Wednesday, March 31

Book Review: Life of Pi

Title: Life of Pi

Author: Yann Martel

Pages: 368

Summary: After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship in the Pacific, one solitary lifeboat remains, carrying a hyena, a zebra, a female orangutan, a Bengal tiger, and a 16-year-old Indian boy named Pi. His story is a dazzling work of imagination that will delight and astound listeners in equal measure. It is a triumph of storytelling and a tale that will as one character puts it, make you believe in God.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Life of Pi is an example of a book where I am glad, that I have a tiny bit of a neurotic compulsion to finish every book I start (although I am learning to let things er book go), this time I’m glad I kept going. Although I thought the author showed an incredible ability to tell a story, and had an excellent writing style and voice throughout the entire book, for most of the book it just didn’t reach out to me, and I found my self thinking, this is what the fuss has been about?

The first half of the book was probably the part I liked the least. I found my self losing interest quickly, and waiting for the story to pick up. The characters weren’t that appealing, although I did appreciate Pi’s thirst for knowledge of religion and want to practice in multiple religions. Parts surrounding that area of the book were well thought out and had some very interesting points and ideas in them. But overall, just not what I thought the book would be like. The second part of the book was much the same. I found Pi to be a courageous person, and I couldn’t believe he managed to survive out there as long as he did facing some of the things he faced (I couldn’t have done it), but again, I found it to be not as great as I was led to believe.

Actually, it wasn’t until the last ten pages or so, that the book became an excellent one, and really only those who have read the book before, know what I’m talking about. That last little part was well, shocking so to speak, but was also very well done. It made the book and alright book, to a very good book for me. And I highly recommend, if you are like me and the book just wasn’t doing it for you, to stick with this one to the end, you won’t be disappointed.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes! Even if you find it slow to start, the book ends up being a very good book. Well worth reading!

What to read next: I can't think of a lot of books that are similar to this, there is Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson if you take the shipwreck aspect into consideration. On the contemporary fiction side of things (which is one of many things you can classify this book as) there's The Kite Runner, The Lonely Bones and other Booker Prize Winners/Nominees etc are; The Sea, The Blind Assassin, The White Tiger etc. So there's a place to start. Sorry folks, lately I've been at a loss for these, so I'm using the wonderful tags from Library Thing to help!

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge,
Canadian Challenge 3, Countdown Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge,
Wish I Read That Challenge

Sunday, March 28

Book Review: Miss Chopsticks

Title: Miss Chopsticks

Author: Xinran (Also known as Xinran Xue)

Pages: 240

Summary: Xinran takes her readers to the heart of modern Chinese society in this delightful and absorbing tale of three peasant girls getting to grips with life in the big city.

The Li sisters don’t have much education, but one thing has been drummed into them: their mother is a failure because she hasn’t managed to produce a son, and they themselves only merit a number as a name. Women, their father tells them, are like chopsticks: utilitarian and easily broken. Men, on the other hand, are the strong rafters that hold up the roof of a house.

Yet when circumstances lead the sisters to seek work in distant Nanjing, the shocking new urban environment opens their eyes. While Three contributes to the success of a small restaurant, Five and Six learn new talents at a health spa and a bookshop/tearoom. And when the money they earn starts arriving back at the village, their father is forced to recognize that daughters are not so dispensable after all.

As the Li sisters discover Nanjing, so do we: its past, its customs and culture, and its future as a place where people can change their lives.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was partially based on a true story. Many things were changed to protect the identities of the three original girls, who apparently weren’t actually sisters, which made the book more interesting, because it made me happy to see that three real women had the courage to do this, when very few people thought they could actually make it. The only issue I have with the book, and this is addressed a little in the authors note after the book is finished, is it leaves the reader with very little closure with what happens to these three women later on in life. This is because the author had little information about the women later on in life this book was based on. Even still, a great read!

One of the main thing things this story was that it brought to light, how far from women’s equality the world really is. This book shows how many women in China don’t have much equality as one would think, particularly in smaller villages, where women are still thought as second or even third class citizens. The book follows three young sisters, who according to their father, and many members of their little community that they are worthless and not meant for anything but marriage, most likely one that would be arranged by their father, but the three women rise above the rest, head to the big city, and try to make it on their own.

I really enjoyed this book, as I followed the characters and their attempts, triumphs and failures as they tried to make it on their own. It’s a powerful and inspiring story, on how putting your mind to it, even without the full support of your family, friends or community, you can do it. That being a “disadvantage” or a woman, doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. The writing is well done, although it’s hard to comment in full detail because it is a translation, (then translator actually commented on this very idea before the book started) the book was still well written, the voices of the characters well portrayed, and the authors original voice still seemed to be there.

What I enjoyed the most, was that the story showed a very real look at what on what can happen when women go out on their own, or any one for that matter, trying to make it and be an inspiration for others back in their home community. There were setbacks, heartbreak and letdowns, but in the end the readers get an amazing message, that woman can make it, we can make a difference, even if it’s a small difference, and we can show the world, we aren’t mere chopsticks.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes. It's a very powerful book, the author did a fantastic job with telling the story, and it's an excellent choice if you enjoy womens fiction/social justice fiction or Chinese Fiction.

What to read next: I'd say read more of Xinran's work, as she is a very talented author. Soul Mountain is also a very well done novel.

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge,
A - Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge,
Women Unbound Challenge

Book Review: The Cellist of Sarajevo

Title: The Cellist of Sarajevo

Author: Steven Galloway

Pages: 258

Summary: Snipers in the hills above Sarajevo are tracking the inhabitants on the city streets below as the strive to go about their daily lives, uncertain when the next shot will land, nearly paralyzed with fear. In frightening form of "Sarajevo Roulette," Kenan steels himself for his weekly walk to collect water for his family on the other side of town; Dragan, a man Kenan doesn't know, takes his chances on the bridges and streets to find food.

Meanwhile, a shell has killed 22 people waiting in line for bread, as a renowned cellist wayched in horror. He vows to bear witness by sitting in the hollow where the mortar fell, defying the odds, and play Albinoni's Adagio once a day for 22 days for each of the victims. The Adagio is itself a triumph of hope over adversity, recreated and reimagined from a fragment found after the only extant score was firebombed in the Dresden Music Library during WWII,

Unbeknownst to the cellist, a gifted young female sniper "Arrow," watches his performances more avidly than most: she is the counter-sniper chosen to protect him from the enemy sharp-shooter she knows lurks nearby, his gun poised and read, close enough she can hear him sneeze, Can she keep the cellist alive as he plays his memorial to the victims? And what will it cost her?

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was absolutely stunning! Next to impossible to put down, the book is one of my favourite reads of the year, and quite possibly one of my all time favourite books. This was a library book, but it will be added to my own personal collection soon, and it’s hard to put to words why and how much I loved the book, but here it goes.

This book was powerful, haunting, beautiful and sad all at the same time, as the reader is pulled into the lives of a cast of characters, all who are tying to survive another day and one character, who sits in the demolished streets of the city, playing to the memory of twenty-two people killed in a bombing. His music becomes a powerful message of hope, even if it is a tiny glimmer to the rest of the community, that there is some spark of humanity and hope for a future left in their city and in them selves. But even though the book is named after the cellist, he is only a small part of the book, albeit a very powerful part of it.

The book focuses on three characters, all who are trying to survive another day in the best way they can. Some take the dangerous walk from their homes to the brewery so they can get a few days worth of drinking water, hoping they’ll be one of the lucky ones to be able to return home, and not one of the poor souls who will die, because they wanted to cross the street. The author is able to portray eye opening picture of what life was like during the siege and how humanity reacts to such horrible conditions, you really wonder what you’d do in a similar situation. Some parts were very powerful in what the characters would do in such desperate times, I won’t say too much, but the one part with “the man in the hat” was absolutely sad and beautiful all at the same time. The author’s job a writing that part and the emotions, actions and thoughts of the characters was spectacular. The rest of the book also has that same level of writing.

Arrow is a very interesting character and if there was one thing about the book I had issue with it was her ending. Well the entire ending of the book was one I wish I had more closure on. In a way I loved the ending, but at the same time I hated it. But the book was amazing, and I highly recommend it.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes, I would recommend it to read. It is an incredible story, many readers would enjoy. Although, I will say, it isn't "gory" but I think it can be graphic in violence. I can't remember how graphic, but people are shot in it, and bombs hit the streets etc. So a slight warning to readers who don't like reading that kind of stuff. It's still worth trying to read, because the book is well done, but I understand that some parts may not be for every reader out there.

What to read next: Suite Francaise, Diplomat's Wife

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 52 in 52 Challenge,
100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge III, Countdown Challenge,
Historical Reading Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge,
Wish I Read That Challenge,

Monday, March 22

Quick Update

This is just a quick update to let everyone know, yes I'm still here. I recently started a job, so I've been to tired to post my reviews, and now have three or four to write up since March began. Also there's been an on-going family crisis, which got pretty bad last week. Although that same event is also a blessing in disguise, both have had me slightly distracted. I'm hoping I can get review up this week and more reading, because it is a good stress relief. I also just wanted to let everyone know where I've disappeared to. I miss the book world!

In happier news, I plan on going on a cruise in December. But I'm conflicted. Do I go on the Backstreet Boys Cruise, which is expensive and meet the band I've been a fan of since I was 10 (25 years old now) OR do I go on a cruise, that is longer hits a lot more places to port, for 1/3 of the price? Suggestions?

Tuesday, March 2

Library Loot - Feb 25 - Mar 3 2010

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and me 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!

Well it's better late than never eh? So a quick mini update, (I'll give one later on my personal blog), but long story short, started a new job, get up early, work, bus home, eat and the there was the Olympics, which gave little time for reading and reviewing. So I'm back!

This will likely be combined library visits, because I think I got one or two books before Feb. 25th, can't remember, I'll include them in. I got some great Loot this past library visit (I even braved a snow storm, to walk to the library just to pick up a book that was on hold for me! (You know you're a Canadian Book-Geek when.....)

Newest Library Loot

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (This is the one I braved the snow storm for)
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley (spur of the moment grab, its another one of those week long loan books. It seemed like a cute and odd story.)
Miss Chopsticks - Xinran
Feathered Serpent - Xu Xiaobin (Two X authors. I couldn't choose which one, so both came home)
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
The Xibalba Murders: An Archaeological Mystery - Lyn Hamilton
The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway

Left Over Loot

The Greenlanders - Jane Smiley
The Thralls Tale - Judith Linderbergh
The Name of the Rose - Umberto Echo

This Weeks Library Loot has been dedicated to the Letter "X"

Monday, March 1

February 2010 Wrap-Up!

This Month I read 11/elven books. Which is great, I'm a little down from last month,but concidering I started a new job half way through the month, which gives less time for reading, I've done great. Go me! I also have a good handle on my challenges (so far), I'm happy with how they're going, how far I'm into each of them etc. And so far, my reading hasn't been "compromised" to finish challenges. Yes I've read books I disliked, but so far I'm still able to have a fairly open reading palate with a lot of options for me, even with all of these challenges.

This Months Reads:
This month I read two short story collections, two novellas. Also, for the most part, I was able to "visit" a bunch of different places in my readings, I've never gone before. So that was good (Algeria, Argentina, Burma (aka Maynmar (sp?)), Columbia, Vietnam. I'm very happy about that.
My favourite books of the month; Catching Fire, The Piano Tuner, The Things They Carried, and A Study in Scarlet. The Unit was a close one though. In fact, although I gave Catching Fire a higher rating, I think overall I enjoyed The Piano Tuner and The Things They Carried more, I think once I read Catching fire again, and again (lol) I'd probably have different view, but the other two, would likely stay the same. 

1) The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist - 7.5/10
2) Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins - 9/10
3) The Book aof Stand - Jorge Luis Borges - 7/10
4) Quarctet in Autumn - Barbara Pym  - 5/10
5) The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry - 4.5/10
6) Nefertiti - Michelle Moran - 7.5/10
7) The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien - 8.5/10
8) The Outsider - Albert Camus - 6/10
9) The General in his Labyrinth - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - 7/10
10) A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - 8/10
11) The Piano Tuner - Daniel Mason  - 8.5/10

Challenge Progress

Completed Challenges This Month (reading challenge addict image from a Novel Challenge)

New Author Challenge - 15/15 Books Read

Current Challenge Progress

Read 'n' Review - 25 Books
Pages Read - 7, 056/50,000

1st in a Series Challenge - 1/3
2nd's Challenge - 4/6
10/10 Challenge - 25/100
18th and 19th Century Women Writers - 1/3
52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge - 8/52
100+ Challenge - 25/100
451 Reading Challenge - 0/7
A - Z Challenge - 19/52
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 - 16/55
Decades Challenge - 2/10
Ebook Challenge - 0/6
Fantasy Challenge - 0/6
Flashback Challenge - 0/6(+?)
Finish that Series Challenge - 0/3 Series
Global Reading Challenge - 11/12
Historical Reading Challenge - 4/6
Jane Austen Challenge - 0/4
The Marple Poitot Holmes Challenge - 3/6
Random Reading Challenge - 0/9
Reading Through the Seasons Challenge - 1/4
Reading Western Europe Challenge - 4/12
RYOB Challenge - 4/50
Support Your Local Library Challenge - 21/50
TBR Lite Challenge - 0/6
A Tournament of Reading - 0/3
Typically British Challenge - 5/6
War Through the Generations: Vietnam - 1/5
What's in a Name? III - 3/6
Wish I Read That Challenge - 8/12
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
French Revolution Challenge - 0/2
Wilkie Collins Challenge - 1/2

Link for all Mini Challenges Here

Total Challenges Completed: 

2/44 PROGRESS! ... .err sorta.

Countries Visited: 

Burma, Columbia, Vietnam, England, Egypt, USA, Argentina and Algeria
(Last month I forgot Mexico and Trinidad on my map of places I've visited (in books) pre-2010.Opps!

Updated Map

visited 29 states (12.8%)
Create your own visited map of The World

Books that Followed me Home

None.... woah.. wait....what? No I am not sick. Don't worry. Just busy working. Once I get the dreaded debts paid off books will once again, accidentally follow me home!

Goals for Next Month

I have two challenges I only have 1 book for, so I should be able to finish those. I'm going to read at least two or three Canadian Authors, and read at least two books from the Random Reading Challenge. Now that I'm used to the new daily schduele and the olympics are done, I can get back to normal reading.
 And finally to All the athletes who were in the olympics win or lose, you all did awesome but.....

Sorry, had to. :)