Tuesday, March 20, 2018


It's been a while, but looks like it is time for a Top Ten Tuesday again. The topic this week, Books on My Spring TBR, is one I like to make each quarter. Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl and topics for each week are available there. Check out the site for all the TTT posts of the week. My list is a mixture of books I've bought, books I've requested at the library, trying to add a few nonfiction, and then I check out my FictFact for a series book or two to add.

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

Saga by Brian K Vaughan

I'll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

Sovereign by CJ Sansom

Sunday, March 18, 2018

UPDATE: Tournament of Books reads

The Tournament of Books 2018 is occurring now at The Morning News, a literary response to basketball March Madness. Every now and then, a longlist of a competition comes around where I've read a few books already, and more are a) easily available and b) books I am interested in reading. Thus was the TOB this year and I have read six of the fourteen books in the first round. Here are my thoughts and reactions to the first round results. 

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (audiobook)

The brilliance of the idea and execution are clear, but there is still something lacking in this book. The judge in this one thought the audiobook might have been better, since it was a cast recording but I thought the paper book might have been better because it was hard to know who was talking.  
Verdict after round 1: Lincoln in the Bardo lost in the first round to Fever Dream and I was okay with that though it seemed like an upset, what with it already having won the Booker Prize.

Day Two was The Idiot v White Tears and I know nothing about either of them. 

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (audiobook)

Manhattan Beach was the next book that I had read. This was okay. It was historical fiction without the grand epicness that it seemed to need. I listened to the whole thing, and it was good, but it didn't have the epicness or specific history information (unless you were into diving during WW2; I wasn't) that I'd like in a large book. I just wasn't as interested in who and what the book was about. It was still readable but I wasn't surprised that it lost in the first round to Dear Cyborgs, which was also considered a huge upset. 

Day Four was The End of Eddy v Lucky Boy. Again I am not familiar with either of these.

Sing, Unburied Sing by  Jesmyn Ward (audiobook)

The next book in the competition that I had listened to was Sing, Unburied Sing and I was rooting for this one. The characters, story and writing really appealed to me and even with the ghosts and supernatural elements which can be hit or miss with me. I liked the family and the kids and it was heartbreaking and real. Even the horrible mother, when given the chance to tell the story from her point of view, was if not still horrible, at least she became understandable. Definitely my favourite in the TOB this year so I was very glad to see it move on, against The Book of Joan.

Pachinko by Min Lee Jin (audiobook)

As I was listening to Pachinko, another grand historical fiction, I was continually thinking about Manhattan Beach and how much I was preferring Pachinko. This one followed a Korean family through several generations but also has themes of immigration, and family lies and what makes a family. Apparently Koreans can live for generations in Japan and never be considered Japanese. Even after Korea is now two different countries and there is absolutely no where to go back to. I liked how characters kept coming back into the story, and the family. Just a little more epic in scope and interesting in plot. Pachinko won its round against So Much Blue.

Finally a match-up of two books I have read! Well, I am reading The Animators now.

Exit West by  Mohsim Hamid (audiobook)

Has anyone described Exit West as The Underground Railroad but for immigrants? That was my reaction and I liked Exit West better than The Underground Railroad. The different doors and the different immigrant experiences worked quite well.
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

I am only a third of the way into this one but I am enjoying it. The judges verdict hints at some twists that are to come, so I am looking forward to reading what happens. 

I had no problems with either book in this pairing moving on, and was not surprised to see it was Exit West.

The last match up of the first round is Goodbye, Vitamin v  Idaho. 

So, fun first round this year with so many books I could have an opinion on. I enjoy reading the judgements and what reasons the judges have. It's even fun to go back into the archives and read about other books I have already read. Pairing these with actual March Madness basketball games, and March is a very exciting month.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

UPDATE: February Reads Vol 3

Hey look at this - three female detectives in some great historical fiction. All very different in their eras and style.

Urn Burial by  Kerry Greenwood (ebook) 201 pages
Book #8

Set in 1920s Melbourne, nobody kicks butt like Phyrne Fisher.  She has enough money to not care what anyone thinks and is progressive enough to upset everyone around her. A Chinese lover? Don't dare tell her it is not acceptable. Plus she is smart and fearless. Quite amazing heroine.

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley 9 h 53 min,  narrated by Jayne Entwistle, Book #9

Flavia deLuce is back in 1950s England and her sidekick Dogger is looking out for our teenage busybody.  The series seems to be back on track after a few weird outings.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart, 320 pages
Book #2 

This second volume is the series is based on a true story of a lady cop as she tried to solve crimes in 1910s New Jersey. She still has a sheriff who believes in her, but there are some other problems, like an escaped prisoner on Constance Kopp's watch. I didn't think the follow up was quite as strong as the first book, Girl Waits With Gun but I will try another one for sure. I particularly like the other two sisters and enjoy seeing how they interact with Constance. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

UPDATE: February Reads Vol 2

Some times you get in a little run of great books. My problem is I read them too fast because I am so engaged in them, that I don't get to prolong the experience. These three were all pretty covers and fabulous reads! 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, 15 h 56 min
narrated by Caroline Lee

Usually when I see an audiobook that is 15 parts long, I shy away. For some reason, probably knowing the TV show (I haven't seen though) is supposed to be very good, I gave it a try. I burned through this book in probably 3-4 days - I could not stop listening! Such a great story - funny, topical, suspenseful, and great characters. The three main characters were strong women. The back and forth, before and after an unknown crime has occurred, the comments by community members was just so well done. I'll be looking for more Moriarty novels in the very near future. Fun, fun read!

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso, 288 pages
Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2017

Two cranky neighbours, each unhappy in their own ways, are forced to get along. Sounds pretty usual, but setting the book in South Africa with a white and black neighbour adds a few more layers. Besides the apartheid background, the novel focuses on the marriages and expectations the women had for their lives. Easy to read with characters that while not likable, are understandable. As the layers peel back, much of their motivations come clear. Solid, enjoyable read, it's the kind of under-the-radar book I like passing on to friends.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, 12 h 31 min
narrated by Cassandra Campbell

I loved this book the first time I read it eight years ago. I don't often re-read the books my book club picks, but I knew the audio version was raved about as an example of a great audiobook (Cassandra Campbell as narrator explains this!) so I decided to listen. Again, such a great book. So frustrating to see how ignored her family was, and how hard they tried to get their mother some recognition. Actually, all her poor family really wanted was some health care. (Get your act together US republicans, it's not that hard) Skloot does a wonderful job of getting to know the family and while she's been criticized for inserting herself in the story, it makes the reader feel like they are with her, discovering this great injustice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

UPDATE: February Reads, vol 1

I read 12 books in February. After my great last year of reading nonfiction, I only managed one this month, and it was a re-read for my book club. Half my reads were audiobooks, probably because a number of the paper books felt like they took forever to finish. Today I'll review some of the slower and problematic reads of the month. Some other categories I hope to get to include my favourite reads of the month, some continuing series books, and a few featured on the Tournament of Books at themorningnews.

The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder, 363 pages

I read and loved Hayder's Jack Caffrey series. Jack was a great if troubled police detective, and the books veered into super creepy. I tried this stand-alone that revolves around the Nanking Massacre from the 1930s. Two stories occurred in two time periods and I could never decide which if either, story I was liking more. If I thought the Caffrey series was creepy, Hayder ventures into new taboo areas. I continued reading even while it was a very slow set up because I have liked Hayder's writing. I'll give Hayder another chance.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, 150 pages

How such a short book could take so long to read was very disappointing. I liked the Jane Eyre book, I really liked the movie, and I also enjoy reading women writing about their love of Jane Eyre. I missed this whole oeuvre in my younger days and I wanted to read this prequel of sorts, the story of how Rochester's first wife ended up the crazy woman in the attic.
Mostly set in the Caribbean, it was slow, the writing didn't flow for me, and the characters did not evoke any attachments for me. I didn't get a good sense of what the point of the book was, even though I did know. It picked up a bit when Mr Rochester arrived, but not enough to explain to me how she ended up in the attic.

Planet of Exile by Ursula Le Guin (4 h 30 min)

After the death of LeGuin, I looked for an audiobook that was available and fairly short. I'm not a huge fan of science fiction, but I have read some famous ones that I have enjoyed. Two tribes of people have lived for generations on a planet. They stick to their traditional ways, but of course, some one is trying to change things. There's a battle. I know now that general sci-fi is not for me. Sorry fans of Ursula K LeGuin.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, 288 pages

I finally read this multi-award winning book for young adults. Then in the next month, Alexie gets called out for very bad behaviour. I also read and enjoyed Al Franken last year. Stop ruining good reading experiences by being assholes, guys.
This was an easy read, but frustrating at the same time as the narrator deals with racism and trying to take control of his life. Being a teenager isn't easy, and one living on a reservation has extra problems. Alexie writes a thoughtful and engaging book with a great narrator.

Monday, March 12, 2018

BOOK: The Lumberjanes, Vol 6 and Vol 7

Lumberjanes Vol 6:  Sink or Swim

The campers of  Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types are having another adventure, this time on the sea. New counsellor, Seafarin' Karen is battling some selkies and the girls must work together to deal with these magical creatures. Graphic novels are quick reads (for me) and as usual, my favourite part is the exclamatives based on famous women, some of whom I have to look up. But any book that gets you researching is probably a good book.

Annie Edison Taylor - American school teacher, went over Niagara Falls in a barrel

Ching Shih - Chinese pirate in early 19th century

Grace O'Malley - lord of the O' Maille dynasty in west of Ireland, in 16th century

Gertrude Bell - English writer and traveller, archaeologist

Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz - first woman to sail single handed around the world

Vol 7: Bird's-Eye View
I like the mix of supernatural that happens at the camp and that everyone just accepts, after freaking out somewhat. The High Council is coming to inspect the camp, the neighbour campers have kittens  but they are not your ordinary kittens. Hijinks ensue. I feel like I missed a few of the famous women exclamatives but these were three very good ones!

Agatha Christie - wrote mysteries

Katie Sandwina - circus strongwoman from Austria

Valentina Tereshkova - first woman to fly in space, Russian