Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Buy/Pick Up a Book

Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Buy/Pick Up A Book

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish, and there is a different topic posted each week. Head over to see what other participants have posted.

Epistolary - so many books fit this category and I nearly always enjoy. Best example: Bridget Jones

Small British Village - may or may not contain a murder, but that pushes it up the list

two (or more) sisters - here's a list at librarything of books with sisters

mystery - bonus if it is a mystery from another country, or one I haven't read before.

police procedural - this started with the Ed McBain 87th precinct books

parallel histories - I can't even think of a good example, but I know I enjoy back and forths. It by Stephen King is kind of what I'm thinking of. Maybe more parallel stories, or different narrators is what I mean here.

modern Dublin - thanks Maeve Binchy!

historical fiction - not all historical fiction, but this topic will certainly make me look twice at the book, especially if there is a crime. Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters is an excellent example

orange prize nominated - makes it easy to select a book if I know it has been nominated

Canadian- I know this is actually really broad, but I do enjoy reading different authors from around the country. Our country is pretty big and multicultural, so this encompasses almost everything.

Monday, April 22, 2013

BOOK: The Forrests by Emily Perkins

The Forrests by Emily Perkins, 340 pages

Orange Longlist 2013 (Women's Prize for Fiction)

I persevered through The Forrests, and finally finished. Ringing endorsement, eh?

Jenny wrote a post about the unified theory of her reading tastes. You should check out her theory - it helped me realise what it is about books I don't like. (Well, I've essentially copied hers). I don't enjoy books where the characters are not put into a situation where they are forced to make a decision, or deal with a difficulty or show some growth. Books where characters just float along and do some thinking, combined with a lack of writer's 'readability for my brain' are books that I end up not enjoying. I can handle one or the other, but both? Me and the book are in trouble.

That would be my problem with The Forrests, because I did have problems. Most of the interesting action happened between chapters, and the (eventual) main character just seemed to float through life. The point of view, with no one's thoughts or viewpoint stressed (what's that actually called?), also made it difficult to connect with anyone at all. (And I know it is cliche to say I didn't connect with characters.) For an example of the missing action, at one point, Dorothy has had a number of kids, becoming quite agoraphobic, and quite obese. At the start of the next chapter, she is swimming at a local pool, and the comment is made that she had been dieting for the past two years. What?

Dorothy is one of four Forrest children, and we follow her life. The detail in the beginning chapters,  about all the kids as the family moves to New Zealand, did not lead me to realize that it was Dorothy, and her entire life that we'd be following.There were lots of sad things, some good things; a regular life.

I didn't actually hate it, and there were chapters where I did get into the story. I respect what the author has written and why it would be nominated for The Woman's Prize for Fiction, but overall, not a story that I enjoyed enough.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

BOOK: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, 478 pages

review copy from Random House Canada

 "What if we had a chance to do it again and again," Teddy said, "until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?"

First of all, this is not Groundhog Day, the movie. Ursula Todd is not reliving the same day, but she does get to live her life over and over. Each time, at some critical point, her life takes a turn. The people in her life stay the same, but different things happen each time, after 'darkness falls'.

The two world wars in England are lived over and over, with lots of chances for death. Ursula has deja vu eventually, as she somehow knows she needs to do things to prevent the deaths of her loved ones. London during the blitz is so ripe for reading about, and I do enjoy that setting.

It was fun as the book moved on to see the same people and same events, but from different views of Ursula's life, depending on how this world was going. Sometimes she might have been killed by the bomb that landed during the blitz, sometimes she was the ARP worker saving the same house and people from the bomb, sometimes she was nearby, sometimes she was in Germany instead. The essence of the other characters stayed the same in her various lives - she is always close to her sister, her aunt always comes to the rescue.

Atkinson is a wonderful writer, with a good sense of humor, and the ability to keep different characters and plot lines interconnected, and satisfying, by the end. I've loved all the books she's written (I haven't read two early books yet) but I so look forward to them. I'm not sure if I like this one better than Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Life After Life was more enjoyable during the reading but by the end of Behind the Scenes at the Museum, I was blown away by how it all came together. Life After Life was a bit of a let down, since how can the story ever end? But the ride was fabulous.

Monday, April 1, 2013

BOOK: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, 316 pages

review copy from Random House of Canada

Cheryl Strayed wrote this memoir of her time hiking the Pacific Crest Tail in the 1990s. She decided to walk the 1000 mile trail after her mother had died (quickly) of cancer when Cheryl was just twenty-one. In the few years after the death, her marriage broke up, and her step-father and siblings grew apart; the trail was a chance to rely on herself, and come to terms with her behaviour and grief.

She kind of planned for the hike, but not in a way that was terribly useful. Her family had been outdoorsy, but nothing that approached her adventure. The community that she ran into on the trail was nearly all friendly and congenial and her biggest fears were the wildlife. A trip today without a cell phone is almost unimaginable.

The book reads very easily, and could almost cause a reader to think a hike would be a fun idea. Almost, except for her feet which were raw and blistered the whole trip, the weight of carrying a pack, and dealing with unplanned detours. Strayed connects her past life and mistakes with how she came to terms with her present life, and is pretty upfront about herself and her decisions. It would be a great read for someone who liked adventures, self-growth, and seeing how far a person can push themselves when under duress. She was an person heading on a downward spiral, so there is sex and drug talk, but I enjoyed getting to know her.

Next to try: Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods which chronicles the east coast version of walking the Appalachian trail.