Sunday, February 28

Book Review: The Piano Tuner

Title: The Piano Tuner

Author: Daniel Mason

Pages: 312

Summary: In 1886 a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War Office: to travel to the remote jungles of northeast Burma and there repair a rare piano belonging to an eccentric army surgeon who has proven mysteriously indispensable to the imperial design. From this irresistible beginning, The Piano Tuner launches its protagonist into a world of seductive loveliness and nightmarish intrigue. And as he follows Drake’s journey, Mason dazzles readers with his erudition, moves them with his vibrantly rendered characters, and enmeshes them in the unbreakable spell of his storytelling.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a random used bookstore grab I got last year, and it was a very worth while spur of the moment buy. I really enjoyed this book the idea behind the story is rather odd, a piano deep in the harsh jungles of Burma, but the idea worked out well. The author took a chance, and he definitely made it work. The book starts off introducing us to Edgar, a piano tuner, who leads a fairly dull life, he tunes pianos, goes home to his wife (and is usually late) and that’s about it, but then he gets a chance to tune an 1840 Erard Grand Piano, which is in the jungles of Burma. The eccentric Doctor Anthony Carroll has asked for a piano tuner and he gets one.

The beginning of the book is slow, which is a bit of a fault of the book, but once Edgar set off towards Burma, it be came an amazing story. First of all the descriptions of the scenery, the jungle, the spices in the huts on the streets in Burma were spectacular. You could almost smell and taste the turmeric, flowers and jungle air. I think that this was one of the author’s greatest strengths; the ability to pull the readers into the lands of Burma and what show them what it looked (and smelled) like. The overall story was also well done, it made for a very interesting, and at times mysterious read. There were so many elements in the book that left the reader wanting to learn more, or thinking there was more than meets the eye, mysterious elements and characters were a big part of the book. Anthony Carroll was one of them. Up till the reader was finally introduced to Carroll, he to was also a big mystery, everyone talked about him, the wonders he’s done for the little community he’s set up within the jungle, and all the other progress he’s made. His character didn’t disappoint once he physically showed up. I was really wrapped up in the “magical spell” that had grasped Edgar and made him fall for the little village Carroll had set up. The ending was well done, although it made me “angry” in a sense I wasn’t expecting what happened, to happen at all, and was hoping for something else, but it was still a great ending. Can’t say much more on that, or else I’d give it away.

I think one of the most interesting things about the book is the metaphor of the beauty of this piano in the harsh jungles where war is being fought, but it rests in a community that Carroll has created with the natives of the land where they live together peacefully. Yet they also live in a place that could be raided by the enemy at any time. I liked the parallels the author was trying to make (at least I think that’s what he was doing.)

What I didn’t like, like I said the beginning was a little slow, and one main thing is that at times the author, when writing dialog doesn’t use the traditional format of using quotation marks, separate line breaks etc. So it made it difficult at times to figure out that it was in fact a conversation going on, and who was saying what. Although it doesn’t happening through out the whole book, it does pop up a few times. But this element also works in a why, such as when it was used during a dinner party, with very minor characters, during an introduction. It gave a way for the reader to see all the introductions, and minor chit-chat around that, without a long explanation of each character or their first meeting with another character. But other than that, well done, a fantastic book that introduced me to the enchanting lands of Burma.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to read, even some of you out there who would be bothered by the unusual presentation of the dialog (it happens so few times), I’d say try it out. It’s a worth while read.

What to read next: I want to say Heart of Darkness, because there were some minor (very minor) similarities in it. But I'm not to sure after that, so I'll use one of the LibraryThing Recommendations :  Saving Fish from Drowning. It looks interesting, and is also set in Burma. Other that I'm at a loss.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Global Challenge, Historical Reading, RYOB Challenge, What’s in a Name III Challenge

Book Review: A Study in Scarlet

Title: A Study in Scarlet

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Pages: 135

Summary: Watson mused over Holmes's words. He had met the amateur sleuth for the first time only a short while before, and already Sherlock Holmes had astonished him with his amazing powers of detection as he was to continue to do throughout their long life together.

In this, their first adventure, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson uncover a thrilling story of murder, love and revenge, which began years before in Salt Lake City . . .

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I really enjoyed this novella by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which is about the infamous Sherlock Holmes, which I found to be better than the short story collection I read and reviewed last month.
Part of the reason why the novella was better than the short stories, is that it gives the reader a better introduction and explanation of the characters, their background and character traits, so all their little eccentric traits (and lets face it, Sherlock Holmes has a lot), make a lot more sense and fit in the story better. This could also be partly due to the fact this particular novella was the first time Holmes and Watson met, so it purposely done this way.

I also like the overall mystery of this book. It being split into two parts the first half was the initial crime/murder and the steps and “deduction” in attempts to solve the case, which ended in a slight cliff hanger, then moved onto the second part, which happens many years before the murder/crime happened. Both parts are linked together nicely. When I first started reading the second half I was worried it would flow right with the first half, but the author made it work. In fact once I got into the second half, I hated to set it done, it became very exciting, as I started to figure out what was happening and what would happen next.
Sherlock Holmes is an amazing character, he can be a little arrogant at times, but that’s part of what I like about him, it makes him that more fascinating, when he knows he’s right and others are around and the way he behaves. It makes for an entertaining read and at times, funny.

What I didn’t like. Again this was a book, where I found a few small insignificant t

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend this book to read, I found it to be a lot better than the short stories (although they were also well done), but the novella on Sherlock Holmes enabled you to see more into Holmes and Watson’s characters and how they began. It also had a more in-depth mystery/case to solve, so I didn’t get that rushed ending feeling you sometimes get with the short stories.

What to read next: More Sherlock Holmes!

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 2nds Challenge, 10/10 Challenge, 52 in 52 Challenge,
100+ Challenge, Decades Challenge, Marple-Poirot-Holmes Challenge, RYOB Challenge

Book Review: The General in his Labyrinth

Title: The General in his Labyrinth

Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Pages: 268

Summary: General Simon Bolivar, “the Liberator” of five South American countries, takes a last melancholy journey down the Magdalena River, revisiting cities along its shores, and reliving the triumphs, passions, and betrayals of his life. Infinitely charming, prodigiously successful in love, war and politics, he still dances with such enthusiasm and skill that his witnesses cannot believe he is ill. Aflame with memories of the power that he commanded and the dream of continental unity that eluded him, he is a moving exemplar of how much can be won—and lost—in a life.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall I enjoyed the book, it isn’t a favourite of mine, and the story wasn’t the most interesting, it was still a well written book, which was a fictional account on actual events in South America. I’m not that familiar with the events or the person the book was written on, but I do think the author did do a good job at bring the events to life, and the mindset of the general who has fallen from both power and life.

What I didn’t like was, as I’ve said it was a little boring, sometimes it was drawn out, and at times hard to follow, also the characters weren’t are that interesting or memorable to me, but I did enjoy this book more than a previous book I’ve read, and that was mostly do to the author powerful and beautiful voice throughout this story. He has an amazing writing style that dragged me into the book and at times it was difficult to put down, all because of the authors story writing. It really makes me want to try “Love in the Time of Cholera”, since I’ve heard such great things about it and will likely have that same great story telling ability. Not a bad book.

Would I recommend it to read: It’s not the greatest book out there, but it is a worth while read, especially if you want to read about South American Historical Fiction (although I do have little experience with the genre (South American - Historical Fiction), I think still think it’s a worth while read).
What to read next: I haven’t read it yet, I’d say Love in the Time of Cholera. Other than that, I’m at a slight loss

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 2nds Challenge, 100+ Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, Global Challenge, Historical Reading Challenge Support Your Library Challenge

Sunday, February 21

Book Review: The Outsider

Title: The Outsider (aka The Stranger)

Author: Albert Camus

Pages: 120

Summary: The Outsider, by Nobel Prizewinner Albert Camus, is considered to be one of the most important modern French Novels, and is the forerunner of a great deal of contemporary writing.

Meursault is a young man who works as a clerk in Algiers. He lives in the usual manner of a French-Algerian, middle-class-bachelor-cooking his evening meal for himself in his small flat, sleeping with his girl at the weekends, bathing, going to the pictures. But he has a glaring flat in the eyes of society - he seems to lack the basic emotions and reactions (including hypocrisy) that are required of him. He observes the facts of life, death, and sex from the outside. Even when he is involved in a personal tragedy which results in a frightening and unjust trial, he considers his own feelings and the actions of others with a calm and almost ironic truthfulness.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall I wasn’t a big fan of the book. Camus made some excellent points throughout the book and in that aspect he did do a fantastic job at it, but the book it self, just didn’t really “wow” me, like I think it was intended to do.

First of all, the main character and his lack of emotion can become tiresome. I did think it was clever, to have a character who seemed to refuse to conform to society’s expectations but at times I found the character to be a little too undecided in what he wanted, he seemed at times to be bothered by the fact other’s thought him odd (or was he just paranoid?) and at times, just wanting to be by himself, alone in his own world. Either way, there were some interesting points, on conforming to society’s expectations, thoughts on love, death and other philosophies on life, but this was boring and even redundant at times.

The second half of the book was a little more interesting, as the main idea here was an unjust trial. And again, Camus did a great job at pointing out the issues surrounding the time period, and unjust, unfair and cruel justice system that was set up, how manipulative the prosecutor was to win the trial etc, but even here I found that it just didn’t hit me, in the way the author likely intended it to. Perhaps it’s a time period issue, it could be that this book, at the time it was written, had that wow factor, I’m looking for, but now that it’s the in the 2010’s, and I’ve read/seen etc things that are similar, but at the same time different, that are better at depicting the “wow” factor I was expecting from this (I hope I haven’t confused you all to much).

Although the author does make some excellent points on society, unjust justice system etc. the book was boring at times, and not a favourite read.

NOTE: This book when translated is usually translated as "The Stranger" both are the same story, just translated differently. I for one prefer "The Outsider", to be it seems to fit with the story better. But that's just me. Apparently it's a less common translation (The Outsider), so go used bookstores for providing me with less common book translations! (Even if the previous owner wrote all over the book.)

Would I recommend it to read: Eh, I'm not sure. It does have some interesting points, especially for discussion, but it just wasn't that interesting. It is a short book, which helped a bit, but I don't think it would be high on my recommendation list.

What to read next: I'm at an absolute loss on this one. I've had other books by the Author recommended to me, but overall not sure what to read next.

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 52 in 52 Challenge100+ Challenge,
New Author Challenge, RYOB Challenge,

Book Review: The Things They Carried

Title: The Things They Carried

Author: Tim O'Brien

Pages: 273

Summary: In 1979, Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato--a novel about the Vietnam War--won the National Book Award. In this, his second work of fiction about Vietnam, O'Brien's unique artistic vision is again clearly demonstrated. Neither a novel nor a short story collection, it is an arc of fictional episodes, taking place in the childhoods of its characters, in the jungles of Vietnam and back home in America two decades later. 

Stories included in the collection:
  • The Things They Carried
  • Love
  • Spin
  • On the Rainy River
  • Enemies
  • Friends
  • How to Tell a True War Story
  • The Dentist
  • Sweetheart of the Tra Bong
  • Stockings
  • Church
  • The Man I Killed
  • Ambush
  • Style
  • Speaking of Courage
  • Notes
  • In the Field
  • Good Form
  • Field Trip
  • The Ghost Soldiers
  • Night Life
  • The Lives of the Dead

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Not only was this a well written book, but a great choice to use for the War Through the Generations: Vietnam Reading Challenge, I’m participating in. This book was exactly what I was looking for in a war story. Similar to The Wars by Timothy Findley, this book portrays a very realistic look to the lives of the soldiers fighting in the war, as well as their mindsets and feelings on the matter. The first short story, which shares its title with the title of the collection, was one of my favourites, as it depicts both the physical and mental burdens the men carried with them while fighting in the war.

One interesting thing about this collection was although it was a book of short stories, the same characters kept re-surfacing through out the book. I really liked this aspect of the book, because it allowed the reader to be able to see a wider range of events, over a large span of time, but still have the same familiar characters and be able to watch them develop, or see how they react to the different situations they were faced with. It gave the reader a more intimate feeling, because you were already used to a set of characters, and didn’t have to be re-introduced to a new set with each short story you read.

Another aspect of the book I liked, were the haunting images O’Brien was able to paint for the reader. Whether it was the reactions of the characters to their own actions, like in “The Man I Killed”, or just the harsh realties of war, O’Brien does a fantastic job at bringing to life, the images of the war to the reader.

What I didn’t like, nothing big really stands out, I didn’t enjoy some short stories, one or two were a little boring, but over all most of them I enjoyed. I also found some scenes that were written in the book were a little gruesome but there wasn’t really any one big thing that I can think of that made me dislike the book, just very small things here and there.

Overall a fantastic book, and a great “introduction” to Tim O’Brien (originally I was going to use this for New Author (to me) challenge, but then I realized, “The Man I Killed” was in a collection of short stories book I used in a college English Class. Darn!) Definitely worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes I would. Even if you're not a big fan of war-related books, I think this is a worthwhile book to read. It concentrates less on fighting, blowing things up, and more on the soldiers them selves (although those other elements are there). It also is a book that does not glorify the war, which I always like. The writing style is also well done.

What to read next: The Wars - Timothy Findley, All Quite on the Western Front, And anything else by Tim O'Brien 

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge,
Support Your Library Challenge, War Through the Generations: Vietnam

Saturday, February 13

Book Review: Nefertiti

Title: Nefertiti

Author: Michelle Moran

Pages: 457

Summary: Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped that her strong personality will temper the young ruler’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods.

From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people but fails to see that powerful priests are plotting against her husband’s rule. The only person brave enough to warn the queen is her younger sister, yet remaining loyal to Nefertiti will force Mutnodjmet into a dangerous political game; one that could cost her everything she holds dear.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This is my second book by Michelle Moran, but this was her debut novel. I really enjoyed the Heretic Queen and although this was also a good novel, I didn’t like it as much as the first book I read by her (although the first book I read by her, acts as a “sequel”/follow-up to this story). What I did enjoy was the in-depth look into the characters lives, their personalities and their growth and development. The characters are solid, which is one great thing about Moran is her ability to write such complex characters - whether you like them or not is a different story, but her characterization is one of her strengths. I also enjoyed the overall story, the power struggle, shifts of power and political war so to speak. It was a quick read and hard to put down. The reader can easily be caught up in the world of the power-hungry Pharaoh’s and there attempts to ensure their images are remembered, which is another strength of the author; writing a story that that doesn’t let the reader lose interest in it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like the method the author used to tell the story. Having the story told through the young Mutnodjmet, (first person narrative) made the book seem slightly juvenile at the times (she did start out as thirteen years old so that can be somewhat ignored for the first bit), but because it felt juvenile, the book lost some of its appeal. Also, I think using first person narrative here was a mistake. I would have liked to see it in a third person narrative, so we could see more of what was going on around the characters, more explanation on the reactions of the people in Egypt, what would happen in the court when Mutnodjmet wasn’t around and more information on Nefertiti and the person she was, not the person Mutnodjmet thought and saw or thought she was like. My final issue of this book, is it doesn’t go into much description of Egypt itself. I found that the beauty of Egypt and much of its culture was lost in this book I was hoping for more description on the cities, temples and religions etc, but these elements were missing from the book.

It was still a good book, but there were more things in this one that I disliked, than there were in the first book I read by the author. Heretic Queen was a better read for me, although both books are ones I’d recommend.

Would I recommend it to read: As said above, I would recommend it to read, maybe not as high of a recommendation as the Heretic Queen, but it is still worth a read, especially if you like Historical Fiction.

What to read next: The Heretic Queen, Cleopatra's Daughter

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 2nd Challenge, 10/10 Category Challenge, 100+ Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge, Wish I Read That Challenge

Thursday, February 11

Book Review: The Lace Reader

Title: The Lace Reader

Author: Brunonia Barry

Pages: 385

Summary: "Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light." The Lace Reader is a tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, "There are no accidents."

My Rating: 4.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I wasn’t too happy with this book, it ended up being a bit of a disappointment for me, especially considering I’ve been wanting to read it for a while, it ended up falling short of my expectations (I seem to be in a reading rut, last few books I’ve read are doing that, hopefully it changes). The idea behind the story was interesting, taking place in Salem, psychics, lace reader, Salem witches, our narrator who from the first lines admits she lies, so you can’t trusts her, it all had elements to make it an interesting book. And to begin with there was an interesting plot line, but somewhere, it just all fell apart for me.

I didn’t like the characters that much, it wasn’t the fact that the narrator was lying to me throughout the book, it was just I didn’t find anyone character that I could say for sure, I liked. The whole “mystery” behind, Towner’s past was an interesting concept, but by the time the ending came, I didn’t care much about it anymore, there seemed to be to many sub-plots and side stories going on, that did sort of tie together, but was poorly done, leaving me the reader going, “huh?” I think if the author had focused on one or two of these side stories as her main focus it would have been easier.

The writing style is well done, (although it jumped around in narration styles and from past and present without giving hints to the reader that there was a change (with the exception that the characters differed for the most part from past to present). It would even break narration during the same chapter.) The idea behind the story is interesting, and has me interested more in the Salem witch trials and the whole history behind it, but overall, it just wasn’t that great of a read for me.

Would I recommend it to read: If you enjoyed the Thirteenth Tale then I would, if not I'd say maybe try something else. Even if you're a fan of books surrounding the genre of Salem Witches etc, I don't think this is the best book to read, especially as an introduction so to speak of the genre.

What to read next: The Thirteenth Tale

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Category Challenge, 52 in 52 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, Countdown Challenge, New Author Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge,
Wish I Read That Challenge,

Book Review: Quartet in Autumn

Title: Quartet in Autumn

Author: Barbara Pym

Pages: 218

Summary: Quartet in Autumn is one of the books Pym wrote during the 15 years when no one would publish her, and perhaps the same kind of balance between hopelessness and inner strength helped shape this novel's story about four friends in an office nearing the age of retirement. They are people who have lived unspectacularly, but who have conjured a sense of themselves from the quartet's unity. Things start to change when two of them retire. Pym maps this ordinary strangeness of life with her particular genius for brilliant psychological insight and quiet humor that never strains for effect.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I didn’t dislike the book, but I didn’t like it either, and it wasn’t because the writing was bad, or the book was boring, nor was it the characters. It was mostly because all the characters were seniors, in their mid to late sixties, so I couldn’t connect to them. They were at a completely different place in life, with experiences, wisdom (or complaints, depending on how you look at it), that I just don’t have. Although I’m not entirely sure that the reason I didn’t connect to the book, was because its target audience was likely not meant for me but for those at retirement age, I think it was a big issue as to why I didn’t enjoy/connect to the story or the characters.

The characters themselves were very well written, the story its self was also well done, I just couldn’t relate to it at all. There were a few funny parts in it, and there were times the four people in the book, when they complained about certain things in their community, that it reminded me of my great aunts and uncles who are the same ages as the characters in the book. But it just didn’t work out for me. In the end, I’m very undecided about my experience with the book.

Overall it isn’t a bad book, but one I couldn’t relate to, so I think the overall story slipped right by me.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to read for those, who are at the retirement age or slightly below (55 or above), because the book seems to be aimed at that audience. Not that someone younger than that wouldn't enjoy it, but I don't think a lot of readers who are my age (25), would enjoy the book or get anything from it.

What to read next: I honestly don't know where to even begin on what to read next. If you enjoyed the book/author, then I'd say check out more of her books. But I'm not sure what would be good to read next in this case.

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Category Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, New Author Challenge, Reading Through the Seasons Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge,
Typically British Challenge

Book Review: The Book of Sand

Title: The Book of Sand

Author: Jorge Luis Borges

Pages: 125

Summary: Jorge Luis Borges has been called the greatest Spanish-language writer of the twentieth century. Now Borges’s remarkable last major story collection, The Book of Sand, is paired with a handful of writings from the very end of his life. Brilliantly translated, these stories combine a direct and at times almost colloquial style coupled with Borges’s signature fantastic inventiveness. Containing such marvelous tales as “The Congress,” “Undr,” “The Mirror and the Mask,” and “The Rose of Paracelsus,” this edition showcases Borges’s depth of vision and superb image-conjuring power.

Short Story Titles are:

The Other
The Congress
There Are More Things
The Sect of the Thirty
The Night of Gifts
The Mirror and the Mask
Utopia of a Tired Man
The Bribe
Avelino Arredondo
The Disk
The Book of Sand

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall this was a nice collection of short stories with elements of magical realism in them. Like with most short story collections there are some I enjoyed and others not so much, but I don’t think I disliked any particular story, just didn’t find much interest in some of them, or I was undecided on whether or not I liked it.

I enjoyed the magical realism side of the stories, and some, like The Book of Sand and The Congress had some good messages in them. In fact I think one of my favourite short stories in the collection was The Book of Sand (which is what the entire collection is named after). It was about a book that had no pages numbers, no indication where the book began or ended, and therefore no ending.

Writing style was fairly simple and easy to follow, this was a translated version from Spanish, and I think the translator did do a good job at keeping the original voice intact.
Not a bad collection of short stories, but not extraordinary either, but I may investigate the author further, and see what his other works are like.

Would I recommend it to read: If you enjoy magical realism, short stories then most likely yes. They aren't overly exciting or actiony for magical realism, but do have some interesting elements from the genre in them. I do think there would be some readers who would find the collection boring, so there is that. But, it could be worth a read.

What to read next: I'd try out more works by the author. Other than that, I'm not to sure where to go from here.

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge,
Global Challenge, New Author Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge

Saturday, February 6

Book Review: Catching Fire

Title: Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pages: 391

Summary: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Finally I got my hands on the second book of the Hunger Games, and I found it to be just as good as the first. The second book starts off fairly slow, and over all there is a lot less action in the second book than the first, but I found I still was avidly reading the book because of one main element, Rebellion. I was anxiously waiting for everyone to stand up and rebel against the capitol. Every chapter had hints that something was coming. Which was why I didn’t mind as much that the first half of the book was so slow, because there was always some sort of hint, although very subtle at times, about a rebellion amongst the people to stand up against the Capitol.

I loved watching them go back to the arena for the 75th games, and what happened in there. Part of me questioned why certain things were happening the way they were at first, but part of me sort of figured out what was happening. Well I was half right anyways, some of what I predicted that was going on in the arena came true, so I was close in what I thought would happen by the end. Hopefully that doesn’t give to many spoilers away for those who haven’t read the book yet. But that whole part of the games, prepping for it and some very powerful moments during the preparations of the games, like during the interview were well done.

The ending which I have a love/hate relationship with, I loved it in that I was not expecting what happened in the last, two or three lines. The author surprised me there. I also loved the “twist”, even though I was expecting something among the lines of that twist. I also loved how the author set everything up for the next book. What did I hate? The big cliff hanger that leaves you hanging and waiting until the next book is finished and published.

What I disliked. I’m not a big fan of Katniss in this book. I found her to be a little too whiney. I get her life is full of hardships, the Capitol and a lot of people around her are using her, but she isn’t doing much about it. She just didn’t seem to be that strong in this book as she was in the other, she seemed more dependable on others to guide her what to do, and lets her self be manipulated by others. Now this could be because she is slightly psychologically affected to what happened in the previous book, but even still, her whining and complaining got old quick. I also don’t care for the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle. It adds a bit of drama to the book and complexity to the characters, but to me it’s a little too drawn out and after awhile, I start to lose interest in it. I want more on the dystopian society, their fight for freedom and something I can’t mention without spoiling but, I want more on that, less love triangle.

Overall, it was an excellent sequel that like the first book will have you gripping the book and reading feverishly until the end. Even if you’re too exhausted to read more, you stay up late until you can finish it. At least that’s what I did. Once you start the book, you won’t be able to finish.

Would I recommend it to read: Oh yes! Absolutely a must read! It's a wonderful example of dystopian lit, and a great YA book. It has a lot of different elements, so I think there's something for readers from all genres and tastes in books. Particularly in the YA, which is a genre I'm very on the fence of, this is a very well done YA book/trilogy, I find it to be a lot more appealing than a lot of other YA books I've read.

What to read next: Hunger Games 3 (when it comes out),The Giver,  The Chrysalids

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 2nd's Challenge, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge, Wish I Read That Challenge,

Friday, February 5

Library Loot - February 3 - 10

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

 This was a good library week for me. And bad. Well the bad isn't "bad", it's more me being anal about my book and which edition they're in. I'll explain in a moment

This Week:
This week I was focused on books set in places around the world I haven't visited in my readings. So I brought books home from Argentia, Columbia, and Greenland (I think one is also briefly in Iceland). Actually two books are from Greenland.

The Book of Sand - Jorge Luis Borges (this is the one that is set in Argentina I believe, and it's a collection of short stories).

The General in his Labyrinth - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Thrall's Tale - Judith Linderbergh (This one is the other book set in Greenland, and it looks like a good book to use for the Women Unbound Challenge. I'm excited about reading it.)
The Greenlanders - Jane Smiley (hmm can you guess where this book takes place?)
Catching Fire -Suzane Collins (technically it should be in the returned pile, because I read this book last night, staying up until 2:30 to finish it. Now I'm exhausted and tired and anxiously awaiting book three.)

From previous visits to the library:

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
Nefertiti - Michelle Moran
Beach Trip - Cathy Holton
The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry
Quartet in Autumn - Barbara Pym

I've had all these for a while, and had to renew a few, but they're on my reading lists, just other books have grabbed my interest instead. Although I have started with Beach Trip, and hoping it picks up soon. (I'm only on the second or third chapter, so I can't be to judgmental)

Returning to the Library 
(Well technically they haven't been returned, yet, they will by the days end. Currently in a pile by my feet)

The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist
The Sea - John Banville
Cat Among Pigeons - Agatha Christie
Armadale - Wilkie Collins
**Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer

**Which brings me to my being anal. Now at the time I didn't know much about the Canterbury Tales, just that it was written in a poetic prose and originally in middle English. I assumed, the book would be in a poetic format, but in English. So I started reading it, and it's written like a story. And I'm thinking, huh? Maybe I was mistaking. I read almost all of the knights tale and again am thinking, Huh? So I do research and find out that yes, my inital thoughts were right, and this is a really, really annoying translation that has ruined the whole idea behind the Canterbury Tales. So I hunted the library's catalogue and couldn't find much of anything. I found an ebook version that keeps the text in the poetic format, but it's written in modern English.

So I hunted online and found an online edition that for the most part keeps the middle English but has more modern spellings (Similar to Shakespear). But that only has some of the tales (16 I think). I also found one that has it in middle English and in modern translation side by side. The page is in frames and has links to middle English works, that shows a translation/explanation of what that word means. So now I'm stuck as to which I should read. The first one is easier, I read the entire Prologue, and understood it, even though its in "middle English" with more moderenish spellings. The other one is more of a challenge, and I can understand it, but have to refer to definitions of more words and occasionally the translated version. This one also has all the tales. And finnaly, why doesn't my library have an edition like this? (Either middle English with more modern spelling, or middle English with translated side by side?) They have a few copies that contain selected tales, in the poetic format, but in English? I'd take the modern version (the bookstore has one, that includes all the tales, in modern spelling, but still keeps the poetic prose and initial intentions of the author intact). Sigh. Stupid library.  So after a lot of rambling, This edition of Canterbury tales is going back to the library, and I'm trying to decide which online version I should attempt.

I'm leaning to the original middle English and if I find it's giving me to much of a headache go to the easier one.  And just take my time with it it, until I can hunt down a quality physical copy of it that's to my liking. Or maybe when I return the library books I can harass the librarian, maybe I missed something when I was looking.

Tuesday, February 2

Book Review: The Unit

Title: The Unit

Author: Ninni Holmqvist

Pages: 268

Summary: One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very disturbing and creepy book. But I did enjoy it, even if it made me feel uncomfortable on so many levels. At times, it seemed like a very haunting look at what the possible future could hold. I love dystopian lit, and this one was a very different story than what I’ve read in the past. Although there were a lot of aspects I didn’t enjoy, which may be partly do to the fact it’s been translated, I did enjoy the book.

One aspect I didn’t like is we’re given no information about the community. The rules and some aspects of the community our characters lived in come up but briefly and in passing. I wanted to have some information on what was going on. What created the idea of “The Unit.” Another side of the story I disliked was the ending. I’ve seen other reviewers say this and I’m with them, I wanted to through the damn book across the room. Seriously! That was the ending? It made me so frustrated. I can’t say more, for fear of spoiling it, but really, I wasn’t expecting that for one (kudos to the author for that) and two, damn you ending!

What I did like, the characters. They weren’t memorable per se, but the way the author conveyed their emotions, feelings and thoughts was very well done. You felt for them, they were all helpless in the matter and no choice but to come to the Unit, and be experimented on and harvested from. You could really feel the fear, sadness, and anger the characters felt as they were pushed into the situation. No character really stuck out to me, none were that memorable, but the author still managed to make me feel connected to the characters, through the way she was able to express their emotions and thoughts.

Overall, it wasn’t as good as I expected, but I still really enjoyed the book, even the “ickiness” factor of it.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend the book. Even if you're not big on dystopian literature, I think that you could still "enjoy" the book. It's disturbing yes, but it brings up a lot of questions in your mind, if this could actually happen, the treatment of  people now etc.

What to read next: The Handmaids Tale, Brave New World, The Giver

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 52 in 52 Challenge, 100+ Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Global Challenge, New Author Challenge,
Support Your Library Challenge, Wish I Read That Challenge

Monday, February 1

January 2010 Wrap-Up

First wrap-up of the year, and I have to say January was an excellent month for both reading, reading challenges and, er books accidentally following me home!

This month I read 14 books! 10 Novels, 2 Novellas/Novellettes, 1 Short Story Collection and 1 Memoir.

Here's a list of the books for this month. Unfortunately, although I read a lot of books this month, I read a lot of not so good books. The worst being The Lost Symbol. Also I had a few books I was looking forward to reading that dissapointed me they were; The Lieutenant, October and Julie and Julia. On the other hand I did have some favourite reads of the month and was introduced to some new authors as a result. They were: The Housekeeper and the Professor, The Heretic Queen, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and Armadale. Although the End of the Alphabet is also worth mentioning.

1) Julie & Julia by Julie Powel - 6/10
2) The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson - 7/10
3) The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa - 8/10
4) The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown - 2/10
5) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - 7.5/10
6) The Heretic Queen - Michelle Moran - 8/10
7) The Professor - Charlotte Bronte - 6.75/10
8) The Lieutenant - Kate Grenville - 5/10
9) October- Richard B Wright - 6/10
10) The Mobile Library Books: The Case of the Missing Books - Ian Sansom - 6.5/10
11) Armadale - Wilkie Collins - 8/10
12) The Sea - John Banville - 7/10
13) Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad - 7.5/10
14) Cat Among the Pigeons: A Hercule Poirot Mystery - 7/10

As for my challenges this month, I'm happy with how my progress is going, even if I only managed to finish one challenge this month, and many haven't been started yet. It's only the first month, so I'm okay so far, and I think I have a good handled on some of my challenges, and should be able to finish a couple by next month. Below are all the challenges I'm working on, clicking the link will take you to the MY challenge page of each challenge (which has links to the the actual challenge if you wish to sign up, my reviews etc)

Completed Challenges This Month

- 10 Books Read

Current Challenge Progress

Read 'n' Review - 14 Books
Pages Read - 4,105/50,000

1st in a Series Challenge - 1/3
2nd's Challenge - 0/6
10/10 Challenge - 14/100
18th and 19th Century Women Writers - 1/3
52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge - 4/52
100+ Challenge - 14/100
451 Reading Challenge - 0/7
A - Z Challenge - 12/52
All About the Brontes Challenge - 1/3
Bibilophilic Challenge - 1/6
Canadian Challenge the 3rd - 2/13
Centuries Challenge - 1/3
Chick Lit Challenge - 0/8
Chunkster Challenge - 0/4 (Starts Feb 1, 2010)
Countdown Challenge - 11/55
Decades Challenge - 1/10
Ebook Challenge - 0/6
Fantasy Challenge - 0/6
Flashback Challenge - 0/6(+?)
Finish that Series Challenge - 0/3 Series
Global Reading Challenge - 7/12
Historical Reading Challenge - 2/6
Jane Austen Challenge - 0/4
The Marple Poitot Holmes Challenge - 2/6
New Author Challenge - 10/15
Random Reading Challenge - 0/9
Reading Through the Seasons Challenge - 0/4
Reading Western Europe Challenge - 4/12
RYOB Challenge - 1/50
Support Your Local Library Challenge - 13/50
TBR Lite Challenge - 0/6
A Tournament of Reading - 0/3
Typically British Challenge - 4/6
War Through the Generations: Vietnam - 0/5
What's in a Name? III - 2/6
Wish I Read That Challenge - 4/12
Women Unbound Challenge - 0/5

Mini Challenges

George Eliot Mini Challenge - 0/2
Elizabeth Glaskell Mini Challenge - 1/2
Leo Tolsty Mini Challenge - 0/2 (Both of his Books I own are MASSIVE Whoops!)
French Revolution Challenge - 0/2
Wilkie Collins Challenge - 1/2

Total Challenges Completed: 1/44 (I know I'm crazy, I promised my self I can't join anymore challenges unless I finish 10 challenges!)

Countries Visited:
For the year, one goal is to try to read books that take place in countries from around the world or written by authors from countries around the world. So far since I started blogging about 1.5 years ago, I've vised approximately 2o countries.

Here's a map of the total countries since I started blogging. I didn't there might be a few missing, I can't remember for sure if author/books from/took place in some.

Create your own visited map of The World

This month I visited: Canada, United States, Egypt, The Congo, Australia, England, Belgium, Japan, Ireland, and Northern Ireland (I wish this map separated the UK)

Books That Followed me Home.

A new thing I'm trying with my monthly wrap-ups, books that "followed" me home. Usually I make a post with my purchases, but I thought just a quick list would be fun. I got a lot this month because I had Christmas Money, and Birthday Money :).

  1. The Outsider Albert Camus (used bookstore find)
  2. Alice Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carrol used bookstore find)
  3. The Red Badge of Courage (used bookstore find)
  4. Nicholas Nickleby (used bookstore find)
  5. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (used bookstore find)
  6. A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (used bookstore find)
  7. Silas Marner - George Eliot (used bookstore find)
  8. North and South Elizabeth Gaskell (used bookstore find)
  9. Little Dorrit - Charles Dickens (used bookstore find)
  10. Swiss Family Robinson - J.D Wyss (used bookstore find)
  11. Don Quixote - Miguel Cervantes (used bookstore find)
  12. The Seamstress - Frances de Pontes Peebles
  13. The Lightning Keeper - Starling Lawrence
  14. The Old Curiosity Shop - Charles Dickens
  15. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  16. Walden - Henry David Thoreau

The last three are my most recent "followed me home books. And I just LOVE the cover art on them!)

I'm very excited to read the seamstress, as I've wanted to read it for a while, but my library doesn't have a copy (The HORROR!) so, I bought it I mean...... It followed me home.

Goals for next month.

I don't have any planned goals. I might try to finish the Typically British Challenge and New Author Challenge. And I'm going to try to read more books from my own collection. But other than that I'm going towards more of my mood for reading. Lucky for me, even with the massive challenges, I have (for the most part) a lot of openness to what I can read.

Happy Reading Every One.