Saturday, April 19, 2014

BOOK: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, 770 pages

Pulitzer Winner 2014; Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction shortlist 2014

I'm having lots of dilemmas/issues with this book. Clearly, it is being recognized as a wonderfully literary book. It just won the Pulitzer for heaven's sakes. Many reviews at Librarything with raves of 'engrossing' and 'best read of the year.'  Almost one third of the starred reviews give it 5/5 stars (221/628). But...

If I am going to read a 700+ page book, I need something - emotional investment, intricate plotting, multiple interesting characters interacting, beautiful writing (that matches the way my brain likes to read) or a surprising twisting ending. Something like a Stephen King or Sarah Waters or Kate Atkinson can pull off. Mysteries (real mysteries) by Deon Meyer or Tana French can support the big pages with their plots and characters. The Goldfinch had little if any of this for me. I'm going to be a little harsh in my review, only because after reading other reviews, the disappointing parts stand out for me.

I won't go looking for any more Donna Tartt books after that experience. Bloated text with a plot that wasn't complex enough to sustain the pages. Her use of technology from 14 years ago was a constant interruption for me as THAT WASN'T THAT COMMON! I liked the beginning, thinking I was in for a great ride with characters and some elaborate plot - nope. Even the technology - I thought there would be some reveal about Theo and why his recollection didn't match the reality of what life was like. Was he an unreliable narrator, my favorite kind? Nope.

Most of the characters were okay, like Boris and Hobie the furniture guy, but only from Theo's eyes, so they weren't that developed. There was a lot of potential, and some parts read quickly, but it didn't do much for me, and after the fact, all the annoyances are seeming even bigger.

I've seen reviews were people describe the writing as suspenseful. I would not use the word suspense here: I almost stopped reading with 150 pages to go because I really didn't care what happened in the end. (But the ending? That was it?) My complaints would have been less with a better ending. I can deal with one or the other - boring story but killer ending,(The Woman Upstairs paid off in the end for instance) or a great beginning and middle, but less than satisfying ending (Life After Life, Americanah). But both? blech. I expected more than that, and the last fifteen pages or so of ? I'm not sure what it was. I wasn't invested enough to get into the philosophical ramblings of Theo about art.

In the end, the writing has to 'match' the way your brain likes to process information, and it wasn't a great match for me. Having said that, I read it much quicker than I anticipated (it helped that I read it over the March Break) and I didn't completely hate it. Help me - what did you like about this book?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

BOOK: Among the Mad (plus more) by Jacqueline Winspear

I guess this turned into Maisie March, as I've just completed my third Maisie Dobbs book, following An Incomplete Revenge from the end of February. One of the things I've enjoyed in this series is the different aspects from WWI that Winspear explores. Even in 1930, the effects of the first war are far reaching.

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear, 304 pages
(book 6 of 11)
Shell-shock (now it would be PTSD) dominates this book. Fifteen years later, there are still soldiers suffering although it isn't on display where regular citizens can see it. Billy's wife is herself hospitalized for depression. Luckily, Maisie is able to pull some strings to move her because depressed females in those days do not fare so well. Maisie is enlisted with Scotland Yard to help solve the case of a madman making city-wide vague threats.

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
9 h 54 min audiobook   (book 7 of 11)
This one explores the role map-makers had in the trenches, as well as the role Americans played in enlisting. Emigrants from England still connected to the homeland. I'm liking Maisie's increased confidence, and looking after herself. She is open to romance (and seems to have a few fellas to pick from) but I'm liking the choice she is making. Much of this book traces the decline of Maurice Blanche and the effect on Maisie. The return to London of her friend Priscilla is another welcome addition to the books.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear
10 h 4 min, audiobook  (book 8 of 11)
I wish I could get more of these on audiobook, as I've just flown through these two editions. It helps that it is March Break and I've had a bunch of time.  The threat of Germany is beginning to rear its head in 1931 London, and Maisie is enlisted by the secret service to investigate some perceived national security issues at a small private college. Going undercover as a professor, she lands in the middle of a murder. Maisie spends a lot of this book organizing her friends, and with her newfound position of wealth, setting Billy up in a good situation.

After a bit of a lull in the third and fourth books, the direction of the series is fabulous. Loving all the supporting characters - Billy, Priscilla, James, Stratton, MacFarlane, and Maisie's interaction with them. Two more books (Elegy for Eddie, and Leaving Everything Most Loved) and I'll be ready for the newest release, The White Lady scheduled for 2015. That gives me the rest of this year to finish up this series. I thought I'd never get caught up, but suddenly, Maisie March appeared!

Friday, March 21, 2014

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time VIII Challenge

 from Carl's Stainless Steel Droppings:
Friday, March 21st begins the eighth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

Is it actually Spring today? Is it actually 8 years? Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge is becoming a more spring-like sign than the weather around here. Yay for Carl and real signs of spring! I feel like I must have been getting ready for this reading challenge as in the last month I finished Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson, both which are full of folklore and mythology. Since this isn't my favored genre, two books in a month is pretty good already, but hopefully I can find another book to read to fit the season.  My potential reads still on the list from last year includes:

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and her daughter
Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

Other possibilities: 
I won Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen which should have some magic/magical realism in it - hopefully it will arrive before summer gets here. Thanks Early Reviewers at Librarything!
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton has a tag at Librarything that says Fairy Tales, so it might fit this category.
I might reread Tales of Beedle the Bard because I do remember really liking that book.

What Got Read in 2014
1. The Odesessy - Gareth Hinds (graphic novel)
2. Lost Lake - Sarah Addison Allen

Another option is to read a short story or two that is a fairy tale or fantasy or folklore and tell about it. Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson is a great example of this. Nothing overt in every story, but the overall effect was cool.

Watch any movies? I wonder if the Muppet Movie counts, because I really want to see that one!

1. Watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 1 (again)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

BOOK: Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of December by George Saunders, (audiobook)
5 h, 40 min

A collection of short stories, read by the author.  Listening to Saunders read his stories was like listening to a singer-songwriter sing their own songs - he owned them. Each story had plenty of humour - I found myself laughing in the car at some of the outrageous lines. More black humour than ha-ha, as these stories plumbed the dark side of life, and people. Many seemed to involve inner dialogues with the characters as they came to a decision. Seeing inside people's brains can be a scary place to go. Also scary to go? The detention center some prisoners can choose to go to in exchange for being guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies researching into human emotion, etc, etc.

I am a fan of short stories, and these are the type I do like. Sometimes a surprising ending, characters that you can remember. Each story was so complete, I often got confused, wondering where the characters from the last chapter went? (Some of that is due to my less than stellar listening skills, which is a post for another day - why then do I listen to audiobooks?)

Here's a link to a graduation address Saunders gave to Syracuse graduates at convocation 2013. Very inspiring.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

BOOK: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, 282 pages

I was one of the millions who started following Chris Hadfield last spring when he was the commander of the International Space Station. This wonderful memoir of being an astronaut gives quite the insight into the type of person who becomes an astronaut - disciplined, logical, smart, resourceful, and confident. The constant balance between teamwork and self-confidence was almost tiring for my lazy self. (Spoiler - I'm never becoming an astronaut.) But I do enjoy reading about the science, and space, and the process involved. He missed out on a lot of family life, and has an extremely supportive wife, but he does give his family a lot of credit and thanks.

Last fall I had the opportunity to hear David Saint-Jacques, another Canadian astronaut, speak about his life. His story is somewhat similar to Hadfield's, and just as awe-inspiring.

Wringing out a water on the ISS

I show this to my physics classes when we have a few minutes left in class. To quote one student - "I would never get tired of microgravity!"

Space Oddity - re-recorded on the ISS during Commander Hadfield's mission. Between the pictures Hadfield posted on Twitter with his amazing perspective of Earth, and his son Evan's coordinating of this video, Hadfield used social media in a way never seen before.

We are very proud in Canada of our astronaut!

Last spring, just around the time of this mission, our youngest daughter's grade four classes at school put on their spring show - a black light show. There was the requisite underwater scene and song, a Stompin' Tom tribute with the Good Old Hockey Game, and  an ISS tribute, singing the song from Music Monday, ISS (Is Someone Singing, with Ed Robertson of Bare Naked Ladies). The ISS skit got the biggest applause when all the flags and especially the Canadian flag was show. I just love this song, and listen to it all the time.

Back to the book. I liked it, and reading his story reminded me of all the fun I had following along with his mission last year. I can't imagine anyone who has enjoyed their space experience as much as Hadfield. Well, maybe they all have, but no one else shared to the extent that Hadfield did. And his enthusiasm comes through just as sincerely in his book.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BOOK: An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear, 303 pages
book 5 of 11

Continuing Series Review Questions:

Give a brief summary of the book:
Maisie heads to a small village in the English countryside to investigate a property James Compton wants to buy. It happens to be the same area that her assistant Billy Beale and his family go to pick hops every fall. There is also a clan of Roma (gypsies) camped and picking at the time. Culture clash!

Likes? Maisie is getting more sure of herself, and the reader is getting to know her better. After her break-down in the last book, Maisie seemed stronger and did a little less looking back. She seemed to have closed some chapters in her life that have been bogging down the series. Less Maurice Blanche (her former mentor) was great - he has always given me the creeps.

Nothing in this book - all my dislikes have been dealt with. The mystery was pretty thin, but Maisie kept digging until she found it!

Additional Thoughts on the Series:
Looking forward to the next book, and how Maisie moves on with her life. Don't start with this one - this is a series all about character development, and references to previous books. Start at the beginning.

next book: 
After I get Among the Mad(#6from the library, I can get the next two, The Mapping of Love and Death, and A Lesson in Secrets on library audiobook.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

BOOK: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

audiobook, 15 h 40 min
read by Wil Wheaton

This book was almost a little too predictable, and a little too much adventure/video game descriptions, but oh what a ride! When I saw that it was almost 16 hours on audiobook, only the promise of Wil Wheaton reading it made me take that route. I was worried about getting through that long of an audiobook in the three weeks that I would have it. Keep in mind, my 'commute' each way is 8-10 minutes to work, so I don't get a lot of listening done that way. However, I managed to listen to it in about ten days as I couldn't stop listening. The suspense! The action! The plot twists! The 80s references! So much good in this (that I could ignore that I was pretty well able to predict much of the dialogue)

Confession: I am a child of the 80s - graduated from high school in 1985, so covering junior high through university for the decade. I have so many cultural markers during this time. Not so much with the video games - a little Pac-Man, a little NES/Mario World, but I did recognize movies and TV shows. Plus, Wil Wheaton? from Stand By Me? One of my favorite movies (and my first date with my husband.) I was inclined to like this book regardless. The fact that I couldn't put it down ended up being super bonus.

Plot: A future world, with a on-line virtual world, the Oasis, where people can live a life. The designer of Oasis, when he died, released in his will, The Contest, whereby he had hidden an 'easter egg' inside the Oasis, which was filled with 80s references. By immersing yourself in his life, the clues would supposedly help you find the egg, and inherit his fortune and control of Oasis. A young 17 year old narrates his quest, with some virtual friends he has never met, plus a conglomerate 'bad guy' to contend with. There were a few places where I was worried it was only going to be a description of video game action, but it wasn't. Instead, War Games reference. Or Rush. Or Family Ties. Or Search for the Holy Grail.

The fact that you can see how kids in the future could easily get immersed in a virtual world gave this dystopian novel some scary themes. The real-life world was pretty dark, and the Oasis was a much safer place. But mostly it's just fun, adventure, and 80s culture. Awesome!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

BOOK: Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, by Alan Bradley, 294 pages

book 6 in the Flavia de Luce series

Flavia de Luce, eleven year old chemist, poison-aficionado, amateur detective. Such an original character that Alan Bradley has developed, but it felt like our little Flavia was growing up, and becoming a little less self-centered, a little more aware of her surroundings.

The previous book, Speaking From Among the Bones, left us on a tremendous cliff-hanger, which is thankfully explained very early in this novel. In this one, ... no, wait. If you haven't read the previous books, you don't want to read a review or summary of this book. If you have read the previous books, then keep reading the series! A lot of back stories are wrapped up, and 'mysteries' are solved but careful reading left most of us knowing Dogger's true background. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is exactly what you would expect from a Flavia book, an excellent book in a fun series.

Summary - Flavia is as delightful as always. Bradley writes cozy mysteries set in 1950s England, still feeling the effects of the Second World War.  I'm not sure if the series is continuing - it is possible but if it does, I think the books will be quite different. I'll keep reading them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BOOK: The Bear by Claire Cameron

The Bear by Claire Cameron, 217 pages

review copy from Random House Canada

This book will inevitably be compared to Room by Emma Donaghue because of the narrator, but the books really aren't that similar. This is more of a survival story, but oh so heart-breaking. But there is also a little humor.

Twenty years ago, a couple were camping in Algonquin Park in Ontario, and were attacked and killed by a bear. Claire Cameron worked in the park around that time, and has written a novel based on that event, but imagining if the couple had had children. What if a five and two year old survived the attack and had to get off the island?

Anna narrates the story as she tries to be a good girl and get off the island with her brother. Her view of things, and voice, as she tries to deal with her situation as only a five year old can, are right on. Her misunderstandings and attempts to rationalize and care for her brother are heart-breaking. Watching children make sense of their world around them was something I really enjoyed with my children, and Cameron gets the voice perfect. Anna is conflicted between trying to follow the rules (supposed to wear shoes when camping), but knowing that she has to try to save her little brother.

It sounds so tragic, and it is, yet it is a book I am telling my friends about and passing along to colleagues. There is such a great mix of suspense and tension, and lightheartedness because five year olds can't really do stress - they make sense of things within their reality. So, Anna doesn't see a bear, she sees a black dog who can stand because she knows a black dog named Snoopy. So it was Snoopy who was sniffing at her because that's what Snoopy does. The length of the book is just perfect as well, because there is only so much bad stuff you can read about kids, and Cameron knew how much. It's a hard book to put down, and I imagine most people will read this in one sitting. You might want a box of kleenex near you before you start.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

LIST: January Books

Books Read in January

1. Strange Shores - Arnaldur Indridason, 304 pages
 book 9 of 9 sob!

Erlunder investigates a cold case whilst out in the moors thinking about his brother. Time lines were weird here, and the ending is relatively conclusive, but as other reviewers have said, there was enough information about hypothermia to  leave a devoted fan with some hope.

2. Last Night at the Lobster - Stewart O'Nan (audiobook)
 3 h 50 min

Just what the title says: watching the last night at a Red Lobster that is about to close. Character studies more than anything, because no real plot. And yet, it was an enjoyable little tale, sneaking into the lives of Manny, the manager as he deals with the lack of motivation to work the last night, when who really cares? It was set just before Christmas, so would make a nice, easy seasonal read or listen.

3. The Glass Castle - Jeanette Walls, 288 pages
 book club book

One of the questions in the discussion questions was along the lines of: "Walls tells her story with no judgement on her parents. Were you able to read without judging them?" Resounding NO! from all present. The question about which was the most vivid scene also brought lots of discussion since there were so many horrifying scenes. But, we all really enjoyed the book, found the writing compelling and easy to read, and the thought of reading Half-Broke Horses, also written by Walls, was unanimous.

4. Cockroach - Rawi Hage, 304 pages
Canada Reads 2014

Least favorite book of the month, but still okay. I preferred his other book, DeNiro's Game. I found it dragged a bit in the middle, but I found the ending got stronger and easier to read. Probably because there was less stream of consciousness rambling. I am looking forward to seeing how it fares in Canada Reads 2014 debates. Cockroach will be defended by Samantha Bee. This should be good.

5. How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny (audiobook)
15 h 1 min
Book 9 of 9 in the Three Pines Mysteries
Sometimes it takes me longer to get into Three Pines books than others, but listening to this one seemed to help. I was drawn into the story immediately. Penny often flips between story lines, and I could have used a slight pause by the narrator (Ralph Cosham) as those paragraph changes happened. Interesting interview at the end between Cosham and Penny, where we learn that Cosham reads the books blind - not having read it before. I think part of why this book was good was there were a lot of characters not really present (Mrs Gamauche, Peter, Jean-Guy is quite limited) and lots of Ruth. Ruth is the best, and nearly always made me laugh. Several large Quebec historical events are brought up for scrutiny, including native relations, corruption among high level officials and the construction industry, and one other event that I won't mention because it is eventually revealed but everyone will recognize.  This feels like it could even be the last of the Three Pines series, as many, many storylines were tied up, some which have really been the whole series.
 I wouldn't recommend reading this book without having read the previous 8.

6. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead - Sheryl Sandberg (audiobook) 6 h 27 min

Nice feminist take on leadership, and the mindset that is required of individuals rather than institutions to see real change. Sandberg had an easy style, full of information and examples from her life. I liked her take on sharing the roles at home and with children, probably because if reflected my life the most. How the guys who are fun to date are not the ones to marry. How letting the father parent the child without having to insist on things being done the mother's way is the path toward sharing responsibility. How you can't feel guilt for working. Good stuff.

7. The Long Song - Andrea Levy, 310 pages
Orange Prize Longlist; Booker Prize Shortlist 2010

Last January I read Levy's Small Island, and it was one of my favorite reads of the year. The Long Song was a strong follow-up. I can see why it got the accolades it did in 2010. Set on a plantation in Jamaica, Miss July is born into slavery, lives through the freeing of slaves by Queen Victoria, and eventually recounts her life for her printer son. Some horrifying slavery stuff and an ending which seemed a little rushed but a good read none the less.

So, 3 audiobooks, 1 library book, 2 ROOTs (books I already owned) and a book club book. Nice balance of books.  Pretty good considering how busy January was with tournaments and finishing up the semester.

Favorite read: How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny.

New books acquired in January:
The Bear by Claire Cameron (requested review copy)
Maeve's Times by Maeve Binchy  (given by a friend who is also a Binchy fan)

Friday, January 24, 2014

CHALLENGE: What's in a Name? 2014

I've been cutting back on the blogging, and never really 'signed up' for new challenges for 2014. I'm still reading lots (not quite as much) but my theory on challenge burn-out was as much about organizing and keeping track of everything, as it was about finishing. Everyone reaches a point where they can't or don't want to keep track. Facebook games have distracted me while on the computer, for example. I also find myself hanging out at Librarything a little more, socializing in the groups there.

However, some traditions die hard, and What's in a Name, and a few other challenges can't be missed. I almost did miss this one, but I saw on Literary Feline's blog that she had signed up for this one, and it seemed like a great idea. Go check it out.

~ A reference to time in the title 
*Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball - Stephen Brunt

~ A position of royalty in the title
 2. Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
*Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

~ A number written in letters in the title
1. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline (Feb)
7. Tenth of December - George Saunders (Mar)
*Just One Look by Harlan Coben

~ A forename or names in the title
*Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

~ A type or element of weather in the title
*Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
The Snow Child by Ivey Eowyn

*own the book

Sunday, January 19, 2014

UPDATE: Sunday Update

Books and Reading:
I finished The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. It is amazing how kids can survive and thrive despite their parents. The author recounts severe neglect and abuse with a detached eye, with no judgement, as she really knew nothing else. It will be an  interesting discussion at book club next week!

I got Cockroach on one week loan from the library. It's is very popular right now as it is a Canada Reads 2014 selection. So far it is okay. An immigrant from an unknown middle east country to Montreal is struggling after a suicide attempt. I like his interactions with other people, including his court appointed psychologist, but when he is on his own, and descending into madness via stream of consciousness, I find it more difficult to read. Probably won't get done by Tuesday, but at 25 cents a day, I'll live with the overdue fines.

My audiobook is grabbing my attention much more right now. How the Light Gets In by Louse Penny, read by Ralph Cosham is over 13 hours, but I'm over half way through and completely caught up in the suspense. Looks like I might get on the treadmill quite a bit this week!

Before I got Cockroach, I had started The Long Song by Andrea Levy but didn't get very far. I'll get back to it after Cockroach. I had a bunch of other books I wanted to read in January (Mad About the Boy, Incomplete Revenge, S. ) but next week starts final exams, so things will get busy.

Television Shows:
I got sucked into The Bachelor* the first week, and as football is no longer on Monday nights, I can pick the channel. Juan Pablo and the crazy girls provides much amusement. Downton Abbey is started up again, and while not quite the show it started as, still provides a great history lesson, and beautiful scenery. It's also awards season, and the Golden Globes kicked off the season. Tina and Amy really rock, but if they decided to ask Robert Downey Jr to host, I would definitely tune in. As someone on twitter commented, he must have a mirror in the attic cause dude is not aging badly. It must be nearly time for Survivor and The Amazing Race to get started. 

Not the same view in winter: I was fogged in crossing the bridge
Other News:
More basketball this week-end, but it was a great little one night get-away. Jack's team was playing two and a half hours away, across the Confederation Bridge, so close, but far enough to spend the night. I headed out after last class and listened to my audiobook by myself in the car. Blissful.  Friday night, the boys played a great game that came down to the last few seconds, which clinched first place in their division. The second game was much easier. This set up a semi-final Saturday morning that they were also able to breeze through. The hope was for a rematch with a team that had beaten them before Christmas, (one of only 4 losses this year for the team). However, the other semi-final was a bit of an upset, so instead, they played the first team from this tournament in the final. It was a back and forth re-match game that went to over-time, but the Raiders took control, played perfectly, and outscored the other team 16-5 in overtime. Fourth tournament win of the season!

*don't judge!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

CHALLENGE: Series Goals 2014

Let's try this one again! This is mostly so I can easily find the next book in the series that I want to read, and to be reminded of series that I've lost track of.
Thanks to SuziQoregon at Whimpulsive for the inspiration, this was my most successful challenge of the last two years. I got organized, and read a ton (or 20) of books, and got back to my mysteries. I got a good number of series up to date, found a few new ones, and rediscovered a few older series that I'd forgotten. So, once again!

The Ones I got up to date in 2013. Will there be new books in my favorite series in 2014? 

Darko Dawson by Kwei Quartey
    Murder at Cape Three Points (March 18,2014)
The Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French
   The Secret Place (Aug 2014)
The Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Vish Puri by Tarquin Hall

Detective Erlendur by Arnaldur Indridason
 Strange Shores (read in Jan 14)
 Inspector Armand Gamauche by Louise Penny
     How the Light Gets In (audiobook, Jan 14)
Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley
     Dead in their Vaulted Arches (read in  Feb 14)
Inspector Montalbano by Andrea Camilleri
   Angelica's Smile (June 2014)

The Ones I Had on the list in 2013, read a few, but didn't finish:

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
 6. The Last Word (July 2013)

 Harry Bosch by Michael Connelly
The Last Coyote
Trunk Music
Angels Flight
A Darkness More Than Night
City of Bones
Lost Light

 Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
An Incomplete Revenge
Among the Mad
The Mapping of Love and Death ( audiobook)
A Lesson in Secrets (audiobook)
Elegy for Eddie
Leaving Everything Most Loved

Harry Hole by Jo Nesbo
The Devil's Star
The Redeemer
The Snowman
The Leopard
Phantom (playaway library)

An Irish Country Series by Patrick Taylor
An Irish Country Girl
An Irish Country Courtship

 Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
4. Dexter by Design
5. Dexter is Delicious
6. Double Dexter
7. Dexter's Final Cut

The Ones Where I Started New in 2013

Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal
Mr Churchill's Secretary (listened to in 2013)
Princess Elizabeth's Spy ( audiobook)
Her Majesty's Hope (Halifax library audiobook)

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Grave Goods (audiobook)
A Murderous Procession  (playaway library)

Rachel Knight by Marcia Clark
Guilt by Degrees
Killer Ambition

Jack Caffery by Mo Hayder (rec'd by suziQoregon)
Ritual (2008)
Skin (2009)
Gone (2010)

 The Ones Where I thought I'd read in 2013 and then didn't: 

Martin Beck Crime series by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall
6. Murder at the Savoy
7.The Abominable Man
8. The Locked Room
9. Cop Killer
10. The Terrorists

Inspector Espinosa by Luis Alfredo Garcia-Roza
Only one of these that I have left to read may be available at my library.

Commissario Brunetta by Donna Leon
2. Death in a Strange Country
3. Dressed for Death
5. Death in High Water

Matthew Shardlake by CJ Sansom
Dissolution (read in 2012)
Dark Fire

Hazel Micallef - Inger Ash Wolfe
The Calling (read in 2012)
The Taken
A Door in the River

Mrs Pollifax - Dorothy Gilman

The ones I want to start reading in 2014: 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Sunday, January 12, 2014

UPDATE: Sunday Salon

Not really a Sunday Salon, but it's a weekly update of sorts.

Reading/Books: I finished listening to Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan, a book I've always wanted to read. It was only 4 hours or so, and it got me inspired to walk on the treadmill at school at the end of the day twice this week. A wonderful side benefit of working at a high school is the fitness room and library that are available. Plus all those teenagers to keep you young-ish. Or feeling very old some days - it goes back and forth!
I have been reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, a memoir that I've only heard good things about. It's very readable, but holy cow! such a terrible childhood. It reminds you that everyone has different life experiences and philosophies. This is for my book club and we meet the end of January. I'll have no trouble getting this finished. I also have a Canada Reads 2014 book waiting for me at the library. Cockroach by Ragi Hawe, and I'm looking forward to it. I loved his DeNiro's Game a few years ago.

Other Events: This completed the busiest week-end we will probably have all year! A ringette tournament for both girls, and a school-based basketball tournament for our son. So, that made, since Wednesday: 5 basketball games for son, 7 ringette games for the girls, Rachel refereed (for the first time!) in 6 games, Jack worked the scorer's table for 2 games, husband worked at 3 other ringette games, and a shift on the basketball canteen. I was a parent/teacher volunteer at the basketball tournament, so spend most 'extra' time there supervising and helping out. Plus, we had 3 showings of our house that we are trying to sell!

Luckily, both venues are only a kilometer apart, and there were hospitality rooms at both places. The rule was - eat where you can, whenever you can! It was crazy busy, but lots of fun, with much socializing and visiting with parents, and great games to watch. It was successful as well - Jack's team won the tournament and he was named MVP of the tourney. The girls had some great individual games - Rachel's team, the Fishermen (coach's last name is Fisher!) went 2-0-1 and just missed the cross-overs with goal differentials. She also made it through a penalty-laden, chippy game without a penalty. That was good for her! Jamie's team, the Fast and Furious, went 1-3 against some really tough competition.

Whew! It was worse thinking about all that had to happen, and keeping ourselves organized and getting the right people to the right places. Both events are such fun, with great people, and sports is really where we do most of our socializing with other parents who have become friends. Plus, watching the kids compete is a lot of fun. In many ways, having both on the same week-end is good, as it just makes for a crazy busy time instead of having two week-ends like that.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

CHALLENGE: Long Awaited Reads Month

Nymeth and Iris are hosting a Long-Awaited Reads Month for January 2014. It's quite perfect, because I often have books in my head that I'm saving for January to read - to start the year off right. I didn't post last year which books I had Long-Awaited, but I'm starting to read them now.

First up, Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason.  How is this a Long-Awaited Read, since it was only released in September 2013? I'm really impatient and can only wait a few months? partially. I bought it in November, and held off reading it until January once I realized it was the last book in the series. Although it was only recently released, I've been waiting to read this book for the last two editions of the series, Outrage and Black Skies. At the end of the previous book, Hypothermia, Erlendur left for one of his treks to the east of Iceland where he grew up. It is also where his younger brother disappeared in a blizzard and was never found. Outrage and Black Skies occured while Erlendur was away. Each of his partners, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg got a book focused on them. Each time I read one of those books, I was waiting for the conclusion to Erlendur's adventure, over two years.

It was a fitting ending to the Reykjivik Murder Mysteries, a wonderful, bleak series that makes a person want to visit Iceland.

Other Long-Awaited Reads I Might Get To: 

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy - also a recent acquisition but long waited in terms of series and last book
Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear. The next book in the Maisie Dobbs series
The Long Song by Andrea Levy. I read Small Island last January and loved it, so let's try another Levy to start the year.
Cockroach by Rawi Hage. Loved, loved DeNiro's Game when I read it in 2009 and always meant to read another book by Hage. Now Cockroach is a Canada Reads 2014 book, and I got in early on the list at the library so expect to read it in January.

Really, nearly anything I read in January will be long-awaited.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Happy New Year, everyone! Apparently the scheduler didn’t like any of the posts I had ready for the month of December, so we’ll just have to start fresh for the new year.
Although–it’s always good to look back so you know where you’ve been, so the first question for the year is an oldie but a goodie:
“What were your favorite books last year?”

In no particular order, these were my highest rated books of the year. Most were reviewed at some point on my blog.

Small Island by Andrea Levy  Best book with a bad title.

The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak - best re-read. It was my only re-read, but it was still an excellent book.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin Best historical murder mystery

Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky Best book of short stories

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler  Best retelling of a familiar story from the wife's point of view.

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri Best audiobook, which gave a new outlook on an old favorite series.

The Light Between the Oceans by ML Stedman  Best historical fiction, and tear-jerker. I bawled during this one.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling Funniest person. I listened to Kaling read this which enhanced the humour. Some good essays as well as being funny.

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley  Best cliff-hanger to an on going series. Seriously, is the next book out yet?

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had by Tony Danze Best non-fiction, and an entertaining read about Danza's year as a teacher in a Philly school.

Friday, December 6, 2013

EVENT: Advent Tour 2013

Welcome to An Adventure in Reading's part of the Virtual Advent Tour! I'm a little late today, but I did make it.
Be sure to visit the other posting today:   Ashley @ Closed the Cover

I've recently discovered audiobooks that I can listen to in my car on my iPhone. As Christmas is approaching, I've rediscovered an old author favorite who writes short, Christmas based novellas. The best part is the Victorian setting, with all the stuffy mores and antimaccassars (which always reminds me of The Big Comfy Couch and her Aunty Maccassar! gotta love jokes for adults in children's programming) 
Each book is only 3 to 4 hours long, with a little mystery.
Anne Perry is very well known for two of her mystery series, William Monk, and Thomas Pitt. Both are Victorian mysteries and I've read nearly all of both series, although I think there have been new Thomas Pitt books recently released, so I am behind on some.

1. A Christmas Journey
2. A Christmas Visitor
3. A Christmas Guest
4. A Christmas Secret
5. A Christmas Beginning
6. A Christmas Grace
7. A Christmas Promise
8. A Christmas Odyssey
9. A Christmas Homecoming
10. A Christmas Garland
11. A Christmas Hope: A Novel

So far this season I've read A Christmas Guest, which had a character from the Thomas Pitt series, his grandmother-in-law, a cranky old biddy, who recognizes some of her bad behaviour as she visits another family over Christmas. Perry analyzes moments to death (she thought she sensed a fraility or fear as he answered her question, but it happened so quickly she almost thought she imagined it, the tensing in his shoulders) but the mysteries are simple, with a small village, 'anything can happen' feel.They are getting me into the Christmas feeling everytime I drive in my car.

In 2013, I posted reviews of some of my favorite mystery series that happened to have books set at Christmas.
In 2011, I posted a 'recipe' for fruitcake that my grandmother had given me.
In 2010, I took a humorous look at some local events on Prince Edward Island.
In 2009, we played 'guess the carol'
In 2008, I played a game of 'guess the movie', and my favorite Christmas picture ever.
In 2007, it was the original 'guess the carol' game, with your vocabulary tested, and my whipped shortbread cookie recipe.

 Merry Christmas! Happy Holiday! I hope you all find a lovely book to read under the tree.

( Please wait for the Intense debate comments - sometimes it takes a few seconds to load.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

UPDATE: The Week that Was, and October Reads

Since my last update:
I finished listening to A Christmas Guest by Anne Perry on audiobook. It was great, and I've already started listening to the next book in these stand-alone Christmas Victorian-set books. They are simple and short, and fans of Anne Perry would love them.

I also finished Blood Safari by Deon Meyer, a mystery set in South Africa. I am reading his backlist having discovered his recent books. This was the first book with Lemmer in it, and a book I"ve been meaning to read for a few years. It was a bit of a chunkster, with over 500 pages, so it feels good to get it read.

Although I have been trying to read my own books this year, I did order two books from my favorite series': Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason, and Treasure Hunt by Andrea Camilleri. They arrived this week. As soon as I finish re-reading The Book Thief for my real-life book club and the movie coming out, I'm diving into one of them.

Other than books and reading:
Report marks were due today, so some frantic marking has been going on. But I am done now, so can enjoy the evening getting classes ready for this week. My parents got moved, the girls were in a ringette tournament (played 3 games each) and we took down the trampoline and moved it up to the 'new' house. Another showing of the house tomorrow, which means cleaning tonight. 

Books Read in October
68. Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger
Started very promising, creepy ghosts and twins abounding, London setting with Highgate Cemetery. But the young girls who moved to London were strange, with absolutely no coping or life skills. A terrible decision by adults set in motion the finale which I wasn't as impressed with. Selfish people.

69. The Woman Upstairs - Claire Messud (audiobook)
This one has a funny story with it. (For an excellent actual review, see Bellezza's review) I had this on my iPhone, and was cutting it close to finish before it was automatically deleted off my phone. Too close. With only a little over one hour to listen to, poof, gone. And it was so popular at the library, that I couldn't renew it, couldn't get a hard copy (30+ in line). Eventually I found that the CDs were only out with one person who thankfully returned it early so I could listen to the ending. It was one of those books that builds up the entire narrative to the shocking ending that happens on the last page or so. 

70. Nemesis - Jo Nesbo
The second book in the Harry Hole, Swedish detective book. He's broken, he's not a team player, but he inspires loyalty in some around him. Good series, and I'll continue.

What's new with you?

Monday, November 11, 2013

UPDATE: September reads

Since my last update:
Well, my last 'update' or post was the end of August. Yikes! My reading actually hasn't been that great. In September I read:

63. Mr Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal (audiobook)
Plucky American, with British background (secrets abound!) begins work in Churchill's office. Her smarts (math major at MIT) get her involved in espionage and multiple mysteries. I'll try another.

64. Death Angels - Ake Edwardson
Scandi-crime mystery set in Sweden. It was good? but so long ago now that details are fuzzy.

65. Transatlantic - Colum Mccann
Interesting book with several seemingly unconnected narratives that came together rather coolly in the end. Most were based on true events to some extent, but I don't imagine were so connected in real life.

66. The Savage Garden - Mark Mills
I read this one for my Book Club. It was an okay mystery, set in 1950s Italy, but there was a mystery from the 1700s as well. We were split on it - one loved it, one liked, but two of us were not as impressed. Could have been better use of the two mysteries - maybe a parallel telling? Plus, the use of the word Velcro took me right out of the story and to Wikipedia to check for an anachronism. It worked, but barely.

67. The Treatment - Mo Hayder (audiobook)
Oh, Jack Caffrey, I'm quite liking you. Also, the way the narrator said 'Jack' is quite stuck in my brain. Mo Hayder pushes the limits of my squeamishness, but Jack Caffrey is a wonderfully flawed hero. More please.

The best of September was definitely The Treatment.
I'll save October reads for next week's update.

Other than books and reading:
We are planning to sell our house and buy my parent's house (same neighbourhood, but larger and newer home) so have been oh so busy getting our house ready to sell (decluttering 18 years worth of living in this house) and helping my parents move. My mother broke her ankle in the middle of all this, so even more to do. Plus my own kids and their sports (softball, field hockey, ringette, volleyball were the fall sports) and working full time. Add an unhealthy interest in stupid Facebook games and I am actually amazed I even read as much as I did.

Chrisbookarama wrote a great post today about Commenting and Book Blogging. I'm guilty as well, and haven't even been blogging. Her post, as well as those who post these weekend update type of posts (suziqoregon and sueysays) have inspired me to at least try an update once a week. Hopefully, I'll be back next week. Good to see you all again.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CHALLENGE: RIP (Reader's Imbibing Peril) VIII

Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the RIP VIII for September and October, reading creepy and scary books. My favorite kind! I've participated almost every year and these are my favorite kinds of books.

Dark Fantasy

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.

Books In My Pool I'm Looking At

Blood Safari by Deon Meyer
A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley
The Savage Garden by Mark Mills
An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

leftover from last year
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffennegger
The Reapers by John Connolly
Undone by Karin Slaughter

plus assorted ongoing mystery series by : Mo Hayder, maybe a new Indridason?,

Books I Read
1. Mr Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal (audiobook)
2. Death Angels - Ake Edwardson
3. The Savage Garden by Mark Mills
4.  The Treatment - Mo Hayder (audiobook)
5.  Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffennegger
6. Nemesis - Jo Nesbo

Monday, August 26, 2013

BOOKS: The Serpent's Dark Match of Truth by Franklin, Lindsay, Ross, and Winspear

Next in a series books...

The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin, 443 pages
Book 2 of 4

Love this 12th century series about Adelia Aguilar, an Italian doctor who studies the dead. 'Trapped' in England by King Henry II, and with a settled life on the Fens, Adelia is drawn back into investigating Henry's mistress Rosamund's death. That leads her to some dealings with Eleanor of Aquitaine who is being set up. Royal intrigue with a strong women going against what is expected of them. Some great minor characters round out the good series.
Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay, 302 pages
Book 3 of 6

This Dexter novel felt a little different. It seemed a little slower overall, and more introspective. Dexter has lost his 'Dark Passenger' and it seemed like he lost a bit of his humor as well. The wedding is rolling along, and the future step-children are becoming creepier and creepier. There was more of a battle between the dark forces inside the serial killers.Hopefully the next book is more like the first couple. I'd like to read the books before I start to watch the shows.
Miss Julia Meets Her Match by Ann B Ross, (10 h 42 min)
Book 5 of 14

These novels, of a type of Southern life, can be hit or miss with me. They can be slow, and frustrating, but also simple and amusing. Cozy reads as it were. This was the first time I listened to Miss Julia, and it worked for me as a book I could listen to for small bits, and then leave for a while. In some ways like a Three's Company episode (why don't you just say what you mean, instead of trying to trick someone into believing things, or to avoid being embarrassed! arg!) but what I've noticed is that the books all build (slowly) to a grand finale that pays off for me, but it can be a slow process getting there.

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear, (11 h 11 min)
Book 4 of 10

I loved listening to Maisie Dobbs on audiobook, and I was pleased with how Maisie is making some decisions about her future, and growing up a bit. Georgina Bassington-Hope asks Maisie to investigate the accidental death of her brother, Nick, and artist who fell to his death. Maisie follows her unique investigative approach and is exposed to the artistic lifestyle of the Bassington-Hopes. Meanwhile, her assistant Billy Beal is dealing with his own family troubles as the lower class deals with the troubled economic times of the early 1930s.

How strange was it that the only audiobooks my library had in both of these series' were the next ones I had to read? 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

BOOK: Night Street by Kristel Thornell

Night Street by  Kristel Thornell, 242 pages

Aussie Author Challenge

The imagined life of one of Australia's most intriguing artists. (from the back cover)

Clarice Beckett, 1887-1935, was an Australian painter of some reknown in her day, but who gained attention years after her death. She lived a solitary life devoted to her art, in defiance of what was expected of a young lady in her day.

 "[Thornell] attempted to 'look' at Beckett as she might have looked at a landscape, squinting to soften edges and reach beyond detail in the search for patterns of light and shade." author's note, p 241

Beckett studied under Meldrum, developing her style and learning ideas of painting. eventually becoming confident enough to have her own style. She preferred landscapes, and avoided portraits and flowers. 

Duncan Max Meldrum (3 December 1875 – 6 June 1955) was a Scottish born Australian painter. He is known as the founder of Australian Tonalism, a representational style of painting, as well as his portrait work, for which he won the Archibald Prize in 1939 and 1940. (wikipedia)

The novel manages to capture the paintings, and the life, of Beckett. Not much is actually known of Beckett, but portraying her life as a reflection of her paintings is inspired, especially as Thornell pulls it off. I waited until after I finished the book to look up her paintings and they match the book. The writing is wispy, blurred, but definite.

While this is not a book I would ever have picked up myself, I am glad that I read it. How did I end up with this little gem of a book? I won it as a prize for participating in the Canadian Book Challenge, hosted by John Mutford at the Book Mine Set. So, big thanks to John for hosting and organizing, and Goose Lane Editions publishers for donating the book.