Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Halloween Freebie

Dewey's Read-a-thon was a few weeks ago, and one of the challenges was to list your favourite books published each year that the readathon has operated. I didn't participate in the readathon, but I would like to make my list! This was tricky, because I was picking books published in that year, not when I read the book. It turned out I picked quite a few books that I read this year. I wonder if it was because the memory of them is so recent, or were they great books I've had on my radar since that year and just finally got around to?

2017 Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
A mystery for mystery lovers. If you've read your fair share of Agatha Christie books, you really need to read this. It was excellent!

2016 Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Really well written memoir of a scientist for people of all interests, not just science. But science people will really like it. Also touches on mental health, and working women.

2015 Girl at War by Sara Novic
Very well done recent war novel, set during the Serbian-Croatian dispute war.

2014 The Martian by Andy Weir (I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short)
I'm not sure when to consider The Martian published - it was self-published in 2011 and then redone in 2014. I picked another 2014 book, Martin Short's memoir as an alternate. I've always liked Short, but found he could be exhausting at times. This book will make you appreciate him all the more.

2013 The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Such a well done mystery with great characters. I read the next two in the series soon after this first one and am eagerly awaiting the fourth. JK Rowling is no one-trick pony. The only author to make my list twice.

2012 Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Introverts will identify so much and be able to put into words all their feelings after reading this book. Also good for extroverts with introverts in their lives. It feels like so many people are introverts even though extroverts seem to control the discussions. It's pretty much a problem inherent to the two types of people.

2011 Ready Player One by Ernest Cline/ Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz
I absolutely had to include both of these books from 2011, and is why I couldn't put The Martian in 2011 consideration. Both are unique in their point of view and in their structure. Ready Player one is science fiction with a dash of 80s nostalgia, but Heads You Lose is a rollicking good time of mystery/meta fiction.

2010 Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
I still have extremely fond memories of this book as a gentle yet fun look at older romances and British life. If you get mixed up and accidentally read Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, you won't be disappointed either.

2009 Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
You can't go wrong with a Sophie Kinsella novel. This one was lovely, funny, and poignant. A ghost inhabits a young girl and wrecks some havoc before everyone learns to appreciate what they have.

2008 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
World building extraordinaire along with dystopian future. It's hard to believe this book is almost a decade old. On the other hand, the characters and story are an ingrained part of popular culture.

2007 The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
HP and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
The Deathly Hallows itself was good, but the inclusion on my (and everyone else's) list is as much a tribute to all seven books as its own merits. Again, I couldn't go with just one book, and Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret was so original, so wonderfully sweet, I had to include it.

This list pretty much sums up my reading style - mystery, nonfiction, dystopian, feel-good, young adult, and humour. Have you read all of these yet?

Monday, October 30, 2017

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Your Year in Nonfiction

(Oct 30 to Nov 3) – Julie @ JulzReads
Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I really enjoyed Nonfiction November the last two years, and in each of those years, I read thirteen nonfiction books. Each year, I was disappointed with the number and quality of books especially when I'd read all the other reviews. I'd see nonfiction books each year that I wanted to read, but I never seemed to get around to them. This year, I decided would be my year of nonfiction books (and Canadian authors and mysteries.)  And read them I did! So far, I've read 53 nonfiction books, 24 of them were audiobooks, and some of them were crazy good.

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? 
I don't think I can pick one favourite. Obviously the ones I recommended (in the question below) were excellent reads. I read many, many fabulous nonfiction books this year and some of the very best were:

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet - Neil DeGrasse Tyson
From 2005 when the whole 'Pluto is no longer a planet' debacle hit. Actually not a debacle, and this is the story, with lots of photos and science, from Tyson

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them - Al Franken
Another old one, but history repeats itself. If you've been forgetting how unsettled things were with George W Bush, this will remind you. I must read another Franken!

Argo - Antonio Mendez
American historical story of getting some American hostages out of Iran in 1980.

March Book 3 - John Lewis
Again, this was timely like the Franken, but the civil rights fight from the 60s done in graphic novel form was almost overwhelming. All three books need to be read together.

Field Notes: A City Girl's Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia - Sara Jewell
Collection of essays of a girl who changed her life by moving to rural NS. This was done very well.

Susanna Moodie; Roughing it in the Bush - Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe
A Carol Shields written graphic novel based on a classic Canadian historical settler's book? Yes please.

Sisters in Two Worlds: A Visual Biography of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill - Michael Peterman
The graphic novel on Susannah Moodie sent me to this beautiful book with more detail and background. Did I really never take any history courses in university? 

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavour - Mark Schatzker
This is the food book I've been waiting for, discussing the science about the flavours that have been invented and their effect on our eating habits.

Tiny, Beautiful Things - Cheryl Strayed
An advice book? Only Cheryl Strayed could pull this off, written when she was Sugar, and on-line columnist.

There were other books that could be on this list, but I'll highlight them later in the month in different prompts.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
I passed around the science department at school, because we are all lab girls. This was such a well-written memoir, with lots of plant science if you are into that sort of thing.

Canada by Mike Myers 
The perfect book for people my age to help celebrate Canada150.

I Contain Multitudes:The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
Another book I recommended to all my science pals, all about the creepy crawlies we can't see. Some are very good, some are very bad, and learning which is which and how they interact is a lot more interesting than you might think. (I've never been an anti-bacterial advocate, and I certainly felt justified after reading this book) This was very well narrated.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?  
If I was to pick a type of book I haven't read enough of it would be historical. I also don't read a lot newly released nonfiction books.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
I think the fact that I read so many nonfiction books this year is a testament to what I got out of last year's Nonfiction November. I also like getting rave recommendations for good non-fictions from all the other participants. It helps to get the pre-read and approved titles from all you wonderful book bloggers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Unique Book Titles

Top Ten Tuesday topic this week is Unique Book Titles. Unique could mean interesting, unusual, or memorable. There are a lot of clever titles in the cozy mystery genre, with plays on words and puns, but I went with the titles that stand out to me as memorable and, well, unique.

Check out The Broke and the Bookish for a link of all the lists, and for future topics.

The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod
The book is better than the title, and I can't even remember why this book of short stories is called this. But this is a Canadian classic of life in the Maritimes and the title doesn't diminish this.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken
Perfect title by Senator Al Franken, and in the tradition of subtitles in nonfiction books that explain everything, Franken skewers the right in this 2005 book. 

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown
Such a fun title, and good book, on the astronomical discoveries that led to Pluto's downfall. 

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Really great novel with a title that stands out, especially once you have read the book. I like this title as it makes me think about the story and I sing the alphabet song everytime I see it. Another book with a title based on a mishearing is A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt, from a line in the Hail Mary prayer.

We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us About the Universe by Marcus
Great pun on the Lionel Shiver book, but also about science. I love a book title with an obscure temperature measurement as the pun.

Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
Grammar nerds unite!

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley
The whole Flavia deLuce series is made of unique titles. Some series seem to do this - make very unusual titles.

+ I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, A Red Herring Without Mustard, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, etc

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith
The Number One Ladies Detective Agency is another series with some unique titles, and maybe I should have gone with the first one. The titles are usually pretty descriptive of the plot.

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northwest High by Tony Danza
I really enjoyed this memoir by the likeable Danza. The fact that I am a present high school teacher made it all the more applicable. Danza was thoughtful and respectful of teaching.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Everyone is adding this book to their list, right?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Food in Books

The topic this week is Food in Books. It could be cookbooks, a particularly good food in a book, or a book with food or cooking in it. I've gone for a mishmash of all the ideas - some nonfiction books about eating, books with caterers/cooks as main characters, and actual cookbooks. Check out The Broke and the Bookish for a link of all the lists, and for future topics.

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker
I listened to this in the last few months - great, interesting read looking at the science and development of food technology.

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver and her family decide to live off their land for one year, eating and producing their own food in season. Not possible for most people, but a very interesting experiment.

Pomegranage Soup and Rosewater and Soda Bread by Marsha Mehran
I loved these two books about Iranian sisters who move to Ireland and open a bakery. Just wonderful, a very underrated and little known book. Mehran died at age 36 in 2015.

The Best of the Best by the Best of Bridge girls
Way back in 1976, a group of friends in Calgary played bridge together and the food each evening became the focal point. They published their first book, The Best of Bridge, and then went on to publish at least six main cookbooks. This one, The Best of the Best is exactly what it says - The Best. This is practically the only cookbook I use, finding most other things on Pinterest now. My family was in on The B of B from the start because my uncle dated one of the authors (and later another one, but that's another story)  I can count on any recipe in this book to be company ready without trying it before, and while mostly simple, there are ingredients that raise them to another level. There are at least 10-15 recipes that are good ole standbys in our house from this book.

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
Each chapter follows a different character who is attending a cooking school but they are all somewhat connected. It's a trope that always works for me. Good, easy read.

My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
A graphic novel memoir based in a kitchen. 

 The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Strange little book, where each family member has an unusual talent that sends this book into magical realism territory. 

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Sarah Addison Allen writes some of the only books with magical realism that I consistently like. Southern characters with special skills and people helping each other heal. Interesting that food and magical realism are often connected in books.

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Classic kids book about a dare gone wrong. I loved this book when I was in elementary school.

Here's a few books about cooking or food I would like to read:
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julia Powell
The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Saturday, October 7, 2017

BOOKS: The Penderwicks, books 2-4 by Jeanne Birdsall

I listened to the first Penderwicks book, The Penderwicks: The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and One Very Interesting Boy, to start the summer.  It was very sweet and my library had the whole series on audio. The first book was published in 2005, and then every three or so years, another book was published. I love when I find a series like this, when it is already 4 books in and the books don't come every year.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street(2008) picks up the year after the summer of the first book. The girls are still fans of Jeffrey who is at school in Boston. Now we get to meet all the people in their neighbourhood, where kids are free to wander around, and intergenerational play is the norm. The girls still have their MOOP meetings (Meeting of Older Penderwicks) to sabotage their father's dating plans, the boys down the street play lots of sports, and we meet a lovely widow next door with a two year old boy. Foreshadowing alert.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (2011)
Things are progessing, and it is another summer with the Penderwicks. The oldest, Rosalyn, spends the summer with her friend, the youngest three girls go to Maine with Aunt Claire, while their dad is on his honeymoon. The girls face challenges, they grow, they bug and help each other. Jeffrey comes to Maine and  discovers some interesting things about his past. Still a quiet charm, and delightful story.

The Penderwicks in Spring (2015) 
Bold choice here to bump the story forward about five or six years, so Batty is now around ten, and Ben is the previous age of Batty. Rosalyn is off in college, Nick comes home from the war (Iraq or Afghanistan? it's one of the only time markers in the book, but could just as easily been Vietnam or WW2). Batty is still into music and lots of stuff happens. Keeping the focus on the youngest of the kids is what keeps the charm in these books. There are enough even younger children in the family to keep the story fresh.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Book Boyfriend

Top Ten Tuesday today is Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends or characters you have a crush on. Head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to see all the other lists, and topics are posted til into January! 

I was going to make a list, but this topic begins and ends with Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables, and that is all I have to say about this topic! I will, however,  offer 5 sources to back up my claim.

I'm not the only one. Here's an article on Why We Loved Gilbert Blythe from the New Yorker, written after the death of Jonathan Crombie in 2015.

Many of these articles were triggered by the death of Jonathan Crombie, and thus refer to the amazing Sullivan adaptation (only the first two series!) that aired on CBC and PBS in the 1980s. However, that adaptation is so pure to the books, that any reference, according to me, is also to the book.

Also, from an Anne of Green Gables site, Why Women Love Gilbert Blythe and Why Guys Should Pay Attention.

So, I could have thought about other crush-worthy characters (and Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey came to mind) but I'll end with 12 Reasons No Man Will Ever Live Up to Gilbert Blythe from the Date Report.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

BOOK: Crows by Candace Savage

Crows: Encounters With the Wise Guys of the Avian World by Candace Savage, 113 pages

This slim little nonfiction volume will  just whet your appetite for crow information. (See my fascinated crows in the picture)

The editor was harsh as I imagine there was much information left out.  By the time the lovely illustrations from over the years, the fables and legends from around the world, the cultural references are included the actual writing was short. But it works. Scientific studies regarding the social characteristics of crows, and their talking ability, and their tool-making abiltiy are cited to support the idea that crows are very smart, and inventive, and have personality. The reader is left with the understanding that crows are almost up there with humans and apes with the problem solving and sociability.

I like crows and find them very interesting. The crows in Charlottetown all return to Victoria Park every evening, much to the chagrin of the neighbourhoods that border the park. They are noisy! In fact, every summer there is a March of Crows of humans dressed up and cawing that goes to the same park at dusk in honour of the crows. There are a few crows who come to my high school every day to gather up the remains of the lunches that get left around the cars. Smart creatures!