Friday, September 30

Book Review: Brooklyn

Title: Brooklyn

Author: Colm Tóibín

Pages: 262

Summary: At the centre of Colm Tóibín’s internationally celebrated novel is Eilis Lacey, one of the most unforgettable characters in contemporary fiction. Eilis has come of age in small-town 1950s Ireland in the hard years following the Second World War. When she receives a job offer in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Leaving her family and country behind, Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn, and to a crowded boarding house where he landlady’s intense scrutiny and the small jealousies of her fellow residents only deepen her isolation. Slowly, however, the ain of parting and a longing for home are buried beneath the rhythms of her new life - until she begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

My Rating: 5.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I've been reading this book in a read-a-long this past month (September), and although I liked the idea behind the book, in the end the book was not for me.

I liked the writing style, usually I do enjoy a more in-depth style but, this short declarative style worked for the story. The author was able to tell the story and show the reader the immigration experience, including how a person slowly integrates themselves into their new community, but other than that the book didn't work for me.

I didn't like the characters, I gave them a chance, but they just didn't work. Yes, Eilis' housemates were a very odd group, catty and showed a widespread of different reactions and methods of assimilating themselves into a new country, but the characters had little to make them interesting and fleshed out. There was a bit of development for Eilis part of the way through the book, and I started to become interested in the story, but somewhere it seemed to fall apart, Eilis and Tony's relationship was the worst thing that happened to the book I liked the aspects of showing the hardships of the immigration experience, and adapting to the new surroundings, I just wish the author had stuck to that, instead of trying to make a romantic story out of it.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm on the fence, I think some readers would enjoy it, but for the most part, I'm not sure I would.

What to read next: The Gathering

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, Ireland Reading Challenge

Thursday, September 29

Book Review: Belong to Me

Title: Belong to Me

Author: Marisa de los Santos

Pages: EBook (approx 340)

Summary: Everyone has secrets. Some we keep to protect ourselves, others to protect those we love.

A devoted city dweller, Cornelia Brown surprised herself when she was gripped by the sudden desire to head for an idyllic suburb. Though she knows she's made the right move, she approaches her new life with trepidation and struggles to forge friendships. Cornelia's mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbour Piper Truitt, the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake, and Cornelia develops an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman. As their individual stories unfold, the women become entangled in a web of trust, betrayal, love and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined, and that ultimately teaches them what it means for one human being to belong to another

My Rating: 3/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: To say I disliked this book, is bit of an understatement. But I seem to be in a very slim minority in this regard. Surprisingly, I've wanted to read this book for a long, time. I first saw it sitting on the shelf at a used book store, but never picked it up, another book I wanted more turned up - maybe I should have took that as a hint to stay away from the book - because I did not like this one much at all.

To be blunt, I hated the characters and story. I found them all to be cliché and predictable. Yes the characters were flawed - but they were flawed in such an obvious way, it made me want to scream. From the moment I met each character, I knew what was going to happen, who was connected to who, and who "had more to them than meets the eye." I did not like how everyone was connected in the story and the "big secret reveal" it added nothing to the book, and made it more like a soap opera than a book. I also was very irritated how the author had to input scientific terms, references and names into everyday talk - which had little connection to what was going on, along with literary references. It made for a choppy read, and it didn't sit well with the rest of the story.

The only aspect of the story I enjoyed was the Piper-Elizabeth story line. The author had something great there, Elizabeth dying of cancer, and fighting her own emotions and regret. Piper being the friend, there until the end. I am astonished at how differently these parts were written compared to the rest of the story. It was like two different people wrote it. These parts were written with passion and emotion - so what happened to the rest of the book? Where did all of that go? The rest of the book didn't have it, it was like everything was forced, so the book could have that perfect picturesque happy ending.

Would I recommend it to read: Hmm, from my own personal experience no. But so many others love the book. So, I'd suggest reading other reviews, to see if it works for you. I only like a certain type of "chick-lit", so that may be my problem? Bad mood maybe? But, I wouldn't recommend it.

What to read next: There is another book by the author, that has some of the same characters in it. It happens before the events in this book occur. (I think it's called When Loved Dropped In) so if you enjoyed the book, you could start there.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Fall into Reading Challenge

Book Review: An Empty Room

Title: An Empty Room

Author: Mu Xin

Pages: 144

Summary: An Empty Room is the first book by the celebrated Chinese writer and artist Mu Xin to appear in English. A cycle of thirteen evocative stories written while Mu Xin was in exile, the collection recalls the structural beauty of Hemingway's In Our Time and the imagistic power f Kawabata's palm-of-the-hand stories. From the ordinary (a bus trip) to the unusual (Buddhist halos) to the wise (Goethe, Lao Zi), Mu Xins's wandering "I" interweave plots with philosophical grace and spiritual profundity. From indelible elements - a small blue bowl that becomes a symbol of vanishing childhood; notes scribbled by an imprisoned painter in a race against fading memory; an abandoned temple room, the site of a mysterious love story - Mu Xin builds an astonishing, linked bildungsroman. An Empty Room showcases the creative mind of one of China's most extraordinary living writers, who "has rejuvenated the Chinese language for our times."

Titles in the collection include;

The Moment When Childhood Vanished
Xia Mingzhu: A Bright Pearl
An Empty Room
Fong Fong No. 4
Notes from Underground
The Boy Next Door
Eighteen Passengers on a Bus
Quiet Afternoon Tea
Fellow Passengers
Weimar in Early Spring
Tomorrow, I'll Stroll No More
The Windsor Cemetery Diary

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I really enjoyed this short story collection, it's probably one of my favourite short story collections I've read in a long time, as there were very few short stories I didn't like. In fact, in fact this may have been a case where I liked them but some I enjoyed far more than others. The short stories are about various topics, some are shocking, others are a coming of age story, but all were wonderfully told. Each focuses on a different topic, and each are wonderfully written. Some of my favourites were; Xia Mingzhu, An Empty Room, Notes from the Underground, Eighteen Passengers on a Bus (this one I predicted the ending, but I was still shocked by it), Notes from the Underground. The moment when childhood vanished was also well done. I liked all of them, but those are some of my favourites.

Some issues I had, and it may be issues do to translations, but I found typos or maybe just mistranslated words, there were a few times words didn't seem to fit with the rest of the paragraph, I wonder if it's due to translation issues. Otherwise, it was a great short story collection and a very enjoyable read. The author has an amazing talent to give you the full story, in such a short amount of time and leaves the reader satisfied in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especial if you enjoy Chinese Literature, then this would be the perfect book for you.

What to read next: I'd read more Chinese Short Fiction, I don't know any authors, but I think I may check some out.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Fall into Reading Challenge

Book Review: Irish Country Doctor

Title: Irish Country Doctor

Author: Patrick Taylor

Pages: 343

Summary: Barry Laverty, M.B., can barely find the Northern Ireland village of Ballybucklebo on a map when he first sets out to seek gainful employment there. But Barry jumps at the chance to secure a position as an assistant in a small rural practice.

At least until he meets Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly.

The older physician has his own way of doing things. At first, Barry can't decide if the pugnacious O'Reilly is the biggest charlatan he has ever met or the best teacher he could ever hope for. Through O'Reilly, Barry soon gets to know all of the village's colourful and endearing residents and a host of the other eccentric characters who make every day an education for the inexperienced young doctor.

Ballybucklebo is a long way from Belfast, and Barry is quick to discover that he still has a lot to learn about country life. But with pluck and compassion, and only the slightest touch of blarney, he will find out more about life - and love - than he ever imagined back in medical school.

My Rating: 9.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A very entertaining and fun read, I found myself really enjoying the book, and falling in love with the characters of Ballybukelebo. I loved the way the book was written, and how it included the Ulster slang. It took me a while to get used to it, but in the end, I thought it helped create more rounded characters and setting for the book. A small Irish town, that contains all the colourful characters you'd probably find living there if the town actually existed. One character in particular I enjoyed was Dr. Fingal's. He had a great personality, with multiple sides, and some interesting methods in dealing with some of his patients. The characters really make the book, there were many times I was laughing at the character's and their interactions with each other.

The plot itself was also well done and it had me interested throughout the book, it may not have been engaging with a lot of action or plot devices, but I loved how it focused on the characters, town, culture to create a very wonderful and light-hearted story some parts were a little predictable, but I still really enjoyed the book and its tone. Beginning to end, you're able to get the feel for the small town and all it's good and bad inhabitants. The author does a fantastic job at painting a picture of the town for the reader, making it seem very realistic. The ending was good, it didn't stand out from the rest of the book, but I enjoyed it. It tied everything up, perfectly, but it was done in a way where it kept the plot and characters intact - the author didn't force the perfect ending, it came naturally.

Overall, this was a great read and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. I found the book to be well written, funny and entertaining. It has a cast of intriguing, odd yet loveable characters and well worth reading.

What to read next: Ireland, Tipperary, the other books in the Irish Country Series

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Canadian Reading Challenge 5, Fall into Reading Challenge, Ireland Reading Challenge

Wednesday, September 28

Book Review: The Invisible Man

Title: The Invisible Man

Author: H.G. Wells

Pages: EBook (Approx. 184)

Summary: On a cold day in February, a stranger arrives in the village of Iping. He wears gloves and dark glasses, even inside, and his face is covered in bandages. Soon crimes occur that cannot be explained, and the townspeople realize the unthinkable truth: the strange man is invisible--and he is slowly going mad. The Invisible Man is a dangerous enemy who must be stopped. But if no one can see him, how can he be caught?

My Rating: 4.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: At times, I felt that the author did a good job at building up the atmosphere for the story, especially at the beginning of the book but, for the most part I found myself bored with it.

I thought there would be more drama, a little more of a horror/thriller feel to the book (kind of like Frankenstein), but I didn't get that. None of the characters were that remarkable and the story line as a whole didn't work for me. For me it was just the invisible man walking around and causing havoc for the sake of it. There wasn't much depth in the characters, or what drove them to the actions the took and none of them were memorable. It was well written yes, and at the time of its writing, a very original idea, but the plot just didn't work for me in the end. Not at all a favourite of mine.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure. I'd recommend his other works, but not sure about this one.

What to read next: The Time Machine, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 1001 Books, Futeristic/Sci-Fi Challenge

Book Review: A Cup of Friendship

Title: A Cup of Friendship

Author: Deborah Rodriguez

Pages: EBook (Approx. 283)

Summary: After hard luck and some bad choices, Sunny has finally found a place to call home—it just happens to be in the middle of a war zone. The thirty-eight-year-old American’s pride and joy is the Kabul Coffee House, where she brings hospitality to the expatriates, misfits, missionaries, and mercenaries who stroll through its doors. She’s especially grateful that the busy days allow her to forget Tommy, the love of her life, who left her in pursuit of money and adventure.

Working alongside Sunny is the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultra-traditional son—who, unbeknownst to her, is facing his own religious doubts. Into the café come Isabel, a British journalist on the trail of a risky story; Jack, who left his family back home in Michigan to earn “danger pay” as a consultant; and Candace, a wealthy and well-connected American whose desire to help threatens to cloud her judgment. When Yazmina, a young Afghan from a remote village, is kidnapped and left on a city street pregnant and alone, Sunny welcomes her into the café and gives her a home—but Yazmina hides a secret that could put all their lives in jeopardy. As this group of men and women discover that there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they’ll form an unlikely friendship that will change not only their own lives but the lives of an entire country.

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: It was well written and interesting at times, but for me the book was just average. It wasn't spectacular but it wasn't bad either. Some aspects o the book were well done, the author did do a good job at showing what life is like in Afghanistan and the hardships women and the culture as a whole face, although compared to other books this was toned down a lot - you're not faced with the horrid violence that is shown in other books. But something didn't fit right for me. There wasn't a lot of substance to the story the actual plot wasn't what I thought it would be and I found myself bored with the actual story I got. For me it seemed like the author forced the story to end the way it did - the pairings of the characters didn't add up, and frankly I didn't care for that aspect of the story. I was hoping it would focus more on the coffee house bring the women together, who help each other out on an emotional and psychological level, the coffee house as it's centre, as they are faced with the hardships of their culture. Yes that was there, but it was kicked into the background to much, just so the book could end the way it did. It's hard to explain without spoiling the book, but the ending was not what I thought it should.

I found that the characterization needed work, some character go from one extreme to the to the other, but little development to get them there. One character in particular flipped over far to easy and I wish the author had shown his struggles more  - I would have enjoyed this aspect of the story more, knowing the character was slowly rethinking things, even if I was left hanging with his future and how he'd handle him self, I would have enjoyed it better, as it would have been far more believable than him making a complete turn around, in a short time.

The book was well written. Which I think is what kept me reading and kept me from becoming frustrated with it. It flowed well and for the most part, the story came together well, but it just wasn't what I was expecting.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It may not be my favourite, but overall it was a good read, and I think a lot of readers would probably enjoy the book.

What to read next: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge

Book Review: The Cat's Table

Title: The Cat's Table

Author: Michael Ondaatje

Pages: Ebook (aprox. 288)

Summary: From Michael Ondaatje: a stunning new novel, by turns poignant and electrifying—one of his most vividly rendered works of fiction. In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a ship bound for England, and at mealtimes is seated at the “cat’s table” with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, “bursting all over the place like freed mercury.” But there are other diversions: one man talks to them about jazz and women, another about literature. And at night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner—his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.

As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, it tells a spellbinding story about the differences between the tender innocence of childhood and the burdens of earned understanding, and about a lifelong journey that began unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.

My Rating: 8.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I really enjoyed this book, in fact there were times I had a hard time putting it down.

The author was an amazing writer and storyteller. I was pulled in from the first paragraphs and hooked to the end, even in the parts were the plot didn't move as fast, I was involved and devouring it all in, solely on his writing style alone. I'm differently hunting down his other works.

The story itself was also interesting, as a young boy travels on a ship to England. At the people on the ship who shaped him who he is later in life. He had some interesting adventures while on the ship and the reader meets an eclectic cast of characters along the way. All of whom sit at the same dinner table as Michael, and all have some effect on him at some point during the story and sometimes later on in life. It was a fantastic coming of age story and as the reader, we get to see Michael in both past and future and all the in between as he reminisces about his life and memories. I enjoyed being able to see tidbits of different points in his life, and how they all intertwined to his time spent on the ship.

While I did enjoy reading the various storylines, throughout various points of time in Michael's life, I wished it was executed better. There wasn't a lot of distinction between the time lines, so it was awkward at times trying to piece everything together. Otherwise, it was a very good read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I had a few issues with how it was told, but it was still a great coming of age book. Well worth reading.

What to read next: I plan on hunting down more books by the author, so I'd start there.

Challenges: 100+ Books, 2011 Countdown Challenge, Canadian Reading Challenge 5, Global Reading Challenge

Tuesday, September 27

BTFMH - September Edition - With something Super Awesome


So, I've been behind on my posts, so I'm doing a big ol' round up of books that followed me home for the entire month - among one other bookish thing that followed me home. Seriously folks, I had no choice in the matter for this it FORCED me to take it home. Jumped into my hands, all on its own. I tell you, books and book related things, are getting a little aggressive these days.

But, I got a lot of good reads this month. Some books I've been meaning to read for a while, and others just decided they wanted to live on my shelves.

 The first batch of books is for the beginning of the month, and its nearly completely Canadian Themed. First there's Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong - with the exception of the newest book (Spell Bound) and the one that hasn't been publishd yet, I have all the books in the Women of the Otherworld series. I'm waiting for the newest one to be released in trade paperback so it matches with the rest of the set I have. Next there's Bluebeards Egg and Bodily Harm by Margaret Atwood. I'm slowly building up my Atwood collection. Margaret Atwood's recnt stance on standing up for Toronto's libraries inspired me to, er allow some of her books to follow me home. Thanks again Margaret Atwood for doing that!  And  the last book is Sophie's Choice by William Styron. These books followed me home when I was innocently strolling along in the book store.

The next set of books that followed me home, jumped into my cart when I was grocery shopping! The nerve of them! Tonks' my lovely cat, is helping me show these ones.  This time the books that followed me home were Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson. I was planing on waiting until Larsson's book was out in mass market so it matched with the first two I have in the series, but the book, chose me right then and there. Who was I to say no? 

Then there's the books that followed me home during my book store tour and book launch event. I went to Toronto a couple of weeks ago to attend a book launch and while I was there visit my favourite used/indie bookstore. I didn't get a chance to go to the  used/indie bookstore, I was sidetracked by other things,  but a lot of books followed me home from the bookstore where the book launch was held. Those books include; Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales edited by Julie Czerneda & Susan MacGrefor. (The book launch book). I also found a lot of books at the bookstore that made me take them home. The Fate of the Fallen by Ian Irvine, which is the first book in the third series of the three worlds cycle. My boyfriend has already devoured it. I should have bought allowed the rest of the series to follow me home. Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg - I've had the second book of the series on my shelf for a long time, so I decided it's time to have the first one. I also snagged up two more Stargate Books - Stargate SG-1: 14 Valhalla by Tim Waggoner and Stargate SG-1: 15 The Power Behind the Throne by Steven Savile.  The final two books that followed me home that day came from Indigo, which was a couple of blocks away from where the book launch was. I saw a lot of books there that had me itching to take home, including a lot for Stargate books (which are hard to find) one book which was damaged, so I left it behind, but made note of it. And many, many more. But two books did, er join me. An Empty Room by Mu Xin (collection of short stories) and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - which I put aside to read for a while, because all the hype - I am dying to read it, but also worried it won't live up to what I've heard - so I'm waiting a while before I dive in.

The final item, that followed me home, well.... cue the Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme for those who may not know.) I have joined the dark side. I did what I never thought I'd do! I got an EReader. Darth Vader is screaming NOOOO! As I type this (if you've heard about the changes to the new Blu-Ray edition of  StarWars you'll understand, if not, just read on :))

So yes, I now have an EReader - I decided on he Kobo - and I'm already addicted to it. It's very handy to have, and I love being able to get library books on it. Although I do wonder why my library has the third book in a series n Ebook format, but not the other two, it has made life easier. I have a few of the "free" classics on there, but personally I'm preferring the ones you have to buy, they're much more cleaner, and there isn't issues with missing words, characters or typos that I've seen with the free ones. But it is worth having one, I'll still buy a lot of books in print, so many are just better to have in print, but the EReader is good for those books you're not sure on, and library books - buhbye late fees! So far most of the books I've read have been library books, one has been a free classics from project Guteenberg. I did buy the first four books in the Game of Thrones, and two others. And there's a couple I'm debating over right now, just not sure which one I want.

And that's it for this edition of BTFMH. For more details on what this is, follow the link here - BTFMH

Did any books follow any of you home?

Book Launch: Tesseracts Fifteen

This is a little late, but I wanted to share with you all the book launch I attended a couple of weeks ago (September 17). I made my way down to Toronto, to do a book store tour, and to attend a book launch at an indie book store - Bakka Phoenix Books - which by the way is an awesome book store that is exclusively Fantasy, Science Fiction Speculative Fiction and all that good stuff! I have found a new love! Seriously, going to a book launch was great, but at times, it was so hard not to be detracted by all the goodies! (And no, I don't mean the snacks they'd laid out for those attending.) I saw  a lot of books there I wanted, found books for series I don't have yet, and so much more. I'm lucky it's in Toronto, and although I'm very close by, I lack a car, so it makes it harder for me to get there on a whim. But, if you live in the area, and love the genre, go there! Go there now!

Oh yeah, the book launch! So the book launch was for the anthology Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case if Quite Curious Tales edited by Julie Czerneda & Susan MacGregor. It's a collection of Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror etc. Short Stories and poems, and all the good stuff you find in anthologies. A lot of the authors were there who read snipettes from there books and signed the books as well, so it was nice to chat with some them. I was also surprised to see how busy it was there! It was packed, and people say the book is dead? I don't think so!

I didn't get a lot of pictures, as I was busy eyeing up the books I wanted to buy on the shelves and listening to the readings, but I did get a couple. And I missed out on  great group shot of all the authors grouped together holding the books. I was busy trying not to drool over all the books I wanted. Some did come home with me. But more about them later!

 Most of the authors are unknown to me, although a few of them looked familiar, so I'm looking forward to diving into the book - although my bookshelves may hate me later from all the books I might be adding to the book shelves. I'll probably read this book during the 24 hour read-a-thon that is coming up later this month. If you follow this link, you'll get to the publishers' site to find out more details - including the authors who contributed. I would list them, but I just realized, I haven't catalogued this book in my personal records yet. Doh!

Saturday, September 24

Book Review: A Farewell to Arms

Title: A Farwell to Arms

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Pages: 332

Summary: The best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Hemingway’s frank portrayal of the love between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Berkley, caught in the inexorable sweep of war, glows with an intensity unrivalled in modern literature, while his description of the German attack on Caporetto - of lines of tired men marching in the rain, hungry, weary, and demoralized - is one of the greatest moments in literary history. A story of love and pain, of loyalty and desertion, A Farewell to Arms, written when he was 30 years old, represents a new romanticism for Hemingway.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I didn't hate the book, it isn't exactly my favourite from the author.

The first half of the book, the story was slow moving and was difficult to push through. I did find myself enjoying the second half a lot more, I found it was a lot more engaging. The book focuses a lot on the characters; who were well written and well developed. I appreciate the time the author took two develop them, and to create very flawed characters - it did make them seem more realistic. Unfortunately, I didn't care for a single character in the book. They could have died or lived happily ever after, and I wouldn't have cared. So, they author created a well developed, flawed cast of characters, but nothing stood out to make the memorable.

As usual, I have to give Hemingway credit for how he writes a book. I've seen other authors attempt it, and they fail, the story may not have engaged me, but I kept reading, because Hemingway can write, tell his story without saying a lot - put he always manages to get his point across, and even if the book isn't the most engaging, I read on, because I enjoy his style. And I have to admit, this particular book, seemed to be written slightly different than others I've read. Perhaps because he had a firsthand experience in some of the actual events, but it did have, something different about it. I would be interested into finding out, where the autobiographical aspect of it ends, and where the fictional side begins.

What to read next: Old Man and the Sea was well done and well worth reading.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 1001 Books Challenge, Book Blogger Bucket List

Banned Books Week: Banned in Italy in 1929 because of its "painfully accurate account on the retreat from Caporetto" (From the ALA site). The book has also been challenged at numerous schools do to its sexual content. The book has also been subjected to censorship since the time of its publication when words such as "Shit" were replaced with dashes. Find more from this link here. I'd love to find an origional source behind this to confirm it. Very interesting if it is true.

Book Review: Cat's Cradle

Title: Cat's Cradle

Author: Kurt Vonnegut

Pages: Ebook (This version was 260 pages)

Summary: Kurt Vonnegut sees the future in his 1963 novel Cat's Cradle, and not only is it scarier than we might imagine, it is comically much, much crazier. In brief, pungent chapters, he describes a world racing toward apocalypse, courtesy of a deadly discovery made by a brilliant scientist—a matter called "ice-nine"—that becomes the secret weapon of his three incredibly dysfunctional adult children. Along the way, the reader becomes acquainted with an outlawed religion called Bokononism, a Caribbean banana.

My Rating: 8.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was an interesting, funny and overall enjoyable read as the author makes some interesting points using his usual satirical whit.

The author manages to do a great job at getting his points across on religion, technology and human nature, without actually jumping on the soap box, but instead uses absurd example, and some very witty plot devices to show it - especially the idea of dangerous technology in the wrong hands. I found the book to be odd, very odd, yet it was still well written, and an entertaining read. I was left at the ending, wondering if there was something I may have missed, but I don't think you have to read the book to try and find all the deep and hidden meanings to what the author was trying to say. In fact, I think I enjoyed the book, a lot more than I would have, if I had read it in school trying to analyze it, because the more I tried, the less entertaining it became.

Overall a good read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this book is not only a classic read, but well written and funny. I also found it to be a quick read, and I think a lot of readers would probably enjoy the book.

What to read next: Slaughterhouse-Five, Catch-22

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 1001 Books Challenge, A - Z Challenge

Banned Books Week: Banned from schools in Strongsville, OH, in 1972 - this was later overturned in court in 1976. The book remains on the ALA's top 100 classic books that have been banned or challenged.

Thursday, September 22

Book Review: My Name is Mary Sutter

Title: My Name is Mary Sutter

Author: Robin Oliveira

Pages: 364

Summary: Mary Sutter is a brilliant young midwife who dreams of becoming surgeon. Determined to overcome the prejudices against woman in medicine - and eager to runaway from recent heartbreak - Mary travels to Washington D.C, to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of two surgeons, who both fall unwittingly in love with her, and resisting her mother's pleas to return home and help with the difficult birth of her twin sisters baby, Mary pursues hr medical career against all odds. Rich with historical detail - including cameo appearances of Abraham Lincoln and Dorothea Dix, among others - and introducing a heroine whose unwavering determination and vulnerability will resonate with readers everywhere, My Name is Mary Sutter is certain to be recognized as one of the greatest novels of the Civil War.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I enjoyed the detailed account of the civil war; the effects on the families and those who worked on the front lines to save the lives of the soldiers, I found the characters to be flat, underdeveloped and ineffective to make this go from a good story to an excellent one.

This particular story doesn't focus on the fighting as much as it focuses on what happens to those who come back injured, the people who save try them and the conditions they had to work with. While there were some scenes focusing on the front line, the story was heavily focused on those who worked to save the soldiers lives. One of my favourite scenes in the book was Mary racing along the front line, in the aftermath of a battle as she tries to save as many she can, with little supplies. But I wasn't a fan of how the author explained some of the midwifery procedures and the story line with Mary's family and sister weren't well developed, it felt it was brought in as an afterthought, and didn't flow with the rest of the story.

I also had a few issues with Mary, along with the other characters. Mary was suppose to be passionate about wanting to become a surgeon, and although she was constantly striving to become one, I didn't feel it on an emotional level from her. She said it constantly, her actions showed it, but there was no emotion from her to really show how she worked for her dream. I found the same from the other characters, and the romantic relationships between all the characters was no existent. There was nothing believable about them being romantically involved and for the most part, the story would have been just fine without them. The author had a very strong historical fiction, I wish that was more emphasized.

Would I recommend it to read: From a historical fiction point of view I would, as this was a well done historical fiction. But the characters weren't that developed, which took away from the story of Mary rising above social constructs.

What to read next: The Birth House, The Heart Specialist

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, War Through the Generations - Civil War

Tuesday, September 20

Book Review: The Awakening

Title: The Awakening

Author: Kate Chopin

Pages: 221

Summary: The Awakening aroused so much controversy when it was published in 1899 that it ended Kate Chopin’s career. It is the tale of one woman’s search for personal freedom in a world of strict social norms. Edna Pontellier is a young mother and mode wife from New Orleans those norms and thereby defying the bounds of society. After separating from her husband and gamily and entering into a daring love affair, Edna’s resolve is soon tested by that this controversial book is still with us is a testament to the talent o the author and the honesty of her characters. Today, the Awakening is among the finest examples of literary work with the strength and beauty to rise above suppression and endure the test of time.

My Rating: 8.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the story of the book, Chopin showed Edna's struggle to discover herself, and explore her true identity. The author did a good job at exploring the trails a woman faced during the time period, and how Edna was suffocating in her oppressive situation. I enjoyed the idea on how Edna starts to break away from traditional social roles of a woman of her standing is suppose to do, and starts doing something for herself and her own happiness. I both liked and hated the idea of her cheating on her husband, it did make the story that much more interesting - and I can see why it is so controversial during its time. The ending surprised me, but I felt it was very fitting to the book and Edna's character.

I was hoping for a little more from the book, I'm not sure exactly what I would have wanted, but there felt like there was something missing from the story. I also found that there were a few times the story seemed to slow down, and it wasn't the case where it slowed down to help make a more effective plot. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It was a well written and thought provoking story, there were times it slowed down, but it is worth reading.

What to read next: The Bell Jar

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, 1001 Books to Read Challenge, Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge

Banned Book Week: Challenged because of its unconventional portrayal of women in society, sexuality, vulgar language.

Sunday, September 18

Book Review: Speak

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Pages: 198

Summary: An extraordinary and multi-award-winning first novel about a girl who chooses not to speak rather than give voice to the truth, Speak has garnered rapt attention from readers and educators. This anniversary edition is a tribute to Speak’s ability to speak out on the difficult issues, and contains an all-new introduction from the author, an essay about what happens after the book ends, an exploratory guide to inspire further thought and discussion, added resources, and a teaser chapter of Laurie Halse Anderson’s newest book, Wintergirls. Speak is a powerful, moving book that should be read and reread.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was incredibly well written, as the reader you are able to get into the head of Melinda and really feel her pain, as well as her attempt to break free and speak out. The author also hits the nail on high school life, the cattiness, the cliques and the general atmosphere - as much as I hate to admit it. I think it's easy for adults to forget what high school is really like - but the author shows it in all its glamour and horror.

Melinda was a well created character, and you do feel for her. I wanted to smack her parents for being so clueless about what Melinda was going through, along with her "friends." Which makes the whole experience Melinda is going though that much worse. The author paints a very realistic experience for the reader. I do wish there was more to the story, I wanted more after the ending, I wanted to find out more about Melinda and what happened next. I also both enjoyed and disliked the way it was written. On one hand, it gave the disjoined and distraught thoughts and emotions Melinda was going through, but there were times where I wanted more from the narrative, just a little more depth and insight. Overall it was a fantastic read, and is an emotional one.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's a tough subject, but it doesn't go into any details. The reader just sees the pain Melinda is in. An emotional read and one that should be read, it helps get a message out, that is often kept silent. I'd also recommend watching the movie, as it was incredible well done, and very true to the book.

What to read next: Wintergirls, Chains also by the author. I'm not sure Wintergirls is a book I'd read, but I've heard good things about it and also deals with a teenager attempting to cry for help.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge

Banned Books Week: This book was put under fire in 2010 to be removed from shelves in a high school in Missouri. The book was characterized as "pornographic" by the challenger as the reason why it should be removed from the bookshelves.

Sunday, September 11

Book Review: Snow Falling on Cedars

Title: Snow Falling on Cedars

Author: David Guterson

Pages: 460

Summary: San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with murder.

In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man's guilt. For on San Piedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries - memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbours watched. Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense - but one that leaves us shaken an charged.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I loved this book, from the very first page to the very last I was absorbed into the book, making it impossible to put down, this is definitely a book that will be on my top ten list of the year.

The style of writing was beautiful, and the descriptions of the island were incredible, during the storm, which created an excellent backdrop and helped create the atmosphere for the trial, you could almost feel the chilled wind blowing through the room. The descriptions were spectacular and really helped move the plot along, and gave you a great picture of the setting and life on the island. The fog scenes were also, well done, they invoked an intense feel to the story.

The story also explored a lot of issues including racism against the Japanese during the end of WWII and shortly after. The author also does a wonderful job at creating his characters and showing their emotions and frustrations with life, each other and how they affect others. I wouldn't say I had a favourite character, but I was almost screaming at some of them to do the right thing, or screaming at them for how they were treating others because of their own personal prejudices. I also wanted to smack the prosecutor - which made for a very engaging book. The book bounces from the present time during the trial and a horrible snow storm to various places in the past. From childhood memories, memories of war, and memories of life in the internment camps. My only complaint of the book was that there was not a clear cut break when the author did this. He managed to make it work, as certain events would help bring up certain memories of the characters, but I would have liked a more concrete break or something to show the different times (past and present) it took a little while to get use to it.

Overall this was a wonderful, engaging read that I would highly recommend.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It was a beautifully written story, there were times I was completely absorbed by it. At one point my boyfriend came home, and I jumped at the key in the door, because I was wrapped into the story. There are some, horrific descriptions, not a lot, but some that made me shudder and shocked me, but it's such a small amount, I think a lot of readers would enjoy the book.

What to read next: To Kill a Mocking Bird and anything else by the author

Challenges: 11 in 11, 100+ Challenge, Take a Chance 3 Challenge

**Banned Book Week: This book has been challenged multiple times in schools due to its sexual content and its portrayal of racism and prejudice against Japanese-Americans. In some cases the book was retained. The book remains on the top 100 banned or challenged books of the past decade (2000 - 2009). Click the image to get to the ALA website. Click here to see what I'm doing for Banned Books Week.**


Saturday, September 10

Banned Book Week 2011

Banned Books Week is an annual event in the USA, which helps advocate intellectual freedom and the freedom to read right what you want, which happens at the end of the month of September, this year its falls between September 24 - October 1. Although Canada has a Freedom to Read week in February of each year, I do plan on participating in banned book week as well, as it is an important issue. This year my goal is to try to read as many banned or challenged books in the month of September as I can.

Many books are banned by small groups or are questioned by a few people because of their own personal beliefs. Schools have the most amount of challenged and banned books do to questions of age appropriateness material, sexual content, offensive language  and religious beliefs. While it is understandable that you don't approve of a particular book, to attempt to prevent others or other people children from reading it is unfair. Some of the most banned books are some of the popular books read today including Huckleberry Finn (banned/challenged because of issues surrounding language and racism) and the Harry Potter Series (challenged/banned because of issues of surrounding religious belief.) If you want more information on banned books week go to the Facebook page here or go to the ALA Website who hosts banned books week and learn more about banned books weekend which books appear on the lists.

Below  you can find a list of the banned books I've read (this month) along with a short description of when/where/why they were banned or challenged along with a link to my review.  

1) Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson

  • This book has been challenged multiple times in schools due to its sexual content and its portrayal of racism and prejudice against Japanese-Americans. In some cases the book was retained. The book remains on the top 100 banned or challenged books of the past decade (2000 - 2009)

2) Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
  • This book was put under fire in 2010 to be removed from shelves in a high school in Missouri. The book was characterized as "pornographic" by the challenger as the reason why it should be removed from the bookshelves.

3) The Awakening - Kate Chopin

  • Challenged because of its unconventional portrayal of women in society, sexuality, vulgar language.

4) Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

  • Banned from schools in Strongsville, OH, in 1972 - this was later overturned in court in 1976. The book remains on the ALA's top 100 classic books that have been banned or challenged.

5) A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway

  • Banned in Italy in 1929 because of its "painfully accurate account on the retreat from Caporetto" (From the ALA site). The book has also been challenged at numerous schools do to its sexual content. The book has also been subjected to censorship since the time of its publication when words such as "Shit" were replaced with dashes. Find more from this link here. I'd love to find an origional source behind this to confirm it. Very interesting if it is true

Book Review: No Humans Involved

Title: No Humans Involved

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Pages: 398

Summary: Jamie is more than just the party girl she pretends to be. Now well into her forties, the luscious, lovelorn, and haunted necromancer is aware that her days of trading on her looks are numbered. So signing on to reality TV special is supposed to be her swan song . . . until weird things start to happen. As a woman whose special talent is raising the dead, her threshold for weirdness is pretty high, but for the first time in her life - as invisible hands brush her skin and unintelligible fragments of words are whispered in to her ears - she knows what humans mean when the talk about being haunted. With the help of her long-time crush, Alpha werewolf Jeremy Danvers, Jamie finds her strength and courage tested to the limit as she uncovers a ring of perverted would-be magicians, who will stop at nothing in their quest for power.

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started off a little slow for but it wasn't long before it grabbed my attention and became hard to put down. Originally I was reading the book during my lunch breaks, and actually had to take it home and finish it off. This book makes up for the last two which weren't that great and has helped regain my interest into devouring the rest the series.

Jamie was a well written character and was very well developed as well. She had a lot of levels that were revealed throughout the book, and although my first glimpses of the character weren't that impressive to me, she is one of my favourites in the series. I found all the characters to be well written in the book, Eve was back to being that interesting character I liked from her appearances in the other books, I still don't know what happened to her in her own. And of course we finally get more Jeremy time. I was glad we finally got to learn more about his character. He still has a lot of mystery surrounding him, but it was nice to get more time with him.

The plot was also very interesting and fast paced. The reader was given small glimpses of what was going on, which at times were rather creepy and disturbing, but it gave you enough just to make you want to learn more. I did find the part of the plot that was based on Jamie filming her TV show was poorly done. It was often forgotten and wasn't really tied into the story until the end, and even then how it was tied in wasn't strongly done. It seemed more of an afterthought than anything else. Overall it was a fantastic read. I am now trying to make myself wait before I devour the next book. If you, like me, found the last books to be just average, this one should help gain your interest back in the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, as long as you've read the other book in the series. I think they can be read as a standalone, but you'd miss out on a few tibets and background information if you haven't read the other books. If you like paranormal romance than the series is definitely for you. What to read next: Personal Demon is the next book in the series, so I'd go with that.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, Canadian Reading Challenge V

Thursday, September 8

Brooklyn Read-a-long

One of the challenges I'm participating in this year is the Ireland Reading Challenge, hosted by Carrie over at the blog Books and Movies. An optional part of the challenge is to participate in a read-a-long on the book Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.  You do not need to be part of the challenge to participate so anyone who wishes to join in can. Follow this link to get more details along with the schedule.

Carries has set up a schedule (which I'll try to stick too) so keep an eye out for my discussion questions I'll post each week. Below is part of the schedule for the read-a-long page.
  • Section one – September 1st through 9th (post to go up on the 10th): pages 1 through 65
  • Section two – September 10th through 16th (post to go up on the 17th): pages 65 through 136>
  • Section three – September 17th through 23rd (post to go up on the 24th): pages 137 through 203
  • Section four – September 24th through 30th (post to go up on October 1st): page 204 through the end
For more details go to the read-a-long blog and sign up it should be a good challenge! And for me help finish off this challenge, which I just realized ends November 30, 2011 (The challenge, not the read-a-long). Doh! 1 month less to finish it than I thought.

August Wrap-Up!

August is over, which means summer is pretty much over, which means there is only 4 months left of the year and I'm a little behind on my reading! Doh! I will reach 100 books this year, but I was hoping on reading at least 125 and I'm not sure I will at this point. Still I've read some fantastic books so, that's what counts. This month I attended a Sci-Fi convention which had a lot of authors, I talked about it in this post BTFMH - And other bookish stuff. I'm also making changes to the blog. I've added a link to BTFMH to the header links as well as a navigation list on the right hand side (although it's been disappearing an re-appearing). I'm also going to clean up the side bars a bit, removing things and adding things. So things may be a bit messy for a while. But I want to clean up the blog and make things a little more organized. (Photo on the left is my cat sitting on my bookshelves - Tonnks (named after Nymphadora Tonks in Harry Potter.)

The Books
This month I read 7 books, which isn't bad, but I was hoping to read a couple more books for the month. My favourite book of the month was Fire in the Blood by least favourite was Pao.

1) The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood - 8.5/10
2) The Pearl of China - Anchee Min - 8.25/10
3) Sisterhood Everlasting - Ann Brashares - 7/10
4) The Lost (SGA 17) - Jo Graham and Amy Griswold - 7/10
5) Pao - Kerry Young - 5/10
6) Fire in the Blood -Irène Némirovsky - 9/10
7) Wake - Robert J. Sawyer - 7.75/10

The Challenges
I'm still doing fairly well with the challenges, the only one that I may not finish is 11 in 11. But otherwise I should be able to finish the others. I'm very close to completing a couple and should have the done in a month or so.

11 in 11 - 66/121 
100+ Challenge - 67/100 
1001 Books Challenge - 7/16
2011 Count Down Challenge - 52/66 
A - Z Challenge - 43/52 
Book Blogger Bucket List - 13/26
Canadian Reading Challenge V - 7/13
Chunkster Reading Challenge - 4/8
Fantasy Reading Challenge - 7/12 
Futeristic and Sci-Fi Challenge - 7/8
Global Reading Challenge - 12/21
Ireland Reading - 3/6
Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge - 2/16 
Take a Chance III Challenge - 4/10
War Through the Generations - Civil War - 2/5

Countries Visited
This month I visited Jamaica, a brief visit to Australia (but I didn't count it officially), France, USA and Ancient Greece. I'm liking this new map I'm using, because it also lets me keep track of which provinces of Canada I've visited.

Bookish Events

This past month I went to Fan Expo, which is a massive sci-fi (and other genres) convention. This year it had a lot of authors and author panels. You can read my experiences here at this post - BTFMH and Other Bookish Stuff. I didn't go for the books, but ended up doing a lot of bookish stuff! Hurrah!

Books that Followed me Home
Here's where I list all the books that followed me home, including the books from the failed attempt to make a video at the beginning of August! (For some reason it didn't record sound)

1) Men of the Otherworld - Kelley Armstrong
2) Tales from the Otherworld - Kelley Armstrong
3) Waking the Witch - Kelley Armstrong
4) The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
5) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - A trilogy of four - Douglas Adams
6) Incarceron - Catherine Fisher
7) Out for Blood - Alyxandra Harvey
8) End of Days - Max Turner
9) The Mirror Prince - Violette Malan
10) Watch - Robert J. Sawyer

And that's it for this month! Even better I managed to get this post up in good time! Only a week into the month! Go me!