Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BOOK: The Spellman's Strike Again by Lisa Lutz

The Spellman's Strike Again by Lisa Lutz, 390 pages

book 4 of 5 in series

The Spellman's are silly fun, and back to their antics in the fourth installment. Izzy whines about her crazy family narrates the story again, and I am sensing some actual growth in the thirty-two year old. Some of the silly pranks between family members are being treated a little more seriously. The story is told in various reports, with her amusing footnotes, and references to previous editions (now available in paperback!).

The funniest part of this book was the case where Izzy was investigating a missing butler for an eccentric old client. She installs one of her out of work acting pals as the temporary butler, but he goes all method actor, and becomes a classic English butler, even at home with his partner, forgetting to do much of the investigating she wants. 

There is one more book, but the story feels like it could have ended here, with a lot of wrap-ups to various characters and plot lines. Lutz includes a more serious aspect of wrongful conviction , as Izzy and her sister Ray both take on the case of a prisoner that appears innocent. The ability to test for DNA has proven a lot of wrongful convictions.  There is even a short article about how a person could help at the end, after the quizzes on her brother, and the dossiers on each character. There are a number of cute extras like this that make this series a lot of fun. They are quick to read, and pretty funny, and are only vaguely of the mystery variety.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Recommend The Most

The topic for Top Ten Tuesday today is the books I recommend the most. A lot of factors go in to offering a book as a recommendation, especially knowing the type of books that the other person already likes to read. Not everyone likes mysteries, but those who do should try Indridason or Deon Meyer for some international type. Mostly, recommended books are very readable with a catchy plot. I'm all about a great story.
Check out The Broke and the Bookish for more Top Ten Lists.

1. Pope Joan by
Great historical fiction full of adventure and women doing cool sneaky stuff, like learning and helping and leading people.

2. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I sent this one around the staff room last year and everyone liked it - male and female. Plus, it's a beautiful cover.

3. Quiet by Susan Cain
Highly recommended for all introverts, and even those who aren't. Hey, that's pretty much everyone. I listened to this one on audiobook, and loved it. It's good for teachers of introverts as well.

4. The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (just read this weekend)
I'm only beginning my mission of spreading the word about this one, but I gave it to a colleague the day after I finished it.

5. Arnaldur Indridason's Icelandic mystery series
I recommend this for mystery fans as something a little different with the Iceland setting. I've gotten a few readers hooked on the series.

6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Such a great nonfiction narrative I feel safe recommending this to anyone. Very engaging, with all the aspects that Skloot covers.

7. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The sweetest romance you can read. It has British village, family fights, aging, and immigration.

8. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeiffer
This is a young adult book, but the suddenness of the incident (the moon is struck by an asteroid) and the ensuing effect on Earth will stay with you as a scary possibility. 

9. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Oh, Ishiguro will take you in and break your heart. This is a gem.

10. Clara Callan by Richard Wright
It's the books that sneak up on you when you have no idea what they are about that I find are the ones I want to recommend. Clara was such a book.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

BOOK: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, 343 pages

Australian Book Challenge; Orange Longlist 2013

So good! I'll be recommending this to many readers in the next few months.

First, the historical and technical details of a lighthouse worker off the southwestern coast of Australia in the 1920s, a WWI veteran, were very good. The setting was realistic and the sense of the ocean greatness felt so real. The romance and marriage of Tom and Isabel and their life on the isolated island was touching. The repercussions from the first world war permeate all the characters in the story.

Then, the tragedy or bad decision by Tom when a baby washes up on shore (it made sense in the book) comes back to haunt Tom and Isabel. I was back and forth between who I felt was in the wrong (nobody?) It was a terrible situation especially for Lucy, the child. My heart broke for everyone. Parental love for a child is a strong, and parents will make decisions to protect their child.

This is going to make a fabulous movie, and everyone will be in tears.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

BOOK: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, 664 pages

Ireland Reading Challenge; Booker Longlist 2010

Skippy dies in the first sentence, so that is no surprise. The rest of the book gets us to that point, and looks at the repercussions after the fact.

Teenage boys at boarding school in Dublin in the 2000s so we have: girls, girls with eating disorders, drugs, geeks, priests, bullies, teachers, sex with girls, teenagers being apathetic, teenagers with varying interests, physics (that was a cool surprise!), cell phones, sexting, divorces, parents even more immature than their children; a little bit of everything, with a strong helping of sex and drugs.

Murray covers a lot of ground with his readable novel. The teenagers and their angsty confused world. The teachers/adults who are their own microcosm of high school with bullies and self-esteem issues. Confusing the issue, many of the teachers are former Seabrooke alumni, coming back to teach with former classmates and teachers and all the previous relationships inherent in that. The relationships and inner thoughts all rang very true for me.

My only issue was with the acting vice-principal character, and only because I hated him so much, which only speaks to how well the character was written. That type of arrogant, ambitious, self-centered control-freak bully can be so impossible to deal with. Watching him make decisions only based on how it served him best, and living the 'old-boys' network makes you realize what obstacles are in place in many work-places for people not in the circle. He made some very infuriating decisions and judgments and every time he was in the book, I hated him.

But the other characters were good and I liked the book.

 also reviewed: jackie at farmlane books; jenners at life with books

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Friday, March 22, 2013

BOOK: The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville

The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville, 400 pages

Orange Prize Winner 20014; Australian Author Challenge

Two awkward middle aged professionals meet in a small town in Australia and attempt to find love.

Or rather, love finds them. It's not as sweetly romantic sounding as that one line; the engineer who loves concrete and the museum curator are more likely on a collision course. Each is brought to town to deal with the local old bridge. One to fix it (with concrete!) and the other to possibly preserve it. Each is so entirely awkward within their own skin, and concerned about how they fit in amongst the rest of the people (whom they see as well-adjusted) that it is amazing they look up and out enough to actually meet.

The story is very slow, especially the first half. I enjoyed the second half much more. Each of the characters spends lots of time in their head, going over past love affairs and their deficiencies. But there is someone for everyone, if they can just get out of their own heads long enough to notice that other person.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time VII

It's the first sign of spring, online if not in the actual world around here. Carl is hosting his seventh annual Once Upon a Time event, running during the spring season - March 21st until June 21st.

Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology

Some years I have more interest in fantasy/fairy tale type books than others. (The fall RIP is the one where I have no problem and lots of  interest in reading books.) Last year I read seven books. This year looks like a Journey for me:

By signing up for The Journey you are agreeing to read at least one book within one of the four categories during March 21st to June 21st period. Just one book. If you choose to read more, fantastic! 

The Books I Have Around Here:
Anasi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and her daughter
Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Book I Actually Read: 
1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Thursday, March 14, 2013

CHALLENGE: Science Book Challenge

The annual science challenge hosted Jeff at Scienticity. I get my reminders from Melanie at the Indextrious reader  thanks Melanie!

Rules =
Read 3 (or 3.14!) science books during 2013, then tell us and others about the books you've read--why you liked them or didn't like them--and help spread science literacy.

Jeff states that the general theme this year is  "Science & Culture"

Your books should have something to do with science, scientists, how science operates, or the relationship of science with our culture. Your books might be popularizations of science, they might be histories, they might be biographies, they might be anthologies; they can be recent titles or older books, from the bookstore or your local library. We take a very broad view of what makes for interesting and informative science reading, looking for perspectives on science as part of culture and history.

Possible Books:
Force of Nature: Ernest Rutherford
Waves by Susan Casey
The Great Influenza by John Barry
something by Mary Roach (Packing for Mars)

Books Read:
1. The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouellette


Sunday, March 10, 2013

BOOK: Astray by Emma Donoghue

Astray by Emma Donoghue, 280 pages

Canadian Book Challenge (Donoghue is living in Canada, but is herself an immigrant from Ireland)

The mark of a talented writer is one who writes in very different styles and keeps the reader interested. Donoghue of Room fame, also writes historical fiction (The Sealed Letter) and now short stories, Astray. Although I guess this is still historical fiction, and like The Sealed Letter, each story is based on a true incident.

The concept of each story is part of what makes this a fun read. After each story, there is a note, which explains from where Donoghue was inspired - a single sentence in a newspaper article, Charles Dickens' letters, London Times articles, or even published memoirs or biographies. Waiting to see what part might be real, or how Donoghue teased out a fictional account of real people made each story even better. Then, the overarching theme of 'astray', geographically or morally, of immigrants coming or going, connects the stories furthur. Fans of historical fiction and short stories should investigate this collection.

sidenote: I am averaging one Canadian authored short story collection a month in 2013. Kinda weird.
January - Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky
February - Dressing Up for the Carnival by Carol Shields
March -  Astray by Emma Donoghue
Putting some pressure on me for April, aren't you Alice Munro?

Astray is also (favourably) reviewed: Joy at thoughts of joy; karen at morsie reads; carrie at nomadreader;

Saturday, March 9, 2013

BOOK: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, 384 pages

Wonderfully epic novel of both the twentieth century, and the life of a Hawaiian girl who contracted leprosy. We see how life being a leper changed with changing attitudes (which in some ways mirrors today's treatment of AIDS/HIV patients) and how life for everyone changed - movies, airplanes, electric lights. American world war two involvement is also covered, from Pearl Harbour to Japanese internment camps and the modern history of Hawaii to statehood.

Rachel is just a young child of seven when she is sent to the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i. Torn from her family, her resilient spirit eventually allows her to build a life on the island, while always dreaming of a cure. Brennert throws a lot of history and information into his novel, but it flows very well.  The progression of Rachel through childhood, teenage years, and into adulthood and the characters she meets are all layered and developed. The whole situation was terrible, and many places in the book brought me to tears, but it is ultimately an uplifting and happy book. And now I want to go to Hawaii!

also reviewed: ramya's bookshelf;

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Series I'd Like To Start But Haven't Yet

Top Ten Series I'd Like To Start But Haven't Yet: Sadly, this list was far too easy to generate. I probably could have also done a list of 'series where I want to read the 2nd book in the series'. I'll save that for another day. Check out The Broke and the Bookish for future lists, and the find all the other participants.

1. Mo Hayder's Jack Caffery series (5 books)

2. Laurie R King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series (12 books)

3. George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series

4. Karin Slaughter's series with Georgia (3 books), Will Trent, and Sara Linton

5. Kate Ellis' Wesley Peterson mysteries (17 books)

6. Amitov Ghosh's Ibis Trilogy

7. Michael Stanley's Assistant Superintendent David 'Kubu' Bengu (3 books)
A new Botswana series to take the place of my Precious Ramotswe

8. Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death (5 books)
ETA: Oops, already started. It's great too!

9. Declan Hughes' Ed Loy mysteries (5 books)

10. Anchee Min's Empress Orchid series (2 books)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

BOOKS: February Reads

Some months I get more reviewed than others. Some months I don't. Those months get posts like this, with short thoughts. Short month, short thoughts! perfect

Best books: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, and I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I've Ever Had by Tony Danza.

7. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, 254 pages

Orange Prize shortlist 2006 The History of Love - Nicole Krauss

A little confusing in the time line for me, several different stories which all connected up. Survivors of the Holocaust, writers, an obscure book. Many readers love this book and I can see why, but it didn't quite wow me.

8.  Lola's Secret - Monica McInerney  see review

9. Dressing Up for the Carnival by Carol Shields, 210 pages

Canadian Book Challenge

There was a chapter from Unless; a while story without the letter I, (but inexplicably with one word that did - did it ever stand out!). This was an okay collection with a few stories that are sticking with me, other than those two. I enjoy them as I read them, but some really get into the writing process and if I were an English major, I'd probably love.

10. The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse by Jennifer Ouellette, 310 pages The Calculus Diaries - Jennifer Ouellette

Sadly, much less about calculus than I expected, but the author takes very different life situations, and shows how math or calculus could be used to apply. She writes in an easy style, and explains the science and math and why they are useful. Lots of history, and I'd easily recommend it to people.

11. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, 461 pages

Twelfth century England is always a fun time - lots of political history, and the church. Reminds me of the Brother Cadfael books, but a little less cozy. A 'doctor of death' is brought over from Italy to clear the Jews of Oxford from the deaths of some children. She has to fight many prejudices clearly, but also develops a romance. It was involved, had a great mystery, was gory, and a romance. Excellent historical mystery!

12. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith see review

13. I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had - Tony Danza see review

14. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainain - Marina Lewycka, 235 pages
 2005 Orange shortlist

Not at all what I was expecting, but it was a darkly humorous good book. Two women get involved when their widowed father brings a young gold digger to England from Ukraine and marries her. One daughter was born before the second world war in Ukraine, the other was born in England after the war, and their vastly different family situations colours how they view their parents and each other. Eventually more of their family history before and during the war is revealed.

15. The Black Ice - Michael Connelly, 368 pages Harry Bosch #2

Harry is not invited to investigate the suicide of a fellow cop in LA, but when would that stop Harry? Harry Bosch continues his lone wolf style of investigating, annoying his bosses, meeting the ladies, and searching for some peace in his soul.
Bosch is a easy reading series, with a great main character, good intricate plots. Connelly has written almost twenty books in this series, plus 2 or 3 other interlocking series.