Saturday, April 30

Book Review: Late Nights on the Air

Title: Late Nights on the Air

Author: Elizabeth Hay

Pages: 364

Summary: Set against the stunning background of the Canadian North, Elizabeth Hay's seductive award winning novel is story of misguided love, shifting loyalties, and hard-won self-discoveries. Harry Boyd, refugee from failure in Toronto television, returns to a small radio station in Yellowknife in the summer of 1975 and falls in love with a voice on air. The real woman, Dido Paris, turns out to be even more than he imagined. Dido and Harry are part of a cast of eccentric, utterly, beguiling characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group of colleagues at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pas and what brought each of them to the North, are gradually revealed in this compelling, irresistible novel from one of Canada's most highly acclaimed writers.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall I really enjoyed this book. The author is a superb author and story teller. I was easily pulled into the book and had trouble putting it down at times. The story itself is a bit slow moving, as it follows the characters thorough their lives up in the Northwest Territories. I found the characters to be well done, a very eclectic cast of characters. I don’t really have any favourites, and there were times I couldn’t really connect to them on a level where I could really understand their hardships etc, but they were still well done, and there were moments and events that happened to certain characters that shocked me. All in all, they characters were well developed, and handled with care. They all had so many layers, I do think there are a lot of readers out there who would easily be able to connect them, more so than myself.

I love how the story portrays the lifestyle of the Canadian North. The author does such a fantastic job at panting the beauty and ugliness of the north, in all aspects of living their (climate, employment, etc). The second half of the book is by far my favourite; I loved the journey through the “wild” north, and the relationships that were built from it. The author does a good job t describing the setting, but not overdoing it - the reader will easily be able to get the sounds and vision of the Northwest Territories in their heads when they read this book.

My only complaints is bit of the characterization above, and it isn’t a huge issue, I just hoped to be able to connect more to the characters, and that the first half of the book moves slowly. It’s not painfully slow, by any stretch of the means, but compared to the second half of the book, it is a slower pace. Other than that, it was a wonderful book. I love Elizabeth Hay’s writing style, something about it just adds something extra to the whole reading experience. I plan on reading more by her very soon.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to read. I found it to be a well written book, by a very talented author. Had a solid story, and characterization. It may move a little slow, but it's worth reading.

What to read next: Yellowknife would be a good choice (it also takes place in the Northwest Territories.) Also, the writing style and some themes from the book also reminded me of David Adams Richards, so I'd also recommend his work.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, A- Z Challenge, New Author Challenge, 4th Canadian Challenge

Sunday, April 17

Book Review: Northanger Abbey

Title: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Pages: 241

Summary: Northanger Abbey is a perfectly aimed literary parody that is also a wither satire of the commercial aspects of marriage among the English gentry at the turn of the nineteenth century But most of all, it is the story of the initiation into life of its na├»ve but sweetly appealing heroine, Catherine Moreland, a willing victim of the contemporary craze for Gothic literature who is determined to see herself as the heroine of a dark and thrilling romance. When she is invited to Northanger Abbey, the grand though forbidding ancestral seat of her suitor, Henry Tilney, she finds herself embroiled in a real drama of misapprehension, mistreatment, and mortification, until common sense and humor - and a crucial clarification of Catherine’s financial status - resolve her problems and win her the approval of Henry’s formidable father. Written in 1708, but not published until after Austen’s death in 1817, Northanger Abbey is characteristically clearheaded and strong and infinitely subtle in its comedy.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: As always, Jane Austen’s writing is wonderful and elegant. The words flow off the pages, and I’m lured into her narrative. The story it self was also well done and shorter than her other works, if you haven’t read anything by her yet, I suggest starting here. I found this book to be a quicker read than her previous works and the story moved along a lot quicker than her other works I’ve read (or attempted to read, I’ll get through Mansfield Park one day!).

Catherine is an interesting character, and I enjoyed her love for the gothic literature, and was amused by her quest to find her own gothic adventure. This book also has an interesting take on the social class of the time the differences between them. It was a little more obvious than her other books (at least as far as I can remember). My one issue is, although Catherine had an interesting personality, her and the other characters didn’t strike me. They all had the same similar Austen qualities you find in all her books. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a repetitive theme I find throughout her books. This one’s pace moved along a lot faster, but I did feel there was suppose to be more to this story, that was never finished.

Overall, I enjoyed it, I love reading just Austen’s words, they alone always make for a good book, and I did find my self routing for the love affair between the characters to bloom.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes. This was well done, and compared to her other works, a lot easier to read - it doesn’t have a lot of slow parts, and is short for an Austen novel. A great choice for any classic fan.

What to read next: Since it mentioned it so much throughout the book, Ann Radcliffe would be a good start. Also, more Jane Austen if you enjoy her work.

Book Review: Blindness

Title: Blindness

Author: Jose Saramgo

Pages: 326

Summary: A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers - among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears - through the barren streets, and the procession becomes an uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century, Blindness is a powerful portrayed of mans worst appetites and weakness - and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book was good, and it was a great social commentary on society and how it turns on itself and each other during a time of crisis such as this one, showing the sacrifices and actions people take in order to survive, but it wasn’t my favourite book in the genre.

The story it self is good, the idea behind it was interesting, and I enjoyed reading how everyone dealt with the sudden blindness. The characters were well done. I don’t have a favourite character, and I didn’t really connect to one character either, but I think the author did a great job at creating the characters, and how they all dealt with the blindness. The book is very in your face and descriptive in the decline of society. Essentially many of the people lose their basic social skills and become animal like. Which I thought was very clever, and made it seem real - but did feel like it was a little to over descriptive. Details about human waste were, over described; it made for a more realistic story, but there is only so much I can take when that is described. I also found other scenes to be overly graphic. There is a rape scene about half way through that nauseated me. Another example, I could have done with where it was implied, and not described in such detail.

I think that was my main problem with the book, it was a good story, and I enjoyed the struggle of survival. But the detailed nature of it left me uncomfortable - I’ve read books with similar themes happen, but this one was over the top for me. The author is a great author, and the story was a good book, but it was very heavy at times. I’m not turned off by the author, but I doubt I’d read the sequel of the book, I’ll try one of his other works.

Would I recommend it to read: I think I would, it is an interesting story, shows society at it’s worse, and a very interesting social commentary on the animalistic nature of humans, especially when they are caged and treated as like “dangerous” animals. It can be a bit intense at times and graphic, so I would warn some readers, but over all it is an interesting read, and would recommend it.

What to read next: Seeing - which is the sequel to the book, The Road

Book Review: One Amazing Thing

Title: One Amazing Thing

Author: Chitra Divakruni

Pages: 220

Summary: The scene: Late afternoon in a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. Out of nowhere, an earthquake rips through the lull, trapping nine disparate people together, with little food and no way to escape the slowly flooding office. When the psychological and emotional stress become nearly to much for them to bear, the young graduate student among them suggests that each tell a personal tale, "one amazing thing" from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. And as their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life - or - death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A good read and a well written book, and an interesting premise to it, I was worried it wouldn’t tie together, but it did. And I was intrigued when everyone was telling their story of “one amazing thing”, but there were times were I felt the pace of the book dragged on.

I liked how each individual’s story, although may not have been amazing to the reader or an outside viewer’s point of view, but to that individual, the event was an amazing event or an event that heavily impacted their lives and had an effect on who that person was in the present time. The characters were very well rounded in this regard, and although it was a short book, the reader was able to glimpse at two different sides of the character and get to know them more than just a one shot view. I was very surprised on how the author was able to write this so well and still tie it into the main storyline. In fact my favourite part was reading about each characters story, both Malathi and Mr. Pritchett were my favourite stories. My least favourite was Uma’s - she was also my least favourite character.

The characters themselves during the present time didn’t impress me that much. I was expecting a little more development and emotion from them during the present situation then what I got. I think it’s due to the fact it switches from first person (Uma) narrative to third person. Because I didn’t like Uma (I felt that she thought the world revolved around her, everything, including decisions her parents were made, were because of her etc) I think it’s why I didn’t like the parts in first person, and probably part of the reason, I felt the present time storyline - waiting for rescue after the earthquake, dragged on. I really was expecting a little more from the book during the present, I didn’t feel any strong sense of danger and being trapped, trying to survive. It wasn’t very climatic in this sense - although I did enjoy the ending, I found the earthquake/survival storyline to fall a little flat of my expectations.

Overall I found it to be a good read, and felt the author pulled the two stories lines together nicely.

Would I recommend it to read: I would probably recommend it to read. It’s a good choice for a lazy weekend read. It’s short read, but it’s interesting to read about the individual characters stories.

What to read next: I’d recommend more books by the author, I'd like to read some of her other works.

Saturday, April 16

Book Review: Purple Hibiscus

Title: Purple Hibiscus

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pages: 307

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Kambili's world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound - and by her wealthy Catholic father who, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili's father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a university professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father's authority. The visit will, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. This is a book about the promise of freedom, about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood, between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were so many elements to this book I enjoyed, it’s hard to find a place to start. For one Adichie, is a wonderful author, she did a fantastic job at telling a coming of age story, and bringing the reader into the land, culture and feel of Nigeria into the readers home. The contrast between the rich and the poor and between the two religions, were wonderfully done. I was immersed in how detailed the author was in creating a setting and backdrop to her story, without taking away from the story as a whole. It was detailed, but not in a way that it was over the top, it gave you enough to be able to picture the surroundings, and gave you a good grasp on the everyday life there.

I also really enjoyed watching the characters grow. Kambili was an interesting character, and there were so many times I was horrified to what happened to her. I became very attached to her character, which always makes for a good read for me when you are literary shouting at the book because of what happens to its characters. I felt all the characters were extremely well done, even the father, who I despised, was well done character, I wanted him to get what he deserved, but it shows how well the author can write her characters, when I can care about them so much, and root for the demise of others.

Then the story itself, as Kambili is able to grow, and see life outside her family home, it was such a good book, I didn’t care the pace was slow. The writing was superb, as was how the story was told. The only issue I really had was the ending. I was fine with it, but at the same time wanted more, it felt a little rushed to me, so I would have liked a little more explanation to it. It was also a bit uncomfortable at times, as it does touch on child abuse, and spousal abuse. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it was unsettling. Other than that, it was a great book.

Would I recommend it to read: Highly recommend this book, and this author. It can be intense at times, it does deal with child abuse, so I would also warn readers out there. But it’s such a good read, if you enjoy coming of age novels it’s definitely well worth reading.

What to read next: I’d definitely try the author again, looking forward to Half a Yellow Sun.

Sunday, April 3

March Wrap Up!

Another month gone, and it feels like I blinked and missed it! It's hard to believe the year is a quarter of the way done. With that being said, I'm having a good reading year. I'm enjoy the books I read for the most part, and reading more new authors and getting my TBR list, somewhat under control - If only the bookstores would stop enticing me!

I'm not quite at the mount I'd have hoped by now, but I'm only 4 books behind where I'd like to be, and I'd rather be behind my goal, and contiune to read at a pace that is fun (and relaxing for me) and still enjoy other things, than be bogged down by reading. I've never felt that way about reading - even when I participate in mass amounts of challenges - I always ensure I enjoy reading, challenges just allow me to expand and explore books I may not have read other wise. And of course I can't stop reading my newest discovery - Stargate books. Seriously, they're so fun to read - I'm trying to limit myself to 1 or 2 a month, so I can stretch them out longer (at least until I get my hands on more!).

The Books

With that being said this month I read 9 books which works out to be 3, 263 pages. This month was a very Canadian month for me, as I read a lot of books written by
Canadian Authors, and take place in Canada. I had planed on reading more Irish books in March, but it didn't work out. But the one Irish book I did read was fantastic! Finally this month, I read a group read book, with the 1
1 in 11 challenge on LibraryThing. The group read was to read any book(s) by Guy Gavriel Kay. And I read one book. The plan was to read at least two, but something happened with my request for the one book at the library. Taking it the entire month to get to me, even though no one else was asking for me. It's now waiting at the library. Doh! My Favourite book of the month is a tie between Tipperary and Alias Grace. My least favourite book was Spider Bones.

The Challenges

I completed a challenge this month - The Canadian Reading Challenge IV. Reading all 13 books, but I'm still participating to see how many more books I can read before it ends.
This month, I visted a few countries, although only one was new to me for this reading year. Canada, USA, France and Ireland.

visited 8 states (3.55%)
Create your own visited map of The World

Books that Followed me Home

8 Books followed me home this month, one of which is signed, as there was an author signing at the book store. Also the set of Premier Classics I bought last year, has released more titles, 9 more titles. I've already bought 4 (2 were purchased in April). (To see the complete set click here). So of course I'll have to buy the rest of the books - even though I already have 3 of the titles in different editions, I need them.

1) Edith's War - Andrew Smith (Signed)
2) The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emmuska Orczy (Premier Classics)
3) Martin Chuzzlewit - Charles Dickens (Premier Classics)
3) Left Neglected - Lisa Genova
5) Late Nights on the Air - Elizabeth Hay
6) Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery
7) Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson
8) The In-Between World of Vikram Lall - M. G. Vassanji

So, that was my month of March in my reading adventures. This month (April), I have a few things that are coming up. I hope to go to a book signing, and Ad Astra us approaching, where there will be quite a few authors from the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre there - which means I'll likely come home with a lot of books, and no money.

Happy Reading!