Sunday, April 24

Book Review: Birdie

Title: Birdie

Author: Tracey Lindberg

Pages: 256

Summary: Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly’s Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected.

With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very enjoyable read, with beautiful writing and a wonderful story. It was powerful at times and the author did a fantastic job at creating the character Birdie, who was well fleshed out and developed.

The story has so many elements, it's hard to figure out where to start. It bounced around in time a lot, but it helped the reader understand who Birdie is in the present and how she got where she is. Her journey is horrific at times, and the author did a wonderful job at showing the reader how it affected her life and the other characters around her.

The writing was lovely and lyrical -and pulled me in from the start. The writing style helped highlight all the other elements nicely and I think it worked in bringing the reader into the book on an emotional level. The overall story was well done and raw, but it was incredibly well written and it's a book well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was a wonderful book, beautifully written - some will likely be turned off by the writing style, but it's a book worth reading.

What to read next: Monkey Beach, The Diviners, The other 2016 Canada Reads finalists

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

Book Review: Exit Strategy

Title: Exit Strategy

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Pages: 450

Summary: Nadia comes from a long line of police officers, and was one herself until the wrong case sent her over the edge. Now she's a contract killer for a small Mafia family. But her days of solo missions come to an end when one of her contacts recruits her in the hunt for a ruthlessly efficient serial killer who is cutting a swath of terror across the country. This assassin is far to skilled to be an amateur, and the precision of the police investigation threatens to unmask Nadia and others. So she has no choice but to band together with a small group of hitmen, and once the killer realizes who's on his trail, his simple plan twists into a complex game as he and Nadia struggle to prove which is the predator . . . and who is the prey.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the overall story, and following the clues to find out who the killer was. While I was expecting the killer to be someone different - someone closer to home for the characters - I did enjoy how the author connected everything and how the story fell into place.

There were a lot of moments where I didn't want to put the book down, because I had to know what happened next. The book did slow down in the middle, where it felt like the story wasn't moving forward but overall I enjoyed the pace of the book, it was well balanced and had the right amount of filler, suspense and background information.

I'm not sure I have a favourite character, they all have something fun and different they bring into the book - it will be interesting to see what they bring into the next two books, hopefully more information will be revealed about some of them. All of the characters were written well, they had some development, and a good amount of background to them to help drive them through the plot.

Overall an enjoyable read - I plan on reading the rest of the series soon, as I really want to know what happens next.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this was a very enjoyable read, different from her other works. If you want to read Kelley Armstrong but don't like fantasy, this would be a good choice.

What to read next: Made to be Broken

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

Sunday, April 10

Book Review: The Copper Beech

Title: The Copper Beech

Author: Maeve Binchy

Pages: EBook 265

Summary: An old copper beech overlooks a school, and witnesses all the hopes and loves, dreams and ambitions of the children who grew up there... By the school house at Shancarrig stands a copper beech, its bark scarred with the names and dreams of the pupils who have grown up under its branches.

Under Junior Assistant Mistress Maddy Ross's careful gaze the children play, but out of school Maddy's gaze lingers where it shouldn't. Maura Brennan, a bundle of fun from the rough end of town, plays with her pals: leap year baby Eddie Barton, the apple of his mother's eye, and Nessa Ryan, who little realises as she carves his name at the roots of the copper beech on the very last day of school that she'll get a lot more from one of her schoolmates than her first shy kiss.

The copper beech is the gateway to Maeve Binchy's marvelous portrait of a small Irish town whose untroubled surface conceals the passions, rivalries, friendships, ambitions and jealousies beneath.

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I liked a few of the characters stories and the end was well done, the book overall wasn't the best of Binchy's books. The characters were dry and the story didn't feel like it was moving anywhere. Usually her books with the multiple characters narratives come together better. This just didn't connect together as well as books I've read by the author in the past. It felt more like multiple unfinished short stories with a common theme.

The book still had Binchy's usual warm writing style and heart to the story, and I'm sure Binchy fans would enjoy the book, but overall it didn't keep my attention and it didn't make me want to pick up another one of her books. It had its moments, but overall somewhat disappointing.

Would I recommend it to read: I would always recommend the author, but this particular book wouldn't be high on the list.

What to read next: I'd say more by the author, this one didn't showcase what the author is capable of.

Challenges: 2016 Category Challenge,  EBook Challenge, MTB Challenge

Book Review: Ties of Power

Title: Ties of Power

Author: Julie Czerneda

Pages: 484

Summary: Self- Exile became Sira's only choice when she discovered how deeply she'd been betrayed by the leaders o her people. Rather than allow them to continue to use her for their own ruthless purposes, Sira, the most powerful being eve born to the alien race known as the Clan, fled with the human telepath, Jason Morgan.

Now, living on a distant world in an environment over which she has control, Sira is striving to carve out a new life for herself. But there are those determined to take from her what she will not willingly give, and when she and Jason fall victim to an unforeseen attack, it sets in motion a series of events which will see Jason searching for the starways on a mission of vengeance, and Sira leagued with the Drapsk, a little understood race which is extremely adept at trading. For the Drapsk see in Sira a power which could regain for them something which has long been lost. And they will do anything to protect this woman who is their greatest hope for their future.

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I loved this book, I was captivated by it, most of the time I didn't want to put it down, and I was certainly not ready for it to end. I know there's another book in this trilogy and another trilogy with these wonderful characters waiting for me (well at least part of the trilogy has been published), but I don't want it to end.

The characters are vibrant, well developed and overall, fun to read about. I've become very attached to them - part of me wants to inhale the entire series in a sitting, the other wants me to savour it, because I won't be ready to let them go. All of them have so much to offer, they have a lot of layers, so you don't always know what to expect from them, this is a book where it's hard not to fall in love with its characters.

I'm also fascinated where this story is heading - because the reader is kept on their toes. I have some ideas where the book is going, some theories of what may come - but I still don't know for sure and sometimes there's a little hint or something there that makes me rethink it all. The story of the Clan and its history and future has been fascinating I need to know what happens next - but I'm also loving the journey that leads there.

Overall, a fantastic read - from a fantastic series. Looking forward to what the third book has in store for me!

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this has been a fantastic series and it keeps getting better! You won't be disappointed especially if you love Sci-Fi.

What to read next: To Trade the Stars

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

Saturday, April 2

Book Review: The Hero's Walk

Title: The Hero's Walk

Author: Anita Rau Badami

Pages: Ebook 310

Summary: Set in the dusty seaside town of Toturpuram on the Bay of Bengal, The Hero's Walk traces the terrain of family and forgiveness through the lives of an exuberant cast of characters bewildered by the rapid pace of change in today's India. Each member of the Rao family pits his or her chance at personal fulfillment against the conventions of a crumbling caste and class system.

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book looked promising and the overall story was a good one, but I didn't connect to this one and I found that I couldn't get into the story or its characters.

The writing was well done, I will go back to the author, but this particular story didn't capture me. While it had some strong and important moments on the caste system in India and the importance of family and forgiveness, this book didn't capture me at all. I think it was mostly due to the characters, I found them to be a bit dry and lack depth. While they developed through the story - it felt forced to me and very rushed near the end. The overall message of the story also felt rushed and forced at times, especially near the end. In the beginning, the book had promise but something felt off as it progressed on.

Overall, it wasn't a bad read, but just didn't connect with me.

Would I recommend it to read: This one is hard to say, I do think a lot of readers would enjoy this one, but I'm not sure if it's a book I'd recommended. The author perhaps, but not the book.

What to read next: More by the author, The Illegal, Birdie, Minister Without Portfolio, Bone and Bread (the other 2016 Canada Read contenders)

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

Book Review: The Shipping News

Title: The Shipping News

Author: Annie Proulx

Pages: 364

Summary: When Quolye's two-timing wife meets her just deserts, he retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters and family members all play a part in Quoyle's struggle to reclaim his life. As Quoyle confronts his private demons - and the unpredictable forces of nature and society - he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was one of those books that sat on the shelf for a long time, but was such a fantastic read - you wonder why it sat there for so long. It was an incredible book, with lovely almost poetic writing and excellent, well developed characters.

There was so much to this book I enjoyed, it's hard to know where to start. The writing was wonderful, I am looking forward to getting my hands on another book by the author. It was poetic, lyrical at times and it really captured the atmosphere and life in Newfoundland and the mood of the characters. It was a book that was hard to put down, because the writing drew you into the story.

As for the characters, while I don't have that one favourite character I could say I fell in love with, I did enjoy Quoyle. He was a bit of a wreck at times, a bit lost on how to live his life, but his journey and development was fleshed out and realistic. The story of Quoyle was slow but a good and engaging slow. I liked that the author took her time to explore his and the other characters stories and development - it made for a wonderful read.

There were a few minor things here and there I didn't like but overall I enjoyed the book a lot - it's a book that is well worth reading - and one well worth reading right away - especially over a weekend, instead of leaving it on the shelf for years. Excellent book overall.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. This was an excellent book - I do think some readers would be turned away by the style of writing, but the characters and story are so well written, it is definitely worth checking this book out.

What to read next: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, more by the author

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

Saturday, March 12

Book Review: The Lifted Veil

Title: The Lifted Veil

Author: George Eliot

Pages: 117

Summary: 'Why did she stand before me with the candle in her hand, with her cruel contemptuous eyes fixed on me, and the glittering serpent, like a familiar demon, on her breast?'

In this dark novella of Victorian horror, George Eliot explores clairvoyance, fate and the possibility of life after death.

The Lifted Veil
Silly Novels by Lady Novelists (Essay)

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The Lifted Veil, was a quick read, engrossing at times mainly because of the writing style - it just pulls you in and you don't want to leave the book. The story itself was interesting, although I did find it tapered off a bit in the middle and while the ending was well done, it just didn't have the same feel to it as the beginning of the book. It was still an interesting story - especially from the time period it was written and who wrote it. Compared to some of the other books I've read by the author, this one stands out - far more memorable.

The essay, Silly Novels by Lady Novelists was something I wasn't expecting but was very well written. Eliot did not think to highly about some of the women novelists in her time, she was very opinionated on the matter, which I enjoyed and found refreshing. She was definitely a head of the curve during her time. The essay is witty at times, but she is also clear with her opinions. It was a different reading experience for me. . In the end I was surprised on much I enjoyed the essay, as I'm not usually a non-fiction reader - but this one was well done and well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was a quick read - different than some of her previous books and the essay was well worth reading.

What to read next: More by the author, particularly her essays. Also, as this is part of Penguins Little Black Classics set, I'd check out those books as well.

Challenges: 2016 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge

Book Review: Dark Places

Title: Dark Places

Author: Gillian Flynn

Pages: EBook 341

Summary: "I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ."

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I enjoyed this one, I found it didn't live up to the previous book I read by the author, Gone Girl. It still had its intense moments and was well written, but the plot and its characters didn't grab me like I expected. In the beginning, I was interested, especially by Libby, who is a train wreck and pretty messed up. But I found that, the interest wore off fairly quickly and she eventually began to be tiresome. She was the most interesting of the characters - but I just didn't connect to her or enjoy reading about her.

The plot itself was well done, the set up definitely had a good vibe to it but, it didn't pull me in as much as I thought it did. There were a few parts I found to be weak aspects of the story - the Satanic rituals and the Kill Club for example, both showed to be promising, but I found they didn't have the push I thought they would have in the story.

I did not see the twist in the ending coming and I wasn't expecting that either. That made the entire book worth reading for me. It was shocking and one of those, "wait... what?" moments. I can't go into too much more details, but the reveal at the end was surprising. Well, part of the end. One part I figured out, the other part was the shocker.

Overall it was a good ending and overall an fairly good book, it just didn't have the same punch and must read it now feel that Gone Girl had.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, while it didn't have that same pull as Gone Girl, it has some excellent writing and was still a good story - if you're a fan of dark and twisted this is a good choice.

What to read next: Gone Girl, Sharpe Objects

Challenges: 2016 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge