Thursday, November 14, 2019

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Be the Expert (week 3)




Week 3: (Nov. 11 to 15) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Katie at Doing Dewey): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert)




Physics Biographies and Memoirs
I've chosen to highlight some physics related biographies or memoirs. The ones I've selected are good reads and written in a way that is not dry or boring. I recommend!
Let me know if there are other great physics biographies I should read!


Force of Nature by Richard Reeves
The story of Ernest Rutherford was a read from this year was good. I loved all the connections between the great physicists of the early 1900s. Just imagining the excitement in the physics world as so much was being discovered made the book worthwhile for me.


Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman by Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman was a real character and this is a collection of his stories. He's well known for popularizing physics, and his ability to tell a great story. There are several books by Feynman, and any of them are probably good reads.


e=mc2 by David Bodanis
Not a biography of any person, it is the biography of Einstein's famous equation, E=mc^2. Each component gets a chapter, and background information. Fascinating stuff!
(I tried another Bodanis book this year which was disappointing, but I think it was still interesting and well written, it just didn't cover the information that I was expecting, so I won't put it on him - it was me)



Zap: Nicola Tesla Takes Charge
Although this is a children's book, any book that discusses Nicola Tesla is going to be a winner. This would just whet your appetite for stories of the crazy inventor Tesla, but it would be a gateway book to Tesla. I'm still looking for adult book about Tesla. I've read a fictional book which was really good - Last Days of Night by Graham Moore which was a great mystery but I'd like another Tesla title - fiction or nonfiction.


Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins
Technically a fictional book, the information in this blank verse account of three female scientists is fabulous! My favourite book from 2017. 

Related - Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science by Rachel Swaby. More traditional biographies than Finding Wonders, great intro to all those women scientists you've probably never heard of.



An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Col Chris Hadfield
And finally, Col Chris Hadfield, and real life hero/good guy with his memoir/guide to life. The more you read about Hadfield, the more impressive his is. We are so proud of him here in Canada, and this book is an inspirational read of following your dreams and having everything pay off, through all your hard work and planning. 


Monday, November 4, 2019

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Book Pairing (week 2)





Week 2: (Nov. 4 to 8) – Book Pairing (Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.


I'm going to cheat a little bit here, because these two books were offered together during the summer from YA Sync. They really go well together! I liked the history and background behind Reagan's famous 'Tear Down this Wall' speech, but the fictional account of a family separated when the wall was built, separating East and West Berlin, and the subsequent fall out of a family divided was very powerful.



Tear Down This Wall: A City, A President, and the Speech that Ended the Cold War by Romesh Ratnesar
In 1987, Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech to Mr Gorbachev and very quickly, the wall did come down and life in Berlin (East and West) changed. This (a little too long) nonfiction book looks into the situations that led up to the speech. For people of a certain age who remember the 1980s, this book will bring back those times. For younger readers, this would be a great historical record of a significant event that led to the end of the Cold War.


A Night Divided by Jennifer A Nielsen
I really enjoyed this novel following a single family whose life was completely changed the night the Berlin Wall was built. The father and brother had gone across the city to look for work the night the wall was built, separating the family of five. The mom, brother and main character daughter were left in East Berlin. Years later, the daughter sees her father on the other side, and realizes he is trying to send a message - they should dig a tunnel to West Berlin. Seeing life in East Berlin, how citizens had to survive, worrying about betrayals, and worrying about who to trust, was very well done. This is why I really like historical fiction - it allows the reader to see a moment in time, with characters that are easy to relate to. 

Any other good Cold War fiction/nonfiction reads that would compliment these two?

Monday, October 28, 2019

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Your Year in Nonfiction



Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Julz of Julz Reads): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

The Look Back:
So far this year, I've read 25 non-fiction books, and I rate 9 of them at 4.5 stars out of 5 - very good reads. I just remembered! I need to consider NF books read in December of last year that got missed in the November review last year, so let's add 4 more books to the list.


29 Nonfiction books
10 Audiobooks
15 Female authors


What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?  lol, I can't pick one, here's 8


Murder at McDonalds - Phonse Jessome
In the early 1990s, a McDonalds in Sydney River, Cape Breton was robbed, and three of the workers were killed. It turned out to be 3 local boys, and the community was shocked, to say the least. I remember this happening, and really enjoyed the account written by the local reporter who was just getting started when this horrific crime happened. 




Bad Blood - John Carryrou

The story of the biggest Silicon Valley scam was unbelievable. Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Therano, is a very compelling figure and after reading this book, you will be looking for more info - there is a podcast, The Dropout to check out. 


Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford by Richard Reeves
Biography of the New Zealand half of the Bohr-Rutherford model, I really liked the excitement of the physics discoveries happening in the first half of the 20th century. A visit to Rutherford's research room at McGill university is on my list of 'things to see' in Montreal.



Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter by Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson makes my 'best of NF' list once again. Everything Bad wasn't quite as excellent as The Ghost Map, but it was a fascinating, well argued read. 



Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
Mary Roach does such a great job of digging into some very interesting aspects of science and putting them together in a dry, amusing way. This one follows the digestive system, and highlights some very obscure research being done. 



Educated by Tara Westover

Was this even real? A view into an aspect of off-grid, anti-government lifestyles in America, Tara Westover has to overcome her family and poverty to get an education.


Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer

When an author has a passion for a topic, it really doesn't matter what the topic is, it will be interesting. Kimmerer is a moss expert, and her appreciation and the connections she makes between moss and many other things, was fascinating. I notice moss so much now on my walks.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
I've been watching all the Scientology programs by Leah Remini and Mike Rinder on television so I knew I had to read Remini's memoir, and I was not disappointed. Her rough life in Scientology as a teenager, the Hollywood behind the scenes, and her growing disillusionment with the important people in Scientology, culminating at Tom Cruise's wedding to Katie Holmes in Italy.



Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?
Last year, one of my favourite non-fiction books was I'll Be Gone Before the Dark by Michelle McNamara and it seems to have inspired a good portion of my non-fiction reading  this year as True Crime leads my list of nonfiction reads for the year.

The Dark Heart:  A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator - Joakim Palmkvist (ebook)
The Case of Madeleine Smith - Rick Geary (graphic novel)
The Boy on the Bicycle - Nate Hendley

and crime-related - 
The Library Book by Susan Orleans (based around the LA fire of 1985)
The Threat by Andrew McCabe, (based on the FBI, and threat assessment)
Run Hide Repeat by Pauline Dakin (based on her childhood on the run)



What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
I guess it depends on who you are. My science teacher friends get Gulp, Force of Nature, and Gathering Moss. But I have recommended all the the eight above at various times to various people this year. 

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I like looking back and remembering some great reads, getting some books reviewed, and then reading other posts and getting a verified list of great books to look for next year!


The List December 2018
147. No One Tells You This - Glynnis MacNicol 
148. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness - Sy Montgomery (audiobook)
150. Harry's Last Stand - Harry Leslie Smith (ebook)
154. Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt - Mary Kay Carson

January - November 2019
7. *Bad Blood - John Carryroo 🎧

18. The Library Book - Susan Orlean 🎧
20. Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford - Richard Reeves

26. Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson 🎧
27. Murder at McDonald's: The Killers Next Door - Phonse Jessome  (ebook)
 
28. Run Hide Repeat - Pauline Dakin  

35. The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump - Andrew G McCab🎧

42. The Princess Diarist - Carrie Fisher 🎧
47. Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity - David Bodanis

53. Educated - Tara Westover (ebook)
59. District Nurse: My Life as a Nurse in the 1950s - Patricia Jordan

63. The Morningside World of Stuart McLean - Stuart McLean 
65. Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter - Steven Johnson
69.  The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator - Joakim Palmkvist (ebook)
73. Antonia and Her Daughters - Marlena De Blasi

79. Tear Down This Wall: A City, A President, and a Speech That Ended the Cold War - Romesh Ratnesar 🎧
81. Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach 🎧
82. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States - Sarah Vowell 

87. Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 🎧
90. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers - Deborah Heiligman 🎧 
91. Death to All Sacred Cows - Beau Fraser 🎧



94. The Case of Madeleine Smith - Rick Geary
95. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology - Leah Remini
100. Gathering Moss - Robin Wall Kimmerer

116. Talking to Strangers - Malcolm Gladwell   🎧

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I'd Give Different Titles To





The topic of this week's Top Ten Tuesday is Books I'd Give Different Titles To. For links to other entrants, and for future topics for Top Ten Tuesday, check out That Artsy Reader Girl. I don't have ten books this week, but some categories fill out the list.


Small Island by Andrea Levy
I wrote in my review my problems with the title, but in retrospect, I made the point quite well for the title Small Island. My suggestion was Queenie.


This is a timely topic, as I've just finished several Shari Lapena books, and I was not pleased with two of the titles. I want a title that lets me know what the book is about. A Stranger in the House and An Unwanted Guest just don't give the full effect. I have to be able to remember what the book is about, and neither of these do that.



      A Stranger in the House
There is not an actual stranger in the house, it is more of a metaphor representing do we really know somebody? But with a suspense book, and the very cliche events that happen in this book, a metaphoric title is a little above its station. Or as Ricky Skaggs sings, Don't Get Above Your Raisin. Did anyone else watch the Ken Burns Country Music miniseries on PBS? I quite enjoyed it, and have been listening to a lot of old country music lately. 


An Unwanted Guest
I really liked this Shari Lapena suspense book, but again, the title doesn't quite give the effect. This was a locked room mystery, set in an isolated, storm stayed group of tourists at a cabin. Clearly one of the guests was unwanted, but a title that evoked Agatha Christie's  And Then There Were None was called for here.


Most mystery books, especially Louise Penny, Robert Galbraith, some Agatha Christie have titles that do not help me remember what the book is about at all.



Some of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamauche book titles like The Brutal Telling, A Great Reckoning, Still Life, Kingdom of the Blind, and the latest - A Better Man are so bland, and nondescript. 


I've loved the Cormoran Strike books by Robert Galbraith, but the titles don't help at all - Cuckoo's Calling, Career of Evil, The Silkworm, and Lethal White. I don't even remember the plots for the most part, but then these stories are more about the Cormoran and Robin relationship. 

Another set of books with misleading titles are the Ann Patchett's books Commonwealth, and State of Wonder. Part of the problem is that I mix up Patchett with Barbara Kingsolver, and some of her book titles that I haven't read yet - Small Wonders and The Lacuna. 





Thursday, October 3, 2019

CHALLENGE: Reader's Imbibing Peril 14th Annual


I'm going into this challenge a little backward - I never officially joined, but it is a challenge I've participated in nearly every year. Instead, since I was already reading books themed with 

Mystery.

Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

I'm going to give a little September update of some of my reading.

These are my favourite types of books so it is no challenge at all to read them. 


The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan, 10h 19min
read by Aoife McMahon

My new favourite police series! So well written, so well plotted, McTiernan is the perfect author to tide you over between waiting for Tana French Dublin Murder Squad books and the next Robert Galbraith Cormoran Strike book. I would include this series along with those other two. 

Set in Galway, Ireland Corman Reilly has been relegated to investigating cold cases when his girlfriend Emma, comes across a dead body hit by a car and he takes charge of the case. When the dead girl is found to have the ID of the heir to a successful research company, the investigation gets trickier. Office politics are also interfering with the investigation as Reilly is relatively new to the squad and isn't sure who is working with or against him. 

I walked longer when I was listening to this book as I didn't want to stop listening. This is my new standard of what makes a great read.



A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena, 8h 52min
read by Tavia Gilbert

After two great books by Lapena earlier this year, I decided to finish off her backlist with A Stranger in the House, another suspense filled thriller type book. Unfortunately, this one did not work as well for me. There was too much thinking about what someone might think, and not enough just reacting. This would be her follow up book to her successful debut, The Couple Next Door and I'm glad this was the last book of hers that I got around to reading. Her later books were better and I would still read Lapena again.



The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
read by Nicola Barber

I'm not finished with this audiobook yet, but it fits perfectly with the RIP theme. Set in a boarding school in east end London, an American student starts the year at the same time that a Jack the Ripper copy cat is recreating the famous murders from 1888. Rory comes from the Louisiana, with all its gothic-ness, and begins to experience some supernatural events, like the guy who is always in the library that no one else has ever noticed. I'm liking this so far, although I'm not sure I'm pleased to see there are three more books in the series. I guess I'll see how much I like it if I want to read more.

(note to self: stop listening to murder mysteries when walking in the evening now that it is dark so much earlier. I've spooked myself a few times now while walking and listening!)

Options for October:

Woman in Black by Susan Hill (already started)
The Suspect by Fiona Barton
The Crossing Place by Elly Griffiths
A Better Man by Louise Penny
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier










Wednesday, October 2, 2019

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Book Titles with Numbers In Them

I can't believe I missed this Top Ten Tuesday topic yesterday! I've been missing my blog, as back to school September whacks me in the head again. I had a great summer. I got a Fitbit, and started getting a big walk in everyday. Now that I am back to school, it is still important for me to try and get that walk in. Walking and audiobooks have been a perfect combination for me. So, between trying to exercise, and back to work full-time something has to give. It's been correcting, and my blog! 

I saw some blogs yesterday, with this fun list and I was annoyed I had missed it. But hey, I can still participate and I am going to. Here's my list of  great books I've read with numbers in the title.




Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Such a great fun story! I listened to the audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, and it was one of the first that made me realize that when the book is good, even 14 hours is not a long time.


One Good Turn Kate Atkinson
A Jackson Brodie mystery, which is timely as there is a new book, Big Sky, that I am waiting to get from the library. Excellent series, and if you get a chance to find the BBC mini series, I highly recommend.


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This was a delightful children's book about a gorilla living in a 'zoo' in a mall. Touching and easy to read, there may have been tears at the end.


Sisters in Two Worlds by Michael Peterman
I loved this nonfiction scrapbook about those famous Canadian settler sisters, Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill. Lots of background, and primary sources, fans of history should definitely check this out.




Seven Days by Deon Meyer


Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer
Two fast action mysteries from South Africa make my list because I love Deon Meyer's Bennie Griesel police mysteries and he has two with numbers in the title. Read them in order if you can, but read them.


The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor by Sally Armstrong
Hmm, a second Canadian settler book? That seems odd. This one is a fictionalized account (based on true legends) of the author's great grandmother, and how she survived in rural New Brunswick, having tons of kids and several husbands. 



Housekeeping vs the Dirt: Fourteen Months of Massively Witty Adventures in Reading Chronicled by the National Book Critic by Nick Hornby
I was going to avoid books with the number in the subtitle, but when I saw the Nick Hornby book, I remembered how much I enjoyed reading his books of essays about reading, and life. 




Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
In the early 2000s, I devoured all books Kinsella, both her Shopaholic books and her stand alones, like Twenties Girl. Kinsella does a great job of the chick lit book, but there is always a little more, the writing is a little better. This was a great book about a girl whose dead grandmother comes back to somewhat haunt her. But in a nice way.


4:50 to Paddington by Agatha Christie, a Miss Marple Mystery
How many books did Agatha Christie write? 66 novels? So amazing. I love Poirot when I was younger, loved her short stories, but when I found Miss Marple a few years ago, I was so glad I hadn't read any of her stories before, because I got to enjoy a whole set of mysteries, like 4:50 to Paddington.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

BOOK: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena, 330 pages

Shari Lapena joins Linwood Barclay as a very reliable Canadian suspense author. I listened to Lapena's first book, The Couple Next Door, back in November 2016, and loved the twists and turns of the story. For no good reason, I missed reading her next two books, but I am jumping all over her latest release, Someone We Know.

I may not want to live in the neighbourhood described in this book, but it was a lot of fun to read about it! Everyone has secrets and hidden lives and everyone lies, which makes for many interesting revelations. If people would just tell the truth, it would make life so much easier for the detectives, but so less interesting for the reader.

I don't want to give any plot away, and I find these types of books have plots that blend together somewhat. I will devour the book while I read it, but couldn't tell you who did what, a month after reading the book. I don't take this as a negative; part of the problem is that I read them too fast, trying to find out what happens next!

ETA: I started writing this review right after reading the book, and now, over a month later, I do remember what happened, and who killed the lady, and why. So, these books are memorable!

Because I did enjoy this book, I borrowed one of Lapena's back list titles, and just finished listening to it. An Unwanted Guest was a terrific locked room type of mystery. It very much put me to mind of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, and I was quite annoyed that I couldn't remember how that one actually turned out. An Unwanted Guest has a number of couples, and a few singles, arriving at an isolated hotel, just as a blizzard strikes. The power goes out, there is no internet or telephone, and someone turns up dead on Saturday morning. And then another,...

I think what makes these books so readable is there are a number of plausible suspects, and Lapena varies her point of view, so the reader gets inside the heads of some of the characters. I feels like I can predict what happens, but in reality, I have about seven possible outcomes and suspects as the red herrings are flying, and obviously, eventually, I 'know' who did it. I am terrible at predicting the murderer, or I am really good, because I expect it could be anyone, lol.

I now just have A Stranger in the House to read from Lapena, and I expect to get to that sooner rather than later, what with this being the RIP season of fall spooky reading.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

TTT: Books Outside My Comfort Zone




The topic this week for Top Ten Tuesday is Books I've Enjoyed That Are Outside of My Comfort Zone. For more posts and future topics, check out the host, That Artsy Reader Girl

This was fun, looking for books outside my comfort zone. I believe that everyone can find an example of a book they 'don't like' that they will love, if they find the one written by a really good writer. I'm not a huge fan of horror, but I'll read Stephen King. I don't like a lot of cozy mysteries, but Her Royal Spyness is a can't miss series for me. I still haven't found a vampire/paranormal book yet that I can say I love. The Parasol Protectorate's first book, Soulless  is close, and I might try the next one to see it it really does appeal. 




Harry Potter books by JK Rowling
I really am not a fan of magical stuff, and yet, I loved Harry Potter. I've tried other HP type books, and none compel me to read further than the first book. 



The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro
Introspective, quiet, not much really happening, reading between the lines. Not my usual fare, and yet, I adored The Remains of the Day. 


This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Philisophical, introspective, very little plot. Again, I should not have enjoyed this book about a prisoner in a jail cell in the ground in Morocco, but I did. Ultimately, a positive book which it shouldn't seem from the topic.


The Gathering by Anne Enright
Irish stream of consciousness is hit or miss for me, but Anne Enright is right in my head and I have really liked several of her books, especially The Forgotten Waltz, but The Gathering was first. 


DeNiro's Game by Rawi Hage
Toxic male navel gazing during a war? I haven't read many of those type of books; I prefer a more Bridget Jones, or feminist view, and yet I really liked DeNiro's Game, set in Beirut and from a male pov.


The Bone People by Keri Hulme
Magical realism is a big no-no for me, and dreams when exposition could be used are never what I look for. And yet, The Bone People, about three awful people who ultimately were better together than separate, which pivots on Magical Realism worked for me. 



A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
Fantasy/science fiction is really hit or miss for me, but I loved the Colours of Madeleine series by Jaclyn Moriarty. I can't even describe this trilogy, but it was delightful, and nothing was what it seemed.


Weetzie Bat by Fransesca Lia Block
Very few fairy tales make my 'best of' list but Lia Block has a style of writing that really just works for me. I've read several Block books, but Weetzie Bat is the best.


Redshirts by John Scalzi
Science fiction again, but this time combined with Star Trek? I've watched some of the original TV series, but not really any other Star Trek (or Star Wars for that matter). So imagine my surprise when I read and loved Redshirts. This one even has some time travel as well, another thing I don't really like. You have to read this book! So funny.



Cheryl Strayed: Wild, and Tiny Beautiful Things

Adventure and person learning how to deal with their choices and life, and a self help type book: neither is something I look for. And yet, look at me loving both of Cheryl Strayed's books. Wild didn't make me want to take a 500 mile hike in any way, but I liked reading her walk.