Sunday, June 26, 2011

BOOK: Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, 266 pages

What's in a Name 3: jewelry or gem in title

I should have read this when I was a child, but then again, I didn't read much fantasy type stories. Diana Wynne Jones wrote an afterward in 2001, twenty-five years after Charmed Life was written, explaining how she came to write it.  Reading this now, after Harry Potter and the magical phenomena in books, it's easy to see that this must have been an inspiration for JK Rowling.

Overall, it was okay. I'm glad to have read a DWJ book, but don't imagine I'll read another in this series. Without having read it as a child, it didn't appeal to me in the way that Harry Potter did. But then I'm not a big fantasy reader in the first place. I'll put this one where my kids might find it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time Update

I signed up for the journey, hoping to read one book, and I ended up reading eight. And the best part? Besides the great books? Five of them were books I've had for a long time and wanted to read.

Books I Read:
1. Waiting for Gertrude by Bill Richardson
2. The Tales of Beedle the Bard - JK Rowling
3. The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen
4. The Night Wanderer - Drew Hayden Taylor
5. Pomegranate Soup - Marsha Mehran (look for the sequel)
6. Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
7. The Little Book - Seldon Edwards
8. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
and have started Charmed Life by Diana Wynne-Jones but won't finish it completely

Three were books I had read the author once before and wanted to read another. The best book was Tales of Beedle the Bard. Just an excellent, delightful read, absolutely perfect for this challenge. But I can't complain about any of the books and all were enjoyable.

New authors: Marsha Mehran, Rick Riordan, Seldon Edwards, Ransom Riggs, Diana Wynne-Jones

Two humorous Canadian authors - Bill Richardson and Drew Hayden Taylor. Everyone should read Bill Richardson. Stupidly, I watched the movie of Percy Jackson before I read the book, but the book was still good. Eventually I'll get to the other books in the series. It certainly helped me learn about my Greek gods.

I would recommend Pomegranate Soup to fans of Sarah Addison Allen. Both are whimsical and magical with strong women characters.

And for something completely different, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is not to be missed.

Here's the link where participants have been posting links to their reviews.

Thanks for hosting another round Carl!

Monday, June 20, 2011

BOOK: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, 348 pages

Once Upon a Time Challenge

I've been wanting to read another book like The Invention of Hugo Cabret  (one of my favorite recent reads) which combined story with pictures, more than a graphic novel. This book comes close. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a most unique book that takes old, unusual photographs and builds a world and story around them. The pictures, salvaged by collectors from yard sales and garbage are unique, to say the least. The girl on the cover, for instance, is hovering. The book itself is wonderful.

The premise of the story is a young boy has been entertained by stories from his grandfather, a Jewish orphan from the second world war who spent time on an island off Wales. The stories include very unusual children, the kind you'd expect to see at the circus. As the boy grows, he figures the stories are fairy tales, but one awful night, he discovers there may be more to the stories than he first suspected. What follows is a scary, spooky, creepy ride, part fantasy, part science fiction, with a dollop of gothic. I don't want to give too much away, and the story on its own would be just okay, geared to teenagers, but the addition of the photographs made this a great read for me. I often peeked ahead at the pictures, and was impressed with how they would be incorporated into the story.

The story ended on what clearly felt to me like a "to be continued", although there was a ending of sorts. My other nit-pick was the point of view. It was told from the boy's first person, but it included too much description for that. Either cut some of the setting descriptions, or change it to third person and really set the mood. I loved the island setting, and felt the creepy, ancient feel of the location. The 'peculiar children' were well defined, and fun to spend time with. I've already passed the book on to my eleven year old daughter.

thanks to randomhouse for the review copy.

also reviewed : Carl at stainlesssteeldroppings;

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CHALLENGE: Canadian Book Challenge 5

Hosted by John Mutford of The Book Mine Set, the Canadian Book Challenge 5 is one of the hottest, most sought* after book challenges to participate in, in the northern hemisphere world. Beginning on July 1st, Canada's 144th** birthday, the goal is to read 13 books in the year, one to represent each province and territory in Canada.

I am celebrating Canada Day in St John's, Newfoundland this year, so will be among the first people to be able to begin the CBC 5. To join in the challenge, simply email john with the subject "Sign Me Up" at jmutford [at] hotmail (dot) com.

(* I'm just assuming. What could be more hot or sought after?)
(** I was born during Canada's centennial, so I'm always exactly 100 years younger than Canada)

The Book List of Ones I Want to Read:
Doing Dangerously Well by Carole Enahoro
Rockbound by Frank Parker Day
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill (Orange Prize shortlist 2008)
Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Orange Prize shortlist 2011)
Larry's Party by Carol Shields (Orange Prize winner 1998)
The Box Garden by Carol Shields
Extreme Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories by Alistair MacLeod
The English Patient by Michael Onjadte (Man Booker winner 1992)
Diamond Dreams by Stephen Brunt
Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot
The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

The Books I Actually Read:
1. Lullabies for Little Criminals - Heather O'Neill
2. Annabel - Kathleen Winter
3. The Wife's Tale - Lori Lansens
4. The Box Garden - Carol Shields
5. Bury Your Dead - Louise Penny
6. Coventry - Helen Humphreys
7. As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories - Alistair MacLeod
8. The Widows of Paradise Bay - Jill Sooley
9. The Reinvention of Love - Helen Humphreys
10. Twelve Drummers Drumming - CC Benison
11. Moonlight Sketches - Gerard Collins
12. Tide Road - Valerie Compton
13. Small Ceremonies - Carol Shields
14. The Staircase Letters - Arthur Motyer, Elma Gerwin, Carol Shields
15. Christmas With Anne - LM Montgomery
16. An Island Christmas Reader - David Weale
17. The Canterbury Trail - Angie Abdou
18. The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt
19. Half-Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan
20. Happenstance - Carol Shields
21. Extreme Vinyl Cafe - Stuart McLean
22. A Trick of the Light - Louise Penny
23. Swann - Carol Shields
24. The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

BOOK: The Little Book by Selden Edwards

The Little Book by Selden Edwards, 364 pages

What's in a Name Challenge: size in title; Once Upon a Time Challenge

Very interesting book with time-travel to 1897 Vienna. Wheeler wakes up in Vienna, a city and time he's heard about in depth from one of his boarding school teachers. Esterhaze was a young man in the heyday of Vienna, before the wars, but in a time of great discussion and ideas. Sigmund Freud was part of the city. Wheeler is a forty something character who has always marched to his own beat. Relatively unfazed by his appearance ninety years earlier, the story backtracks to find out who Wheeler was, how he first met Esterhaze and how he came to be in Vienna.

As with all time-travel books, if I start to think about who and when I get confused, so I just read a long and go with it. The family and characters were well developed, and the epicness of Wheeler's family is a big part of the story. Edwards worked on this book for thirty years and the loops and historical times and implications were cool.

The idea of fixed history, and whether you can change what happens in the future is always a part of time-travel books. In this case, Wheeler travels back to a time when Adolf Hitler is a boy. Hmm, what would you do? Overall, good read. It started a bit slowly, but then books with a lot of story and layers take time to develop. I thought the end was well worth the journey.

Monday, June 13, 2011

CHALLENGE: Orange July

Once again, it's that time of the year when fans of the Orange Prize celebrate by reading, at least one book from the short or long lists or a winner. Jill keeps up organized, if you like that sort of thing, on Facebook and at Librarything. These are places to chat with other readers, and discuss the books we've read. Need to talk to someone after reading Fingersmith? Need to vent to someone after reading We Need to Talk About Kevin? Someone at librarything has probably read it and would love to discuss it with you.

For more information about Orange July, visit Jill at her blog, The Magic Lasso

I'll read before July even starts: (feel free to start early)

The Memory of Love by Aminnata Forma (shortlist 2011)

Book I Own
Larry's Party by Carol Shields (1998 winner)
Annabel by Kathleen Winter (2011 shortlist)
Prep by Curtis Sittenfield (2006 longlist)
A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore (1996 winner)
Lullabies for Little Criminals (shortlist 2008)

The Colour by Rose Tremain (2004 longlist)
Love Marriage by VV Ganeshananthan (2009 longlist)

The books I actually read:
1. Prep - Curtis Sittenfeld
2. The Memory of Love - Aminnata Forma
3. Lullabies for Little Criminals - Heather O'Neill
4. Annabel - Kathleen Winter
5. A Spell of Winter - Helen Dunmore

Saturday, June 11, 2011

BOOK: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan, 211 pages

adorable: a book written completely in dictionary entries, alphabetized, about a love story

charming: told from the male perspective, and not in the order that it occurs. One of the entries discusses how we gradually tell the story of our lives with new partners, not in the order they occur, but as they occur to us. They eventually fill in the biography of our lives, layer by layer.

favorite: Levithan has written several books with Rachel Cohn, including one of my favorite reads of this year, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. Although he has written many young adult books, I don't think this should be classified as YA. Not that teens wouldn't like it, but it follows two twenty-somethings who meet through an on-line dating service.

poetic: with brief entries, the piece takes on a poetic-ness. Some are funny, some serious, some profound, some philosophical. The reader has to construct the characters, and the timeline, into a narrative

recommendation: a realistic love story, with warts and hurt, written in a unique style. With one entry on each page, the read was very quick, perfect for a readathon. In many ways I wanted it to last longer, to tell me more, to get a deeper look at the characters. I wanted to know them better.

summary: sweet, love story, charming, short, impressive

Saturday, June 4, 2011

BOOK: Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran, 314 pages

Once Upon a Time; Ireland Reading Challenge

For people who have read Sarah Addison Allen and liked her books like The Sugar Queen or Garden Spells, I would suggest Pomegranate Soup. Set in Ireland, it follows the story of three sisters from Iran who set up a cafe in the mid 1980s. One of the sisters has a way with food, and their exotic offerings bewitch some of the residents of the small Irish village. Nothing big or magical, just a small hint of the mystical, much like Addison Allen adds to her books.

The sisters were wonderful characters, and the story that gradually comes out of their leaving Iran during the revolution adds a depth to the novel, which begins rather lightly, with some stock Irish characters from the village. The nosy old lady, the bully who owns most of the town, the drunk. But then, I like my Irish stories as well, stock characters or not, so Maeve Binchy fans might also like this book. It's a nice, light read, with a sequel that is also available to read, Rosewater and Sodabread. So much of the story revolves around food, and there are recipes for all the Iranian delights at the back of the book. Really, it hits all my 'likeable' points about a book, and I quite enjoyed it.

Mehran was born in Iran and, after escaping during the Revolution, has lived in several countries before settling in Ireland.