Friday, June 27, 2014

CHALLENGE: Paris in July 2014

I've started the last three four summers participating in Paris in July, hosted by Tamara (Thyme for Tea), Belleza (dolcebelleza), Adria (Adria in Paris), and Karen (A Wondering Life). I've read some fabulous books:
Read in 2013        Read in 2012         Read in 2011           Read in 2010

There are plenty of options; it is not just about reading, and I've seen a couple of movies for this challenge as well. Why not try:
- Reading a French book - fiction or non-fiction
- Watching a French movie
- Listening to French music
- Cooking French food
- Experiencing French art, architecture or travel

This year, I plan to listen to The Painted Girls by Cathy Buchanan.

Monday, June 23, 2014

MEME: Brought to You by the Letter...

Simon at Stuck in a Book has started a Meme about your favourite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via If you'd like to join in, comment in the comment section and I'll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.) My letter, as assigned by Simon is K.

Favourite Book - It turns out there are not a lot of books that start with K. After perusing some book titles, I think K is a harder letter than Q or V, Simon. I didn't really have a book that stood out for me, but I came up with The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini, with a runner-up The Known World by Edward P Jones (Pulitzer Prize 2004). The Kite Runner was a great if depressing book that I read years ago. I didn't really like The Known World when I read it, but parts of it kept coming back to me and so my overall remembrance is a good one. The K book I want to read is Kiss the Joy As it Flies by the wonderful Sheree Fitch.

Favourite Author - This was the easiest : Stephen King. I've been a fan of his since I was a teenager, and am still reading his books. The book of his I want to read next is 11/22/63. But there is also the non-fiction book he wrote with Stewart O'Nan about the Red Sox...

Favourite Song - This is much tougher. I went to iTunes to see what my options were. Some songs have been played a lot by One Direction (Kiss You) and Ed Sherren (Kiss Me), but I suspect those are from my 14 year old daughter as I don't recognize them at all. I think my favourite K song has to be Kindred Spirits from the Anne of Green Gables musical. It's certainly the song I'd know all the words to.

Favourite Film - The King's Speech was such a great movie! I do adore Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, and this was done so well.  (It just edges my teenage pick of The Karate Kid and the delightful Czech film, Kolya.)

Favourite Object -My favourite object that starts with a K is a knife, because without a knife, how would I cut my barbequed steak?

Thanks Simon, that was fun! Anyone else want to play? Ask for a letter, and you shall receive.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books on My Summer TBR

Only one day late! There is nothing that is more fun for me than imagining summer reads. As a teacher, I get my summers 'off', and I imagine myself arising early, going for a walk as the sun is rising, coming home, drinking coffee while sitting outside, and reading a great book. Sitting at the beach - reading a book. The reality (and my laziness) are a different picture, and I usually imagine many more books than can actually get read and I'll not arise early very often and the children will have demands.  I generally read the about the same number of books in the summer as I would any other random two months. But the dreaming is fun!

1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This was given to me by another reading colleague, and I can't wait to dive in

2. Longbourn by Jo Baker
Longbourn looks so delicious - historical, Pride and Prejudice, the servants in a parallel story. I really can't wait for this one.

3. Road Ends by Mary Lawson
I still remember Crow Lake as one of my top books. The emotion, and family connections, and bleak Canadian landscape. I plan to savour this one!

4. Angelica's Smile by Andrea Camilleri
The 17th book in the Inspector Montalbano series comes out on June 24th and I can't wait to get it and see what Salvo is up to on Sicily.

5. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
I am waiting to get this audiobook from the library -   "A chilling psychological thriller about a marriage..."

6. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
I've had this one far too long, and by such a great author, I know I'll enjoy this epic.

7. Elegy for Eddie and Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
I intend to finish up this series this summer, and await the next book she may write about Maisie.

8. The Last Word by Lisa Lutz
The final in the Spellman family series, this will be a fun, quick read, perfect for some weekend of a soccer tournament when I'll be outside all weekend.

9. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson or some other non-fiction book.
A murder + Marconi developing the radio? Lovely mash up of my two favorite reads - science and murder.

10. This is where I can't find another book for the list, but I can find 50. On one of the last days of the school year, I'll head to our school library and snag a few new titles for the summer. Our librarian is the best - she orders lots of new titles for the 'avid' and 'mature' readers. Plus, she'll suggest a number of great reads that I'll have to take. We really enable each other in book titles. (Plus, I have Game of Thrones here to read. If I don't read them in the summer, when ever will I?)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

BOOKS: The Burgess Boys, Still Life With Bread Crumbs, Maddaddam

A few of the books I read from the Bailey Prize for Fiction, longlist edition.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, 336 pages

I loved Olive Kitteridge (and this is one of my favorite reviews I wrote) so I had high expectations. It wasn't as good as Olive, but I did enjoy it. It was similar in that it looked at a family, from Maine. The prologue began as a mother and daughter were talking about the Burgess boys from their small Maine town, and then it backtracked to tell the story. Unless I missed something, that never seemed to get resolved; I never noticed those women again. It's a story about families, and the stories and roles that people play in the family lore. (I actually forgot a lot of details in the plot, and just refreshed myself reading some reviews at librarything) My fuzzy recollection and impression was about the two brothers, and how they go back to Maine to help our their sister and her son, when the nephew gets in trouble. It's hard to judge families, and all the experiences that led them to the present can never be fully explained.  Good, solid read and I am keeping Strout on my list of authors to read more from.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, 252 pages

Other than the horrifying 'romance' label my library slapped on this book, I quite liked it. A famous photographer rents a cabin in a small town as she tries to get her life back together financially after a quiet spell. She's trying to make some sense of her life, and meets some people in the meantime. A gentle romance develops (not enough to label it as such); this is more in the tradition of men looking back on their lives and trying to make sense of things. I liked this one quite a bit; it might even be my favorite of the nominated books.

Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood, 13 h 24 m

Although I have been listening to many audiobooks this year, I am a very visual reader. Thus, I think I miss things when I listen to books. I think I missed stuff in this book. In some ways, it is a very simple book - simple dialogue (representing the starting over of civilization?), and it was hard to grasp a sense of the plot. Lots of time is spent looking back at Zeb's life and adventures as he tells his stories to Ren, and Zeb's connection to Adam One, and everything that led up to the present day. I really liked The Year of the Flood, and was not interested in Oryx & Crake, but now I'd like to go back and see how it all started. What actually happened? How did Oryx and Crake get so powerful?

The Crakers were interesting and Atwood does a great job of world-creating, but overall it was just an okay book. There were three narrators reading different parts of the story, but I don't know if that was really necessary. On the plus side, I really like the cover! Something about the colours really works for me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

BOOKS: Burial Rites and The Lowland

The Bailey Prize, the prize formerly known as the Orange Prize, which readers here will know I follow, has announced its winner:  A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride! Hurray, for one of two books from the short list that I didn't get read. Figures. It's not even being released in Canada until September 2014.

The Shortlist for 2014 included:
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah I read last summer. Mostly good, but the ending was weak. Half a Yellow Sun was her better book by far.
  • Hannah Kent, Burial Rites Read it in June, liked it, see below
  • Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland  Read it in May, neutral reaction?
  • Audrey Magee, The Undertaking Did not get read, and was only released in Canada in May
  • Eimear McBride, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing I managed to read last year's winner (May We Be Forgiven) as this book was being awarded the prize. I guess I'll read this one next year.
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch In which I reacted to all the praise by being probably unfairly harsh, but still, the book is overrated.

A Few Bailey Prize for Women Shortlisted Books:

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, 352 pages

I'm neutral about this book - didn't love it, didn't hate it (hello, The Goldfinch) but it also didn't affect me in a way that caused me to have any great reaction and my memories are a tad fuzzy. (Which, although The Goldfinch drove me nuts, I still remember a lot of details about that book) Two brothers again, starting out in India during the rebellion. One brother escapes to the United States, and builds a life with very little contact to India. The brother who remained was a much more of an activist, and is killed by the police. The US brother comes home, and then marries the pregnant widow. They proceed to live a life in America, but not really together. The mysteries of families, and what holds them together.I did like how everyone's lives turned out but I found it started slow.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent,  336 pages

An Icelandic mystery from the early 1800s, pieced together and imagined by first time novelist, Hannah Kent. I saw this described as Alias Grace + Kristin Lavrensdatter + Arnaldur Indridason, which is perfect, and why I did enjoy this book. Part of the appeal is the Icelandic setting, when Iceland was still under Danish rule. I liked the look at women's life, at Iceland in general, and the gradual telling of doomed Agnes' story. Good solid read.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Favorite Books of the Year, so far...

Hellooo. I'm still here. We got moved, and then soccer started and life got busy. For example, tonight, all three kids had a practice at 6 pm, at different places. The new house is wonderful, we are enjoying the extra space (and shower!). I'll 'give a tour' eventually, when I get some respectable photos. Let's say that will be my first summer vacation project.
Seeing this prompt in my InoReader (aka Google Reader) was just the easy thing for me to get back on the blogging wagon. I have been reading, and listening (a lot more listening this year) to lots of great books. One more week of correcting stuff, and then reading gets a lot easier. It's not that I don't read during the school year, but I read guiltily, knowing I have a pile of correcting to do. Losing the guilt part is the best.

Favorite Books of the Year, so far...

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - the 15 hour audiobook (narrated by Wil Wheaton) that was so good I couldn't turn it off. So much fun with the 80s memories! There is a reason this is recommended in so many lists of great audiobooks.

2. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding - I'm a huge Bridget fan, and I loved this finale for her. She's still silly, but she has grown up tons. If she wasn't still making rash decisions, and getting into scrapes, she wouldn't be Bridget, even at fifty years old. I certainly missed Mark, but so did Bridget, and my heart broke several times with her.

3. How the Light Gets In  by Louise Penny- Another audiobook that got me hooked, actually better than the last few in the series.  I appreciated the characters a lot more. It helped there was lots of Ruth, and little Jean-Guy and Peter. This tied up the huge story arc of the in-house battles that have been going on, although the whole premise was a tad far-fetched.

4. One More Thing by BJ Novak - Delightful, wry, humourous morsels that are close to short stories, but almost too short to even be that much. They beg to be re-read, as I do like the funny.

5. The Bear by Claire Cameron - This gets compared to Room by Emma Donaghue, but only because of the five year old narrator. Dear little Anna has to get her young brother out of the woods after her parents are eaten by a bear. Her perspective keeps things from getting too horrifically bad because her brain won't let her process too much at once. Surprisingly hopeful!

6. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - I've been meaning and wanting to read this for a few years, since I read American Gods. If American Gods is an epic tale, Anansi Boys is the little sibling, that goes along with its older cooler brother. It's a family tale, very well-done by Gaiman, of whom we expect nothing less. A nice surprising read.

7. Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen - I just finished this one, but it was a very nice, gentle book. Horrifically, it had a 'romance' sticker on it from the library. I wouldn't class if that way, but there was a nice love story gradually happening.

8. Reality Boy by AS King - I haven't been reading much Young Adult these days, but I would recommend this one easily. Gerald is a very angry teenager, dealing with his 'reality fame' many years later as an out of control young child on a Nanny show. His dysfunctional, rotten family, the adults who knew there were problems and did nothing, and the resilience of some people despite their situations made this a compelling read.

9.  Cabin Pressure series (audiobook) - written by John Finnemore, this BBC radio series isn't really a book, but I did listen to the 25 episodes like an audiobook. Hilarious! Really, really funny, and I've even started to re-listen to some of them again. Brilliant stuff here.

10. the 4 Maisie Dobbs books (#5-8)  I read  by Jacqueline Winspear - sometimes individual books are just okay, but the series as a whole gets upgraded. That's what happened to me as a flew through four books of Maisie Dobbs, 2 of which were audiobooks. I liked how the series developed, how the characters grew, and really started to move on from the first world war. Unfortunately, the next war is looming. I have two more to go, then I get to wait for the next release, sometime next year.