Sunday, July 31

Book Review: Wings

Title: Wings: A Novel of World War II Fly Girls

Author: Karl Friedrich

Pages: 291

Summary: Sally Ketchum comes from dirt-poor farm folk. She has little chance of bettering her life until a mysterious barnstormer name Tex teachers her to fly - and to dare to love. But Tex dies in a freak accident, leaving Sally to make her own way in the world. She enrols in the U.S. military's Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. At the special school known as Avenger, she learns to fly the biggest, fastest, meanest planes the military has to offer. She also reluctantly becomes involved with Beau Bayard, a flight instructor and aspiring writer, who seems to offer everything she could want. But many people see no place for a "skirt" in the cockpit, and Sally soon finds herself pitted against a high-powered Washington lawyer who wants to close down Avenger once and for all.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I started off really enjoy this book. I loved the premise, and enjoyed reading about WASP and the girls learning to fly, while trying to fight the government and society about whether or not women can be pilots in the army. But it spiralled down quickly for me and became a book that was hard to continue reading.

First the characters were poorly done. I didn't like them from the start and found them to be stereotypical. You have the hard on her luck, backwatter girl, held back by her father, who lost her greatest love of her life and will never love again, who is skilled but still has to prove herself. You have the beautiful tall women, who takes advantage of men, but gets away with because she pretty, she's loud, outspoken and has every man fall for her. You have the guy who appears to think life is a joke, yet has a deep sensitive undertones. These are just some of the examples I found, but the premise of the story had me hooked for the first half of the book.

Secondly, the plot veered away from the original idea, it became less of a story of the women of WASP and more of the story of Sally and her love-hate relationship with Beau and her fight against the Waterman, who has a vendetta for Sally. The relationship between Sally and Beau was forced. But the second half of the book seemed to focus on this "building relationship" between the two of them. It didn't make sense and it didn't add to the story. Waterman was a character I enjoyed, mainly because I hated his guts, but he was a well done believable character, until the second half of the book, the twist involving him made no sense, and added nothing to the story. I really wish the author had stuck with the original idea, and didn't try to add drama and twits, the book would have been a very different and more enjoyable read, if it didn't try to add it in.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I would. Some may enjoy the book, the first half was strong, but it wouldn't be high on my recommendation list.
What to read next: I had to look through some tags on LibraryThing to find one but Flygirl may be a good choice.

This is a LibrayThing Early Reviewer Book. I received this book in exchange for a review.

Book Review: Room

Title: Room

Author: Emma Donoghue

Pages: 321

Summary: To five-year-old Jack, room is the world . . . .

It's where he was born. It's where he and Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. There are endless wonders that let loose Jack's imagination the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells; the imaginary world projected through the TV; the cosiness of Wardrobe beneath Ma's clothes, where she tucks him in at night, in case Old Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it's the prison where she's been held since she was nineteen - for seven long years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack's curiosity is building alongside Ma's own desperation, and she knows that Room cannot contain either indefinitely. . . .

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience - and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was very different than I thought it would be. I figured it would be hard to read, because it is narrated by a five-year-old boy, making it hard to connect to the characters, but it\s nearly impossible to not share some emotional connection to Jack and his character and story will stay with you long after you finish the book

The book is disturbing and suspenseful, but it isn't overly graphic or disturbing based on the content of the book. In fact, the author was able to describe certain horrific events, without having to go into detail. As a reader you knew what was happening, and it was horrifying, but you were saved from any graphic descriptions, because it's told through the eyes of Jake, who thankfully is unaware of what is truly happening on the nights he sleeps at the bottom of the wardrobe. Jake is a character I will always remember. From his life in Room, to his journey and exploration outside it, he's such a sweet and curious child.

The book will make you anxious and keep you reading it as you hope for Jake and his mother's escape, and half way through you get your wish. It was heart wrenching to watch Jake integrate himself into his new world. My only issue with the book is the ending was a bit abrupt. I would have liked an epilogue of some sorts, just to tie up all of the loose ends. But other than that, Room was a fantastic book. Well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, the book can be intense at times and it's a book that will affect you emotionally. But the author was able to show the horrific events of Jake and his mother's life, without having to be overly graphic about it. Which I'm thankful for, and I'm sure other readers are too.

What to read next: I'm not sure what to read next, this is a book that sticks with you after you've read it.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Canadian Reading V Challenge,

Book Review: Mistborn

Title: Mistborn: The Final Empire

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Pages: 643

Summary: The Mists rule the night. The Lord Ruler owns the world.
Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.

He failed.

Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Alomancy, the power behind the Mistborn.

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very well and a great introduction into the series I was immediately pulled into the story, and at times couldn't put it down. I'm now wondering why it took me so long to pick up the series.

This book was fast paced, detailed and the characters were complex and realistic. There were times it was hard to figure out who was a good guy or a bad guy - or something in between. Some characters I really grew to enjoy, and I hope they make appearances in the other books in the series. There were a few times I found the characters inner thoughts to blend together as one voice, instead of separate ones - but overall the characters were well done. They really shaped the book and helped make it into an extraordinary one.

The plot and the detail behind it was also very strong and well down. The reader is given enough information on the historical background of this world to understand what's happening and become interested in it, but leaves enough out to keep you hooked to find out more. I enjoyed the idea of the Mistborns and Alomancy and I look forward to the other books in the series to find out more about them. I also thought the setting and mystery behind the mist added to the story, making it a perfect atmosphere.

A few problems I had were what I mentioned about the characters above, and I found that after awhile the balls and attending them grew a little redundant. After a while they all became the same for me - I'd have preferred less balls and more information on the history behind the world, but overall very well done book, can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Would I recommend it to read: If you enjoy fantasy I definitely would. It's different then some of the other fantasy novel out there, detailed, fast paced and a good cast of characters. Makes for a quality read and I think a lot of readers out there would enjoy it.

What to read next: The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages, which is part of the trilogy. The Wheel of Time Saga.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Chunkster Reading Challenge, Fantasy Reading Challenge

Sunday, July 24

Book Review: The Irish Princess

Title: The Irish Princess

Author: Karen Harper

Pages: 368

Summary: Born into a first family of Ireland, with royal ties on both sides, Elizabeth Fitzgerald-known as Gera-finds her world overturned when Henry VIII imprisons her father, the Earl of Kildare, and brutally destroys her family. Torn from the home she loves, her remaining family scattered, Gera dares not deny the refuge offered her in England's glittering royal court. There she must navigate ever-shifting alliances even as she nurtures her secret desire for revenge. From County Kildare's lush green fields to London's rough-and-tumble streets and the royal court's luxurious pageantry, The Irish Princess follows the journey of a daring woman whose will cannot be tamed, and who won't be satisfied until she restores her family to its rightful place in Ireland

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I wasn't a big fan of the book. I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it either, it was just a story that I read. There wasn't any lasting impressions left on me and it didn't stand out from any of the other historical fiction that's out there about the Tudor period.

The plot bored me at times and became redundant - there is only so many times I can read about how Gera wishes to get revenge on the King because of his actions against her family, how she loves and misses Ireland, her family. Her character affected how I felt about the book. I felt that she was poorly written, she didn't seem to have the mindset of a women during the Tudor period. She seemed immature for her age, and only had one thought in her head. She wasn't complex enough for me, I guess you could say to sum it up.

The book seems to be more for a young adult audience, although I don't think it was a young adult book. But the writing style and content is written for more of the young adult age than it is for adults. Not the best book.

This was yet another book randomly generated for me to read as part of the Take a Chance Challenge. I tried it, I didn't like it. But it wasn't a horrible read - just not my cup of tea.

Would I recommend it to read: Maybe for young adults - but this isn't the best book in the genre.

What to read next: Any Tudor period historical fiction

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Ireland Reading Challenge, Take a Chance 3 Challenge

Saturday, July 23

Book Review: Broken

Title: Broken

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Pages: 397

Summary: Elena Michaels has been on edge ever since discovering she's pregnant. After all, she's never heard of another living female werewolf, let alone one who's given birth. So with her expertise is needed to retrieve a stolen letter allegedly written by Jack the Ripper, she jumps at the chance to distract herself. The job seems simple enough, until Elena accidently triggers a spell placed on the letter and opens a dimensional portal into Victorian London, releasing zombies, disease, and maybe even the notorious killer himself.

Now Elena must find a way to seal the portal before the unwelcome visitors get what they're looking for - which, for some unknown reason is Elena.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This is probably my least favourite of the series up to this point, I was looking forward to the reappearance of the werewolf pack, and all of its glory, but the plot and characters unravelled a little bit for me and the story wasn't what I was expecting and was very predictable at times, something I found unusual compared to the other books I've read so far in the series.

First it was nice to see the werewolves together, as a group they are fun to read about, and I love Armstrong's interpretation of them. Although there is still a lot that hasn't been explained, she does have an interesting view on them. I really wish she would explain more about how exactly Elena is the "only" female werewolf. Part of me wonders if there are more out there and they're hiding out. But I would like more of an explanation in that regard.

I found the letter and the whole story behind it to be weak and predictable, I knew who was responsible, who was leading them on from the start, and was shocked the characters let the selves be puppets. There wasn't much of a climax the to the story, and I felt that a lot of things were forced to move the plot along. It felt like a bunch of separate ideas, Jack the Ripper lore, zombies, and the only female werewolf in the world who is now pregnant, were pushed together as one, without the proper connections to make the story flow into a good story.

The characters will entertain you, like they have in previous books, and the general idea behind the otherworld series is still in the book, but this book is probably the weakest of the series.
Would I recommend it to read: It's the weakest of the series (that I've read so far), but I'm pretty sure it has set things up for future plots etc in the latter half of the series. It's not my favourite, but I'd still say give it a try to fans of the series.

What to read next: No Humans Involved is the next book in the series.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Canadian Reading Challenge V, Fantasy Reading Challenge

Sunday, July 10

Book Review: Three Day Road

Title: Three Day Road

Author: Joseph Boyden

Pages: 384

Summary: It is 1919, and Niska, the last Oji-Cree medicine woman to live off the land, has received word that one of the two boys she saw off to the Great War has returned. Xavier Bird, her only relative, is gravely wounded and addicted to morphine. As Niska paddles her canoe on the three-day journey to take Xavier home, travelling through the stark and stunning landscape of Northern Ontario, their respective stories emerge - stories of Niska's life amongst her kin and Xavier's horrifying experiences in the killing fields of Ypres and the Somme. Told with unblinking focus, Three Day Road is a stunning tale of brutality, survival, and rebirth that marks the arrival of an exceptional new talent.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: It's hard to put into words how I feel about this book, as it has so many elements in a book that I love and enjoy. Powerful, emotional, self-exploration, friendship, reflections of war, survival - these are just some of the themes explored in the book. It was almost impossible to put the book down, and it is one that stays with you after you finished reading it.

The book combines both past and present, as Xavier returns from the fronts of war, and is being taken by his Aunt down the river to their home. While is Aunt reflects on her childhood, as well as Xavier's, he reflects on his time during the war and the evens that happened there - including his friendship with his friend Elijah. In the present, Xavier fights a morphine addiction and the ghosts of the war, in the past, the reader is able to see how he got to where he is now. The author does a fantastic job at brining the entire story together as it weaves in and out from past to present.

The writing was lovely, from the wilderness along the river, to the harsh and brutal fronts of the war, the author was able to paint the picture of the setting wonderfully. The writing on the war was brutal and harsh, but it was one of those books that doesn't glorify the war, but show it's harsh realities and consequences. Particularly in this book it was the madness and morphine addiction. Elijah's character and his journey into madness and morphine addiction was shocking and sad as was its affect on his friendship with Xavier. The author did such a fantastic job at exploring all the horrible results of war that he was able to create some very real and believable characters.

One of the best books I've read all year, it is one worth reading,

Would I recommend it to read: I'd highly recommend the book. It was incredible well done and well written, it is one that should be added to your TBR list.

What to read next: The Celist of Sarajevo

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, Book Blogger Bucket List, Canadian Reading Challenge V

Book Review: The Jade Peony

Title: The Jade Peony

Author: Wayson Choy

Pages: 276

Summary: Chinatown, Vancouver, in the late 1930's and '40s is the setting for this poignant novel told through the vivid, intense reminiscences of three children of an immigrant family. The each experience a very different childhood as they encounter the complexities of birth and death, love and hate, kinship and otherness. Mingling with the realities of Canada and the horror of war are the magic, ghosts, paper uncles and family of secrets Poh-Poh, or Grandmother, the heart and pillar of the family.

Wayson Choy's Chinatown is a community of unforgettable individuals who are "neither this nor that," neither entirely Canadian nor Chinese. But with each other's help, they survive hardship and heartbreak with grit and humour.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I really enjoyed the book on a Chinese immigrant family, living in Vancouver, during the WWII era and how they struggled to identify themselves within their family and their community.

The book told in three different parts, and in three different narratives, as each narrative is told through one of the children's eyes. I found that this worked out very well, as the narratives seemed to flow together - even though each child's perspective focused on something completely different - mainly an event or group of events that shaped them, the story still came together as one story.

Each deals with friendship and loss as one of the main themes, but also shows how the family struggled in their community. As children, the main focus isn't how the family struggled to survive, but you are able to get a good feel for how it must have been like, due to the relationships they built, philosophy of family and friends and the events and "games" the children are involved in.

The writing was well done, it was very easy for me to be pulled into to the book and for the most part, the three narratives seemed to reflected the different voices and not one person.
One issue I had was that, although I enjoyed the three separate narratives, I would have liked a third person, narrative to better connect the three different sections , just to strengthen the theme of life in Chinatown in Vancouver. I think a lot was missed because, the individual sections talked about certain events, and hardships, but it they mainly focused on a certain relationship that shaped that characters life - these were well done, but I wanted more on the hardships of the community as a whole.

I'd definitely read more books by the author or with a similar plot, as I did enjoy this book.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, the book was well written, and the relationships the children build in their own individual narratives were well done and explored. Evenr eaders who don't enjoy multiple narratives would likely enjoy the book.

What to read next: Under This Unbroken Sky

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100 + Challenge, Book Blogger Bucket List, Canadian Reading Challenge V

Saturday, July 9

Book Review: The Fire-Dwellers

Title: The Fire-Dwellers

Author: Margaret Laurence

Pages: 286

Summary: Stacey MacAindra burns - to burst through the shadows of her existence to a richer life, to recover some of the passion she can only dimly remember from her past.

The Fire-Dwellers is and extraordinary novel about a woman who has four children, a hard-working but uncommunicative husband, a spinster sister, and an abiding conviction that life has more to offer her than the tedious routine of her days.

Margaret Laurence has given us another unforgettable heroine - human, compelling full of poetry, irony and humour. In the telling of her life, Stacey rediscovers for us all the richness of the commonplace, the pain and beauty in being alive, and the secret music that dances in everyone's soul.

My Rating:7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I found the book to be slow at times, but I did enjoy the read overall. Margaret Laurence was a brilliant author, and she is able bring the reader into the mind of a housewife/mother of four during the mid 1900's. The way it was written took some getting used to, as the reader is able to read the thoughts of Stacey. I both liked and disliked this aspect of the At one hand, the reader is able to see more deeply into the mind of the narrator and character of the book, on the other hand, it became distracting at times, and slowed the book down as well - but it did help me appreciate the character more than I would have if it were written differently.

The book moves slowly, which was good for plot and character development - the author did focus on making her character believable - you may not like them much, or may think they're miserable people, but they are believable - they are very similar to the type of characterization in David Adams Richards' books actually. Especially taken the time period the book was written, it does do a good job at highlighting the concerns, lifestyle of it. But the slow moving plot was also a curse, as I felt at times the book dragged on. Even for such a short book, I think some aspects could have been omitted. The conversations and attempt at communication with her husband was one of the issues. After a while, it just seemed repetitive and seemed to slow down the plot from moving forward.

All in all, not a bad read, in the least, the book was written wonderfully, Laurence was a fantastic author.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. Margaret Laurence did a great job, at showing the angst and struggles of women-mother-wife, of the time. The reader does get the feel of her emotions and struggles she faces, it may not have been the best in its genre, but the writing is good, and the message is strong.

What to read next: Stone Angel, A Jest of God, A Bird in the House, The Diviners - all of these books are part of the same series. The Edible Woman, Surfacing. Nights Below Station Street, Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace

Challenges: 11 in 11, 1oo+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Canadian Reading Challenge V,

Sunday, July 3

June Wrap-Up - The Half-Way Point!

It's July! The year is half over! When exactly did this happen? This year has gone by so fast and so far it's been a good year for me in both personal and reading. This wrap-up will not only include my monthly statics, but some more indepth stats for the entire year. (The latter will appear after the usual warp-up). Also, I'm a couple of days late, but Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians out there!

The Books

It's been another good month of reading for me, I was able to read 10 books this month. Not bad at all if I do say so myself. This month I managed to read three short story collections and branch out my reading to books I'd likely never have picked up if it weren't for my reading challenge. One ebook was included in this months reading. My favourite book of the month a toss up between "Cold Mountain" and "Dust to Dust." Although, if I
had to pick a single short story out of the three collections I read, hands down it would be "Xingu." My least favourite book of the month was "Daughters of Rome."

It's the half way point, and I'm a little under the amount of books I had hoped to have read, I am very happy with my challenge progress. I completed a challenge this month, started a new one and failed one - okay that last one wasn't so good. But I did come close. I failed the S
pring Reading Thing - I always have issues with challenges where you select the books you read before hand. I'm usually okay with selecting a certain type of book, page amount or limiting it to pages or regions, but selecting a list, and sticking to it in a shorter period of time is a challenge for me (it is called a challenge after all) - even if we're allowed to change them, I felt like I cheated my self - had to change numerous books on my list - I came close to finishing, but didn't. Ah well I shall redeem my self when the host hosts her annual fall challenge. I hope!

Completed Challenges
Historical Reading Challenge - Completed June 12, 2011 - 10/10 book read.

Failed Challenges

Current Challenges
11 in 11 - 51/121

This month I visited a few counties including, Canada, USA, Mexico, Congo, and Italy.

Books That Followed Me Home

Only 5 came home with me this month. The Premier Classics Box Set released more titles, so I've been buying the missing gaps, this month I bought the final five I had missing. Even though I previously owned three of the titles.

1) Bleak House - Charles Dickens
2) Little Dorit - Charles Dickens
3) Dracula - Bram Stocker
4) Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
5) Women in Love - D. H. Lawrence

Half-Way Statistics
So I thought I add a little extra to this update, and show some fun statics of the books I've read so far this year.

Genre/Type/Subject Specific etc.
Canadiana (Canadian Books and Authors) - 14 Books
Women Writers - 34 Books
Series - 18 Books
Fantasy/Sci-Fi - 12
1001 Books -7

Fiction: 49
Short Story Collections: 3

Ebooks - 1
Print - 51

Pages Read - 14,334

Ratings Breakdown
Books Rated 9+ : 6
Books Rated 7 - 8.75: 33
Books Rated 5 - 6.75: 11
Books Rated 3.75 and Under: 2

Other Fun Facts
Books Bought / Received: 64

Countries Visited: 15
Afghanistan / Austria-Hungary / Canada / China / Congo / England / France / Ireland / Italy / Mexico / Nigeria / Portugal / Scotland / Ukraine / USA

Bookish Events/Author Meetings: 1 Event, and I think 3 meet-ups.

Saturday, July 2

Under The Midnight Sun - Read-a-thon

As part of The Canadian Reading Challenge V, which started on July 1, 2011. John of The Book Minds Set is hosting a 24 hour reading challenge - Under the Midnight Sun - to help swing in the 5th year of the reading challenge. Which I'm participating in.

Here's the details
The Under The Midnight Sun Readathon begins today! Reading and blogging about Canadian books for a full 24 hours! (12:00 noon, July 2nd - 12:00 noon July 3rd) Please take the time to encourage and coax these people along. Many people read to fall asleep, so reading (and blogging) for 24 hours could be quite challenging. If you're not taking part, please take the time to visit these blogs and offer your support. If you are taking part, good luck!

Click this link to go to the read-a-thon page.

Here's a list of books I have that I'll try to read for the read-a-thon.

The Fire-Dwellers
Good to Fault
The Piano Man's Daughter
The Heart Specialist
The Tin Flute
Three Day Road
Jade Peony
The English Man's Boy
Valmiki's Daughter

I don't plan on reading all of these, or anywhere close to all, this is just a list of books from my TBR Canadiana books. Good luck to all who are participating. I'll update periodically throughout the day.

FIRST UPDATE: 5 - 6 Hours reading, 1 book read.

Well, I've only read for about 5-6 hours. Dinner, procrastination and a shopping trip that was longer than I though interfered. But I have finished a book. It wasn't bad, but the story line did slow my reading down a bit. I'm still awake, and I'm about to read my next book.

Second Update: 8.5 hours reading 9, 1 book read,

Well I fell asleep/crashed about 1. Doing a read-a-thon, after a busy Canada Day Friday, and a busy first half of the day for July 2, well lets just say it caused me to crash. 6 hours later I'm read to do the last half of the challenge. When I fell asleep, I was about half way through the Jade Peony, which I'm enjoying so far. Hopefully I can squeeze in a third book before the end.

Third Update: 11.5 - 12 hours reading, 2 Books read

3 Hours to for me. So far I've finished 2 books and am about to start my third. Debating which book next, toss up between Broken, The Tin Flute and The Three Day Road. Or maybe a combination! I enjoyed the Jade Peony a lot, gave an interesting out look on the Canadian-Chinese life during the early t0 mid 1900's. More in-depth reviews for my books will come later!

Final Update - Hours Reading 14 - 14.5. I had a nice little power nap for the last hour! 2 books and 1/3 read.

I didn't visit as many of you as I wanted - now's the time for that, but read some good books, and started another - about 1/3 of the way through Three Day Road. I haven't finished the Three Day Road yet so between the two books I read, my favourite was Jade Peony.

I did enjoy the read-a-thon though. I didn't make it anywhere close to the 24 hours, still read some books, now have a few new blogs to check out!

Happy Canada and congrats to all the participants.

Books Read
1) The Fire-Dwellers - Margaret Laurence
2) The Jade Peony - Wayson Choy