Sunday, February 28, 2016

UPDATE: February Books

The weather is: actually pleasant this year. I've been on the road several weekends attending the children's sporting events and the good weather makes travel so relaxing - clear, dry highways with no chance of snow. Perfect!

I am listening to: I just finished listening to Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock, famous Canadian humourist.

Other February audiobooks were:

Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
A Mountain Story by Lori Lansen

best audiobook of the month: A Mountain Story

I am watching: Over and over, this video clip of my son hitting an amazing overtime basketball shot. I tried to embed the video but that appears to be beyond my capabilities.
I am reading: Finishing up Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen. Other books read in February include:

9. Dead Wake - Erik Larson (audiobook)
10. Undone - Karin Slaughter
11. The Frozen Thames - Helen Humphreys
12. United We Stand - Eric Walters
13. Fates and Furies - Lauren Groff (audiobook)
14. The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine - Alexander McCall Smith
15. The Door in the River - Inger Ash Wolfe
16. The Mountain Story - Lori Lansen (audiobook)
17. Hark! A Vagrant - Kate Beaton
18. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town - Stephen Leacock (audiobook)

Best books: The Frozen Thames and The Door in the River
both Canadian authors, btw

Plans for March: 

  • heading to Halifax to watch AUS basketball championships 
  • March Break/Easter vacation
  • books like Reyjavik Nights, The Leftovers
  • listen to The Tsar of Love & Techno, Never Cry Wolf
  • listen to Canada Reads (March 21-24)
  • inspecting the Bailey Prize longlist (March 8)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

TBT: BOOK: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

from Feb 27, 2014

Look at this poor book - took forever to read it, loved it, then started reviewing it and never finished. Short review: it was very good, lots a fun, perfect for a Once Upon a Time read (if Carl hosts again) if you like mythology.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, 334 pages

I read American Gods back in March 2007, and then planned to read Anansi Boys because American Gods was so much fun. I got the book three years ago, and then in languished on my shelf. So, seven years later, I read Anansi Boys. Why did I take so long?

American Gods was an epic type book - long, involved, with a created world full of many and varied characters. I think I thought Anansi Boys would be like that, and a book like that sometimes requires a commitment to enter that big world. My bad. This was a smaller book, in length and scope, more of a family drama. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

BBAW: Introduce Yourself

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is back, hosted by Estella Society, a lovely group of bloggers who seem to like herding cats and organizing this little corner of the blogosphere. This week is about appreciating each other and getting to know some new bloggers along the way. There are different activities each day this week.

Today is introducing yourself by telling about 5 books that represent you as a person, or your interests. Cool! This reminded me of one of my favourite blogging challenges/activities of all time: The Something About Me Challenge from 2007, hosted by Lisa at this blog. Each person who joined (and it ended up being a lot!) listed 5 books that described themselves. This list was collected and the challenge was to chose books to read from this generated list. This list ended up being such a crazy good list of books that I read from it for years, and probably still have some books on my mental TBR that I want to get to.

The five books I picked then still apply (for the most part)

1. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson NF
I love science, always have. I'm still in high school, teaching science because I love it so much.The beauty found in nature in all its glory, and the scientists who recognized the phenomena and put the order and structure to explain; it all blows my mind. And Bryson is humorous in explaining nearly everything. Science and funny. I love this book.

2. Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth NF
I love efficiency and getting things done in the least messy way. I can always get one more dish in the dishwasher. Always. I also have three children which messes with my efficiency system. This memoir of growing up as one of the children of industrial engineers has always been a humorous favorite. The chaos and efficiency in this book is what I like. Also, I'm Gemini, the twin, balancing my dual natures.

3. Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman F
This little dreamy, philosophy book is better the more and more I read it. I read it aloud to my grade twelve physics classes every year and some really like it. Others just stare in confusion, because it is not the type of book they usually read. Lightman writes of 'thirty dreams in as many nights' imagining what dreams Einstein might have had in developing his theory of relativity, in which he reconstructed how we see time. Different theories of time, like: what if time flows backwards? time is finite? there is no concept of future? time is circular?

4. Evening Class by Maeve Binchy F
I wanted to pick a novel that I really like, and this is one of my favorite. I always enjoy Binchy, and how her characters are ordinary people, with happy endings. That's like me - pretty ordinary, and a quiet life. And I am a teacher, and I went to Italy last summer.  
*This is the only book I might change. Instead of Evening Class, I'm going to change it to Unless by Carol Shields. I love the quiet story Shields tells, her writing is sublime, the feminist slant, and that she is Canadian. (my review here)

5. LM Montgomery: Anne of Windy Poplars F (or any other LM Montgomery book you want)
You had to know this Prince Edward Island girl would pick a Montgomery book! My dilemma was in picking which one. Rilla of Ingleside is one of my favorites, and it really gives a nice view of PEI in the early 1900s and what life was like in a small Island village during WW1. I picked Anne of Windy Poplars however, because that was the book where Anne was teaching (like me) in Summerside, and when I visit my grandmother in S'side, I can still see the town as Anne described it to Gilbert in her letters. I also like this book because Anne and Gilbert are finally together. Did I mention I like happy endings?

So that's me! Have you read these books? Do we share any books?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

TBT:LIST: New Books March 22, 2009

I found a list of books I must have bought at a used book sale from 2009. Let's see how well I've done reading books I bought for myself:

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell  4 stars
Read it, loved it. Read other books by Gladwell since then as well.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 4.5 stars
Originally published in fall 2008, I bought this new, and read it and loved it from the start. It's one of the few series I read as it was released, along with my son, who is now in university.

The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez  
I have started this one more than once and although the plot description should appeal, the actual reading never does.

Women in the Wall by Julia O'Faolain
A Virago Modern Classic, hasn't been read yet. When I organize my books, I always think I still want to read it, but never move it into a place where I'll pick it up.

The Land of Spices by Kate O'Brien
Another Virago Modern Classic. See above

His Master's Voice by Ivy Litvonov
Another Virago Modern Classic. If I ever start reading the VMC, I'll want to have a few. They are so pretty, and easy to find at used books sales with their distinctive dark green band, I've stockpiled a few. But haven't read any yet.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink   3.5 Stars
Disturbing Germany WW2 era book. I haven't seen the movie either

Clara Callen by Richard B Wright  4.5 stars
I loved this book! I haven't been as successful with other Wright novels (Age of Longing, October) but I keep trying. This may have been his masterpiece.

Sushi for Beginners by Marion Keyes
I thought I had read it, but I read Watermelon by Marion Keyes instead. It still looks good, but it is very long and the size is what always stops me from picking it up.

Bethlehem Road by Anne Perry  4 stars
Read it. Book number 10 in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Victorian mystery series, they all blend together into a wonderful series, with indistinguishable plots.

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
This is a children's book that I have not read yet. I might have bought this for my son?

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Here's the one I feel I am most likely to still read. Classic children's book

That's a 5/12, plus one I've tried.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CHALLENGE: CBC Books Bingo Challenge

I so enjoyed the Canadian Reading Bingo from last year, but the Random House Bingo this year isn't Canadian focused. I have eventually found this Bingo card at Goodreads and the list of ideas/suggestions for each category. I don't really hang at GR; I'm a librarything kinda girl. Anyway, I've copied this and plan to use it, adapting where needed. 
Not affiliated with CBC Books - this is just the title of their reading group.

Bolded books have been read, everything else is just ideas

1. Indigenous Author
2. International Author, Canadian Setting
3. Canada Reads - Swamp Angel by Ethel Wilson (longlist 2016)
4. Recommended by...Sweetland by Michael Crummey,
5. Canadian Book Awards - The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami
6. Monthly Group Read - The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys
7. Nonfiction - Never Cry Wolf
8. CBC Books 'Best of 2015' -  The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys
9. An Epic Book -
10. Debut Novel - Last Night in Montreal by Emily Mandel St John
11. Bookie Awards -  The Water Rat of Wanchi - Ian Hamilton
12. As Heard on 'W & Co" or TNC - The Night Bell by Inger Ash Wolfe
13. Canadian Author, International Setting - A Mountain Story by Lori Lansen
14. LGTBQ Author - Douglas Coupland (Shampoo Planet)
15. Translated from French - Gaetan Soucy
16. Classic Canlit - Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town by Stephen Leacock
17. Graphic Novel - Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
19. War/Military - The Neighbourly War: New Brunswick and the War of 1812 by Robert Dallison
20. Film, Music, Fine Art -
21. Short Story Collection - Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
22. Frontier/Western - The Englishman's Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe
23. Animals in Literature - Fifteen Dogs
24. 100 Novels That Make You Proud to be Canadian - The Diviners, A Tale for the Time Being

The Books I Read:
1. Swamp Angel - Ethel Wilson
2. The Neighbourly War - Robert Dallison
3. A Mountain Story - Lori Lansen
4. Hark! A Vagrant - Kate Beaton
5. A Hero's Walk - Anita Rau Badami
6. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town - Stephen Leacock
7. The Evening Chorus - Helen Humphreys
8. Never Cry Wolf - Farley Mowat
9. Moral Disorder - Margaret Atwood
10. Last Night in Montreal - Emily St John Mandel
11. Sweetland - Michael Crummey
12. The Frozen Thames - Helen Humphreys
13. Shampoo Planet - Douglas Coupland
14. The Night Bell - Inger Ash Wolfe
15. The Englishman's Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe
16. Fifteen Dogs - Andre Alexis

Thursday, February 4, 2016

TBT: Is it Canadian enough?

TBT from Sept 8, 2008
I appear to have been analysing Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot which I also reviewed on Sept 8, 2008.

John Mutford, over at the Book Mine Set, recently analysed a novel to see how it fit the Fergeson brothers description of the Typical Canadian Novel. I thought this book could benefit from the same treatment.

0 indicates a poor match, 1 is questionable, 2 is a perfect match:

1st. "Setting – Setting is important. It has to be bleak and foreboding: maybe Cape Breton or outport Newfoundland or a cabin in northern Ontario."

Score: 0 I can't identify the locale, I think any small town in North America could pass. The false cheeriness in an old age home is there, but that certainly isn't unique to Canada.

2nd. "Plot – Avoid this at all costs. Instead, the characters should just sort of mope from scene to scene, maybe staring into the distance now and then to remember events that happened long before. You don’t want a sense of forward momentum in a novel. You want “atmosphere.” '

Score: 1 It's not a huge plot but there is something going on while we get everyone's backstory. I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened next, that feels like plot to me.

3rd. "Humour – God, no. Instead of humour, you want irony. And lots of it. Your book should be drenched in irony. Soaked in it, even. When someone squeezes your book, irony should ooze out from between the pages. It should reek of postmodern alienation and ennui. The more postmodern the better."

Score: 0 I thought it was quite humorous and light. I'm not sure about post modern alienation, but the baby boomers are getting up there, so this book is certainly their demographic.

4th. "Character – In Canadian novels the men – especially the father figures – should be brooding alcoholics, or brooding violent alcoholics, or pathetic losers who aren't really alcoholic but are still quite pathetic, or recovering alcoholics, or violent losers, or brooding pathetic recovering alcoholics who are also violent.The main female character must be victimized. That goes without saying. She has to be victimized. But here’s the thing – she should also be empowered. That’s right. In Canadian novels, you get to have it both ways: “empowered victims.”"

Score: 0 Nice mix of characters, and while the token male was a bit of an ass, the women had their faults as well.

5th. "Style – Keep it simple. Stark. Unfurnished. Underwritten. Subject + verb + object again and again and again and again. SVO. SVO. Stick to the bare minimum offered by the English language. Do not use adverbs. And if you have to use adjectives, keep them short and simple and obvious to the point of redundancy (i.e., “blue sky,” “white clouds,” “wet rain,” “unfaithful husband”). "

Score: 1 Nicely written, easily readable,

With a 2 out of a possible 10 points, not your typical Canadian novel. I knew I liked it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Historical Fiction Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic related to the past or the future and I'm looking at my favourite historical novels. I think I've done a list like this with just historical mysteries. This is not mysteries, just great books. Some of these are as much about the characters as the setting, but the setting is important too. I may have had trouble keeping my list to ten.

prehistoric Europe: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel
First in the Anya series, life in prehistoric Europe

9th century Italy: Pope Joan by Donna Cross
Was there a female pope? I love the idea that women played a much bigger role in history than is recorded in history

12th century England: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
What all is involved in building those cathedrals in England?

15th century France: The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
Could have been an all Chevalier list, but this one was done nicely, looking at how woven murals were made. Chevalier is more famous for The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

16th century England: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
One of many great Tudor era books. Henry VIII left such great material

18th century Canada: The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor by Sally Armstrong
Life in the wilds of New Brunswick was not easy for a female settler

19th century Canada: Random Passage by Bernice Morgan
Ever wonder how rough life would have been in Newfoundland for those early settlers? Rough.

19th century England: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Victorian England is one of my favourite eras, and the plot in this one is more than the setting, but the setting makes it possible.

1930s Canada: Clara Callen by Richard B Wright
Love, love this book set in depression-era Ontario

1930-40s Germany: Stones from the River by Ursula Helgi
A well done world war 2 era book among many set in that time. This one takes the German perspective. An original Oprah book

1970s India: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Such a great book and so well written, this one set in India is one of the best books I've read, if only because I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

BOOK: A Neighbourly War: New Brunswick and the War of 1812 by Robert Dallison

A Neighbourly War: New Brunswick and the War of 1812 by Robert L Dallison, 180 pages (including all the references)

Hey, remember when US and Canada went to war? No, nobody does since it was in 1812, and luckily, we had no ill feelings afterward.

Most famous events from the War of 1812? Laura Secord saving the day for Canada, and the burning of the White House before it was called the White House. This book says that the president's house got called The White House after they painted over the char marks from the fire.

Laura Secord? Now I want some chocolate.

Sadly, there is no Laura Secord in this book because it looks primarily at New Brunswick's participation and actions. But here's a Heritage Minute that Canadians grew up with:

Back to the book. It's part of a series of books written about New Brunswick military history and contains all the facts about generals and regiments and cost of buttons for military coats that a history buff would want. But little ole NB was settled, and affected by world wide events, and that part is pretty interesting. Maine and NB were really hoping their self declared truce, between neighbours and trading partners, would hold, but higher powers had other ideas. There is some scuffling over islands on the border. Technically, it wasn't Canada that was at war because we were part of British North America, and this fight was as much about France and Britain, still. France supported the US, and Britain controlled all the money for 'Canada.' Britain was more invested in fighting Napoleon in Europe. (Which reminds me, after reading about Josephine last year, I'd still like to read more about Napoleon.)

New Brunswick ended up with a lot of settlers after the war. Enlisted soldiers and officers were offered land after the war ended. Britain offered shelter to any Americans who wanted to side with Britain after the war, which mostly consisted of escaped slaves. They were also offered land to settle in NB. So, while the military details were not interesting for me, seeing how the geography of NB and the people got information 200 years ago was quite interesting. After the girls traveled by bus to Quebec (13 h drive!) for a ringette tournament, reading how regiments marched to Quebec City, in the winter, gave me a new appreciation for life as a soldier.

There are plenty of pictures of buildings and graves and paintings. The back contains references. a glossary of military terms, and an index. This is a lovely book published by Goose Lane Editions.