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 By the time her baby brother is born, the rebellious and withdrawn six-year-old commits an unthinkable crime.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.

Contents:

The Friend
The Fire
C├ęzanne Soft Hat 
The Kiss 
Johnny's Smile
Hand Games
Overnight Visitor
Secondhand Rose
The Fight 
Cowgirl 
A Personal Letter 
Sayonara
A Clear Record
The Parents
The Reader
Purge Me with Hyssop
Makeup 
Earrings
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


Saturday, November 24

Book Review: War of the Worlds


Title: The War of the Worlds

Author: H.G. Wells

Pages: EBook - 212

Summary: No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own.” Thus begins one of the most terrifying and morally prescient science fiction novels ever penned. Beginning with a series of strange flashes in the distant night sky, the Martian attack initially causes little concern on Earth. Then the destruction erupts—ten massive aliens roam England and destroy with heat rays everything in their path. Very soon humankind finds itself on the brink of extinction. H. G. Wells raises questions of mortality, man’s place in nature, and the evil lurking in the technological future—questions that remain urgently relevant in the twenty-first century.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the book, but I found it to not be nearly as climatic or suspenseful as I thought it would have been. In fact, it was pretty much non-existent in the book. Good writing, but overall, not a lot happens in the book. It's more of a psychological thriller than anything else. Although at the time, I can see it to being quite terrifying.

There were some interesting parts to the book, especially some of the inner thoughts by the characters and some of the characters themselves - there is an interesting part in the book, which I thought the author did a fantastic job at creating the psychological effects as well as some interesting perspectives on what has happened. One of my favourite parts of the book in fact.

Overall, not my favourite book, but not a bad book either.

Would I recommend it to read: I think I would, not my favourite book, but it's worth reading. It was an interesting read, just based on the characters perspectives and experiences.

What to read next:  The Time Machine is well worth reading.


Book Review: Natasha and Other Stories


Title: Natasha and Other Stories

Author: David Bezmozgis

Pages: 147

Summary: One of the most anticipated international debuts of 2004, David BezmozgisÂ's Natasha and Other Stories lives up to its buzz with numerous award distinctions and a sheaf of praise from reviewers and readers. These are stories that capture the immigrant experience with wit and deep sympathy, recalling the early work of Bernard Malamud and Philip Roth. An exquisitely crafted collection from a gifted young writer.

Contents
Tapka
Roman Berman, Massage Therapist
The Second Strongest Man
An Animal to the Memory
Natasha
Choynski
Minyan

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a good collection of short stories, the author does a good job at highlighting the trials and hardships faced as an immigrant and growing up as a young child.  Fairly good writing, but I still felt like it was missing something to make it go from average to fantastic.

I don't think I have a favourite short story, which might be way I didn't love the book. Although, The Second Strongest Man, Tapka and Natasha were all well done and stand out as memorable reads for me. The stories are all interconnected, and it's a collection that is character driven, which sort of focuses on the growth and development of the characters, one in particular, as he grows up, facing the struggles as an immigrant in Toronto. I think one of the most interesting parts of the book, is which stories he recalls and how it influenced is life growing up. It was slow moving collection of short stories, but it focused on the characters and their development, which worked for the book. Not a lot happens, but at the same does, for character growth, a lot does happen - it's just internal. Which is one of the best aspects of this collection, is the authors focus on characterization, and their inner growth and development.

For this particular collection, I enjoyed some of the short stories, others I didn't. It didn't grip me, but I didn't dislike it either, so to sum it up, not a bad read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's not high on my list to read, but worth checking out if you like short story collections or fiction based on the immigration experience.

What to read next: Under this Unbroken Sky



Monday, November 12

Book Review: The Mystery of Mercy Close


Title: The Mystery of Mercy Close

Author: Marian Keyes

Pages: EBook 501

Summary: Helen Walsh doesn’t believe in fear – it’s just a thing invented by men to get all the money and good job – and yet she’s sinking. Her work as a Private Investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced.

Not least in the form of her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who shows up with a missing persons case. Money is tight – so tight Helen’s had to move back in with her elderly parents – and Jay is awash with cash. The missing person is Wayne Diffney, the ‘Wacky One’ from boyband Laddz. He’s vanished from his house in Mercy Close and it’s vital that he’s found – Laddz have a sell-out comeback gig in five days’ time.

Things ended messily with Jay. And she’s never going back there. Besides she has a new boyfriend now, the very sexy detective Artie Devlin and it’s all going well, even though his ex-wife isn’t quite ‘ex’ enough and his teenage son hates her. But the reappearance of Jay is stirring up all kinds of stuff she thought she’d left behind.

Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly the only person she feels connected to is Wayne, a man she’s never even met

My Rating: 9.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The final installment of the Walsh Sisters Series,  one which I've been waiting for, for a while now, ended up being well worth the wait. It had all the elements, laughs and tears the previous books by the author had and I think it's safe to say the book will up there  as one of my favourite  reads of the year.

I enjoyed both the story of Helen's struggles through depression  and solving the mystery side  as she searched for Wayne.  I think the author pulled both stories in together  well, as they often complimented each other quite nicely. I didn't clue in to where Wayne was  until the end,  but I thought it worked out great, and how the it was revealed to both the readers and Helen worked out fantastically. There were many times while reading the book, I was completely immersed in the story and its characters. It definitely was a book that was hard to put down, and it's hard to say whether I enjoyed the plot or characters more.

I always find that Keyes creates some extraordinary characterization throughout her books. This one is no exception. All the character are well rounded, flawed characters who stick with you long after you've finished reading the book. As for Helen,  there were times where I became very emotionally invested in her well being. It was heart breaking to see her during her worst, her struggles with depression, and suicidal thoughts. Especially compared to the Helen I saw in the other Walsh sister books. I wanted to jump in the pages and hug her, even if it meant being put on her shovel list.

I did feel the ending was rushed. It was an enjoyable ending, but I wanted to see Helen during her recovery time, especially considering on invested in the character I was. I do understand why the author didn't do this, as we already had a similar story with Rachel, but I still felt that the ending was rushed and something from it was missing.

Otherwise, it was a fantastic read, that I would highly recommend.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It's one of my favourite books by the author. Helen is  a character that I think a lot of readers would become attached to. And it's an overall fun read.

What to read next: Rachel's Holiday, Watermelon, Anybody Out There?  and Angels which are the other Walsh sisters books. Rachel's Holiday and Watermelon were personal favourites of mine.




Sunday, November 4

October Wrap-Up!

And now there are two months left in the year, 61 days left until the year ends (less than that because I'm writing this November 1, bur not sure when I'll post it as I still have a handful of reviews to get through).  October was a great reading month for me, I caught Giller Fever and found myself eying up other Canadian Award short/longlists. Although the book I wanted to win the Giller didn't win,  I had a blast reading the books, reading others reviews and joining in the conversations  - I'll go into more detail on that. I also did the 24-hour read-a-thon this month as well. Work has been crazy busy, so now I'm trying to catch up in everything from reading, replying and commenting, posts and all that. Let's hope the next two months calm down!

The Books

This month I managed to read 16 books. I came very close to reading more than that, I have three books, that are about 100 pages or left from being done and another that I'm also very close to finishing. But I've been falling asleep while reading at night. And due to a hectic few days at work, I haven't had time to read at lunch or on the commute there (although the commute was mainly due to other unforeseen circumstances. Including the cancelling of my train, being stranded and desperately trying to find away to work and getting there before 1 pm. I made it in the end). But 16 books is still a great reading month. I should have no problem reaching my reading goal of the year, and I may even be close or finish the 12 in 12 challenge. This month was a Canadian/Giller themed month as most of the books on the list were on the Giller Longlist and/or by Canadian Authors. I read some good books this month, and a few not so good months. A couple of books surprised me on how much I enjoyed them, like  My Life Among the Apes, while others disappointed me.  My favourite read this month was Our Daily Bred. My least favourite books were The Golden Mean and 419, this year's Giller winner.

1.       One Good Hustle - Billie Livingston - 7.5/10
3.        419 -Will Ferguson 3.5/10
4.        Our DailyBread - Lauren B. Davies  9.25/10
5.       My Life Among the Apes - Cary Fagan (Ebook) 7/10
8.       The Furies (SGA - 19) - Jo Graham  (EBook) - 8/10
11.    TheMirrored World - Deborah Dean  (Ebook) 7.5/10
12.    VintageMunro - Alice Munro - 7.75/10
15.    HarvestMoon - Multiple Authors  7.75/10

The Challenges

My challenges are going amazingly well. I managed to finish two challenges this month and I'm well on my way to finishing a few more for November. The TBR challenge still has me worried so does the series challenge, but 4 of the 5 books I still have to read for the series challenge count for the TBR. So maybe, hopefully I can do it. Books just need to stop tempting me

Completed

Alphabet Challenge - 26/26 books read - Completed October 12, 2012
100+ Challenge - 101/100 Books read - Completed October 15, 2012

On-Going

12 in 12 - 111/144 - 77% Complete
1001 Books to Read Before Challenge 2012 - 13/15 - 87% Complete
Fall into Reading Challenge 2012 - 8/22 -  36%  Complete
Finish That Series Challenge 2012 - 0/3 - 0% Complete (4 books read from series one)
Ireland Reading Challenge 2012 - 6/8 - 75% Complete
Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012 - 33/50 - 66% Complete
Speculative Reading Challenge 2012 - 21/24 - 86% Complete

Countries Visited

Canada, USA, Russia, Nicaragua, Greece and England, and some fantasy worlds




Create your own travel map - TravBuddy


Bookish Events and Other Stuff

This month I participated in the 24-hour- read-a-thon. Which was on October 13, click the link to get all the juicy details. I did pretty good, and had a blast trying to stay up late, which I failed at. I also have thoughts on the Giller Prize, but I'll write a post later, to sum that up, had a great time reading the longlisted books, and discussing my thoughts and others in the blogverse.


Books That Followed Me Home

I also downloaded a lot of preview books for my Kobo, which I'm sure at some point many will accidentally download their full selves onto it.

I'm Starved for You: Positron Episode 1: Margaret Atwood - EBook
Choker Collar: Posiron Episode 2 - Margaret Atwood - EBook
The Tent - Margaet Atwood
Up in The Tree - Margaret Atwood - EBook
Wilderness Tips - Margaret Atwood
The Mirrored World - Debra Dean - EBook
The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twan Eng - EBooko
My Life Among the Apes - Cary Fagan - EBook
Not Wanted on The Voyage - Timothy Findly
Sunset Song - Lewis Grassic Gibbion - EBook
Club Dead - Charlaine Harris - EBook
The Mystery of Mercy Close - Marian Keyes - EBook
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry - EBook
Lives of Girls and Women - Alice Munro
Open Secrets - Alice Munro
Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami - EBook\