Friday, April 18

Book Review: Miranda's Vines

Title: Miranda's Vines

Author: Kimberly Kafka

Pages: 258

Summary: Miranda Perry has risen to the top of San Francisco's competitive culinary word, and investors are willing to help her launce her own restaurants, but her life suddenly takes a different turn when she learns her grandfather has died, leaving the family vineyard to her. Returning to Oregon, she is soon joined by her lifelong friend Briddie, who has suffered a debilitating injury. By returning to their roots, booth woman find unforeseen healing and hope, while helping each other through the challenges of accepting fate.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was one of those books where I didn't like or dislike it. It's not a bad read, but not a good read either.

The main issue I had with this book was Miranda. I just didn't connect to her has a character and found her to be unrealistic and lacking in development. She was a character that constantly interfered with the story, she forced her way in to make changes, rather than naturally let the story be told. There were many times the story felt it was told, to fit around her, rather than the other way around. I also found the whole reason why she ends up in the situation she's in, to be muddled. It felt like pieces of the story were missing, to come to certain decisions. Not a lot of lead up or back story to it, although it was hinted about her personal reasons, it wasn't explored properly. She just made decisions - life changing decisions, and I just didn't like how it came together.

Most of the other characters were also not completely constructed. While there was an excellent potential for a complementary secondary cast of characters, they also just didn't come together properly for me. Birdie's story was interesting, but it lacked the emotional connection to the reader, I didn't exactly like the ending, as I felt it was rushed. Had it been more developed and explored, it would have excellent ending, but like with the entire story, something was constantly lacking in it to give it that extra push.

The story had promise and there were parts that interested me, but in the end it fell short of my expectations.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure on this one. Some readers would enjoy it, but I think that the progression of the develop hurt the book to much for me to recommend it.

What to read next: Blackberry Wine (or any book by Joanne Harris really), Under the Tuscan Sun

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Sunday, April 13

First Quarter Wrap Up

Okay, so the first quarter of the year hasn't been the best for me. From busy February at work, a computer dying in January, having to buy a new one and attempt to transfer data over, and lets just say, of the 950 books I have catalogued into my book catalogue collector, most didn't transfer over properly or at all. Then some did, but didn't. It's confusing, but I've slowly started getting everything back. Then there was a horrible cold, which left me, asleep for three days. Kids events which took up my weekend, but were well that event was well worth missing reading time, proud almost step-mommy here!

I've been working on the committee for Sci-Fi and Fantasy convention (Ad Astra), which is happening as I write this (well the same weekend, I'm up bright and earlier trying to catch up on things before I head to the fun), but likely not when I post. (Nope, it's the weekend after, cus no sleep, event attending/working = no blog posting)

Then, most recently, a shocking event, which has left me, well words are hard to come by to describe how I feel, but I needed some time to de-compress. Needless to say, a combination of good, bad and horrible things have happened these past three months, which has left reading and reviewing and all things bookish, in the sidelines. I'm not concerned about challenges, if I don't finish certain ones I'm fine with that. Goals right now are looking fine. Will I reach 140 books total read the year? Hard to say, but I think all other personal goals will be met. Perhaps not the finishing the Wheel of Time series from start to finish, but maybe most of it.

The Books

My three month book mark, is looking a lot more like my 1.5 month status, but at least I had some great reads so far, and some, er, not so great ones. The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories, The Colour of Space are at the top of the list for best reads of the first quarter of the year. What Becomes is also well worth mentioning. Among the bottom, The Orenda and The Unfinished Child and Accusation.

The Perils of Morning Coffee - Alexander McColl Smith - 6.5/10
Cataract City - Craig Davidson - 6.75/10
What Becomes - A. L. Kennedy - 8.5/10
The Unfinished Child - Theresa Shea - 5/10
Tiger - Tash Aw - Ebook 18 (Not Reviewed)
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood - 9.5/10
As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories - Alistair MacLeod - 9/10
Naked Heat - Richard Castle - 8/10
Revolt - Qaisra Shahraz - 6/10
Cockroach - Rawi Hage - 7/10
Before I go to Sleep - S. J. Watson - 7.25/10
Lilac Bus - Maeve Binchy - 7.75/10
The Colour Out of Space - H. P. Love Craft - 9/10
Good Morning, Midnight - Jean Rhys - 7.5/10
Tide Road - Valerie Campton - 7/10
Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood - 10/10 (Re-read)
The Last of the Crazy People - Timothy Findley - 8/10
Accusation - Catherine Bush - 6/10
The Orenda - Joseph Boyden - 4/10

The Challenges

Since with everything that has happened and the fact I just haven't had as much reading time as I'd like, I'm happy where I stand with the challenges. I'm "behind" according to my goodreads widget, but what does it know? It's a widget! Once I get back up to my normal reading pace, I should catch up to where I want to be - well be reading the awesome books I want to be. As usual, I'm ignoring my series challenge, it doesn't help now I need to re-read the first book in the once series, but it was a good book, so I'm not too upset by it. But I want to read another book by the author, and it's calling to me..... and I'm off track. I'm fine where I stand with the challenges, because once I'm actively reading again, they will be back on track - this year was easy riding challenges, so as long as I read, I can finish them.

1) 100 Books in 2014 - 18/100 Books - 18%
2) 2014 Category Challenge - 18/140 Books - 13%
3) 2014 GoodReads Reading Challenge - 19/140 books - 14%
4) 50 Book Pledge - 19/100 books - 19%
5) 7th Annual Canada Book Challenge - 50/13 books
6) Alphabet Reading Challenge - 8/26 books - 30%
7) Chunkster Reading Challenge - 2/5 books - 40%
8) EBook Reading Challenge - 11/50 books - 22%
9) Finish That Series Challenge - 0/3 Series, 0/9 books - 0%
10) Mental Illness Reading Challenge - 2/8 books - 25%
11) Mount TBR Challenge - 12/60 books - 20%
12) New Author Challenge - 10/25 books - 40%
13) Read Scotland Reading Challenge - 2/6 books - 33%
14) War Reading Challenge - With a Twist - 0/6 books - 0%

Countries Visited 

These past three months I visited: Canada, USA, England, Ireland, France, Scotland and Pakistan on my reading adventures.

Books That Followed Me Home

A lot, between left over christmas gift cards, birthday gifts and my general need to uh, allow books to come home with me, there was a lot. There might be more, but since my beloved computer died, and then all my books on my book cataloguing software went away. Then almost didn't come back, then half sorta did but not really, as it came back but not right, and not sure what exactly happened there, except I didn't have to manually re-catalogue 950 books...... In the end, books had to be re-entered and I'm still tracking down to make sure everything is in there. I think it is, but still missing a lot of data for book collection catalogue software. Morale of the story, back up your stuff. I usually do, but it had been a good 18 months since the last time I did it........ 18 months = lots of books and other important data. Also, my computer guy rocks. He is awesome!

1) Saturday's Child - A Cal Innes Novel by Ray Banks (EBook)
2) Echoes - Maeve Binchy (EBook)
3) Light a Penny Candle - Maeve Binchy (EBook)
4) Silver Wedding- Maeve Binchy (EBook)
5) A Week in Winter - Maeve Binchy (EBook)
6) Accusation - Catherine Bush (EBook)
7) Naked Heat - Richard Castle (EBook)
8) Heat Rises - Richard Castle (EBook)
9) Frozen Heat - Richard Castle (EBook)
10) Deadly Heat - Richard Castle (EBook)
11) Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson
12) From The Fifteenth District - Mavis Gallant (EBook)
13) Chronicles of a Death Foretold - Gabriel García Márquez
14) Cockroach - Rawi Hage (EBook)
15) Ragged Islands - Don Hannah (EBook)
16) From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
17) Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
18) Dead in the Family - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
19) Dead Reckoning - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
20) Deadlocked - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
21) Dead Ever After - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
22) A Memory of Light - Robert Jordan / Brandon Sanderson
23) The Colour Out of Space - H. P. Lovecraft (EBook)
24) Barometer Rising - Hugh MacLennan
25) The Way The Crow Flies - Anne Marie MacDonald (EBook)
26) The Member of the Wedding - Carson McCullers
27) Docherty - William McIlvanney (EBook)
28) Who Has Seen the Wind - W. O. Mitchell
29) Carried Away - Alice Munro
30) Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Alice Munro
31) Moons of Jupiter - Alice Munro
32) My Best Stories - Alice Munro
33) The Misunderstanding - Irène Némirovsky
34) The Death of Bees - Lisa O'Donnell
35) Coming Through Slaughter - Michael Ondaatje
36) The Invisible Bridge - Julie Orringer (EBook)
37) The Buddha in the Attic - Julie Otsuka
38) Black and Blue - Ian Rankin (EBook)
39) Good Morning, Midnight - Jean Rhys
39 The Voyage in the Dark - Jean Rhys
40) Matadora - Elizabeth Ruth (EBook)
41) Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer (EBook)
42) A Discovery of Strangers - Rudy Wiebe (EBook)
43) The Plum Tree - Ellen Marie Wiseman (EBook)

Monday, March 31

Book Review: The Orenda

Title: The Orenda

Author: Joseph Boyden

Pages: 487

Summary: A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I'm one of the few who didn't like this book, and the more I think about it, the more I'm finding myself disliking the book. I didn't like the story at all, it started off okay for me but by the time it ended, I was just happy to be finished with the book. I liked the writing style for the most part, but this wasn't the book for me.

The three first person narratives were part of what made this book, a less than satisfactory reading experience, as I felt they were all the same. There was no distinction between the voices, when each had their own perspectives, it was which characters were also present that allowed me to know who was telling the story at the time. I didn't find the emotion or the pull other readers found, with the narrative and the story. I just couldn't connect to the narratives or the characters.

Overall didn't like this one, just wasn't the book for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend the author. I just don't like this particular book. Writing was well done, didn't like the story. But I seem to be one of the few who didn't absolutely love the book.

What to read next: I'd read the author's other books. The Three Day Road was a lovely story.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Chunkster Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Accusation

Title: Accusation

Author: Catherine Bush

Pages: EBook 224

Summary: While in Copenhagen, Sara Wheeler, a Toronto journalist, happens upon Cirkus Mirak, a touring Ethiopian children’s circus. She later meets and is convinced to drive the circus founder, Raymond Renaud, through the night from Toronto to Montreal. Such chance beginnings lead to later fateful encounters, as renowned novelist Catherine Bush artfully confronts the destructive power of allegations. With Accusation, Bush again proves herself one of Canada’s finest authors as she examines the impossibility inherent in attempting to uncover “the truth.” After a friend of Sara’s begins work on a documentary about the circus, unsettling charges begin to float to the surface, disturbing tales of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Raymond. Accounts and anecdotes mount, denunciations fly, and while Sara tries to untangle the narrative knots and determine what to believe, the concept of a singular “truth” becomes slippery. Her present search is simultaneously haunted by her past. Moving between Canada, Ethiopia, and Australia, Accusation follows a network of lives that intersect with life-altering consequence, painfully revealing that the best of intentions can still lead to disaster, yet from disaster spring seeds of renewal and hope.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Aspects of the book intrigued me, but overall it fell just a little short to make it a great read. The story and it's character came together fairly well, although I found Sara to be a bit of a Mary Sue, and she seemed to push the story around, rather than it unfold naturally. I think that's the best way to describe it. I felt that, her character had a negative effect on the entire book, with how she interfered with it. It wasn't in a way her character was suppose to do in her quest for the truth, it felt more like for the benefit of Sara and her story - something about her ad how she influenced the story felt off.

Most of my issues around the book revolve around Sara. She's very naive and ignorant person, especially considering what her job entails her to do and where it brings her. She was very flat, emotionless and at times, stupid. She was very frustrating to follow and I think I'd have like the story as a whole, a lot better if she hadn't been so prominent in it, or if she'd been toned down. Because I did like the story surrounding the circus, and the scandal around it. I think the author had something fantastic there, but I think Sara destroyed most of that initial appeal I had for the book.

Overall, it wasn't a bad read, but it wasn't exactly a good one either.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure about this one, it wasn't exactly my cup of tea. Some readers might enjoy it, but it's not at the top of the list.

What to read next: I'm not sure on this one, I think I'd check out the author again, but otherwise, at a loss for this one.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: The Last of the Crazy People

Title: The Last of the Crazy People

Author: Timothy Findley

Pages: 211

Summary: While other 11-year-old boys are preoccupied with things like hockey, television and having fun, Hooker broods about his dysfunctional home-life. With a mother who refuses to leave her room, a brother in an alcoholic haze and a father who's unable to hold things together, Hooker's world is one of bewilderment and conflict. Feeling alone and unhappy, the young boy seeks to put an end to all of the confusion.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book will leave you stunned, heartbroken as it's done with me, and I've had and incredibly hard time, trying to find the right words, to describe the book. The characters and story, are haunting, it touches on a lot of themes and issues, one of which is very close to my heart. It was an enjoyable read, and one I'd highly recommend. Hooker was a complex character, who I really felt for. He's difficult to truly know and understand, but I think it worked well for him, because as a reader, you move along with him, as he tries to understand the world around him, particularly his own family.

I think the author showcases mental illness, in its various forms, wonderfully in this book. He shows the raw, dark side of mental illness, in a time period where it was "crazy" and greatly ignored, until something horrific happens. Like in this book, from Hooker's mother, brother himself, and even his father, the book is filled with characters struggling with some form of mental illness. The slow narrative and look on the day to day life, creates an incredible picture for the reader. It's a difficult book to get through, especially considering the topic that's buried there, but for the time period and the setting, the author does give the reader a very haunting story. Particularly the ending, and all that leads up to it was shocking and powerful. There were definitely hints throughout the book how it would end, at times I expected certain aspects of the end to come sooner than it did, but slightly different outcome. Yet, because of the way Findley wrote it, it left me stunned and heartbroken. It's an ending that doesn't satisfy me fully, but it works for the book and the point the author made. It's not what you want for the character, but it's what is needed to show the reader the bitter end the themes of the book can lead.

In the end it was an enjoyable read, hard to believe it was the author's first published novel, with the level of writing, well worth reading in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It's a dark book, but I think it's a book that is so well written, and does a great job at telling this story, that it's a book I'd highly recommended.

What to read next: Alias Grace, More Timothy Findley

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mental Health Awareness Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Oryx and Crake

Title: Oryx and Crake

Author: Margaret Atwood

Pages: 374

Summary: A stunning and provocative new novel by the internationally celebrated author ofThe Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize Margaret Atwood's new novel is so utterly compelling, so prescient, so relevant, so terrifyingly-all-too-likely-to-be-true, that readers may find their view of the world forever changed after reading it. This is Margaret Atwood at the absolute peak of her powers. For readers of Oryx and Crake, nothing will ever look the same again. The narrator of Atwood's riveting novel calls himself Snowman. When the story opens, he is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was my second reading of the book, and it was just as good, maybe even more, the second time. It's a book that almost instantly pulls me in, and is a book that has me wanting to read it, and the other two in the trilogy in a sitting, because of the excellent writing and story.

The writing in this book is solid, especially considering there's so much technical and scientific terms. I find in some books similar to this, which have heavy amounts of new technology, items, animals and basically anything futuristic, it can be bogged down with terms, names and definitions of what everything is and how it fits in. Atwood manages to bring in all of these things, both interesting, and frightening, and wove it into the story wonderfully. The amount of detail to pull the reader in, yet the amount the author allows the author to imagine was done almost flawlessly.

The story and how it brings the reader to the end was spectacular. Even knowing the end result, I was still completely drawn into the book. Surprisingly, I remembered a lot more than I originally thought and yet I was still just as engrossed into the book the second time as the first. Snowman, I think the second reading helped me a lot with getting into the mindset of Snowman and the whole psychology behind his character. He's a lot more complex than he originally seems especially after the second read, I picked up on a few things here and there. And while he's not a character I could say I loved, I do want to read more about him and his story. I also loved the conclusion of the book, and while I have to wait until the third book to find out exactly what will happen, I think it was a very fitting ending.

Overall, the book was a fantastic book, one of my favourites and now has me wanting to re-read The Year of the Flood and finally reading MaddAddam.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, highly recommend, but this book isn't for everyone. Apocalyptic, Speculative, Science Fiction, is a genre I know not everyone enjoys, but, this is one book that is well worth giving a try, even if you don't normally read it. If you don't like the genre, try the author's other fictional books, as she is one heck of an author.

What to read next: The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Book Review: Tide Road

Title: Tide Road

Author: Valerie Compton

Pages: EBook 167

Summary: When Stella disappears, leaving her toddler and husband behind, her mother Sonia, a widowed farm wife and former lighthouse keeper, struggles to face the possibility that her daughter may not have slipped through the ice. She may have been pushed. In a intensely memorable narrative with the deceptive pull of an undertow, Sonia’s past, a flotsam of lost dreams, bruised hopes, buried love, wells up to meet her. Confronted with her own history of choices and failures, Sonia is compelled to revise her perception of her daughter’s life and dramatically change the way she lives her own. Compton is a deft draughtsman of character, whose powers of description, timing, and astounding revelation coalesce into a splendidly nuanced account of the unguessed-at legacies of a life shaped by choices.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the book, not as much as I thought, but I think other external reasons also affected how I felt about the book. I do think the author did a great job at writing the story, bringing in the setting to life, as well as writing a cast of very flawed, troubled characters. They were realistic, and raw and although I couldn't say I had a favourite character but, I did appreciate just how well written they were.

I think the one of the main reasons why I didn't enjoy this book more, was I felt disconnected from the characters. I think this is a book where you need to feel close to the characters to really get under their skin. There were times I was able to do this, but for the most part, I just felt at a distance. Which is part of the story, I think the characters are all a bit disconnected from themselves in a way, but I just felt I need something to keep me more connected to them.

I did like the ending, it is a bit uncertain, but it worked well with the theme and feel of the book. I think the author tied enough up to satisfy the reader, but left a lot unsaid, a lot of uncertainty for what might happen next for the characters and I think that this aspect was one of the best parts of the book.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, even though the book didn't capture me as much as had hoped, it was a well told and well done story. And I know there are a few readers out there, who would love this book, and find it to be a great read. Overall it was a good read, excellent writing, and a book I will re-read again, as I think it's a book that you can appreciate more, after a second or third reading.

What to read next: The Diviners - Margaret Lawrence

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Sunday, March 30

Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight

Title: Good Morning, Midnight

Author: Jean Rhys

Pages: 159

Summary: In 1930s Paris, where one cheap hotel room is very like another, a young woman is teaching herself indifference. She has escaped personal tragedy and has come to France to find courage and seek independence. She tells herself to expect nothing, especially not kindness, least of all from men. Tomorrow, she resolves, she will dye her hair blonde.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started off strong for me, I was immediately pulled in by the writing and although near the end the book began to lose me, I still found the book to be an enjoyable read.

The writing was beautiful and complex, as was the narrative and I was pulled in immediately because of this. The book deals with depression but it's very different than a lot of other books I've read, but it does show the affects depression has on a person, and the author showed what depression can do to a person through the characters actions and thought process wonderfully.

The first half of the book captured me completely, but the second half seemed off, or it was missing something to connect everything and keep me as interested as I was in the beginning. The last bit of the book felt muddled, or at least, more muddled than the rest of the story. While the whole story was written like this, which I think helps reflect the mindset of the narrator, the latter half didn't do as good as a job keeping me invested as the rest of the book. The whole book does a good job at getting into the narrator's head, her emotions, and with the exception of the last little bit, it was a great read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. The book isn't for everyone, the writing style and stream of conscious narrative is something I know a lot of readers would be turned off. But I was an enjoyable read, well written and I know there are a lot of readers who would enjoy the book.

What to read next: Wide Sargasso Sea, The Bell Jar

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge