Saturday, June 30

Book Review: Who Do You Think You Are?

Title: Who Do You Think You Are?

Author: Alice Munro

Pages: 219

Summary: Rose and her stepmother, Flo, live in Hanratty-across the bridge from the "good" part of town. Rose, alternately fascinated and appalled by the rude energy of the people around her, grows up nursing her hope of outgrowing her humble beginnings and plotting an escape to university.
Rose makes her escape and thinks herself free. But Hanratty's question-Who Do You Think You Are?-rings in her ears during her days in Vancouver, mocks her attempts to make her marriage successful, and haunts her new career.

In these stories of Rose and Flo, Alice Munro explores the universal story of growing up-Rose's struggle to accept herself tells the story of our lives.

My Rating: 9.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I loved this collection of short stories by Alice Munro. It was incredibly well written, and each interconnected story was detailed, absorbing and had the feel of a full novel.  I was amazed at how well done each story was. Usually I read collections such as this one quickly, reading three or four stories at a time. This was one I read slowly, because the amount of detail and content in each story made it feel like I'd read something much longer.

The only issue I had was it took me a long time to like Rose, it wasn't until the last two stories in the collection when I began to see something there and see her differently. I think this collection is one I'll need to reread to fully appreciate who Rose was, see some of her traits I may have missed because I focused on something else told in her story. Rose was an incredibly fleshed out and developed character, who was also a very flawed and realistic character. I think a lot of readers could connect to at least one aspect of Rose's character at some point through her life. Looking back at her earlier year, I did feel for her. As a young women, I was annoyed by her. By the end, I appreciated her.

Alice Munro writing shines here, and I think this book is the perfect place to start if you haven't tried her out yet. A fantastic read!

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this was an excellent collection of short stories.

What to read next: Agassiz Stories, More By Alice Munro, Atwood's Short Story Collections, Street of Riches

Book Review: Rockbound

Title: Rockbound

Author: Frank Parker Day

Pages: 292

Summary: To the harsh domain of Rockbound -- governed by the sternly righteous and rapacious Uriah Jung --comes the youthful David Jung to claim his small share of the island. Filled with dreamy optimism and a love for the unspoken promises of the night sky, David tries to find his way in a narrow, unforgiving, and controlled world. His conflicts are both internal and external, locking him in an unceasing struggle for survival; sometimes the sea is his enemy, sometimes his own rude behavior, sometimes his best friend Gershom Born, sometimes his secret love for the island teacher Mary Dauphiny; but always, inevitably, his Jung relatives and their manifold ambitions for money and power.

The balance of life on Rockbound is precarious and thus fiercely guarded by all who inhabit its lonely domain, but just as a sudden change in the direction of the wind can lead to certain peril at sea, so too can the sudden change in the direction of a man's heart lead to a danger altogether unknown.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A well written book, that did a fantastic job at exploring the lives of a fishing colony on a small island in Nova Scotia. I can see why it won the Canada Reads award, it may not have been completely gripping for me, but the writing and development was well done, and I can definitely see a lot of readers enjoying the story.

The author does a fantastic job at creating a very realistic atmosphere of the small fishing island in Nova Scotia. He writes about the harshness of the sea and the lives of a fisherman. I didn't find it to be in an insulting way, but believable. He didn't romanticize it, but made it real. The characters were also incredibly well done, I can't say I have a favourite, character, or one that stayed with me after I finished the book, but the author wrote very fleshed out characters. Very believable, and shows how seclusion on a small island, with little resources and opportunities can affect the characters.

What I didn't like, it wasn't a big issue for me, but fishing and the life around it, wasn't very interesting to me. But, even in this case, it wasn't a big deal for me. I think the biggest issue for me was I didn't have a character I truly cared about. Otherwise, I thought the book was great, it's not something I'd normally read, but I'm glad I tried it.

Would I recommend it to read: I  would.  It was a interesting read it was a random pick for me out of the Canada Reads Winners from past years. Not something I'd have read if it weren't from a reading challenge, but well worth the risk.

What to read next: The Shipping News, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Works by David Adam Richards

Friday, June 29

Book Review: The Ship of Brides

Title:  The Ship of Brides

Author: Jojo Moyes

Pages: 482

Summary: The year is 1946, and all over the world young women are crossing the seas in their thousands en route to the men they married in wartime, and an unknown future. In Sydney, Australia, four women join 650 other brides and hundreds of naval officers on an extraordinary voyage to England - aboard the Victoria.

Rules of honour, duty and separation are strictly enforced, from the aircraft carrier's captain down to the lowliest young worker. But the men and the brides will find their lives interwined in ways the Navy could never have imagined.

And Frances Mackenzie, an enigmatic young bride whose past comes back to haunt her thousands of miles from home - will find that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the book for the most part, it was an interesting idea and well written, but I wanted something more from the book.

It was an interesting concept,  I enjoyed the historical extracts at the beginning of each chapter. On a historical fiction side, the author did a fantastic job highlighting the lives of war brides. From their journeys on the ships, to the sacrifices they had to make, the author creates a near perfect image of what they had to go through to get to their husbands. This book was post war, as the world tried to piece itself back together, so it was an interesting standpoint from what I'm used to reading in the war time genre. Usually  it's the romance during the war, this is the romance, or trying to keep that romance after. It was different, but I did enjoy the idea behind the story.

One of the things I didn't like was after a while the story became boring. Certain characters continue to look down at other characters, a woman is told not to come on the journey. Men and women found together when they shouldn't. After a while it all just became drawn out and to repetitive for my liking. Eventually the story progressed, but there was a lot of middle stuff that could have been left out. 

I also wasn't a fan of some of the characters, although some did grow and developed properly throughout the story, their personalities were ones I didn't care for. But the author did do a great job at creating realistic characters and developed characters, especially for the time period. The ending was sweet, I did enjoy the last few pages, it was somewhat predictable, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Not a bad book in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: It wouldn't be high on my list of recommendations, but it's well worth reading, especially if you enjoy the genre.

What to read next: The Bride Ship, this was a young adult book I read and re-read as a youth. It was a sweet book, and similar themes.

Challenges: 12 in 12, 100+ Challenge, Mount TBRChallenge, New Author Challenge

Wednesday, June 27

Book Review: The Yellow House

Title: The Yellow House

Author: Patricia Falvey

Pages: EBook  360

Summary: The Yellow House delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th Century. Eileen O'Neill's family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life. She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior's soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: From a historical fiction side, this was a fantastic book, from the characterization and development of those characters it was an average, but it did all come together nicely, and I found myself really enjoying the book.

I loved the historical fiction side of the book. The author wrote about the turmoil in Ireland extremely well. She managed to show the emotional and psychological effects of the war with ease, and wrote it in a way that I couldn't put the book down at times. I was fascinated about reading this aspect of the book, I just wish there was more focus on this and less on the romance and the characterization, which I found weren't as strong as the rest of the story.

Eileen was a good character, but I found her personality, thoughts and events around her to became a little redundant after a while. There were times I felt I was re-reading the same passage, or thought over and over again and it seemed she stood still as a character, instead of properly developing. She was suppose to be a strong-minded and stubborn character and that shows, but I still found that the way it was shown became to repetitive and I started to get annoyed with the character after awhile.

I enjoyed the ending, although it was predictable in some ways, I knew from the start how certain things would have ended, I still enjoyed it and it tied into the story well, it wasn't a forced ending by any stretch. I would have liked the ending more if it were more of a bittersweet ending, instead of a nearly picture perfect, but that's just me. There were also a few reveals near the end, that I didn't like at all, they were happy endings, but I thought they weren't very believable and felt the story would have been better without them.

Overall it was a very enjoyable read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was an excellent historical fiction novel, and the overall story was well done - well worth reading if you're interested in Irish fiction.

What to read next: The Soldier's Return - Alan Monaghan

Challenges: 12 in 12, 100+ Challenge, IrelandReading Challenge, New Author Challenge

Sunday, June 24

Book Review: The Painted Veil

Title: The Painted Veil

Author: W. Somerset Maugham

Pages: 246

Summary: Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:   I was actually surprised on how much I enjoyed the book in the end, because my initial response to Kitty,  was a silly, frivolous, adulator - and at times she was. But there was a good amount of growth for her character, although some things remained the same, her time spent up where the cholera epidemic did change her.

All the characters were well written, although not all of them were as thoroughly explored as Kitty was. I would have liked a better look at Waddington. He was a bit of an intriguing character for me, and I would have liked to see more of him in the end. I did enjoy his and Kitty's friendship and the author explored it well to keep me satisfied, but I wanted more.

Writing was excellent, I will definitely seek out more books by the author in the future. The story flowed well together, and he wrote the characters so well, that I didn't mind some of their less favourable traits, such as Kitty's silliness. 
The ending is what irked me the most. While it suited the character and the story perfectly, I wanted something different. It isn't a horrible ending in anyway. It is perfect for the character. But, there was some good bits before that, and I would have liked to see the book to have ended there instead. Otherwise, it was a fairly good book.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It was well written and a fairly good story. I think a lot of readers would love this book as they follow Kitty and her development.

What to read next: A Room with a View, Atonement, The Paris Wife

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

Thursday, June 21

Book Review: Next Episode

Title: Next Episode

Author: Hubert Aquin

Pages: 140

Summary: First published in l965, Hubert Aquin’s Next Episode is a disturbing and yet deeply moving novel of dissent and distress. As he awaits trial, a young separatist writes an espionage story in the psychiatric ward of the Montreal prison where he has been detained. Sheila Fischman’s bold new translation captures the pulsating life of Aquin’s complex exploration of the political realities of contemporary Quebec.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a different read for me, not my usual genre and it is one you need to read multiple times, to full grasp the full meaning of the book, but in the end not a bad read.
The book was a story within a story, but in this case the author made it work. Although the content of it and the meaning behind it, was hard to follow, I still found it to be an interesting read. Not at all what I expected when I first came across what the book was suppose to be about. I was expecting a spas suppose to be about. I was expecting a spy novel, with small subtle metaphor about the Quebec revolution. But instead it was a completely different experience. The "spy" novel side of the story was a good ploy to reflect, what I believe was the prisoners own life, and I think there was a lot of parallels/metaphors to the author's own life.

What I didn't like, was also what I liked. I wasn't expecting such a heavy book, that was filled with so much hidden messages I guess you could call it, about the Quebec Revolution. I picked the book up because it was a Canada Reads Winner, and an author I've never read. I was expecting a basic story within a story. A prisoner writing a spy novel, that reflects himself - which you can read it as and leave it at that, but you can't help but spot that there is more to it.  

Would I recommend it to read: I think I would. It was a different read for me, but an interesting method on how it was told. It was a story within a story so to speak. But I think it's a book worth reading.

What to read next: Works by Gabrielle Roy, Sinclair Ross, and the author

Wednesday, June 20

Book Review: The Prestige

Title: The Prestige

Author: Christopher Priest

Pages: EBook 365

Summary: Two 19th century stage illusionists, the aristocratic Rupert Angier and the working-class Alfred Borden, engage in a bitter and deadly feud; the effects are still being felt by their respective families a hundred years later. Working in the gaslight-and-velvet world of Victorian music halls, they prowl edgily in the background of each other's shadowy life, driven to the extremes by a deadly combination of obsessive secrecy and insatiable curiosity. At the heart of the row is an amazing illusion they both perform during their stage acts. The secret of the magic is simple, and the reader is in on it almost from the start, but to the antagonists the real mystery lies deeper. Both have something more to hide than the mere workings of a trick.

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: At times the book was gripping and hard to put down. Even though I knew to some extent what the big reveal was at the end from watching the movie, I was fascinated by how it all played out.  

The book is very different then the film. There are some similar elements, but there are also a lot of differences, so I wasn't completely spoiled by having watched the film first.  I really enjoyed how the story was told. It was split into multiple parts, sometimes it was the journals of the characters, or memories of another character but in the end it brought the entire story together nicely. I think the way it was told could have gone differently, but the author managed to pull it all together nicely.  I also loved the ending and the build up to it. It was one of those endings that you also dislike because it makes you want more.

The characterization was well done particularly Borden and his narrative.  I don't think he was a favourite character of mine, but the author wrote his story, narrative and thought process extremely well. I think this is a book you can reread and you'll find more clues and hints and information each time. Fantastic read overall.
Would I recommend it to read: I would. I found so many aspects fascinating and trying to pull all the pieces together to reveal the secrets of all the characters made for a great read - and I think a lot of readers would enjoy this.

What to read next: The Night Circus

Thursday, June 14

Book Review: Beatrice and Virgil

Title: Beatrice and Virgil

Author: Yann Martel

Pages: 213

Summary: When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey—named Beatrice and Virgil—and the epic journey they undertake together.

My Rating: 4.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: My second time with the author and this time I have to say, I was less than impressed. An interesting idea of a play, within in the story but in the end it didn't work for me. There were too many  elements that didn't work for me.

One of my biggest issues was the story within the story. Sometimes it works, and other times like in this case, it doesn't. The two stories didn't seem to join together properly, the devices to bring the main story and the story within the story didn't seem to fit together. It felt it was forced for the sake of things, and both stories seemed to be sacrificed in plot and development of characters to make room for the other.  I also wasn't a fan of the characters and found that there development didn't go anywhere. It felt like Henry the writer was in the same place as he was at the beginning of the book, and I found that overall, he was a unlikeable character. Because Henry was the narrator of the book, I think it also affected how I felt about it and how it was told.

Yann Martel is a good writer, and he does like to make a metaphorical point about an important subject, and make the reader think abstractly, but in this book, I found that all of that was lost in the plot devices meant to bring it to the reader. In the end, definitely not the book for me.  

Would I recommend it to read: I don't think I would.  Perhaps his other book Life of Pi, but not this one.
What to read next: Life of Pi

Saturday, June 9

Book Review: Mennonite Don't Dance

Title: Mennonites Don't Dance

Author: Darcie Friesen Hossack

Pages: 201

Summary: This vibrant collection of short fictions explores how families work, how they are torn apart, and, in spite of differences and struggles, brought back together. Darcie Friesen Hossack's stories in Mennonites Don't Dance offer an honest, detailed look into the experiences of children - both young and adult - and their parents and grandparents, exploring generational ties, sins, penance and redemption.

Taking place primarily on the Canadian prairies, the families in these stories are confronted by the conflict between tradition and change - one story sees a daughter in- law's urban ideals push and pull against a mother's simple, rural ways, in another, a daughter raised in the Mennonite tradition tries to break free from her upbringing to escape to the city in search of a better life. Children learn the rules of farm life, and parents learn that their decisions, in spite of all good intentions, can carry dire consequences.

Ice House
Little Lamb
Mennonites Don't Dance
Dandelion Wine
Undone Hero
Year of the Grasshopper
Poor Nella Pea.

My Rating:  5.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I didn't like this book, very much, I didn't hate it either, but it was a collection of short stories that I couldn't get into.

 The writing was well done, the author does do a good job at telling a short story, and creating a complex plot, with some detailed issues, but the stories failed to reach me as the reader. The setting, experiences were far different than what I've experienced, it was the authors chance to show the reader the lives of the Mennonites, who they are etc., but I didn't get that from the stories. I also found that there were times I felt I was reading the same short story over and over again. They all had a lot of similar themes, so it felt 

In the end, not my cup of tea.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure. It was well written, but the stories didn't seem to reach me. I'm sure there are some out there who would love this book. And if you enjoy short fiction, it could be worth a try.

What to read next: Honestly, I'm not sure. I'd say look for more Canadian Short Fiction

Thursday, June 7

Book Review: Casino Royale

Title: Casino Royale

Author: Ian Fleming

Pages: 193

Summary: Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome; chillingly ruthless and very deadly. This, the first of Fleming's tales of agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called simply 'Le Chiffre' - by ruining him at the baccarat table and forcing his Soviet spy masters to 'retire' him. It seems that lady luck is taken with James - Le Chiffre has hit a losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules, and Bond's attraction to a beautiful female agent leads him to disaster and an unexpected savior.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This is where I say something horrible blasphemous - I enjoyed the movie (the newer one) more - at least it had action. Mindless action, but action. For a spy novel, the action sequences in this where boring. More realistic yes, but boring. And considering the "greatness" of James Bond, I was expecting something with more oomph to it.

But that wasn't my only issue. James Bond, the main character, is a horribly unlikeable character.  I've seen some of the earlier James Bonds, so I knew he was an arrogant, womanizing dick. But this book was over the top. Yes this book was written during a time, where women were, well excepted to be women and stay at home and all. But some of the inner thoughts of James Bond where horribly offending and to have it constantly resurface throughout the book got repetitive and I felt rather unnecessary. It's been already established Bond is a womanizing, arrogant dick. Move on with the story please.

It was an interesting, out of my normal reading comfort zones reading experience, but I can't say I'd read more from the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure if would. For a spy novel it was rather anti-climatic, and the main character is not really likeable.

What to read next: I'd say more books from the series

Book Review: The Historian

Title: The Historian

Author: Elizabeth Kostova

Pages: 909

Summary: Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family's past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dust libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe - in a feat of storytelling so rich so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:  There were times when I was wrapped in the story, anxiously awaiting for Dracula to appear, but also felt the book was a little too long, for what it was and how it ended.

The author definitely set up a good gothic atmosphere in the quest to find out Dracula's history, and Dracula. The author was detailed in how she wrote the story, building up to the reveal and the mystery behind the Dracula lore and his personal history. I also loved being able to travel with the characters across Eastern Europe and being able to step inside the ancient libraries with them. I enjoyed the historical background of the book as well. I'm not sure how much of it is fact and fiction, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and felt it fit the book and it's themes well.

I did find that the book was drawn out, there seemed to be a lot of filler and repetitive themes and scenes (being followed, conversations with scholars, inner thoughts etc). While the detailed historical accounts (no matter how much liberties the author may or may not have taken) and descriptions of the ancient libraries were interesting, I still found that some things could have been left out, so the story could have taken.

Another thing I didn't like the jumping from view points, particularly the daughters story. I felt it disrupted the natural flow of the book and took away from the atmosphere and story as a whole. Especially considering there wasn't a lot of indication of when and where the story was at the time. But I didn't think her character added much to the book. I also found the ending to be a little anti-climatic and too picture perfect. I was expecting something very different, more to fit the gothic undertones of the book, more haunting.

Would I recommend it to read: I think I would. If you enjoy historical fiction or gothic mystery it's probably the book for you.

What to read next: Dracula

Saturday, June 2

May Wrap-Up!

And it's June. How did that happen? No seriously, how is it June already? Where is the time going?
This was a great reading month for me, having a nice long vacation helped - a lot. As I sat on the porch, in the woods reading most of the time. I actually didn't finish as many book while on vacation. Dog sitting does that. But I was still able to read some good books. Or start a few others. My library is still only partially assembled but I have pretty much caught my self up to reach my reading goal. I'm only a book or two behind.  So all in all May was a great month for reading for me.

The Books

This is the second best reading month of the year for me, where I managed to read 14 books! Go me! And even better I was able to review them all too! My favourite book this month was the short story collection, Storm Glass by Jane Urquhart. My least favourite was Trial by Fire and To Have and Have Not. This month I seemed to read a lot of good books, but not a lot of WOW books. Still, there were some really good reads this month, and a few that pulled me out of my usual reading comfort zones. So I call that a very successful month.

1.       Silar Marner - GeorgeEliot - 7.25/10
2.       Fighting Gravity -Leah Petersen  - 7.25/10
4.       La Grosse Fifi - Jean Rhys - 7.25/10
5.       The  Sound of Blue - Holly Payne - 8.25/10
6.       Stones - TimothyFindley - 8.5/10
7.       Ru by Kim Thúy  - 8.5/10
8.       Frostbitten - KelleyArmstrong - 7.75/10
9.       Crazy Heart - ThomasCobb - 6.5/10
12.   Storm Glass - JaneUrquhart - 8.75/10

The Challenges

I didn't finish any challenges this month, but I'm very close to finishing a few. One I will definitely finish in June. Two others I can see me finishing them my early to late summer, if I keep a steady pace. And I think for the most part, I'm doing fairly well with my reading challenges. The only one I see me not finishing at this point is the 12 in 12 - reading 144 books in a year is a long shot, but I am enjoying trying it out. Who knows what well happen, I could surprise my self. Here's my challenge progress below.

12 in 12 - 51/144 - 35% Complete
100+ Challenge 2012 - 48/100 - 48% Complete
1001 Books to Read Before Challenge 2012 - 7/15 - 47% Complete
Alphabet Challenge 2012 - 21/26 - 81% Complete
Ebook Reading Challenge 2012 - 23/25 - 92% Complete
Finish That Series Challenge 2012 - 0/3 - 0% Complete (2 books read from series one)
Global Reading Challenge 2012 - 9/14 -64% Complete
Ireland Reading Challenge 2012 - 3/6 - 50% Complete
Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012 - 17/50 - 34% Complete
New Authors Reading Challenge 2012 - 24/50 - 48% Complete
Short Stories Reading Challenge 2012 - 7/12 - 58% Complete
Speculative Reading Challenge 2012 - 8/24 - 33% Complete 

Countries Visited

This month I travelled to Canada, USA, Cuba, Croatia, Turkey, Australia, England, France and Vietnam. Also a few fantasy worlds.

Books That Followed Me Home

Only 6 books managed to follow me home this month.

Stones - Timothy Findley
The Beginning of Spring - Penelope Fitzgerald
The View From Castle Rock - Alice Munro
Who Do You Think You Are? - Alice Munro
La Grosse Fifi - Jean Rhys
Mercy Among the Children - David Adams Richards

And that was my May. I hope you all have a great June, summer is almost upon us and it's the perfect time to sit on the deck and read a good book, with a nice frosty drink! Mmm! Happy reading.