Tuesday, December 30, 2014

LIST: Best Reading in 2014

Here is my 2014 Year in Reading. I fell apart on the blogging at the end of the year, but this is a good summary and it's practically all new content from me! 
Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner has provided us with the questions that I copied from Trish.

Best of Reading in 2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline on audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton. Fabulous!

 2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
 The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
 I did like it, but didn't love it.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014?
The Hiding Place by Corrie ter Boom (audiobook)
I had never heard of this book, and didn't even realize it was non-fiction for quite a while. Written in 1974, it could be considered Anne Frank's lesser known 'hidden Jews in the house in Netherlands' cousin.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?
  The Bear by Claire Cameron

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?
-Series started: Her Royal Spyness - Rhys Bowen. Such a fun series! 1930s, London, tangential relationship to royalty. I read 3 in the series this year. Fun and cosy mysteries.

-Series Ender: Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason. I'm very sad this series is over.

-Series I Read the Most: Maisie Dobbs by  Jeannette Winspear. While the series didn't end, it could have. I read six books and got all up to date. Fabulous books.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
I kept to the tried and true authors for the most part this year, but a few were intriguing and I'd like to look into their previous books:  
Harriet Lane who wrote Alys, Always; and Emily St. John Mandel who wrote Station Eleven

 7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I didn't read much outside my comfort zone this year. The closest would be a science fiction graphic novel, which was fun. 
Federal Bureau of Physics Vol 1 - Oliver Simon (graphic novel)

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
This is why Ready Player One was my best book of the year! I remember being worried I wouldn't get through the 15h 40 min in the three week loan. Silly me! I couldn't stop listening at all.

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Since Anne of Green Gables, of Avonlea, and of the Island were already re-reads (but I listened to them for the first time) I would have to say this series. I would listen to them again as well. Anne of Green Gables was  almost my top book of the year as well, but it didn't feel right to pick a book that I've read so many times. (But it still really was my favorite read of the year.)

 10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

The Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal have lovely covers and I listened to all three. This is the first series that I've only listened to. 

 11. Most memorable character of 2014?
Anna, the five year old narrator who gets herself and her two year old brother out of the woods in The Bear was very memorable.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block. Wasn't quite as lovely as some of her other books, but her style is the most unique of any author I read; modern day fairytales.

 13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?
Chris Hadfield's An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. He's a pretty inspirational guy.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?
I didn't read anything this year that could be called a classic book, nothing very old.  Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman qualifies only because I got it as a present probably 6 years ago and finally got around to reading (and loving) it.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?
I never record quotes.

 16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
Longest - has to the The Goldfinch at 776 pages, and Ready Player One at 15h 40 min (I dont' know how those compare)
Shortest - Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People by Douglas Coupland, 144 pages

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most
(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Both Gillian Flynn books I listened to, Sharp Objects and Dark Places were full of surprises and great thrillers.
But Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson (a YA Sync Summer Download) was by far the craziest set of reveals in an unbelievable way.

18. OTP of the Year
(OTP = one true pairing — don’t worry, I had to look it up, too)
Even if I had one, I won't admit to this one.  Instead, let's make up another question to cover genres that this list doesn't have:
Best Historical Fiction was Longbourne by Jo Baker, based on Pride and Prejudice. Great historical and also a book based on another book. Maybe this is best sequel?

 19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The friends from Three Pines and Inspector Gamauche are consistently fun to read about. How the Light Gets In and The Long Way Home by Louise Penny.

 20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
The Secret Place by Tana French. Love her mysteries.

 21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
We Were Liars by E Lockhart was recc'd by AMB at Misfortune of Knowing because of her intriguing review, which I only really started reading, and then stopped and read the book.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was a fun summer read given to my by a friend.

 22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
Darcy O'Mara, the rogue-ish Irish fella who shows up at the perfect time to save Lady Georgiana in The Royal Spyness books.

 23. Best 2014 debut you read?
One More Thing by BJ Novak. Short and even shorter stories, from a funny guy. Very promising collection.

 24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood was pretty cool that way, as well as Ready Player One and Station Eleven for worldbuilding.

 25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
 The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips was a load of fun, as the knights not from the Round Table get to go on a quest. Plus, strong women, and gay men made this is Arthurian tale like no other.

 26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?
Mary Lawson never disappoints (both Road Ends and The Other Side of the Bridge) and Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy got to me a little bit.

 27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan (audiobook) was a cute little slice of life.

 28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
 I don't know if my soul can get crushed? What does that mean - heart broken?

 29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?
Ready Player One takes forever to explain what it is about because it really is unique.

 30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Easily The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I did sort of like it, but get an editor, and fix up the technology references which took me out of the story every time.

 31. Books that I Abandoned? trish's extra question
Oh dear, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. After two weeks and only reaching 150 pages, and not caring a fig what happened to silly Bilbo Baggins, I gave up. Maybe the movie?

32. Best Other Book that Didn't get Mentioned Already or Fit These Categories? my extra question
Sometimes audiobooks aren't my best way to take in information as I'm much more visual. But some audiobooks just hit the spot. The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison was a great listen, with two narrators describing the end of a marriage and I enjoyed it a lot.

Summary of Reading:
# Read: 94
# audiobooks: 36
# non-fiction: 7
# book club books: 9
# library books: 29 (but not audio)

whew. Thanks for reading to the end. Agree? Disagree? Let's see yours.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2014

The topic : Top New to Me Authors I Read in 2014. I read a lot of comfort authors this year, a lot of not new authors, which is different from a number of the last few years. This year was old reliable authors, with a few new ones thrown in. This list represents the ones I would read again.

George Saunders - The Tenth of December (short stories)

Chris Hadfield - Astronaut Extraordinaire

AS King - Reality Boy (really good YA story)

Graeme Simsion - The Rosie Project (cute, but I'm not sure I want to read the sequel)

Rhys Bowen - Her Royal Spyness mysteries (wonderful new to me series. Already read the second, and have the third on hand)

Jeanette Walls - The Glass Castle (already have the next book, Half-Broke Horses)

Claire Cameron - The Bear (5 year old narrator. Great book!)

 BJ Novak - One More Thing (short stories, and even shorter stories)

 ASA Harrison - The Silent Wife (audiobook, nice vibe, good narration)

Harriet Lane - Alys, Always (book club book, one of the books we've discussed the most. Interesting to look at motives, and reliability of narrator)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

AUDIOBOOKS: The Anne books by LM Montgomery

Although I've read the Anne books multiple times, this summer I started listening to Anne of Green Gables on audiobook. Anne was a book offered by SYNC, a great free summer listening series. I almost didn't start Anne, I've read her so many times, seen the plays, listen to the music from both plays: Anne of Green Gables and Anne and Gilbert. I mean, I live on PEI, and my middle name is Anne, with an 'e', for goodness sakes! And then I started listening and fell in love all over again. Colleen Winton did such a fabulous job of narrating, putting all the enthusiasm into Anne, adoration into Matthew, and gruff exterior into Marilla that I could ever want. I found myself in tears multiple times, which is a good thing. Listening provided a new view of these beloved books

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery10 h 7 min
narrated by  Colleen Winton

This really is such a wonderful story, with those iconic characters. ( See how I can connect the characters from AoGG with The Bookthief in number 8.) I think Marilla was my favourite this time through. I cry every time Matthew appears in the book, but Marilla is the one who really changes and grows. I wasn't able to get Colleen Winton reading all the books. I think they are new release editions with her narrating, and I'd recommend her versions whole heartedly.

Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery 8 h 39 min
read by Shelley Frasier
I've listened to Frasier narrate Stiff by Mary Roach and she did a fine job. Anne has settled down by this book, and started attending college, so her enthusiasm is dampened. She did mispronounce a few Island names which annoyed me more than it would most other people. 
I was impressed realizing how close to the books the Anne and Gilbert play authors followed the books. Many phrases from the wonderful songs are straight from the books. This is a middle book in a trilogy, so not enough really happens; just bridging between books 1 and 3, but Mr Harrison, the grumpy neighbour adds quite a bit to the story.

Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery 8h 42 min
narrated by Renee Raudman

Because I get my audiobooks from the library, my choice of narrator is rather limited. I knew part way through that I'd listened to another book by Raudman and I was right. (I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You, a silly YA series of espionage spy school for teenage girls)  She was good here as well and a little more subdued as befits the older Anne. Anne of the Island has Anne and Gil and Priscilla going off Prince Edward Island to attend Queens and get their BAs. There is much romance everywhere (except between Anne and Gilbert, arrrg!) as our characters are growing up.

Each time I started one of these audiobooks, I became immersed and listened non-stop. And I know everything that happens! If it has been awhile since you've read or reread the Anne books, I recommend grabbing a few audiobooks and loving them anew all over again.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Trish is hosting a Cook It Up! challenge. Try a new recipe, get out those cookbooks (or appliances) and try something new. I did a Mexican meal in the summer and for the fall, got cookie baking.

I was shopping in the summer with my mother, and she saw a cookie jar that she was going to buy, as it would look perfect in her kitchen. I stopped her and said to let me get it for her birthday, which was only a month away. It took me longer than it should have to realize I should make cookies and fill her jar before I gave it to her. Brilliant! (eventually)

I got out my Pillsbury Best Cookies cookbook and browsed for a while. I limited myself to cookies that were not heavily chocolate based, which although goes against most of what I believe in, fit more in line with the type of cookies my mother prefers. It was her birthday after all.

I made Coconut Macaroons, Brown Sugar Shortbread Puffs, Shortbread Triangles, Zucchini Cookies from the book, and Cake Batter Cookies from a Pinterest recipe.

Coconut Macaroons
These were fabulous! I may have had to make a second batch so there would be some left to give. They also made me look for recipes with only egg yolks, but now I have a list that I inserted in the Macaroon recipe page with recipes to try with yolks only, so I'll know what to do with those 2 egg yolks left-over after I make macaroons. More brilliant me!
And I will be making them again. Yum!
Shortbread Triangles and Zucchini Cookies
Everyone needs a zucchini recipe in the fall, right? I have an excellent chocolate zucchini bundt cake, and I always love a bundt cake. But you get a lot of zucchini, so a cookie recipe was called for. There was oatmeal, and spices as well as mini-chocolate chips.
The shortbread triangles were a slice and bake and used an egg yolk!  Pretty easy and quite yummy; a good shortbread recipe.

But not as good as the Brown Sugar Shortbread Puffs. They were a drop recipe and required no chilling, but one egg yolk! They didn't drop very pretty, and seemed a little dry as I baked them. Because they were a little rough around the edges, I went fancy and made a glaze with icing sugar and milk to put on top which added just the pizzazz these tasty cookies needed. A little chewy with that butterscotch edge - definitely going on the make again list. These did not get photographed for some reason. Neither did the completed cookie jar. But it was a great present and my parents both loved it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read list

The Broke and the Bookish host Top Ten Tuesday every week - head over to see other posts with fall reading. My fall reading is dominated by the creepy and the mysterious RIP reading. And lots of female authors. Don't you feel lucky Stephen King?

The Secret Place by Tana French
Must read everything (MRE) author with a new book out!

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Must read everything (MRE) author with a new book out!

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny (audiobook)
I listened to the last book and quite enjoyed it. Looking forward to seeing where she takes this series, besides Three Pines

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
This will get me up to date on Maisie Dobbs. Another series which gets better and better.

Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery (audiobook)
I've been re-immersed in my beloved Anne books, by listening. Really enjoying Marilla this time round.

The Prime Minister`s Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal (audiobook)
The only series I've never read, just listened to. I've started it already!

Just After Sunset by Stephen King
To get my short-story fix by Uncle Steve.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn  (audiobook)
Last week's post of author's to read again, plus those Gone, Girl movie teasers, has me inspired to listen to some older Gillian Flynn

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane
Book club book for October will certainly get read

Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)
Found this book second hand recently, and although I've been good about not buying too many books, this was too good to pass up. One dollar!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

 The topic this week from The Broke and the Bookish: Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More. This was an easy topic for me. For a number of years, I even kept track of New Authors I've read, so I only had to go back and look at the lists to find authors that made me go, "Oh, I need to read another of theirs!" I did find lots of favorite authors that I have now read more than one, but this list should also include:

Allegra Goodman - I liked Intuition a lot. It was a balanced look at scientific research that had real, interesting characters. Her book, The Cookbook Collector had been recommended to me, looks good, and is in my town library.

Connie Willis - I've read Miracle and Other Christmas Stories which I enjoyed. Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, or Blackout are the books that interest me. She writes science fiction, time-travel, and historical fiction

Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl was a fantastic dark ride with twists and terrible people. There are a couple of her books available on audio at my library, so Sharp Objects and Dark Places are on my short list to get to.

Lauren B Davis - Her book based on the Goler clan was a fantastic piece of writing. Our Daily Bread got me interested, and then buriedinprint raved about her other book, The Empty Room. Looks like a great Canadian author to get behind.

Patricia Highsmith - The Talented Mr Ripley was a creepy, dark book and while I'm not interested in more Ripley books, there are five altogether, her book Strangers on a Train looks deliciously suspenseful.

CJ Sansom - A great historical mystery series set during Henry the VIII? Why have I not read more? I read the first book, Dissolution, and I really want to read more in the series.

Tom Perrotta - I loved The Little Children when I read it in 2011. Perrotta writes general fiction, about people, and yet there was an edge to the book. The Leftovers or The Abstinence Teacher both pique my interest every time I see the titles.

Claire Messud - I listened to The Woman Upstairs and it was one of those books that had me still thinking of it months later. Another book by Messud, maybe The Emporer's Children, is in order.

Elizabeth Taylor - Mrs Palfry at the Clarement was one of those delightful British books I enjoy. The other Elizabeth Taylor wrote a number of books that are considered classic and under-appreciated.

Wilkie Collins - The Woman in White was a pretty good mystery, especially for a classic author. He's got another classic, The Moonstone, I'd like to try.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

AUDIOBOOKS: Sync Young Adult books

At the first of the summer, Sync again offered pairs of audiobooks to download each week. This is the first year I`ve made the effort and signed up to get the emails each week for a reminder. Awesome! I certainly didn`t get through all the books but I still have them on my iPhone, as they are free, and don`t expire. Thanks Sync! The link to the Sync site has an archive of all the books that have been offered, although you can only ever get a book the week it is offered.

Each week, a modern newer release is paired with a classic book. So, you might get Code Name Verity with The Hiding Place. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Murder at the Vicarage with Confessions of a Murder Suspect. Not every book is available in every country - Canada missed out on a couple; sadly one was Murder at the Vicarage, which I would have loved.

Confessions of a Murder Suspect - James Patterson

Patterson has a real industry of writers now, and is venturing into suspenseful, thrilling young adult books. This is a stand-alone, but is part of a series called Confessions Series. This was a wild ride, with a crazy family, and twists and turns that make you rewind and say, What?!? The parents are killed and the four kids are suspects. The daughter narrates and it is very dramatic. I can`t even begin to tell the secrets that come out, but I did listen through pretty quickly. (I`m not interested in another by him, but it was still engaging in its unbelievability)

 I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You - Ally Carter

The first of 6 books in the Gallagher Girls series. Very young adult series, and I would have really enjoyed it if I was 14 years old. Told in first person, the narrator is a student at a espionage school for girls. They are quite historic and renown, and it is very exaggerated in what the girls can do and learn. And still, the focus of their lives is boys. But the town boys don`t like the Gallagher Girls! It`s Romeo and Juliet and kissing. Cute enough, but I`ll survive if I don`t read any more.
This was paired with Anne of Green Gables - spunky girls!

All Our Yesterdays - Cristin Terrill

Time travel books are always hard on my head, and this one was no exception. I just find it hard to keep track of who is where, and what each person knows, and how did this now affect the past/future? It took a while to get into the story, and figure out what was going on and who the present and past people were, but then it was good with lots of twists and turns. Must save the world!

This was paired with Julius Caesar, performed by Richard Dreyfuss, JoBeth Williams, Stacy Keach, Kelsey Grammer, and a full cast. I tried to listen, but I didn`t have the attention or, quite frankly, the interest.

 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle 
Can`t go wrong listening to a few classic Sherlock Holmes. A little dramatic in the presentation with some music but still, it`s Sherlock, which makes me want to watch Benedict Cumberbatch, or Robert Downey Jr. There are two adaptations of Holmes that I think are almost better than the books.

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline - Nancy Springer

Actually book 5 in the Enola Holmes series, but easy enough to pop into the series. Enola is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft and is herself an accomplished detective. Nothing too fancy here, but it was cute and fun and I`d possibly listen to another. It`s definitely for young adults/children as clues were repeated and emphasized, but that just made me feel smart. I did love the Florence Nightengale aspect of this one.

The Hiding Place - Corrie ten Boom
I didn`t realize for quite a while into this book that is was non-fiction. It is also identified as a Christian book, but if I hadn`t read that, I wouldn`t have thought it. It is a wonderful book, set in occupied Holland during WW2. Corrie ten Boom wrote this in the 1970s, remembering her and her families effort in the Underground Resistance. Gives a little hope of the goodness of people amidst the Holocaust.  This should be paired with The Diary of Anne Frank in schools - is there anything more compelling than real life? Definitely my favorite of all the books I`ve listened to from Sync this summer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

BOOK: The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Philips

The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Philips, 310 pages

Random House Canada review copy

Things you need on a good quest: a knight, a maiden, a squire, a lady in a lake, an elephant. Wait, you don`t remember an elephant in any of King Arthur`s tales? Well, this isn`t your father`s King Arthur!

This is even better, with a, dare I say it, feminist slant? Because the knights and the kings and the squire (an undersized giant) are not that good. Not good at all. And the maiden, Elaine, looking for her kidnapped finance as well as Martha, a run away Queen looking for her long lost brother are by far, the wisest of this crowd. Oh, Sir Humphrey du Val tries, but he hasn`t been allowed on a quest in many years and has been relegated to the square table, with one shorter leg, the Table of Less Valued Knights that you have never heard of.

This is a decidedly humorous take on Camelot. Martha disguises herself as a boy for her quest to escape her new husband (who thinks he`ll be King, not the King Consort) and find her long lost brother, the rightful king. Martha meets up with Sir Humphrey and his quest for Elaine, and it practically becomes a Three`s Company episode of misunderstandings.

Described as a Monty Python meets The Princess Bride, expect Jemima the elephant to carry our heroines and heroes, the lady in the lake to be rather flaky, magic to `almost` work, gay characters to appear, battles between kingdoms for stupid male reasons to be ridiculed, custom officials to deal with as you enter a kingdom, and everyone trying to find a partner. All in all, great fun!

Monday, September 1, 2014

BOOK: Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, 324 pages

book 1 of 8 in the series

This was a surprising fun romp through 1932 London. Lady Georgiana is thirty-fourth in line for the throne of England, but flat broke. She lands in London from Scotland after being cut off by her brother who gets the title and the castle, with nothing but her royal connections to help her get by. She tries to get a job, tries to avoid getting set up to marry a fish-face prince, and then finds a dead body in her bath-tub.

I`m not usually a fan of cozy mysteries but this one worked for me. I am delighted to see that there are seven more books in the series. Lady Georgiana has pluck and the desire to make it on her own, and this first book certainly has a lot of examples of how difficult it was for her to live on her own and the differences between the classes still in the 1930s. She finds work ``opening up the London house` for others of her set, but forgets and tries to enter at the front door. Having to dig the coal out of the basement and start a fire for herself is a whole other adventure.

The mystery was thin (even I figured out who the murderer was, and I`m terrible at that!) but I still enjoyed it. There were a number of other great characters - her brother Binky, HRH the queen, her Cockney grandfather, and a few other friends from her set also eking out a sustenance, while trying to maintain a certain lifestyle. It often involved crashing weddings for a good meal.

I look forward to more adventures amongst Georgiana`s circle as she learns to stand on her own.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

BOOK: Road Ends by Mary Lawson

Road Ends by Mary Lawson, 311 pages

review copy from Random House Canada

I loved Crow Lake  and couldn`t wait to read Mary Lawson`s latest book. (Why I haven`t read her other book, The Other Side of the Bridge, is a good question. Must get on that.)

There are as many things to love about Road Ends as there were in Crow Lake. At the end of Road Ends, some of the characters from Crow Lake appear, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed Crow Lake again. Actually, one of the characters was a minor character at the diner and I didn`t even realize it.

Simple story, complex characters, a family drama.  A family of boys with one girl, and distant unengaged parents struggling to get by, when finally the girl has enough and manages to leave. A tragedy in the town throws the eldest son into a tailspin and he is unable to put his university education to any use. The father struggles with his memories of his childhood while dreaming of travelling instead of being a bank manager. They are as stuck as you can be in a snow drift in Northern Ontario.

The characters are so real, so imperfect but not ridiculously so. Just normal everyday struggles with responsibility and duty and love. There is a good dose of depression running around the town, but Northern Ontario, late 1960s: life was tough for everyone. Mary Lawson lets us look through the curtains at this one family, and they are compelling.

Her writing is so easy, so clear with atmosphere, and pacing. I liked that the three main characters (father, son and daughter) each took turns narrating the story and we got to see their viewpoint. The timeline also flipped back and forth which kept me very engaged. And hopeful.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


This is the ninth year of Carl`s best challenge - Reader's Imbibing Peril, full of creepy, scary reads. It kicks off the fall season, from now until the end of October. Bounce over there to check on more detailed information - he loves visitors!
I've participated almost every year and these are my favorite kinds of books.

Dark Fantasy

Peril the First:  Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

There are several other Perils to consider, and the goal is to be able to participate however you like. There are short story, movies, (I`m sure I watched Breaking Bad completely last fall) and even a read-a-long, The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. I`ll listen to the audiobook of this one!

If I am picking just four, these would be them. (Cool, all female mystery authors). 

the new Tana French: The Secret Place
the new Louise Penny: A Long Way Home (5 in line for the audiobook)
The Prime Minister`s Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal (audiobook)
Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

But there are a ton of other mysteries I've managed to pick up over the years that I`d love to get to. There`s some Harry Bosch to get caught up on, a little Jack Caffrey would be good as they are always super creepy. I haven`t read any Harry Hole in a while, or Deon Meyer. It might also be time for a Stephen King short story collection - Just After Sunset, which scares me just thinking of the title.

List of Books Read: 
1. Death in August - Mario Vichi
2. The Prime Minister's Secret Agent - Susan Elia MacNeal (audiobook)
3. The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson (audiobook)
4. The House of Stairs - Barbara Vine
5. Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn (audiobook)
6. Just After Sunset - Stephen King (short stories)
7. The Secret Place - Tana French
8. The Long Way Home - Louise Penny (audiobook)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read

The topic this week at The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday:

Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read (whether because they think it's a "you" book or it's just been generally recommended so often)

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay  - but this is my book club book this month, so I will actually read it!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova - I know everyone says this is a great book, but I just haven't managed to pick it up yet

Game of Thrones George R Martin - I can't watch the shows until I read these, right?

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards - I missed the train when this book was everywhere.

The Mermaid's Singing by Val McDermid - recommended by a colleague who loves mysteries as well.

Rebus Mysteries by Ian Rankin - My parents read Rebus, and I do like mysteries, but some days, there are already so many mysteries to read, starting a new series is too much.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - Jennyreads insisted that this was better than The Goldfinch, a book that annoyed me a lot, so I may give it a try, someday.

The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien- in the words of my cousin - Suck it up and read these!

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen - a fun mystery series recc'd by a friend that I do plan to investigate

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read Mysteries

The topic this week at The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday: 

Top Ten Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read Mysteries

only each blogger fills in the genre they like to read. Mysteries are my go-to favourite reads.
Nearly all of the books suggested here are from ongoing series, and I tried to pick the first in the series. Series like these always get better, and while individual books are good, it's the ongoing development of characters that really impresses. I tried to divide them into categories, and I left out so many! No Scandi-crime here, no intense thrillers, no cosy mysteries, no American present day; so many other countries and historical time-periods have been omitted. But these are some really good books, that happen to be mysteries.

Classic Mysteries:
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Historical Mysteries:
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (England, after WWI)
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (12th century England)

African Mysteries
Thirteen Hours by Deon Myers (South Africa)
Wife of the Gods by Kwai Quartey (Ghana)

Police Procedurals
87th Precinct series by Ed McBain (New York City)
Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri (Sicily, Italy)

Favorite Female Authors
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (England)
The Likeness by Tana French (Ireland)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

LIST: Books I'm very excited about

Remember Gods Behaving Badly?

 I read this back in 2008 and it was a great read - the first time I kind of 'got' how the Greek gods worked, and why they were fun. It was a funny, great book. Well, Marie Phillips has a new book coming out, The Table of Less Valued Knights and I (and Random House) am very excited.  It sounds like the same kind of fun, easy read, but with Arthur, or some version of the knights. Maybe Monty Python-esque? Merely a flesh wound!

For even more fun, there is even a Less Valued Knight Name Generator. 

You may now refer to me as Sir Flarn Deathstorm, Ruiner of Maps.

Other upcoming books that I am very excited about - so excited, I might even buy the hard-cover copy when they come out on September 2. Both on the same date? That's not fair!

 Sarah Waters - The Paying Guest

1920s London.
After WW1.
The changing class structure.

As a Downton Abbey fan, I'd be excited by the setting, but it's Sarah Waters! Fingersmith, The Little Stranger, Night Watch

It's already mentioned as a Booker Prize candidate.

Tana French - The Secret Place

This series, The Dublin Murder Squad has been getting better and better with each book. The main character changes in each book but is connected some how to a previous cop.

In the Woods
The Likeness
Faithful Place
Broken Harbour

One of my favourite mystery series on the go.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

BOOK: Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn by Jo Baker, 331 pages

review copy from Random House Canada

I was telling my (Pride & Prejudice loving) friend I had this book I was looking forward to for the summer, called Longbourn. She stopped, looked at me with a frisson of recognition, and said, "Who lives at Longbourn?" She knew it was a  literature reference to a house, the house where Elizabeth Bennett lived. It only took a minute, but she was as hooked by the premise as I was. And I'm not even a P&P freak like her.

I wanted a great book to start the summer, and it was as wonderful as I'd hoped. Historical fiction, with the Pride and Prejudice plot happening parallel, and a dear love story. Upstairs, Downstairs, and Downton Abbey have shown the fascination for both the aristocrats and the servants and this book gives us a look at the lives below Lizzie and Jane and Lydia. Mrs Bennett is as tiring for the servants as you could imagine; Wickham even more of an ass.

Sarah is the orphaned housegirl, James arrives as the mysterious footman, but there is definitely more to his story than is originally let on. I liked how Baker structured the book; two thirds in the now, and then the background history of the servants and how they ended up where they did, especially James. The characters of Sarah and James, (and the black footman, Ptolemy Bingley) were well developed, and showed the frustration of, while  not being a slave, having very few options for living or loving.

The characters and plot are compelling enough that I don't think you would have to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this on its own as historical fiction, but naturally, having the background of Lizzie and Mr Darcy adds another level of enjoyment. I had been picking away at the book for a few weeks, but last night I reached the point of no return and could not put it down. I had to read to the end. And now I must run this wonderful book out to my friend. She's going to love it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

BOOK: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (12 h, 16 min)

Three sisters in 1880s Paris trying to survive. Their father has died, the mother is a laundress (when she isn't drunk). Antoinette is seventeen and trying to look after her younger sisters, but she also wants a life and is drawn to a bad fellow, Emil. She gets her sisters into the Paris Opera to study ballet, even after she herself got kicked out. Marie, who alternates narrating with Antoinette, gets noticed by Edgar Degas and begins to pose for him. Marie was the real-life model for the statuette, 'Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.'

It's a rough world for the girls in Paris, and many bad things happen to them - the brothels, jails, taverns, and men who 'support' the petit-rats, ballet dancers in training. Listening, I couldn't determine where the story was going for a long time; just survival and the girls. Eventually, boyfriend Emil gets charged with some crimes and this trial comes between the sisters. The quote from Le Figaro sums it up "No social being is less protected than the young Parisian girl -- by laws, regulations, and social customs."

Much art work is referenced in this well researched book. In fact, this page has a picture of each piece of art mentioned, and the quote that goes with it. It's things like this, even after the fact, that can improve a book's experience for me. I didn't realize that many of the characters are based on real people, including the van Goethem sisters, and Emil and his buddy who are put on trial. There is another level of the book which references a theory at the time that physiology and facial features determined a person's destiny. Between the art incorporated, the real life characters, the city of Paris in the 1880s as a character, the ballet experience, and the specific sisters' relationship, this was a great read for Paris in July.

Monday, July 14, 2014

CHALLENGE: Cook it Up!

Here's Trish's big idea: (taken from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity)

What: Pull those cookbooks off the shelves–you know, the ones with pages you can turn–and use them! You can outline how you’d like to proceed–one cookbook a month? Or three recipes a month from any cookbook? Or even check out new cookbooks from the library. You make the rules!
When: I will put up a linky on the first Saturday of the month (I meant for this post to publish last Saturday…). Write your post whenever you’d like (and if you’d like), but don’t forget to come link up.
Where/How: Presumably your blogs but no worries if you’d rather just post on twitter or instagram (Tag me! @TriniCapini). Or just come back here at the beginning of the month and comment. I think you’ll have better luck if you blog but I also don’t want anyone to stress.
Why: Because if you’re like me, you have a giant stack of cookbooks that are collecting dust. I’m bad about searching the internet for a specific recipe rather than looking at my own cookbooks. Let’s put our cookbooks to use!

This sounds like a grand idea, and corresponds well with my 'summer is when I try to do things since I don't have to correct and I got a good night's sleep'. I don't have any great plan, but we moved to a new house in April, and now have a lovely big kitchen, with a place for everything, and even still some empty cupboards in the kitchen, it's that big! I have many lovely cookbooks, so I am just going to try to open some up and make some things over the summer.

I even started today.

I decided I wanted to make fajitas for supper tonight and got out my Mexican Recipes book by Better Homes and Gardens. I keep the marinade recipe that I cut out of the newspaper in the front. While browsing, I decided to make guacamole for the first time. Blend that avacado up in my fake magic bullet! Cool. (I'm a new eater of avacado.)

Since this was early this morning I made these plans (early around here is 11 am - we enjoy our summer), I thought I'd try out the new griddle my husband bought last week and make my own tortillas. We bought the griddle because we have lots of storage space and it even took me a few minutes to even find where my husband put it away.

While most of my tortillas look more like Africa than a circle, I felt I was getting my rolling technique by the last one. They tasted fine, even though I mixed up by baking soda and powder so ended up putting both in. I'd definitely make both guacamole and the tortillas again.

So, two new recipes and I used two different appliances. Score.

The only thing missing from this lovely supper was a homemade margarita. Next time.

Here's a few pictures from my new kitchen. I can't seem to get a good picture of the sink in the corner because of the light from the windows. Another time.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

CHALLENGE: Canadian Book Challenge 8

First time I didn't complete the Canadian Book Challenge! I read 11 (all of which were excellent!) and reviewed six. I did manage to read one Douglas Coupland, and doubled up on Margaret Atwood. New last year was the number of audiobooks, which I am finding a great way to get some more reading (and housekeeping) done. (As long as I get posted before Independence Day, I'm not late!)

Read for CBC 7
1.  Indian Horse - Richard Wagamese
2.  The Woman Upstairs - Claire Messud (audiobook)
3.  Cockroach - Rawi Hage
4.  How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny (audiobook)
5. Dead in Their Vaulted Arches - Alan Bradley
6. The Bear - Claire Cameron
7. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield
8. The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
9. MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
10. Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People - Douglas Coupland
11. The Silent Wife - ASA Harrison (audiobook)

Same rules as last year: read at least 13 books, by or about Canadians, and review them, linking up at The Book Mine Set. I shall try again, with the exact same list of books I had last year.

Pool of Books (left over from last year or the year before)
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Diamond Dreams by Stephen Brunt
Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot
The Age of Longing by Richard B Wright
The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
 Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
 The Fire-Dwellers by Margaret Laurence
 Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
 In the Skin of the Lion by Michael Ondaatje

1. The Painted Girls - Cathy Marie Buchanan (audiobook)
2. Frog Music - Emma Donaghue
3. Road Ends - Mary Lawson
4. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (audiobook)
5. Anne of Avonlea - LM Montgomery (audiobook)
6. Anne of the Island - LM Montgomery (audiobook)
7. The Other Side of the Bridge - Mary Lawson
8. The Long Way Home - Louise Penny (audiobook)
9. Station Eleven - Emily St John Mandel
10. Walt - Russell Wangersky
11. What We All Long For - Dionne Brand
12. Strange Heaven - Lynn Coady
13. Lives of Girls and Women - Alice Munro
14. Anne's House of Dreams - LM Montgomery (audiobook)
15. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust - Alan Bradley (audiobook)
16. I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend - Martin Short (audiobook)

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 random.org. 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.