Tuesday, February 19, 2019

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I've Loved with Few Ratings at Goodreads

Books I've Loved with Few Ratings at Goodreads is the topic at Top Ten Tuesday for this week. Few ratings means less than 2000 people have rated the book. I don't record a lot at Goodreads, as I'm a Librarything girl, but I have started to keep track a bit there. It didn't take me long to realize that I needed to check out the Canadian books I've loved to find the books for this week's topic. I don't my sharing my love of under rated Canadian books. 
Check out Top Ten Tuesday at ThatArtsyReaderGirl for more lists, and for future topics. 

Field Notes by Sarah Jewell
 is a lovely collection of essays written for a local NS paper by a transplanted from the city girl. 

Canada by Mike Myers 
was a Canada150 book, a real love letter to Canada from funny guy Mike Myers. This was one of my favourite books from 2017. 

Canadianity by Jeremy Taggart and Jonathan Torrens
Same idea as Canada, lots of great lists, and each province gets some love. This is the kind of book to read around another Canadian to compare what you'd put on their list. Funny stuff.

The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod
Almost perfect collection of short stories by a master. Perfectly captures the flavour of the Maritimes

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
A non-Canadian entry, but this YA book, last in the trilogy, defies description. There is some world building, parallel worlds, super crazy twists, wonderful characters, science, and princesses. I really enjoyed this little series.

Icarus by Deon Meyer
A police procedural with the most flawed lead, Bennie Griesel, set in South Africa. The character development as been top notch in this series, and the crime and plotting is even better. One of the best mystery writers around.

Harry's Last Stand by Harry Leslie Smith
I was not familiar with Smith, but around the time he died last fall, Twitter was a buzz. I happened on a free download in honor of Harry after he died, and really liked his musings. 

The Golden Boy by Grant Matheson
I guess there are 116 people from PEI on Goodreads? This memoir is subtitled A Doctor's Journey with Addictions, is a scary, well done read about how quickly an opiod addiction can develop, and how hard is is to break. Luckily, this local Charlottetown  doctor came out the other side, but it was not easy. 

Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky
Another strong Canadian writing short stories, Wangersky is a newspaper columnist in the Maritimes, but his fiction writing is also very good. I've read a novel of his, Walt, that was well done and creepy. 

I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman
I was having trouble finding a tenth book, and this classic children's book came up when I was recommending a funny book. When a smart aleck goes to camp, and spends all his energy trying to escape. Funniest book I remember reading as a child, Korman was the author of my childhood. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

SERIES: reviews from Martin Beck, Tales from Alcatraz, Chief Inspector Gamache

The Locked Room - Maj Sjowall, Per Wahloo #8 of 10

This classic Swedish crime series is considered the OG for mystery writers and readers. The husband-wife writer team commented on the social structure and changes in Sweden during the 1960s and 70s. This mystery has the police investigating a bank robbery, and some bank robbers who had been recently released from prison. All I could think of while reading was Stockholm Syndrome, and that this would have been around the time this phrase developed. I've been very slowly reading through this series and am getting near the end. The first few I read so reminded me of the 89th precinct books by Ed McBain which I devoured in my late teenage years. I believe McBain credits Sjowall and Wahloo with his inspiration.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes - Gennifer Choldenko 🎧 #2 of 4

Moose is still living on Alcatraz in the 1930s, Al Capone is still in prison. Since the last book where Capone arranged somehow for Moose's sister to attend a special school, Capone may want a favor as repayment. Moose is also dealing with friendships as a teenager and the difficult life in a very insular community, especially with a manipulative daughter of the warden. I am quite enjoying this young adult series which while fast moving, and written for children, displays complicated relationships and situations that make them a little more layered than children's fiction. Bonus marks for the inclusion of Moose's (obviously autistic) sister in 1930s life.

Kingdom of the Blind - Louise Penny  🎧 #14 of 14

Book fourteen finds Gamache suspended, and being named a notary, along with Myrna, for a neighbourhood cleaning lady, known as the Baroness. But they have no idea why they have been named as it even takes them a while to figure out why they have been named. While looking into the will, there is a murder. 
Nicely plotted, interesting characters, and, is that a love interest for cranky Ruth Zardo? As usual, it's the interactions in Three Pines with the regular characters that make these mysteries. I'm still not a fan of Jean-Guy - he admires Armand, but expects Armand to let him down every time? I was glad (spoiler - highlight to see text)  when Clara's husband Peter left the series, and I could do without Jean-Guy as well. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

The Rooster released its Tournament of Books list in late December which provides me with the topic this week - Most Recent Additions to My TBR List. The tournament will take place in March, coinciding with basketball March Madness. Books and basketball - how perfect for me!

Last year I had read a number of the books and found following the tournament much more fun. I checked out the  new list and then cross-checked with my library and found quite a few that are relatively easy to get my hands on. What I like about this list is it gives me a somewhat vetted list of recent releases that I can try to read. There are so many new books released each year and I generally fall back on my mystery series' books so this keeps me current. And sometimes I find a real gem.

Check out That Artsy Reader for more lists and upcoming topics

Call Me Zebra by Azarren Vander Vliet Oloomi

Census by Jesse Ball

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Parking Lot Attendant by Naficoto Tamirat

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

There There  by Tommy Orange

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Friday, January 25, 2019

SERIES: reviews from Royal Spyness, Number One Ladies Detective Agency, Neopolitan Quartet

I'm keeping up to date on a few ongoing series, both of which are the coziest I happen to read, but are so much fun. 

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen (ebook)
book #12

Everything's coming up Georgie. Our poor (literally) heroine is about to marry Darcy, who is somewhere gallivanting around the world, needs to find a place for them to live after the wedding. Because she is a kind person overall, karma finds her a great situation, but being mistress of this estate is more difficult than Georgie would like. What is going on with the servants?

Georgie, her mum, her grandad, and Queenie are all together - awesome times. This was a great 1930s English tale with a bit of a mystery, but lots of character interactions. 

The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith, 228 pages,  book # 19

Precious Ramotswe is somewhat bullied into running for local council and the business is asked to look into an old hit and run incident. Not much more happens in this delightful zen story but I don't read this for the stellar mystery plotting. 

One thing I am enjoying is the development of Charlie's character. It's been a long time, 19 books, but the wayward apprentice, part-time detective is possibly growing up. McCall Smith gives us a little more look into his life, instead of just being a stock foil for Grace to pick on. 

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrente, 418 pages,  part 3 of the Neopolitan quartet

I found this story a little uneven as Lila and Lena are both married and having children in this book. The unrest in Italy between the fascists and the communists, the feminist awakening of our heroines in the 1970s as they struggle with their roles was slow, but ultimately, the friendship between the two and their relationships with their old neighbourhood gang keep the story moving along. 

I am looking forward to the last book, The Lost Child

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Meant to Read in 2018 but Didn't Get To

Another great list to start the year: the books I meant to get to last year. Or at the very least, books I became aware of last year. I'm trying to stick to books from last year if I can. Some of these I requested in 2018 but the library line, it be long. Check out That Artsy Reader for other lists, and for upcoming topics.

The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J Harris
I got this from a publisher and it looks interesting. A young boy sees things in color.

Elevation by Stephen King
King's recent books have been good. This latest one is a novella.

Run Hide Repeat by Pauline Dakin
I've heard Dakin on CBC discuss her strange childhood, and the mystery of what was going on with her mother. A true life mystery.

Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson
A book like this is practically professionally required for a physcis teacher

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Her list of books at the library is so long, but I want to read so many more. I thought I found this one soon after its release, but I still have another couple months to wait.

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
The lastest in the Three Pines mystery series with Inspector Gamauche. He is supposed to be retired, but....

Educated by Tara Westover
This has been on everyone's 'best of' list, and I haven't read any reviews that lessen the hype.

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu
I saw this one on a CBC list of recommended Canadian books,and it looks good.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
I really liked Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues, and Washington Black has been on many lists, including this year's Tournament of Books. Sometimes you can't resist the hype.

The Witch Elm by Tana French
I've been waiting for a new Tana French book, but it isn't part of her Dublin Murder Squad series so I am a little leery. Still, Tana French writes great books, so even though this is over 500 pages, I'll give it a try.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

BOOKS: Bad Blood and The Swans of Fifth Avenue

I've started my reading year with a couple of excellent stories, one nonfiction, and one based on a true story. 

The Swans of Fifth Avenue - Melanie Benjamin 🎧 12h 46 min

The original Real Housewives? In the 1960s, a group of very rich, very elite women in New York City 'adopted' Truman Capote as their darling. He was openly gay, and a famous writer at the time, and they were all living large. Babe Paling in particular became best friends with Truman. This is the story of their friendship and how it all went bad. 
I spent as much time looking up the characters and the events to see how much was true, and Melanie Benjamin did a lot of research as it is pretty true to life. She explains in the afterward her fascination with Truman Capote of the '70s, whom I also remember, and that while the events are true, like the Black and White Ball Truman hosted,  the conversations are obviously made up. 

I had a great time listening to The Swans of Fifth Avenue, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, excellent as usual. It made me want to watch Capote, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, although end of life Truman was pretty awful. 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup - John Carryroo 🎧 11h 37 min

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the biotech company Theranos, is the worst of everything that can happen, and she reminded me of Trump. She had an idea for changing how blood tests are done, and even though she didn't have the technology, or the background to actually carry it out, she thought it was such a great idea that she carried on as if it actually worked. Which it didn't. 

But she had ambitions and connections which allowed her to get investments of millions and millions of dollars. She was an impressive person with strong convictions who convinced people of what she could do. General John Mattis, and George Shultz, former Secretary of State, were both strong supporters of Theranos. 

This was such a crazy story. The brashness of a CEO who doesn't take no, who expects loyalty from others but cuts them loose in an instant when there is a hint of disloyalty, uses non-disclosure agreements to hide any information that they don't want public, who says stuff and expects it to happen for no reason other than they said it even if it isn't possible. The other crazy part was the amount of money that was flying around when Theranos couldn't do anything! They were deceiving their ability to run the blood tests and signing contracts with large companies and not doing anything they said they could.

Some ex employees got concerned, and an investigative reporter, John Carreyrou, blew the whole thing open. It is stories like these that make me so worried about the idea that regulations are bad. Rampant capitalism can be terrible, and if an immoral person has no regulations, this is exactly what can happen. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

TOP TEN TUESDAY: New to Me Authors I Read in 2018

The topic this week is New to Me Authors from 2018. This was a fun list to put together, remembering all the good books I read, and which ones I still want to read. The sign of a great New to Me Author is how quickly I read or plan to read another by them. This list definitely wins. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader and is fun to participate in. Check out her site for the next prompts.

Sing, Unburied Sing - Jesmyn Ward (audiobook)

I'm interested in reading her Salvage the Bones next, but probably as an audiobook, because the accents of Mississippi really made this a great experience.

Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty (audiobook)

I've already read Truly Madly Guilty since I inhaled Big Little Lies, and I am #1 on the list to get Moriarty's latest book, Nine Perfect Strangers. I can't wait.

Then She Was Gone - Lisa Jewell (audiobook)
This was a very good suspenseful read, and I'm pleased to see she has many other novels.

 Crooked Heart - Lissa Evans

I loved Crooked Heart, and I've already ordered an older book of Evans', Their Finest, which was an Orange nominated longlisted book from 2009.

 The Dry - Jane Harper (audiobook)

First in an Australian police series, I've already read book #2, Force of Nature. I'm even willing to try her new stand alone, The Lost Man, though I will miss Aaron Falk from the series.

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World - Steven Johnson

Fabulous nonfiction book, and I was so pleased to see my library carries several other of his books in audiobook format. Everything Bad is Good for You, The Invention of Air, How We Got to Now. I like his science based ideas with a popular spin.

The Unquiet Bones - Mel Starr

I found a new historical fiction series, Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon set in 1300s England. I've already read the first three, and there are eleven written. I love finding a established series that aren't too long (most have been around 250 pages long) but there are a managable number in the series.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell

I quite enjoyed this novel of sisters in Scotland, taking place in two time periods. I liked it so much I found O'Farrell's most recent book, I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death that I really loved. 

Christmas on the Island - Jenny Colgan

Reading the fourth book in a series and enjoying it is a remarkable feat. Even though I didn't know all the back stories or the characters, Christmas on the Island was well done and stood on its own. I'm looking at going back and reading the first few books. Colgan puts me to mind of Maeve Binchy. Her characters are real and developed, nothing too crazy or shocking happens, but a pleasant time is had with the story.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before - Jenny Han (ebook)
Easy reading young adult book about sisters and boyfriends and growing up. I haven't seen the Netflix movie yet, but I did request the next book, PS I Still Love You, because I really enjoyed the young couple and how they grew to like each other, after pretending to date for a while.