Saturday, January 23

Book Review: Bear

Title: Bear

Author: Marian Engel

Pages: 126

Summary: The winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, Marian Engel’s most famous – and most controversial – novel chronicles the erotic love affair between a woman and a bear. Lou has travelled to a remote island in northern Ontario to catalogue an eccentric nineteenth-century colonel’s library. Eager to investigate the estate’s curious history, she is shocked to discover that the island has one other inhabitant: a bear. Irresistibly, Lou is led along a path of emotional and sexual self-discovery, as she explores the limits of her own animal nature through her bizarre and healing relationship with the bear.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I went into to this book knowing that it was a controversial book and having an idea of what some of the content would be - but I wasn't expecting fifty shades of bear. Yet, despite some of the more, graphic sexual scenes, the book was a good read. The book was definitely one of those books that wasn't exactly in my normal confront zones of reading and I wasn't expecting as graphic of a bear and woman love scene - if you can call it that. But that part of the book is so small, although shocking when you first read it, it isn't the focus of the book. Although, it does stick with you and makes some interesting conversation pieces.

What the point of the book was a woman's self discovery, finding love and loving herself. The emotional journey she goes on was beautifully written and original. It is a book that sticks with you and one that is very memorable because of how the author chose to tell Lou's journey of self discovery. It especially stands out compared to other books like it, because of how the author chose to carry out Lou's journey.

Overall, it's a bit of a hidden gem and worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to read - although, some readers could be turned off by some of the content of the book, it is worth checking out.

What to read next: I'd try more of the author, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood also would be a good choice

Challenges: 2016 Category Challenge, 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge


Friday, January 1

2015 - A Year in Review

2015 was an interesting year for me - for many reasons. I didn't read nearly as much as I normally read due to a combination of falling into some extreme reading ruts - a result of reading just average books. Also I had a few distractions this year - both good and bad. One of the good was getting married! Back in June I married the love of my life - and planning a wedding does take a lot of time - even small low key weddings, which took away from my reading time.



Another factor was I once again attempted NaNoWriMo. While this year I didn't complete my goal, I did get some good headway on a novel and will likely finish a draft by the end of 2016.

There were other factors too - but the main reason was I just couldn't get out of a reading rut. I had a few books that I wasn't into, yet I couldn't give up on - so I spent a long time reading them (a few took a few months). But I still managed to read a good chunk of books and some of them ended up being fantastic reads, listed below are all my reads of 2015.

The Books

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 - 7.5/10
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
17. Cast in Shadow - Michelle Sagara - 6.75/10
18. And the Birds Rained Down - Jocelyne Saucier - 7.75/10
19. The Golem and the Jinni - Helen Wecker - 8.25/10
20. Saltsea - David Helwig - 6/10
21. Shadow - Amanda Sun - 7/10
22. Trains and Lovers - Alexander McCall Smith - 7.75/10
23. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keys - 8.5/10
24. Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins - 7.5/10
25. The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill - 9/10
26. The Transfer - A Divergent Story - Veronica Roth - 8/10
27. Four: The Initiate - A Divergent Story - Veronica Roth - 8.25/10
28. Four: The Son - A Divergent Story - Veronica Roth - 8.5/10
29. Four: The Traitor - A Divergent Story - Veronica Roth - 8.75/10
30. Rift in the Sky - Julie Czerneda - 9/10
31. Swarm - Lauren Carter - 8.75/10
32. Heat Rises - Richard Castle - 8/10
33. Visions - Kelley Armstrong - 8.75/10
34. Enduring Love - Ian McEwan - 3.5/10
35. A Thousand Words for Stranger - Julie Czerneda (reread)
36. Going Down Swinging - Billie Livingston 7.75
37. Deceptions - Kelley Armstrong - 9/10
38. Case Histories - Kate Atkinson - 5/10
39. The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin 9/10
40. Once Every Never - Lesley Livingston - 5.75/10
41. The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood (reread)
42. MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood - 9/10
43. Alligator - Lisa Moore  - 6.5/10
44. The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson - 8.75/10
45. The Sleep Donation - Karen Russell - 8/10
46. Armada  - Ernest Cline - 6/10
47. The Love of a Good Woman - Alice Munro - 7.5/10
48. Fifteen Dogs - Andre Alexis - 9.25/10
49. Daydreams of Angels - Heather O' Neill - 7/10
50. The Red Shirts: A Novel with Three Codas - John Scalzi - 8/10


Breakdown of Ratings
Rating Category
Amount of Books
1 - 2.75
1
3 - 3.75
1
4 - 4.75
0
5 -5.75
2
6-6.75
6
7-7.75
12
8-8.75
17
9-9.75
8
10
1

My Favourites

Below is a list of all my ten favourite reads of the year. The theme of this years favourites seems to be heavily Speculative.

 
1) Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
2) Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
3) The Buddha in the Attic - Julie Otsuka
4) The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
5) Rift in the Sky - Julie Czerneda
6) Deceptions - Kelley Armstrong
7) The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin
8) MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood
9) Fifteen Dogs - Andre Alexis
10) Swarm - Lauren Carter






General Stats and other Fun Facts

This year was a slow reading year, but despite that I did accomplish a lot. Surprisingly, I read more ebooks than print - mainly because it's a lot easier to cart around an ereader than print books. I barely read from the library - because I forget I have the books, then forget to return the book then have angry librarians asking me to pay fees - okay they've never been angry with me - but that would make for a good story. Angry zombie librarians seek out delinquent book borrowers......

General Stats
Number of Books
Books Read
49
Pages Read
13, 701
Re-Reads
2
Format of Books
Print
20
EBook
29
Where it Came From
Own
45
Library
4
Review
0


My goal was to try and read some poetry this year. While that didn't exactly happen, I did manage to read one book of poetry this year. Maybe in 2016 I will read 2!

Type of Book
Number of Books
Novel
39
Short Story Collection
3
Short Story Individual
6
Poetry
1
Combined
0


This year appears to be heavily Speculative based for me. As half of the books I read fall under that category. Also, almost half the books read this year were by author's who were new to me.

Other Random Facts
Number of Books
Canadiana
24
New to Me Canadian Authors
9
New to Me Authors
20
Women Writers
37
Speculative Fiction
24
Mystery/Thrillers
8
1001 Books
2
Classics
3
Series
10
Childrens/YA
6


The Challenges

Once again, I entered far too many challenges - although if it weren't for the reading rut, I think I would have finished all of the challenges I entered this year.  While I love challenges, I'm finding it too hard to keep up with them all - so this year I won't be entering nearly as much. I want to try to stay on the social side of reading so, less challenges will mean less people to keep up with.



Challenge Name
Progress
Challenge Starts
Challenge Ends
Challenge Completed
1
2015 100 Books Challenge
47/100
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
 DNF
2
2015 Category Challenge
45/75 Books
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
DNF 
3
2015 Chunkster Reading Challenge
5/7 Books
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
DNF 
4
2015 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge
2/10 Books
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
CANCELLED
5
8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge
23/13 Books
July 1, 2014
June 31, 2015
COMPLETED
6
9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge
8/13 Books
July 1, 2015
June 31, 2016
 DNF
7
2015 Ebook Challenge
25/25
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
COMPLETED
8
2015 Finish That Series Challenge
3/5 Books
2/4 Series
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
 DNF
9
The 2015 Mount TBR Challenge
30/36 Books
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
 DNF
10
2015 New Authors Challenge
21/25 Books
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
 DNF
11
Read Scotland 2015 Challenge
3/9
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
 DNF
12
The 2015 Ultimate Canadian Reading Challenge
2/20 Books - Local
1/20 Books - Award
3/20 Books - Genre
6/60 - Total
January 1, 2015
December 31, 2015
CANCELLED

 

Outlook for 2016

My outlook for 2016? Just keep reading!

Thursday, December 31

Book Review: Redshirts

Title: Redshirts

Author: John Scalzi

Pages: Ebook 217

Summary: Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn't be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship's captain, its chief science...

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started out strong it was funny, a bit corney and campy but funny - while I did find it lost me a bit in the middle, it did end up being a good read.

I think the most redeeming part of the book was the last paragraph of chapter 23 and chapter 24. I won't say much to avoid spoilers, but that saved the entire book for me - it just made me laugh out loud and it was fitting with the entire theme of the book - especially with how the first half of the book went.

The parts I didn't like was that during the middle the flow of the book just didn't mesh as well as it did during the first half, and some of the plot was became to jumbled - it still worked for the story but there was something about it that just didn't feel the same.

Otherwise it was a fun read - and it helped me get out of my massive reading slump I've had.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, if you are looking for a quick, mindless funny read it's a good choice.

What to read next: More by the author

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: Daydreams of Angels

Title: Daydreams of Angels

Author: Heather O'Neill

Pages: Ebook 224

Summary: In Daydreams of Angels, O'Neill's first collection of short stories, she gives free reign to her imaginative gifts. In "The Ugly Ducklings," generations of Nureyev clones live out their lives in a grand Soviet experiment. In "Dear Piglet," a teenaged cult follower writes a letter to explain the motivation behind her crime. And in another tale, a grandmother reveals where babies come from: the beach, where young mothers-to-be hunt for infants in the surf. Each of these beguiling stories twists the beloved narratives of childhood--fairy tales, storybooks, Bible stories--to uncover the deepest truths of family life.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were some very interesting short stories in this collection and others that were familiar stories, with an interesting twist - some of which I found to be clever and enjoyable, while others I found didn't work out as well as it could have. The writing by the author is incredible - but I found that my biggest issue with the collection were that a lot of the short stories didn't keep my attention. While a few stood out, most lost me half way through the story.

Overall, a good collection by the author.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. The writing was strong the stories were good - if you're a fan of short stories than it's well worth reading.

What to read next: I'd try the other Giller finalists of 2015.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Book Review: Fifteen Dogs

Title: Fifteen Dogs

Author: André Alexis

Pages: Ebook 135

Summary:
 -- I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.

-- I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable...

My Rating: 9.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book has become one of my favourite reads of the year - I went in not knowing what to expect, but I became engrossed in this book - and it was one of those reads that was hard to put down.

The characters - although they were all dogs, was what made this book to be such an enjoyable read. You cheered some on, while others you hated with a passions - but pretty much all of the characters were incredibly well written and developed. By the end of the book, I was nearly in tears, when my favourite character died - but the author wrote his story so wonderfully, it was impossible not to get attached to him.

The writing was incredible, I've only read one other book by the author, but I do plan on reading more. The author's voice pulls you into the book and he has one of those writing styles that pull you into the book and makes you want to read it through in a sitting.

All in all it was a fantastic read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would it was well written story, a little different than what was out there, but it's a must read.

What to read next: More works by the author, I enjoyed Childhood a lot. The other Giller finalists.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Book Review: The Love of a Good Woman

Title: The Love of a Good Woman

Author: Alice Munro

Pages: 286

Summary: Eight new stories about what people will do for love, and the unexpected routes their passion will force them to take. A prim, old landlady in Vancouver with a crime of passion lurking in her past. A young mother with a secret life who abandons her children to be with her lover. A country doctor in the 1960s discovered by his daughter to be helping desperate women, his "special patients."These and other fascinating characters weave their way through stories that track the changes that time brings to families, lovers and even to friends who share old, intimate secrets about the "prostration of love" in a collection that is clear-eyed about the clutter of our emotional lives.

The rich layering that gives Alice Munro's work such a strong sense of life is particularly apparent in the title story, in which the death of a local optometrist brings an entire community into focus - from the preadolescent boys who find his body to the man who probably killed him, to the woman who must decide what to do about what she might know.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This wasn't my favourite collection by the author but it was still an enjoyable read. I did find that a lot of the stories in this collection stood out more compared to her other collections - they almost seemed to be darker which was an aspect I enjoyed, but there was just something about this collection that didn't grip me as much as her others.

Overall it was a good collection by the author, but this one wouldn't be at the top of the books I'd recommend by her.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's not the best of Munro's short story collections, but it does have a different tone to the book, compared to her others and it, like all of her works, is wonderfully written.

What to read next: More Alice Munro

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, MTBR Challenge

Saturday, December 5

Book Review: Armada

Title: Armada

Author: Ernest Cline

Pages: Ebook 312

Summary: Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started out okay. It was a little corny, but in a fun way, and I thought that it would carry forward and be a quick amusing read. But, eventually that initial appeal wore off and the book didn't exactly work out for me.

While I enjoyed the concept of the story, I didn't enjoy reading it. The constant quips of all the different science fiction references got tiring after a while. At first, they helped build the character, after it became repetitive and took away from moving the story forward.

Parts of the story were predictable, although parts were fun to read it was hard to push through to the end. Overall it was an okay read, but it wasn't impressive and I'm not sure if I'd read the author again.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm told the author's other book Ready Player one was well done, so perhaps I'd recommend that one, but I'm not sure I'd recommended this one.

What to read next: Ready Player One

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge

Sunday, October 18

Book Review:Sleep Donation

Title: Sleep Donation

Author: Karen Russell

Pages: Ebook 145

Summary: A crisis has swept America. Hundreds of thousands have lost the ability to sleep. Enter the Slumber Corps, an organization that urges healthy dreamers to donate sleep to an insomniac. Under the wealthy and enigmatic Storch brothers the Corps’ reach has grown, with outposts in every major US city. Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the lethal insomnia, has spent the past seven years recruiting for the Corps. But Trish’s faith in the organization and in her own motives begins to falter when she is confronted by “Baby A,” the first universal sleep donor, and the mysterious “Donor Y.”

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a quick, and eerie read. But overall, an enjoyable one. The idea behind it was rather creepy - sucking the sleep away from a baby to give to others. Disturbing, but well executed. It was different, but a good different.

Because it was a short read, there wasn't a lot of detail to the background and history of how society came to this point. Which was something I both liked and disliked about the book. I liked it because there was the mystery of the unknown, and it helped push the story on quickly. I disliked that aspect because there was that nagging part of me that wants to know a full detailed back story as to why things are the way they are. The characters were well written, but I wouldn't call the memorable. I don't have a favourite, or could say anyone of them pulled me into the book. The story was what made this book, not the characters, they weren't poorly written characters, by any stretch, they were just ones I didn't feel connected too.

Overall it was a great read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was a quick read, creepy at times, but if you want a quick thriller to read, this one would be a good choice.

What to read next: The Positron E-Serial series by Margaret Atwood (or the Novel based off the eSeries)

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2015 Category Challenge, Ebook Challenge, New Author Challenge