Thursday, December 29, 2011


What were your favorite books of 2011?
I found this meme that has been making the rounds, but here's a list of the top rated books I read this year. Ask me tomorrow, and it might change.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Light Lifting - Alexander MacLeod
Henrietta's War - Joyce Dennys
The Tales of Beedle the Bard - JK Rowling
The Redbreast - Jo Nesbo
The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan
Annabel - Kathleen Winter
The Wife's Tale - Lori Lansens
Coventry - Helen Humphreys
Trackers - Deon Meyer
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming - Mike Brown
Heads You Lose - Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King
Moonlight Sketches - Gerard Collins
Falling Angels - Tracy Chevalier

And now, the meme:

Best Book:
Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
This had humor, a mystery, and a concept that was so meta I wanted more. As the authors kept killing each others characters, and their relationship disintegrated, I couldn't stop laughing.

Worst Book:
In a Strange Room: Three Journeys by Damon Galgut (Booker Shortlist 2010)
I don't even know what this book was about. There were parts I kind of liked, but mostly, confused and bored.

Most Disappointing Book:
The Reinvention of Love by Helen Humphreys
After loving Coventry, I was not a fan of the characters or setting of Reinvention of Love

Most Surprising Book: 
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King.
King took a revenge aspect and let (some) of the characters come out on top, without being destroyed. I was only surprised in that King's stories are as good as ever, and he hasn't lost his story-telling touch (and dash of gross) after all these years.

The Book Most Recommended to Others:
Pomegranate Soup by  Marsha Mehran. It was a nice, light book, about sisters in Ireland who came from Iran. I offered this most to my real-life friends, and for fans of Sarah Addison Allen.

Best Series Discovered:
The Janie Quartet by Caroline B Cooney (The Face on the Milk Carton, Whatever Happened to Janie, The Voice on the Radio, What Janie Found)
Once I started reading this young adult dramatics during the summer, I couldn't stop til it ended.

New Mystery Series:
Jo Nesbo's series starring Harry Hole. I only read one, The Redbreast, but as soon as I get a couple other series up to date and under control, I'm diving in to the rest of this great Scandinavian series.

Favorite New Authors Discovered (have to have written more than one book): 
Tana French, Helen Humphreys,

Most Hilarious Read:
Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book:
Trackers by Deon Meyer
An African thriller with several diverse threads that tied up wonderfully in the end

Most Anticipated Book:  
I seldom buy new books but these are two I bought as soon as they came out: 
Children of the Street by Kwei Quartey - second in the Ghanian Darko Dawson mystery series
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick - beautiful blending of illustrations and story

Favorite Cover:Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. And the story was pretty cute too.

Most Memorable Character:
Mary Gooch in The Wife's Tale. Her life was falling apart, and she found the strength to turn it around and accept herself.

Most Beautifully-Written Book:
Alexander MacLeod's Light Lifting was a wonderfully written collection of short stories.

Book you Can't Believe you Waited Until 2011 to Read:
I didn't read much in the line of classics this year, so Patrick Taylor's Irish Country series has been given great reviews on the blogs for several years now, and I finally read a few.

Favorite Review You Wrote:
The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

Best Book Event You Participated in During 2011:
Orange January/July
Jill does such a great job using Facebook and Librarything to connect all the readers. It's almost time for the next one.

Are any of my memorable books from your lists of this year? What were your favorites?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BOOK: Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier, 402 pages

What a great book to read over the holidays! I flew through this in one day, which shouldn't surprise me, as I have enjoyed all of Tracy Chevalier's books. Girl With the Pearl Earring, The Lady and the Unicorn, and Virgin Blue all were great historical reads, and all very different. I'm a little disappointed that I only have two more of her books to read - Burning Bright and Remarkable Creatures.

Falling Angels was set during the Edwardian period, and chronicles the ten year events of two families, middle-class, dealing with the rapidly changing times. The idea of mourning - the book begins with Victoria's death,  is throughout, and not even just because much of the action takes place in a cemetery. By the time the book ends, mourning periods are not taken quite so seriously. The other aspect of the story was the suffragette movement. One of the mothers was not happy, very stifled, and very lost. She finds her purpose when she gets involved with the suffragettes.

Falling Angels was an easy, engaging novel that transported me to another time and place, and one I like to visit - England. Watching the two girls age from five to fifteen, and seeing the changes that occurred as they grew up was a nice history lesson.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BOOK: A More Perfect Heaven by Dava Sobel

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel, 240 pages

Science Book Challenge

It's good to see Copernicus getting the headline over Galileo, as most people (based on my exposure to high school physics students) are not aware that it was Copernicus who first proposed the heliocentric theory of the planets. His book, On the Revolutions, was not published until he was on his deathbed, and Galileo took most of the heat, and thus fame, for promoting the idea.

Dava Sobel has a good writing style, and I've enjoyed all her books- Planets, Longitude, Galileo's Daughter. A More Perfect Heaven is divided into three sections - the history and biography of Nicholas Copernicus, then a play dramatizing the writing of his book, and finally, the aftermath of his book being published. The history and biography contained a lot of names and facts of life and politics in late 1500s Poland and Europe. As historic and accurate as it was, it was needed to set the characters for the play, "And the Sun Stood Still." The play was a great addition, and while dramatizing nonfiction and putting words in real people that cannot be known is often frowned upon, it makes history come alive, and the facts of the characters were established in part one.

After the play, it was the later chapters that I really enjoyed. That is probably because I teach about Kepler, Brahe, and Galileo in physics, so I was already familiar with much of their stories. Sobel includes many pictures and diagrams from the era, and the sense of life in Europe was conveyed well, including the font chosen for titles.

In Copernicus's day, astrology and astronomy were closed linked and Copernicus tried to separate the prediction stuff out of his planets. I also learned that Copernicus and his star measurements helped to realign the calendar, due to his precise measurements, which was also why his controversial book was never actually banned, because the data was too valuable. Great historical and scientific book.

I won this book through Librarything's Early Reviewer Program.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

BOOK: The Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou

The Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou, 275 pages

Canadian Book Challenge 5; 2nds Challenge

 I've never read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, although I believe we studied The Miller's poem in grade twelve, so I had to look it up a little bit, just to get all the references in Angie Abou's novel. Set in the ski town of Coalton, BC, a merry band of ski-bums, hippies, and red-necks pilgrimage to the back woods for the last week-end of skiing for the year.

The story is told with a cast of characters, and an introduction, with alternating characters the focus. At times, the characters started to blend on me, but the list at the beginning helped. I'm not sure why they blended, because there were all pretty distinct - skiing realtor, pregnant wife, hippie and her girlfriend, the ski-bums, but the snowmobiling red-necks were the ones I had the hardest time keeping straight. All the characters end up at a cabin that is free for anyone, and spend a crazy night together, dealing with their stereotypes and past relationships. And the drugs.

But in the end, Janet did nothing. She simply tried her best to ignore the whole drugged and horny reality that had enveloped Camelot. It all left Janet happy for her age and her traditional marriage, p237

As I was reading, I kept thinking how I just don't get the drug culture. I must be too old! One of the activities the campers try is to have a story telling contest, which is the point of original Canterbury Tales. Chaucer also used the Tales to comment on the class system, and Abdou has the ski-town classes conflicting here - the locals, the developer, the trustafarian, the working class. The plot meanders and is not linear, like the skiers ascending the mountain top, doubling back and taking different routes. Considering I'm not a skier, not a drug-taker, and never really lived my wild, partying twenties, I did enjoy the book. It's a world I know exists, but like Janet in the quote above, happy for my own reality.

Abdou's book, The Bone Cage was a Canada Reads nominee last year, and widely read (in Canada) but I liked this one better, both for its actual story, and for the literary parallels to its famous original.

Canterbury Tales picture above, and information about the story taken from wikipedia.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CHALLENGE: Series Goals or The Ones I'm Targeting in 2012

Suziqoregon at Whimpulsive is a great blogger and she is always reminding me how much I like series by posting about her serial reading.  Now she is setting her goals for next year, and I am shamelessly copying her and her picture above. Thanks Suzi q!

I've got a few series I'd like to get up to date on, and a few I'd like to make a dent in their list.

Inspector Armand Gamauche by Louise Penny
The most recent release was in September, and I'd like to get up to date before the next one comes out.
A Trick of the Light
A Beautiful Mystery (August 2012) read in November

The Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
I made a good effort this year, and it should be no trouble to finish up the last three books in this series. And now I see another will be released!
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
The Double Comfort Safari Club review

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection ( April 2012)

Darko Dawson/ Inspector Montalbano/ Detective Erlendur
I'm up to date on my three favorite series, but if they release books, as I expect them to, I'm reading them!
Murder at Cape Three Points (Darko Dawson) by Kwei Quartey (2012) *never got released
The Age of Doubt (Inspector Montalbano) by Andrea Camilleri  (May 2012) read in July
Black Skies (Inspector Erlundur) by Arnaldur Indridason (July 2012)

The Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French
Faithful Place March 2012

Broken Harbour (June 2012)

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
Revenge of the Spellmans
The Spellmans Strike Again
The Trial of the Spellmans (2012?)

Inspector Espinosa by Luis Alfredo Garcia-Roza
Only one of these that I have left to read may be available at my library.

Vish Puri by Tarquin Hall
I really liked the first book in this ongoing series, so let's stay on top of this one!

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing  March 2012

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken ( August 2012)

This next set of series will not get caught up, but I hope to make an effort in reading several in each.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Pardonable Lies
Messenger of Truth
An Incomplete Revenge
Among the Mad
The Mapping of Love and Death

Phrynne Fisher by Kerry Greenwood
There's no way I'll get caught up, but I'd like to read another four or five from this quick moving series
Blood And Circuses  May 11
Ruddy Gore  May 26

Urn Burial
Raisins and Almonds
Death before wicket
Murder in Montparnasse
there's still another six!

Harry Hole by Jo Nesbo
The Devil's Star
The Redeemer
The Snowman
The Leopard

Martin Beck Crime series by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall
4. The Laughing Policeman  4.5/5

5. The Fire Engine That Disappeared 4/5
6. Murder at the Savoy
7.The Abominable Man
8. The Locked Room
9. Cop Killer
10. The Terrorists

Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
Dexter in the Dark
Dexter by Design
Dexter is Delicious
Double Dexter

BOOK: Christmas With Anne by LM Montgomery

Christmas With Anne and Other Holiday Stories by LM Montgomery, 220 pages

Canadian Book Challenge; Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

LM Montgomery was a very prolific author. Twenty novels, and tons of short stories; there have been eleven collections of her short stories published. Many are themed, like this collection of Christmas tales. LM wrote for the masses, selling her short stories where she could, often at the magazines request including a moral or lesson in her holiday stories. This makes some of her stories a tad predictable or sentimental, but readers do like these themes in their Christmas stories (see The Christmas Shoes), so if you are looking for Christmas stories, you can't go wrong with LM and her optimistic view and outlook, amidst the sad and downtrodden.

Christmas with Anne doesn't disappoint, including "Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves", and "Katherine Brooke Comes to Green Gables," chapters from the Anne series. Both bring tears when fans of the series read them, knowing all the back stories of Anne. When Katherine complains to Anne that [Anne] couldn't know what it was like to not be wanted, as Anne is ensconced in Green Gables full of love, fans know that Anne could very easily have turned out to be like Katherine. And Matthew buying Anne the puffed sleeves? Well, every mention of Matthew and his adoration of Anne does me in.

The other stories vary in success, but as a whole, they work. Collected  together, plot themes develop - feuds forgiven after accidental apologies, and awareness of the blessings in your life.Other than the Anne stories, my favorite was "The Unforgotten One", about not judging what others are thinking or feeling, or who they might be missing.

All in all, they are perfect for Christmas. Short, fluffy, full of love and pathos and Christmas spirit.As an added bonus, my edition was lovely. Nice sizing, with a sturdy cover - a cross between a mass market paperback and a trade paperback. It will become a new Christmas tradition.

Friday, December 16, 2011

BOOK: An Irish Country Village by Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Village by Patrick Taylor, 420 pages

Irish Reading Challenge; 2nds Challenge

I meant to read An Irish Country Christmas this month, but I like to read my series in order and this had to be read first. I read the first in the series, An Irish Country Doctor back in March, and was completely charmed. The second book was actually a little better, as the characters were already met and established. The book picks up just days after the last book, and only continues for the next few weeks, as Dr Barry Laverty is still getting established in Ballybucklebo.

Not much really happens, but it was an easy, light read, perfect for picking up during this busy season, or when standing in line at a checkout. I've actually discovered I don't mind waiting at checkouts if I have a book with me, because I'm not there, noticing the time, or the bad service. I'm where ever my book is taking me - the tiny village of Ballybucklebo in Northern Ireland, circa 1964. I even turned down the opportunity to move up in a line when I only had one item, because I knew I'd enjoy the time in the book.

This book reminds me of some other book, or television show, which I can't seem to remember. It get compared to James Herriot's vet series. It's funny, predictable, charming, and a wonderful way to spend a week reading. I may get to that next book sooner rather than later.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

BOOKING THROUGH THURSDAY: character or plot?

Booking Through Thursday (BTT) asks:  "What’s more important to you? Real, three-dimensional, fleshed-out fascinating characters?  Or an amazing, page-turning plot?  (Yes, I know, they are both important. But if you had to pick one as being more important than the other?)"

I'd have to say plot. Mysteries are my favorite genre, and they are all about the plot. Obviously, the best mysteries are character-strong as well, like in Trackers or continuing series like Inspector Montalbano of Sicily, but the plot gets the pages turning. Linwood Barclay writes terrific thrillers, with good characters, but the plot keeps going. The best example I can think of is The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. Nothing dramatic about the characters in that one, but the mystery and plot are what get you turning the page.

Snazzy new button for BTT!

Monday, December 12, 2011

CHALLENGES: 2nds Challenge 2012

Katy at afewmorechallenges is hosting the 2nds challenge again. I like to keep track of these. Either second in a series, or second book by the author that you have read. Keep track all year long.

  • Just a spoonful - Read 3 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author. 
  • A few more bites - Read 6 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
  • A full plate - Read 12 books that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.
  • All you can eat - Read 20 books (or more) that are 2nd in a series or the second time you’ve read the author.

The Authors Who Should be Read Again:
Alan Bradley - The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
Jo Nesbo - Nemesis
Qiu Xioalong - A Case of Two Cities
Stieg Larsson - The Girl Who Played With Fire
Georgette Heyer - Cousin Kate
Jasper Fforde's second book in the Chromatica series
Tom Perrotta - The Abstinence Teacher
Ruth Rendell - The Water's Lovely
Marsha Mehran - Rosewater and Sodabread
Helen Dunmore - House of Orphans
Emma Donaghue - The Sealed Letter

What I Read:
1. Stieg Larsson - The Girl Who Played With Fire (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
2. Anna Quindlen - Black and Blue (Every Last One)
3. Helen Dunmore - House of Orphans (The Spell of Winter)
4. Donna Leon - Death and Judgment (Death in la Fenice)
5. Sebastian Barry - On Canaan's Side (Secret Scriptures)
6. Tarquin Hall - The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing (The Case of the Missing Servant)
7. Maureen Johnson - 13 Little Blue Envelopes (Let it Snow)
8. Francesca Lia Block - Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys (Weetzie Bat)
9. Emma Donaghue - The Sealed Letter (Room)
10. Muriel Spark - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Symposium)
11. Anne Enright - The Forgotten Waltz (The Gathering)
12. Hilary Jordan - When She Woke (Mudbound)
13. Ann Patchett - State of Wonder (Bel Canto)
14. Richard B Wright - October (Clara Callen)
15. Dennis Lehane - Shutter Island (Mystic River)
16. Alan Bradley - The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie)
17. Wally Lamb - Wishin' and Hopin' (She's Come Undone)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

BOOK: Small Ceremonies by Carol Shields

Small Ceremonies by Carol Shields, 179 pages

Canadian Book Challenge

 This is the first of Carol Shields published books. Box Garden, her second, is a companion book, as each book is narrated by a sister. Here, Judith Gill is a biographer in Canada in the 1970s. Biographer is the key idea here - how do you ever know a subject? or even anyone else? Each person views the same event or life from their own perspective, so we all see everything differently. Even comparing the mother from both books is interesting, as Judith (Small Ceremonies)  and Charleen (Box Garden) see her from different views. Judith is writing about Susanna Moodie, the Canadian pioneer. (Note, Carol Shields went on to write a criticism on Moodie, Voice and Vision, in 1976. Did she write the Moodie book after doing research for this book, or did the research she did for the Moodie book give her background for this book?) Judith also tends to look at everyone, trying to find that biographer view of people.

Like in Box Garden, the little things, the small ceremonies of day to day life, are the main story. I was thinking jokingly that Shields was the original Seinfeld, writing about nothing. It's just that her nothing is about everyone, which is what makes Shields, and Seinfeld, resonate. Instead of looking through the telescope to the wide open skies, she turns it around and details the tiny things in a life. And while the characters are going along, with not much happening, there are events in the book that are not clear, a bit of a mystery. Often, as in life, they are not a big deal, but you keep turning the pages. It's the writing - Shields didn't win the Pulitzer (and the Orange) for nothing.

The Staircase Letters: An Extraordinary Friendship at the End of Life by Arthur Motyer, with Elma Gerwin and Carol Shields
149 pages

Canadian Reading Challenge

Arthur Motyer was a professor of Elma Gerwin's, who was a friend of Carol Shields. They all share a love of literature, and all worked with writing all their lives. Elma discovered she was facing cancer, as she knew Carol was, and cc'd Arthur and Carol, thinking they would all share in the writing of emails during their mutual fight with, what would become, their terminal illness.

Motyer writes the in-between and fills in much of the background for the emails - they lived all across Canada. The book felt a little awkward to start, a little Arthur-centered, but that fell away gradually, and the dignity and strength of the two women takes over the book. It could have turned into a bit of watching a train-wreck, but Motyer wisely focuses on each person's (i,e, your own) view of death and dying, referencing many literary allusions and poems. Eventually, it is all about your own perspective of life, and death, and happiness, and sharing Elma and Carol's letters felt like being bestowed with a little bit of grace.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

EVENT: 2011 Advent Tour

This is my fifth year participating in the Virtual Advent Blog Tour. Here's a little recap of my past editions:

In 2010, I took a humorous look at some local events on Prince Edward Island.
In 2009, we played 'guess the carol'
In 2008, I played a game of 'guess the movie', and my favorite Christmas picture ever.
In 2007, it was the original 'guess the carol' game, with your vocabulary tested, and my whipped shortbread cookie recipe.

Well, I guess I like some guessing games! I wasn't feeling as creative this year, so instead, I will offer a recipe for fruitcake. I find as I get older, I am enjoying fruitcake more. This one is very delicious!

My Grandmother's Fruitcake Recipe
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups dried fruit
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • juice of one lemon
  • 8 oz nuts
  • 1 full bottle of Irish whiskey  (or Scotch if you really prefer)
  1. Sample the whiskey to check for quality
  2. Take a large bowl
  3. Sample the whiskey again to be sure it is of the highest quality
  4. Pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat
  5. Turn on the electric mixer
  6. Beat a cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl
  7. Adda teaspoon of sugar and beat again
  8. Make sure the whiskey is still OK
  9. Cry another tup
  10. Turn off the mixerer
  11. Break two legs and add tot he bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit
  12. Mix on the turnerer
  13. If the fried druit gets stuck in the turnerers, pry it loose with a drewscriver
  14. Try the whiskey again to check for tonsisticity
  15. Next, sift two cups of salt or something
  16. Who cares, check the whiskey, now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts
  17. Add - One table - Spoon
  18. Of sugar or something
  19. Whatever you can find
  20. Grease the oven
  21. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees
  22. Don't forget to beat off the turner
  23. Throw the bowl out the window
  24. Chick the whiskey again
  25. Go to bed
  26. Who likes fruitcake anyway
My grandmother actually sent me this recipe many years ago.
Merry Christmas! Happy Holiday! I hope you all find a lovely book to read under the tree.

( Please wait for the Intense debate comments - sometimes it takes a few seconds to load.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

BOOK: Tide Road by Valerie Compton

Tide Road by Valerie Compton, 230 pages

Canadian Book Challenge

He came through the door like a thunderclap, like a breeze. Hey! he yelled. Or, Hey, he said. He let the door slam. He eased it shut. 
Which way had it gone? She couldn't be sure.page9

The opening lines of this novel set on Prince Edward Island drew me into the story immediately. How do we remember things? Sonia struggles with the grief of her missing daughter, Stella all the way to the beginning of her missing - does she even remember that correctly? Stella goes missing (presumed drowned) in the winter of 1965, which sends Sonia reeling back in memories to 1941, the summer she worked alone at the lighthouse on Surplus Island. Sonia needs to come to terms with her life and the choices she made (or had made for her) before she can really deal with Stella's disappearance.

Part of the appeal to me is obviously the location. When Compton mentions places or things, they have a meaning for me living on Prince Edward Island. I remember Roger's Hardware, the Rollaway lounge; the road between Winsloe and Rustico is the road I lived when we were first married. The descriptions of the shore and the water continue the tradition of LM Montgomery and the connection to nature here on this island. The writing is poetic and wispy and full of images.This connects even more to the characters, as Sonia could be/was an artist, and Stella has vision issues.

There is a bit of a mystery as to what actually happened to Stella. Suspicion falls on Stella's husband, adding an extra layer to the family's grief and anger. Sonia's denial about this aspect of Stella's life make her believe that Stella has just run away and Sonia puts her energy into finding Stella instead of dealing with her grief.

The strength of the book is in the character of Sonia who was very real, a woman from the middle of the 1900s, with very few choices. She struggled to get by with a husband who was abusive, with children that kept coming, the hard, violent life on a farm, striving to discover her voice. The book and her grief are about her struggle to realize she even had a voice, a vision for herself.

Grief and memory are two common themes in literature. Two other books I read this year (that I never reviewed) also tackled these themes. February by Lisa Moore was also about grief, after the Ocean Ranger disaster in Newfoundland.  The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes was an old man remembering events from his past and his role in them. Tide Road was a blend of the best of both books. Sonia was dealing with her grief by looking to the past to make sense of her daughter's life. "You still have to solve your own life if you want to be of any help to [your children]" (from p 190) seems to be the advice that starts Sonia on her way.

I hope more people can discover this wonderful book.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

CHALLENGE: Aussie Author Challenge 2012

 Some challenges are really challenges! I've tried twice to read the higher level of this challenge, and failed both times. Booklover Book Reviews is hosting, with the sign-up page and lots of info, found here.

Challenge Period: 1 January 2012 – 31 December 2012
OBJECTIVE Read and review books written by Australian Authors – physical books, ebooks and audiobooks, fiction and non-fiction!
Challenge Levels:
TOURIST – Read and review 3 books by at least 2 different Australian Authors
DINKY-DI – Read and review 12 books by at least 6 different Australian authors
‘Dinky-Di’ is Australian slang meaning ‘true or genuine’.

What will I be trying this year?
Kerry Greenwood - (Phrynne Fisher series) Blood and Circuses, Ruddy Gore, Urn Burial, Raisins and Almonds
Peter Temple - (Jack Irish series) Bad Debts, Black Tide,
Jaclyn Moriarty - The Murder of Bindy McKenzie
Kate Grenville - The Secret River, Lillian's Story
Kate Morton - The Forgotten Garden
Tim Winton - Breath (library, 217 pages)
Thomas Keneally - Schindler's Ark

What I read in 2012:
1. Blood and Circuses - Kerry Greenwood
2. Ruddy Gore - Kerry Greenwood
3. Breath - Tim Winton

Monday, November 28, 2011

CHALLENGE: Orange January

It's time to start thinking about an Orange January! Will it be books from 2011 list, or into the older titles? Check out the Orange Prize Project blog for more ideas and the Facebook group for ideas and possibly prizes!  Every January and July, fans of the Orange Prize read all they can in celebration. The actual requirement is only to read one book.

Orange January Ideas:

Books in my house:
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (2006 short list)
Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004 winner)
The Colour by Rose Tremain (2004 longlist)
Larry's Party by Carol Shields (1998 winner)
Love Marriage by VV Ganeshananthen (2009 longlist)
Old Filth by Jane Gardam (2005 shortlist)
Black and Blue by Anna Quinlen (1998 longlist)

Books from the library: 
The Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer (2008 longlist)
This is How, by M.J. Hyland (2010 longlist)
Secret Son, by Laila Lalami (2010 longlist)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (2010 shortlist)
The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney (2007 longlist)
House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore (2006 longlist)

And the books I read, with reviews linked:
1. The Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel (1999 longlist)
2. Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen (1998 longlist)
3. The Tenderness of the Wolves by Stef Penney (2007 longlist)
4. House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore (2006 longlist)
5. Old Filth by Jane Gardam, (2005 shortlist)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

BOOK: The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett, 140 pages

Life is busy in the 21st century. Much of it is our own making, but that's how we live. We need information now; can't wait 10 seconds for the page to load; too long, didn't read; kids going in different directions. I just seem to go, go, go. Go, dog, go! Reading is a way to slow things down, but I often read mysteries, or thrillers. Books that engage me and have me frantically turning pages so I don't fall asleep, because if I stop, I might fall asleep. However,  as I read The Country of the Pointed Firs, this small, charming book, I could feel my body slow down and my brain slow down as I adjusted to life as told in small tales from a 19th century fishing village on the shores of Maine.

There isn't much to this story, not really a plot, just collected stories from the unnamed narrator as she spends a summer in Dunnett Landing, meeting friends and family of her landlady.  There is herb gathering, family reunions, and boat trips for the day - depending on the wind direction. There are stories from sea-faring days, and even laments of how life is changing by the end of the 1800s. But overall, there is a peacefulness, and calm that comes with Mrs Todd and the stories related in this quiet book. I'm so delighted to have discovered this gem.

on entertaining:
Tact is after all a kind of mindreading, and my hostess held the golden gift. p59

on old friends:
There, it does seem so pleasant to talk with an old acquaintance that know what you know. Conversation's got to have some root in the past, or else you've got to explain every remark you make, an' it wears a person out. p73

on life near an ocean:
[The view] gave a sudden sense of space, for nothing stopped the eye or hedged one in, - that sense of liberty in space and time which great prospects always give. p58 

also reviewed: Eva at a striped armchair; JoAnn at lakeside musings wrote about the author;

Sunday, November 20, 2011

CHALLENGE: Venice in February

Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza and Ally of Snow Feathers are hosting a Venice in February reading challenge. Bellezza has the most amazing list of books set in Venice. It goes on and on and it has, I think, every book I have ever read set in Venice.

Such as:
Death in la Fenice by Donna Leon
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare

Plus a few I am interested in:

A Taste of Venice by Roberto Pianaro
(not in my library)

Don't Look Now by Daphne DuMaurier (short story)

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
(Booker Prize short list 2001)

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

And after checking my library:
The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
No vulgar hotel : the desire and pursuit of Venice by Judith Martin
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Miss Garnet's Angel by Sally Vickers
Vaporetto 13 : a novel by Robert Girardi
Pippa Passes by Rumer Golden

and another from the Donna Leon series, Inspector Brunetti, Death and Judgment

Books I Read:
1. The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
2. Miss Garnet's Angel by Sally Vickers
3. The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
4. Death and Judgment by Donna Leon
5. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
6. No Vulgar Hotel by Judith Martin
7. Don't Look Now (short story) by Daphne DuMaurier
My sister and I in Venice
Hopefully in February I'll manage to read one of these, and reminisce about my stopover in Venice five years ago.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

MEME: One Book, Two Book, Three Book again

It's time to rejoice with the revival of the One Book, Two Book, Three Book meme originated  by Simon at Stuck in a Book.

1. The books I’m currently reading: The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjowell and Per Wahoo. This is second in the Martin Beck series, written in the 1960s by the Swedish couple. This terrific police procedural was the first of the Swedish crime novels, long before that Girl Who ... became famous.

2. The last book I finished: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolwizer. Somewhere, months ago, someone on the blogs raved about this. I requested it at the library and it took for-ev-eeer to arrive. But I got it read, and it was good.
ETA: found it. Aths at Reading on a Rainy Day reviewed The Uncoupling. She wrote a great review; pretty much my opinion as well.
Also, Softdrink at Fizzy Thoughts reviewed it here and Carrie at Nomadreader reviewed it here.
So, three reviews within a couple of weeks in June made it catch my attention, and then it took 4 months to get it from the library.

3. The next book I want to read: Tide Road by Valerie Compton (a PEI book!) or Small Ceremonies by Carol Shields.

4. The last book I bought: There was a little "hall book sale" at school for library week, so I bought Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen from a student who had a whole table of books she 'read over the summer'; and The Fire Dwellers by Margaret Laurence and Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro and The Morningside World of Stuart McLean from the library as they weeded out some older books. I'm a good little Canadian!

5. The last book I was given: A dear friend, who retired last year so I don't see her so often, dropped off The Way We Were by Marcia Willet and Beautiful People by Wendy Holden. The note she left with them said to 'enjoy, and pass on.'

It's also time for the sign-ups for the Advent Tour! I've already got my date assigned - go sign up here. It is a great way to share holiday traditions, have some fun, and meet a ton a new people. Marg and Kailana are the wonderful hosts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

BOOK: Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins

Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins, 190 pages

5th Canadian Book Challenge

This summer I made my first trip to Newfoundland. While I spent most of my time in basketball gymnasiums and supervising twelve fourteen year old boys, I did manage to sneak off one afternoon to downtown St John's for some shopping. I poked in every little craft shop, ate fish and chips at Duke's, and had a drink on George Street. It was wonderful. I was looking for souvenirs - got some screech coffee, moose socks, a jellybean row picture, and I wanted to buy a Newfoundland book. Something that would feel like a find, an unknown quantity. I managed that, with Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins.

Moonlight Sketches is a collection of short stories that are part of a bigger story. Beginning before the Ocean Ranger sank, and progressing (not always linearly) to the present, the town of Darwin (population 2500) is the setting for most of the stories. Life changes as the cod fishery ends, oil comes in and small villages disintegrate. The stories are more about the individual people that live in Newfoundland, but from a distance, by the end, you see how Darwin has changed.

I was hoping for more overlapping characters, and eventually a few stood out. Tough guy Benny and his cousin Dave make appearances in several stories (it feels like there could be a novel beginning) as does Jack of Jack's Place, the bar in Darwin. Jack's Place figures prominently in "Two Lesbians Walk Into a Bar", which also shows the dark underbelly of life in a small town where everyone knows everybody. "The Darkness and Darcy Knight" might put you to mind of Deliverance, if I know what Deliverance is actually about. Overall, there is a dark feel to these stories; life on the Rock isn't easy. But I enjoyed reading this collection, and will probably reread a few now that I know some of the characters better.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

CHALLENGE: What's in a Name 5

It's my fifth year, so I can't not participate in this one. Just picking the titles is half the fun. Finding a reason to read some books I've already wanted to read is bonus. Are you joining in this one? It runs all year, and only six books. Check out bethfishreads for more details or to sign up.
Here's the categories for next year:

  1. A book with a topographical feature in the title -- e.g. Black Hills, Purgatory Ridge, Emily of Deep Valley
  2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title -- e.g. Moon Called, Seeing Stars, Cloud Atlas
  3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title -- e.g. Little Bee, Spider Bones, The Witches of Worm
  4. A book with a type of house in the title -- e.g. The Glass Castle, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Ape House
  5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title -- e.g. Sarah's Key, The Scarlet Letter, The Devlin Diary
  6. A book with something you'd find on a calendar in the title -- e.g. Day of the Jackal, Elegy for April, Freaky Friday, The Year of Magical Thinking

So, the possibilities!
topographical feature
The Secret River, Kate Grenville
Small Island, Andrea Levy

something you'd see in the sky
Swann by Carol Shields
The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo
The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen

creepy crawly
Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer

type of house
The Last Resort by Carmen Posadas
Urn Burial, Kerry Greenwood
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding, Alexander McCall Smith

something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack
Duma Key, Stephen King
13 Little Blue Envelopes, Maureen Johnson

something you'd find on a calendar
The Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer
October by Richard B Wright
The Wednesday Sisters, Meg Waite Clayton

What I Read:
Topographical feature:
6. Island of Wings - Karin Altenberg
10. Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane

Something you'd see in the sky:
4. The Girl Who Chased the Moon - Sarah Addison Allen
7. Swann - Carol Shields

Creepy crawly:
8. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson
12. The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer

Type of house:
1. House of Orphans - Helen Dunmore
11. Red House Mystery - AA Milne

Something you'd carry in your purse or backpack:
3. 13 Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson
5. The Sealed Letter - Emma Donaghue

Something you'd find on a calendar:
2. Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party - Alexander McCall Smith
9. October - Richard B Wright

Friday, November 11, 2011

BOOK: Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison

Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison

5th Canadian Book Challenge; review copy from Randomhouse

Reverend Tom Christmas (not surprisingly, he doesn't like Father Christmas) is trying to get a new start to his life. After his wife was murdered, he moved with his young daughter to a small village, Thornford Regis, to be nearer his sister-in-law. A delightful English village, full of characters, until Sybella, a nineteen year old troubled girl, is found murdered during the May Fayre. Tom becomes a bit of a detective, as he seems to confuse his role as confidante to his parish with the nosiness needed to solve the crime.

Cozy little mystery, with the delightful village setting, Benison is touted as a choice for fans of Alan Bradley, Louise Penny, and Alexander McCall Smith. As a fan of all of those authors, I would say Benison has a place on the shelf with them. He has set up a village with some great characters, and some ongoing mysteries that aren't completely solved with this first book. The second book will obviously be Eleven Pipers Piping. His writing isn't quite as tight as Penny's, nor quite as relaxing as McCall's but I did like a lot of the supporting characters, and while Tom himself is not a perfect character, he is trying hard to be a good father. He is still grieving his wife, but starting to be interested in women. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next in Thornford Regis.

Monday, November 7, 2011

CHALLENGE: Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

The True Book Addict is hosting a Christmas Spirit Challenge at the dedicated blog. Head on over to get some more information and to sign up.
From the blog:
  • challenge will run from Monday, November 21, 2011 through Friday, January 6, 2011 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany).
  • These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time...a childrens Christmas books level!
  • visit this POST for a list of new Christmas books for 2011.  
  • Levels:--Candy Cane:  read 1 book            
  • --Mistletoe:  read 2-4 books           
  • --Christmas Tree:  read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)
          Additional levels:
            --Fa La La La Films:  watch a bunch or a few Christmas's up to you!
            --Visions of Sugar Plums:  read books with your children this season and share what you read

I want to read:
An Island Christmas Reader by David Weale
A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas (reread)
"Dave Cooks the Turkey" by Stuart McLean (a tradition)
An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor

What I Read:
1. Christmas With Anne and Other Holiday Stories by LM Montgomery
2.  A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
3. Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie
4. An Island Christmas Reader by David Weale
5. "Dave Cooks the Turkey" by Stuart McLean
6. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

Books for Next Year: (thanks for all the reviews, folks)
1. Miracle and Other Stories by Connie Willis
2. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
3. An Idiot Girl's Christmas by Laurie Notaro
4. Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb
5. Anne Perry's Christmas series
6. Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas

In other Christmas news, I signed up for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. The sign-up is here, and you have until this Friday, November 11th, to get registered. There are several options to pick from (money level, mailing locations). I've enjoyed this every year I've participated.

Now all I need to see is the Advent Calendar Tour and my Christmas plans are complete.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

BOOK: The Reinvention of Love by Helen Humphreys

The Reinvention of Love by Helen Humphreys, 309 pages

5th Canadian Book Challenge; 2nds Challenge

When I saw that Humphreys' book was being released so soon after I has just finished Coventry, I jumped in line at the library to read her latest book. Alas, to Humphreys credit as a writer but not mine as a reader, this book was quite different. Coventry was England during the wars, this was France in the 1800s. I am clearly an anglophile. I'll be wishing I read this during Paris in July, and I may have enjoyed it more then. Coventry also seemed to have much more action and plot. Perhaps since Reinvention of Love is based on real characters (Victor Hugo, his wife Adele, writer Charles saint-Beuve) Humphreys was committed to actual events and words already spoken by her characters. Also, in the French literary tradition, it seemed to ponder more philosophically about ideas of love and existence. Too bad for this book that after my past two months of mystery and mayhem reading for RIP the lack of active plot was too slow.

I'll try another book by Humphreys and mark this one down as wrong book, wrong time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

BOOK: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King,


I decided to spread the King out a bit this month. After each other book I finish, I will read one of his novella/short stories. Each story stands on its own a little better, and I get to extend the King season for the whole month.

After reading Pretty in Ink:
1922, 131 pages
A man who convinces a son to help him kill his wife sees his life fall apart in middle America just before the depression begins. Nice homage to the Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe, as the narrator is haunted by the rats from the well where he dropped his wife. So, it's creepy, and gross and perfectly King, with characters that allow you to see their hearts, however dark. "Perfectly King" is high praise as I've always loved his writing. He creates characters with layers, and stories that bounce along, and you just don't forget  his books. There have been some duds, but I've really enjoyed his shorter fiction.

After reading The Distant Hours:
Big Driver, 130 pages
At this point, part of what makes a Stephen King story scary, is worrying about how far he will take the plot. He does horrible so well, that I keep imagining what terrible event will happen next to the main character. When a cozy mystery author gets thrust into a decidedly not cozy crime, I kept thinking things would get worse and worse. When Tess decides to take revenge on her rapist, around every corner, and with every decision she takes, I kept thinking it would be worse and worse. As I think about the story, it was very satisfying as King lets her get her revenge. I loved how her cat and her GPS talk to her, or at least, the voice in her head talks back to her in this way.

After reading The Broken Shore:
Fair Extension, 31 pages
A fifty year old with cancer makes a deal with Mr Elvid (even I noticed that!)  to get revenge on his best friend from high school. Revenge is becoming a big theme in these stories. Dave Streeter gets better and his friend's life takes a turn. King is messing with my mind and my expectations of how characters will behave in this story, as he did in Big Driver. I liked it in Big Driver, and was sickened in this one. At least the story was short.

After reading Wonderstruck:
A Good Marriage, 84 pages
How well do you ever really know someone? King takes this premise and runs with it after a wife discovers her husband's secret in the garage.It's the question that everyone asks after a terrible crime is discovered: How could the wife not know? King explores this very idea. Tough reading, but again, King takes the optimistic ending for the characters.

Bonus Story: Under the Weather, 15 pages
You can see the ending coming in this one, plus King drops all kinds of hints, but you still hope this won't end the way you know it will. Young ad-man having trouble concentrating at work, worrying about his wife at home recovering from bronchitis. Spoiler if you highlight the next section: If you've read A Rose for Emily... and that's the end.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BOOK: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, 630 pages

2nds Challenge

After reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and absolutely loving it, I was hoping that Selznick would write another book. Yay! Wonderstruck has been recently released, and I actually bought the hardcover edition. I very seldom buy a hardcover - I'll wait for soft, or borrow from the library, but I knew I would want to keep this book.

There are two parallel stories, one in text and one in pictures. Deafness plays a part in both stories (there are plenty of parallels) and the fact that Rose in the 1920s section was deaf and her story is told in pictures seems perfect - quieter. In the 1970s, Ben is living with his aunt and uncle in Minnesota after his mother died. He never knew, or heard of, his father, and begins to unravel the mystery among his mother's belongings, sending him on a trip to New York City. The two stories eventually meet up in the present day, in a delightful way.

Much of  the story takes place in the American Natural History Museum, and in the Afterward, Selznick acknowledges From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler and challenges readers to find the references to E.L Konigsburg and the book. Cool. The book also contains much about collecting and museums.

Never be put off by the size of Selznick's books. Because so much of them are the wonderful illustrations, it reads very quick. He does such a perfect blend of drawing and story, and I love his charcoal illustration style. Another book please, Mr Selznick.

Monday, October 24, 2011

BOOK: The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, 445 pages

Book Award Challenge (CWA Gold Dagger 2007 and Ned Kelly Award for Crime Writing); Aussie Author Challenge; 2nds Challenge (read Truth)

Temple has a writing style that takes getting used to, but I quite enjoy it. There are no big descriptions, but the atmosphere is felt. The Australian slang takes getting used to, and I still miss the meaning of tons of words, but I get the idea. It makes me feel like I am in Australia, real Australia. It's rough, and the crime side underbelly, but it feels very real and gritty.

Cashin thought that he knew the answer, delivered to him by some process in the brain that endlessly sifted, sorted and shuffled things heard and read, seen and felt, bits and pieces with no obvious use, just clutter, litter, until the moment when two of them touched, spun and found each other, fitted like hands locking. p 288

This quote is what reading the book was to me - not all clear all the time, but then it coalesces and was a great description of how good detectives figure things out.

Joe Cashin is recovering from a bad incident (eventually somewhat revealed) and sent to a small town, the small town where he grew up. He ends up in the middle of a murder investigation of a local philanthropist. He is in contact with Villani from Victoria (and main character of Truth.) Cashin is hurting, and finding his way in the new locale with his new life. The plot twists and turns (police procedural, so the reader only knows what Cashin discovers) and is a great read. A little violent, and graphic in parts, but gritty and great character development. Plus, Dove, the aboriginal detective from Truth also makes an appearance. I'd love a book with more Dove.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CONTEST: Jodi Picoult Giveaway

Simon and Schuster is having a big Jodi Picoult give-away. It's huge - win a library of her books.

I've only read a couple of her books so far, Nineteen Minutes, Mercy, and My Sister's Keeper. There is a definite uptake on teenagers reading, and I see tons of Jodi Picoult books being carried around the high school I work in. Excellent work, Ms Picoult, keeping young readers reading.

Click on the picture to be taken to the S&S website to enter the contest. It opens on October 18th and closes November 8th. Open only to Canadian residents, sorry. Good luck everyone!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

BOOK: Pretty in Ink by Karen E. Olson

Pretty in Ink by Karen E. Olson, 299 pages

RIP 6; Mystery and Suspense Challenge

Finding ways to put amateur sleuths into mysteries can be tricky, and it felt a little forced in this book. Brett Kavanaugh, owner of the classy tattoo shop in Vegas, The Painted Lady, keeps sticking her nose in business that she shouldn't. She has cop for a brother, which gives her some inside information into the crimes. Maybe because I usually read mysteries based on the police point of view, but Brett's continual refusal to help the police, or her complete defiance of answering their questions truthfully, or going her own way, bothered me more in this book.

When I can ignore this aspect of moving the plot along, I did enjoy the book. After witnessing an assault at a drag queen show, and then the disappearance of one of her employees, Brett gets involved. Her store had done some of the tattoos for the performers. She spies a tattoo on the assaulter and discovers that it was done at her rival and possible romantic interest, Jeff Coleman's. The characters who work with Brett are fun, and the setting of Vegas is perfect for over the top events.

There are two more books in the series, Driven to Ink, and Ink Flamingos, and I'm sure I'll continue reading to see how Brett's romantic life continues and to get more background in case I travel to visit Vegas.

Friday, October 14, 2011

BOOK: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, 562 pages

Challenge checklist - Gothic Reading Challenge; RIP 6; 2nds Challenge; Aussie Author Challenge

Kate Morton book list - The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours

Gothic checklist- romance and horror, castles, secrets, madness, darkness

Raidergirl's good book checklist - England, sisters, back and forth in time (parallel stories), bookish mysteries

Morton created many well developed characters that I really enjoyed reading about. I liked the war story, and the present day story. The relationships between all the characters seemed real, and the secrets were tantalizingly revealed. The ultimate secrets weren't as dramatic as I was imagining, but the journey to get there was well worth my time. Excellent book for the RIP season, and to finish off the Gothic Book Challenge for me.

also reviewed: kittling booksrhapsody in books; caribousmom; katherine of a girl walks into a bookstore; karen at the bookbath;

Thursday, October 13, 2011


If you could get a sequel for any book, what would it be?

Some of my favorite books already have sequels (Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones, Heidi, plus all the mysteries - I do love my comfortable characters). Anne of Green Gables even has a prequel that was recently written (Before Green Gables.) I can think of a few. It would be great to revisit Jane Eyre and see her and Mr Rochester in their later years. The only problem is that another book would need a plot, which involves conflict of some kind, and I'd really rather imagine them happily ever after, for ever after.

After I finished The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens this summer, I wasn't ready to be done of the characters Mary Gooch and her husband. That's a book I'd love to see some follow up to. Either from her husband's point of view, or just more of Mary on her life journey. The book ended on a beginning of sorts, and I'd like to read more about Mary Gooch.

What books am I forgetting about that need a sequel?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

BOOK: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, 307 pages

2nds Challenge; Aussie Author Challenge

It's not officially a RIP book for me, but if ever I was imbibing Peril, it was while  reading a book about the plague, the black plague in a 1666 English village. People dropping left and right of a horrible death. Plus, as is often in these types of books (or movies, like Titanic) so many ways to die.

Brooks did her homework and the story is filled with historical aspects. Apparently, the book was conceived after Brooks visited the village that this book is based on, where a plague outbreak occurred. The villagers decided, in the novel based on the legend, to quarantine their village once the outbreak began, to prevent the spread, but taking their own chance for survival. It's pretty bleak, but the main character, Anna Firth manages to stay healthy and provides medical care for many in the village.
Well written historical fiction, with a dash of peril for the season.

also reviewed: laura at musings by laura (who found the ending far-fetched); sandy at You've Gotta read this;
Jackie at farmlanebooks; les at lesley's book nook;

Thursday, September 29, 2011

BOOK: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, 221 pages

RIP IV; Graphic Novel Challenge

Anya is a Russian immigrant trying in vain to just be a normal American teen. When she acquires a ghost after falling in a well, she feels that things are going to turn around. However, not all things are quite who they seem to be. Not the cute boy she crushes, not the nerdy other Russian immigrant, and not even the ghost.
I really liked the drawings and Anya's regular teenage angst, compounded by her differentness. Anya's Ghost is an example of how graphic novels work well -  the combination of story and images together make the great read.

The Adventuress by Audrey Niffeneggar,

Gothic Reading Challenge; RIP IV

Hmm. As a little story, it feels like a fairy tale - there is kidnapping, betrayal, castles, true love, a nunnery, and redemption. The artwork is definitely unique, and dramatic. The note explaining the art at the back gave me an appreciation for it. Niffeneggar made the art in the 1980s when she was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. So it's not a graphic novel, it's an illustrated novel like you'd get for a child, but it is for adults. Perhaps there should be more book like this written for adults, but this one flew over my head. Waaay over my head. Perhaps if I'd read Kafka, I would have understood why she turned into a moth. Or never wore a top. Oh well, it only took about 10 minutes to read, so it's practically gone from my head already.

Monday, September 12, 2011

BOOK: Trackers by Deon Meyer

Trackers by Deon Meyer, 478 pages

RIP 6; Global Reading Challenge; 2nds Author

I was blown away by Deon Meyer's Thirteen Hours last year, and I was not let down with his latest release. Trackers involves several different trackers in South Africa, and is almost three overlapping stories in one giant thriller.

One story is Milla Strachan, recently separated from a terrible husband, discovering herself in a new job, as a writer for the intelligence gathering division of the South African government. A second story is bodyguard Lemmer accompanying the smuggling of two rhinos from Zimbabwe into South Africa. The third story is recently retired cop Mat Joubert working on a missing husband for a private investigative firm. Through it all, the organized crime network in South Africa play havoc with their fingers in everything.

Each story was exciting and thrilling in its own right, but the subtle way they overlapped, providing the reader with a bit of information that the characters don't have was very well done. Watching the intelligence gatherers compile information and make conclusions did not inspire much confidence in me, but they did manage to get the job done, mostly through dumb luck. Although it wasn't meant to be, I found that section quite humourous, knowing what I did from the previous section. I haven't read about Mat Joubert before, but librarything tells me he is the main character in several other books, and my cop buddy from Thirteen Hours, Bennie Griessel, makes a small cameo. Joubert and Lemmer are tough, strong characters, those outlaw type guys who operate mostly within the law, the kind that are fun to read about.

Without wasting a lot of words on description, the plot flies along. Yet Meyer manages to set the South African location as if you were there, and the characters come to life with depth and backstory. Mention must be made as well to the translator from Afrikaans, KL Seegers, for the wonderful job.

Now that I am up to date on some of my other favorite mystery series (Inspector Montalbano, Inspector Erlunder, Inspector Gamauche) it's time to read more Deon Meyer. Bennie and Mat each have a few books they've been in already - Dead at Daybreak, Devil's Peak, Dead Before Dying, and Proteus.

thanks to randomhouse for the review copy

Friday, September 9, 2011

BOOK: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward, 300 pages

Some books just hit your funny bone and this is one of them. The premise is that Lisa Lutz, author of the Spellman Files, wanted to team-write a murder mystery. She asked her former boyfriend, poet David Hayward, to write the alternating chapters, with some pre-agreed upon guidelines. The actual story (not the best part, I'll get to that in a moment) is that a dead body appears on the grow-op farm of an orphaned brother and sister, two aimless twenty-somethings. They can't call the police to their farm, so they get rid of the body. Which then reappears on their farm.

Lisa writes the first chapter and then sends it off to David, with an email note, which he responds to. Then he writes the second chapter, introducing new characters and taking the story in different directions. Rather quickly, the team approach failed. Although they decide that they won't focus their own narratives on the sister-by-Lisa and brother-by-David, it happened pretty quickly. Each author developed the characters differently, and as more murders piled up, one characters killed by the other author, and then brought back to life by the originating author, and then definitely killed by the first, the snarking and sniping back and forth in the emails became the fun part. The story existed only for Lisa and David to disagree about what they are going to do. (Who gets to write the last chapter? Flip a coin - hence the title, which also works on another level as the first murder is a  beheading.)

How contrived you find the emails back and forth will determine your enjoyment of the story. I couldn't wait to see what the Lisa would say to David about what she wrote to 'fix' his part of the story, or how he would respond to the killing of his favorite character - he invents an cousin who looks the same.  I don't think you can take the actual murder as a story in itself. It was only there to demonstrate the animosity of the authors, which I also imagine was the plan in the first place. It comes together a little too perfectly to imagine that they didn't plan the whole thing. Didn't lessen my enjoyment of the whole thing at all. However, I read reviews at librarything where the reviewer didn't like the email part at all. I don't know how you could read this book without recognizing that the story goes the way it does only because of the notes between the authors.

Fun, fun read with a unique approach. 

also reviewed:  raych at books i done read; suziqoregon at whimpulsive;  jenn at devourer of books;