Thursday, January 31, 2013

BOOK: Whirl Away by Russell Wagnersky

Whirl Away by Russell Wagnersky, 207 pages

Canadian Book Challenge

Whirl Away was shortlisted for the 2012 Giller Prize, a well deserved recognition for it. We (Canadians, not me personally) seem to be prolific in short story writing. I'm thinking of Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant who almost exclusively write short stories. One of the best books I read in 2011 was a Giller nominated Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod, son of Alistair, another short story writer, Lost Salt Gift of Blood.

The stories had overall sad characters, characters at a crossroads in their life, where nothing is quite what it seems. Many of the stories had a surprise or shock at the end for the reader, or the character. Divorce, death, accidents, each story was a slice of life. One man who gets obsessed with the accidents that occur at the "Sharp Corner" in front of his house. "Bolt" shows us that no one ever really knows someone, as a woman finds out after her partner is killed in a car accident. Life for a young family at an isolated light house is described by the father, in "Look Away", but it may not be what it seems. Most of the stories are set in Newfoundland, city and outport. "Little World" was a sad tour of a small village by a lonely woman. I'm making these stories sound depressing, and they were, but in a well written, identifiable way. It's life, eh.

Bolt - guy gets killed by random bolt that breaks
Echo - little kid in the middle of a violent family crisis
McNally's Fair - caretaker for many years [heh, this has my maiden name in the title]
911 - rogue ambulance driver heads out on on a call on his own
Family Law - lawyer, with mistress, researches adultery
Little World - woman tours police around deserted village
No Harm, No Foul - travelling salesman picks up a hitchhiker
Look Away - light house keeper, and his family
Sharp Corner - guy gets obsessed with accidents, and their retelling
Open Arms - lawyer story again from very different perspective
The Gasper - guy has panic attacks and repeatedly calls ambulance
I Like - elevator inspector's marriage drifts apart

A wonderful, well-written review by Buried in Print can be found here. In fact, her review is as amazing as this book.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BOOK: Small Island by Andrea Levy

Small Island by Andrea Levy, 530 pages

Orange Prize for Fiction winner, 2004

Great book to start the reading year! This was a winning book for the Orange Prize in 2004 and I can see why - readable, historical, big themes, great characters with plenty of flaws but realistic.

Why the title, Small Island?  Because I don't think it gives me the right memory of the book. There are four main characters who interact in 1948. We meet them in their individual pasts, and then all together in a rooming house in London in 1948. The back and forth in time works well, as knowing where they end up makes seeing how they started worthwhile. Two of our characters, Hortense and Gilbert are from Jamaica, a very small island.  Gilbert served in the RAF in England during the war, and then emigrates, with Hortense, his wife, following him to London and the rooming house. The rooming house is run by Queenie, and is the house her husband Bernard grew up in. Bernard is British, with a capital B, but as he travels the world, maybe he discovers that England is a small island as well, not as important as he once thought. Queenie is the star of the book, a small island unto herself in post-war England, with progressive (ie non-racist) views of the immigrants.

That's it for 'small island', the best I can do. It stilll doesn't feel like the right title, even after I've managed to connect it to each character, and maybe an overall theme. I think if it was called 'Queenie', it would be more memorable about the character, the Britishness of the book, and the nickname that I could probably hear in a Jamaican accent.

I loved how Hortense was more British than anyone in the story, and yet was looked upon as a barbarian immigrant by the locals. Bernard was an idiot, who had the least growth, unless growth is considered waking up to his world around him and participating in his own life. Nah, still a stiff-upper lip, totally clueless in his unaccountable superiority, naive idiot. Queenie and Gilbert were the most realistic about life, and were charming, wonderful characters dealing with a terrible hand that life dealt them, and yet improving their situations somewhat.

All the good things I've heard about Small Island were true - a wonderful book (with a lousy title). Did you love the book? What do you think about my title change?

Monday, January 21, 2013

CHALLENGE: Aussie Author Challenge 2013

Challenge Period: 1 January 2013 – 31 December 2013
- Read and review 3 books by at least 2 different Australian Authors
- Fiction or non-fiction, any genre.
- Read and review 12 books by Australian Authors
- Ensure at least 4 of the authors are male, at least 4 of the authors are female and at least 4 of the authors are new to you
- Ensure at least 2 of the books are non-fiction and at least 4 fiction genres are represented amongst your 12 titles.
Balanced and diverse reading is the objective here.

Shall I try again? Hosted by Booklover Book Reviews for the third year, I've never done better than the tourist level, and with all the rules on the Fair Dinkum, I can't see me getting that level done this year either! But, the fun is in the trying, so try, try again.

Here's my list of books from last year that I hoped I'd read:
Kerry Greenwood - (Phrynne Fisher series) Murder in Montparnasse
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
Thomas Keneally - Schindler's Ark
new ideas:
Monica McInerney - Lola's Secret

What I got read in 2013:
1. Monica McInerney - Lola's Secret  (new to me, female, chick-lit)
2. Kate Grenville - The Idea of Perfection (new to me, female, literature)
3. ML Stedman - The Light Between Oceans (new to me, female, literature)
4. Kerry Greenwood - Murder in Montparnasse (female, mystery)
5. Kristel Thornell - Night Street (new to me, female, biographical fiction)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

BOOK: A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy, 369 pages

Ireland Reading Challenge

When Maeve Binchy died last July, I was so disappointed that there would be no more books as she is one of my favorite, most reliable authors.  So I was very pleased to learn of this last novel of hers, A Week in Winter. It is classic Binchy - an eclectic collection of characters all connected to the same event, in this case, the opening of Stone House on the west coast of Ireland. Each character, from the owner of the remodelled house, the caretaker, the cook, and each of the first week guests gets a full back story. Sometimes these back stories flew through the years at such a rapid pace that I was getting dizzy, but on the other hand, she didn't balloon her book to over 700 pages, ahem, Mr King.

The first time I read Evening Class by Binchy it was this style of novel, almost connected short stories, that revolved around an Italian class in Dublin. Binchy follows the same model here and she does it so well. Her characters are real, with flaws, and not everything always works out for everyone. I think her underlying philosophy has to do with attitude - people with positive attitudes generally have things work out for them, cranky people are always cranky no matter what happens. Having a good outlook on life, and what life hands you, is the key. I think Ms Binchy had a wonderful philosophy and it has made her books wonderful escapes for many years.
thank you, and your faithful readers will miss you.

Friday, January 18, 2013

BOOK: More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby

More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby, 140 pages

Nick Hornby continues his series of articles from The Believer chronicling his reading and buying books. The first few books in the series, The Polysyllabic Spree, and Housekeeping vs the Dirt were better books in my mind. It's still fun to see if he's buying and reading books I've already read, (there were a few) but my same complaints from the last book, Shakespeare Wrote for Money  - a lot of non-fiction, and no excerpts of books included, haven't changed. This book had quite a bit of Dickens, an author I haven't read much. Come on Nick, why aren't you reading the books I've read?

It's still a fun book, and readers generally like to read about other people's reading. That is why we blog after all.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

BOOK: Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma Key by Stephen King, 769 pages

Well, that was long. Any book that takes me three weeks is never going to be rated that terrific, although to be fair, I had a pretty busy couple of weeks with little time for reading. ( Ringette and basketball tournaments last weekend saw us take in 7 ringette games and 6 basketball games, plus assorted parental volunteering jobs for both tournaments!)

Duma Key: a contractor from Minnesota, Edgar survives an accident but loses his arm. After his marriage falls apart, Edgar moves to Florida, on an island in the keys, and begins his recovery. He meets some eccentrics on the island, and begins painting. But the painting is dangerous, as he seems to be taken over by a nasty spirit, awoken after many years, and bent on some revenge.

Good things: The friendship between Edgar and Wireman, another man who moved to Florida after a tragedy in his life, was really nice. It seemed believable and they were two kindred spirits. The setting and history of Duma Key was very well done. I liked the history of the family on Duma Key. The plot wasn't too elaborate - it was actually paced well, and built up with enough varied layered characters. The final showdown was tense and suspenseful.

Problems: 769 pages for an unelaborate plot seemed a little bloated. I'm a King fan, and I've read some of his ridiculously long books and count The Stand as one of the best books I've read, but even a couple hundred pages less would have been better. The supernatural element didn't scare me but the idea was cool.

Verdict: Still a good story, with great characters, although a little long. I wouldn't start with this King book for a novice, but I'm glad I got it read. It ranks higher than Black House and Gerald's Game, books I know I've read but can't remember anything about them.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

CHALLENGE: 2nds Reading Challenge

Hosted at Darlene's Book Nook, the 2013 2nds Challenge, which goes so well with all the new authors I read last year.

1. This challenge will run from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013

6. There are four levels for the challenge:
a. Just A Spoonful: Read 5 books that are second in a series or the second time that you've read the author.

b. A Few More Bites: Read 10 books that are second in a series or the second time that you've read the author.

c. A Full Plate: Read 20 books that are second in a series or the second time that you've read the author.<--- 17="17" 2nds="2nds" i="i" last="last" level="level" probably="probably" read="read" this="this" year="year">

d. All You Can Eat: Read 30 books that are second in a series or the second time that you've read the author.
 8. There will be a link-up for your reviews, which will be posted on THIS page.

For more information and to sign-up, please see this post.

leftovers from last year:
Jo Nesbo - Nemesis
Qiu Xioalong - A Case of Two Cities
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
based on authors I read for the first time in 2012:
Jane Gardam (Old Filth) - The Man in the Wooden Hat
Dorothy Gilman (The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax) - next in series
Allegra Goodman (Intuition) - The Cookbook Collector
Alice Hoffman (Green Angel) -
Julie Otsuka (The Buddha in the Attic) -
Jane Harris (Gillespie and I) - The Observations
CJ Sansom (Dissolution) - next in series
Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient) - The Cat's Table, In the Skin of the Lion)
Marian Keyes (Watermelon)
Inger Ash Wolfe (The Calling)
Mary Roach (Stiff)
Connie Willis (Miracle and Other Stories)

what I read in 2013
1. The Black Ice  - Michael Connelly (2nd in Harry Bosch series)
2. The Serpent's Tale - Ariana Franklin (2nd in Mistress of the Art of Death series)
3. The Treatment - Mo Hayder (2nd in Jack Caffrey series)
4. Nemesis - Jo Nesbo (2nd in Harry Hole series)
5. Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer (read Into Thin Air)

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Bookish Goals For 2013

It's always great to start the year off with a goal - here's a list of bookish goals, the topic for today's Top Ten Tuesday. The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly meme.

1. Read Our Own Tomes at librarything
There is a group at librarything that is setting goals and reading their own books they already own. The group activity at librarything is a lot of fun, although I imagine by hanging around there, I'll find even more books I want to read, practically defeating the purpose of the group.

2.  Participate in Orange January/July
The group at Librarything gets together and reads books nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction (sorry, it's now called The Women's Prize for Fiction). Lots of great books, twice a year.

3. Ireland Reading Challenge
I signed up already for this challenge, as I have the last few years. I can usually read between 6 and 8 books, and I have several favorite authors from Ireland.

4. What's in a Name Challenge
Another challenge I've been participating in since the beginning. The topics are fun to look over and see what book titles will fit.

5. Series Goals Challenge
This worked very well for me last year, as I listed all the series I wanted to read more from. I got back into some old series I really enjoyed and got up to date on another bunch. Mysteries are my go-to favorite reads.

6. read a few more Classics  
Nothing crazy, and I'm not picking a number, but a few classic books would be good

7. Read the ten books I posted that I want to read (stole this one from Literary Feline)
I did this a couple of times last year as part of the Top Ten Tuesday lists, and it was a great idea.

8. Canadian books.
Does this even need to be a goal? But I like finding new Canadian authors to read.

9. More Non-fiction
Listening to non-fiction on my iPhone has been a great development. I enjoy non-fiction when I read it, and I read woefully few each year, even though I often enjoy them.

10. Giving up books when I am bored.
Not keeping reading books that are not interesting me more often. If I can't cross it off the list, too bad.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Books I Resolve To Read In 2013

Happy New Year! It's always great to start the year off with a goal - here's a bookish goal of ten books I resolve to read in 2013, the topic for today's Top Ten Tuesday. The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly meme.

Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2013

1. Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
 The third Maisie Dobbs book

2. Molokai by Alan Brennert
This got rave reviews a few years ago on the blogosphere; I really want to get this read

3. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Irish novel, Booker nominated

4. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker
 Bloomsbury edition that looks adorable

5. Love's Shadow by Ada Leverson
Final Bloomsbury edition from the original set published

6. The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouellette
 Who doesn't love calculus?

7. Small Island by Andrea Levy
Orange winner 

8. The Colour by Rose Tremain
Another Orange book I've had for a while

9. Birdman by Mo Hayder
New series recommended by SuziQOregon

10. Duma Key by Stephen King
I meant to read it all last year