Saturday, May 23, 2015

BOOKS: Canadian Reads

 I've been reading, and listening to a lot of books in the past few months. Here's a few quick reviews of some Canadian books that I'll use to fill in my Reading Bingo, Eh card:

Strange Heaven - Lynn Coady
 I read this the beginning of April and my impressions are fading. A 17 year old Bridget from Cape Breton goes to Halifax to have a baby. She ends up in a teenage mental ward with depression after giving up the baby. Some of the story was from home, before and after, some of the story was in Halifax. There were interesting characters as befits Cape Breton, and life was tough there. The psych ward was challenging as Bridget improves, and deals with the other kids. A slice of life story, as Bridget grows up and observes the people around her.

Anne's House of Dreams by LM Montgomery (audiobook 8h 22 m)
narrated by Susan O'Malley

Lindsey at reederreads is hosting a Green Gables read along. Last summer I started listening to the series, and Anne's House of Dreams fits in here for both. (I wasn't able to find Anne of Windy Poplars in audio) Since I've read all these multiple times, I'm only really commenting on my new impressions from audiobook.
This time around, I loved Miss Cornelia tons! Previously I found her overbearing, but now I adored her, and her friendship with Anne and Gilbert, and the way the narrator would exclaim: "Isn't that just like a man?"
This book is certainly a darker than the previous books and Anne's happy ever after is only partially there. And of course, I still cried when Captain Jim 'crosses the bar'. I noticed the nature descriptions more in this book than in the first three and not really in a good way. Clearly Montgomery's life had been through some upheavals before this one was written and it comes through. Still, can't beat an Anne book.

 Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

I thought this was going to be a short story book, being Munro and all, but this one is actually a series of short stories-novel following Del Jordan growing up in small town Ontario. Starting as a young child, and ending as she finishes high school, Del deals with growing up, and discovering where she fits in relative to her family and friends.

I read it, I liked it, but it didn't reach me or move me in any particular way. Good writing (she has won a Nobel prize after all) but there is an intimacy that I find missing. Sometimes I like a story better with a little less writing, and more story and people.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust - Alan Bradley (audiobook 10h 52 m)
narrated by Jayne Entwistle
I was ready to give up on the series after the last book. It felt like the series had run its course and that with this book, with Flavia sent to boarding school in Canada, the series would take a new direction with new characters to develop and interact with. I thought this was a good idea, but that I wouldn't continue. I did find out that this was a one-off in Canada so decided to give a listen.

I'm not sure that this is a successful outing. I think it probably would have been better to take the series in a new direction and stay in Canada. Instead, we get new students and teachers that won't be sticking around, and we just miss the local flavour of Buckshaw, missing Dogger and the Inspector and Flavia's sisters. Maybe listening wasn't my best bet, but I've had other series where listening to a book or two reinvigorated the series for me, but this did not. The narrator was a good Flavia, and the mystery was okay - all the mysteries are thin in Flavia books. Their charm has been the characters and Flavia's interactions with them, so I missed that here.

(Plus, another review mentioned how they hoped it would be Miss Scrimmage's Finishing School For Young Ladies that Flavia attended. A fabulous idea, and I think that ruined it for me! Ten points for that reference.)