Monday, November 1, 2021

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Your Year in Nonfiction


Week 1: (November 1-5) – Your Year in Nonfiction with Rennie at What’s 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? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I read a great variety of nonfiction books this year even though I only read 15 books. The most common type would be a memoir type, but I also read a poetry book, a comic/cartoon book, an historical mystery, a medical mystery, and philisophical physics book. 

The top few I read, and the ones that I continually recommended were:

Peace By Chocolate: The Hadhad's Family Remarkable Journey from Syria to Canada by Jon Tattrie 

Wonderfully uplifting story of a Syrian family forced to flee during the war in Syria. They luckily get selected to immigrate to Canada and are sponsored by a community group in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Although they land in rural NS during one of the worst winters and record snowfalls, they fall in love with the community, and vice versa. Looking to make a business, they restart the chocolate business they had in Syria, calling it Peace by Chocolate. Not everything is easy, leaving Syria, and getting resettled in Canada, but the positive attitude of the Hadhad family and the multicultural welcoming community in Canada combine into a happy ending. Made me proud to be Canadian, and I ate a box of Peace by Chocolate while reading.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants - Robin Wall Kimmerer

I loved reading Gathering Moss by Kimmerer, it made my best of NF list in 2019, so the opportunity to listen to another book by Kimmerer sounded promising. It exceeded my expectations! Kimmerer combines, as the title imples, her Indigenous background, and her biological background into a wonderful treatise on the environment. Composed mostly of essays and personal narratives, this was long, but I also didn't want it to end. It was just brilliant. Recommended for people who are willing to learn from history and science, and are worried about nature and the environment.

Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine - Alan Lightman

Another science-based nonfiction, this one reconciles the cosmos and physics with religion. Based on an island in Maine, Lightman, an English professor at MIT, has also written on of my all-time favorite books, Einstein's Dreams.  I already knew he was a great writer and able to marry the facts of science with the philosophy of time but this one is almost better.  The faith in God, and the faith in science of an overriding set of rules are compared and admired. It is a book I would like to read again.

Crossroads: My Story of Tragedy and Resilience as a Humboldt Bronco - Kaleb Dahlgren (ebook) 

More inspirational Canadian content, Kaleb Dahlgren seems too good to be true, but after reading Alex Trebek's autobiography, I am beginning to think this is a Canadian requirement. Or else, having a positive attitude, and looking beyond the immediate bad and toward a better future is a characeristic of some successful people. Dahlgren was on the Humboldt Bronco's, a prairie junior hockey team whose bus was involved in a horrific road accident, killing sixteen and injuring thirteen, in 2018. Canadians across the country were devastated, putting out hockey sticks on their front porch in a show of support for the survivrs. Kaleb tells his story of growing up with diabetes and becoming a high level hockey player. He was always positive, working hard and a leader in whatever situation he found himself in. 

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family - Robert Kolker 

While a memoir of a particular American family, Hidden Valley Road is also a history of schitzophrenia, both the evolution of an understanding of the disease, and the deveolpment of treatment. The Galvins lived in Colorado and had twelve children - ten boys and then two girls, starting in the 1950s. At first it seems like regular rough-housing boys, but over time the violence  escalates, and eventually, six of the boys were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Kolker was very involved in interviewing most of the family as the two sisters felt it would be helpful for their family to be studied. Even beyond the Galvin's story, the history of studying schizophrenia was very interesting.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music - Dave Grohl
I kind of missed Nirvana as I am a little older than their demographic and the Foo Fighters were never a band I followed but this book by Dave Grohl was so interesting! I became a Grohl fan for sure, and spend quite a bit of time after the book looking up videos with Grohl. Although I wasn't listening to Nirvana, Grohl is around my age, so all the cultural markers in the book were identifiable, we just didn't listen to the same music. Except, I completely remember seeing the B-52s on SNL live the same night he did. Little boring me couldn't believe or understand them, but for Dave seeing them was life-changing. He was always into music and had the best mom, who he writes lovingly about. She gives him permission to leave high school and go on tour with a punk rock band called Scream. And after that, he just keeps following his dreams.

While this seems like it would be about sex, drugs and rock and roll, it really just covers the latter. Grohl was a pretty stable guy considering the life he has led. There's a touch of Forest Gump, as he meets up and is in the right spot so many times with so many famous people. But his philosophy of going for it and taking risks are why he ends up where he does. 

The other books:

  • Department of Mind-Blowing Theories - Tom Gauld
  • Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics - Dolly Parton 🎧
  • Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise - Charlotte Gray 🎧
  • Milk and Honey - Rupi Kaur (ebook) 
  • All Together Now: A Newfoundlander's Light Tales for Heavy Times - Alan Doyle 🎧
  • Wonder Women of Science: How 12 Geniuses are Rocking Science, Technology, and the World - Tiera Fletcher
  • Poison in the Porridge - David Weale 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books with Numbers in the Title


Hello! Look at me, actually blogging. Top Ten Tuesday, books with numbers, pulled me back. But I challenged myself a bit extra, and made is a Fibonacci series of numbers. And I ran into some trouble at the end as the numbers got too big too fast. For future topics and more links, see That Artsy Reader Girl.

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Sisters in Two Worlds: A Visual Biography of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill by Michael Peterson

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer

Book 21: How to Raise an Elephant by Alexander McCall Smith

Fibonacci Sequence

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten Most Recent Reads


This topic, Ten Most Recent Reads, is always a good one and give me a little push to get some reviews done. I've got a few from reliable series, a few nonfiction, a few Canadian, and several from the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist. Here's the full longlist: 

*The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (audiobook waitlist)
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
*Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (loved!)
The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (reviewed below)
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (reviewed below)
Because of You by Dawn French (want to read, not available yet)
*Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (not available yet in Canada)
*Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (liked it)
*How the One-Armed Sister Cleans Her House by Cherie Jones (reviewed below)
Luster by Raven Leilani (not a fan, but better than Burnt Sugar)
*No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (reviewed below)
Consent by Annabel Lyon (Canadian, liked, will try to review later)
Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon (haven't seen at all)
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (audiobook waitlist)
Summer by Ali Smith (just picked up from the library!)

For more lists, and for future topics, check out That Artsy Reader Girl 

The Consequences of Fear - Jacqueline Winspear  🎧
Book number 16 in the Maisie Dobbs series. It's a good, reliable series with developed characters and a reasonable plot. I might be getting a bit tired of the series, and at times Maisie is a tad annoyingly perfect. In what started as a post WW1 series, has now become mired in the middle of WW2 London. 

Burnt Sugar - Avni Doshi  🎧
I've got a few books that I read this month that were on the Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist and I might not have read otherwise. This was probably my least favourite of the nominees. The plot involves a daughter dealing with her mother's progressing dementia, but their relationship has not been good, and the daughter has a lot of resentment. The mother ran from an arranged marriage to live in an ashram, which sounds like a religious cult house in India, taking her daughter. The mother never really looked out for her daughter, and now the daughter has to look out for the mother. Lots of bad feelings and resentment, and characters that are very difficult to like or cheer for.

How to Train an Elephant - Alexander McCall Smith
Aw, a little mystery, a little time in Botswana, and a little philosophy. I always enjoy my time with Precious Ramotswe, inspiring me to drink some Rooibos (red bush) tea. 

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House - Cherie Jones 🎧
A Women's Prize for Fiction longlist set in Barbados, with a bit of a mystery. It's a sad story of Lala and her abusive, small-time criminal husband, eking out a living on the tourist beach. Lala comes from a long line of poor women in bad relationships, so she really didn't have much of a chance. There are some crimes and deaths, which lead to the bit of a mystery. The narrator had a very, very strong accent, and while it leant the Caribbean atmosphere, it was also a bit hard to follow. 

No One is Talking About This - Patricia Lockwood 🎧
Probably the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist I liked the best this month. The first part of the book follows the main character, who is a Twitter-star. It's not really Twitter, but it definitely is. There is the mind-think, the quick reactions, the meme-defining people who build a life/career based on a moment in time. It's the kind of clever, funny, a-ha comments that are fun, but aren't enough to sustain a book. Especially since there is not really a plot in this part, although we see the main character and her family a bit. Suddenly, she gets a message, and the on-line world becomes much less important as she deals with a real life family emergency. The clever part was clever, and then there was a bit of a story. The afterward by the author shows that the story was semi-autobiographical. 

All Together Now: A Newfoundlander's Light Tales for Heavy Times - Alan Doyle 🎧

This series of essays, humourous stories is exactly what it claims to be: light tales for heavy times. Alan Doyle, on lock-down like everyone, and unable to tour, wrote these stories to find a way to entertain. Having his voice narrate makes you feel like you are almost at a Great Big Sea concert. Doyle is a natural story-teller, and if you ever get a chance to see Great Big Sea in person, you must. Pure entertainment and enjoyment. The book is part memoir as many of his stories are from growing up in Petty Harbour, Newfoundland and part stories from the road. Fun, fun, times.

Later - Stephen King 🎧
Ooh, a new Stephen King, and it's practically a novella, by Stephen King standards. Classic King - coming of age story of our narrator, from young boy to college age, combined with some freaky supernatural stuff. Jamie can see dead people, like in the Sixth Sense, but a little more, as he can talk to them for a little while. For fans of King, and if you haven't read any before, this is a pretty good representation of his writing, and would be a great way to start. (There is some gore, but there always is!)

Exciting Times - Naoise Dolan (ebook)
An Irish ex-pat teaching English in Hong Kong because she doesn't know what else to do. Making decisions is pretty tough for Ava, and she just lets herself float along, and won't admit any kind of feeling. She's got cynicism down to an art. She ends up living with Julian so she doesn't have to live with her roommates who aren't her fiiends, because she won't even try. Her sad relationship with Julian is that they won't admit they like each other - they agree to use each other essentially. While Julian is away for months for work, Ava meets Edith and forms a possible real relationship, which scares her, a lot, so she finds ways to sabotage herself. So I didn't really like Ava, but I was hoping she could get her act together. I wasn't sure who I wanted her to end up with. 
I liked the Hong Kong aspect, as I have a friend who teaches English in Hong Kong, but I don't think she is anything like Ava!

Wonder Women of Science: How 12 Geniuses are Rocking Science, Technology, and the World - Tiera Fletcher
I won this book in the Early Reviewer program at Librarything where you can get a newly released book in exchange for a review. Here's what I wrote at LT:

It's always good to expand your knowledge of women in science beyond Marie Curie. Even other biographies I've read tend to focus on historical women in science but this book is thoroughly modern. Twelve women from various specialties are highlighted. Each gets a little background on how they ended up in their STEM field, and a description of their contribution and their often unique field. Each also offers some advice and describes their motto in life. While mostly US-centric, there are women from some other countries profiled.

Studying the layers of dirt in the Earth to make predictions for future climate based on past, designing new space suits, studying tapirs and their role in ecosystems, keeping water clean in the ISS - each new topic and field of study was more interesting than the last. There is some information on the topic presented for each biography and could be a starting point for some young person to start investigating.

All of this is written for a late elementary/junior high school aged reader. So while I liked the information, the writing was definitely not for adults. Which is fine - I am not the target audience, and I will be pleased to add this book to my classroom library.

A Town Called Solace - Mary Lawson 🎧
Definitely read the best book of the month last. I was quick to request A Town Called Solace because I've really liked Mary Lawson's books before. In fact, I've read all her previous books: Crow Lake, Road Ends, and The Other Side of the Bridge. What you will get from a Mary Lawson book is a Northern Ontario setting, families, and lots of emotion. She has a way of writing that just breaks my heart. 
Here we follow three main characters - a young girl, Clara, whose sister is missing; Clara's neighbour, elderly Elizabeth who is in the hospital, and twenty-something Liam, who Elizabeth has left her house to. Liam has come from Toronto and the heels of a broken marriage. The three of them have assorted interactions, past and present, and are able to give each other something that they each need. They all make mistakes, and are trying to sort out their lives. My favourite books is still Crow Lake, but this one is pretty close. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021



What's on your Spring TBR list? I love making these lists, even if some books are on there for a long time, lol. This is the list today, but who knows what shiny pretty book will tempt me to be read before these ones. For more lists, and for future topics, check out That Artsy Reader Girl .  I have a few categories that help me pick my next book.

Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist:

Piranesi by Susannah Clarke
I'm not sure about this one as fantasy isn't my favourite, but I'll take a chance

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Bit of a list at the library as it was also a Booker shortlist, but I should get it 

ebooks I've bought recently:

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
I'm really looking forward to this one

Network Effect by Martha Wells
Super fun science fiction starring a robot who would rather be watching TV shows but keeps having to help the humans

Library Requests:

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
One of my next audiobook reads as I get out walking 

The Case of the Reincarnated Client by Tarquin Hall
I just picked this one up from the library

Next in a Series

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths
Book # 10 in the Ruth Galloway series

An Irish Country Love Story by Patrick Taylor
Book 11 in the Irish Country Doctor series

My Own Books:

Chasing Painted Horses by Drew Hayden Taylor
Canadian author of the great Motorcycles & Sweetgrass

Cop Killer by Maj Sjowall
Book 9 of 10 in the famous Swedish police series

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Spring Cleaning Freebie


The topic this week is a Spring Cleaning Freebie. I noticed I had read exactly ten + 1 books in February, so I thought I'd write some mini reviews and thoughts on them. A real mixture of lots of audiobooks, a few ebooks, and a few real life books. Check out other takes on the topic at That Artsy Reader Girl, and find future topics.

Deacon King Kong
- James McBride 🎧
This is a book on the Tournament of Books this year, (which started yesterday) and it was also on Obama's list of books to read from last year. It was a little long and while I didn't love it, part of that was because I  was listening, and sometimes I miss things and there were a lot of characters. It's one of those books were I probably would have gotten more out of it in paper. But I can completely see why it got rave reviews. Perfect book to read during Black History Month.

A Visit From the Goon Squad
- Jennifer Egan
Another book that took me forever to read, through not fault of the book. It was a type of book I enjoy - connected short stories, and involved the music industry. Maybe I took so long because I like the cover and enjoyed looking at it so much. 

The Chalk Pit
- Elly Griffiths 🎧
I am moving through a great mystery series, Ruth Galloway, and while most are available in ebook format, this book #9 was an audiobook. All the books are good, and it is the characters' lives that make this series good, the mysteries are okay. Ruth is a forensic archeologist and is called in by the police whenever bones are found - old or new. Book #13 will be the latest in the series, so I am getting close to catching up to new releases.

Your Perfect Year
- Charlotte Lucas (ebook)
I got this book through Amazon's free World book giveaway series. This one is translated from German, and is set in present day Germany. It is kind of a chick lit book, but there are some darker themes (suicide) that propel the plot. Repressed publisher Johnathan finds a journal already filled out for the year, and while trying to find the owner, becomes very interested and realizes how boring his life is. Told in alternating chapters with Hannah, a child care worker who is opening her new business. 

Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise
- Charlotte Gray 🎧
I've read and enjoyed several Charlotte Gray books (The Massey Murder, Nellie McClung) so I I knew this would be good. In the 1940s, Harry Oakes was murdered in the Bahamas after making a fortune in mining in Canada. After spending a bit too much time in the beginning in the mining industry, things picked up. There was little resolution to the murder, but several suspects were identified. And that scoundrel of the 1940s, the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson were in exile in the Bahamas come up in the narrative.

Milk and Honey
- Rupi Kaur (ebook) 
I don't usually read poetry, but Milk and Honey is a book I've seen posted about. And it was a good read. I picked it up here and there, and read a few poems as a time. There are four section-The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking, The Healing. I preferred the positive poems (loving and healing.)

Transcendent Kingdom
- Yaa Gyasi (ebook)
Another Tournament of Books entry, Gifty tells the story of her family starting when her mother comes out to stay with her in California from Alabama. There is a lot going on - addiction, depression, immigration, scientific research, but I liked Gifty and felt for her little girl self remembering life before the death of her brother, and when her Ghanian family was still together. Well written and engaging. I've wanted to read Gyasi's first book, Homecoming, and will definitely keep an eye out.

The Henna Artist
- Alka Joshi 🎧
Good historical fiction (I seriously always forget how much I enjoy historical fiction. It is never a topic I am drawn to, but I really like it) set in India in the 1950s. The main character is the titled henna artist working for upper class women, as well as dabbling as a herbalist. When her abusive ex-husband (she was forced to marry when very young) shows up with her unknown sister, Lakshima is now responsible for a young teenager which threatens to upset the life she has been building. Lots of blackmail, threats, and secrets get revealed, somewhat neatly, but it was fast-paced, with interesting twists, and characters who are not perfect. 

The Wife Upstairs
- Rachel Hawkins 🎧
Jane Eyre meets Gone Girl? I had a fun time with the terrible characters in this quasi-retelling. No one is likeable, Jane is not our heroine, and Eddie Rochester deserves what ever he gets. But it was still fun to see how Hawkins kept some of the plot elements in her suspense, thriller type book. I had a slight problem with part of the ending (seemed out of (terrible) character) but still was fun. 

The Survivors
- Jane Harper 🎧
Jane Harper has built a nice little corner of the mystery market and her books are reliable and well done. She builds up the relationships between characters and gradually reveals the back story, while taking full advantage of the Australian setting. This one was set in a tourist community on Tasmania which reminded me of PEI. Those that stay, and work the tourism season, and those who go to the big city but come back to visit. The memories of what everyone did as a kid are long. Kieran comes home with his wife and baby to help his mother prepare to move his dementia father to a LTC facility. Kieran was involved in an incident in the Big Storm where some people died years ago, and everyone knows what happened, and everyone has reasons to lie about some aspect of it. 

Leave the World Behind - Rumaan Alam
Talk about building suspense and not knowing what is going on! A couple from New York City and their two teenage children head to Long Island to an AirBnB for the week. While there, the home owners appear and with a blackout occuring and no internet, it is not clear at all what is going on. That unease continues as they two families try to figure out what they should be doing. This was another Tournament of Books entry and should cause lots of conversation.