Tuesday, June 26, 2012

BOOK: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, 301 pages

Canadian Book Challenge 5; Man Booker Winner 1992

My "not so much review as comparison to the movie" review:

This might be one of those rare books that the movie is better than. Or that I understood the movie better. Although the book helped me figure a few things out in the movie. But I did like the book, because I already knew the characters. Hmm. They just really go together!

I am not usually a fan of the tragic love story, like Romeo and Juliet. I am much more pragmatic. However, The English Patient (the movie) worked for me. I bought the love story, tragic ending and all. Ralph Fiennes helped a lot! With that background, I quite enjoyed the book. The major difference I noticed was that the movie was about the English Patient and Catherine, his love. The book is more about the nurse and the bomb-defusing Indian soldier, the awesome dude from Lost.  Another reason I liked the book was because I really liked those characters and their love story as much as the English Patient's. After reading the book, I am even more impressed with the movie and how it was put together.

This is one of those modern classic novels I've been wanting to read and I would try another Ondaatje novel. He wrote amazingly intricate characters, about the after effects of war on all kinds of people from war, all in spare yet easy to read prose. Ondaatje gathered this Commonwealth of characters with connections and challenges that are so damaged, physically and emotionally.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


This Top Ten List worked so well for me in the spring, that I'm going to make a summer list as well. I'll try to go with the same mix of new releases, older books, mysteries, and in honour of Canada Day on July 1st, Canadian books.

My spring list was a great motivator. I read seven of the nine I listed by name. One of the ones I didn't read, The Age of Doubt didn't arrive until the end of May, and the other one, 1222 by Anne Holt, is still on request at the library. I moved from 11th to 6th spot since March! I don't think I'll add it to the summer list as it looks unlikely that I'll get it before the summer is over. The last title I listed was just Orange Longlisted books, and I managed to read 5 of them (The Sealed Letter, The Island of Wings, Gillespie and I, The Forgotten Waltz, and The Song of Achilles).

What books are you looking forward to reading this summer? Head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to link up and to see what everyone else is saying!

1. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
I received this one from Randomhouse. Love dystopian novels - the world has begun to slow down in its rotation. Can't wait to read this one!

2. Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
Giller Winning Canadian novel that is the next book for my book club. A book about the north of Canada should be just the thing on a hot summer day.

3. Until Thy Wrath Be Past by  Asa Larsson
This will be my Scandi-crime novel in place of 1222.I have it from the library right now.

4. The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
My first steampunk novel! This young adult book will be released in the summer, and it looks like a fun book.

5. French Lessons by Ellen Sussman
I have to have something for Paris in July on my list. Carrie (nomadreader) sent me this book last year after Paris in July and I've been holding on to it for this summer.

6. Duma Key by Stephen King
A big ole Stephen King is perfect for summer reading. I can stay up late, get scared, read and snooze on a lawn chair the next day. How perfect does that sound?

7. Deon Meyer: either Dead Before Dying or Blood Safari
Great mysteries with characters I've read before: Mat Joubert and Lemmer. Meyer does great, complicated mysteries with well developed characters, all set in South Africa. He's becoming my new favorite mystery author.

8. Broken Harbour by Tana French
This is going to be my 'new summer book' buy, as I seldom buy newly released books. It is released the beginning of July, and will be the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series.

9. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
I think I get this one mixed up with another book, The Boy in the Suitcase? I've had this one for a while, so let's get it on the summer reading list.

10. Assorted Orange July books - a continuation of reading the 2012 lists (Foreign Bodies, State of Wonder, there but for the..) and other books that I have been planning to read. ( Larry's Party, This is How, etc)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

BOOK: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, 340 pages

When She Woke is Hillary Jordan's fantastic retelling of The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne, but a futuristic version. Instead of Hester Prynne being forced to wear the red letter A on her clothes, for adultery, after having a baby with minister Arthur Dimmesdale in Puritan America, we have Hannah Payne who is 'chromed' red after having an abortion with evangelical minister Aiden Dale in a future America. Both women refuse to name the father of their child, and in both cases, only the woman is punished.

Sidetrack: I read The Scarlet Letter when it was about to be remade into a movie starring Demi Moore in 1995. I accidentally picked up The Scarlet Pimpernell which turned out to be a far superior book in my view. When I finally read The Scarlet Letter, I was terribly bored. It was the style of writing, late 19th century American writing more than the story which bothered me. The plot and characters were fine, but I cannot stand that prose. I was put off enough by the book that I never did see the movie, but I am glad that I read the book, if only to have the literary references to read When She Woke. Ah, classic novels. We have to read you if only to better appreciate the homages that are written. I loved Bridget Jones' Diary, but after reading Pride and Prejudice, I appreciated it even more.

Back to When She Woke, which is really the beautiful child of The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaid's Tale. I could predict the arc of the story: Young naive girl has never questioned the world she lives in. Suddenly thrust into reality of her world, she meets brave people who rebel against all she has believed, and gradually, through some dangerous situations, faces the truth of the society that has kept her down, and recognizes the wrong in her past beliefs. As predictable as all dystopian novels, Jordan does an excellent job of following the standard steps, and making characters that are believable, and still adding some plot twists to keep the reader entertained. As I carried this book around in the past week, I pushed and or recommended this book to all my reading friends.

There is a religious aspect to the novel, as Hannah is forced to examine her beliefs, and her God. Jordan exposes Hannah to several extremes, and while the author's view comes through (I think) she does present different sides, (kind of like Stephen Colbert does!) This book was only released in October 2011, so it is still a fairly new release.  I saw it was picked as a possible Orange nominee on a couple of predicting lists, which is what piqued my interest. Fans of Jordan's first novel, Mudbound, will be especially impressed with the author's versatility and talent.

also reviewed: sophia at page plucker; lavender lines; leeswammer's blog; rhapsody in books; softdrink at fizzy thoughts; kailana at the written world; bookfool at bookfoolery;

Thursday, June 7, 2012

CHALLENGE: Paris in July 2012

I had a lot of fun last year reading for Paris in July, so I am pleased that Karen at Bookbath and Tamara at Thyme for Tea are again hosting a Paris in July event. During the month of July, read your book, eat some food, watch a movie. Something French.

Books I might read:
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  by John Baxter
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
French Lessons by Ellen Sussman
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick

from last year's list:
a mystery by Fred Vargas
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (some year I'll get this actually read!)
Madame de Stael: The First Modern Woman by Francine Gray (I started reading this on dailylit.com last year)

Movies I might watch:
Coco or La Vie en Rose

What I Read in 2012: 
1. French Lessons - Ellen Sussman (novel)
2. Foreign Bodies - Cynthia Ozick (novel)
3. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain (novel)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BOOK: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, 336 pages

The synopsis (teenagers with terminal cancer) is really not a selling point for a lot of readers, and only being familiar, and a fan of, John Green's writing that inticed me to read this book. He does his usual wonderful thing, with characters that feel real, and full of witty teenage humor. How does a family with one child deal with a cancer diagnosis? How does a person live with, not die from, cancer? (I think I stole that line from a Rent song.)

It's as good as all the rave reviews say, it's as sad as you would imagine, and it's still a good book. I do enjoy a book that makes me cry, and I started well before the last hundred pages. There are a few leaps of faith the reader has to make in the plot, which has some coincidences at the end, but by then you are so invested, and emotionally involved, you let them slide a bit. Because by then, you can't stop reading (oh, dear, how is it going to end?) so you keep reading.

It's a really great book that is as much about living as dying.

also reviewed: sprite at into the stacks; pam at sidewalk shoes; laura at musing by laura; alison from piling on the books; katie at katie's book blog; softdrink at fizzy thoughts; rhapsody in books; heather at capricious reader; marg at reading adventures; kailana at the written world; michelle at 1morechapter; raych at books I done read; suey at it's all about books; nymeth at things mean a lot;

Wow! I really was one of the last people to read this book. I actually pre-ordered it from Chapters, and received a signed copy. However, I thought I'd be smart, and preorder another book not released until May. My evil plan was that even though I picked free shipping, and they tell you that it will be shipped in one package (hence, May) my experience has been that they send a book once it was available, and you wait for the later book. But Chapters decided not to reward my attempted sneakiness, and didn't send either book until The Age of Doubt was released in May. So I preordered The Fault in Our Stars, and then didn't get it till May. But I didn't pay shipping.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BOOK: Dissolution by C.J.Sansom

This meme (highlighting crime fiction titles or authors) was run first on Mysteries in Paradise in 2009-2010 and was re-run in 2011. This week's letter is the letter C. Head over here to see what other books are being highlighted this week.This week I"m highlighting author C J Sansom and his mystery series.
Dissolution by C.J.Sansom, 439 pages

Tudors! Murder! What's not to like?
First in the series with the hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, associate of Thomas Cromwell. Shardlake is sent in to a monestary to discover who killed the representative who was sent in to possibly disband the monks. Lots of motive, lots of great characters. And then another murder, or two.

Shardlake is an idealist about religous reform, and I fear in later books he may be disillusioned by Cromwell's ambition and questionable methods. This was hinted at in this book. He's a great main character because his physical ailments make him an outsider, not the usual person in power, but his skills as a lawyer and his intelligence overcome his hunchback. This series is like a more modern Brother Cadfael mystery - no matter the time, there will be people behaving badly. Looking forward to more of Matthew Shardlake.

ARMCHAIR BEA: Crem Della Crem

Share some of your favorite books so far this year, and/or the the books being promoted at BEA that you hope will end up among your favorites for the year!

Books I'm looking forward to. I have no idea if they are being promoted at BEA, but they are the books by favorite authors that I am very much looking forward to.
Broken Harbour by Tana French
Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason
Seven Days by Deon Meyer

Broken Harbour by Tana French
Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason
Seven Days by Deon Meyer

Books from 2012 I've read and really liked 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green     
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones   
White Horse by Alex Adams

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
White Horse by Alex Adams

Monday, June 4, 2012

ARMCHAIR BEA: Introductions

Sometimes, there are events that happen in the blogosphere that many of my google reader participate in, but I might watch from afar. Today, all my favorite people seem to be Armchair BEAing, and I want to be part of the fun! I'm a little late, but here I am:

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I'm a forty-something female; married, with 3 kids; high school teacher; living on beautiful PEI.
I've been blogging a little over 5 years, but I seldom remember to note the anniversary. I came for the place to talk about books, stayed for the people that I've met.

2. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?

I'm reading The Known World by Edward P Jones (for the first meeting of the first real book club I've ever joined) and The Age of Doubt by Andrea Camilleri, one of my favorite mystery series.
Favorite reads so far in 2012: Half-Blood Blues, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Fault in Our Stars, plus a few more. I've had a good year reading so far.

3. What is was your favorite feature on your blog (i.e. author interviews, memes, something specific to your blog)?
I haven't been as creative as I once was on my blog. I really enjoyed doing It's Tuesday, Where Are You?, giving people a chance to tell what book they were reading by the settings. Like a lot of blogging, it took time and planning, and it seemed to be dropping off in participation.

4. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why? And What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?

Watch me find a way to combine two questions in one: I would like to travel with Bridget Jones to Sicily, home of Inspector Montalbano (of The Age of Doubt), to sit on the beach and have a few drinks.Yes, drinks with Bridget on the beach of Sicily sounds very nice.

5. What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?

Just all the wonderful people I've met from around the world who share a love of reading, and of keeping lists of their reading. Now when I think of planning trips, I think about who I might meet if I travelled there.

Now I'm off to check out the Armchair BEA host site and see what else is happening this week. People shouldn't be having fun without me!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

BOOK: Isaac Newton by James Gleick

Isaac Newton by James Gleick, 258 pages

I knew a lot about Isaac Newton, but had never read it all in one place. I teach high school physics, so I thought I should read about him, so that I can feel more confident about any anecdotes I tell. Most of what I read was familiar, but I can speak better about his time at home from university during the plague (I may have thought he was in an institution, so there's one correction), his feud with Robert Hooke (a lot of it comes down to communicating through letters, kind of like email) and Leibniz, the German mathematician. Newton and Leibniz independently developed calculus, and then fought over the notation and who did what first. Egos!

It's a scientific biography, containing pages and pages of notes and references, but I still found it readable. Not engrossing, but readable. I referred to the notes at the back as I read, as some of them provided additional background to the story. I've got a better picture of Newton, the man and the scientist, and still am completely amazed at his insights and theories, many of which were not confirmed or built on for years. He had theories about everything! Gravity, light, forces, the idea of mass, just even how Newton defined terms that were in use, to get scientists speaking the same way.

True or False
- Newton sat under a tree and 'discovered' gravity when an apple fell on his head
- Newton worked as an alchemist under another name
- Newton was born in the same year that Galileo died
- Newton removed all references from the second edition of his book of Flamsteed, whose ideas about comets helped shape Newton's gravitation

 Every year I attempt this challenge, as I do like to read nonfiction science books. Count Newton as book number one.

Here's the link to this year's project: Science Book Challenge