Monday, April 6

Book Review: And the Birds Rained Down

Title: And the Birds Rained Down

Author: Jocelyne Saucier

Pages: 139 (Ebook)

Summary: Tom and Charlie have decided to live out the remainder of their lives on their own terms, hidden away in a remote forest, their only connection to the outside world a couple of pot growers who deliver whatever they can’t eke out for themselves. But one summer two women arrive. One is a young photographer documenting a a series of catastrophic forest fires that swept Northern Ontario early in the century; she’s on the trail of the recently deceased Ted Boychuck, a survivor of the blaze. And then the elderly aunt of the one of the pot growers appears, fleeing one of the psychiatric institutions that have been her home since she was sixteen. She joins the men in the woods and begins a new life as Marie-Desneige. With the photographer’s help, they find Ted’s series of paintings about the fire, and begin to decipher the dead man’s history.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The writing was beautiful and at times the story was compelling and emotional, overall it was an enjoyable read.

The writing, storytelling was what initially pulled me into the book. It had such wonderful style and pace, it made for a great reading experience, and I think the author told the story of the characters beautifully. Especially Ted and his paintings. I think his aspect in the story is what I enjoyed the most - and I really wish I could have learned more.

The novel is a short one, but despite that, there was a lot to the book - a lot of elements to explore and rather enjoyable ending. I think the author managed that well, while it wasn't my favourite part of the book, it was still worthy ending for the book.

One of the aspects I didn't like was the pot growing. It didn't fit with the rest of the flow and themes of the story, it stuck out and it felt awkward. It didn't work for me and I couldn't figure out, why it was necessary for it to be there, while it did bring some of the characters into the book, it just didn't feel right compared to the rest of the story.

Would I recommend it to read: Hmm, the writing was lovely, the story was mostly good, so I'd say yes. It's not for everyone, but a lot of readers would appreciate the book.

What to read next: The Stone Angel, The Underpainter, and you could also try the other Canada Reads 2015 contenders.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge, Ultimate Canadian Reading Challenge

Book Review: Cast in Shadow

Title: Cast in Shadow

Author: Michelle Sagara

Pages: 311 (Ebook)

Summary: Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowing that something was after her. Children were being murdered-- and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin.... Since then, she's learned to read, she's learned to fight and she's become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and the immortal Barrani, she's made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth. But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging. Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can't trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers-- powers that no other human has. Her task is simple-- find the killer, stop the murders...and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I was first brought to this world, through a short story Cast in Moonlight, in the short story collection Harvest Moon. That short story really drew me into the world of Elantra and I always had it on the back burner to continue the series. Now finally I have, but while it was an interesting read, it wasn't exactly what I was expecting.

The story was interesting, as was the fantasy world the author created. There were a lot of interesting and complex elements to it. A variety of races and people that fill the fantasy land of Elantra, but so little is explained to the reader. I had the same issue with the short story, but I figured that was because, it was because it was a short story that takes place after the other information was already established. While element of mystery worked for some parts of the story, the author slowing revealing as the story goes on, other aspects needed some kind of explanation. I constantly had the feeling I was missing a big chunk of the story, the important background information wasn't there - and little of it was ever revealed.

I also found that while I enjoyed the story in the beginning, by the end I was glad it ended. The deeper into the story I got the more complex it got, which was a good thing, except the complete lack of exploring and fully showing the reader what was going on. While I liked how we, the reader go on the journey with Kaylin, and discover certain things along with her, there were multiple cases that needed more, to help push the story forward.

While the book itself was very original, there's a lot I'd like to know more about in it, and that alone kept me reading. The fantasy world the author created sounds wonderful, but because there were so many pieces left unsaid, it's hard to carry on with the series. And at this time, I'm unsure if I'll do that.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm unsure, I think a lot of fantasy readers would like the idea behind the book (and series) but I think they would also have similar problems I did with the book. It's always worth trying, to expedience something new.

What to read next: Cast in Courthlight is the next book in the series.

Challenges:100+ Books Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Ebook Challenge, Ultimate Canadian Reading Challenge

Sunday, April 5

First Quarter Wrap-Up - 2015

I can't believe it's April already? Where is the year going? Anyone know? Because it feels like time is flying by. So far the reading year is going okay, I'm a little behind, but not by much and so far the majority of books have been good ones, so being slightly behind my goal is okay for me.

Books Read 

These past few months I've managed to read finish a big series (Sookie Stackhouse) tackle one of those "I've always meant to read that (Outlander, and have to say, wasn't impressed and I won't be continuing with the series). I read a few books by my favourite authors, read a book of poetry, which is new for me.

This quarter, my favourite books were; Station Eleven, Gone Girl and The Buddha in the Attic.
My least favourite books were; Devil Wears Prada, The Outlander and All My Puny Sorrows.

1) Dead Ever After - Charlaine Harris (Started in 2014) - 8.75/10
2) All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews - 6.5/10
3) The Outlander - Diana Gabaldon - 6/10
4) A Week in Winter - Meave Binchy - 7.5/10
5) Power Politics - Margaret Atwood - 8.25/10
6) Hunting Ground - Patricia Briggs - 7/10
7) Among Others - Jo Walton - 8.75/10
8) The Buddha in the Attic - Julie Otsuka - 9.75/10
9) The Reader - Bernhard Schlink - 7/10
10) Knots and Crosses - Ian Rankin - 8.75/10
11) Monkey Beach - Eden Robinson - 7.75/10
12) Revenge Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger - 2/10
13) Friend of My Youth - Alice Munro - 7/10
14) The Lifeboat - Charlotte Rogan - 8/10
15) Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel - 10/10
16) Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - 9.75/10

Challenge Progress

Despite being slightly behind in my reading goal of the year (105 books) I am very happy with my progress on my challenges. As usual, I'm neglecting the Finish that Series Challenge - I should be picking up one of the books in the challenge shortly. While I'm technically finished 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, I'm still not finished my personal goal for the challenge - read 13 books by Canadian Woman Speculative authors. I've only read about 7. So, I still have some reading to do. Otherwise, I'm happy with the challenges, so far this year.

1) 2015 100 Books Challenge - 15/100 Books - 15% Complete
2) 2015 Category Challenge - 15/75 Books - 20% Complete
3) 2015 Chunkster Reading Challenge - 1/7 Books - 14% Complete
4) 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - 16/13 Books - 123% Complete
5) 2015 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge - 2/10 Books - 20% Complete
6) 2015 Ebook Challenge -7/25 Books - 28% Complete
7) 2015 Finish That Series Challenge - 0/5 Books / 0/4 Series - 0% Complete
8) The 2015 Mount TBR Challenge - 11/36 Books - 31% Complete
9) 2015 New Authors Challenge - 8/25 Books - 32% Complete
10) Read Scotland 2015 Challenge - 2/9 - 22% Complete
11a) The 2015 Ultimate Canadian Reading Challenge - Local Challenge 2/20 Books 10 % Complete
11b) The 2015 Ultimate Canadian Reading Challenge Award Challenge 1/20 Books - 5% Complete
11c) The 2015 Ultimate Canadian Reading Challenge - Genre Challenge 3/20 Books - 15% complete
11d) The 2015 Ultimate Canadian Reading Challenge Total of all challenges - 6/60 - Total - 10% completed

Countries Visited

For the first quarter of the year, I travelled to the following countries during my reading adventures; Canada, USA, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, and Germany

Other Bookish Stuff

I've started using my goodreads account more, I use to love LibraryThing, and while it's good for the cataloging of my books, I'm finding it easier to keep up with the discussions on Goodreads. I've had a lot of fun with some of the group reads and have found some new authors because of it.

I've also been working away with Ad Astra, a Science Fiction, Fantasy and everything in between literary convention which is coming up in a week. (April 10, 11 and 12). It has both reading, writing elements along with costuming, prop building and more. If you are in the Markham Ontario area, check it out Ad Astra . I work on the book launches, and we have some good ones this year.

Books That Followed Me Home

In the past three month, the following books followed me home. There's been a few ebook sales lately, can you tell?

1) The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
2) Red Rising - Pierce Brown (EBook)
3) Rat Medicine & Other Unlikely Curatives - Lauren B. Davis (EBook)
4) Bear - Marian Engel
5) The Memory Collector - Meg Gardiner (EBook)
6) Neuromancer - William Gibson
7) King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table - Roger Lancelyn Green (EBook)
8) The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
9) The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill (Ebook)
10) Etta and Otto and Russell and James - Emma Hooper
11) The Pawn - Steven James (Ebook)
12) The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin
13) At The Mountains of Madness - H.P. Lovecraft
14) The Bourne Identity - Robert Ludlum (Ebook)
15) Poems - Slyvia Plath
16) The Long Earth - Terry Pratchett / Stephen Baxter (EBook)
17) Hide and Seek - Ian Rankin (Ebook)
18) Tooth and Nail - Ian Rankin (Ebook)
19) Monkey Beach - Eden Robinson (Ebook)
20) Cast in Shadow - Michelle Sagara (EBook)
21) Cop Town: Novel - Karin Slaughter (Ebook)
22) Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel (Ebook)
23) Wanted - Nick Stephenson (EBook)
24) Panic - Nick Stephenson (EBook)
25) Radiant - Towers Trilogy - Karina Sumner-Smith (EBook)
26) Erasing Memory - Scott Thornley (EBook)
27) Among Others - Jo Walton (Ebook)
28) The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien - Clothbound edition
29) Love Poems - various authors

And that's it folks Happy Reading and Happy April (where I am, it's April.......)

Sunday, March 22

Book Review: Gone Girl

Title: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

Pages: Ebook 450

Summary: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My Rating: 9.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:

This review will contain spoilers.

Wow. Just wow. That was my initial thoughts on this book and how it all played out. The author did a fantastic job at creating Amy, an incredibly well done, manipulative character. I was shocked at just how the author managed to make Amy so convincing in the first section of the book. Even knowing Amy was a nut job, as I read the book (again, just in that first section) I did find myself liking her more than Nick. As for Nick, he's a jackass, I never thought he murdered his wife, but I always thought he was a jackass. Once I finished the book a spineless, stupid jackass, but if you want to find out the reasons behind that, you'll have to read the book for yourself. As for Amy, She was, despite being a sociopath, an enjoyable character to read - I wouldn't say she was likeable, not once her true identity was revealed. But, she was a character who had me entranced and I couldn't put the book down because I had to know what would happen with the plot and what she'd do next.

What I liked about the book the most, was how detailed the author was on how, what and why Amy did what she did. It was outstanding how well everything played out. This is what makes the book such a fantastic read - the detail behind the story, behind who Amy is and how she did it, what she did, was because of the careful amount of time and detail the author put into the story.

The ending! What an ending! I was not expecting that. The last few chapters, practically had me screaming at the characters. Jaw-dropping twist, that's all I'll say to that.

Overall, this was a fantastic read, originally I didn't get the hype behind it, I thought it would be like other books in its genre, and while in some aspects it is, it far exceeds the other books in the genre, because of the all the details I mentioned above.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, even if you know the general plot twist in the story, how clever the author made it, how detailed made it all worth it.

What to read next: Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Girl on the Train

Challenges: 100+ Books, 2015 Category Challenge, 2015 Cloak and Dagger Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR ChallengeNew Author Challenge

Saturday, March 21

Book Review: Station Eleven

Title: Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Pages: EBook 314

Day One
The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

Week Two
Civilization has crumbled.

Year Twenty
A band of actors and musicians, called the Travelling Symphony, move through the territories of a changed world, performing concerts and Shakespeare at the settlements that have formed. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and it threatens the world every hopeful survivor has tried to rebuild.

Moving backward and forward in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: celebrated actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan, a bystander warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife, Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend, Clark; Kirsten, an actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed "prophet."

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book was incredibly well written, with elegant writing and a well told story and flow that carried on throughout the book.

The writing alone pulled me into this book, and would have kept me invested but the characters were also incredibly well done. In fact, the one character that truly captured me and pulled me into this book, what caused the turning point for a great read, to I can't put this book down, was Jeevan. There was the one scene which was rather humours, just as the flu started to break out, and during that scene something about him grabbed my attention and after that, I had to know what would happened to him. Other characters also became favourites of mine, including Clark - but why he's my favourite and the one scene that I enjoyed is a bit of a spoiler, but it was a well written moment in the book and one of the ones that stick out as memorable.

I enjoyed the moments during the aftermath of the plague, but I also enjoyed Arthur's story. I was a little unsure about his history, but eventually, I found I did enjoy that aspect of the book. I think that in the end, it helped set up a lot of important plot pieces for later in the book.

There were a few aspects of the book I liked less, and a few pieces I guessed, such as information about the prophet. And while I think he was an important character in the book, I felt his development anf story was the weakest of all the characters. There were some interesting bits with him, but he had the least amount of appeal and structure around him as the other characters had. I also had questions on how the post-flu world was managing and why they were doing certain things over others, but that was also part of the fun of reading the book. Overall this was an incredibly enjoyable book - and it is a book I'd highly recommend.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes! Read this book. I didn't think I'd like the book, but trust me when I say, the description of the book does not do it justice, it was a fantastic read and well worth picking up. It's not the usual science fiction apocalyptic story either, so if you're veering away because of that, try the book out, it isn't at all what I expected.

What to read next: MaddAddam Trilogy

Challenges: 100+ Books, 2015 Category Challenge, 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge, Ultimate Canadian Book Challenge

Sunday, March 8

Book Review: The Lifeboat

Title: The Lifeboat

Author: Charlotte Rogan

Pages: 274

Summary: Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life. In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying Grace and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize has exceeded capacity. For any to live, some must die As the castaways battle the elements and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started off interesting, and captured me fairly quickly, at times it was hard to put down, while the ending was somewhat disappointing, the overall book, was a good read.

I didn't exactly like the ending - the last two chapters of the book, didn't have the same feel to it, and I was disappointed how the book ended - especially the one characters fate, it didn't work for me and it was one of those, "wait, what, why?" moments. As for the rest of the book, it was incredibly well written. I wouldn't call it a engaging book, but I definitely was captured by it.

I enjoyed the way the author chose to tell the story, the narrator is somewhat unreliable, but that is what I like about the book - is that because she's such an unreliable character you're not sure how much of her story is the truth or is she lying to herself and the readers.

I loved the parts while they were on the lifeboat. They were raw, horrific and showed humanity at its best and worse. This part of the book really makes you think how you'd react in the situation and I think the author wrote it wonderfully. Overall, a surprisingly good read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I think this would be a perfect read for a book club, as it would bring up a lot of interesting discussion points

What to read next: Life of Pi, there's another book I thought would be the perfect companion to this, and I forgot the title, but that one!

Challenges: 100+ Books Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: Friend of My Youth

Title: Friend of My Youth

Author: Alice Munro

Pages: 244

Summary: These 10 stories bring to life characters in a remarkable variety of times and places. Men and Women recall the events, the long-buried yearnings and dreams, the sometimes puzzling choices that have made them what they are. The nature of adultery and humour and love is laid bare

Friend of my Youth
Five Points
Hold Me Fast, Don't Let Me Pass
Oranges and Apples
Pictures of the Ice
Goodness and Mercy
Oh, What Avails

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed this collection, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed her other short story collections. While I enjoyed some stories more than others, I usually have a couple the really stick out for me, and while a few did, it wasn't in the same way her stories usually jump out at me.

One of my favourites of the collection was the title story "Friend of my Youth", which I enjoyed a lot. Five Points and Differently also were good reads. All of the stories were well written, the characters well developed like they always are, but there was just that extra magic I usually experience from the author, that extra spark that was missing from this collection.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, while it isn't my favourite of her collections, it's still incredibly well written.

What to read next: More of Alice Munro's books.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, The Ultimate Canadian Reading Challenge

Sunday, March 1

Book Review: Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns

Title: Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns

Author: Lauren Weisberger

Pages: EBook 326

Summary: Almost a decade has passed since Andy Sachs quit the job “a million girls would die for” working for Miranda Priestly at Runway magazine—a dream that turned out to be a nightmare. Andy and Emily, her former nemesis and co-assistant, have since joined forces to start a highend bridal magazine. The Plunge has quickly become required reading for the young and stylish. Now they get to call all the shots: Andy writes and travels to her heart’s content; Emily plans parties and secures advertising like a seasoned pro. Even better, Andy has met the love of her life. Max Harrison, scion of a storied media family, is confident, successful, and drop-dead gorgeous. Their wedding will be splashed across all the society pages as their friends and family gather to toast the glowing couple. Andy Sachs is on top of the world. But karma’s a bitch. The morning of her wedding, Andy can’t shake the past. And when she discovers a secret letter with crushing implications, her wedding-day jitters turn to cold dread. Andy realizes that nothing—not her husband, nor her beloved career—is as it seems. She never suspected that her efforts to build a bright new life would lead her back to the darkness she barely escaped ten years ago—and directly into the path of the devil herself...

My Rating: 2/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I picked this book up, because I wanted something light, and fluffy, after reading some more, heavy, intense books, not to mention I did enjoy the first book, and this one was sitting on my "shelf" for some time now. Well , be careful what you wish for because fluffy, is what I got.

I didn't like this book one bit. I enjoyed the first one, it was fun, funny and Andy (sorry, Andrea) was written to be likeable. This book not such much, forget any character development from the first book, or anything that happened in the first book, because by the end of this book, everything is exactly the same as it was at the beginning of the first book - save the fact she's ten years older and has a child.

Her character seemed to have lost all development she had in the first - and she somehow got dumber. She's a woman in a committed, sexual, relationship, about to be married, who is nauseous, throwing up, tired all the time and she thinks she has, an STD? Seriously? I really wish I had given up after that, but because I paid for the book I saw it through. I found the "PTSD like symptoms" Andy was having with the mention of Miranda's name, pathetic and unbelievable. Her boss treated her like crap, people have crappy mean bosses - deal with it. The fact ten years later she still has issues, just didn't work for me.

The only saving grace of this book was Miranda, who yes is not the nicest person there, but she at least made the book interesting. And she was barely in it.

Overall, this was not a good book. I should have read the other reviews before purchasing it, as I wouldn't have bothered with it.

Would I recommend it to read: No, wouldn't. The first one was good, this was a train wreck.

What to read next: Anything.

Challenges: 100+ Books Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge