Monday, April 30

Book Review: Song of the Silk Road


Title: Song of the Silk Road

Author: Mingmei Yip

Pages: EBook (317)

Summary: As a girl growing up in Hong Kong, Lily Lin was captivated by photographs of the desert - its long, lonely vistas and shifting sand dunes. Now living in New York, Lily is struggling to finish her graduate degree when she receives an astonishing offer. An aunt she never knew existed will pay Lily a huge sum to travel across China's desolate Taklamakan Desert - and carry out a series of tasks along the way. Intrigued, Lily accepts. Her assignments range from the dangerous to the bizarre. Lily must seduce a monk. She must scrape a piece of clay from the famous Terracotta Warriors, and climb the Mountains of Heaven to gather a rare herb. At Xian, her first stop, Lily meets Alex, a young American with whom she forms a powerful connection. And soon, she faces revelations that will redefine her past, her destiny, and the shocking truth behind her aunt's motivations...Powerful and eloquent, "Song of the Silk Road" is a captivating story of self-discovery, resonant with the mysteries of its haunting, exotic landscape.

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: For the most part, I highly enjoyed this book and at times I was captured by Lily's journey down the Silk Road, but there were a few aspect of the book, that I didn't enjoy and I think had a huge impact on how I finally felt about the story. Overall it was a fantastic book, but there were a few element, that prevented it from being a phenomenal read.

I absolutely loved how the author explored Lily's journey down the Silk Road, paying attention to details such as cultural historical and spirituality throughout the book. I was very interested in this side of the story, and had trouble tearing myself away. The historical background and significance of some of the things mentioned and viewed throughout the book were fascinating to me, and they were showed to the reader in a very interesting way. I also enjoyed the part of the story with Lop Nor - I felt the relationship and development between him and Lily was very well done, and seemed to flow naturally, as opposed to other relationships, and I found Lop Nor to be one of my favourite characters.

I enjoyed the overall theme to the book, of finding one self, it was tied in quite well with the journey along the Silk Road, and how it changed Lily. I found a few plot developments and twists to be a little to convenient, others I didn't feel really needed to be there, but on the other hand, there were some plot revelations that were finally explained. A few things which I had questioned earlier finally made sense in the end. So there was a bit of a mix in how the story unfolded and progressed, but for the most part, I highly enjoyed it.

One of the major issues I had with the book was the relationship between Lily and Alex. In fact there were times this relationship nearly ruined the book for me. I didn't think the relationship fit into the book at all, and honestly felt it was a waste of writing space, that could have been better used to develop Lily's character even more. I found her other relationships she had were also poorly done as they also didn't seem to tie into the natural flow of the story, but hers and Alex's just didn't do it for me. I didn't see the connection or emotion between the two characters. The fact I couldn't not stand Alex (or Chris, the other major relationship Lily has) didn't help. I honestly wanted Alex to die in the book, just so the story could go back on track again. Luckily for me, I was able to force myself on, because the rest of the book, was an incredible read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this was a very enjoyable read, filled with interesting cultural elements of China, which I found fascinating. The book also has good amount of romance and finding one's self tied into it too, so there is something in here for multiple reader tastes.

What to read next: A Thread of Sky



Book Review: The Penguin Book of Scottish Short Stories


Title: The Penguin Book of Scottish Short Stories

Author: J.F Hendry (editor)

Pages: 237

Summary: In the twenty stories collected here we are given a multifaceted view of Scotland, the Scots and the Scottish short story. The stories range from Roman Britain through the trials of those at home during the Second World War, to a country and people determined to assert their independence.

The Story of Jorel Hayforks - George Mackay Brown
Out of Hand - Elspeth Davie
The Money - Ian Hamilton Finlay
The Potato Planters and The Old Joiner's Funeral  - Ian Hamilton Finlay
The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea - J. A. Ford
A Wee Nip - Edward Gaitens
Smeddum - Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Mirahuano - R. B. Cunninghame-Graham
The Old Man - Neil M. Gunn
Choice - Margaret Hamilton
Vocation - Dorothy K. Haynes
The Caves of Altamira -  J. F. Hendry
Christian Justice - Robin Jenkins
Sealskin Trousers - Eric Linklater
A House in Sicily - Neil McCallum
A Trifle Unnecessary - Moray McLaren
Mithras, My Saviour - Naomi Mitchison
Scotch Settlement - Neil Paterson
The House of the Famous Poet - Muriel Spark
Elephants, Bairns and Old Men - Fred Urquhart

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Rich with Scottish culture and spirit, this collection of short stories was very well written containing some terrific short stories, I hope to find more works by some of the authors showcase in this collection, as many of them are well worth checking out again.

Some of my favourites were The Caves of Altamira, Mithras, My Saviour, Elephants, Bairns and Old Men and The Story of Jorel Hayfolds. I don't think there was a story in the collection which I didn't like in some degree Christian Justice for example was a story I didn't like as much as others, but it was because of the characters in it, and their actions. The author in this story managed to give the reader a very good a hard look at the characters and their inner psyche. Which I really appreciated seeing in a short story. In Elephats, Bairns and Old Men, I loved the atmosphere the author set up, and I thought the ending of that particular story was quite beautiful. The Caves of Altamira was another example where the author did a extremely good job at fleshing out the characters and the full story, in such a short amount of time.

The only issue I had with the book, and it's more of a personal preference was that some I enjoyed, others not so much. But I find this with most short story collections and this particular one was a great collection which I hope leads me to some more books by Scottish authors.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was a very enjoyable read and I found a nice list of Scottish authors which I don't seem to find a lot of. I think it is a great collection of short stories and a good place to start if you're looking for Scottish writing/stories.

What to read next: There is also  Penguin Book of Welsh Short Stories and Penguin Book of Irish Short Stories, so you can start there (as well as two British, and American short stories in the same collection.) I'd also check out some of the authors other works from the collection.

Challenges: 12 in 12, 100+ Challenge, ShortStories Challenge

Book Review: The Book Borrower


Title: The Book Borrower

Author: Alice Mattison

Pages: 278

Summary: On the first page of The Book Borrower, Toby Ruben and Deborah Laidlaw meet in 1975 in a city playground, where the two women are looking after their babies. Deborah lends Toby a book, Trolley Girl - a memoir about a long-ago trolley strike and three Jewish sisters, one a fiery revolutionary - that will appear, disappear, and return throughout the years in which the women are friends
.
Through two decades Deborah and Toby raise their children, embark on teaching careers, and argue about politics, education, and their own lives. One day during a hike, they have an argument that cannot be resolved - and the two women take different and permanent paths - but it is ultimately the borrowed book that will bring them back together. With sensitivity and grace, Alice Mattison shows how books can rescue us from our deepest sorrows; how the events of the outside world play into our private lives; and how the bonds between women are enduring, mysterious and laced with surprise.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The author used an original way to tell the story, although this took a sometime to get used to, I thought it was a very unique way to tell parallel story lines. But, the book quickly turned for me, and I found it to be boring and drawn out. Finding the powerful friendship elements of the story to be lost in the telling of the story.

One of the issues I took with the book was the elements of the powers of friendship and that deep connection  of emotion that comes with friendship just didn't seem to be there. The book seems to be void of the exact thing the author was trying to show. I didn't get friendship from Deborah an Ruben's relationship - it seemed to be one sided and I didn't see the beautiful connection they were suppose to have. This could be partly due to how the characters were written and developed, as I didn't connect or really like them, but I still failed to see the friendship between the two characters.

Another issue I had with the book was how it was written, while it was more original, not using the traditional methods of quotations marks during dialogue and breaking up the story in a more traditional way affected my enjoyment of the story, as it took a while to get used to this and I think in this case, affected the natural flow of the book. I've seen similar methods work in other books, but it didn't do it for this particular book. The story itself was average to being with, but eventually began to feel forced, plot twist didn't seem to connect properly, how characters of the book exited just didn't work for me. Not to mention, the reveal of who one character was, seemed to come from out of left field, I would have been much happier had that character stayed in more of the back drop/parallel story - although I did find I enjoyed the story of the "Trolley Girl" more than the actual story.

I did enjoy the first part of the book where there were two parallel stories going on at once. The main story, and the story from the book Ruben is reading, Trolley Girl. This did take a while to get used to as it jumped from one to the other, sometimes in mid sentence of the other story, but I thought it was an interesting idea, and if it was executed better it could have been a spectacular element to the book.
The book had some interesting and original elements to it, but in the end the book just didn't work for me.
Would I recommend it to read: I don't think I would, there are too many factors, (writing style, characterization etc) that affect the book and the reading experience.

What to read next: I haven't a clue what I'd recommended, no titles come to mind. I guess books that take place during the time period.




Book Review: Fall On Your Knees


Title: Fall On Your Knees

Author: Ann-Marie MacDonald

Pages: 566

Summary: A sprawling saga about five generations of a family from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Fall on Your Knees is the impressive first fiction from Canadian playwright and actor Ann-Marie MacDonald. This epic tale of family history, family secrets, and music centers on four sisters and their relationships with each other and with their father. Set in the coal-mining communities of Nova Scotia in the early part of this century, the story also shifts to the battlefields of World War I and the jazz scene of New York City in the 1920s.

My Rating: 9.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Fall on Fall on Your Knees was an incredible, riveting read. There were many times were it was hard to put the book down, as I was so involved in the story. I think it's safe to say this is a book that will likely be one of my favourite books of the year.

The writing style was what initially pulled me in, from the first few pages the author had me hooked by how the story was told. Something about it just grabbed me and kept my attention. The book moved slowly, which helped develop the characters and plot, but it wasn't noticeable in most cases because of lovely writings style. The ending was spectacular and beautiful, I was surprised by parts of it (and disturbed out by other parts), but many of those plot developments were tied into the story beautifully - although I do wish the reader was able to experience some of these plot revelations more directly.

The characters were well done, although I don't have a favourite in the book I still enjoyed there stories and development. I did find some of them hard to like at times, but even those characters had some great development - especially Kathleen. She was a character I found to be very unlikeable, until near the end f the book when secrets were revealed, then I grew to really enjoy her character, especially on an emotional level. All of the characters are well rounded, complex and have multiple layers, some more apparent than others, but the characters were well written.

As I said above, the plot did move slowly at times, which was a good thing for me because it gave me a chance to savour the book and story longer. But there were a few times were I did want it to progress a little faster, but that was a minor issue.  Overall a wonderful read which I highly recommend!
Would I recommend it to read: I would, this was such an amazing read - and hard to tear myself away from it at times. I'd highly recommend the book.

What to read next: More Canadian Classics and Award Winners



Sunday, April 29

Book Review: The Return of the Soldier


Title: The Return of the Soldier

Author: Rebecca West

Pages: EBook (84)

Summary: The soldier returns from the front to find three women from his past. There's Kitty, his wife, with her cool, moonlight beauty, and his devoted cousin Jenny, who never quite admits her love for him.
But it's Margaret whom the shell-shocked Chris remembers. Margaret, his first love of fifteen years before. His cousin he recalls only as a childhood playmate, and his wife not at all. The women have a choice: to leave him as he is, or to 'cure' him. . .

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book wasn't my favourite, while I enjoyed the writing style and how the story was told, I found myself bored with the story at times, and annoyed by the characters at other times. It did do a good job at showing what happens to a shell shocked soldier from WWI, but I wanted something more from the book.

This is a book where the plot moves slow, but it works out well for it, as it helps develop the characters. Unfortunately, I didn't like a single character, so I didn't care for the development. Most of the time the characters annoyed me on how they reacted to the soldiers home coming and the fact there is a war going on. The women in the book really bothered me, with their personalities, interactions with each other and Chris, which grew to be repetitive for me and I grew bored of the plot quickly because of it.

The writing was well done and I will try out the author again, I may not have liked the story much, more because how the characters carried themselves, but the writing was well done, and I think if the characters were more likeable, the book would have been a great read.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I would. However, I would recommend the author.
What to read next: I'd try out the author again.



Book Review: Pigsong


Title: Pigsong

Author: Frank Delaney

Pages: Ebook (32 pages)

Summary: "Once upon a time and long ago, when snow tasted like cream, and timber tasted like sweet cake, and every tenth egg laid by a duck had a diamond in it, there lived up in the North of Ireland a very bad man."

The third short story in Frank Delaney's series, "Storytellers," is far more than charming as he instructs, seduces, entertains and allows us to see how an oppressed culture might have learned the concept of justice through imagination.

My Rating: 8.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Another lovely read from one of my favourite authors, this short story doesn't disappoint, a great choice for those who enjoy folklore and magical realism.

Like the previous two short stories from the series, this was a very enjoyable read and like the previous stories in this series, it had the atmosphere of a storyteller telling you the story. Which I absolutely love, I'd be willing to find these books in audio, if the right person were to read them. Then these stories would really come alive - they are the perfect book to read or listen by the fire. I'm not sure how the author does it, but he creates the perfect reading experience with these short stories.

The writing as always, was wonderful  and the story itself was original and overall fun read. I enjoyed the themes the story used and the metaphor of the pigsong stood for and how it inspired the characters in the book. It had a very fairytale feeling to it, especially in the ending, but I still found myself enjoying the story and I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment of this series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend the whole series, they are well written, fun and this one has a very good message. Great if you enjoy folklore/mythology/magical realism. They would also be an excellent choice if you haven't read anything by the author.

What to read next: The Druid and The Girl Who Lived on the Moon the first two books in the storytellers series. Ireland, Tipperary, Shannon also by the author.



Saturday, April 28

Book Review: My Ántonia


Title: My Ántonia

Author: Willa Cather

Pages: 272

Summary: Willa Cather recognized the power of My Ántonia when she said it was "the best thing [she had] done." Written in 1918, My Ántonia explores the ideals of Manifest Destiny, the early-American push to expand westward, and the immigrants pursuit of the American dream. The narrator, Ántonia Shimerda, on the unsettled plains of Nebraska, where poverty, danger, and tragedy are ready to (and do) strike at any moment. When her father dies Ántonia must sacrifice her education and friendships to work in the house and the family fields. These experiences fortify Ántonia for the struggles that she faces after leaving the family farm to pursue her own path in life. Cather depicts Ántonia as a woman whose unyielding spirit makes her emblematic of the qualities Cather found most admirable in the American people and their pursuit of happiness.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:  For the most part, this was an enjoyable read, it may have slowed at times, but that also worked for this particular book.

I enjoyed how the author told Antonia's story through the through the eyes of her childhood friend. Although part of me want to follow Antonia's path and see the world through her eyes or at least have more of the focus on her, the effect on the story and the main character's story wouldn't have been the same if it were done any other way. It added something extra, having her life retold by another, through their observations and experiences a lot was left out, and I did feel we didn't get a chance to get into the deep inner emotions of Antonia, the reader still got an in-depth glimpse of her life and development.  Antonia was a well written character, but I did find some of the other characters lacked some of the development given to Antonia's character.

The book also does a good job at showing families trying to live the American dream and all the struggles that come with it. I thought the author did a good job at showing the reader how the families struggled and what life was like for families during this time period. Although, there were times I found the story dragged a bit, I did find this historical side interesting.

Overall it was a good read, and I would definitely try the author again.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, very well written ad a good story
.
What to read next: I'd try out the author again. Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin would also be authors to check out.



Sunday, April 22

Update Final - Readathon Spring 2012


Update:  Final

Hours Reading: 12ish maybe?

Current Book: Book Borrowers/ The Penguin Book of Scottish Short Stories (well that was what was on the go when I fell asleep

Books Read: 1

Pages Read: 541

Current Location: Library/desk (I fell asleep on the couch.)

Cups of Coffee:  2 Cups of Coffee and a Carmel Latte (Love my Tassimo)

Personal Cheerleader (Tonks the cat): She napped with me on the couch for a while, then lurked around the house until bed.




End of Event Meme

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    I'm not sure, as I ended up falling asleep early on in the night - I think around 11?
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    Fall on Your Knees - Ann- MacDonald was a fantastic book, but it was dense and not the best book for a readathon. I've enjoyed the Scottish Short Stories, they were short and a good break, but only read 5. The final book I read is also a interesting, or will have the potential to be interesting book, but the way it's written also made for a poor choice for a readathon.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    I found this year to not be as organized as previous years. There's usually aot more cheerleaders on twitter, and the bloggers and didn't see much this year.  I also missed the list of participants that was on the fall list, it was handy way to visit the other blogs. That list is still there, but no new one for the spring one.

    What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
  4. I just read, didn't pay much attention to the inner workings.
  5. How many books did you read?
    1 Book, 5 short stories and 25 pages of a second book.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    - Fall on Your Knees - Ann-Marie MacDonald
    - The Penguin Book of Scottish Short Stories
    - The Book Borrowers - Alice Mattison

  7. Which book did you enjoy most?I only finished the one, so Fall on Your Knees

  8. Which did you enjoy least?

    -none-
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    -none-
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
     I hope to be in the Fall one, but that depends on what goes on in the home. 


Saturday, April 21

Update 3 - Spring Readathon 2012


Update:  3

Hours Reading: 8.5 - 9

Current Book: Attempting to choose next book

Books Read: 1

Pages Read: 480

Current Location: Library/desk

Cups of Coffee: 2. Also ate two "secret" mini cheesecakes about to eat the other 2

Personal Cheerleader (Tonks the cat): Had a nap in my lap, now lurking in the library



Update 2 - Spring Readathon


Update:  2

Hours Reading: 5.5

Current Book: Fall on Your Knees

Books Read: 0

Pages Read: 235

Current Location: Living room

Cups of Coffee: 2. Also ate two "secret" mini cheesecakes

Personal Cheerleader (Tonks the cat): Emerged from hiding, currently poking the sleeping dragon (the other, older cat. Tonks is currently rolling, playing with random items on the ground, while mouse glares at her)

Other  - dozed off, and helped hunt for an Nintendo 3ds. House to my self for a while, so enjoying the peace! Read on!


Edit~ added the picture of the 4, er now secret mini cheesecake!


Update 1 - Spring Readathon 2012


Update:  1

Hours Reading: 3.5

Current Book: Fall on Your Knees

Books Read: 0

Pages Read: 180

Current Location: Bouncing back between the library/living room 

Cups of Coffee: 2 (ran out of milk)

Personal Cheerleader (Tonks the cat):
Hiding from/spying on the children


Spring 24 Hour Readathon - Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Milton Ontario


2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Not sure, I don't have an actual stack this time around. Mostly going to randomly pick. But I am enjoying both of my current reads, so we'll see what happens.


3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
At the moment, my morning coffee.


4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
Today I'm starting the readathon from my personal library. And I will try not to be distracted by Pottermore. I'm a ravenclaw. Username is CrimsonCentaur27524 so add me



5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
 This is my 5th readathon. This time around I'm going to read and relax. No expectations this time around.

The Pre-Spring Read-a-Thon 2012

This will be my first Spring Read-a-thon and my 5th read-a-thon ever.

I wasn't going to do this, but last minute impulsiveness has me jumping in. Not sure how much reading I'll get done, I'm going to aim for 15 hours, which I'll likley spread throughout the entire day, but who knows what it will actually turn out to be. I don't have any real plans, except to relax and read.

I'm not even sure I'll even pre-select the books, just grab at random.
I have a couple on the go and a couple I want to read before months end, so I guess it won't be completely random but this time around is to read and enjoy. And see what happens. I don't have the goal of doing the full 24 hours, but will try to see what will happen. I do have more people around living with me, so that either A = more cheerleading or B more distractions. Pottermore will also something that will be hard not to be on all day. Hmmm perhaps, re-read Harry Potter books on ebook...hmmmm perhaps I'll brew up a new plan...

 Right, the read a thon. So join me if you like be a cheerleader, a reader, a watcher, just join in the fun!

24 Hour Read a thon <----- click for details and to sign up.

This is my first attempt at a pre-scheduled post - so let hope it works. I'll hopefully be awake at the actual begining of the read-a-thon, so I can do my first intro post, but I have been tired lately....


Wednesday, April 18

Ad Astra 2012



This past weekend (Friday April 13, - Sunday April 15) I attended the 31st annual Ad Astra convention.  It's at an annual Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, that heavily focuses on books and writing  (and some other things related to Sci Fi/Fantasy). This was my second year attending the convention, and my first year as a panelist as well as a behind the scenes organizer of information for the book launches. I plan on helping out with the convention more next year, with book launches and programming (assuming they  want me of course.) Knowing what it takes, to do all that stuff, I know how much time to prepare, and it's a great convention, I want to make sure it stays alive.

 I had a great at convention, and one of the very few in my area that focuses on books. I was unable to attend on the Sunday, as I wasn't feeling well at all, I had a horrible headache that wouldn't go away, starting Saturday afternoon, so I stayed home to rest. But, the two days I did attend were fantastic!
Panels and more Panels!

FRIDAY
There are far too many I wanted to go to, and far too many at the same time I wanted to attend - it doesn't matter the convention, this is unavoidable. There always seems to be multiple panels, author readings and other events at the same time. Unless you know how to make yourself be in two places at one. All the author readings I wanted to attend were at times I was busy in a panel.

But I did manage to get into a couple of panels on Friday, I was a little late, because of traffic and finding the rooms (or hotel double booked on us, so we ended up losing half the rooms and things were a bit of a mess). But the first one I went to was "What are You reading?" (everything for me). It was a good panel, and ended up being a lot less formal and more chatting about what we liked, have read last year and our current reads, I even grabbed a few recommendations. I didn't clue into actually writing the recommendations  down until near the end (in my defence, it was Friday after a long week at work, and a long sitting in GTA traffic, I was brain dead ;)). So I barely remembered most of them. Oh well. My TBR List is already so high, I'm surprised it hasn't collapsed.  The program description of the panel suggested we bring some of our  favourite/current reads. I didn't as I'd need a bigger car and a team of book carriers to do so.
 Another panel I sat in on was  Urban Fantasies -
(Faerie, Werewolves and Vampires are just a few of the otherworldy folk that are moving into cities, blending in, using he system and working within it. What makes a successful urban fantasy? How do you keep it 'real' when you are writing about a faerie princess that is the girl next door - with Rob St. Martin, Leah Bobet, Rebecca Simkin, Max Turner - from the program).

This was an interesting panel on how fantasy focus is changing from the traditional fantasy of medieval, forests, small villages etc, to urban centers. How fantasy books and characters affect the setting and vise versa. Interesting panel and a lot of debate on what defines urban fantasy and how long it's been around.  What makes up the components of urban fantasy and how it affects readers and brings them in.

SATURDAY!

RIP Hogworts: The Harry Potter Post Mortem The books are done, the films are done. How do you feel about the conclusion of Harry’s adventures? Are you happy with the resolution, do you feel like the last movie did the books justice?

 I was supposed to be a panelist on this - it was a last minute thing Thursday/Friday, that if I was able to make it that I'd go up and be panelist. Unfortunately it being 10am panel and living a good 40 minutes away made it hard to get there. I did make it for most of the panel, but missed out on being on the panel - I still put my two cents in though. I mentioned to the panelists and panel goers, that Pottermore is now open - which will of course help keep Harry Potter alive in all our hearts. I believe Harry Potter will be well alive (much like star wars is), as long as we the fans make it remembered! But I had fun talking, reminiscing about one of my favourite book series of all time.

“Ye Olde Bookes for Beginners: A Book Historian’s Guide to Ancient Tablets, Scrolls, and CodicesJoin Helen Marshall for presentation on historical story telling forms. What the written word was ecorded on before books and modern publishing.

This was one of my favourite panels.  Leaning about the history of books, how they were made and what was used to make them. Parchment for example was made from animal skin, briefly talked about books made of human skin (eww). Learned about wax books, which is where people used to write on the wax, and later scrape off what they didn't want.  How ink was made using different stones and other earthly products. The origin of book worms (when they used animal skin to make parchment paper, they would have parasites in them that would later hatch into worms, and eat through the book! Gross but neat at the same time!) I was also told about The Auchinleck Manuscript and have decided a trip to the National Library of Scotland is a must! I promise not to drool on it. There was also a little verse the panelist shared with us, which is a message of sorts, meant to prevent people stealing books. I wanted to share it with you, and debated having it inserted into all my own books but was to amused with the idea of having it inserted into all my own books, that I forgot to write it down. Doh! Either way, it was a very interesting panel.

Criticism and Critique in the 21st Century Developments in social media and web 2.0 technology continue to blur the line between amateur and professional critics. As North American colleges and universities produce record numbers of graduates, the media consuming public is transforming itself into something that feels it ought to be included in larger critical conversations. The purpose of this panel would be to explore how professionals and amateurs work together to evaluate genre media be it television, movies.

 This was a popular panel, with some fantastic panelists and panel goers. It was interesting to hear what they had to say about criticism and critique in the online world and how it has changed. How the panelists, and the audience take in online reviews of media. It was a good discussion, I wish I could give more details on exactly what we talked, but I ended up being very involved in it, that I didn't get to take any notes. The panelists and audience had some great things to say, but too busy listening to those who had similar ideas to me on the subject to write anything down. Another panel that is up there in my favourites.

Book Binding Workshop John Morgan returns from his highly touted practical bookbinding workshop last year at the CNSE for an encore! Join John as he leads you through the process of preparing your own hand-stitched notebook, with all materials for a takeaway booklet provided. Space may be limited! First come first serve.

This was all about binding your own books. This focused on non-adhesive book binding, so in the end we got to stitch together our own little notebooks. Or in my case attempt. I think I need to practice a little.... okay a lot to do it. I'm pretty sure I did it wrong. But, it was a fun panel, even if I sucked at it. Snd I learned about some of the details and tools to do book binding. I have to say this is a lot more fun than the book binding I do at work with our manual binding machine and the combs. Although if I had to stitch together a book of legal cases that was a 100 pages long, I would cry. I plan on reattempting my little note book until I get it right!

A Cover Story Do you have a passion for book covers? What makes a quality cover? How much does a book’s cover influence your literary choices?  What does a cover have to convey? (Panelists - Beverley Bambury, Adrienne Kress, Kent Allan Rees, Caro Soles, Shelly Shapiro)

This was an interesting panel I sat in on. Where we talked about covers. What is liked, disliked, how a cover influences buyers and how changing it can affect them. I also learned on how much or little an author input an author may have on a book cover. Another case where I didn't take a lot of notes, because I was engaged in the panel, and in the enthusiasm of some of the panellists.  

Writing for Young Adults/YA Fantasy: Using Magic and Fantasy to Grip Teen Readers  (The formally two different panels combined into one)
Did you notice the YA section the last time you went to the bookstore? There are a lot of books being written for young adults. How is writing for that demographic different, how do you write a book that they want to read. Join our panelists as they discuss what makes good fiction for Young Adults.- Did you notice the YA section the last time you went to the bookstore? There are a lot of books being written for young adults. How is writing for that demographic different, how do you write a book that they want to read. Join our panelists as they discuss what makes good fiction for Young Adults. / Teens aren't always avid readers.  Weaving magic or fantasy into a story can intrigue readers and pull them into a world that isn't their own
 Panelists Adrienne Kress(m), Timothy Carter, Max Turner, Lesley Livingston, Rob St. Martin / Cheryl Rainfield, Julie Dobson (me)

My friend was a programmer for the con and needed someone to help out for the YA Fantasy panel so I volunteered to give my viewpoint from a bloggers view. I may not read a lot of YA but it is everywhere, and the community has exploded in it - so I said I'd give my two cents on the subject. Later I found out one of the panelsits couldn't make it, so I was more than happy to sit in on it. Before the panel started, Lesley Livingston came buy and suggested we combine the two panels together. They were side by side, and very close in subject. So we did. First of all, it was great sitting on a panel with these authors. I've met Max Turner at two previous cons, and have read one of his books, the other is on the TBR list. Lesley Livingston is an author I've seen showcased a lot in the blog vers. I'd had seen Cheryl Rainields book, Scars, a few times in the blog verse. And because of the con and friends I've heard/seen Adrianne Kress. I wish I could tell you all about what we talked about, but I was far too involved in the panel. And trying not to ramble when I was speaking, and moderating it and it was good fun. All the panelists rocked this one, but both Lesley and Adrienne blew the panel away. They were both two of the most enthusiastic panelists I'd seen at the whole con. PS I for all you YA fans out there, I suggest you check out the authors, some of them have books coming out later this year, and I know there are a lot of YA readers out there who would love them. So be sure to check them out!

Books to Movies, the panel Some succeed, some fail… some make us want to kill the producer and everyone at the studio-  The past few years have seen some pretty big print to screen transitions. Who did it right, who screwed up. This was a good discussion, although we did keep getting sidetracked and talking about other things  it ended up being a good conversation. Rio Youers was the panelist on this one.

Book Launches
I helped with some o the preliminary book launch stuff - mainly helping organize all the information. Next year I hope to do it again, and now that I have an idea what I'm getting into, I'll be better at all of it. Not to mention I doubt I'll have the big move in the middle of all the planning and may be able to balance out work commitments better. I didn't get a chance to go to all the book launches, or pick up all the books - although quite a few books erm.... followed me home, purely on their own. The wallet/bank account being lighter is pure coincidence. It was probably trolls or a leprechaun. Anyway, the book launches!

I stopped by quickly the book launch hosted by Stephen Pearl for his book new book Nukekubi, I wasn't able to stay long, but it looked liked things were going well, and I hope he had a successful launch.  He's also the author of Tinker's Plague.  (Click here to go to the authors site.)

Leah Bobet also had a launch for her new book, Above, and I think a lot of people out there would enjoy her book. I didn't get a chance to attend her launch, but I hope she had an awesome launch.   (Click here to go to her site)

Dragonmoon Press had a launch, where I ended up buying three books. Two books by the authors at the launch, and a anthology launched at Polaris last year I meant to get, but ran out of money so I bought it while I was scooping up the other two books there. The two books at this launch were Destiny's Fall - Marie Bilodeau and FightingGravity - Leah Petersen.

(ChiZine publishing had a launch but by that point, I was exhausted. And the hunt for the car keys ensued to my BFs car. Luckily they were found (still in the lock for the trunk) and turned into the hotel desk. Thank you whoever you were! But I wish I could have stopped by at the launch, some of the publishers and authors were on the panels I sat in on, so it would have been nice to see them again and what their books had to offer.

The Books

Because you can't go to a bookish con, without having books follow you home right?
·         Destiny's Fall - Marie Bilodeau
·         Survival - Julie Czerneda
·         Sailing to Sarantium - Guy Gavriel Kay
·         Lord of Emperors - Guy Gavriel Kay
·         The Floating Islands - Rachel Neumeier
·         Fighting Gravity - Leah Petersen
·         Watch - Robert J. Sawyer
·         When the Hero Comes Home
·         Evolve Two - Vampire Stories of the Future Undead






Wednesday, April 11

Review: Requiem for a Dream


Title: Requiem for a Dream

Author: Hubert Selby, Jr.

Pages: EBook - 223

Summary: This story follows the lives of Harry, Marion, Tyrone, and Sara, who are all searching for the key to their dreams, and in the process, they get flung into a devastating life of addiction. Harry and Marion are in love and Tyrone is their friend. Sara is Harry’s lonely, widowed mother. Sara’s dream is to be on television, and when a phone call from a casting company gets her hopes up, she spends the next few months on diet pills to lose weight. She becomes addicted and delirious, ends up in the hospital, and undergoes electroconvulsive therapy. Harry, Marion and Tyrone are heroin addicts who decide to make money by buying some uncut heroin and selling it. Harry and Tyrone end up in jail, where Harry's infected arm is amputated. Marion, left alone, begins a life of prostitution to get drugs.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I knew going into the book it would be one that was iffy for me. The reason why I picked it up was because it was on the 1001 books to read before you die list, and I have randomly picked a group of books on that list to expand my reading comfort zones solely on things such as title - hence why I picked this one.

It wasn't a bad book, very well written and the author show cases a group of lost people, trying to achieve a goal, a dream in their lives which is very important to them. They're self destructive in their attempt to reach their goals as all the main characters are affected by multiple addictions and desperate attempts to reach their goals. In this regard, it was a good book as the author showed the reader just how desperate people get, how addiction destroys lives and all it's horrible consequences. 

Yet despite it being a well written book, I still wasn't sold. I really couldn't get into the book so heavy with drug addiction, - it just wasn't my cup of tea, the book is well done, but the topic just didn't catch me which prevented me from enjoying it. But it did get me to experience an author and book I wouldn't normally have tried.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure. The book does, what the author intended to. It tells a good story, it just wasn't the topic I enjoyed. I think a lot of readers may enjoy the story, but it wasn't for me

What to read next: I'm not sure - I wasn't the biggest fan of the book. But I'd be willing to try the author out again.


Tuesday, April 10

Book Review: Casualties of War


Title: Casualties of War (SGA - 7)

Author: Elizabeth Christensen

Pages: EBook - 336

Summary: Burden of command…

It’s a dark time for Atlantis. Following the first Asuran clashes, Colonel Sheppard is buckling under the strain of command. When his team discovers Ancient technology which can defeat the Asuran menace, he is determined that Atlantis must possess it—at all costs.

But the involvement of Atlantis heightens local suspicions and brings two peoples to the point of war. Elizabeth Weir believes only her negotiating skills can hope to prevent the carnage, but when her diplomatic mission is attacked—and two of Sheppard’s team are lost—both Weir and Sheppard must question their decisions. And their abilities to command.

As the first shots are fired, the Atlantis team must find a way to end the conflict—or live with the blood of innocents on their hands…

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: For the most part I enjoyed this story in the Stargate verse. It isn't my favourite, but the build up to the story has a whole was well done, and I enjoyed the background on the newest alien race, but I did find that the twist was given away too soon, and thought the author could have dragged out some aspects of the storyline a little longer.

The characters in the book were very well done, I think the author did a great job at keeping the characters close to who they're suppose to be. I found a few nitpicks here and there, but the author stayed fairly true to the individual character seen on the show. Elizabeth Weir is one of the best examples in this particular book.
The plot was also very interesting, although I found certain aspects resolved to quickly, especially regarding the "fallen team members." Now I knew of course these particular characters weren't actually dead, as they appear in other books, and are essential to the series - but I thought it was revealed to the other characters that they were not dead to soon - I would have loved to see more development with the other characters and their reactions, emotional development with this. Instead I felt the focus was on the other aspects of the plot, acting as a mediator between two races on a planet, while it was interesting it got repetitive after a while. I was really hoping for more to be focused on the characters we know and love and watching them come to terms with the "loss" of their own.

Overall, it was a good book and probably one of the books in the series I'd recommend to read to fellow fans
.
Would I recommend it to read: I would to Stargate Fans, although I think certain aspects could have been handled differently regarding the climax of the book, it's one of the good ones out there.

What to read next: More Stargate - although I'd recommend buying the physical books over the EBooks, I've found there to be a lot o formatting issues with the EBook versions.



Book Review: Agassiz Stories


Title: Agassiz Stories

Author: Sandra Birdsell

Pages:  353

Summary: The superbly crafted stories in this internationally acclaimed collection trace four generations of the Lafrenière family in the fictional small town of Agassiz, Manitoba, from the time of the great flood in 1950 to the present. There is Mika, the matriarch of the family, tired of being a mother to her children, and her Métis husband, Maurice, who is by turns fascinated by and ashamed of his Native heritage. Their marriage has long been an uneasy truce. As their children grow up to pursue their own lives, the frustrations of one generation will collide with the dreams of another, and the past will leave an indelible mark on all that is to come. 

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a fairly enjoyable read, I wouldn't say it's a favourite of mine, but I did like the way the author unfolded the book using short stories spaced throughout the generations of a family to tell the story - rather than use it in a novel format.

Although there are some gaps in the timeline of the characters, I really enjoyed how the story was told. I found it interesting to have the novel told in short stories at different points in the lives of the characters which included multiple generations of the family. The author did a fantastic job at showcasing the different hardships and struggles a family will face, the book did feel a little grey at times, but I think it worked for the book and it's characters.

I did find that the characters and plot could be easily forgotten. While the writing and the way the author created the plot was interesting and how she created a very realistic cast of characters, I did find it easy to drift away from the book and the plot was boring at times. It needed a little extra hook to make it from a good read, to a great one - either the characters, writing or a plot twist, it was just missing something extra to bring it out to something great.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, the writing was good. I enjoyed the stories, and the exploration of the characters inner thoughts and growth - if you enjoy this type of book, than it's a good choice for you.
What to read next: The writing, content and the exploration and journey of the characters reminded me of another Canadian Author, David Adams Richards - so he might be a good place to start. A Bird in the House by Margaret Laurence also by a Manitoban author also who also wrote a "novel" through a collection of short stories.