dealing with his 'reality fame' many years later as an out of control young child on a Nanny show. His dysfunctional, rotten family, the adults who knew there were problems and did nothing, and the resilience of some people despite their situations made this a compelling read.

9.  Cabin Pressure series (audiobook) - written by John Finnemore, this BBC radio series isn't really a book, but I did listen to the 25 episodes like an audiobook. Hilarious! Really, really funny, and I've even started to re-listen to some of them again. Brilliant stuff here.

10. the 4 Maisie Dobbs books (#5-8)  I read  by Jacqueline Winspear - sometimes individual books are just okay, but the series as a whole gets upgraded. That's what happened to me as a flew through four books of Maisie Dobbs, 2 of which were audiobooks. I liked how the series developed, how the characters grew, and really started to move on from the first world war. Unfortunately, the next war is looming. I have two more to go, then I get to wait for the next release, sometime next year.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

BOOKS: Maggie Hope mysteries

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
11 h 3 min

The Maggie Hope series follows the American as she becomes a British spy. Her talent in the area of code breaking (due to her Math skills) gets her assigned as Princess Elizabeth's maths tutor. The last novel ended with some revelations of her previous dead father and Maggie is dealing with this information. She is a bit of a Mary Sue, figuring things out quickly, but I don't think I am supposed to fret too long on some plot points, so I shan't. Fun and games in wartime London with a crowd of young friends. I'm enjoying the audio versions of this book.
His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal
10h  28 min

Maggie is marching up the spy ladder and will be the first woman parachuted in to Germany for a secret spy mission. Maggie has amazing luck (don't fret on plot points, Maggie is a natural!) but this book is bringing together the last two and some fun stuff happens that I can't really mention if you haven't been reading. This is a great series, with strong women on both sides. The next book comes out in July, and I'll wait for the audiobook. This book is definitely not the end of the series, with a showdown coming, and some romance to be decided. I'm on Hugh's side here, and hope he will be patient with Maggie. Point of history: Did Hitler get booed when Germans discovered his eugenics program? Several time the book makes reference to Nazis basing their Jewish laws on American segregation, just taking things much further.