Monday, November 29, 2010

BOOK: Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy, 421 pages

Typically British Challenge

All the old characters are back, with the focus on a new family. It's been so long since I've read some of the books (Tara Road, Scarlett Feather, Heart and Soul) that some of the characters were a little vague, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment. Binchy writes smoothly, developing her characters, but with lots of plot and events. If you haven't read any Maeve Binchy, I wouldn't start here. It might stand on its own, but there are plenty of references to old characters and having that back story adds so much depth to the story. I flew through the book, and am pleased to enjoy this latest of Binchy's Irish novels. The sense of community and family she portrays is warming to the heart and makes me want to visit Ireland.

CHALLENGE: Orange January

It's time to start thinking about an Orange January! Will it be books from 2010's list, or into the older titles? Check out the Orange Prize Project blog for more ideas and the Facebook group for ideas and possibly prizes!  Every January and July, fans of the Orange Prize read all they can in celebration. The actual requirement is only to read one book.

Orange January Ideas:

Books in my house:
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (2006 short list)
Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004 winner)
26a by Diana Evans (2005 New Author winner)
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (2005 longlist)

The Colour by Rose Tremain (2004 longlist)

Books from the library:
This is How, by M.J. Hyland 2010 longlist
Secret Son, by Laila Lalami 2010 longlist
The Long Song, by Andrea Levy 2010 longlist
The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney 2007 longlist
Unless, by Carol Shields 2003 shortlist

And the books I read, with reviews linked:
1. Unless, by Carol Shields
2. Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
3. 26A - Diana Evans

Sunday, November 28, 2010

BOOK: Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza

Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, 225 pages

Global Reading Challenge - South America

Why booklovers will love Inspector Espinosa?
The furniture in his apartment consists of stacks of books around the room, often stacked to the ceiling.
He wishes his Chief of Police job in Rio de Janeiro consisted of two jobs - and  he wants the half that has the philosopher job description - just sitting and thinking about the facts and solving the crimes. Someone else can do the paper work and the meetings part of his job.

Why I love the Inspector Espinosa mysteries?
The Brazilian setting, in the Copacobana neighbourhood, just off Ipamena Beach, is exotic and real at the same time. I want to go!
Police procedurals, with the occasional view of the perpatrator, keep me guessing and on the edge of my seat.
Good team of detectives who work with Espinosa, with their own back stories, and great loyalty to their boss.
Garcia-Roza writes a good local mystery, but also includes global themes, in this case, loneliness in a large city. How a person can live their life without contact, or very little, with other people. How you can live in the same neighbourhood and not know a person.

Why I'm not happy after reading this mystery?
My library has books 1, 2, and 7. I've read them all. I will have to request them to get the rest of the series.

CHALLENGE: What's in a Name 4 Challenge

This will be my fourth straight year with this challenge, originated by Annie, and now hosted by BethF. I've listed my potential choices, which can change at any moment. If I can find a book that works for another challenge too, that's even better!

Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:
  1. A book with a number in the title: 26A by Diana Evans (Orange January )
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis; Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
  3. A book with a size in the title: The Little Book by Seldon Edwards
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title: Sea Escape by Lynne Griffith; Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David
  5. A book with evil(evil-like) in the title: The Devil's Whisper by Miyuke Miyabe (Global Mysteries)
  6. A book with a life stage in the title: Boy in Striped Pajamas; Little Children by Tom Perrotta

 See more info at the What's In a Name 4 blog.

The Books Read: 6/6
1. number: 26A - Diana Evans
2. jewelry or gem: Charmed Life - Diana Wynne Jones
3. size: The Little Book - Seldon Edwards
4. travel or movement: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
5. evil: The Devil's Whisper - Miyuke Miyabe
6. life stage: Little Children - Tom Perrotta

Saturday, November 27, 2010

CHALLENGE: Global Reading Challenge

The Global Reading Challenge is being hosted again at DJ's krimiblog. I plan to repeat my effort this year, following Kerri's lead, of only reading mysteries. I really like reading mysteries set in other countries, and after this year, I've got mystery series from all over the world to keep up with. It's not necessary to only read mysteries; that's just my personal goal.

You can chose Easy (one from each continent), Medium (two from each continent) or Expert (3 from each continent).
North America (incl Central America)
South America
The Seventh Continent (here you can either choose Antarctica or your own ´seventh´ setting, eg the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future – you name it).

From your own continent: try to find a country, state or author that is new to you.

I think I'm going for Expert, but I am a little concerned about the Seventh Continent; may have to get creative. Here's my list of potential reads. I am working more on continuing series from many countries.

1. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, Alexander McCall Smith, Botswana
2. Children of the Street, Kwei Quartey, Ghana
3. Trackers, Deon Meyer, South Africa

North America
1. Dearly Devoted Dexter, Jeff Lindsay, US Florida

2. The Brutal Telling, Louise Penny, Canada
3. Pretty in Ink, Karen E Olson, US Nevada

1. Death in la Fenice, Donna Leon, Italy
2. The Coffin Trail, Martin Edwards, England
3. The Redbreast, Jo Nesbo, Norway

1. The Case of the Missing Servant, Tarquin Hall, India
2. The Devil's Whisper, Miyuke Miyabe, Japan
 A Case of Two Cities, Qiu Xiaolong, China

South America
1. Buried Strangers, Leighton Gage, Brazil
2. Southwesterly Wind, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Brazil
3. A Window in Copacabana - Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Brazil

1. Cocaine Blues, Kerry Greenwood, Australia
2. The Broken Shore, Peter Temple, Australia
New Zealand: 

Seventh Continent (oldies - Agatha Christie books)
1. Murder in Mesopotamia
2. And Then There Were None
3. Hercule Poirot's Christmas

Read 19/21

Monday, November 22, 2010

BOOK: What is Stephen Harper Reading? by Yann Martel

What is Stephen Harper Reading? by Yann Martel, 228 pages

Bibliophilic Challenge; 4th CBC Challenge;

Just as a hockey game can't be reduced to its score, so a work of art can't be reduced to a summary. p174

Yann Martel started sending Prime Minister Stephen Harper a book, every two weeks, when Harper first came to power in April 2007. (Oh, dear, has he been PM that long? Sigh.)  Accompanying each book is a letter from Martel. Martel is hopeful to get a response sometime (other than the 2 replies from Harper's assistants.) This book is composed of the first two years of their 'book club', but it has been continuing, since Harper is still in power, albeit a minority government that never seems to collapse. (The letters are actually posted on a website, so it is possible to read the letters without the book, but the book allowed me to read on the couch.) It would be nice to think that Harper has read a few of the books Martel sent. I do believe in some ways Martel is rather optimistic, because he isn't picking some of the easiest books to read, but he explains his rationale for each book in the letter.He does try to make them all relatively short, since he acknowledges that Harper is a busy guy.

Notice how I subtly show my bias towards our Canadian leader; Martel is just as subtle in many of his letters. It is interesting to watch the progression of his letters, as Martel begins to lament some decisions, generally cuts to the Arts, of the Harper government. Martel also includes some history of books, rationale behind the importance of reading a variety of books, and some critiques of books as well. I particularly like how he sent him one of Michael Ignatieff's books. Ignatieff is the Leader of the Opposition who spent many years abroad, teaching and writing. He even has a Booker shortlisted book. Wouldn't Harper want to read a book by Ignatieff to get an insight into his opponent?

I've read eleven of the books sent, including Maus, Animal Farm, Mister Pip, The Cellist of Sarajevo and Gilead, sent because Obama had mentioned reading and enjoying the book. There are some I've wanted to read, like The Good Earth, and a few I'd like to read after this book's recommendation, The Gift and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit.There is even a group at Librarything trying to read all the books sent to Harper by Martel.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

It has been a while since I've asked where reading is taking you. It'd be great if everyone played along, and shared where they are in reading (and in real life if you like). How has everyone been?

In reading, I am in the small English village of Cranford, where the ladies are keeping track of everything. (Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell)
I also am somewhere in the midwest, where a car has just run off the road, somewhere near Colorado. I'm a little disoriented right now, so we'll see where this book goes. (Bound, Antonya Nelson)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, November 15, 2010

CHALLENGE: Young Adult Reading Challenge Update; Shiver Code Orange

I recently completed the (lowest level possible) Young Adult Reading Challenge, and will post this wrap-up with a few final reviews of a couple of books. I read 7 of the books I had originally put on my pool of books in my sign-up post and someday, I'll get to the rest of them. Thanks to J Kaye for hosting, and I'm heading over to link my wrap up post at her site.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, 394 pages

Young Adult Challenge

I keep trying paranormal type books, since they are so popular, but I just don't see the what the fuss is about. This was okay, about werewolves, and I really liked the legend and background of how they live, and how they could conceivable live, but it doesn't make me want to keep reading.  I had high hopes for this one, as I was judging a book by its cover, as it is gorgeous, and the next two books in the series are similar, with different colours, and they really appeal to me visually. But alas, not enough to read the next books.

It was an enjoyable enough read, with teenagers on the loose, fascinated with werewolves, and the characters were fine, just not my style.

also reviewed: kristina at kristina's favorites;  bart at bart's bookshelf; suey at it's all about books; colleen at  lavenderlines; beth f at beth fish reads;

Code Orange by Caroline B Cooney, 195 pages

Young Adult Challenge; RIP V

This was a wonderful little book I heard mentioned somewhere on the blogosphere, maybe in relation to the YA Dystopian challenge at Bart's, but whoever mentioned it, thank you. A super slacker student in a fancy New York private school is assigned a project on infectious disease. He reluctantly gets interested in small pox, and then accidentally inhales an old, dried up small pox he found in an extremely old medical text. The book takes off from there, as he tries to decide what to do, when doing much of anything really isn't his style. But is he infected with small pox? The idea of a small pox epidemic in post 9/11 New York City provides a scary background to tell this story, and forces our main character to do some serious thinking and research.  I was on the edge of my seat, (note I am counting it for the RIP V Challenge as well) and found the characters realistic and modern, with cellphones and internet a part of the teenagers' life.

I gave it to my 13 year old son, who also enjoyed the book. I'll look for some more Caroline B Cooney books at the library. Code Orange was a great find.

1. I Am Mogan La Fay - Nancy Springer 01/29
2. Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness 02/21
3. Paper Towns - John Green 04/04
4. Zero - Diane Tullson 04/05
5. Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan 04/11
6. The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness 06/14
7. Feeling Sorry for Celia - Jaclyn Moriarty 08/22
8. When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead 08/26
9. The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin 08/28
10.Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 09/06
11. Code Orange - Caroline B Cooney 10/18
12.Shiver - Maggie Stievfator 11/07

Best book on this list: Paper Towns by John Green had the funniest road trip I ever read.  Other good reads were When You Reach Me and Code Orange. I read two of the Chaos Walking series, and even had the last one here, Monsters of Men, but couldn't get going in it. Maybe another time I'll get it from the library.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

BLOGGING: Christmas Events

Hurry if you want to take part in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap- the sign-ups end today. Check out the details at the blog. I've participated the past two years and loved the experience. It's fun to buy for someone else, and just as much fun to receive, especially from another book lover.

In other Christmas/Holiday events on the blogosphere, the Advent Tour is taking sign-ups as well. This is a great way to meet some new bloggers and learn about different holiday traditions. One of my favorite posts ever was Suey's video of the reading of the Christmas story, with a few rogue children and the mother who soldiers on, determinedly ignoring the chaos around her. Hilarious!

I have two of these reindeers that I set out at Christmas. Gorgeous! I love the green ribbon around them. My date for the advent tour is Tuesday,  December 7th. Hope to see you then.

BOOK: The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks

The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks, 240 pages
released Oct 26, 2010

Science Book Challenge

I cannot decide whether this is nonsense or profound truth - it is the sort of reef I end up on when I think about thinking. p 226

Oh Mr Sacks, you sum up what happens to me all the time, and this book does get a person thinking. How do we see? How do we read? Is listening to a book reading? Is reading someone's lips hearing? Sacks delves into this world of perception and senses, providing case studies of some very unusual people.

I liked how the people, for the most part, adapt to their situation. Losing, or gaining, a sense (or even just an aspect of a sense, like recognizing faces) causes the brain to adapt and fit the new experience into existing pathways of the brain. Much of the book is quite scientific, referencing studies, and since this isn't my area of expertise at all, I found it a bit deep at times. Being very familiar with the brain sections and its specialties would have helped; but not knowing didn't diminish my interest.

Personally, the chapter on stereo vision was most interesting. I see only with one eye, my left eye is so weak, it never learned to see together with the right eye, a necessity for three dimensional vision. My left eye provides a bit of peripheral vision, but it's quite useless. (But cheaper, as I only need one contact.) So, this means I can't see 3D movies at all. I can, however, drive as I've always viewed the world in 2D, or flat and that is my experience. Just as perspective can be deduced in a picture, so too can I tell mostly where things are - near or far. The woman in the book who regained her stereo vision after 40 years without it, had the ability as a child. Her brain had the neural pathways to be 'awoken' so she could see a new way. Alas, I never will as I never had that capability in the first place.

A large portion of the book is Dr Sacks personal journal as he undergoes a cancer in the eye which leaves him without his 3D vision. Combined with his own experience of not recognizing faces and he appears to be one of his own best patients.I liked when he related his patients problems to his own, but his ability to microanalyze things he saw astounded me. Perhaps that is why I am not a neurosurgeon or neurobiologist.

Sacks has other books, similar I believe, that I would be interested in reading: His memoir Uncle Tungsten, along with Musicophilia, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and An Anthropologist on Mars. He references these books throughout The Mind's Eye. Sacks is also the doctor, and wrote the book, that the movie Awakenings was based on. I loved that movie, and deNiro and Robin Williams in it.

We, or maybe I, often believe that other people perceive the world much as we do. Reading this book has opened my eyes to experiences that I couldn't even imagine, like losing the ability to read, but still being able to write. Others certainly can't envision the flat world I live in. The complexity of the brain to adapt, adapt, adapt is inspiring and overwhelming. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010


 [In Canada, we call in Remembrance Day]
It is November 11th, known here in the U.S. as Veteran’s Day, formerly Armistice Day to remember the end of WWI but expanded to honor all veterans who have fought for their country, so …
Do you read war stories? Fictional ones? Histories? 

Suey posted a top 10 list of her favorite war stories, and as I commented on her post, I realized I had enough war stories to make a post of my own. I couldn't limit it to 10 either. I guess I mostly read fictional war stories set in real wars. I didn't include imaginary wars, like in the Chaos Walking series.


1. Rilla of Ingleside by LM Montgomery
More of a view of the Canadian homeland during the war, the Great War is a backdrop to the last of Anne's stories, as her children are living through it. One of my favorite in the series.
2. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Not so much about the war, but England in the early 1930s is still full of characters dealing with the repercussions. Large flashbacks put the reader in the trenches in France.


1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
For those who like their war stories told in a slightly lighter tone, but still dramatic and utterly charming. Has anyone not adored this book?
2. Night Watch by Sarah Waters
A backwards look at the lives of several people during the Blitz in London. Great characters and unique look at life in London.
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Lisel is the star, but Death narrates. Death was busy in Germany during the 1940s.
4. Maus by Art Speigleman
A graphic novel memoir by the son of a Jewish survivor from Germany.
5. Stones From the River by Ursula Helgi
One of the fist and perhaps best of Oprah picks. I loved this story of a little person surviving in Germany. Also showed what life was like in Germany for everyday citizens trying to survive as well.
6. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
The background of Nemirovsky adds to the drama of this story written during the German occupation of France. Nemirovsky died before the war ended, which makes the stories she wrote even more dramatic.
7. Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst
For those who like thrillers, Furst sets this story in Greece, but helps Germans escape Germany throughout Europe. Furst writes many WW2 thrillers so this is just one of many of his.

 Civil Wars Around the World

1. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway (Yugoslavia)
What is it like to live in an occupied state? 
2. Small Wars by Sophie Jones (Cyprus)
A British couple starts their married life on the occupied island of Cyprus. More of a study of a marriage and the small wars within it, even small wars in the world have large repercussions for their inhabitants.
3. The Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)
Nonfiction account of a child soldier in Sierra Leone.
4. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
The Biafran war and all the atrocities of war are woven within one family and how war tears so many people apart.

Have you read any of these? Which are your favorite war stories? I feel like there are some books I've forgotten, especially about World War 1.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BOOK: Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer, 408 pages

RIP V; Global Reading Challenge: Africa

This is another of the books I read about at Kerrie's Mysteries in Paradise during her write up about the nominees for the CWA International Dagger during the summer. Two of the nominated books (Hypothermia by Indridason and August Heat by Camilleri) are from two of my favorite mystery series. The Girl Who Played with Fire, second in that well known series, was also nominated. When I saw three very excellent books nominated, it certainly drew my attention to the other three books. I liked The Darkest Room earlier this month, but with Thirteen Hours, I have found a new author and series to follow. This was excellent!

Inspector Bennie Griessel works in Cape Town, South Africa. When he is awaken early one morning to investigate a murder, he has no idea how crazy his day will become. The first murder is a young American tourist, and the police quickly discover that her friend is running, running and being chased by these murderers, a group of young men. Bennie has recently been assigned to mentor some young detectives, so he doesn't even get to run the investigation, just advise. Before they can get too far, Bennie is called to another murder, with another detective to mentor. The rest of the book follows real time, for the next thirteen hours.

The plot is tight and fast, switching from both investigations, along with the girl who is being chased. This back and forth action keeps the pages turning. Meyer deftly juggles all the characters and action, and has written characters with many layers and motives. Bennie is celebrating six months sobriety and is hoping for the return of his family after losing them from his drinking. The mentor detectives have their own issues and strengths.

Apparently this is the second novel in the series about Bennie, but I had no trouble following the story or characters. If anything, I want to read the first even more, Devil's Peak. It is most like a police procedural, a type of mystery I always enjoy. Modern South Africa, with its racial conflicts provides a fascinating setting for this great mystery series.