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!