Tuesday, June 29

Book Review: The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay

Title: The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay

Author: Beverly Jensen

Pages: 307

Summary: In 1916, Idella and Avis Hillock live on the edge of a chilly bluff in New Brunswick - a hardscrabble world of potato farms and lobster traps, rough men, hard work, and baffling beauty. From "Gone," the heartbreaking story of their mother's medical crisis in childbirth, to darkly comic "Wake," which follows grown siblings' catastrophic efforts to escort their father's body to his funeral, the stories of Idealla and Avis offers a compelling and wryly humours vision of two remarkable women.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I think the description of the book is spot on, as the readers are introduced to the sisters, it is heart breaking during those events, but also a powerful and shocking way to open a book. As for the story Wake, I couldn’t help but laugh, even though it was something that wasn’t exactly something to laugh about, the story behind it was just to funny, especially the reactions of the characters in it. I have to say, Beverly Jensen knew how to tell a story, create very real and believable characters, and bring a smile to ones face. It is a shame that she died before her work could be brought to reader’s attention.

I enjoyed the authors writing style and story telling. I liked how each chapter focused on a different point in the sisters lives, as the reader watches how they grew up to young woman and into old age. For both the sisters, you were able to immerse your self into their lives and I always found my self wanting more. I also enjoyed how, even though all the chapters or “stories” in the book are connected, each can also be their own individual story of the sisters lives. You get a collection of stories out of what must have been a life time of stories, of life events and experiences. I think this element of story telling worked out well, as something like this can often work out poorly, this book and this author handled it beautifully. I also loved how she was able to invoke the emotion of the reader towards her characters. I was definitely emotionally involved throughout the entire book as I followed the sisters and their life journey. One of the author’s strengths (among many) was her ability to write an emotionally powerful book, with a cast of characters the reader can truly care about.

What I didn’t like. I wished there was more on Avis, her story kind of takes the backside to Idella, and although it makes since in the end why, I still wanted more about Avis, she was an interesting person and it would have been nice to experience more of her life.

Overall a wonderful read, highly recommend it.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend this book to read, it is such a fantastic read, and it’s a book well worth picking up. Thank you to the publishers from Penguin Group who gave me the opportunity to read the book. It comes out in July.

What to read next: A Good House, The Stone Diaries

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, RYOB Challenge

Book Review: Villette

Title: Villette

Author: Charlotte Brontë

Pages: 543

Summary: In the last of three great novels by which Charlotte Brontë secure her place in English Literature. It is regarded by many as more convincing and artistically satisfying than the author's earlier and better-known classic, Jane Eyre, or the less familiar Shirley.

Drawing extensively upon experience in Villette, the novelist has sketched with delicate yet incisive strokes a moving love tendered only to be rejected, of passion aroused only to remain unfulfilled. The knowledge that Lucy Snowe, the governess-teacher heroine of Villette, is generally recognized to be a skilfully reflected and dramatized self-portrait of Charlotte Brontë herself serves to lend additional interest and appeal to this poignant nineteenth-century romance.

My Rating: 8.5

What I liked/disliked about the book: This is may be my favourite book by Brontë sisters I’ve read so far. I really enjoyed the book, and am surprised to see that it isn’t nearly as popular as Jane Eyre, because Charlotte far surpasses her skills as an author and storyteller in this novel, than she does in Jane Eyre.

First of all, what I enjoy about many 19th century and earlier writers is the way the tell an write the story. It has such an elegant flow and feel to it, it is easy to lose your self in the story, by the writing it self. I also love how Brontë address the reader directly though-out the book. It adds a sense of intimacy this way I think, in the reading experience. I also enjoyed the story itself, including the protagonist. It was nice to see an independent woman, who tried to make it out as a single woman, with no family background to support her, by her self. Something that is rare during the time periods. It’s not really a book about women breaking free of barriers, but it does have some tiny parts of that element. I also, for once, found my self lost in the love story of the book, and Lucy Snowe’s quest for love so to speak. Although I was routing for someone else, and was surprised by the end, I did enjoy the more romantic side of the story. I think because it was more of a back story, rather than the main aspect of it. Most of the book was about Lucy Snowe, her life and the observations she makes of those around her in the town, Villette, and how her life has turned out when she set off on her own.

Finally, I enjoyed the gothic side of the book, and the element of a ghost story. After experiencing other books by Charlotte Brontë, I was itching to find out the truth behind the mystery, although in the end I didn’t find it to be as revealing as Jane Eyere.

What I didn’t like. I found some of the characters tiring. Even Lucy Snowe at times. It seems that because she’s more independent, she has less passion in her life, than those who are less independent, as they have men and future husbands that drive them. I know this is part of how the culture at the time was, but some of the characters fawning over future husbands and their at times, overdoing/becoming hysteric can get on ones nerves. This isn’t a big issue I had with the novel, but it is there. But overall, I enjoyed the story, and will likely read it again.

Would I recommend it to read: If you’re a fan of the Brontë sister’s novels, I would, especially if you enjoyed other of Charlotte’s novels or novellas. I personally found this to be a better read than Jane Eyre, and it is a far better example of her ability as an author than Jane Eyre (or The Professor, which I’ve also read). But, it does move slowly, at times so I can see some readers who would give up on the book.

What to read next: If you haven’t read anything else by Charlotte I’d say go give her another try.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, All about the Brontes Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Decades Challenge, RYOB Challenge

Book Review: The Mistress of Rome

Title: The Mistress of Rome

Author: Kate Quinn

Pages: 464

Summary: The ruthless and enigmatic Emperor Dominitian watches over all, fearing murder from every side . . . except from the woman who fascinates him most.

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress's rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome's newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life - quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreck havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome's aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the capricious and charismatic emperor of Rome. But Domitian's games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a streetwise child, a vestal virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor's Mistress.

My Rating: 6.75

What I liked/disliked about the book: I have to say, I didn’t really like this book at all when I first started reading it. In fact it took me a good two months to get past the first twenty pages. Not a good sign, but I stuck with it (mostly because it was a review book). But, by the end of the book I was gripping the pages with anticipation to what would happen next, and how it would all turn out. Making this review go from scathing to not a bad historical fiction read, that I’d recommend to any fan of historical fiction.

Okay first the bad. There are a lot of elements of the book I didn’t like, and many of these were from start to finish. First of all, how the book started. I hated the way the reader was introduced to Thea, and I hated how this element of her cutting her wrists and her little blue bowl, was constantly repeated through the book. I might have been able to sympathize with her more, hadn’t it been the first thing I read, but even still that part was over done, and to me, didn’t add much to her character. Secondly, I found the dialogue awkward at times, and often found it to interrupt the flow of the rest of the story. Finally, I found the alternating first person views of two of the characters, and than third person narrative mixed in with that, with little indication that it would jump to third person narrative confusing. And it too, disrupted the flow of the book. I think if the author just stuck with one first person narrative and third person narrative (perhaps start the chapter off with the third person narrative, instead of a line break), the flow of the story would have worked out much better.

Okay, so now the good. It took about half way through the book before I started to enjoy that, but even before that, I have to commend the author for the amount of research done for the historical background and characters in the book. I thought she did a fantastic job at creating an accurate picture of Rome during the time period and what it was like for its inhabitants. I admit I don’t have much background in this area of history, but from what I do know, it seems to be well done. Also, the author is able to write an engaging climax and the build up to it, which is what had me gripping the novel until the end. I don’t want to go in to much detail, but the last quarter of the book was extremely well done, that part of the plot allowed me to get past some of the issues I had with the book, and become lost in what would happen next. Although the end was some what of a cliché, it was still handled rather well.

Overall it was an alright read for me, but I can see this being a great choice of a read for fans of historical fiction. Oh and the cover art is stunning! (Just a quick little afterthought).

Would I recommend it to read: To the general reader I might not, but I think if you enjoy your historical fiction, than this would be a great choice to read. Yes there were multiple elements I didn’t like, not all of which I listed, but it has a strong plot and is well researched, and I think a lot of readers will find them selves wrapped up in the lives of the characters in the book.

What to read next: Well Nefertiti might be a good choice. But I’m not that experience with historical fiction, so I’m not sure where else to go after this.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, RYOB Challenge

This is a LibraryThing EarlyReviewers Book. I recieved the book from the program, in exchange for a review.

Book Review: Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

Title: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Pages: 154

Summary: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other stories, contains ten of Hemingway's most acclaimed and popular works of short fiction. Selected from Winner Take Nothing, Men Without Women, and The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, the collection includes "The Killers," the first of Hemingway's mature stories to be accepted by an American Periodical; the autobiographical "Fathers and Sons," which alludes, for the first time in Hemingway's career, to his father's suicide; "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," a "brilliant fusion of personal observation, hearsay, an invention," wrote Hemingway's biographer, Carlos Baker; and the title story itself, of which Hemingway said: "I put all the true stuff in," with enough material, he boasted, to fill four novels. Beautiful in their simplicity, startling in their originality, and unsurpassed in their craftsmanship, the stories in this volume highlight one of America's master storytellers at the top of his form.

My Rating: 8.25

What I liked/disliked about the book: One of the things I like best about Hemingway is that he’s a master storyteller. He was a fantastic writer and had a wonderful ability to write and tell a story. He didn’t use anything fancy or overly descriptive (which I do like and appreciate), he just tells a story, but something about his writing style pulls you into the story each time. Perhaps he’s able to relate to certain events and create characters that seem to be more life like and real to the reader, ones that faced similar hardships and experiences to the reader, I’m not sure, but I just can’t help but to enjoy whatever Hemingway wrote. Although I admit that’s not much.

This collection of short stories is no exception. Although like with most short story collections I enjoyed some, disliked others, for the most part I found this to be an enjoyable read. Some of my favourites where: A Clean and a Well-lighted place, In Another Country, and Fathers and Sons. I enjoyed the title story as well, but I was expecting something different than what I got. The message at the end of the story was well done, but the story it self wasn’t what I expected. But overall I enjoyed the book, some stories were better than others, but that was it’s only real fault.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to read, but I’d say to select readers, because Hemingway is an author that focuses on storytelling. He’s a master story teller, but he doesn’t get fancy about, he just uses quality writing to tell his stories. This collection is no exception. But I can see some readers who wouldn’t enjoy this type of writing. But he’s worth a try.

What to read next: I’d try more works by Hemingway. I really enjoyed his novella, The Old Man and the Sea.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, RYOB Challenge

Book Review: Yellowknife

Title: Yellowknife

Author: Steve Zipp

Pages: 286

Summary: The time is 1998. The millennium looms. Yellowknife, capital of one-third of Canada and home to beasts and bureaucrats, is about to become a player in the world diamond market.
People come here for the damndest reasons. Something to do with the North Pole, maybe. It attracts them, I think. Like, there's metal filings in their heads or something.

A penniless drifter, a businessman obsessed by bones, an artist with a baseball bat, a fallen academic who lives at the dump, a biologist with a son named after a fungus, a native man older than Canada, a Mounty with a jaw of steel.

He dropped several boxes of ammo into his pocket, little plastic containers with sliding lids, the shells lined up like tiny lead soldiers waiting to do their duty. He contained an impulse to throw back his head and howl.
Our Lady of the Lake Tout, the Paradox of the Ravens, the Ice Road Cafe, the Mosquito Research Institute. Y2K and the birth of Nunavut. A legend, a myth, a mystery.

My Rating: 8.5
What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very different read for me, but the good kind of different. Definitely a unique book, but with great storytelling that hosts a cast of very eccentric characters, and gives the reader a glimpse of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife specifically. Truly a fantastic read.

With a hint of magical realism, and a setting I have little knowledge of I found this book to be an enchanting read, unlike most other books I’ve read, especially those that are also set in Canada. It’s a mix of folklore and characterization - a look at the lives of those who live in Yellowknife, and the hardships and excitement they experience up there. I am actually finding it hard to sum up the book into words, because there are so many elements you can focus on. I think it’s a book you need to read and experience yourself, to fully understand and appreciate it. And it is one I highly recommend, but I shall try my best.

The writing style is solid. It fits perfectly with the eccentric characters, and I think depicts Yellowknife and surrounding area wonderfully. I’ve never been there, but the reader is able to be picture the setting with ease, although the author still leaves a bit of a mysterious element to what Yellowknife is all about throughout the book, making the reader continue to read the book cover to cover, to find out more about the place. Other reviewers have said it before me and I fully agree; the town is its own character at times.
The characters themselves will make you smile at times (although I did find it confusing at times, trying to keep track of them all, which is the only real problem I had with the book) and if you go into the book knowing it has elements of magical realism and folklore in it, I think you’ll really be able to enjoy the book. There are parts that are rather odd, which may detour some readers, but I think this is a book well worth reading, and experiencing. Thanks to the author for sending me the book, so I could have the chance to read it.
Would I recommend it to read: Yes, I highly recommend this book, it was such a different story than what I am used to, that it was refreshing to read.

What to read next: I’m not sure, but I think I’d say check out other books from the Canada Also Reads program. I haven’t yet, but I think it is worth checking out, to find out more books by Canadian authors, that may not get the attention they deserve.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Canadian Challenge III, Countdown Challenge, RYOB Challenge, What's in a Name? Challenge

Sunday, June 13

May Wrap - Up

Well, it's better late than never right? I've been so busy lately that I've neglected my blog and my reading. So before I do my May Wrap-Up, here's a brief update on why I haven't been around. First of all I have a full time job (although the contract ends this friday, cross fingers for good news that I can stay longer!) So working all day, I'm to tired by the time I get home. Also, there's been an ongoing family issues lately.

Long story short, there's a member of my household, with a severe mental illness. So there are a lot of times issues or bad days arise, when things have to go on hold. Usually I'm taking on a support role for the other family members to talk to, rather than a care giver role, but either way a lot of time is devoted to that and work. And trying to maintain some personal time. So sorry to anyone who comments or emails me. But I've been busy, I'm not ignoring you all. (Especially to those who email me. I read them, mark them to e-mail the person back, then time gets away). Hopefully by the end of the week, things will look up. As if things go well with work = me being able to move out of my parents place and back on my own. Which will give me more time for my self, and less stress in my life so I can better deal with the family member, who is going through tough times. So there it is. I miss reading, I really do.

Books Read

BREATHE! Okay so thats done. May Wrap Up. Only read three books in May. Although I started more, those will be finished (I hope) this month. So, May wasn't the best of months, although 2/3 the three books I read were amazing. The third, was well.... I'll let your read the review. It did help me with the dreaded "X" title. So that's a bonus!

The Xibalba Murder - Lyn Hamilton - 3/10
A Sicilian Romance - Ann Radcliffe - 8/10
War on the Margins - Libby Cone - 9/10

Challenges Completed/Failed

I also finished two more challenges this month, which total to finishing 6 challenges. Although I did fail two mini challenges. Although they're mini-challenges, so they only half count as failures. Sigh! But the two challenges I completed were:

1st in a Series - Completed On: May 7, 2010 - Read 3/3 Books
Typically British Challenge - Completed On: May 15, 2010 - Read 6/6 Books

Challenge Progress

So far I'm still doing okay. Although I haven't read as many books as I'd have hoped to, I'm happy with the over all progress. Just need to have a nice weekend and have my own read-a-thon.

Read 'n' Review - 36 Books
Pages Read - 10,080/50,000

2nd's Challenge - 4/6
10/10 Challenge - 36/100
18th and 19th Century Women Writers - 2/3
100+ Challenge - 36/100
451 Reading Challenge - 0/7
A - Z Challenge - 26/52
All About the Brontes Challenge - 1/3
Bibilophilic Challenge - 2/6
Canadian Challenge the 3rd - 7/13
Centuries Challenge - 2/? (Debating moving up a level, as I have a lot of books from different centuries I plan on reading this way anyways)
Chick Lit Challenge - 0/8
Chunkster Challenge - 0/4
Countdown Challenge - 24/55
Decades Challenge - 2/10
Ebook Challenge - 0/6
Fantasy Challenge - 1/6
Flashback Challenge - 0/6(+?)
Finish that Series Challenge - 0/3 Series
Global Reading Challenge - 11/12
Jane Austen Challenge - 0/4
The Marple Poitot Holmes Challenge - 3/6
Reading Through the Seasons Challenge - 1/4
Reading Western Europe Challenge - 5/12
RYOB Challenge - 10/50
Support Your Local Library Challenge - 26/50
TBR Lite Challenge - 0/6
A Tournament of Reading - 0/3
War Through the Generations: Vietnam - 1/5
What's in a Name? III - 5/6
Women Unbound Challenge - 3/8 (I moved up a level on this challenge)

Leo Tolsty Mini Challenge - 0/2
French Revolution Challenge - 0/2
Wilkie Collins Challenge - 1/2

Link for all Mini Challenges Here

Countries Around the World

I didn't visit any new country, but I did get to go to three different countries this month. Mexico, Italy and Channel Islands. So I'm happy with that. Again, I have a lot of books on my shelf or TBR list. Just need time. Anyone figure out the secret to more time?

visited 31 states (13.7%)
Create your own visited map of The World

Books that Followed me Home or Came into my Mailbox

Oh Boy! I'm hopping I get them all. I plan on doing a massive Books that followed me home. As I had a few visits to used bookstores and regular bookstores. So a few books might actually be from June. Long story short. Spent about 100$ this month at used bookstores buying 30 books. Nice!

Here we go!

Review Books (Which came in my mailbox)
War on the Margins - Libby Cone (Already Reviewed)
Flesh and Grass Libby Cone (EBook)
Yellowknife - Steve Zipp (Currently reading.)

Book Mooch
The Thralls Tale - Judith Lindbergh
The Reader -Bernhard Schlink
About a Boy - Nick Hornby
Chocolat - Joanne Harris
Midwives - Chris Bohjalian

From Amazon.ca
Oroonoko and Other Stories
The Female Quixote
A Sicilian Romance

Books That Followed Me Home from Bookstores

Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
Enders Game - Orson Scott Card
Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
Breath and Bone - Carol Berg
As for me and My House (Used Bookstore)
The Private Patient (Used Bookstore)
The Cider House Rules (Used Bookstore)
Snow Falling on Cedars (Used Bookstore)
Nana - Emile Zola (Used Bookstore)
The South - Colm Tobin (Used Bookstore)
Summer - Edith Wharton (Used Bookstore)
Black Hawk Down - Mark Bowden (Used Bookstore)
Dinner on the Amazon - Timothy Findley (Used Bookstore)
Road Past Altanont - Gabrielle Roy (Used Bookstore)
Street of Riches - Gabrielle Roy (Used Bookstore)
The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes - Adrian Conan Doyle (Used Bookstore)
The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Used Bookstore)
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D Salinger (Used Bookstore)
Death of a Sales Man - Arthur Miller (10 cents at a yard sale)
Smoke and Mirrors - Neil Gailman
Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides (Used/Independent Bookstore)
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant (Used/Independent Bookstore)
Dust to Dust - Timothy Findley (Used/Independent Bookstore)
The Valkyries - Paulo Coelho (Used/Independent Bookstore)
Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout (Used/Independent Bookstore)
Women at the Edge of Time - Marge Piercy (Used/Independent Bookstore)
The Hours - Michael Cunningham (Used/Independent Bookstore)
The Rules of Engagement - Catherine Bush (Used/Independent Bookstore)
The Blue Mountain - Meir Shalev (Used/Independent Bookstore)
The Autumn of the Patriarch - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Used/Independent Bookstore)
The Coffee Trader: A Novel - David Liss (Used/Independent Bookstore)

So that's just under 50 books.