Friday, October 29, 2010

CHALLENGE: Gothic Reading Challenge

Susan of Well-Mannered Frivolity is hosting her first challenge next year, the Gothic Reading Challenge , and has set up a new blog with lots of great information. Head on over to sign-up.

This challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2011
There are four levels of participation:
                                    A Little Madness - Read just 1 novel with Gothic elements.
The Darkness Within - Read 5 novels with Gothic elements.
A Maniacal Frenzy - Read 10 novels with Gothic elements.
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know - Read 20 novels with Gothic elements.

I was going to just try for one book, but once I made pool of books from her Gothic books list and then checked out the library, I'll bet I can read at least 5 of these.

Pool of Books
Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier 
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson 
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

First Love: A Gothic Tale by Joyce Carol Oates (library, 87 pages)
Waiting for Gertrude: a graveyard gothic by Bill Richardson (library, 184 pages)
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
The Adventuress by Audrey Niffennager, (library, illustrated)
The Night Wanderer: a native gothic tale by Drew Hayden Taylor (library, 215 pages)
Oh My Goth! by Gena Showalter (school library)

Other books I've added to the list:
Affinity by Sarah Waters
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (rec'd by Caribousmom)
something by Flannery O'Connor

Books I Would Suggest for Others
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (my favorite Austen)
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Shining by Stephen King
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
The Sister by Poppy Adams

The Books I Actually Read:
1. The House at Riverton - Kate Morton
2. Waiting for Gertrude - Bill Richardson
3. Affinity - Sarah Waters
4. First Love - Joyce Carol Oates
5. The Night Wanderer - Drew Hayden Taylor
6. The Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl -
7. A Spell of Winter - Helen Dunmore
8. A Reliable Wife - Robert Goolrick
9. The Adventuress - Audrey Niffenegger
10. The Distant Hours - Kate Morton

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

BOOK: Gretzky's Tears by Stephen Brunt

Gretzky's Tears by Stephen Brunt, 259 pages
Hockey, Canada, and the Day Everything Changed

4th Canadian Book Challenge; 2nds Reading Challenge
Thanks to Randomhouse Canada for the review copy

There are those moments in your life, in our shared experience, that we remember. For Canadians, we remember hearing when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings from the Edmonton Oilers. I was in the car, riding home from my summer job at Department of Veterans Affairs and it was on CBC Radio. (Yes, even back then I listened to CBC, but mostly because it was my parents' car.) Shock, disbelief, really? It was such a surprising announcement.

Stephen Brunt, author of Searching for Bobby Orr, another excellent sport/Canadian book, examines the events of the Gretzky trade - before, during and after. And isn't it the mark of great writing that even when you know what will happen, you can't put the book down?* Late one night as I was reading, and the famous press conference was being described, I couldn't put it down. Gretzky's book is as much about Peter Pocklington and Bruce McNall as it is about Gretzky, but it has to be - the trade was as much about those men as Wayne, and as much about big business as hockey. And while Wayne and Peter Puck did not talk to Brunt, most other key people did, including McNall and Walter Gretzky.

My edition had an updated epilogue to include the lighting of the Olympic torch at Vancouver 2010, where Gretzky played a pivotal role. (Boo to the editor who miswrote the name of Steve Nash, famous Canadian basketball player who helped light the torch and called him Rick Nash, a Canadian hockey player. That was very jarring to read.)

Overall, Brunt captures the love Canadians have for Wayne Gretzky and how attached we are to him, even though he hasn't lived in Canada for over 20 years. Brunt seems a bit surprised how forgiving Canadians are, but I would argue we are still attached to many of our Canadian exports who have gone to the States, like Michael J Fox and Howie Mandel. We still claim ownership and expect them to identify as Canadians.

Americans didn't get [hockey] - couldn't get it, except in a few border outposts and in Minnesota, which was, by virtue of its climate, liberal politics and the fact that they broadcast all ninety minute of As It Happens on the local public radio station, sort of a Canada-lite, in any case. p77

But not even the true, blinded zealots would be able to convince themselves that selling the perfect Canadian player from the perfect Canadian team in the perfect Canadian hockey town to foreigners of suspect motives in a place with palm trees was really in our own best interest. p78

*Note to self: Look for some other Brunt books like Second to None: The Roberto Alomar Story or Diamond Dreams: Twenty Years of Blue Jays Baseball

also reviewed: jayne at jayne's books

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BOOK: Fear the Worst and The Murder Stone

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay, 399 pages

RIP V; 4th Canadian Book Challenge

Barclay delivers with another great thriller.(See previous books read: No Time for Goodbye and Too Close to Home) In this one, a father worries when his seventeen year old daughter goes missing. As he begins to look for her, the 'job' she travelled to everyday has never heard of her. Dun, dun Dun! 

Solid, realistic, with characters who feel believable, if a little impulsive and not willing to explain  what they are doing, Barclay is a reliable RIP novelist.

also reviewed: kerrie at mysteries in paradise;  joy at thoughts of joy;

The Murder Stone by Louise Penny, 414 pages; 4th of 6 in the series
*published as A Rule Against Murder in US

RIP V; 4th Canadian Book Challenge

Series books are tough to review, since you can't tell too much, and so much of a good series is the development of the main characters.

What I like about the series? Inspector Gamache is a wonderful detective and person, almost a little too perfect, but I'd want him on my case. The setting of Quebec, the recurring characters, Gamache's investigative team all combine with Penny's prose to provide an enjoyable read.

This book? I actually like this one a little bit better, although it wasn't set in Three Pines, so few of the recurring characters were around, although there is a connection to Three Pines. There was also little of the arching story line involving Gamache and his boss. Gamache is on vacation with his wife at an exclusive type lodge in the forests of Quebec. A large family arrives for its annual reunion, but they aren't very nice people, even to each other. Lots of motive for when one of them is killed in a closed door mystery - somebody at the lodge has to be the killer.

Monday, October 25, 2010


From October 1 - December 19, 2010
Hosted at Bart's Bookshelf
Young Adult Dystopian

Level 2: Is for those want a little bit more of a challenge, but still have some wriggle-room to participate as real life permits, requirement for this level is just two to four, young adult dystopian novels, between the 1st October and 19th December.

Possible Books:
Monsters of Men
The House of the Scorpion
In the Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Dead and the Gone
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Jeanne Duprau's The Prophet of Yonwood, The Diamond of Darkhold


Saturday, October 16, 2010

BOOK: Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day by Winifred Watson

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day by Winifred Watson, 234 pages

Typically British Challenge; 1001 Books to Read

I declare this the year of the Pettigrews! Two of the best books I've read are about Pettigrews - first the Major and now the Miss. There is a movie, which looks delightful.

Miss Pettigrew is on her last chance and ends up spending the day with an actress who lives a much freer, amazing life than she has ever known or approved of. And yet, the things she sees change her life. It was so much fun to watch her embrace her day, and I enjoyed myself as much as her.

It's light, it's fluffy, it's adorable, it's how people should treat each other, being kind to each other. Sure, it's a bit predictable and old-fashioned, but some days that's a lot of fun to read.  I'll be suggesting this one to everyone I know. Who wouldn't adore Miss Pettigrew?

also reviewed:
joanna at lost in a good story;  nan at letters from a hillfarm;

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BOOK: The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin

The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin, 438 pages
translated by Marlaine Delargy

RIP V Challenge; Suspense and Thriller Challenge: Winner of CWA International Dagger (Kerrie has a nice round up of the nominated books here)

This has to be one of the spookiest, scariest books I've ever read. Let me explain:
the setting: small island off the coast of Sweden, during the winter, and during several blizzards; deserted lighthouses and an old abandoned manor house

the characters: the thieves who are meth addicts and would do anything, the dead drug addict still in the heart of Joakim (the father in the family that buys the house), the ghosts who populate the island and legend has will return at Christmas, the daughter who has very strange dreams, the old man who knows all the legends and history of Oland

the back stories: alternating with the plot are stories of all the people who have died terrible deaths at Eel Point Manor since the house was built. Perhaps building it with the wood that washed ashore from a shipwreck was a bad omen?

the plot: A family leaves Stockholm and buys an old abandoned home on the shore of Oland island, planning to renovate and move on. But the house has been home to many tragedies.And they have some secrets in their past.

You want a haunted house story for Halloween? You like crazy chase scenes through a blizzard? Some modern mystery with your historical mystery? A little international flavor? Here you go.

also reviewed: kerri at mysteries in paradise

BOOK: You Comma Idiot by Doug Harris

You Comma Idiot by Doug Harris, 326 pages

4th CBC Challenge; New Author; Librarything's Early Reviewer Book

This was a fun romp though the streets of Montreal with the main character, Lee Goodstone. Nice ironic name for a small time drug dealer, who at the age of twenty-nine, still has no real job. The best thing going on in Lee's life right now is that he is having an affair with his best friend's girlfriend.

The story is gritty (language and drug use) but the most interesting thing about the book is the narrative. I haven't read a lot or even any books written in the second person. It's quirky, and it was unique enough to keep me interested as the story rambled around town.  Lee is dealing with some problems, and his gang of friends are all loser slackers for the most part, still living the party as they all are ending their twenties. There are some mysteries to be solved and relationships to be revealed, and that also keeps the pages turning: Henry, his friend, is suspected of killing a local missing girl. Henry denies it, but was he involved?

If you act stupidly long enough, people come to think of you as stupid. And if you behave weirdly for long enough, they think of you as weird. And that's how you end up a stupid f*ing weirdo. That's how it works. People don't set out to be losers. It happens when you're not paying close enough attention. p36

Some other neat touches, beside the narrative perspective, was the design. The cover has a cigarette burn in the Idiot and the inside leaf is covered with doodles that Lee would have written. I got this book from the Early Reviewer's program at Librarything, and the publisher sent a bookmark with it as well. These extra touches added to my reading enjoyment.

also reviewed:
buried in print; jonita at the book chick;

Sunday, October 3, 2010

BOOK: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue, 321 pages

4th CBC Challenge (Donaoghue lives in Canada now ); Man Booker Shortlisted 2010; New Author Challenge; RIP V Challenge

Believe the hype - this was a great read. Jack, the five year old narrator, shows us his world, mostly in a 9' X 9' Room with his mother. Such a memorable character and unique voice. I devoured this book in the past 24 hours, was taken on an emotional roller coaster, and shall recommend it to others.

also reviewed by :
Wendy at caribousmom
lizzy at lizzy's literary life
joy at thoughts of joy
kailana at the written world
s. krishna at s.krishna's books
jackie at farmlane books

Saturday, October 2, 2010

BOOK: The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery

The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery, 264 pages

Colourful Challenge; 4th CBC Challenge

Such a sweet story with a 1980s retro cover that would inspire no one to read it, unless you've been hanging around the internets. I've been reading some recent reviews of and references to The Blue Castle and it inspired me to reread it. (Plus, it finished off the Colourful Challenge for me.) Even though I knew the main twists in the story, my enjoyment could not have been higher. It was fun to read it again, looking for all the clues that were dropped.

The story: Valencey Stirling is a 29 year old, old maid. This was written in 1926 so that was the phrase of the day, and also, it means she has not fulfilled her role in life. Poor Doss, as her family calls her, is put upon and made fun of, while she comments in her head all the things she wishes she could say. When she receives a dire health prognosis, she decides to live like she hasn't been. Her family is mightily confused by her sudden backbone, and she is finally, blissfully happy. There is much more to the story, but if I told more, you might not have the fun of reading it too.

It's a romance, a feel good read, and although it's predictable, it's absolutely wonderful. Many LM fans like The Blue Castle best. Also, it's a musical written by Hank Stinson. If you ever get a chance to see this performed, please do.

 Get a head start on the 4th Canadian Book Challenge:
I picked up a copy (with the equally old fashioned cover) at our local Walmart, because we can do that on Prince Edward Island. Would someone like a copy? I so love this book, I'd like to send it to someone else to share the enjoyment and love of LM Montgomery and Valency Stirling. I'll take requests for a week in the comments (make sure I can contact you somehow) and then draw a name after October 9th..
Good luck!

ps - there are already comments on this post, so please wait a moment for the comments to load.

Friday, October 1, 2010

BOOK: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, 431 pages

4th CBC Challenge; It's the End of the World Challenge; Giller longlist 2009

(The cover is gorgeous! See that face?)
Teenagers are such interesting creatures. I had this book on my desk for Silent Reading period (which we still do in high school) and a student saw it. He said Oryx and Crake was one of his favorite books. Wow, not a book or author I'd expect many sixteen year old boys to like. I was pleased a few days later to be able to tell him that Oryx and Crake had just showed up  in this book. I'll have to lend this book to him. And now I have to find my copy of Oryx and Crake to try. I was scared last year by some mixed reviews, but now that I am familiar with the world, I may attempt it. The Year of the Flood is a companion novel to Oryx and Crake, so not necessary to read one before the other, and I believe they are now described as being part of a trilogy.

What I like about dystopian novels is the way authors imagine a world, similar to ours, but more extreme. You can see how life has evolved to this new state of spliced animals like the liolambs or rakunks. This novel is sometime in the future, after the Waterless Flood, which appears to be a pandemic virus that kills only humans. Two women, Ren and Toby, who ended up in an isolation situation, survived the flood. Both were previously members of The Gardeners, a cult based on respecting animals and the Earth. Each chapter begins with a sermon, and a song. I usually sang the song in my head with typical hymn music.  The Gardeners honor their saints each day, based on naturalists or well known people from now. For example, Saint David Suzuki and Saint Terry Fox, plus so many more that I didn't even recognize. I imagined The Gardeners were like PETA in the future, as they completely avoided any animal products.

Ren and Toby alternate chapters to show how they ended up in the place they did from their time in The Gardeners. There are so many issues to discuss in this novel - the Corporations who run the world, the gene splicing, the extinct animals, what a person can do to survive when absolutely necessary. I also found the book quite humorous, not in one-liners, but somehow it was funny. Toby was a bit of a cynic so she was sarcastic and funny in her head as she dealt with the strong believers.

The story runs along nicely, back and forth in time, very easy to want to keep reading. The women were strong, but I did feel a slight detachedness from them. I cared what happened but I wasn't emotionally attached to them. It seemed a tad coincidental that the only people who survived were all connected somehow, rather convenient. The ending was rather ambiguous as well, but it didn't bother me as much as it might have - it was hopeful, as I like my dystopian novels to be.

In honour of the 30th anniversay of the Terry Fox Runs this past week:
Saint Terry's Day is dedicated to all Wayfarers - prime among them Saint Terry Fox who ran so far with one mortal and one metallic leg; who set a shining example of courage in the face of overwhelming odds; who showed what eh human body can do in the way of locomotion without fossil fuels; who raced against Mortality, and in the end outran his own Death, and lives on in Memory. p 403

also reviewed:
rhinoa at rhinoa's ramblings
leeswammes' blog
jules at jules' book review 
softdrink at fizzy thoughts
wendy at caribousmom
kailana and chrisbookarama buddy read
lori at she treads softly