Tuesday, May 31

Book Review: Midwife of Venice

Title: The Midwife of Venice

Author: Roberta Rich

Pages: 321

Summary: Hannah ha-Levi, a midwife in the Jewish ghetto, is known throughout Venice for her skill in midwifery. When a Christian count appears at Hannah's door imploring her to attend his labouring wife who is near death, Hannah's compassion is tested. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it's also punishable by torture ... and death. But Hannah cannot turn down the money. With such a handsome sum, she can save her own husband, Isaac, who was captured at sea and taken to Malta as a slave of the Knights of St. John. Aided by her "birthing spoons" — rudimentary forceps she invented to help with difficult births — will Hannah be able to save mother and child? And if she can, will she also be able to save herself?
Woven through Hannah's travails is the story of Isaac's life as a captive slave in Malta. Fearing that his wife has perished in the plague, he pins his hopes of returning home to Hannah on his talent for writing love letters that melt even the hardest of hearts.

My Rating: 5.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Although I was impressed and really enjoyed the historical background and era of this book, I have to say, it didn't really work for me.
I have to agree with other reviews out there, the characterization was forced - Hannah was almost Mary-Sue like. Everything went her way, it all wrapped up for her perfectly - two perfectly. The conflict of the book would have been interesting, but it didn't seem to be believable for me, because everything always turned into her favour. It ended up being a vicious circle, conflict arises, things turn into her favour, with little middle ground to solve the issue. I wasn't looking for anything horrible to happen, but for her to fail, or loose at something would have made for a better and believable story. The storyline itself, was fine, but forced a bit, because the main characters were forced, events just didn't seem to work for me. It was okay, but not great - at times it was hard to focus on it.

The historical fiction side was done. I enjoyed the peek at the era - the contrast between life for the Christian and the Jewish religions was well done. The author went to careful detail at bring the everyday life, and details for a good historical fiction - she did a great job at bringing the 16th Century Venice to life.

It made it for a strong historical fiction, but I think the characterization ruined parts of the plot for me. Not bad, but not my favourite.

Would I recommend it to read: I'd say it would be a good book for a historical fiction fan, but it wouldn't be high on my recommend reading list.

What to read next: Jewel of St. Petersburg, Mistress of Rome

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

Book Review: Annabel

Title: Annabel

Author: Kathleen Winter

Pages: 461

Summary: In 1968, into the beautiful, spare environment of remote coastal Labrador, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret - the baby's parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbour, Thomasina. Together the adults make a difficult decision : to raise te child as about named Wayne. But as Wayne grows to adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self - a girl he thinks of "Annabel" - is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was very well written, the author's writing style is almost lyrical, and flows very well. And the story itself, was well told, but it wasn't what I was expecting from this type of story.

The story itself, was good - I enjoyed the slow pace of it, I think it's important to the book in this case to slowly develop the story, and Wayne/Annabel coming to terms with him/herself, and finding who he/she really is. But, I wish the book focused more on the emotional turmoil of Wayne/Annabel and his/her family, it was shown, but not on the level I would have liked. In this case I would have loved to se multiple narratives, from each character, so I could really get into their heads, as they come to terms with Wayne/Annabel - especially for Wayne/Annabel. I also felt it focused more on the physical side of hermaphaditeism - some details about the surgeries etc. I could have done without. But, overall, the story was well done.

I also felt the characters could have been more, formed. There development, was slow, and progressed throughout the book, but by the end, I didn't feel like I really knew who they really were. Some also felt a little stereotypical - but with that being said, these stereotypes might be a glimpse of the life in the small community in Labrador. Which, I did enjoy reading about, however small it was, the author did enable the reader to glimpse at life in small town in Labrador.

The author's writing is what made the book for me - she is a beautiful storyteller and writing, it was very easy to be pulled into the page and just read the book. Lovely writing, I will definitely read more by this author.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, the writing style and is beautiful and the story is fairly good. This book is especially good for anyone who enjoys self-exploration novels.

What to read next: Middlesex

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Chunckster Challenge, Spring Reading Thing

Book Review: Petals From the Sky

Title: Petals From the Sky

Author: Mingmei Yip

Pages: 338

Summary: When twenty-year-old Meng Ning declares that she wants to be a Buddhist nun, her mother is aghast. In her eyes, a nun's life means only deprivation - "no freedom, no love, no meat." But to Meng Ning, it means the chance to control her own destiny, and to live in an oasis of music, art and poetry far from her parents' unhappy union.
With an enigmatic nun known as Yi Kong "Depending on Emptiness," as her mentor, Meng Ning spends the next ten years studying abroad, disdaining men, and preparing to enter the nunnery. Then, a fire breaks out at her Buddhist retreat, and Meng Ning is carried to safety by Michael Fuller, a young American doctor. The unprecedented physical contact stirs her curiosity. And as their tentative friendship grows intimate, Meng Ning realizes she must choose between the sensual and the spiritual life.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall, I enjoyed the book. It wasn't exactly what I expected, but it was an enjoyable, well written read.

I enjoyed the author's writing style and story telling ability. I found that I was interested in what she had to say throughout the book, even if the story itself wasn't what I was expecting, and seemed to pulling in multiple different directions. I enjoyed the cultural aspects tied into the book, along with the story of self discovery and self examination. And the small glimse into Buddhism was well done.

But, the was a large part of it, that didn't work for me. I found the character development to be all over the place, and maybe even a bit force - things just didn't flow well together. I also couldn't really connect to the characters and I wasn't a big fan of Michael. I found it hard to see what Meng Ning saw in him. On the other hand, I did enjoy the relationship between Meng Ning and her mother - that was one relationship and development that I did find to be well done.
Overall, the characters and their development may not have been the best, and the story wasn't exactly what I expected, but I did find it to be well written and told - with a lovely background of the Chinese culture.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It's not exactly what I expected, but it is an interesting story. I enjoyed the background and cultural tidbit more than anything else.

What to read next: I'd read more books by the author. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Global Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, Spring Reading Challenge,

Saturday, May 28

Book Review: The Bone Cage

Title: The Bone Cage

Author: Angie Abdou

Pages: 233

Summary: Digger, an 85 kilo wrestler, and Sadie, a 26-year-old speed swimmer, stand on the verge of realizing every athlete's dream—winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Both athletes are nearing the end of their athletic careers, and are forced to confront the question: what happens to athletes when their bodies are too old and injured to compete? The blossoming relationship between Digger and Sadie is tested in the all-important months leading up to the Olympics, as intense training schedules, divided loyalties, and unpredicted obstacles take their draining toll. The Olympics, as both of them are painfully aware, will be the realization or the end of a life's dream.

The Bone Cage captures the physicality, sensuality, and euphoric highs of amateur sport, and the darker, cruel side of sport programs that wear athletes down and spit them out at the end of their bloom. With realism and humour, author Angie Abdou captures athletes on the brink of that transition—the lead-up to that looming redefinition of self—and explores how people deal with the loss of their dream.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This may not be my favourite read of the year, and I do admit, it's not my usual genre (sports related fiction), I doubt I read more of this type of fiction, but the book did surprise me - I enjoyed it far more than I thought. The book had far more depth to the story than I would have thought, fairly good characterization, and a good story line.

I did enjoy following the two athletes on their journey to the Olympics, it showed just how much they sacrifice to meet the Olympic dream - physical, psychological and emotional. I think it's ridiculous the things they do to get to that point, but the author did a fantastic job showing the story behind those we see standing at the podium, and just how much it takes to get there. This interested me far more than I thought.

Although the characters were well done, I wasn't a big fan of them. Especially Sadie, her whole personae bothered me. I enjoyed reading about her struggles as an athlete, but as a person, I didn't like her at all. Digger was a little more enjoyable to read, as were his friends, but they weren't very memorable characters - to me they were just there to move the story along. Their story was well told, but them as characters didn't stick with me. The author did do a good job at creating them, but I couldn't connect to them.

Overall not a bad book - a story that kept me interested, in a genre I usually avoid.

Would I recommend it to read: Not my favourite book out there, but I'd still recommend the book to some readers. I do think there are a lot out there who would enjoy the book, the story, the sacrifices etc.

What to read next: The other 2011 Canada Reads books - Unless, Birth House, Essex County, The Best Laid Plans

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

Wednesday, May 25

Book Review: Left Neglected

Title: Left Neglected

Author: Lisa Genova

Pages: 322

Summary: Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children - Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources t Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son's teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it's a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon that is about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life n air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road one second to long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah must pay close attention to the details surrounding her, including her formerly absent mother. Without n awareness of the food on the left side of her plate or even her own left hand, she is forced to search for answers in the void of this strange hemi-world - both about the past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny - her new, true life - may lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all of the success in the world s close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very well written, well told book. At times it was powerful on how a person copes with not only a traumatic brain injury, but re-discovering herself, and rebuilding the relationship with her mother. It ended up being a good book for me.

The book did start off slow, and in the first part of the book, I really hated Sarah's character, I'm all for the mom who does everything, her personality to her life and family bothered me. I loved the idea of the career-woman-mom, but she always made it sound like parenthood was a chore, and something not worth her time in her busy schedule. I did enjoy how she grew in the book. The author did do a fantastic job, with all of her characters and their development. I didn't necessarily connect to them, and I didn't have a favourite, but she did a do a good job with their development.

I also liked the overall story and the journey through recovering and coping with a traumatic brain injury. I can't even fathom what something like that must be like to go through, and the author did a good job at invoking the emotion of it. I'm undecided if I liked the lighter tone though. I thought it be a more emotional, serious book. But it was written in a lighter tone, with more humour side, she doesn't take away from the serious, and it's not a laugh-out-loud book, bt just written with a lighter tone. I was hoping for a more serious book, but I still enjoyed what I got.

Overall, a wonderful well written novel, well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It was a great book, well written and told. I may not have enjoyed the character as much as I liked, I think there are a lot of readers out there who would enjoy and connect to the character. Nonetheless it's a well told story, well worth reading.

What to read next: Turtle Valley. I haven't read it yet, but it looks like there are some similar themes.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, A - Z Challenge, New Author Challenge, Spring Reading Thing

Tuesday, May 24

Book Review: The Namesake

Title: The Namesake

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Pages: 291

Summary: 'The Namesake' is the story of a boy brought up Indian in America. 'When her grandmother learned of Ashima's pregnancy, she was particularly thrilled at the prospect of naming the family's first sahib. And so Ashima and Ashoke have agreed to put off the decision of what to name the baby until a letter comes!' For now, the label on his hospital cot reads simply BABY BOY GANGULI. But as time passes and still no letter arrives from India, American bureaucracy takes over and demands that 'baby boy Ganguli' be given a name. In a panic, his father decides to nickname him 'Gogol' -- after his favourite writer. Brought up as an Indian in suburban America, Gogol Ganguli soon finds himself itching to cast off his awkward name, just as he longs to leave behind the inherited values of his Bengali parents. And so he sets off on his own path through life, a path strewn with conflicting loyalties, love and loss! Spanning three decades and crossing continents, Jhumpa Lahiri's much-anticipated first novel is a triumph of humane story-telling. Elegant, subtle and moving, 'The Namesake' is for everyone who loved the clarity, sympathy and grace of Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize-winning debut story collection, 'Interpreter of Maladies'.

My Rating: 5.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this book, as I'm fairly indifferent about it. I liked the writing style and the general idea behind the story but I didn't like the characters that much, and found that aspects of the story dragged a bit. There were parts of it I just didn't care for.

The author is good at storytelling, and there were parts I found touching, but I think there were aspects, such as characterization, that could have been improved to make this a better readign experience. I think that that this was my major problem - a story on self discovery/ finding one's identify, but I couldn't care enough about the main character to really get into the book like I'd like to have.

The book is just one of those books that I didn't dislike, but I didn't like either.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure. I've heard great things about her other works, but I'm not sure I'd recommended this one. There was just something missing from the book, and I'm still not sure where I stand on it.

What to read next: I'd read the Interpreter of Maladies

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, A - Z Challenge, New Author Challenge, Take a Chance Challenge

Sunday, May 15

Book Review: The Sojourn

Title: The Sojourn

Author: Andrew Krivak

Pages: 191

Summary: Inspired by the author’s own family history, The Sojourn is the story of Jozef Vinich, who was uprooted from a 19th-century mining town in Colorado by a shocking family tragedy to return with his father to an impoverished shepherd’s life in rural Austria-Hungary. When war comes, Jozef joins his cousin and brother-in-arms as a sharpshooter on the southern front, where he must survive a perilous trek across the frozen Italian Alps and capture by a victorious enemy.

As poetic as Cold Mountain and The English Patient, this novel evokes a time when Czechs, Slovaks, Austrians, and Germans fought on the same side while divided by language, ethnicity, and social class in the most brutal war to date. It is also a poignant tale of fathers and sons, addressing the great immigration to America and the desire to live the American dream amid the unfolding tragedy in Europe.

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a well written, story, about a young boy who the reader sees grow up from boyhood, to a young sharpshooter in the First World War. The author did a phenomenal job at writing the story and pulling the reader in, from the shocking prologue of the book, to growing up in the mountains, learning to hunt and survive, and the battles between the Austrian-Hungarians and the Italians, the author debut novel is an excellent example of a World War One story.

For such a short novel, the book has multiple layers, starting out as a coming of age story, as the reader watches the character Jozef grow from a young boy into adulthood, and how the people around him. The friendship between Zlee and Jozef was beautifully written, as they grow up together learning from Jozef’s father, to fighting side by side in the trenches. The author has done a fantastic job, at creating believable and concrete characters, especially in such a short novel. The author also brings the reader into trenches of the First World War, a different perspective than what I’ve normally read, but his quality of writing on the war was well done.

I would have liked more of the book to have been during the first world war, perhaps even long book to do this, it still worked well being short novel, but I would have liked to see a bit of a longer in some aspects of it. I enjoyed how it was broken down into three sections, before the war, during the war, and after the war, which included his capture by Italian soldiers, but I was left with wanting more.

Overall, it was lovely coming-of-age story, during the First World War.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It's a strong coming of age story, and war story. The writing quality is up there with Hemingway and other writers of the like. He doesn't over describe things, but still tells a beautiful story, I was reminded slightly of Hemingway at times.

What to read next: The Wars, All Quiet on the Western Front, Farewell to Arms

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Historical Fiction, New Author Challenge

This was a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Book.

Book Review: The Help

Title: The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Pages: 444

Summary: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was an extraordinary book, which was next to impossible to put down, wonderfully written, with a powerful message, it is well worth the hype it’s received, and well worth reading. I was pulled into the book from the start, from the author’s writing style, to the intriguing characters, its hard o figure out where to begin.

Usually, I’m not a fan of southern fiction, especially the dialect/accents used in the writing, but in this book, it worked well, and I didn’t mind it at all. I was able to get used to it fast, and immerse myself into the characters and their stories. And it’s safe to say the three characters (along with some of the minor ones) make the story. They were handled with such care, were complex and easy to fall in love with. Minny was a rather interesting character, who will make you laugh, and shock you - the revelation about the pie was shocking, and funny. And I really enjoyed her relationship with Ceila - who’s a character, I’d have liked to learn more about, and whished her story was more wrapped up in the end. But all of the characters were well done, from the ones you’ll fall in love with and think about when you finished the book, to the ones you love to hate, and wait until they get what’s coming to them.

The book is written with emotion, as the reader watches the struggle faced by the maids, trying to gain the rights and respect they deserve. The author does her best, to recreate the time period of Mississippi and bring it to the reader’s min. I felt the book to be a very moving read, as Skeeter worked with Aibleen and the other black maids, to tell their story, and get the message out. The book also had some humour in it, shocked you and made you smile. I wasn’t a big fan of the relationship between Skeeter and her man but, it helped create her character. The only issue is, I wish some of the stories were more wrapped up in the end. Everything was tied up, but I’d have loved a just a few more paragraphs on some of the characters. But, otherwise it was a wonderful book.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes! This was a beautifully written book! I was imposable to put down, filled with emotion, and characters that will stick with you long after the book is finished - well deserving of all the hype it's received, it won't disappoint.

What to read next: The Secret Life of Bees, The Color Purple,

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Book Bucket Reading List, Historical Fiction Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: A Thousand Words for Stranger

Title: A Thousand Words for Stranger

Author: Julie Czerneda

Pages: 404

Summary: Ambushed by unknown assailants, cut off from her escort, and on the run with no memory of who she was, what she was doing on the world known as Auord, or why she was driven by a compulsion to find a specific ship and head for an unknown destination, she was forced to accept the help of a space trader named Morgan. Captain Morgan gve her the name of Sira and a berth on his spaceship, but there was something about him she could not quite trust, something he was hiding from her.

Yet, sought bu the Enforcers of the intersteller Trade Pac, by representatives of the Clan of which Sira herself was a member, and by a mysterious pursuer determined to use Sir for his own endsmshe hd no choice but to ally herself with Morgan - even though each might well prove the other's doom. . . .

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall, I enjoyed the book; I always veered away from Sci-Fi, thinking that the technological and futuristic setting would take away from the characterization and plot, but this book did not. It had both well written, and intriguing characters, and an interesting, and slightly complex plot that kept my attention throughout the book.

One of favourite aspects of the book, was trying to figure out who the Clan were, what there history was, and what makes them so different. Although by the end of the book there are still a lot of unanswered questions, more than answered ones, I enjoyed learning about them and the other races of aliens in this universe. This was also one of the problems I had with the book. The background idea of the clan was great, and not knowing much about them kept me intrigued, but there were many times I was confused on some of the details of the clan, and how their psychic powers and other characteristics worked. I hope I find the answers in other books in the trilogy or prequel trilogy.

Both the characters and setting were well done. Neither is sacrificed to focus on the other, but there was a nice balance between them both. I would have liked a little more history on this universe, know more background information on the “who, whats and whys, in the book, but I think I’ll have some answers in the other books in the series. But the characters help make the book, Morgon is a favourite of mine, he reminds me of a hybrid cross between Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds, but he still was is own character. Sira was a good character, but I’m still trying to figure her out, and who she really is. But Sira, and all the characters, seem to have a lot of depth and layers to them. As for the “space opera” aspect, I’ve seen labelled to it, I didn’t find it was anything like that. Sure there was relationships starting to form, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Again, there seems to be a nice balance between all of the different elements of the book.

Overall, a well written book, with an interesting story line, a good futuristic space adventure, and will look forward to reading more by the author.

Would I recommend it to read: If you enjoy Sci-Fi, or if you want to take a dip into it like myself, this may be a good place to start, so I would recommend it. It has an interesting story to it, and I am looking forward to reading other books by the author.

What to read next: This is a series, so I'd say the rest of the series, as well as the prequel trilogy. Other than that, I don't know much about sci-fi to make a good enough recommendation.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, Futeristic/Sci-Fi Challenge, New Author Challenge, Spring Reading Challenge

Saturday, May 14

Book Review: Evening Class

Title: Evening Class

Author: Maeve Binchy

Pages: 520

Summary: Aiden Dunne needs his new evening class project to succeed almost as much as his pupils do. They too are lookng for something more: Bill to find a way to keep spendthrigt Lizzie at his side and Fran to make sure that young Kathy finds her way out from behind the kitchen sink.

The key to their success lies with the Sinora. Her passion has drawn her from Ireland to Italy and backhome again with a burning desire to share her love of all things Itlaian - and a secret hidden in her heart. . . .

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Although it had a bit of a slow start, this book turned out to be a wonderful read. I can’t believe I’ve let the author’s books sit on my shelf for as long as I have. She is a fantastic writer, who spends time to really create concrete characters, in a wide range of ages and backgrounds, who you really learn to appreciate and watch develop throughout the books, mixed with great writing, and story, turned out to be a wonderful read for me.

Once the book got moving, I found my self really enjoying the book and its characters. Although some characters bothered me, like Aiden’s family, what a miserable lot, some characters intrigued me, and I really found myself, caring about them. One of my favourite aspects of the books were how it was written, each section focused on a different character, and while that section’s character was the main focus, it still gave you information and pulled in other characters stories as well. They way the author balanced this was extremely well done - I was surprised how well it all came together, as it is broken down in multiple short stories, but it’s one continuous story as well.

I also enjoyed the story as a whole, I loved how the class brought all of these people together, who wouldn’t normally come together as a group, and in some way helped them develop as people, help them stretch out to others, and enjoy a fun class. It sends a powerful message, of working towards your goals, helping your selves and helping others, but it doesn’t go overboard in that message, it’s just written it a lovely book. I loved the ending, although there was one part in near the ending that was a little, out of left field, I think the book could have been without, it was the only real part that didn’t flow well with the rest of the story. The only other complaint was the slow start. Starting with Aiden, and his miserable family, almost made me give up. His wife really is a miserable, miserable person, and having a book start out on that made for a slow start. But, other than that, a fantastic read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to read. It has a bit of a slow start, but it was a good book. An interesting and eclectic cast of characters, and a very strong message of coming together and helping the others grow, and great storytelling. I'd also recommend any of the authors books.

What to read next: Sushi for Beginners, More books by the author

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Chunkster Challenge, Ireland Reading Challenge, Spring Reading Thing

Book Review: Best Laid Plans

Title: The Best Laid Plans

Author: Terry Fallis

Pages: 312

Summary: Thirty-something Daniel Addison is jaded and burned out from his Parliament Hill job as a speech writer for the Liberal Leader of the Opposition. After a messy breakup with his girlfriend, Daniel is eager to escape the duplicitous world of Canadian politics, so he accepts a faculty position with the University of Ottawa’s English Department. He soon moves into a boathouse apartment in nearby Cumberland owned by Angus McLintock, a cranky engineering professor in his sixties who is mourning the recent loss of his wife.

Both Angus and Daniel intend to retreat from the world for a while, but fate won’t have it. Angus is desperate to avoid teaching English to first-year engineering students yet again. Daniel, as penance for abandoning his party on the eve of an election, must find a Liberal candidate to run in ultra-Conservative Cumberland. In an unlikely alliance, Angus consents to stand as the in-name-only, certain-to-lose Liberal candidate, and Daniel agrees to take Angus’s English class.

Everything is going according to plan until the voters are suddenly forced to take a closer look at Angus, throwing his certain defeat into doubt. Scrambling to deal with this unexpected development, Angus and Daniel land in the middle of a hilarious political maelstrom that tests not only their friendship but their beliefs in government and democracy.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Well, I seem to be one of the few people who didn’t enjoy the book, or find it funny. Nearly every review I’ve read on this book said it was “side-splitting humour”, well if you find fart jokes funny, cliché punch lines and forced jokes thrown in there, just to make it a funny book, then maybe you’ll find it funny. But I didn’t see the humour in this book. Sure there were some funny bits in there, the beginning of the book showed promise (think of the humour you’d see in 22 minutes, Colbert report etc), but the book just fell apart for me after that.

The story was okay, but it didn’t engage me at all, and I didn’t care much for the characters, Angus was a good character, the letters to his dead wife at the end of nearly every chapter were touching, and he is a character that will make the reader smile, but he is the only redeemable character in the book. I found my self hoping Daniel would be hit by a truck, so I didn’t have to listen to his miserable whining anymore. Overall the characters weren’t well done, there wasn’t much development (except for Angus), and most of them, just seemed to be there, for the sake of being there.

As for the writing, again it’s nothing special. It’s average. It didn’t impress me, the writer didn’t get me more interested in politics, and the humour he tied into the book was forced. It was like he had a joke in his head about a certain political event, or topic (or any topic for that matter) that he thought was funny and tried to fit it into the book. Many times the jokes didn’t work right, maybe less is more would have made it a more pleasing read for me, but overall I didn’t like the book. Maybe I read it at the wrong time, during the end of the election here in Canada, which may have reflected my bitterness towards the book, but it just wasn’t anywhere near to what I expected it to be.

Would I recommend it to read: I wouldn't. I just didn't find the humour in this book, nor did I find it to be a good read. Some readers out there would enjoy it (by the reviews, most seem to), but I just couldn't get into it.

What to read next: If you enjoyed the book, read the sequel. Also since it was a book from Canada Reads (and winner) read the other books - Essex County (graphic novel), Bone Cage, Unless, Birth House.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Reading Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, A - Z Challenge, New Author Challenge, Spring Reading Thing

Saturday, May 7

April Wrap-Up!

And now it's May! Is it just me, or is this year just flying by? This month wasn't my best reading month, I do admit, but I did get to go to very fun book event at the beginning of the month, lasting most of the weekend. But I'll explain more about that later in the post.

The Books

This month I only managed to read five books. Which isn't bad, but it's not great. I was hoping to average 9 - 10 books a month. But ah well, there's still plenty of time to get caught up. This month may have had less books, but overall they were all good books. My favourite was Purple Hibiscus, my least favourite was Blindness, but I'd still recommend it to read, even if it isn't on my favourite list

The Challenges

I still feel I have a good handle on all my reading challenges. I should be finished the New Author Challenge by the end of the month. And I predict one either the Fantasy or Sci-Fi/Futeristic Challenge will
be finished within the next month or two as well. The challenges that have me worried the
most are War through the Generations and Take a Chance. But I'll will try my best, and see what surprised are in-store for me.

This month, I visited Canada, England, and The United States. Also for the first time Nigeria and Portugal - although Blindness doesn't state that's where it is, I thought it could count, as it was original written in Portuguese - and some things I found on the internet seemed to indicate that was the setting.

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Bookish Events - Ad Astra

Ad Astra is a literary bookish event focused on genres such as Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Paranormal/Horror. It's hosted each year in Toronto Ontario, and filled with things that make any book junkie like my self drool. The event had everything from Panels - which were really well done. I sat in a couple, and really enjoyed them. One in particular was the Medieval Fantasy to it's evolution to what we see now. Some interesting
opinions in that one (I'd love to share more, but it was a month ago).

The event also had author readings, I managed to sit on two of them. Julie Czerenda and Guy Gavriel Kay. Both were well done. Thanks to Julie Czerenda's reading, I'm not reading and almost finished one of her books. She had a fantastic personality, and is a great author. Guy Gavriel Kay also did a phenomenal job, left me hanging, but did a phenomenal job (I have since bought the book). I do feel bad, I was very tired that day (Saturday) - the room was packed tight, and it was very hot, and I was trying my hardest not to doze off. It wasn't his reading, It ws just everything else. To make matters worse, I was in the front row. Sorry Mr. Kay, it really wasn't you! May I suggest a coddler room next time? ;)

I also sat in the Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon panel. The authors were great to see, and it was a very fun panel. I've read one book by Mercedes Lackey - a novella but I really enjoyed it. I've been reading to read more by her (so many have recommend her to me). Now I have my chance, as at the end of the Panel we all got some nice swag! Two Books - nice surprise for me. Got them signed too! The books are "Foundation - The Collegium Chronicles" - which I think may be part of series, so I'll have to see if it can be read as a stand alone or not.
The second is Gwenhwyfar - which I hope to start reading soon - this book looks to have a lot of promise.

Another panel was about a horror Anthology called Chilling Tales - Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live - Edited by Michael Kelly. (Cover image above). I also scooped up a book from this, so we'll have to see how things go. Something tells me I won't be reading this book late at night when I'm home alone.

The event also had Book Launches. I never made it to the one I wanted, by Saturday evening I was whipped, so I went home. The launch was for Triptych by J.M. Frey. Lucky for me the author will be at another convention later this summer, so I still have time to get my hands on the book, and all that.

Finally author signings. Oh I was happy about this, but it was not meant to be. When I went to buy the two books, by the two authors I wanted to meet, they were sold out of one (Guy Gavriel Kay's) and the second Julie Czerneda, where I managed to get my hands on one of her books, from an independent book store, I may visit soon. I was all excited, on my way to the signing area, and getting the book all ready to be signed. I was almost there ..... and it was already signed. DOH! (At least I realized that BEFORE I went in and asked for it.)

But despite a few pitfalls, I had a blast, and can't wait until next year!

Books that Followed me Home

1) Small Magics - Eric Buchanan (Purchased at Ad Astra - met the author too)
2) Cold Magics - Eric Buchanan (Purchased at Adstra)
3) Chilling Tales - Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live - Edited by Michael Kelly (Ad Astra)
4) Foundation - The Collegium Chronicles - Mercedes Lackey (Ad Astra)
5) Gwenhwyfar - Mercedes Lackey (Ad Astra)
6) A Thousand Words for Stranger - Julie Czerenda (Ad Astra)
7) One Amazing Thing - Chitra Divakaruni
8) Wake - Robert J. Sawyer
9) The Lost - Book Two of the Legacy Series
10) Nostromo - Joseph Conrad**
11) The Bostonians - Henery James**
12) The Mill on the Floss**

** These three books are part of the Premier Classics set I own. Last year I bought the entire set of 51 titles, now there are 60. So I'm "updating" my collection. You can go to this post to see what I mean

And that was April. I really do wish I had more time to comment on your blogs, I do intend to, it's just that work and personal realtionships are a priority. And when I spend all day at work looking at a screen, its hard to do that when I get home. But I do appreciate all of you! Happy May!