Saturday, December 31

Book Review: Dragonflight

Title: Dragonflight

Author: Anne McCaffrey

Pages: EBook (214)


To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.

But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I enjoyed the overall premise of the book, I found that it just didn't quite work for me. It felt like there was a lot left out and under explained, so I felt lost through parts of the book. Events were happening, or mentioned in the past, but nothing was given to explain them, I felt like I was missing something big and important - and felt like I had started with the wrong book in the series.

The writing was well done, the author had some lovely passages and flow to her writing, a few times she over told certain actions of the characters, but for the most part, I really enjoyed the writing style - I just wish more was given to deepen the overall story. It had such an in interesting premise and I think it would have been a lot more enjoyable if more time was spent explaining the events and history behind the story.

Would I recommend it to read: If you enjoy fantasy/sci-fi yes. It's well written, and opens the series, but it's not a strong book overall.

What to read next: More by the author, particularly in this series

Challenges: 11 in 11, Fantasy Challenge

Book Review: Tender is the Night

Title: Tender is the Night

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pages: 274

Summary: Tender is the Night is a story set in the hedonistic high society of Europe during the 'Roaring Twenties'. A wealthy mental patient, Nicole Warren, falls in love with Dirk Diver - her psychiatrist. The resulting saga of the Divers' troubled marriage and their circle of friends, includes a cast of aristocratic and beautiful people, unhappy love affairs, a duel, incest, and the problems inherent in the possession of great wealth. Despite cataloguing a male storm of interpersonal conflict, Tender is the Night has a poignancy and warmth which springs from the quality of F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing and the tragic personal experiences on which the book is based.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I liked the writing style of the book The narrative was well done as well, and the small glimpses of how people perceived and treated a person with mental illness were well done, but the story did nothing for me, nor did the any of the characters.

Nothing about the story was memorable, I read it, and forgot it after I finished the book, it was just a book on the lives of a group of people, who were suppose to be struggling with their "inner demons", particularity Nicole, but nothing jumped out at me to make any significant impression. Nicole is suppose to suffer from a mental illness, but doesn't appear to be, as she was "cured" of it when we get to her. I wish we were able to see more of her character and her characters background, rather than Dick. He was a boring character and added nothing to the book.

The writing was well done but for this book it didn't help keep my interest. I didn't hate it, but didn't like it either.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I would, writing quality is good, but the story is bland.

What to read next: The Bell Jar, The Awakening

Challenges: 11 in 11Mental Illness Advocacy

Book Review: Woman Edge of Time

Title: Woman at the Edge of Time

Author: Marge Piercy

Pages: Ebook (352)

Summary: The fascinating story of Connie Ramos, a Chicana woman in her mid-thirties, living in New York and labelled insane, committed to a mental institution. But the truth is that Connie is overwhelmingly sane, heroically sane, and tuned in to the future.

Connie is able to communicate with the year 2137. Two totally different ways of life are competing. One is beautiful - communal, non-sexist, environmentally pure, open to ritual and magic. The other is a horror - totalitarian, exploitative, rigidly technological.

In Connie's struggle to keep the institution's doctors from forcing her into a brain control operation, we find the timeless struggle between beauty and terror, between good and evil ... with an astonishing outcome.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I liked the overall premise of the book, but something fell short of my expectations, especially considering the book had a lot of different elements and layers to it. The book has multiple elements to it; there's issue on feminism, treatment of persons suffering from a mental illness, science fiction, dystopian/utopian all tied into one story, but I think because it had so many different elements, is also where the book failed to work for me.

I liked the look at the treatment of a person with mental illness, the author did give the reader a good hard look at the harsh realities a person was faced with. The facilities were horrible, and so were most of the doctors and treatment methods used. Although it bothered me how the people were treated, I liked how the author held nothing back, and showed the harsh light of things.

I found that the science fiction/dystopian/utopian side of the story hard to follow - as I never really bought Connie was actually communicating with the future, I always thought it was part of her illness. The idea behind it was good, but not executed to my liking, I think it would have worked better if the reader had a harder time distinguishing whether or not Connie was able to communicate with the future or was it a symptom of her illness. I did enjoy the final chapter, but because the middle of the book was muddled at time between present and future the effect of the ending wasn't as good as I would have liked, again, if there was a thinner line on whether the book was one about a woman who is thought to be crazy but is actually communicating with the future or is she a person suffering from a significant mental illness, the ending would have been much more effective.

Characterization was okay, but the same problems arise that I had with the characters that I have with the plot. Overall a good book, but not at all what I was expecting.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, as a reader there were different ways you could read and take from the book, depending on your tastes, there is something for many different readers.

What to read next: The Piano Man's Daughter, The Bell Jar, We, Alias Grace

Challenges: Mental Illness Advocacy

Book Review: Halfway House

Title: Halfway House

Author: Katharine Noel

Pages: Ebook (360)

Summary: One day, Angie Voorster; diligent student, all-star swimmer and ivy-league bound high school senior, dives to the bottom of a pool and stays there. In that moment, everything the Voorster family believes they know about each other changes. Katharine Noel’s extraordinary debut illuminates the fault lines in one family’s relationships, as well as the complex emotional ties that bind them together.

With grace and precision rarely seen in a first novel, Noel guides her reader through a world where love is imperfect, and where longing for an imagined ideal can both destroy one family’s happiness and offer them redemption. Halfway House introduces a powerful, eloquent new literary voice.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started out strong and I thought it showed a very detailed and realistic example of a person who suffers from Bipolar disorder and it's affects it has on the friends and family surrounding them, but I felt the story was drawn out to long, and included a lot of irrelevant sub-plots that added nothing to the story, except that it caused me to lose my interest in it.

What I liked most about the book was how well Angie's character was written. She's portrayed very realistically, and the reader is easily able connect and understand her state of mind and her illness. The reader is taken through the ups and downs and all the ugly turns Angie is faced with as she struggles her way from a teenager to adulthood. The affects her illness has on her family were also wonderfully written, as a reader you are able to see different viewpoints and struggles her family faced - even the ones who you hated as characters were written extremely well when it came to Angie and her illness.

Unfortunately, I found that the other aspects of the book, sub-plots of affairs, glimpses of her family members lives and growing up were drawn out and focused on more than was needed. While some of it was needed to develop the story and characters, most could have been cut back and left out - I think I would have enjoyed the story more if I wasn't dragged through so much, nothingness. Overall a good book, and story, I had some issues, but it is worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was a good read, but be weary that it is long and drawn out, as some readers may be turned off by this.

What to read next: The Bell Jar

Challenges: 11 in 11, Mental Illness Advocacy

Book Review: The Tiger's Wife

Title: The Tiger's Wife

Author: Téa Obreht

Pages: EBook (Approx 272)

Summary: The time: the present. The place: a Balkan country ravaged by years of conflict. Natalia, a young doctor, is on a mission of mercy to an orphanage when she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death far from their home under circumstances shrouded in confusion. Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for "the deathless man," a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a farfetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed aspects of the book, incredibly well written, and I really liked the magical realism elements t the books, but something was missing for me in this book.

I think the biggest issue was the characters, I didn't enjoy them much and couldn't connect to them, I felt I was just reading about them in passing, rather than how their lives tied into the story as a whole. I also felt that most of the time was spent tying in the story of the Tiger and the mythology behind that, that other plot elements were left out and unresolved. I would have enjoyed more time with Natalia and her life and trials as a doctor.

I did enjoy the writing style as the writing alone, made me keep reading, even when I was tired. I hope to see more by the author, as she is very talented at writing the story. The voice of the narrator was well done. The only issue I had with the narration was when it switched, there wasn't much indication of when it was switching, so at times, it was hard to keep track of who was telling the story. Otherwise, a good read.

Would I recommend it to read: It's worth reading, but not high on the list. Some will love it, others won't, but does have an interesting premise - just didn't work for me as much as I would have liked.

What to read next: I'd recommend more by the author, a very talented author.

Challenges: 11 in 11, Take a Chance 3

Book Review: A Bird in the House

Title: A Bird in the House

Author: Margaret Laurence

Pages: 191

Summary: One of Canada's most accomplished authors combines the best qualities of both the short story and the novel to create the lyrical evocation of the beauty, pain, pain and wonder of growing up.

In eight interconnected, finely wrought stories, Margaret Laurence recreates the world of Vanessa McLeod - a world of sub-oak, willow, and chokecherry bushels of family love and conflict; and of a girl's growing awareness of the passage into womanhood. The stories blend into one masterly and moving whole: poignant, compassionate, and profound in emotional impact.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: One of my favourites of the series so far, I felt it really showcased the author's writing style and voice in this one. The story progressed nicely, it moved slowly, but the way the author told the story I hardly notice or cared that it was slow. Not to mention she focused highly on her characters, which also tied in nicely with the more slower development of the book.

One aspect I liked about the book was how the author choose to tell the story in a bunc of short mini stories. I wouldn't exactly call this a collection of short stories, but it has the feel of one, as each short story focused on a different event or section of the characters lives. There wasn't an exact timeline for the individuals stories, which once I got used to, I enjoyed. I did find it hard to follow at first because things are told out of order, but once I got past that, it was well done. I didn't like the characters too much. They weren't poorly written, but nothing about them sticks out as memorable either. Their voice was well written, I love the writing in this book, so I didn't mind that I couldn't connect to the characters. Overall a very good read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this one was well written and I enjoyed the story of it. It was far better than the second and third instalments of the series.

What to read next: The final book in the Manawaka series, The Diviners

Challenges: 11 in 11, Canadian Reading Challenge 5

Book Review: The Piano Man's Daughter

Title: The Piano Man's Daughter

Author: Timothy Findley

Pages: 541

Summary: In 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II, a young piano tuner, Charlie Kilworth, faces two enigmatic questions. Who was his father? And, given the madness that consumed his mother, does he dare become a father himself?

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: One of the best books I've read all year, it's one of those books that I can't believe I've waited this long to read - this is probably one of the authors best work - a very intriguing and haunting story.

The writing is just one of the many things I loved about the book. Timothy Findley was truly one of Canada's greatest talents, he has an ability to pull you in with an elegant and flowing narration, that grasps onto you, until you close the book - this book is no exception to that. I was lost in the words alone, even if the story hadn't been as strong (which it was), I'd still have enjoyed it, based on the writing alone.

The story itself, is haunting on how well he was able to write the characters. Lily who suffers from a mental illness, was incredibly well written, she's complex, realistic and believable and one of those character's you remember. Her son Charlie was also well written, although at times I found myself disliking him do to is lack of understanding of his mother and her illness, you also are able to connect to him as he struggles to come to terms with it, and how it has affected his and the other characters who are involved with Lily. The author wrote all the characters and their personalities with care, and created a very realistic cast.

I was hooked to the end, and was very satisfied with it, the author tied everything up, still left me with wanting more - definitely a book that is well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes! This is near the top of my recommendation list! Go out and read it now!

What to read next: More by the Author, Alais Grace

Challenges: 11 in 11, Book Blogger's Bucket List, Canadian Reading V, Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge, Take Chance 3

Thursday, December 29

Book Review: Catcher in the Rye

Title: Catcher in the Rye

Author: J.D. Salinger

Pages: 214

Summary: A 16-year old American boy relates in his own words the experiences he goes through at school and after, and reveals with unusual candour the workings of his own mind. What does a boy in his teens think and feel about his teachers, parents, friends and acquaintances?

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While the author does a great job at portraying a teenage boy, who is angry, angst and suffering a mental illness, I found it wasn't exactly the book for me.

I'm not sure what about the book I didn't like, but I just found I was bored with the overall story, I found it to be boring and prolonged, after a while it just gets boring. I liked how the author writes his thought process as disjointed and biased to the protagonists' prospective, but in the end it didn't click with me as a ground breaking read. The characters were just that, characters in the book. Nothing about them was very memorable, and nothing about them surprised me. The book show cased a young adult who suffers from a mental illness, depression, and I did like how it showed another side of depression, from what you're used to seeing, but that was all that separated this book from all the others of its kind.

The writing was well done, but it still wasn't what I was expecting from such an acclaimed author, so I plan on reading his other works to see what he's style is really like. Overall it just didn't reach my expectations.

Would I recommend it to read: It was well written and a classic book, but not sure if it would be on the top of my list to recommend.

What to read next: I'd try more of the authors novels.

Challenges: 11 in 11, Book Bloggers Bucket List, Mental Illness Challenge

Book Review: About a Boy

Title: About a Boy

Author: Nick Hornby

Pages: 307

Summary: Will Freeman may have discovered they key to dating success: If the simple fact that they were single mothers meant that gorgeous women - women who would not ordinarily look twice at Will - might not only be willing but enthusiastic about dating him, than he was really onto something. Single mothers - bright, attractive, available women - thousands of them, were all over London. He just had to find them.

SPAT: Single Parents - Alone Together. It was a brilliant plan. And Will wasn't going to let the fact that he didn't have a child himself hold him back. A fictional two-year-old named Ned wouldn't be the first thing he'd invented. And it seems to go quite well at first, until he meets an actual twelve-year-old named Marcus, who is more than Will bargained for . . .

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I liked some aspects of the book, and at times it was funny, but overall it fell short of my expectations, and at times I was bored with the story. I saw the movie first a few years ago, so I thought I would like the book more than I did.

I think the biggest issue I had was I couldn't connect with the characters, they didn't have a lot of depth to them, and they didn't grow that much considering the expeirences and influences they were suppose to have on each other. The author did do a good job at showing the relationship between Will and Marcus, but that was only a small aspect of the book. The only character that had any significant development was Marcus, but I felt that even his development was more forced than natural.

The author did show how Marcus was affected by his mother's depression, and how it does affect other people around the person who suffers it, just like it affects them. It was subtle, but I liked how the authr addressed it. The writing was average, the plot was overall average, with some funny parts, so overall the book was an average read for me. It was a good choice to have as a mindless read on a lazy afternoon.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, there were parts I didn't like, but it is a good book to read for a mindless read.

What to read next: Books in the Chick Lit and Lad Lit genres - so many to choose from, but any one of those would be a good choice.

Challenges: 11 in 11, Mental Illness Challenge

Book Review: A Map of Glass

Title: A Map of Glass

Author: Jane Urquhart

Pages: (Ebook Approx 384)

Summary: Jane Urquhart’s stunning new novel weaves two parallel stories, one set in contemporary Toronto and Prince Edward County, Ontario, the other in the nineteenth century on the northern shores of Lake Ontario.

Sylvia Bradley was rescued from her parents’ house by a doctor attracted to and challenged by her withdrawn ways. Their subsequent marriage has nourished her, but ultimately her husband’s care has formed a kind of prison. When she meets Andrew Woodman, a historical geographer, her world changes.

A year after Andrew’s death, Sylvia makes an unlikely connection with Jerome McNaughton, a young Toronto artist whose discovery of Andrew’s body on a small island at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River unlocks a secret in his own past. After Sylvia finds Jerome in Toronto, she shares with him the story of her unusual childhood and of her devastating and ecstatic affair with Andrew, a man whose life was irrevocably affected by the decisions of the past. At the breathtaking centre of the novel is the compelling tale of Andrew’s forebears. We meet his great-great-grandfather, Joseph Woodman, whose ambitions brought him from England to the north-eastern shores of Lake Ontario, during the days of the flourishing timber and shipbuilding industries; Joseph’s practical, independent and isolated daughter, Annabel; and his son, Branwell, an innkeeper and a painter. It is Branwell’s eventual liaison with an orphaned French-Canadian woman that begins the family’s new generation and sets the stage for future events.

My Rating: 8.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A very enjoyable read, with lovely writing and a well thought out story, it's a book well worth reading.

One of the aspects of the book I liked best was the ending, which I can't go into too much without spoiling it, but I wasn't expecting the twist at all. But the author tied it into the story wonderfully, and I think it really added something to the characters development and overall character. Sylvia was an interesting character to begin with, I'm not one hundred percent sure exactly what type of mental illness she suffered from, but the author handled the character's experiences and thought process with such care, that she was able to create a very realistic and complex character. At times as the reader I was confused to what was happening, because of the reader learns of the characters' mental illness contradicts what the character has said to have done, but the author ties it in so well, it works for the story.

While I liked the background story of Branwell's and how it was tied into the present, I wish there was a better distinction between the two stories, I'm not sure I liked having the back story of Branwell told in the middle of the book, I think I would have preferred it in the beginning and have the rest of the story after that - for me it would have flowed together more than it did.

Otherwise, it was a wonderful book, I loved the writing by the author, as I have in previous books, and look forward to reading more of her works.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's beautifully written, has some complex and intriguing characters and was a overall good read.

What to read next: I'd read more by Jane Urquhart, she's a very talented author.

Challenges: A - Z Challenge, Canadian Reading Challenge, Mental Illness Reading Challenge

Sunday, December 18

November Wrap-Up!

A little, er, a lot late, but I've finally found the time to do my November Wrap-Up - December is almost over, but hey, it's better late than never right? November was a pretty good reading month for me, I was hoping to read a little more books, but otherwise I'm happy with it, as I finished up a few challenges this month as well!

The Books

This month I read 11 books, which is pretty good, I'm a little behind my goal, but I'm very happy with how many books I've read this year so far, and most of them I've enjoyed at least on some level. This month I focused on the Giller Prize Short List, I still have one more book to read, but so far Half-Blood Blues has been my favourite from the list. This month my favourite book was The Seamstress, which I'd highly recommend, my least favourite was Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, which was one of the books on the Giller short list. I also seemed to have read a lot of Canadian Fiction this month, almost half the books were from Canadian authors!

Personal Demon - Kelly Armstrong - 7.5/10
The Antagonist - Lynn Coady - 7/10
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks - 5/10
Halcyon (SGA-#4) - James Swallow - 8.25/10
The Free World - David Bezmozgis - 6/10
Better Living Through Plastic Explosives - Zsuzsi Gartner - 4/10
The Seamstress - Frances De Pontes Peebles - 9.5/10
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce - 6.75/10 
We - Eugene Zamiatin - 8/10
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott - 8/10
Half Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan - 8.5/10

The Challenges

This month I kicked some butt in challenges! I managed to finish off three more challenges, I did fail one, but I knew that was coming, but I finished three! Whoot! I'm still having fun with the challenges, I have one that I know I won't finish, one is iffy, I think I may give up on it, so I can focus on the other challenges, but I think I should be able to finish the rest.

Completed Challenges

100+ Challenge - Completed on November 9, 2011 - 100/100 Books Read
1001 Books Challenge - Completed on November 27, 2011 - 16/16 Books Read
Ireland Reading Challenge - Completed November 24, 2011 - 6/6 Books Read

Did Not Finish

2011 Countdown - 60/60 Books Read

Current Challenges

11 in 11 - 94/121
A - Z Challenge - 51/52
Book Blogger Bucket List - 16/26
Chunkster Reading Challenge - 5/8
Fall into Reading Challenge - 10/14
Fantasy Reading Challenge - 1/12
Global Reading Challenge - 18/21
Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge - 4/16
Take a Chance III Challenge - 7/10
War Through the Generations - Civil War -4/5

Countries Visited

This month I visited Ireland, Canada, Brazil, England and USA

Books the Followed Me Home

A Map of Glass - Jane Urquhart

 Before I leaveMyself and Tonks (the Cat) would like to say to all  my readers and their families to have a safe and happy holiday season, and a happy new year!


Wednesday, November 30

Book Review: Half-Blood Blues

Title: Half- Blood Blues

Author: Esi Edugyan

Pages: Ebook (Appox 253)

Summary: Chip told them not to go out. Said don't you boys tempt the devil, but the cheap beer in his gut made Hieronymus think a glass of milk would be worth the risk. Of course Chip was right, and the star musician on the European scene was taken away that night by the Boots. An easy target, being a mixed-race German. Fifty years later, Sidney, the only witness that day, is going back. He swore he wouldn't, but Chip always was persuasive. Full of surprises too, like the mysterious letter he kept a secret that begins Sid's slow journey towards redemption. Esi Edugyan's novel weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don't tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong...

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Although the book had a bit of a slow start, I found myself really enjoying the narrative, characters and overall story.

The author did an incredible job at bring the reader back to the Jazz era during the brink of the war, the historical tidbits and atmosphere were wonderfully done. As a reader it added to the book, on how the author was able to bring in aspects of the time period without having to go in long descriptions of the period. It read like a book that takes place during the WWII era, which showed the reader how the war affected the characters, without making it feel like a history lesson, which I appreciated. It focused on the characters, but it still had a historical fiction feel to it.

The characters for the most part were enjoyable, I don't know if I have a favourite, but they were well written and complex and as a group they really added something extra to the overall atmosphere of the book and time period and they made the story seem more realistic. I enjoyed the moral issues the characters face, that you can't trust them, even the narrator, and you don't get a lot of closure on them, parts of their life are skipped out on, there was a lot of missing information, but I still felt like I got to know them and I enjoyed reading about them.

The book does bounce from the present to the past, which took a bit of getting used to, but I did enjoy that aspect of the book. I also found myself enjoying the dialect it was written, usually I have difficulty when book are written like this, but this time I think it added to the reading experience. The only major issue I had with it, is that I felt that some parts dragged on to much - I think it's part of the narrator's skewed view point on what he saw and remembered, but there were a couple of times, I wish the story would move forward a little faster. Otherwise a fantastic book, well deserved for the Giller prize or 2011.

 Would I recommend it to read: I would, well written, well told, has a fairly good cast of characters - very well done book I think a lot of readers would enjoy.

What to read next: The other Giller short list nominees of 2011.

Challenges: 11 in 11, Canadian Reading Challenge

Book Review: Little Women

Title: Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Pages: 527

Summary: Little women is one of the best loved books of all time. Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy, and the reader experience the hard lessons of poverty and the growing up in New England during the Civil War. Through the dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, of the March sisters, women and men of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married in Part I. Part II chronicles Meg’s joys and mishaps as a young wife and mother, Jo’s struggle to become a writing, Beth’s tragedy, and Amy’s artistic pursuits and unexpected romance. Based on Louisa May Alcott’s childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a sweet coming of age story, during the civil war era, and a lovely written classic, well worth reading and rereading again.

I enjoyed the writing of the book and how the author told the story, I always enjoy when the author addresses the reader, I find it makes the book more intimate - and it helps get a bigger idea as to what goes through the individual characters minds, because of the liberties the author is able to take. I found it worked very well for this book, as you were able to follow all the sisters throughout the book with ease and get a well rounded grasp on their character and development.

I did feel the reader didn't get a chance to get to know Beth, all the other sisters had significant time devoted to them, but Beth was pushed aside, her tragedy later in the book didn't have a big effect on me, because I barely knew her compared to the rest of the sisters, it was like the author knew the characters fate, so she didn't bother to develop her fully, like the others. I think if Beth had been more developed, her tragedy would have been a lot more emotional and hit you harder - so you wouldn't have expected it coming. Another issue I had was I felt some aspects of the books, courtships, indecisions were becoming a bit redundant, after a while some things just didn't move on as well as they should, it was like the author kept recycling certain aspects of the plot - Amy and Laurie for example, I felt that issues surrounding them could have been tied up earlier, rather than the continuous dance around it.

Overall, the book was a great read, with a fun cast of characters and it's a great read for young adults ad the young at heart.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, well written and sweet coming of age book.

What to read next: Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice

Challenges: 11 in 11, 1001 Books, Book Blogger's Bucket List, War Through the Generations

Book Review: We

Title: We

Author: Yevgeny Zamyatin (sometimes translated as Eugene Zamiatin)

Pages: 218

Summary: WE tells the story of the minutely organized United State, where all citizens are not individuals but only he-Numbers and she-Numbers existing in identical glass apartments with every action regulated by the "Table of Hours." It is a community dedicated to the proposition that freedom and happiness are incompatible; that most men believe their freedom to be more than a fair exchange for a high level of materialistic happiness.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very interesting and complex book, one of those books you will read again and again and take something different from it each time you do.

The voice of the main character was well written, as the reader you can clearly see the conflict he is going though as his "normal" thought process is unravelled and he is experiencing something, new and different for him as he explores himself thinking away from the collective. It comes off as jumbled thoughts on the page at first, which made the book difficult to read at times, but eventually you can see this character thought process they way the author intended and it becomes a fascinating read.

The dystopian society is also an interesting one, I wish the author explored how it worked, a everyone was part of this collective thought (or for the most part), I wish we could have seen how this worked, what caused people to break away - and I'd also wanted more detail on things the character referred to. I understand why it wasn't explained, as it was the journal of the main character, so these aspects of everyday life are natural to him (he even talks about this in the book), but I still would have liked more details.

Overall it was an interesting and enjoyable dystopian book. One that is well worth reading again.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especially to people who enjoy dystopian literature

What to read next: 1984, Brave New World, Anthem

Challenges: 11 in 11, 1001 Books, A - Z Challenge, Fall into Reading

Tuesday, November 29

Book Review: Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Title: Portrait of an Artists as a Young Man

Author: James Joyce

Pages: 318

Summary: In his first and still most widely read novel, James Joyce makes a strange peace with the traditional narrative of a young man's self-discovery by respecting its substance while exploding its form, thereby inaugurating a literary revolution. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in 1916, when Joyce was already at work on Ulysses, and is exactly what its title says and much more. In an exuberantly inventive masterpiece of subjectivity, Joyce portrays his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, growing up in Dublin and struggling through religious and sexual guilt toward an aesthetic awakening. In part a vivid picture of Joyce's own youthful evolution into one of the twentieth century's greatest writers, it is also a moment in the intellectual history of an age.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While the book is well written and is a good example of a coming of age story - but it just wasn't the book for me, as I couldn't connect to the characters to truly appreciate the book.

The author did do a great job at going deep into the thought process of the character goes through, it did a great job at showing the reader the emotions and thought process a person goes through as they grow up. The author managed to show the reader the characters spiritual growth and trials throughout his life with ease, but I couldn't connect to the characters. While I could appreciate the time the author took so the reader could get to know the characters, but there was something missing for the book that kept me from liking or connecting with the characters.

The writing was also very well done, Joyce was an excellent storyteller, but something - in both writing and characterization - fell short to help give his book that extra push from being average to extraordinary.

Would I recommend it to read: I still would, it's a classic book and one where the author takes time to develop his characters on many different levels. I think there are readers out there who would have no trouble connecting to the characters.

What to read next: Dubliners, Ulysses.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 1001 Books, Fall into Reading, Irish Reading Challenge

Book Review: The Seamstress

Title: The Seamstress

Author: Frances De Pontes Peebles

Pages: 641

Summary: As seamstresses, the young sisters Emilia and Luzia dos Santos know how to cut, mend, an conceal - useful skills in the lawless backcountry of Brazil, where ruthless land barons feud with bands of outlaw cangaceiros, trapping innocent residents in the crossfire. Emilia, a native romantic, dreams at falling in love with a gentleman and escaping to a big city. Quick-tempered Luzia also longs for escape, finding it in her craft and secret prayers to the saints she believes once saved her life. But when Luzia is abducted by cangaceiros led by the infamous Hawk and Emilia stumbles into a marriage with the son of a wealthy and politically powerful doctor, the sisters' quiet lives diverge in ways they never would have imagined.

My Rating: 9.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This will likely be on one of the many books on my favourite books of the year, it was a fantastic book, filled with complex characters and cultural taste of Brazil. it was a book well worth reading.

The book has a slow plot, that takes care with the characters and the influences that shaped them. Which I really enjoyed, sometimes a slower moving plot causes me to lose interest, in this case it worked fantastically, as I felt I really knew all the characters by the end of the book. All the characters, even some of the more minor ones, were complex and had interesting stories, and I loved how the author compared the two sisters, who lead two different lives - and how they changed over time. Both had some fantastic growth from the first page to the last - they really made the book. It's hard to say which sister I enjoyed more, both had interesting stories, both had some interesting development, both overcame unexpected odds - but if I had to choose, Luzia was my favourite sister, and her story was more interesting than Emilia.

I also enjoyed the cultural dive into Brazil during the early 1900's. It was interesting to read about the cultural differences between the small communities versus the developed cities. The look at fashion trends and how they've changed, the look on family and relationships, the author managed to wrap all this into the story, without having to force anything into the book, as the reader you're able to get the feel of the Brazilian culture, without having to sacrifice characterization or plot to do so. I also loved how it was written - the author focused on each sister in sections, written in third person, but separated the book in to chapters and subchapters having them devoted to each sisters, so the reader is able to get a good grasp on their storyline.

I did find a few scenes a little violent, or uncomfortable, it's not excessive, but there aware a few violent acts in there that I'd rather not have read, but those are few - which is expected in a book about bandits wandering around in the unknown. But even this worked in a way, because as the reader, you were able to experience the true grit of the characters lives - both the good and the bad.

Overall it was a fantastic book, which I highly recommend.

Would I recommend it to read: As I've said above and as you probably already guessed, yes.

What to read next: Shanghai Girls (both are good books on sisterly relationships).

Challenges: 11 in 11, Book Bloggers Bucket List, Chunkster Reading ChallengeFall into Reading, Global Reading Challenge

Sunday, November 27

Book Review: Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

Title: Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

Author: Zsuzsi Gartner

Pages: EBook (Approx 181)

Summary: From an emerging master of short fiction and one of Canada's most distinctive voices, a collection of stories as heartbreaking as those of Lorrie Moore and as hilariously off-kilter as something out of McSweeney's.

In Better Living through Plastic Explosives, Zsuzsi Gartner delivers a powerful second dose of the lacerating satire that marked her acclaimed debut, All the Anxious Girls on Earth, but with even greater depth and darker humour. Whether she casts her eye on evolution and modern manhood when an upscale cul-de-sac is thrown into chaos after a redneck moves into the neighbourhood, international adoption, war photography, real estate, the movie industry, motivational speakers, or terrorism, Gartner filets the righteous and the ridiculous with dexterity in equal, glorious measure. These stories ruthlessly expose our most secret desires, and allow us to snort with laughter at the grotesque world we'd live in if we all got what we wanted.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Incredibly well written, intelligent and witty writer the has a lot of talent when it comes to writing, it's what I enjoyed most about the book, was the quality of writing that was in it. Unfortunately, that's where the good parts of the book ended, as I didn't enjoy the plots of tje short stories - there's great writing, but you need more than that to tell a good story and I found the story telling wasn't up to par with the writing.

I didn't find the stories left much of an impression on me, I read them, but none of them stuck with me. They didn't have much of a plot to them, and the characters were written in a way that you couldn't connect to them, they were just words on the page. I can't say I have a favourite short story from the collection. While I enjoyed the author's writing, the actual storytelling fell flat.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure, I didn't find the collection to be a good read. Excellent wiring yes, but I need a little more in a book, especially in a collection of short stories.

What to read next: This is from the Giller shortlist, so I'd say the other books from the shortlist.

Challenges: Canadian Reading Challenge 5

Book Review: The Free World

Title: The Free World

Author: David Bezmozgis

Pages: Ebook (Approx 302)

Summary: Summer, 1978. Brezhnev sits like a stone in the Kremlin, Israel and Egypt are inching towards peace, and in the bustling, polyglot streets of Rome, strange new creatures have appeared: Soviet Jews who have escaped to freedom through a crack in the Iron Curtain. Among the thousands who have landed in Italy to secure visas for new lives in the West are the members of the Krasnansky family -- three generations of Russian Jews.

There is Samuil, an old Communist and Red Army veteran, who reluctantly leaves the country to which he has dedicated himself body and soul; Karl, his elder son, a man eager to embrace the opportunities emigration affords; Alec, his younger son, a carefree playboy for whom life has always been a game; and Polina, Alec's new wife, who has risked the most by breaking with her old family to join this new one. Together, they will spend six months in Rome -- their way station and purgatory. They will immerse themselves in the carnival of emigration, in an Italy rife with love affairs and ruthless hustles, with dislocation and nostalgia, with the promise and peril of a better life. Through the unforgettable Krasnansky family, David Bezmozgis has created an intimate portrait of a tumultuous era.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I started off enjoying the book, it was well written and had a good plot, but I felt in the second half of the book dragged on, and the story seemed to veer off too far into the personal affairs, rather than an outlook on immigrant life.

The first part of the book was very well done, slow moving yes, but it worked so well for this book as it examined the struggles and sacrifices made by the immigrants and how they try to make a new life for themselves in a temporary home before moving on to some place permanent. The author did a fantastic job at describing the struggles within their own culture and social groups, families and those groups and families around them. It gave the reader a very strong sense of what life was like then.

Unfortunately, I found that the book began to drag on by the second half, the plot began to stand still, and there wasn't a lot of development for the character. I began to dislike a lot of the characters, wsn't impressed with their actions, and felt the author spent a lot of time focusing on certain actions (affairs) instead of pushing the plot forward. I felt that some of the characters development was sacrificed, in an attempt to create a bit of drama in the book. By the end of the book it was hard for me to feel sympathetic for the characters.

The book was well written, and the first half had a lot of strength to it, but by the end I felt it began t unravel. I would have liked it much better if it had continued to focus on the social-economic and cultural struggles, rather than the individual characters personal affairs.

Would I recommend it to read: I think I still would, I'm sure a lot of readers would enjoy the book more than I did.

What to read next: The other books from the Giller shortlist, I've been enjoying reading them all. Even if I don't enjoy every single one, it's interesting to see the variety the shortlist had.

Challenges: Canadian Reading Challenge 5

Book Review: Halcyon

Title: Halcyon (SGA: 4)

Author: James Swallow

Pages: Ebook (Approx 304)

Summary: Might makes right

In their ongoing quest for new allies, Atlantis's flagship team travels to Halcyon, a grim industrial world where the Wraith are no longer feared—they are hunted. Horrified by the brutality of Halcyon's warlike people, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard soon becomes caught in the political machinations of Halcyon's aristocracy. In a feudal society where strength means power, he realizes the nobles will stop at nothing to ensure victory over their rivals.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rodney McKay enlists the aid of the ruler's daughter to investigate a powerful Ancient structure, but McKay's scientific brilliance has aroused the interest of the planet's most powerful man—a man with a problem he desperately needs McKay to solve.

As Halcyon plunges into a catastrophe of its own making the team must join forces with the warlords—or die at the hands of their bitterest enemy...

My Rating: 8.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Another great Stargate book read, this one may have moved the plot on a little slower, but it was still a fantastic story.

I enjoyed the description of the society, it was very steampunk and I think the author did a good job at showing the reader all the different elements of the society, you were able to get a very well rounded grasp at the social, political and culture aspects of the society as the story progresses, realizing the society is quite dark in its treatment of those below them. This book moved a little more slowly than some of the others I've read, but I thought it worked really well. It focused a lot on interactions between the characters and some of the moral dilemmas between the two cultures.

Characterization was also well done. I don't remember the characters being written too out of character, although I seem to remember I had a few issues with how Teyla was handled. I do find Ronan's impulsiveness annoying, especially in this book. I'm always surprised he doesn't face more consequences for interfering with things he shouldn't, more, I've always question that, I get it's who he is, but when you're part of a team, you kind of need to think of your decisions and how thud to think of your decisions and how the reflect the team as a whole - even if his intentions were good ones. A good addition to the Stargate book collection.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to any Stargate fan, well worth reading.

What to read next: More Stargate of course!

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge

Saturday, November 26

Book Review: Year of Wonders

Title: Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plauge

Author: Geraldine Brooks

Pages: 304

Summary: When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated mountain village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the plague year 1666, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice: convinced by a visionary young minister they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. But as death reaches into every household, faith frays. When villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive, a year of plague becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I didn't dislike the book, I didn't enjoy it either. There wasn't much to the book, the characters, writing and story were all just average for me. There wasn't anything that pulled me in to keep my attention, just a group of characters going through the motions to survive.

I figured the book would be a slow moving book, that would help develop the characters and how the situation impacted them. Which it did, the author managed to pull that off nicely, but the characters were to one sides, it was hard to connect to them and their situation emotionally, which is what is needed in a book like this. The focus on characters was there, but it wasn't enough. They came off as average characters, without the emotional strength to carry the book.

The author did do a good job at creating a historically accurate book. It appeared to be well researched, but the book didn't seem to move beyond that - it was just an average historical fiction.

Would I recommend it to read: If you enjoy historical fiction yes. Otherwise, I'm not sure I would.

What to read next: I've heard a lot of people rave about the author, so I'd suggest more by the author.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge

Book Review: The Antagonist

Title: The Antagonist

Author: Lynn Coady

Pages: EBook (Approx 257)

Summary: Against his will and his nature, the hulking Gordon Rankin ("Rank") is cast as an enforcer, a goon -- by his classmates, his hockey coaches, and especially his own "tiny, angry" father, Gordon Senior. Rank gamely lives up to his role -- until tragedy strikes, using Rank as its blunt instrument. Escaping the only way he can, Rank disappears. But almost twenty years later he discovers that an old, trusted friend -- the only person to whom he has ever confessed his sins -- has published a novel mirroring Rank's life. The betrayal cuts to the deepest heart of him, and Rank will finally have to confront the tragic true story from which he's spent his whole life running away.

With the deep compassion, deft touch, and irreverent humour that have made her one of Canada's best-loved novelists, Lynn Coady delves deeply into the ways we sanction and stoke male violence, giving us a large-hearted, often hilarious portrait of a man tearing himself apart in order to put himself back together.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I started off not enjoying the book, as the protagonist came off as bitter and angry, which I grew tired o quickly, but eventually I began to see a different side of the story, while I never truely enjoyed the main character, I eventually enjoyed the story and how well the author carried it through.

The character, Rank, is one I found hard to like. He had a troubled past, and a lot of hardships growing up, but he is also such an bitter and angry person, it seeps off the pages. Originally I found it off-putting, but once I read further into the book, I found it worked for the character, the author did a great job at shaping out this character into someone very believable and at times complex.

The writing was also well done, the author did a fantastic job at pulling off how the story was told, a series of Emails ( and at time rants) as the character attempts to write a book about himself to an old friend. This was something that may not have worked, but the author pulled it off wonderfully. I also enjoyed some of the witty comments and interactions between the characters, once I got past my initial issues with Rank, I was able to see the author's style of writing more clearly. Overall a good read, I had issues with it, especially connecting to the character, but I can appreciate what the author did, and she executed her story quite nicely.

Would I recommend it to read: I think I would. Like I said above, I did have some issues, but I think there are a lot of readers out there would really connect to Rank.

What to read next: This is off the Giller short list, so the other Giller shortlisted books of 2011 (The Cat's Table, Free World, Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, Half-Blood Blues, The Sisters Brother)

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, Canadian Reading Challenge 5

Book Review: Personal Demon

Title: Personal Demon

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Pages: 418

Summary: Hope Adams looks like a Bollywood princess, but in reality she is a powerful half-demon with a nose for chaos and an insatiable lust for danger. She can’t help it, it’s in her blood. But Hope is determined to use her powers for good. So when the head of the powerful Cortex Cabal calls in a debt and asks her to infiltrate a gang of bored, rich supernaturals, who have been stirring up trouble, she can’t resist. But then she ends up immersed far deeper than she expected, she has no choice but to turn to her crooked werewolf ex-boyfriend, and heir to the Cortex Cabal for help.

In typical Kelley Armstrong fashion, Personal Demon takes the reader on an energetic ride into a realm where the supernatural and the human coexist on the edge of darkness, romance, and eternity, and collide in devilish adventure.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I enjoyed the eighth book in the series, I was also a bit let down with the book, compared to some of the others, it wasn't up to par.

The overall plot and story was interesting and the author tied in Hope nicely, especially from her appearances in the other novels, the character flowed into her own story nicely. She's not my favourite character from the series, but her supernatural powers and her character development were well done and interesting. Although, I did find the author reinforced some her characteristics more than needed, the character was well rounded.

The plot was good, it moved a little slower in the first half of the book, a lot slower than some of the other books, but it was interesting at times, a few things surprised me, while a few other "twists" were obvious fakeouts - especially knowing what and who are in later books, but one twist would have been great if I had read the books before later ones were published. Would have been great if something was never revealed to a later book. One big issue with the plot was that, it switched from Hope to Lucas' point of views, which I liked, because it gave different perspectives on what was happening, but I felt the Lucas sub-plot overshadowed Hope's story line. Yes it was setting up for a future storyline, but this was a book about Hope as the main focus and Lucas as a secondary factor.

A good book within the series, but certainly not the best.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it wasn't the strongest book in the series, but wasn't the worst either.

What to read next: Living With the Dead is the next book in the series.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Canadian Reading Challenge 5, Fall into Reading Challenge, Fantasy Challenge

Friday, November 11

October Wrap-Up!

Well, October has come and gone and now there are about 40 days left in the year! Can you believe it? This month was another great reading month, I read a lot of books, finished a challenge, well on my way to finishing a handful more and I participated in the 24 hour read-a-thon, and had a blast doing it - all in all a great reading month for me.

The Books

This month I read a whooping 15 books! I'm so happy with that number. Read some good books too, including the ones I finished during the read-a-thon, which was a big help for me reading as many books as I did this month. I read 8 Ebooks and 7 print books - I'm using my ereader a lot more than I thought I would, I love using it for library books - no more library fees for me! My favourite book this month by far was The Night Circus - this book is a must read! Beautiful Assassin is a very, very close second. My least favourite book is a tie between The Finkler Question and The Cloud Messenger. I would also like to give honourable mention to I Am Number Four and Dead Until Dark - both books are books I wasn't sure I'd enjoy, especially in my experience of books in the genre that are similar to them - but both I enjoyed far more than I thought - goes to show, should always at least try to give a book a chance. My words of wisdom for the day

1) I am Number Four - Pittacus Lore (Ebook) 7.5/10
2) Beautiful Assassin - Michael White  (Ebook) 10/10
3) The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern  10/10
4) The Garden Party and Other Stories (EBook) - 7.5/10
5) The Sleeping Beauty - Mecedes Lackey (EBook) 7.5/10
6) Valmiki's Daughter - Shani Mootoo  - 7.25/10
7) The Finkler Question - Howard Jacobson (EBook)  4/10
8) Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones - 7/10
9) Roswell - Sonny Whitelaw and Jennifer Fallon 8.75/10
10) Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris (EBook) - 7.5/10
11) The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole -(EBook) - 7.25/10
12) The Cloud Messenger - Aamer Hussein - 4/10
13) Good to a Fault - Maria Endicott 7.25/10
14) Exogenesis (SGA-5) - Sonny Whitelaw and Elizabeth Christiansen (Ebook) - 8.75/10
15) Bluebeard's Egg - Margaret Atwood - 7.75/10

The Challenges

I know I may not finish all the challenges, but I don't care. Most of them I'll finish, and I had fun (and will continue to) with them. Some of the challenges are helping me expand my interest and some are fun trying to find that one book to fill in the gaps titles that start with X anyone? I finished one challenge this month - The Canadian Reading Challenge V. But I plan on reading and adding to the list, but I'm officially done that challenge. As it stands, I'm close to finishing a lot of my challenges. (One was finished already earlier in the month!) So with the exception of one or two, I should have most challenges finished, and I'm doing some pre-2012 challenge prepwork, trying to find some ones I may be interested in.

Completed Challenges
Canadian Reading Challenge V - 13/13 Books Read - Completed October 31, 2011

Ongoing Challenges

11 in 11 - 88/121
100+ Challenge - 96/100
1001 Books Challenge - 13/16
2011 Count Down Challenge - 57/66
A - Z Challenge - 50/52
Book Blogger Bucket List - 14/26
Chunkster Reading Challenge - 4/8
Fall into Reading Challenge - 6/14
Fantasy Reading Challenge - 10/12
Global Reading Challenge - 17/21
Ireland Reading Challenge - 5/6
Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge - 4/16
Take a Chance III Challenge - 7/10
War Through the Generations - Civil War - 3/5

Countries Visited

I was a bit of a globe hopper this month! I managed to visit; Russia, New Zealand, Trinidad, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, India, Italy, Canada, USA, England, and more random plants in outer space.

Bookish Events

This month I participated in the 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I read for 18 - 18.5 hours, finished 3 books. For more details you can read about it here.

Books That Followed Me Home

The Cloud Messenger - Aamer Hussian (Review Book)
Halcyon - James Swallow - EBook*
Exogenesis - Sonny Whitelaw and Elizabeth Christensen*

* These books were out of print but have been released in Ebook. I couldn't resist. Its only in kindle format, and I don't own one, but I can still read them on the computer. :)

In other news, I'm participating in The Holiday Swap - for the second year in a row. It's a great event, check it out here.  I'm also participating in the Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange you can find more details here. 'Tis the season!