Thursday, April 30

Book Review: Rings of Saturn

Title: Rings of Saturn

Author: W.G. Sebald

Pages: 296

Summary: The Rings of Saturn follows the triumph of Seybold's highly acclaimed American debut, The Emigrants (New Directions, 1996). A fictional account of a walking tour through England's East Anglia, Sebald's home for more than twenty years, The Rings of Saturn explores Britain's pastoral and imperial past. Its ten strange and beautiful chapters, with their curious archive of photographs, consider dreams and reality. As the narrator walks, a company of ghosts keeps him company-- Thomas Browne, Swinburne, Chateaubriand, Joseph Conrad, Borges--conductors between the past and present. The narrator meets lonely eccentrics inhabiting tumble-down mansions, and hears of the furious coastal battles of two world wars. He tells of far-off China and the introduction of the silk industry to Norwich. He walks to the now forsaken harbor where Conrad first set foot on English soil and visits the site of the once-great city of Dunwich, now sunk in the sea, where schools of herring swim. As the narrator catalogs the transmigration of whole worlds, the reader is mesmerized by change and oblivion, survival and memories. Blending fiction and history, Sebald's art is as strange and beautiful as the rings of Saturn, created from fragments of shattered moons.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:
This is one of those books, where you don’t dislike the book, but not sure if you like it either. On one hand, Sebald is a very talented author. He is good at description, and using words to draw the reader in, and keep them interested in the story. And the idea behind the novel and how it was approached was also well done, and very unique, it really was unlike any other book I’ve read. Having a walking tour of England and being told the history/small stories behind it and what he sees during his tour. But, something just falls short in this part for me, the story and the “history” just didn’t interest me enough to make me really enjoy the book. I think what kept me reading was Sebald’s writing style and story telling abilities, or potential. One of the positives of the book is that it has made me want to look at more of his work and see his true potential. Not a bad book, but its not a book I’d give much thought to now that it’s finished.

Would I recommend it to read: I’m not sure if I would recommend this book or not. This was on the 2006 1001 Books to Read Before you die list, but on the newest versions it’s been omitted which was how I found out about the book. I selected it merely on its title. But the book just has something missing, its fiction and reads more like non-fiction, with a talented author using good use of words and descriptions, rather than a historian. So, I’m on the fence on this one.

What to read next: More books by Sebald. I want to see what his other novels are like. Some of them Are; The Emigrants, Austerlitz.

Challenges: 1% Well Read Challenge, 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge,
A - Z Challenge. New Author Challenge

Wednesday, April 29

Book Reviews: Into the Forest

Title: Into the Forest

Author: Jeam Hegland

Pages: 193

Summary: Jean Hegland's prose in Into the Forest is as breathtaking as one of the musty, ancient redwoods that share the woodland with Nell and Eva, two sisters who must learn to live in harmony with the northern California forest when the electricity shuts off, the phones go out, their parents die, and all civilization beyond them seems to grind to a halt. At first, the girls rely on stores of food left in their parents' pantry, but when those supplies begin to dwindle, their only option is to turn to each other and the forest's plants and animals for friendship, courage, and sustenance. Into the Forest, an apocalyptic coming-of-age story, will fill readers (both teens and adults) with a profound sense of the human spirit's strength and beauty.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The story started off to be good, with an interesting premise and a very good writing story that initially drew me in. And in the words of other reviewers, “and then it got weird…..” I had to force my self to finish it. Things happened that just didn’t make sense or add up to what someone in the situation would, their was a morbid scene, that I have NO IDEA why it was in there, I mean it doesn’t even further the plot, build on the characters or strengthen/weaken relationships between characters, it’s just there. Anyone who has read the book knows of the scene I speak of. Then the ending, which also makes no sense as to why it went the way it did. I get the symbolism behind it, but it seemed like the characters were going backwards in how they hopped to survive, rather then forwards. But I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t read the story.
Overall, very interesting premise, very strong beginning, but then it gets weird, to the point it ruined the story for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I’m not sure if I’d recommend the book or not, I’m kind of on the fence for this one, because the first half of the book is pretty good. I’m also on the fence about whether or not I should try the author again, because of my experience with the last part of the novel.

What to read next: The Girls - Good for the powerful sister relationship

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge, Dewey's Book Challenge, New Author Challenge

This is one of my options for Dewey's Book Challenge. You can find Dewey's Review Here

Book Review: The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Pages: 550

Summary: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

My Rating: 9.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: What an outstanding story! I had the hardest time putting this down, I was reading it last night, and had about 90 pages left, and had to stop reading because I was so tired, I was falling asleep. I just had the chance after a day of packing, and finishing another book, to write the review. This books as been on my TBR list for a while, and after all the great reviews, it differently lived up to its hype. The book is narrated by differently then most books, not only is it narrated by death, it also contains little “news flashes” throughout the story which gives extra tid-bits on what he, the narrator, thinks of the situation or what is on his mind. It is a little distracting at first, but it is also very interesting to see his perspective on what is going on around him. But, what makes this story is Liesel, a young girl who steals books, and her friendships and relationships with others, mostly because of her love of reading. It was a very heart warming book, and some parts made me smile, in her book stealing adventures, but I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read the book yet.

The writing style was fairly standard, but because of how the narrator (death) told the story, it drew you into the book, and was also able to have you really invested in it. It also had a lot of symbolism and interesting points on humanity, that “death” points out, which I found to be very interesting and had beautiful meanings behind them, that really made the story, and its characters become very real. One part in the end had me in tears, and some emotions behind acts had me close to tears at other times.

In the heart of it all, is the story of World War II and how it had affected the lives of a small community in Germany, and how a small girl, through the power of words helped those forget for a short time, what was going on around them. A great premise, for a wonderful story, which is one of those you’ll be able to read over and over again. Contains a different narrative, wonderful and heart warming characters, and a sub-plot about how powerful words are, and how love for words

Would I recommend it to read: I’d recommend this book to pretty much everyone. Only problem I foresee anyone would have with the book is that they may get frustrated with the narrative. It’s different, and can be distracting at times. I liked that part of it, because you got a little more from the story, then what was written there, and it makes the book more unique then other WWII stories. But it’s a wonderful and heart-warming book, which any bookworm should read at least once. This is going to be a hard book to return to the library.

What to read next: The Boy in Stripped Pajamas, Diary of Anne Frank, Atonement

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 999 Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, New Author Challenge, War Through the Ages Challenge

Other Blogger's Reviews: ChainReading Review,

Monday, April 27

Book Review: Island of Dr. Moreau

Title: The Island of Dr. Moreau

Author: H.G. Wells

Pages: 185

Summary: Written in 1896, The Island of Dr. Moreau is one of the earliest scientific romances. An instant sensation, it was meant as a commentary on Darwin’s theory of evolution, which H. G. Wells stoutly believed. The story centers on the depraved Dr. Moreau, who conducts unspeakable animal experiments on a remote tropical island, with hideous, humanlike results. Edward Prendick, an English-man whose misfortunes bring him to the island, is witness to the Beast Folk’s strange civilization and their eventual terrifying regression. While gene-splicing and bioengineering are common practices today, readers are still astounded at Wells’s haunting vision and the ethical questions he raised a century before our time.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:Overall a good book, Wells’ ability to create a haunting and suspenseful plot doesn’t fail him here. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I’m glad I read the book in the day, because the suspense up to it, was creepy. This isn’t a book to read at night, especially if you aren’t familiar with how the story goes. But, I found that it fell a little short with what I expected, I thought it would be a lot scarier and a little less boring periods or more drawn out in how in-depth they go to show what exactly went on with the experiments. Perhaps Wells intentions were to let our imaginations fill this in for us. It’s not a bad book, but I was expecting something different, the story is mysterious and I enjoyed the characters for the most part, but there was just something extra missing, that would have made this an excellent book, but I don’t know what exactly that is, maybe it’s because the element of surprise isn’t there, so I know what will eventually come, hmm.

It has made me want to watch the 1996 movie again, although memory serves me it was less scary and more humours, I’m a fan of David Thewlis, so I may just give it another shot. Good book overall.

Would I recommend it to read: Yeah, I would still recommend the book to read, although if you scare easy, read it in the day. It’s a great story, especially from the late 1890’s. Wells’ had a great mind for horror and sci-fi stories, it’s great to see where, it basically all began.

What to read next: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, The Time Machine.

Challenges: 1% Well Read Challenge, 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, The Classics Challenge, Decades Challenge,

Sunday, April 26

Book Review: The Underpainter

Title: The Underpainter

Author: Jane Urquhart

Pages: 340

Summary: The Underpainter is a novel of interwoven lives in which the world of art collides with the realm of human emotion. It is the story of Austin Fraser, an American painter now in his later years, who is haunted by memories of those whose lives most deeply touched his own, including a young Canadian soldier and china painter and the beautiful model who becomes Austin’s mistress. Spanning decades, the setting moves from upstate New York to the northern shores of two Great Lakes; from France in World War One to New York City in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Brilliantly depicting landscape and the geography of the imagination, The Underpainter is Jane Urquhart’s most accomplished novel to date

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A beautiful and compelling style, the story drew me in from page one. It was hard to put down, due to the authors wonderful ability to paint the story for you. The pages and descriptions were filled with deep emotions from the characters, and even though the main character, who was also the narrator, was made to be unlikeable, you still felt sorry for him, at the same time. He came across selfish, and disrespectful to those around him, but you were also able to see an lonely old man who lost the ones he cared about, and perhaps never knew how to show them how he love them, remember his and their lives together. The story moved along slowly, but it was still a wonderful read, as we were taken through the scenes as if the painter was there to paint the picture for us. Urquhart has a beautiful ability to make her emotions appear to be real pictures, and with a painter as the main character, she really made her words and emotions come alive. Here’s an example from the book to show you what I mean;
“There is always a moment of wholeness, recollected when the world is torn, raw-edged, broken apart, a moment when the tidiness, the innocence of landscape - sometimes of the society that created the landscape - allows you to predict with accuracy the discord to come. ”
The last fifty pages were truly emotional and lovely. I don’t want to go into it any further, so I don’t spoil anything for you, but it was wonderfully done and addressed, and in the end, I understood the protagonist, he is a lonely man and despite his qualities, has an interesting perspective on the world around him. A truly talented author, I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Would I recommend it to read: Highly recommend this book to read. It’s a beautiful story by a very talented author. (Canadian Author, which is an added bonus for me, I love seeing local talent). Some won’t like the slow pace of the novel, but if you enjoy stories that dig deep into the lives of the characters and explore into their lives, emotions, then this is a book for you.

What to read next: This novel has made me want to explore more books by the author. So some other titles by her are; Away, A Map of Glass, The Stone Carvers. To name a few. Also Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge,
New Author Challenge

Saturday, April 25

Book Reviews: Animal Farm

Title: Animal Farm

Author: George Orwell

Pages: 95

Summary: George Orwell's classic satire of the Russian Revolution is an intimate part of our contemporary culture. It is an account of the bold struggle that transforms Mr. Jones's Manor Farm into Animal Farm, a wholly democratic society built on the credo that All Animals Are Created Equal. Out of their cleverness, the pigs Napoleon, Squealer, and Snowball emerge as leaders of the new community in a subtle evolution that bears an insidious familiarity. The climax is the brutal betrayal of the faithful horse Boxer, when totalitarian rule is reestablished with the bloodstained postscript to the founding slogan: But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others. (Taken from LibraryThing)

My Rating: 7.5

What I liked/disliked about the book: I finished this a few days ago, but exams got in the way of posting the review, so atlas, here it is.
This book was a good book, an easy read and funny at times. Orwell did a fantastic job at creating a satire around the Russian Revolution, as well as showing what happens when society to puts to much faith in its leaders. You can draw a lot from this book, even if it isn’t related to the Russian Revolution, especially about power, leadership and how people though the “media” (words written on the wall) thought their political leaders and their representatives, and through intimidation, can be convinced to believe in pretty much anything you want them, even with little effort. He managed to do all of this under the cover of animals, as his characters. Using stereotypes of animals (smart pigs, stupid sheep), and in the end, made a very interesting parallel towards humans and our own behaviours, and humans behaviours when they are given too much power. I think it’s a great way to address what happened in the Russian Revolution, it has made me want to do my own research, as well as I think it can be a great way to teach other political issues and communities that are similar to this situation, especially with children.
A great satire, but also some serious issues addressed, hidden under the lines in the pages.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend this book to read. It’s well written, lighter tone than 1984 because it has more humour in it. A lot of people get freaked out because the animals take over, but just think of it as a absurd example, the animals are symbolism for humans, and how the act in the same fashion. Read it, a great example of dystopian literature. It’s a book worth reading, especially young adults, because it has the dystopian theme, but it isn’t as intense as others in the genre. Adults will like the book too, but some may find the use of animals as the main characters a little off putting, either way, at least give it a try.

What to read next: Lord of the Flies, 1984, Island of Dr. Moreau.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge

Wednesday, April 22

Book Review: Eclipse

Title: Eclipse

Author: Stephanie Meyer

Pages: eBook

Summary: As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob --- knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: It’s book three of the series, and I’m still wondering why this series is so popular. The main characters are not likeable especially Bella, who has had no character development, and in fact seems to be getting worse as time goes on. Seriously, she is one of the most selfish characters I’ve ever met. As usual Bella wants to die, and me as the reader wishes she’d just die already so we can stop listen to her moan about how horrible her life is. Loving parents - check. Friends - check. Guy in love with her, and will go to the end of the world for her - check (times two.) And what does she want? To die and be like her boy friend, so they can be together forever. Who cares that the rest of your family and friends will be left in the dust? Only thing I like about Edward is his insistence that Bella stay as she is and enjoy life for a while. (I dislike Edward, I think he is portraying a terrible example of what a man should be, he’s controlling and abusive, and his and Bella’s relationship are giving bad examples on today’s youth. If he was an adult and acted like this, he’d be seen as a bad guy. His recommendations of what and how Bella should do things, always come a cross as demands, and its passed off as okay, because he’s a “vampire/monster/soulless” sigh)

I did enjoy learning more about Jasper and his background, and I adore Alice. Emmett is also an enjoyable character to read about. In fact, all of the Cullens are interesting, except Edward. They all have such interesting background stories, I wish she’d write more stories on them and their “adventures”, rather than this boring love story, which is pretty much the same in every book, with an extra little subplot tied in at the end.

I was hoping this big battle at the end would mean that we’d see the whole Cullen family and wolves fight, instead we got Bella and Edward sitting in a tent, listening to the fight and a wolf howl. We get to see a quick glimpse of Edward kill a vampire, but I was hoping for a big fight scene! Oh well.

Okay so overall, the idea of the subplot of a group of vicious vampires coming to kill Bella and the Cullens was a great, and I really enjoyed the build up to it but then was let down, because the overall execution of it and main story line were horribly done.

So why do I keep torturing my self with this crappy love story? Because I love the vampire family and how they function. It's a different take on vampires, and I like vampire stories. I just wish the approach to it would be better, because it has so much potential.

Would I recommend it to read: So far, this is the "best" of the series, but it isn't a very good book. I find it to be full of fluff, has a little more details about the vampires, and slightly more of a story line that veers away from a whining Bella and stalker Edward (instead you get a super creepy love triangle). But there is a little more story to it.

What to read next: Breaking Dawn

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge

Sunday, April 19


My first award! Made my day of studying, into a great one!

NotNessie at Today's Adventure, was kind enough to bestow on me the Let's Be Friends award:

Blogs that received the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.

Thank you so much NotNessie! And to pass this award on to some bloggers that have truly shown friendship to me and my blog, and a special thanks to them, for their interest in me and my reading rambles. :)

1) Shelley from ChainReading
2) J. Kaye from J. Kaye's Book Blog
3) Laura from Reading Reflections
4) Zibilee from Raging Bibliomania
5)Penny (aka Yooperchick) from Penny's Pages
6) Marie from The Boston Bibliophile
7) Chris from Book-a-rama
8) Heather J from Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books

Thanks to all of you (and so many more) for making my adventures in the blogging world enjoyable. Your friendships, comments and reading experiences are always appreciated. Also I want to take a minute and congratulate all of those who participated in the 24-Hour Read-a-thon. I wish I was able to participate and comment on your progress, but I've a week of exams starting up, so I was studying, but you all deserve a pat on the back. Congrads. Next time I will be joining you all!

Thanks again for the award!

Book Review: Soul Mountain

Title: Soul Mountain

Author: Gao Xingjian

Pages: 506

Summary: A bold lyrical, prodigious novel, Soul Mountain probes the human soul with an uncommon directness and candor. Interwoven with a myriad od stories and countless memorable characters- from the venerable Daoist masters and Buddhist nuns to mythical Wild Men, deadly Qichun snakes, and farting buses- is the narrator’s poignant inner journey and the search for freedom.

Fleeing the social conformity required by the Communist government, he wanders deep into the regions of Qiang, Miao and Yi peoples located on the fringes of Han Chinese civilization and discovers a plethora of different traditions, history, legends, songs, and landscapes. Slowly, with the help of memory, imagination, and sensory experience, he reconstructs part of his past. He laments the impact of the Cultural Revolution on the ecology-both human and physical-of China. And in a polyphony of narrating selves- the narrator’s “I” spawns a “you,” a “she” and a “he,” each with distinct perspectives and voice-the novel delights in the freedom of the imagination to expand the notion of individual self.

Storytelling saves the narrator from a deep loneliness that is part of the human condition. He Searches for meaning-in life, in the journey--turns up the possibility that there may be no meaning. The elusive Lingshn (“Soul Mountain”), which becomes the object of his quest, never yields its secrets, but the journey is a rich, strange, provocative and rewarding one. Soul Mountain is a novel of immense wisdom and profound beauty.
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: What a wonderful book, lyrical, mythical and full of folk lore, a story where the narrator is on a journey to find his self and meaning to life, and his soul. The story addresses the aspects of the self and the human psyche by exploring different aspects of the self and human experience, for example user a certain narrative when the narrator wished to express loneliness’ and creating companions to prevent this loneliness. The entire story is filled with unique and interesting characters, helping create a glimpse of a very different culture and way of life, as the reading is taken into different villages and is able to experience the different peoples with the narrator, learning folk songs, traditions of monks and Daiots.

The book fascinated me. It’s slow moving, but I didn’t care about that, because there was so much to read, to learn from the pages, and so much waiting on the next pages. Not to mention, being able to glimpse at a variety of aspects of one character, by being able to experience their experiences through different narratives and how each part of the mind thinks and acts was very different and unique, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read.

The book constantly jumps from narrative to narrative. One chapter it’s “I” the next “you” then sometimes it’s a chapter of point form quotes or meanings. One chapter at the end of the chapter, the narrator explains to the reading, that reading the chapter is optional.

Filled with insights, mythical beings, folk lore, and a imaginative look on the culture, humans, and other aspects that make up the narrators world, his storey telling is something that pulls you in, and is hard to escape from it’s grasps.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend the book to read. It’s a very different and unique read, poetic, lyrical and a very different method of writing a story, but I think a lot would be frustrated with the narrative moving around from first person, to second person, third person etc. At least give it a chance, you will get use to it after a while, and it’s what you get from the story after you read what counts.

What to read next: I have no clue, so here are some other Nobel Prize Winner's For Literature: Snow by Orhan Pamuk, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Blindness by Jose Saramago and The Golden Note Book by Doris Lessing

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge
New Author Challenge

Tuesday, April 14

Book Review: Agnes Grey

Title: Agnes Grey

Author: Anne Brontë

Pages: 251

Summary: Drawing on her own experiences, Anne Brontë wrote her first novel out of an urgent need to inform her contemporaries about the desperate position of unmarried, educated women driven to take up the only “respectable” career open to them - that of a governess. Struggling with the monstrous Bloomfield children and then disdained in the superior Murry household, Agnes tells a story that is at once a compelling inside view of Victorian chauvinism and ruthless materialism and, according to George Moore ‘the most perfect prose of narrative in the English literature.’

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I didn’t dislike the book, but I can’t say I really liked it either. Anne, definitely has a wonderful and poetic style of writing. It had a great flow to it, and kept me reading the story, but I found the characterization and the story in general to be a tad dry and boring. Agnes is a character I couldn’t connect to. I found her to be far to passive despite in her telling of the story to be so vocal of her feelings, yet in her interactions with others, she’s very quiet and passive. I was hoping she’d stand up for her self or at least express her feelings of a situation, rather than let everyone treat her like a door mat.

This was my first novel by Anne, and it was not bad, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Hopefully her other novel shows more promise.

Would I recommend it to read: It’s hard to say if I’d recommend this book or not. My personal experience wasn’t what I expected. It is worth reading because of Anne’s talent to write a very nice flowing and poetic story, it’s just the story is dry. So I’d at least give it a try, but beware of the story not being as interesting as it is portrayed to be.

What to read next: Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Tenant of Windfall Hall by Anne Brontë.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge,
Classics Challenge, New Author Challenge, Spring Reading Challenge, Victorian Challenge

Monday, April 13

It's Monday! What are you reading this week?

Hosted by J. Kaye, It's Monday! What are you reading this week? is a weekly event to list the books completed last week, the books currently being reading, and the books to be finish this week. Feel free to join in this weekly event if you'd like as well as use the photo/pic/button above. The Mr. Linky widget box will be set up to link your blog post. If it's out of order for some reason, post your link in the comment section. (on J. Kaye's sight, following the link above).

Okay, so I have a lot of books waiting to be read. And all are from the library. Since I only have three weeks left to this wonderful library system, I'm planning more what to read these next few weeks so I can read all the books. Well 1 book won't be read. I picked it up soley based on it's title for the numbers challenge, and well I went to start it last night, read the sunmery on the flap, and decided it wasn't for me.... But back to what I'm reading this week;

This Weeks Reads:

Agnes Grey - Anne Bronte
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Vern
Soul Mountain - Gao Xingjian
Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer (eBook)
**Maybe David Golden by Irene Nemirovksy and Poems from Emily Dickens Final Harvest

Sunday, April 12

Book Review: The Diplomat's Wife

Title: The Diplomat's Wife

Author: Pam Jenoff

Pages: 360

Summary: 1945. Surviving the brutality of a Nazi prison camp, Marta Nederman is lucky to have escaped with her life. Recovering from the horror, she meets Paul, an American soldier who gives her hope of a happier future. But their plans to meet in London are dashed when Paul’s plane crashes.

Devastated and pregnant, Marta marries Simon, a caring British diplomat, and glimpses the joy that home and family can bring. But her happiness is threatened when she learns of a Communist spy in British intelligence, and that the one person who can expose the traitor is connected to her past.

My Rating: 9.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: What a stunning book! This had be sucked in from page one. With a powerful and emotional beginning, this book is sure not to disappoint. And there was far more to it then I expected. I excepted far more of a love story, and of course it’s there, but there is a lot of thrilling action and suspense in it. Not in the way you see in thriller books, but there’s an aspect to it in the book, that really keeps the readers attention. I couldn’t not put the book down, except when I was to exhausted to read more. And I just forced my self to save the last 130 pages until I slept, because I didn’t want to miss anything from the book. The writing style is fairly simple, but it’s a good enough style to ensure you don’t become bored. What matter’s the most is the emotional struggles the characters that are heart wrenching at times, shocking at other times. And watching the characters pull them selves together in the aftermaths of WWII. I really enjoyed the author’s portrayal of the emotional stresses the characters went through in the aftermath; I think she handled it extraordinarily well.

The second half of the story was great, a lot of twists and turns, although some were somewhat cliché. But I didn’t mind that they were cliché, because the author did such a fantastic job with her characters and their individual characteristics, that it didn’t matter much for me. Marta is a very strong character to survive a prison camp, and the emotional heartaches she goes through in the book, yet comes out strong - was beautifully done. Only complaint was of the story, which is small, was the clichés and predictable moments, but as I said above, the way the characters were written, I didn’t mind. I’m looking forward to reading the Kommandent’s Girl. Very enjoyable read!

Would I recommend it to read: High recommendations for this book, it’s such an enjoyable read, with great characters. Even if you haven’t read the Kommandent’s Girl first, you won’t have trouble following any of the characters. Although reading this one first my ruin some open questions and story lines, I don’t think anything to important will be lost, by reading this first. Historical fiction fanatics may have issues with it’s historical accurateness (I’m not sure on the level of accuracy, but I know that’s a common problem with most historical fiction). But even so, I would give it a chance, it’s characters and storyline are worth reading.

What to read next: Kommandent's Girl by Jenoff, although I think it should be read first, before this.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, The 999 Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, New Author Challenge, Spring Reading Challenge, WWII Challenge

TSS: and Library Loot (Wrapped into one)

Since I'll be moving in about 2 - 3 weeks, away from my huge library system of 99 branches, which is the largest library system in Canada and in North America (other cities have more physical libraries, but Toronto is all amalgamated so North York, East York, etc etc are all combined to one FABULOUS system!)

Anyways I'll be moving away to a system with 13 - 16 branches, and a place that goes agains some of CLA's guidelines, in that they often censor things. They're doing it with the internet, I can be sure they do it with their books..... so what I'm trying to say is I'm using my precious library to it's fullest advantage getting book which are a little abscure or are popular and will take a long time on waiting lists to recieve. Needless to say yesterday when I went to the library, to pick up a hold..... I did a lot of browsing. I went to pick up a hold and one other book there I was goign to use for a challenge, but changed it at last minute. I have the book now, but I'm using a different book for the challenge, its a book of poems, so I'll still read a selcetion of the poems, but not using for any challemges.

Okay, so I went to get thosse two books, the Book Theif and Final Harvest. But on the hold shelf, the Book Theif wasn't there. Even though it said on the online account at home it was. How dare it lie! So I decided to look around to see if any of the books I need to read for challenges where waiting for me on the shelves. Mind you I had returnd two books that day, and six books where still at home......... (I know)

So here we go:

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Alessandra
to encourage bloggers to share what they’ve checked out from the library.

I returned (click the links to see review:

All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

Children of Hurin by J.R.R Tolkien

From Early and Previous Weeks I have:

  • The Diplomats Wife - Pam Jenoff (about 100 pages left. I was going to finish it last night, but was to tired to stay up and finish it.)
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Vern
  • Half in Love - Justin Caright
  • Anges Grey - Anne Bronte
  • Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World -Vicki Myron
  • Soul Mountain - Gao Xingjian
  • Final Harvest Poems - Emily Dickinson
  • Le Bal - Irene Nemirovsky (Finished it within two or three hours of comming home from the library click link for the review)
  • David Golden - Irene Nemirovsky
  • The Underpainter - Jane Urquhart
  • The Book Theif - Markus Zusak

So in my browsing I was mainly thinking of the A - Z challenge for Authors Names. And I've done a great job at finding books with those odd letters in them.

U,V,X,Z (I have a Q and a Y on my own personal bookshelf). I find the authors are easy to finish, because you go to your library or book store and the books are already orderd in alphabetical order by author and you just pluck a book of the shelf with a letter. Which is what I did for the most part, although I saw Soul Mountain Review from one of the blogs I follow months ago.

I'll really miss my library when I have to leave it. Also, avoding urges to accidently claim some of these books as my own..... ;)

Saturday, April 11

Book Review: Le Bal

Title: Le Bal

Author: Irène Némirovsky

Pages: 106

Summary: Le Bal contains two Novellas;

Le Bal
is a sharp brittle story of a girl who sets out to ruin the mother she hates. The Kampf’s have risen swiftly up the ranks of the 1930’s Parisian society. Painfully aware of her working-class roots, and desperate to win acceptance, Madame Kampf decides to throw a huge ball to announce her arrival to society. Her daughter Antoinette, who has just turned fourteen dreams of attending, but Madame Kampf is resolved not to present her daughter to potential admirers. In a fury of adolescent rage and despair Antoinette exacts a swift and horrible revenge….

Snow in Autumn pays homage to Némirovsky’s beloved Chekhov and chronicles the life of a devoted servant following her masters as they flee Revolutionary Moscow and emigrate to a life of hardship in Paris. As the crisis pushes the family to the brink of dissolution, Tatiana struggles to adapt to life in Paris and awaits in vain for her cherished first snow of autumn.

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Both of these short novellas were wonderful! Filled with Némirovsky’s beautiful, elegant style of writing and her ability to draw the reader into her stories, as if they were really there does not fail her in both short stories.

Le Bal, as a great story, filled with emotion, I felt so sorry for the poor little girl, who never felt love from her mother, the emotion pours of the pages, and you feel so much for her. Némirovsky was able to create such real and believable characters for this short story. I didn’t enjoy this novella as well as the second, it was still a very enjoyable read. I think it was the mother, who made it not very enjoyable, but it’s because her character is so unlikeable, you can tell the author has done a fantastic job, when you want to slap them mother.

Snow and Autumn was beautifully approached and written, telling of a devoted servants life, I read this feverishly, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a short novella, but so eloquently written, with lovely descriptions a vivid paintings of emotions of the characters as they are affected by the revolution and as we watch the poor servant Tatiana, become ruined because of what she has lost and always enjoyed, the snow in autumn, and those around her changing. She is left to her memories and the ending was sad yet happy at the same time. It’s hard to explain, but again Némirovsky wrote such a vivid and eloquent story, even the sad parts were swallowed up by me. She was a amazing author, and it is a truly a shame she was never able to create more stories from her creative mind.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes, yes yes! It is a must read in my books, if you enjoyed Suite Francaise, then you will should absolutely enjoy these two novellas. Filled with her elegant and beautiful style of writing and enjoyable stories it’s hard not to enjoy her books.

What to read next: Suite Francaise and David Golden (her first book)

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge

Book Review: The Children of Húrin

Title: The Children of Húrin

Author: J.R.R Tolkien and Edited by Christopher Tolkien

Pages: 259 + Geonologies, Appendixes, List Meanings = 320

Summary: There are tales of Middle-earth from times long before the Lord of the Rings, and the story told in this book is set in the great country that lay beyond the Grey Havens in the West: lands where Treebeard once walked, but which were drowned in the great cataclysm that ended the First Age of the Word.

In that remote time Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in the vast fortress of Angband, the Hells of Iron, in the North; and the tragedy of Túrin and is sister Niënor unfolded within the showdown of the fear of Angbad and the war waged by Morgoth against the lands and secret cities of the Elves.

Their brief and passionate lives were dominated by the elemental hatred that Morgoth bore them as the children of Húrin, the man who had dared to defy and to scorn him to his face. Agasint them he sent his most formidable servant, Galurung, a powerful spirit in the form of a huge wingless dragon of fire. Into this story of brutal conquest and flight of forest hiding-places and pursuit, of resistance with lessening hope, the Dark Lord and the Dragon enter in direly articulate form. Sardonic and mocking Glaurung manipulated the fates of Túrin and Niënor bu lies of diabolic cunning and guile, and the curse of Morgoth was fulfilled. (Taken from the flap inside the cover)

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I really enjoyed this book, although for me it’s hard not to enjoy anything by Tolkien and his tales of Middle-earth! The story was told differently than the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, it was a very different pace and voice throughout the story were different then what fans of his other works are used to. It was a lot similar to the lost tales or unfinished tales in how it was written, but still a fantastic book. It contains a lot of history where geological lines can be linked to characters we’ve fallen in love with in his other works. It isn’t a very action packed tale, but that is one great thing about Tolkien he can have stories of fantasy that don’t need action packed battle, because his descriptions of the characters, the forests, the great cities these men, elves and dwarves live in, are beautiful. It also made me want to learn more about the histories of Middle-earth and events in the First and Second Ages, before the hobbit, the wars, the dark lords etc. Here you can already see issues of mistrust between men and elves, due to men being to proud, the mistrust of elves versus dwarves is also deep in its roots.

From his beautiful descriptions, to his characters who even with their follies, you don’t dare close the book on, for fear of missing something important about them, I found it very hard to put the book down, as I immersed my self in Middle-earth and all of it’s wonders. I love everything about it, and I’m itching to read more about the histories. Sadly, only own one of them. Great read! Wish I owned the book and it wasn’t a library book, but I guess I have to return it, or else the library police will come for me!

Also, the illistrations by Alan Lee, where phenomenal!

Would I recommend it to read:

Would I recommend it to read: For big Tolien fans yes completely. For fantasy fans who enjoy great tales lush with history and well structured characters, again yes. But from reviews I’ve read, a lot may be disappointed in the book because they expected it to be the same level of Lord of the Rings or expected it to be some sort of prequel to it, and its not. This contains histories of Middle-earth, which are linked to the Lord of the Rings, but it isn’t really related to it in any way, and their isn’t any epic battles that occur in the Lord of the Rings. Instead it’s a tale of a family ruined by a dark lord, because one dared to stand up to him, and their adventures to run away from their fates. A great story nonetheless, but it isn’t the usually thing people expect when the hear the words “fantasy and Tolkien” (well except the hardcore fans like myself).

What to read next: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Simmerilion, Unfinished Tales....anything by Tolkien and Tolkienesque!

100+ Challenge, 999 Challenge, 2009 Support Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge

Other Bloggers Reviews: ChainReading

Thursday, April 9

Book Review: All Quiet on the Western Front

Title: All Quiet on the Western Front

Author: Erich Maria Remarque

Pages: 291

Summary: Paul Baumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. And as horrible war plods on year after year, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other--if only he can come out of the war alive.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The summary of the book does not give it any justice. This story was incredible in it’s realism in its telling of war. You won’t find any romanticize pictures of war here. Nor will you find any heroic battles where the soldiers come out strong and unscratched and happy before writing to their sweethearts about the war. The book is a “real” telling of war, I got the feeling the way the protagonist (the narrator) was telling the story, was like peering into his private journals. The book fascinated me, it also made me feel sad, because not a lot of books or films for that matter focus on the realities of war, the way this story has. Death is a common thing in the book, and there are so many angles the author takes on it, he really was able to show the realities of death in the war. He shows how death and the injured were treated during the war, more of something that is in the way, then anything else. In the scenes where the injured are housed, they are seen in two ways, those who are patched up and then sent back out after they recovered and those who are patched up, but then it’s known they’ll die, so they are removed to the “dying room”. It’s very shocking to read at times. It’s not at all what you would think would happen to those who are injured or dying. The entire story is sad and depressing as we watch the soldier fight in the war and for his survival. One scene when he kills a man at first hand is very powerful and emotion, the author’s writing style is simple, but the realism of it and his characters created a very powerful mood.

A fantastic story of the harsh realities of war, it’s a book that lingers with you, even after your finished.

Would I recommend it to read: I would definitely recommend this book to read. Another book of the 1001 books to read before you die list, and rightly so to be on the list, like I said before it’s a book that lingers with you even after you have finished, it really makes you think, and it’s a wonderful story to read, even if it’s depressing and shocking, it’s a story that needs to be told.

What to read next: Guns of August, Atonement (mainly for the second part of the book)

Challenges: 1% Well Read, 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge,
999 Challenge, A - Z Challenge, New Author Challenge, Spring Reading Challenge

Tuesday, April 7

Book Reviews: Of Mice and Men

Title: Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

Pages: 107

Summary: A beautiful but dark piece of literature set in the enchanting Salinas Valley in California, it depicts the struggles of two swampers, one mentally slow and the other his virtual commander. In this masterpiece, Steinbeck writes a fantastic tragedy. It should be read by all.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed this novella, Steinbeck has a great talent to write and bring up some important social and moral issues within his writing. He has done an excellent job at exploring issues that are uncomfortable to talk about, or topics, such as mental illness which is very misunderstood in society, especially during the time the book takes place. It explores a friendship and a brotherly-love, you could call it between Lennie and George, who through thick and thin, has stood by is “slow” friend Lennie. The novella brings up issues surrounding how society treats those who are different, as well as a moral issues from the ending, and it’s hard to say where I sit on it. On one hand, you can see that what George did was for the best that he did in fact “save”. Overall a good story which outline some important social issues in society.

Would I recommend it to read: Recommend it of course. I can’t remember if I read this in high school or not. I know some of the English classes read the book, but I can’t remember if I actually read the book, or if I just read pieces of the book that a friend had. Either way, I think it’s a good book to read, it’s a light read, but has an important story to it.

What to read next: To Kill a Mockingbird and Other Works by Steinbeck.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 999 Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge,
A - Z Challenge,

Book Review: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Title: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Author: Rebecca Wells

Pages: 449

Summary: When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she's directed, her mother gets described as a "tap-dancing child abuser." Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda. Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood may call to mind Prince of Tides in its unearthing of family darkness; in its unforgettable heroines and irrepressible humor and female loyalty, it echoes Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A good example of a relaxing chick-lit book. It was an easy read, but an overall enjoyable one. The author did a good job at creating realistic and eccentric characters that grab the reader’s attention and keep them interested in the story. It’s the characters stories, lives and their personal traits that make the book what it is. I enjoyed taking the emotional journey, divulging into the secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and finding out the past lives of all the different generations. Some of the characters tendencies did bug me a bit, and there wasn’t any one character that stuck out for me, but it was more the overall affect all the characters had together, and how their relationships and emotions were written, that made the book what it was.

I did see the movie first, but I’m having a hard time figuring out which one I like better. The movie has far more humour and eccentric characters to it. The mother especially is more entertaining in the movie. But the book is better at creating the relationships between the characters, which is what I enjoyed the most about the book, is the realism of the relationships between friends, and their emotional journeys they go on together. It’s a great book for book clubs and chick-lit fans.

Would I recommend it to read: If you enjoyed the movie or a good mindless chick-lit read then yes. The book takes place in the old south, so you have to take into consideration that ways were different back then in how women, families and society did certain things. I’ve read some reviews that have addressed this. But, it’s a good story overall.

What to read next: The Secret Life of Bees (more for the going into family's past, to find out who they were). by Sue Monk Kidd

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 999 Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge, New Author Challenge, Spring Reading Challenge

Saturday, April 4

Book Reviews: New Moon

Title: New Moon

Author: Stephanie Meyer

Pages: Downloadable Ebook

Summary: Legions of readers entranced by Twilight are hungry for more and they won't be disappointed. In New Moon, Stephenie Meyer delivers another irresistible combination of romance and suspense with a supernatural twist. The "star-crossed" lovers theme continues as Bella and Edward find themselves facing new obstacles, including a devastating separation, the mysterious appearance of dangerous wolves roaming the forest in Forks, a terrifying threat of revenge from a female vampire and a deliciously sinister encounter with Italy's reigning royal family of vampires, the Volturi. Passionate, riveting, and full of surprising twists and turns, this vampire love saga is well on its way to literary immortality.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Okay, so I embraced the future and instead of waiting for two - three months on the hold list, I went and downloaded the ebook from my local library, for New Moon. I’m not a big fan of ebooks, but for the Twilight Series, and other books I’m not sure I’ll like, but have huge hold lists, I can make an exception. I’m glad I didn’t wait on the hold list. This book is kind of bad. I liked the ending with the Volturi and seeing them, and Emily stealing the Porsche (sp?), that really amused me. But I really felt like smacking Bella up the side of the head. I get her being heart broken of Edward breaking her heart, and I understand showing the anguish she went through, but seriously having her go on for eight months like the way she was, is a little much. Especially with the fact they’ve dated what? Six months? One word overboard, 3/4’s of the book is her going on and on about how she cant breathe, because she hurts from the break up. No normal person does that, the grieve and they move on.

Jacob, I like Jacob’s character, he’s sweet and a good friend, Meyer did a good job at forming the friendship and creating his character. I don’t think Bella deserves his friendship, but Meyer did do a good job at forming it and creating it. It’s one of the few redeeming qualities of the book because most of the book is complete fluff. The near ending of good, I liked meeting the Volturi they were also very well created characters. To bad they were in the book for such a short time. They were rather….. mysterious and amusing in how they portrayed them selves. I also like Carlise’s character. I wish he was in the book more. In fact, I cold read an entire series on Carlise’s character and how he thinks. Ho he became a vampire, how he met made the others, his life and times. At least Carlise’s character has substance. Even in the few glimpses of the book he’s in, he is over shines Bella, Edward and Jacob, the main characters of the book.

The book has far to much focus on the love story and its over drawn out. Yes the story is suppose to be a love story, but how many times do you have to tell the reader how horrible numb Bella feels and how she has her arms wrapped around her chest because she can’t breathe out of loosing Edward. (Happens about every other page, that’s how much) Sigh. I’m finishing the series, solely based on the background characters and the few hidden glimpse of their background stories.

Would I recommend it to read: Only if your a fan, a young adult, or enjoy the books. I didn't like it much. But will still finish the series. What can I say? I like Carlise and Emily. And the yellow car stealing.

What to read next: Eclipse, Breaking Dawn. (Final two books in the Twilight Saga)

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge

Wednesday, April 1

March Wrap Up!

Books Read this Month

1 Glimpses of the Moon - Edith Wharton
2 - The Gathering - Anne Enright
3 - Orlando - Virginia Woolf
4 - Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
5 - Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

6 - Thirteen Moons - Charles Frazier

Challenges Worked on This Month

1% Well Read Challenge

2 Books read this month
2/13 Books read overall

1st in a Series

1 Book Read this month
2/12 Books Read overall

100+ Challenge

6 Books Read this month
18/100 Books read overall

999 Challenge

4 Books Read This Month
12 Books Read Overall

2009 Support Your Library

4 Books Read This Month
9 Books Read Overall

A - Z Challenge

5 Books Read this Month
14/52 Books Read Overall

Casual Classics

1 Book read this month
4/4 Books Read - Challenge Completed!

Decades Challenge

2 Books Read this month
3/9 books read overall

Dewey’s Challenge

1 Book read this month
1/6 Books read over all

New Author Challenge

5 Books Read This Month
12/13 Books Read overall

RYOB Challenge

2 Books Read This Month
8/25 Books Read overall

Spring Reading Challenge

2 Books Read this Month
2/14 Books Read overall

Favourite Book of the Month: Thirteen Moons
Least Favourite Book of the Month: Glimpses of the Moon

Overall a Good month, I got a lot of books stacked and ready for the next month. This month was a bit of a "bad" month in what I read, because I read a lot of books that didn't grip me or interest me. But I'm happy about my overall progress. I finished a challenge this month, and I'm about to finish the New Author Challenge. I also hope to have the Victorian challenge finished by the end of the month.