Monday, December 31

December Wrap-Up!

Final Monthly Wrap-Up, my year in review will be coming shortly. This was another great reading month, I did slow down near the end, but with the holidays being here, less reading time. Not to mention, I go behind in my reviews, and I had to focus on those - all 14 of them. So that affected the reading goal - note to self don't let 14 reviews build up - it's time consuming.

This was an up and down reading month for me. I read 15 books (most likely 16, but it will also be a reread) 1 of those is a re-read, so there won't be a review. I read a lot of okay books, and a few books that just didn't do much of anything for me. But I read a few fantastic books this month too. My favourite was Clara Callan, followed by Doppler. My least favourite was The Bostonians followed by Five Quarters of the Orange.

  1.  Clara Callan - Richard B. Wright - 10/10
    1. Fauna - Alissa York - 5/10
    2. Summer - Edith Wharton - 5.25
    3. The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson - 8.5/10
    4. The Road Past Altamont - Gabrielle Roy - 7.75/10
    5. The Bostonians - Henry James - 4/10
    6. Entanglement - Martha Wells - 6.5/10
    7. Irish Country Village - Patrick Taylor - 7.25/10
    8. Doppler - Erlend Loe - 9.5/10
    9. The Time Keeper - Mitch Albom - 8.75/10
    10. Five Quarters of the Orange - Joanne Harris - 4.5/10
    11. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens - 8/10
    12. Jacobs Room - VirginiaWoolf - 6.75/10
    13. 13 - Kelley Armstrong - 6.75/10
    14. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J. K. Rowling (Re-read)
    15. ? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (not finished it yet, but I should be in a few hours :))

The Challenges
I finished a few challenges this month, and one of the challenges I continued onwards with, I found it finished in November. So I still finished the Ireland Reading challenge - but my decision to try to do more failed. Gotta watch those dates! I go into more detail about the challenges in my year in review.

Completed Challenges

1001 Books to Read Before Challenge 2012 - 15/15  Completed December 8, 2012
Fall into Reading Challenge 2012 - 22/22 - Completed December 19, 2012

Current Challenges

12 in 12 - 133/144 - 92% Complete
Finish That Series Challenge 2012 - 1/3 - 0% Complete (Series 1 complete, 1 book read from series two)
Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012 - 42/50 - 84% Complete

Countries Visited 

This month I visited: This month I visited; Canada, United States, France, England, Northern Ireland, Norway and the Pegasus Galaxy.

Books That Followed me Home

The Arabian Nights - Leatherbound (Gift)
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
The Complete Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five - Douglas Adams (EBook)
The Time Keeper - Mitch Albom (EBook)
The Tiger Claw - Shauna Singh Baldwin
Heat Wave - Richard Castle (EBook)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chboksy
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
A Wind at the Door - Madeleine L'Engle
A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle
Doppler - Erlend Loe (EBook)
Black Swan Green - David Mitchell
Far To Go - Alison Pick (EBook)
The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
The Blondes - Emily Schultz (EBook)

And that was my December, I have a lot more to say, but I'll say it in my year in review. Hope you all had a safe and happy Holiday Season!

Book Review: 13

Title: 13

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Pages: 442

Summary: Savannah Levine, a young witch of remarkable power and a dangerous pedigree, staggers away from a bomb blast in New Orleans, glad that she’s managed to rescue her half-brother Bryce from the supernatural revolutionaries who’d held him captive. But everyone and everything she holds dear is still at risk. The reveal movement has shaken the Otherworld to its core and the resulting chaos has thinned the boundaries between dimensions, allowing creatures of the deeper realms to break through and wreak havoc on supernaturals but also on innocent humans.

Although she's been temporarily stripped her of her powers, Savannah knows she has a crucial part to play in this war of survival. In fact the fate of her loved ones--of Adam, the friend she hopes will become a lover; of Paige and Lucas, her guardians; of the werewolf Pack and Jaime Vegas; of a pregnant Hope; of her brothers Sean and Bryce--and of the human world rests on her shoulders. If she can find the way and the will to defend them.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I had a love hate relationship with this book. There were parts I enjoyed, and a lot of parts that made me cringe. I was excited to finally read the last book in the series, but disappointed in how it was executed. I was hoping for a different narrator, I enjoyed the small parts when it jumped to a third person narrative, rather than read through Savannah's thought process, which was quite juvenile at times. Savannah was always a character I struggled with, and I didn't like how the series ended with her. I really thought it should have gone back to Elena as the main focus of the book.

Some of the plot twists that happened in the book, weren't that well done either. If I read Eve calling Savannah "baby" one more time I thought I would scream. The woman couldn't say a sentence to her daughter without ending it with that. The first few times, I can take, the fiftieth  just made it respective. And that seemed to be a common theme in the book, a lot of repetitive running from bad guys, little talking and the sort of bad guys, accusing Savannah for treason. I was waiting for a big battle, and never really got it.
I was also disappointed in the lack of appearances in the other characters, while some of them appeared in the book, they weren't seen or mentioned much after, like Paige and Jamie.  The book did tie a few things up, but there were a lot of unanswered questions, mainly because the focus was only on one character, instead of the other incredible cast of characters I've come to love. Even Elena and Clay were down played for Savannah's benefit - and I didn't like it.

The book did do its job, like I said there were some twists and turns along the way, it has Armstrong's usual sense of humour throughout the book, and she did tie Savannah's story up nicely (if it had been just her as the main focus for the entire series, it would have been the perfect ending to the series).  

Overall it wasn't my favourite book of the series, and it was a slight disappointment as it was the final book in the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's worth reading, especially if you've read the series up to this point. Not my favourite book in the series, but it does do its job with ending the series.

What to read next: The anthologies - Men of the Otherworld and Tales from the Otherworld and any other short story novella that may come out in the future.

Book Review: Jacobs' Room

Title: Jacobs Room

Author: Virginia Woolf

Pages: 168

Summary: Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf’s third novel, was first published in 1922. Here we find her beginning to part company with the traditional methods of the English novel, and her experiments with the stream of consciousness and the sequence of time were first steps n the direction of such masterpieces as To the Lighthouse and The Waves.

The limpid impression she creates of a young man’s progress from the mental purity of post-war university life to the squalid truths of reality is heightened by the poetry of her style, and Jacob’s Room offers an affecting tribute to the generation which was decimated in the First World War.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Not my favourite book by the author, in fact compared to some of her other books, this one was a bit of a let down.

While it wasn't a bad book, it didn't grip me like  some of her previous books. It was just as well written, Virginia Woolf's writing will always be  lovely, but the story itself failed to grab my attention. Jacob as a character wasn't strong enough to keep it moving, nor was the plot as a whole strong enough to keep me interested - it felt like the entire story was at a constant stand still. There were a few interesting part, like his tour in Grease, the ending was surprising, but there was a lot of in-between stuff that lost my interest as a reader. Sometimes these big gaps of nothing, were filled by some lovely passages by the author, but there were big periods of time where I was bored with the book. Still, her writing still managed to capture me and keep me reading until the end.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm on the fence with this one. The writing was well done, but I found the plot jumpy. It had some good passages, but parts dragged. It wouldn't be the top of the list for books by the author, but fans of her work, may want to check it out.

What to read next: I'd read the authors other works as they are far better examples of the sort of writer she was.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol

Title: A Christmas Carol

Author: Charles Dickens

Pages: EBook 64

Summary: This engrossing tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge's ghostly journeys through Christmases past, present, and future and his ultimate transformation from a harsh and grasping old miser to a charitable and compassionate human being. A perennial classic that has become as much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe, and evergreen wreaths.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I've seen so many movie versions of this book, and read a few alternative versions of this, that I finally sat down and read the original. And I have to say, although I do know the story forwards and back, and I still enjoyed Dickens' tale.

I was surprised to see how quickly Scrooge turns, verses the movies and books, he takes a lot longer to change his heart, and I was expecting the same thing for the books, but he seemed to change a lot more quickly in the little more novella. The writing was what really pulled me in, Dickens' had a way to write intimately to the reader and this book was no exception. It was the perfect little read to curl up on Christmas day.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's a perfect Christmas read, even if your familiar with the story,  it's still well worth reading.

What to read next: More Dickens!

Challenges: 12 in 12

Book Review: Five Quarters of the Orange

Title: Five Quarters of the Orange

Author: Joanne Harris

Pages: 307

Summary: When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognize her as the daughter of the infamous woman they hold responsible for a tragedy during the German occupation years ago. But the past and present are inextricably entwined, particularly in a scrapbook of recipes and memories that Framboise has inherited from her mother. And soon Framboise will realize that the journal also contains the key to the tragedy that indelibly marked that summer of her ninth year. . . .

My Rating: 4.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Some of the authors other works I've enjoyed, others not so much and this one falls into the second category. I was mostly bored with the story, it wasn't paced well and often felt repetitive. Not to mention the big reveal, the dark secret wasn't as big and dark as it was lead up to be. The plot itself was alright, the author capture the small French Village during the occupation well, and created a goof atmosphere  in that regard, but the rest of the story just didn't do anything for me.

I also didn't enjoy the characters, I didn't feel they developed, Framboise seemed to be the same person as she was a child, as she was in the present as an adult. Not to mention, I couldn't stand her as a character, which when she's the narrator, also affects the book. I felt her to be a spiteful little brat as a child. And I wasn't sure of her motives as an adult, that side of the story, didn't seem to tie into the story line from the past to well. And the ending, didn't make any sense to me whatsoever. It seemed to come from nowhere.

Overall, I wasn't a fan of the book.

Would I recommend it to read: Not this one. Some of her other books yes,  (Chocolat, Blackberry Wine) but I didn't find this one held together properly.

What to read next: Her other books. Chocolat and Blackberry Wine were very good reads.

Book Review: The Time Keeper

Title: The Time Keeper

Author: Mitch Albom

Pages: Ebook 202

Summary: The inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world--now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began--and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very interesting read, one which I almost never thought I would read, as I initially thought some of the religious undertones in the book, may not be something I'd enjoy. While there still was a lot of that there, I did find I enjoyed the book quite a lot, it was a good read, and sometimes hard to put down.

How the author choose to tell the story, was one of my favourite aspects of the books. Short, verses may be the best way to describe it. While telling the story this way did cause the story to jump around more and at times you weren't getting the whole story from all the threads from the individual stories, I think it added to the reading experience as a whole. The writing as a whole was also well done, the story connected together, and the narrative was probably one of the factors that made the book hard to put down.

There were also some interesting commentary and passages about time, and how society handles it.  There was a lot of philosophical points, and spiritual too, depending how you read into it, but I didn't find it was overly preachy - just some interesting, food for thought the author made throughout the book.
I did find the ending was a bit abrupt. Part of that was due to how the story was told, but it was tied up quickly, and even a few more paragraphs would have helped give it that extra push.

Overall, a very enjoyable read, I have to say the book surprised me on how much I enjoyed it.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. This type of book, with the religious undertones not normally my thing, but it was a very interesting read, and I know there will be a lot of readers who would love the book.

What to read next: I'd say some of the authors other works

Challenges: 12 in 12

Book Review: Doppler

Title: Doppler

Author: Erlend Loe

Pages: EBook 106

Summary: A bestseller in Scandinavia -- Doppler is the enchanting, subversive, and very unusual story about one man and his moose.

This beguiling modern fable tells the story of a man who, after the death of his father, abandons his home, his family, his career, and the trappings of civilization for a makeshift tent in the woods where he adopts a moose-calf named Bongo. Or is it Bongo who adopts him? Together they devote themselves, with some surprising results, to the art of carefree living.
Hilarious, touching, and poignant in equal measure -- you will read it with tear-stained cheeks and sore sides -- Doppler is also a deeply subversive novel and a strong criticism of modern consumer culture.

My Rating: 9.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was an amazing book, I pretty much inhaled the book. The writing was extremely well done, the characters, particularly Doppler where fun to read about. I thought the character was incredible well written and established. Especially considering I was never sure exactly what was going on in his head, and how much that was happening around him was fact and how much was fiction.

In fact, one of my favourite aspects to this little novella was I was never quite sure if Doppler was just an eccentric man, or if he was suffering from a mental illness. There were times where he seemed to make some profound thoughts and statements, and other times where he seemed to be quite insane.  I loved how as a reader, you're never sure. Some of the things he said and did, I wasn't even sure actually happened, and I loved questioning how much was reality, how much had he imagined it all. Perhaps he was still lying in the forest after hitting his head. 

The story was also, somewhat of a light read, even if you read it for face level, it was a nice short read, about a man living in the forest with his pet moose, Bongo, and their journey together. It was very sweet.

Overall it was a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes! I saw a review from a fellow blogger, Buried in Print, and it came highly recommend, and I'm doing the same.  

What to read next: I'm not sure on this one. Perhaps the author might be worth checking out, otherwise I'm not sure on this one.

Sunday, December 30

Book Review: Irish Country Village

Title: Irish Country Village

Author: Patrick Taylor

Pages:  431

Summary: Young Doctor Barry Laverty has only just begun his assistantship under the eccentric Dr. Fingal Flathertie O'Reilly, but he already feels right at home in Ballybucklebo. When the sudden death of a patient casts a could over Barry's reputation, his chances of establishing himself in the village are endangered.
While he anxiously waits for the postmortem results, Barry must regain the trust of the gossipy Ulster village one patient at a time. From a put-upon shopgirl with a mysterious rash to the troubled pregnancy of a young lass who's not quite married yet, Ballybucklebo provides plenty of cases to keep two country G.P.'s busy.
When a greedy developer sets his sights on the very heart of the community - the village pub - it's up to the doctors to save the Black Swan (affectionately known as the "Mucky Duck") from being turned into and overpriced tourist trap. After all, the good citizens if Ballybucklebo need some place to drink to one another's health.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I didn't like this book as much as the first, I still found it to be an enjoyable read. The cast of characters were a fun, eclectic cast to read about, and the story shaped up to be a good read as well.

One of my biggest beefs with the story was the to detailed descriptions about various medical procedures - while a book about Doctors, I do expect to read about medical jargon, I could have done without the step by step process with all the details about how a catheter is inserted. Which was one, of many detailed procedures - this is a case where less would have been more.

The plot was well done, although it does follow the same formula as the first book, with a lot of the same themes. It does pick up right after the other left off, which was part of the reason why this happens, but there were times where I felt like it was the same book. And after a while some of the eccentric characters can get on your nerves, as their personalities and events that occur around them become repetitive after a while. Still, despite the issues I had, it's still a fun read. And I will continue on to the next book, and likely finish the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It wasn't as good as the first, but still worth reading. Also as I said above, it likes to give all the in-depth details about the medical procedures being preformed. (I watch medical dramas, and they don't give me as much detail as the book.)

What to read next: Irish Country Christmas

Book Review: Entanglement (SGA 6)

Title: Entanglement (SGA 6)

Author: Martha Wells

Pages: EBook 260

Summary: Leap of faith…

When Dr. Rodney McKay unlocks an Ancient mystery on a distant moon, he discovers a terrifying threat to the Pegasus galaxy.

Determined to disable the device before it's discovered by the Wraith, Colonel John Sheppard and his team navigate the treacherous ruins of an Ancient outpost. But attempts to destroy the technology are complicated by the arrival of a stranger—a stranger who can't be trusted, a stranger who needs the Ancient device to return home. Cut off from backup, under attack from the Wraith, and with the future of the universe hanging in the balance, Sheppard's team must put aside their doubts and step into the unknown.
However, when your mortal enemy is your only ally, betrayal is just a heartbeat away…

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I seem to have a love hate relationship with the Stargate books. Either I really enjoy them, or I don't like them. And this was one of those ones which I didn't like.

I did enjoy the plot, it worked great with what was in the series and it had some interesting ideas , some plot twists were well done, and the author created a great Alternate Universe, that meshed well with the rest of the story. Unfortunately the characterization was off, which began to annoy me. The author didn't write the characters out of character, but instead focused on certain characteristics, and wrote using those characteristics to the extreme.  Rodney's annoying egoism was tenfold what it normally is, and John was at his worst - while he can be judgemental and stick with it, he came off as an arrogant ass, and not the leader you would normally see.  Because of how the characters were handled, the entire book felt off balance. I do appreciate the characters being written properly, I just didn't like that they were over exaggerated in their personalities.

Overall, it wasn't a bad book, the plot had a lot of potential, but characterization was off for me, and it had a negative effect on the book.

Would I recommend it to read: I wouldn't have this one at the top of the list, even to Stargate fans, there was potential, but I found to many issues with it.

What to read next: More Stargate books.

Challenges: 12 in 12 Challenge

Book Review: The Bostonians

Title: The Bostonians

Author: Henry James

Pages: 394

Summary: A brilliant social observer who understood not only the social machinations around him but also the psychology behind them, Henry James explores the nuances of the early feminist movement in The Bostonians. Charming, traditional Southern gentleman and lawyer Basil Ransom, and his Bostonian feminist cousin, Olive Chancellor, struggle for the allegiance, and possibly affections, of Verena Tarrant. Beautiful, young, and malleable, Verena's feminist speeches attract the two cousins, each for very different reasons. One of James' most political novels, The Bostonians looks at reform movements and the do-gooder citizens who promote those agendas so clearly and with such insight that the novels speaks to readers today with as much vitality as it did up on its publication n 1886.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Another book which just didn't work for me, and this one, I found I was often bored with it. I didn't find the appeal to the book, or to why it's considered to be such a fantastic read.

The writing was extremely well done, which was the saving factor to why I didn't give up on the book entirely. The plot was bland, and while there were some political aspects to it, I wouldn't exactly call it a political books. I didn't see a real connection to the women's movement in the book, just a handful of characters who supported it. I found the characters to be flat and underdeveloped. They didn't have much to them, and I failed to see their real connection to the women's movement. They seemed to preach about it and attend speeches, but even that felt forced to me. Although, that could be because the main focus of the book seemed to be Basil's attempt to woo Verena, who didn't seem to be anything special or worth wooing. The plot felt repetitive and it didn't connect together, and the ending was awful, although I was glad to see it.

One of my least favourite reads of the year - and not a book I'd recommend.

Would I recommend it to read: Possibly the author, but not so much the book.

What to read next: I'd try one of his other books

Challenges: 12 in 12, Fall into Reading,  Mount TBR Challenge

The Road Past Altamont

Title: The Road Past Altamont

Author: Gabrielle Roy

Pages: 152

Summary: 7.75/10

My Rating: In the highly acclaimed Street of Riches, Gabrielle Roy introduced the unforgettable characters of Christine and her vibrant, full-blooded family. In the Road Past Altamont, she daringly returns to the same characters and the nearly identical timespan, but by looking at her subjects with an entirely fresh vision, she created a wholly new and deeply personal story of a young girl's decision to become a writer.
The haunting and poignant tale weaves a delicate but substantial network of impressions, emotions, and human relationships. It subtle, yet powerful narrative clearly demonstrates the writing talent that made Gabrielle Roy and one of Canada's foremost authors.

My Almighty Grandfather
The Old Man and the Child
The Move
The Road Past Altamont

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was an enjoyable collection of interconnected short stories, which also links to another short story collection by the author, Street of Riches.

This may have been a quick read, but the short stories were well written, with well developed characters and plot - and some of them full of heart - like my favourite The Old Man and the Child. The author showed the friendship of the two wonderfully, the story itself was also well told, and I really enjoyed reading about the friendship the two shared, and the retelling.  The Move was also an interesting story, it wasn't my favourite, but the author did a good job at showing childhood curiosity in moving and the process, It was an interesting thing to focus on, but how the author approached the short story was interesting, and by the end, I did find it to be a good story  - especially mixed in with the collection as a whole.

Overall, it was a well written collection of short stories.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It was good collection of short stories, and the perfect read to curl up on, on a lazy weekend.

What to read next: The Tin Flute, Street of Riches

Book Review: The Well of Ascension

Title: The Well of Ascension

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Pages: 763

Summary: Evil has been defeated. The war has just begun.

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.
They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I enjoyed the first book more,  I still found it to b a great read, and I'm looking forward to reading the final book and reading how this story ends.

This book move a little more slowly than the first, which I both liked and disliked. It did help develop some of the characters more and did a good job at setting up the plot for the final book and plot devices throughout the book. I also enjoyed about how the author kept the reader guessing about certain characters, who may not have been all they seem. But, because the plot was moving more slowly, I felt after a while, I was waiting for something to happen. There was a lot of periods of time where nothing happened, and after a while Min's adventures in the mists become repetitive after awhile. But for the most part the pacing of the book was well done.  

There were some interesting twists throughout the book, especially at the end. I didn't see that one coming at all, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the author does with that in the final book of the trilogy. It should be interesting. I'm also loving the idea behind allomancy, the mistborns. As a reader, there were still so many questions to b answered, and questions from those answers, I am enjoying, the slow reveal of this, as the characters learn more about the secrets, so do the readers.  Although, something tells me by the end of the trilogy, there will be many more questions than answers. Either way, I am looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy.

Would I recommend it to read: I would the series is shaping up to be a very interesting one. I think a lot of readers would enjoy the authors twist on fantasy, and enjoy the story as much as I have been.

What to read next: The Hero of Ages - Final book in the trilogy.

Book Review: Summer

Title: Summer

Author: Edith Wharton

Pages: 206

Summary: 5.25/10

My Rating: Considered by some to be her finest work, Edith Wharton's Summer created a sensation when first published in 1917, as it was one of the first novels to deal honestly with a young woman's sexual awakening.

Summer is the story of proud and independent Charity Royall, a child of mountain moonshiners adopted by a family in a poor New England town, who has a passionate love affair with Lucious Harney, an educated young man from the city. Wharton broke the conventions of women's romantic fiction by making Charity a thoroughly contemporary woman - in touch with her feelings and sexuality, yet kept from love and the larger world she craves by the overwhelming pressures of environment and heredity.

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book failed to capture me. It's a character driven book, but for this particular book, the character didn't work for me. Charity Royall was suppose to be a independent modern woman, in touch with her sexuality. But I didn't see it. For the time period I suppose it was seen as modern and a bit scandalous, Charity was likely seen as a heroine, but I still don't think there was enough good characterization to move the book forward.  She didn't have anything special to keep her apart from all the other women written in that time, save for a job, and she would try to stand up against her guardian, but even then, it wasn't to different than other books written in the time.  There was some innuendo with her lover, but I'm not sure how much happened in her mind and how much actually happened with him besides a passionate kiss.  Nothing stood out to impress me, especially the lead character.  Which was probably why I was so bored with the book - so many others like it written at the same time have almost the same plot devices.

I did enjoy the glimpses of her background story of the mountain people, and wish that was explained in more detail, I felt like it was just scratched at the surface, and was looking for more. Otherwise, the story was bland, and not a lot kept me interested.  

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I would recommend this particular book to read. The writing was excellent, but there wasn't much else in the book. So perhaps the author, but not the book.

What to read next: I'd try the author again, as well as George Eliot, Willa Cather

Saturday, December 29

Book Review: Fauna

Title: Fauna

Author: Alissa York

Pages: 373

Summary: 5/10

My Rating: One day federal wildlife officer Edal Jones is unable to handle humans smuggling rare creatures and killing most of them in the process; the next day she cannot. After watching a girl rescuing migratory birds that have knocked themselves out on the city's glass towers, Edal follows her to an auto-wrecker's yard in a wide ravine, and discovers the most unlikely sanctuary. Here, waifs and strays both human and animal comfort and healing under the wing of the handsome proprietor, Guy Howell. But Guy' sanctuary is under attack from a different kind of lost soul, one on a mission to destroy the creatures that call the valley home.

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a book, I just couldn't get into. It was well written, but a combination of the story, the characters and pacing of the book, didn't  mix well for me.

The characters were one of the factors to why I didn't like the book, while I liked how they all came together in the book, I found that the amount of characters and concentration on their individual stories, both past and present, affected the overall story. There was to many of them and for some of them, how they connected together seemed forced. Darius was one of them, his story, just didn't fit into the main story line very well. While he did have a story to be told, one which would be an interesting read on its own, as the author did do a good job at invoking a good emotional response from me, I it didn't fit well with the story as a whole. The issues I had with the plot there were some good plot devices there, such as the sanctuary in the junk yard, but I felt that the multiple plot devices the book had, didn't join together smoothly, and at times I found it made for a choppy reads. Especially considering the book often bounced from past to present.

Overall, the book wasn't the book for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure on this one. It wasn't a book I could get into enough. Other people really seem to love the book though. If you're looking for some Canadian Lit, that is different than some of the other modern reads, than this may be a book for you.

What to read next: I'd suggest one of the author's other books.

Book Review: Clara Callan

Title: Clara Callan

Author: Richard B. Wright

Pages: 415

Summary: Winner in 2001 of Canada's two most prestigious literary awards -- the Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize -- Richard B. Wright's celebrated novel Clara Callan is the powerful, moving story of two sisters and their life-changing experiences on the eve of World War II.

It is the year 1934, and in a small town in Canada, Clara Callan reluctantly takes leave of her sister, Nora, who is bound for the show business world of New York. It's a time when people escape from reality through radio and the movies, when the Dionne Quints make headlines, when the growing threat of fascism in Europe is a constant worry, and the two sisters -- vastly different in personality yet inextricably linked by a shared past -- try to find their place within the complex web of social expectations for young women in the 1930s.

While Nora embarks on a glamorous career as a radio soap opera star, Clara, a strong and independent-minded woman, struggles to observe the traditional boundaries of a small and tight-knit community without relinquishing her dreams of love, freedom, and adventure. But Nora's letters eventually begin to reveal that her life in the big city is a little less exotic than it may seem: though her career is flourishing, her free spirit is curbed by a string of fairly conventional and unsuccessful personal relationships. Meanwhile, the tranquil solitude of Clara's life is shattered by a series of unforeseeable events, turns of fate that require all of Clara's courage and strength, and that will put the seemingly unbreakable bond between the sisters to the test.
Ultimately, both discover not only the joys of love and possibility, but also the darker side of life -- violence, deception, and loss -- lurking just beneath the surface of everyday experience.

Clara Callan is a mesmerizing tribute to friendship and sisterhood, romance and redemption, written with such insight and passion that the characters' stories will remain with you long after you have read the last page.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a book I couldn't put down while I was reading it, and it was one of those books, which once it ended, I was sad to see it end.

It was hard to find a fault with the book, and  I'm not exactly sure what pulled me into it either, but whatever it was, I was transfixed by it.  I loved how it was written by a collection of letters between the sisters and journal entries from Clara. I think it helped me enjoy Clara's character so much was being able to get into her head by her journal entries. She may not be the most interesting character out there, especially compared to Nora, but she has her own unique qualities and she will be a character I'll remember.  I loved the bonds of sisterhood and friendship the author created between the two, even when they lived apart, and were starting to become drawn apart with their separate lives, they still had a great bond together. And the author showed that wonderfully.

The plot was also just as well done as the characters. There may have been a few predictable parts to it, but I loved it nonetheless. It was well paced and how the characters were portrayed, combined with how it was written just made for a fantastic read.

In the end, a lovely read - and one of my favourite reads of the year.

Would I recommend it to read: I would highly recommend the book to read. (I read it during my lunch at work, and came close coming back late because of the book)

What to read next: I'd check out some of the other winners from the Giller and Governor's General awards. 

Saturday, December 15

November Wrap-Up

And it's finally December! I'm very late in writing this, but with it being the last month of the year, it's busy. Oh so busy - whether you celebrate a holiday or not, everything is wrapping up this month. Work, reading challenges, social events. Which is part of the reason why my November total is lower than what I would have liked, not by much - but I was hoping to have read at least 10 books. Oh well. This month was a sort of average month for reading. While I didn't disliked the books I read - many of them were just average and didn't really make me go wow. I'm doing fairly well on challenges, and overall I think December should be a good month. I'll have my reading goal accomplished for the year (125 books read) and by the end of the month most of my challenges finished.

The Books

As I said above, this wasn't my best reading month for me. Slightly lower amount of books, and a lot of just average books read. My favourite book is hands down The Mystery of Mercy Close. It is a must read, absolutely loved the book. It will be on my list of the years must read books. My least favourite was Small Change.

3.       The War of the Worlds- H.G. Wells - 7/10
4.       The Barque of Heaven -Suzanne Wood - 8.5/10
5.       The Whirlpool - JaneUrquhart - 7/10
7.       Small Change -Elizabeth Hay - 6.5/10
8.       Feathered Serpent - XuXiaobin - 7/10

The Challenges

Despite there being only a month left (16 days because of when I actually had time to post this), I'm still very happy with how well I'm doing in my challenges. At the moment, it looks like only two challenges will be not finished. Which is extremely good. One of those challenges I didn't expect to finish in the first place (12 in 12), the other is my own neglect (Finish That Series), I forgot just how long the sci-fi and series books where. There may have only been a handful of books in the challenge, but most of them were well over 600 pages. Ah well! I did finish a challenge this month, the Speculative Reading Challenge. And I'm well on my way to finishing most of the others.

Completed Challenges
Speculative Reading Challenge 2012 - 24/24 - Completed November 16, 2012

Current Challenges
12 in 12 - 119/144 - 83% Complete
1001 Books to Read Before Challenge 2012 - 14/15 - 93% Complete
Fall into Reading Challenge 2012 - 14/22 -  64%  Complete
Finish That Series Challenge 2012 - 0/3 - 0% Complete (4 books read from series one)
Ireland Reading Challenge 2012 - 7/8 - 88% Complete
Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012 - 35/50 - 70% Complete

Countries Visited

This Month I visited; China, Canada, Ireland.

Books That Followed Me Home

This month was a bit of a themed month for me - Alice Munro Month!

Dear Life
The Love of  a Good Woman
The Progress of Love

And that was my November folks! In case I dont have time, have a happy and safe holiday season!

Friday, November 30

Book Review: Feathered Serpent

Title: Feathered Serpent

Author: Xu Xiaobin

Pages: 367

Summary: Critically acclaimed author an political satirist Xu Xiaobin masterfully weaves the stunning and heartbreaking story of a girl named Yu through the lives of her grandmother, mother, sisters, and nieces. Born to a resentful mother and an indifferent father, Yu discovers at a tender age that her parents do not love her. By the time her baby brother is born, the rebellious and withdrawn six-year-old commits an unthinkable crime. Forced to leave her family, Yu begins a lifelong quest for love. She is fragile but resilient, lonely but determined. Yet each time she thinks she has come close, she is abandoned. Now, as she is caught up in the political storm of the 1980's, Yu's last chance at getting what she desires will finally come at a tragic cost. Hailed by critics as a Chinese One Hundred Years of Solitude and a twenty-first century Crime and Punishment, Feathered Serpent flawlessly blurs reality and illusion into a unique and powerful tale that readers will never forget.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There was a lot of lovely passages, filled with metaphors that initially pulled me into the book, but there was also a lot of passages that took me back and I questioned if that was what the author had originally intended. This book had some great potential, but I think it was lost in the translation of the book, as the story just didn't come together like it should have, the prose didn't connect like it should have, at times it flowed, others it seemed choppy and didn't fit connect to the rest of the book.

The story fascinated me, but the jumping timeline, points of view and narrative was a big distraction for me. There was so much potential in this, and although by the end of the book I did enjoy the story, Yu's was extremely well done, I found to much of the story was lost because of the how it was written. I'm not a hundred percent sure if it's how the author originally intended, or if it was also lost in the translation.

In the end I did enjoy the book, but it's not what I expected to get out of the book once I finished reading it, and again I think it was because of how it was translated.

Would I recommend it to read: I had a lot of issues, and while the book did turn out to be good, so I still think it's worth checking out. But just be warned that this book seems to be a case were a lot of the story and beauty seemed to have been lost in the translation.

What to read next: Miss Chopsticks, 100 Years of Solitude

Book Review: Small Change

Title: Small Change

Author: Elizabeth Hay

Pages: 244

Summary: These twenty superbly crafted linked stories navigate the difficult realm of friendship, charting its beginnings and ends, its intimacies and betrayals, its joys and humiliations. A mother learns something of the nature of love from watching her young daughter as she falls in and out of favour with a neighbourhood girl. An intricate story of two women reveals a friendship held together by the steely bonds of passivity. A chance sighting in a library prompts a woman to recall the “unconsummated courtship” she was drawn into by a male colleague. With trenchant insight, uncommon honesty, and dark humour, Elizabeth Hay probes the precarious bonds that exist between friends. The result is an emotionally raw and provocative collection of stories that will resonate with readers long after the final page.


The Friend
The Fire
C├ęzanne Soft Hat 
The Kiss 
Johnny's Smile
Hand Games
Overnight Visitor
Secondhand Rose
The Fight 
A Personal Letter 
A Clear Record
The Parents
The Reader
Purge Me with Hyssop
January Through March
Several Losses

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:  This was a short story collection I was looking forward to, and while it did fall a little under my expectations, it wasn't bad. As with most short story collections, there were some I enjoyed, and some I didn't - unfortunately for this one I found there weren't as many individual stories I enjoyed. Both The Friend and Sayonara stick out as memorable for me. Particularly  The Friend, I think the author did a fantastic job with that story at capturing the different elements of childhood friendship, it was well written and very realistic.

One of the biggest issues I had was connecting the short stories together. It was suppose to be linked stories, but I didn't get the feeling while reading them they were linked. Vaguely perhaps, but it didn't come together as well as I would have liked. There always seemed to be that one thing missing to pull everything together more coherently.

Not my favourite collection, but not a bad read either.  

Would I recommend it to read: I'm a little on the fence with one, but I probably would. While I didn't love the book, I think a lot of short story readers would enjoy it.

What to read next: Late Nights on the Air

Thursday, November 29

Book Review: Sacrifice Moon

Title: Sacrifice Moon

Author: Julie Fortune

Pages: EBook: 221

Summary: The Goddess hunts...

Just four days after Major Kawalsky’s death, Colonel Jack O’Neill leads the newly commissioned SG-1 on their first mission through the Stargate.

Their destination is Chalcis, a peaceful society at the heart of the Helos Confederacy of planets. But Chalcis harbours a dark secret, one that pitches SG-1 into a world of bloody chaos, betrayal and madness. Battling to escape the living nightmare, Dr Daniel Jackson and Captain Samantha Carter soon begin to realize that more than their lives are at stake. They are fighting for their very souls.

But while O’Neill and Teal’c struggle to keep the team together, Daniel is hatching a desperate plan that will test SG-1’s fledgling bonds of trust and friendship to the limit…

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A good book, especially considering how early in the series it falls in. The author did a good job at creating a good representation of the team and the dynamics at the time the book takes place. It's so early on in the series, but how the team interacted with one another for the most part, worked with what we would have seen in the show. The author even tied in some references from another episode further down the line, that we never saw, but it was still nice to see it tied in. I do appreciate when the authors tie the references of the show into the books, but don't beat you over the head with it.

I enjoyed the story, although by the end, I did find it tended to drag on a bit and I began to lose interest. It was good, but I think some of it could have been cut out, and progressed a little faster. It was an interesting concept and I liked the main idea behind the plot some of the twists near the end surprised me, I didn't see it coming, but thought it was slightly out of character, but still an interesting twist to say the least. I enjoyed the ending of the book, again the author did  good job at showing the beginning of the bond the team has. Compared to some of the other books that happen early on in the series, this one of more better written ones at keeping the development of the team and their friendship in the right point of the show. There are times in the other books were the comfort level and development seem to be at the level from later in the series, while the actual story takes place earlier on. 

Overall it was a good read. Another great choice for the Stargate Fan.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes. But again only to Stargate Fans. Although this occurs right after the first episode of the show, it gives no explanation to a lot of the background stories to what is happening. 

What to read next: More books from the series.

Book Review: The Whirlpool

Title: The Whirlpool

Author: Jane Urquhart

Pages: EBook 224

Summary: Written in luminous prose, The Whirlpool is a haunting tale set in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in the summer of 1889. This is the season of reckless river stunts, a time when the undertaker’s widow is busy with funerals, her days shadowed by her young son’s curious silence. Across the street in Kick’s Hotel, where Fleda and her husband, David McDougal, have temporary rooms, Fleda dreams of the place above the whirlpool where she first encountered the poet, a man who enters her life and, unwittingly, changes everything. As the summer progresses, the lives of these characters become entangled, and darker, more sinister currents gain momentum.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book was alright. The writing was extremely well done, you wouldn't know it was the author's first novel based on the quality and style of writing.  But I did find that the characters and the story itself fell a little flat for me.

All of the characters are rather eccentric, they all have their own struggles they are trying to deal with. And the author shows that throughout the book. There is no denying that the characters were well developed and written, but there was always something missing in this book, and I'm not sure what it was. Perhaps something to bring everything together better, but I just felt, I was missing something in the end.
There were a lot of themes in the book - it's the perfect book for a book club, and I'd still recommend it as a book to read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It wouldn't be the top of my list by the author, but might still be worth checking out.

What to read next: I'd read more by the author.

Sunday, November 25

Book Review: The Barque of Heaven

Title: The Barque of Heaven

Author: Suzanne Wood

Pages: 357

Summary: Through the underworld…

Millennia ago, at the height of his power, the System Lord Ra decreed that any Goa’uld wishing to serve him must endure a great trial. Victory meant power and prestige, defeat brought banishment and death.
On a routine expedition to an abandoned Goa’uld world, SG-1 inadvertently initiate Ra’s ancient trial – and once begun, the trial cannot be halted. Relying on Dr. Daniel Jackson’s vast wealth of knowledge, Colonel O’Neill must lead his team from planet to planet, completing each task in the allotted time. There is no rest, no respite. To stop means being trapped forever in the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and to fail means death.

Victory is their only option in this terrible test of endurance – an ordeal that will try their will, their ingenuity, and above all their bonds of friendship…

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Once I got into the book, and over some of my initial issues with the book, it ended up being a fantastic, and at times engaging read. It was fast paced, the author was able to keep the integrity and voice of the characters throughout the book. I rarely found that the characters were out of character and I found that this particular story would have fit well into the shows overall arc and plot line. It would have made for one hell of an episode.  I did have times where it was hard to put the book down, even if I knew all would be well in the end. (Let's face it when it takes place in season three of the show, and you know all these characters are sill all alive and well, you know they will all survive. Well Daniel could have died - again.  But, that's neither here nor there.)

My biggest issue of the book  was where it's place in the Stargate Universe. While I did look up where it was intended to be placed, a lot of things such as strength of team dynamics, general knowledge of how everything works etc., seemed to be at the level they were further down the time line. I had to check to make sure where and how everything came together was right. It wasn't necessarily a continuity issue, but it seemed off at times, because of the maturity of the characters and storyline as a whole. Which, if Which, if you look at it, isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when I was first reading it, I did have to look back a few times and look up to see if references were correct - thankfully they were.  

I also found that the ending was quite rushed. It was a good steady pace throughout the book, and then the ending came and went a lot faster than I would have liked. I wonder if the author was forced to cut some of it or something. Because as I was reading it, I got the feeling something was missing.

Overall it was a great read. One of my favourite books from the series.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes, out of the series, this is one a must reads. Some of the books you could skip, this one isn't one of them. Again like with all of the Stargate books, having watched the show is pretty much  must. So watch the show. All 10 seasons of it!

What to read next: More Stargate