Saturday, January 31, 2009

BOOK: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, 319 pages

Orange January; Orange Prize Winner: 2002

Can there be a love story when rebels hold people hostage? How about when no one speaks the same language? Is opera the universal language?

In an unnamed South American country, rebels take over the birthday party of Mr Hosakawa, hosted by the country in hopes that he will open a factory there. He has only agree to come because the famous soprano, Roxanne Coss will be singing. Unfortuneately, the president, the purpose of the kidnapping, decided at the last minute not to come to the party. The kidnapping turns into a Dog Day Afternoon, with no where to go and a long session. The rebels and the hostages gradually become closer as the seige continues.

The characters are beautifully written and given a story so easily that the reader knows who everyone is and all their history. Gradually the rebels are introduced and fleshed out as the hostages get to know them. The story unfolds so graciously and easily that it is easy to forget the violence of the situation. Everyone is a person we care about and want the best for. The Stockholm syndrome, whereby hostages begin to care for their captors, is easily developed and the reader becomes a part of that too. The pacing of the story was excellent and kept the feel of the events.

Really good book.

Friday, January 30, 2009

CHALLENGE: Orbis Terrarum Challenge

Bethany is again hosting the Orbis Terrarum Challenge this year. Here's the rules:

Main Challenge Rules:
*The Orbis Terrarum Challenge begins March 1 2009(you are welcome to join later) through the end of 2009.
*For the challenge each reader is to choose 10 books (for the 10 months).
*Each book must from a different country, I have decided to go by the country of origin of the author, or the country he/she lives in is fine as well.
*You don't have to have a list, that means you can change your mind at any time. As long as there are 10 from 10 different countries, written by 10 different authors: Anything goes

There is so much going on over at the Orbis Terrarum Blog, I can't even begin to explain. Go check it out: Multiple mini challenges involving movies, poems, short stories and anything else you can think of to suggest. It is a very interactive challenge; the map was my favorite part last year. Bethany filled in the countries as each was read. This year she has posted links to all the reviews from last year, by country, beside their flag. It looks awesome! Plus, it is an instant list of suggested books to read.

I'll begin to make a list of possible books as we get closer to the start date.

Possible Books:
  1. Egypt: Moon Tiger - Penelope Lively
  2. Afghanistan: Kabul Beauty School - Deborah Rodriguez
  3. Malaysia: Map of the Invisible World - Tash Aw
  4. China: Sky Burial - Xinran
  5. Colombia: Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia- Marquez
  6. Cuba: Dancing to Almendra - Mayra Montero
  7. Iceland: Arctic Chill - Arnaldur Indridason
  8. Brazil: December Heat- Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
  9. Italy: Excursion to Tindari - Andrea Camilleri
  10. Lebanon: DeNiro's Game - Rawi Hage
  11. Japan: The Housekeeper and the Professor - Yoko Ogawa
  12. Hungary: The Rebels - Sandor Marai

Short Story Mini-Challenge:

Katrina is going to host a mini challenge to read ten short stories from ten different countries, during the summer months. I have a book of short stories, each set in a different African country, which will give me half of this challenge. I'll give this mini-challenge a go, because I do like reading short stories.

From Say You're One of Them by Uwen Akpan
1. Kenya: "An Ex-mas Feast"
2. Rwanda: "My Parent's Bedroom"
3. Gabon: "Fattening in Gabon"
4. Nigeria: "Luxurious Hearses"
5. Ethiopia: "What Language is That?"
From The Japanese Wife by Kunal Basu
6. India: "The Japanese Wife"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BOOK: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, 341 pages
translated by Anthea Bell

genre: mystery fiction

This wasn't too baaad of a mystery. Such a neat idea, to have the flock of sheep investigate the murder of their shepherd. Lots of fodder for the mind. The story does a good job of getting information that only the sheep can hear to the reader, and we can understand a lot more than the sheep, even Miss Maple, quite possibly the cleverest sheep in Ireland. The cast of sheep, includes the requisite black sheep of the flock, Othello, and you can see that there is lots of playful fun with the narrative. The sheep face some of their fears and learn a lot about the world and humans. Some sections got a little confusing and woolly but they were sheep trying to make sense of things and they often got distracted by the need to graze. I can understand that in many ways.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Neil Gaiman just won the Newbery Award Medal for his children's book, The Graveyard Book. I haven't read that one yet, but I may get it for my kids. It's nice to see an award given to a book that isn't all 'literature' or that parents think children should read and like. I remember reading Jacob Have I Loved as a teenager, probably given to me because it was a Newbery Winner, and I thought it was pretty boring. My kids have quite enjoyed some of the recent Newbery's like Holes, The Tale of Despereaux, Maniac Magee and The Giver. Do you have a favorite Newbery?

I am on a meadow in Ireland, with a flock of sheep trying to solve the mystery of the murder of our shepherd. A sheep who left the flock has just returned, adding to the mystery. (Three Bags Full, Leonie Swann.)
Where is reading taking you today? Make a post, leave a comment, spread the word.

Monday, January 26, 2009

BOOK: Dewey by Vicki Myron

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter, 271 pages

dewey decimal nonfiction challenge: 636.80929

How adorable is that cat? I had to fight with my girls to pick up the book; both of them tried to read it. They are 9 and 5. The nine year old gave it a great effort and read the Dewey parts. She said she skipped over all the other parts, more on that in a bit. The five year old and I went to the library to get her some cat books to read for herself. Everyone needed a cat book apparently.

I decided to start the Dewey Decimal Nonfiction read with the Dewey book I got in my Hachette box o'books last year. Myron tells the story of how she found Dewey in the book deposit on bitter cold winter morning. The half-frozen kitten immediately loved the people in the library and the library in Spencer, Iowa. The rest of the book follows three main areas: Dewey, small town Iowa during the 1980s and '90s, and Myron's life and family. I enjoyed the book in that order. The Dewey stuff was good, cute as you'd expect. The Iowas stuff was okay and covered some of the same ground as Bill Bryson's Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. The family stuff seemed out of place as suddenly we are learning about Myron and her daughter's rocky relationship and then the next chapter is the food Dewey ate.

It was my idea of a great nonfiction book - short, easy to read chapters that I could pick up everyday and read while supper was getting ready, giving me a book finished easily in January. A bit of a mixed bag in the reading though. Myron seemed to contradict herself about Dewey: he was just a cat, he didn't do anything great, he was an institution. He loved everyone, he didn't pay any special attention to anyone, he changed the life of so many people, he was just the library cat. I wasn't quite sure what she was trying to say about him. Her love for Dewey certainly came through however, and fellow pet people would most likely enjoy this book. It's that intangible effect pets have on those around them that she was trying to describe, it was hard to pin it down.

He was awfully adorable in that picture.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

BOOK: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, 509 pages

tbr lite, 1% well read

Six stories, stacked within each other like Russian dolls, through time past and present. Or six movements of a musical composition, with connecting themes and overlapping characters. The overall idea and execution of Mitchell's novel worked better for me than the individual pieces. I preferred some stories and characters and writing to others. But the idea that he develops is quite amazing. As the music is described in one section: In the first set, each solo is interrupted by its successor; in the second, each interruption is recontinued, in order. Revolutionary or gimmicky?

There were parts of each that I really liked. From Adam Ewing's diary, I enjoyed the musings on social strata among the races and why some people were conquered. A little history from the Southern Pacific Chatham Islands was interesting. From the Letters from Zedelghem, I liked the connection of characters to Black Swan Green, another book of Mitchell's I enjoyed. Luisa Rey's Mystery was a good old fashioned mystery with espionage and adventure.

The writing in Timothy Cavendish's Ghastly Ordeal was the easiest to read but the story was not as interesting." The Orison of Sonmi-451" was my favorite story. Set in a futuristic corpocracy in Korea, a breakdown in this dystopian world is investigated. The use of words and ideas extended from now to this imagined future was pretty cool. "Sloosh'a Crossin' An' Ev'rythin' After" was the center story, the smallest Russian doll of the book. It was toughest to read with the dialect and bastardization of the English language, and although it slowed me down, it was very well done. Trying to see how it connected to the rest was the best part of this story.

This was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2004 and I am surprised it didn't win, if only for the imaginative and ambitious writing. It is such a different book, and while I didn't love it, it will stay with me for a while, thinking of the connections and way the stories layered.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Thanks to tanabata for the updated button. Did no one notice the apostrophe catastrophe? Were you just too polite to mention it? I usually notice that sort of thing, I've read Eat, Shoots and Leaves, I correct abysmal lab reports. Anyway, onward with better punctuation.
We set a record last week with the most comments ever on Where are You? in one day. I didn't get a chance to reply to any comments like I try to sometimes, so it was all players. Well done! It's been almost a year since I started this little event and it is still fun, so let's continue shall we?

I am on Sloosha's Crossing in future Australia, and while I'm just halfway through the book, it is quite the adventure. There is a symmetry to the book, much like Frankenstein including the narrative perspectives changing, that I am really enjoying. I've been many places already in this book, and now I am about to take a return journey. (Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell)

Where is reading taking you today? Post your own or leave a message in the comments, or both. Spread the word.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

MEME: The Bookshelf

laura at musings tagged me for the Bookshelf meme, originally created by Eva at A Striped Armchair.

The book that’s been on my shelf the longest:
I've got a lot of books saved from my childhood. This Christmas one of the books I took out of my Christmas boxes was of the nativity story, called When Joy Comes. Inscribed on the inside is "To Elizabeth, Christmas 1971, Love Mommy and Daddy"

It's a very simple story, with old illustrations, but covers the basics. Obviously, the story hasn't changed. My daughter in kindergarten performed the Nativity Story in her Christmas concert this year, she was the sheep with the curly horn, and she was quite fascinated by the Nativity Story.

A book that reminds me of something specific in my life (a person, a place, a time, etc.):

The Stand, by Stephen King. In university, I couldn't allow myself novels as I would stay up all night reading otherwise. During summer vacation of 2nd or 3rd year university, I was reading The Stand. I was a few hundred pages in as I went to bed one night. I kept reading and reading, and turning over to prevent bed sores, and around 6:00 am I heard a parent stirring. I quick turned out my light, embarrassed to have stayed up so late, and lo and behold, the sun had risen enough to keep reading. I finished the book after reading for ten straight hours.

A book I acquired in some interesting way (gift, serendipity in a used bookstore, prize, etc.):
I think the first book I got through the book blogging world, The Bone People really opened my eyes to the generous nature of so many people around the world. 3M posted at a yahoo group that she had an extra copy if someone wanted. I felt a bit bold, and waited for the more regular posters to offer for it. After a day or so, I figured it would be okay to ask, and Michelle sent it to me right away. Plus, it was an excellent book. thanks Michelle!

A book that’s been with me to the most places:
I haven't been a lot of places, however, on a trip to the Mediterranean, I carried and read The Voice of the Violin. I loved being able to read about Italy as I travelled through it. This book travelled the farthest with me and introduced me to the wonderful writing of Andrea Camilleri and the irascible Inspector Montalbano. It is representative of my love of mystery series. I've tried to introduce other readers to this great series when I can.

The most recent addition to my shelves:

I just picked up Bel Canto from the library today. This is not a book I had planned to read, but the wonderful ladies who are organizing the Orange January project are so enjoying their Orange books this month, I was feeling left out. They are a great group and they focus on Orange Prize reads, winners and short listed, in January and July. I scanned the lists and the books available easily at the library and decided to pick this one up. Plus, it is set in South America so it may count as a Latin America read...

A bonus book that I want to talk about but doesn’t fit into the other questions:
Instead of talking about Anne of Green Gables, like I usually do, I'll pick another book. I'm reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell right now. I read his Black Swan Green last year and loved it as a coming of age story set in the 1980s, a period I could really identify with. I'm almost halfway through Cloud Atlas, which is a huge turning point, more so than in most books. I'm more impressed with what the whole book is than the individual stories. Some I like better than others, but the way he interconnects the stories and characters is rather astounding. Until I understood that each story leads to the next in unexpected ways, I wasn't enjoying the book. I'm still withholding complete judgment, but it is a very amazing book in several respects.

I'll just pick a few people if you haven't already done this. How about

katrina at katrinareads
nan at lettersfromahillfarm
tinylittlelibrarian at tiny little reading room
chris at bookarama

And the rules for your posts:

  1. Tag 3-5 people, so the fun keeps going!
  2. Leave a comment at the original post at A Striped Armchair, so that Eva can collect everyone’s answers.
  3. If you leave a comment and link back to Eva as the meme’s creator, she will enter you in a book giveaway contest! She has a whole shelf devoted to giveaway books that you’ll be able to choose from, or a bookmooch point if you prefer.
  4. Remember that this is all about enjoying books as physical objects, so feel free to describe the exact book you’re talking about, down to that warping from being dropped in the bath water…
  5. Make the meme more fun with visuals! Covers of the specific edition you’re talking about, photos of your bookshelves, etc.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

CHALLENGE: In the Pub Challenge 2009

How can I refuse?

Proposed reads:

1. Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell 01/31

2. Arctic Chill - Arnaldur Indridason 03/17

3. Love and Summer - William Trevor 08/25

4. The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters 06/07

5. Map of the Invisible World - Tash Aw 05/20

6. Nocturnes - Kazou Ishiguro 05/05

7. The Housekeeper and the Professor - Yoko Owaga 05/14

8. Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella 07/22

9. The Bishop's Man - Linden MacIntyre 08/11

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

BOOK: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, 306 pages

celebrate the author; genre: fantasy; young adult

Hale continues her marvelous fairy tales with this retelling of Maid Maleen. Her winning tradition includes picking a lesser known fairy tale and then reworks it after creating her own world, full of language, tradition, and folklore. I've enjoyed The Goose Girl and Princess Academy.

Dashti, lady's maid to Saren, gets locked into a tower with Saren for seven years after Saren defied her father and refused to marry Khasar, a Lord and leader from a nearby realm. Dashti keeps a diary of their days as they try to survive. Dashti is a Mucker from the Steppes with a deep tradition of singing and belief in their gods and goddesses. There is another guy around, Khan Tegus from another realm, and he tries to save Saren from the tower. So we have all the characteristics of a great fairy tale: evil man, good man, adventure, true love, animals, different classes, even werewolves! I particularly liked Dashti's folklore of singing and her way with animals and the fact that this was set in ancient Mongolia. I remember seeing a documentary on life in Mongolia and the ghers, the portable houses the Mongol nomads live in and carry.

I read this for the Celebrate the Author challenge. Shannon Hale's birthday is January 26th.

Her afterward mentions a group at where you can donate an animal to a family in need, an animal which can make a huge difference in their life.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

I'm ready to be done of winter. That is all.

I've recently been released from the tower I was locked in with my mistress after nearly 1000 days. True love hasn't won out yet but I am hopeful. I think our land is ancient Mongolia, which is a very interesting country and I don't see a lot of books set there. (Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale)

Where is reading taking you today? Is it a place you've been? A place you want to visit? Is it even a real place? Is it winter in your book? Leave an answer in the comments or post on your blog too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

CHALLENGE: Book Award Challenge II, update

I've finished this challenge which isn't due to end until May, so there is still lots of time left. The goal was to read 10 award winners, with at least 5 different awards represented. The list of books I've read is below, and I expect I'll continue reading award winners. They all counted for at least one other challenge. Thanks to Michelle at 1morechapter for hosting this always enjoyable challenge. Check out the blog for some great recommendations of award winning books.

Man Booker
1998 Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (1% well read)
1996 Last Orders by Graham Swift (Book to Movies)

1995 The Stone Diaries by Shields (2nd Canadian Challenge)

1992 Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (books to movie)
1996 The View from Saturday by EL Konisburg (2nds challenge)

2000 Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards (2nd Canadian Challenge)

1987 Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (also Nebula Award)

Bram Stoker
2006 Lisey's Story by Stephen King (genre challenge: horror)

IMPAC Dublin
2007 Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson (What an Animal!)

Orange Prize
2008 The Road Home, Rose Tremain (Orange January)

BOOK: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan, 194 pages

book awards: Booker 1998; 1% well read

With friends like these guys, who needs enemies? A composer and a newspaper editor, both former lovers of a recently deceased woman, are neither very likable characters. They are both a little thrown by her death, and both face some professional challenges, but try to rely on each other.

I read the book with interest but with a very detached view. I wanted to see what happened, and there were some good plot twists but if it had been a longer book, I don't know how invested I would have remained. The writing is lovely, with impassioned descriptions of the music of the symphony and some philosophical discussions of the role of newspapers in scandals but these guys were so self-centered and lonely that it was hard to care what happened to them. I'm not sure why this would be a Booker winner; it was well written and makes some comments (not completely sure what they would be, - tempermental artists? office politics? the role of art in society? but I'm sure they are there) but it's not a book I'd rave about. I much preferred his Atonement book as I cared about the characters and could identify with the dilemmas. The more I think about it, the more I think these guys were just asses.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

BOOK: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, 274 pages

themed reading challenge (I know it doesn't really start until February, but some books are hard to get at the library and you have to take them when they come)

Guernsey Island, a small English holding just off the coast of France was occupied by the Germans during World War II. Just after the war, an English journalist begins a correspondence with some people from the island. They relate their experiences during the war and the occupation and through their letters, Juliet, the journalist, gets to know and appreciate them. The whole story is told in letters to, from or about Juliet. Each character had their own voice and their letters told so much more than what was printed.

It surprised me how such a sweet little story with quirky yet real characters could whack you with Nazi atrocities every now and then. But it also showed lots of brave and courageous moments. At its heart, this is a story about love and survival, with books and war thrown it. I quite enjoyed it. You know an author did a good job of describing a location when you want to visit after finishing the book. This is the second book set on Guernsey during the war I've read; I read A Place of Hiding by Elizabeth George several years ago.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

CHALLENGE: Unread Authors Update

I finished my first challenge of the year! Well, I read the majority of the books last year, but I didn't get finished til January. The challenge was to read 6 books by new authors, particularly ones that you have wanted to read. I tried to pick authors with more than one book in their collection and several were authors I've been wanting to read for a long time. I had a huge list of potential authors and easily found six. Here's the list:

Linwood Barclay - Too Close to Home Nov 11/08
Michael Chabon - Gentlemen of the Road Nov 29/08
Zora Neal Hurston - Their Eyes Were Watching God Dec 8/08
Haruki Murakami - After Dark Dec 20/08
Rose Tremain - The Road Home Jan 9/09
PG Wodehouse - Ukridge Dec 27/08

Best book? Too Close to Home, a great page turning thriller, The Road Home was lovely
Least favorite? Their Eyes Were Watching God was a DNF for me. Maybe anther time it will be a better fit for me.
After Dark and Ukridge were just OK, I'm not planning to rush out for anymore Murakami or Wodehouse.

So, authors I'll read again: Barclay, Tremain, and Chabon.

Thanks to Pour of Tor for hosting, check out the Unread Author Blog for more info and lists of reviews.

BOOK: The Road Home by Rose Tremain

The Road Home by Rose Tremain, 365 pages

book awards: Orange Prize 2008; unread authors; Orange January

Lovely tale of Lev, who arrives in London after a long bus ride from some unknown Eastern European country. For some reason, I assumed it was Poland, but I don't know why I thought that. Lev is leaving his daughter and his mother behind to try and make some money for a better life. It reminded me of all the men who have left the Maritimes to go to Alberta to make the good money. Not only is Lev facing a new language and country, but he is still grieving his late wife, Marina.

It's easy to like Lev, and cheer for him, so that even when he makes bad decisions, we still root for him. It can't be easy to start a new life, and Tremain captures the feelings Lev faced dramatically. At one point, I thought Lev would turn out to be a Walter Mitty sort, lost in his daydreams, but Lev had more focus and eventually, a goal he wanted to achieve so he battled that problem. I loved that Lev worked in a high end restaurant, and you can easily picture Gordon Ramsey of Hell's Kitchen fame as GK Ashe, and imagine Lev's experience in the kitchen.

For all you title drop fans, that moment when you find the title of the book in the prose, this book is a wonderland. Each chapter is titled and then a title drop occurs. Sweet! Lev learns to love, and develops great friends, especially Christy Slane, his Irish roommate who is also trying to move on with his life. Rudy, Lev's friend from the old country is another great character that Lev relies on for support.

Summary: good paced plot, wonderfully developed characters, and real life look at the life of a immigrant in London and the challenges faced by people who try to better their life from the old country.


It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?
(It’s an oldie but a goodie question for a reason, after all … because, who can’t use good book suggestions from time to time?)

These are my top rated books from last year at librarything, so I liked them best, at least when I rated them! No, in retrospect, these were all great reads, for all different reasons. Enjoy!

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

The Blinding Absense of Light by Ben Tahar Jalloun

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Hola! Bonjour! Aloha! Ciao! Hej! Shalom! Bon Giorno! Namaste! Guten Tag! Marhabah! I'm sure I missed one, so hello to you where ever you are. It's so neat how blogging allows us to meet people from all around the world. I love clicking on links of new visitors and finding out where in the world they are from.

And if I don't get to travel there in real life, I get to go to so many amazing places in books. Right now I am in London with Lev, who may be on The Road Home to Poland soon, as things aren't working out so well (The Road Home, Rose Tremain for Orange January)

Monday, January 5, 2009

CHALLENGE: Science Book Challenge 2009

Once again, the Science Book Challenge is beckoning me. Actually, JN Shaumeyer invited me to partake again, and I couldn't refuse. Information from the site says:

Read at least three nonfiction books in 2009 related somehow to the theme "Nature's Wonders". Your books should have something to do with science, scientists, how science operates, or science's relationship with its surrounding culture. Your books might be popularizations of science, they might be histories, they might be biographies, they might be anthologies; they can be recent titles or older books. We take a very broad view of what makes for interesting and informative science reading.

Here's a few I have here, patiently waiting to be read:
1. Miss Leavitt's Stars - George Johnson 07/20

2. The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene All the scoop on string theory

3. E= mc^2 by David Bodanis 07/27 All about the famous equation

Check out the cool fractal photo for the button.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

BOOK: Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards

Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards, 417 pages

2nd Canadian Book Challenge; book awards: Giller Winner, 2000

Have you ever done the exercise in Moral Dilemmas called Alligator River?
"Once upon a time there was a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Gregory. Gregory lived on the shore of a river. Abigail lived on the opposite shore of the river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with alligators. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Gregory. Unfortunately, the bridge had been washed out in a flood. So she went to Sinbad, who had a boat, and asked him to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would sleep with him. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan didn't want to get involved at all in the situation. Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad's terms. Sinbad fulfilled his promise to Abigail and delivered her into the arms of Gregory. When Abigail told Gregory about her bargain with Sinbad, Gregory, who told her he always thought she was a nice girl, cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and dejected, Abigail turned to Jonah with her tale of woe. Jonah, feeling sorry for Abigail, found Gregory and beat him up.
Please rank the characters from best (1) to worst (5).
Gregory ______ Abigail ______ Sinbad _____ Ivan _____ Jonah _____"

This book felt like this dilemma. So many people made, or didn't make, decisions that could be debated. There were many unlikeable people here, each with their own level of culpability in the life of Sidney Henderson, and then by extension, his family. Lyle Henderson, Sidney's son, narrates his family's story. The author takes some liberties with this point of view, because how could this character know so much about things that happened when he wasn't there? It did get explained a bit at the end how it could have occurred, but it bothered a bit during the reading.

Set on the Miramichi River of New Brunswick, Richards does a wonderful job of describing the life and location. The snow, all the time the snow, and the moods he described really moved me across the strait and into the 1970s and '80s. There are such big ideas and themes in this book, I cannot even begin to explain, but it is certainly a novel worthy of praise and discussion. Lyle was inconsistent, or maybe just conflicted, in his role in the family. His father, as a teen, made a vow never to harm another living soul and then lived his life in passivity. There are many religious overtones as Sidney really lived his life as Jesus would suggest. In these themes, the book reminded me of A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. The Catholic Church gets a big going over here, concerning the power a priest could have over a small community. Also gaining much scorn are academics who claim to speak for the poor and the oppressed.

Sidney believes that people who commit acts of evil will eventually get their punishment, but his son is not willing to wait for that result and became much more involved in the retribution against those who harmed his family. And there are bullies abound here, who see Sidney as weak and try to destroy him, and make him the blame of all their troubles. Why are bullies so threatened by people who are different from them? It was frustrating to read and see how so many people were so connected and willing to blame any one else for their misfortune.

Mercy, Fury, Love and Redemption are the section headings and my edition, bought used, had been notated throughout by an English teacher. I enjoyed reading what had been circled and trying to interpret his notes. The ending was a little fantastic but tied up the novel nicely, a bit of a change from the way things spiralled out of control for many years. A good book to start the year.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

CHALLENGE: Dewey Decimal System

Being hosted at The Novel World. The challenge is to read one from each category of the hundreds in a year. I don't read a lot of nonfiction, and this might be a great place to keep track of books read. This is just a list, books read will be noted, or linked to a review if possible. I like the idea of keeping track of my nonfiction reads by their Dewey number. The first will probably be Dewey: the small town library cat who touched the world, appropriately enough.

000 - Generalities
081 The Darwin Awards - Wendy Northcutt

100 - Philosophy and Psychology
128.4 The Book of Calamities*
153 A Whack on the Side of the Head*
153.4 Blink: the power of thinking without thinking - Gladwell

200 - Religion

300 - Social Sciences
394.1 POL An Omnivore's Dilemna: A Natural history in 4 Meals
370 UNG Failing Our Kids: How we are ruining our public schools
305.48 Kabul Beauty School - Deborah Rodriguez*
302 The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell

400 - Language

500 - Natural Sciences + Math
599.9 SYK The Seven Daughters of Eve
539.7 The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene*
516.204 The Golden Ratio - Mario Livio*
522 Miss Leavitt's Stars - George Johnson
530 E = mc^2 - David Bodanis

600 - Technology
636.8 Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World - Vicki Myron
641 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of food life - Barbara Kingsolver*
658 Bo's Lasting Lessons*
614.52 The Great Influenza by John Barry*

700 - The Arts

792.7 I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This - Bob Newhart
796.962 Searching for Bobby Orr - Stephen Brunt
791.45 Survivor! - Mark Burnett
792 Without You - Anthony Rapp

800 - Literature and Rhetoric
808 Shakespeare Wrote for Money - Nick Hornby
814.54 I Feel Bad About My Neck - Nora Ephron

823.92 Say You're One of Them - Uwem Akpan*
818.09 The Innocents Abroad - Mark Twain
832 BRE The Life of Galileo

900 - Geography and History

971 Souvenir of Canada - Douglas Coupland

910.91634 Titanic's Last Secrets - Brad Matsen*
942.1 Necropolis: London and its Dead - Catherine Arnold
967.5 DALShaking Hands With the Devil - Romeo Dallaire

*I have the book here. I won the Hachette nonfiction box o'books which certainly increases my nonfiction TBR.

Friday, January 2, 2009

MEME: Booking Through Thursday : New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone!
So … any Reading Resolutions? Say, specific books you plan to read? A plan to read more ____? Anything at all?
Name me at least ONE thing you’re looking forward to reading this year!

No real resolutions, aren't reading challenges enough of a plan? I think so. If anything, I'm going to read less books that are classic or only just to fit a challenge. It has to be a book I really want to read. For example, I thought I wanted to read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, but after seeing a few lukewarm reviews and remembering how much I was neutral to The Blind Assassin, I am not planning to read it. Plus it looks really long and weirdly dystopian.
  • There are lots of books I am looking forward to, particularly:
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • another book by Douglas Coupland, probably Girlfriend in a Coma
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • one of John Green's books: An Abundance of Katherines or Looking for Alaska
  • another Stewart O'Nan book: Last Night at the Lobster or Songs for the Missing
  • plus all the books on my TBR Lite list

Hosted at its new home: Wendi's Book Corner

Today's question: Here is a list of the main areas of Library Thing:
1. Home (, before you log in)
2. Home (once you log in, contains Your Home, Your Profile, Connections, Recommendations, Reviews, Statistics, Clouds, Gallery, Memes)
3. Profile (Recent activity, tags, comments, members with your books)
4. Your Library
5. Your Tags
6. Add Books
7. Talk
8. Groups
9. Local
10. Search
11. Zeitgeist (Stats, Top Lists)
12. Tools (Widgets, Store)
13. Blog

What area are you most familiar with? Since I leave myself logged in, my home page- #2 is my most familiar place. It leads me to Groups- #8, and Search- #10, and My Library- #4.

What area is your favorite?
I am quite enjoying Groups these days, and participating in some groups, meeting some interesting people. Tags are amzing if you start to spend some time there and really utilize them.

What area are you curious about?
I think I've browsed around quite a bit, and investigated Tools, Blog, and Zeitgeist, which are all available on My Home.

Are there any that you have not really looked at? Not really.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


It's that time again for the NaJuReMoNoMo hosted by Foma, click here for all the details and to sign up. I joined last year and read 9 novels. This year I'll be aiming for ten and the shiny gold badge. Apparently this is the Fourth Annual Edition, but I'm just a 2-Timer.
Here's the rules, as copied from the host site:

1. Only Novels Count. This means no non-fiction books, memoirs, short stories, essay collections, or books based on internet memes like LOLcats. The judge is out on graphic novels. It's your call.
2. Memoirs Don’t Count. Even if they are fictional. And especially if they are fake memoirs about the Holocaust.
3. It Can’t Be A Novel You Have Already Read. Expand your horizons. Try some new authors.
4. You Must Start At The Beginning. If the book is on your nightstand, you have to start over. We are looking at January 1 to January 31. That is 31 days. We are on a deadline.
5. Have Fun. This a lark. You wouldn't be reading if you didn't enjoy it.

How easy is this? If you are here, you are probably one book done in January already. There are an assortment of badges available, depending on how many novels are read. Ready, set, go!!