Tuesday, December 31

Book Review: Gulliver's Travels

Title: Gulliver's Travels

Author: Jonathan Swift

Pages: 314

Summary: Published in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels as not originally intended for children, but its new worlds, wonderful adventures, and vivid imagery have delighted and astonished a young audience since its first appeared. An understanding of the meaning and morals behind the stories can be gained by even the youngest of readers, while adults can appreciate the books provocation as well as the satire underlying its narrative. Combining fairy tale and adventure story, Jonathan Swift’s writing is stylish, subtle, and extremely appealing to the imagination. For both its technique and its plot, Gulliver’s Travels is a classic that appeals to a wide range of intellects and tastes.

My Rating: 2.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was yet another book I just couldn't get into. It was a constant struggle to get through the book. I didn't enjoy the writing style, something I usually enjoy in books from this time period. The was almost no character development and by the time the book finished, I liked the main character even less.

While the book was very imaginative, especially considering when it was written, it lacked in how it was executed and I found it to be incredibly repetitive. The story of the island with the small people, was far too similar to the story with the large people. It felt like it was the same story being told, with a slightly different race of people each time. Similar circumstances and trials happened in both. The appeal and uniqueness of the book quickly wore off because of this.

I didn't like the ending at all. I failed to see what brought the main character to this, he lacked in development throughout the book, so to see this change at the end of the book didn't really add up. It didn't work for the book and seemed out of place. Overall, not a book I enjoyed and it's not on my list of books I'd recommend.

Would I recommend it to read: I wouldn't recommend it. As far as the classics of this time go, this one doesn't live up to par.

What to read next: Treasure Island

Challenges: Ireland Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Title: Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro

Pages: EBook 134

Summary: In this sublime story cycle, Kazuo Ishiguro explores love, music and the passage of time. This quintet ranges from Italian piazzas to the Malvern Hills, a London flat to the “hush-hush floor” of an exclusive Hollywood hotel. Along the way we meet young dreamers, café musicians and faded stars, all at some moment of reckoning.

Gentle, intimate and witty, Nocturnes is underscored by a haunting theme: the struggle to restoke life’s romance, even as relationships flounder and youthful hopes recede.

Contents:
Crooner
Come Rain or Come Shine
Malvern Hills
Nocturne
Cellists

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While the collection started out strong I found that it lacked in all the pieces I normally find in short story collections to keep me engaged and wanting more. Compared to other short story collections I've read, this one didn't meet my expectations.

I enjoyed the first short story, Crooner, the most. It was the story that had the most development in plot and for its characters, and it was the story that I connected with the most. It wasn't a story I could say I loved, but it was the one I enjoyed the most. Nocturne was another story that stood out, it was unusual and like with Crooner, I'm not sure it's a story I could say I loved , but it also stood out from the collection on what the actual story was about. For both of these stories, I found myself reading more attentively than with the others and I think they were the strongest of the collection.

I found for the most part the collection lacked to keep my attention. The writing was average and didn't do much to keep me invested in the story's plot. The majority of the collection lacked development in the characters and I was hoping the plot would make up for that, but all except Crooner and Nocturnes, seemed to lack in a strong plot as well.

Overall an okay read, but not a strong one as far as short story collection go.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure on this on. It wasn't a bad read, but the collection didn't meet my expectations either.

What to read next: I'd try other short story collections. And perhaps the authors novels.

Challenges: Alphabet Challenge

Monday, December 30

Book Review: Always and Forever

Title: Always and Forever

Author: Cathy Kelly

Pages: 616

Summary: Once upon a time, in the beautiful tow of Carrickwell, lived three women whose lives were mapped out: ambitious Mel would have her career and her family: caring Daisy a child with the boyfriend who is everything to her: and hot-headed Cleo would finish her degree and step into the family hotel business.

Until the landscape shifted and it all came tumbling down.

But Carrickwell, nestled in the shadows of Mount Carraig, is an ancient, magical place. And when Leah, a woman with her own secret turmoil, opens the Cloud Hill spa, Mel, Daisy and Cleo are thrown together - and find the courage to discover what really matters to them, always and forever.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started off very strong out for me. At times it was a book that made me laugh out loud. And for the first half of the book, it was one I was rushing to get though. While for the most part it was filled with characters I enjoyed reading about, it did begin to drag for me. But overall, this was a great book.

Daisy's story was the one I enjoyed the least, in fact for the most part, I didn't like her much at all. She wasn't a character I could warm up to and I never connected to her emotional turmoil she was going through. I thought she was blind when it came to her boyfriend and that she was very self-centered and immature for her age. I also felt she wanted a baby for the wrong reasons and it bothered me to no end with her constant want for it. I felt she lacked any maturity to actually have a child, and by the end of the book, while she had some development, I felt that her development was one of the weakest, although her ending was fitting.

Cleo was a character I had a love hate relationship with. I enjoyed some aspects of her and her story, but others were cringe worthy. Her whole romantic side of the book was a big cliché and very predictable. I did enjoy her outspokenness and her personality at times, but I also felt it was overplayed in the book and it began to become repetitive. Her development was fairly natural, but I didn't like how her part of the story ended, it was all to convenient, all to perfectly wrapped up. It felt forced to get her there and like the romantic aspects of her story, it was very cliché and predictable.

I enjoyed Mel's story the most. She was the character I could identify with the most and felt her story was the most natural of the three. While there were parts I didn't like, I do think her personal journey worked out the best and her development was the most natural. Her turnaround was a bit rushed, but she was an overall well balance character.

The overall story on how they all came together worked well. I liked how it played out and I do think it was very natural on how they all came together and met. It didn't feel forced, especially considering they are from a smaller community it is believable that their paths would cross. I think the author did a good job at bringing it together and avoiding making the three women's meeting forced.

My only other issue I had with the book was that by the end I was beginning to get bored with the book. While the author took her time to properly develop the characters and their stories, I did feel the book was beginning to drag on.

Otherwise, it was a very enjoyable read and is a book that's well worth checking out.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, the book was a very good read

What to read next: Whitethorn Woods by Meave Binchy, Marian Keys and I'd check out the authors other books as well

Challenges: Ireland Reading Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge



Book Review: End of Days

Title: End of Days

Author: Max Turner

Pages: 318

Summary: The End of Days is Coming . . .

Zachariah Thompson has spent the past year getting used to the idea that his best friend, Charlie, and the lovely Luna are now vampires just like him. As they all learn to cope with this strange new state of affairs brings, a mysterious creature appears. Likened to the Beast of the Apocalypse, it begins to dismantle the network of support around Zack, who discovers he is more than just an orphaned vampire - he is a subject of an ancient prophecy that relates to the End of Days. As friends and enemies, old and new, throw his world into chaos, Zack is forced to re-examine what it means to be good at a time when it seems only the strong and the ruthless survive.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: An enjoyable addition to the series and the vampire book world. For a young adult novel, I did find it to be a fun read.

The book picks up not long after where the first one has left off, judging by the ending, the third book will be the same. In fact, the third book looks to be something to watch out for. There was bits and pieces throughout this book that gave enough information to carry the story forward and set up for an exciting read for the next book. This book may not have been as action packed, but it was balanced enough in the action/adventure and revealing enough important plot factors. I was guessing at a few things here and there and without getting into spoilers, I was surprised in how a few aspects of the plot ended.

I also enjoy the interpretation of vampires in this series. While some aspects are very similar to the traditional views of vampires, the author has added his own twist to the vampire culture. I also like how the author reveals it to the reader, as the vampire experience is new to both the reader and the main characters. I find it is revealed in a more natural way rather than just the facts being regurgitated to the reader.

My biggest issue with the book is the same one I have with most books, and it's the fact that it's a book meant for young adults. I find that the quirks meant for young adults, the young adult voice and narrative and the young adult aspects are factors that bother me a lot throughout the book. I enjoy the story and some of its characters, but that I don't always enjoy the story as a whole, because I don't quite connect to it on the same level as I would as a book directed to my own audience level.

Overall a good installment to the series and had I been a good fifteen years younger, I think this would be a book I would have inhaled in a single sitting.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especially to fans of YA fiction and urban fantasy.

What to read next: The third book, New Order, comes out next year, so definitely read that one.

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Sunday, December 29

Book Review: The Book of Secrets

Title: The Book of Secrets

Author: M. G. Vaasanji

Pages: 337

Summary: The Book of Secrets is a spellbinding novel of generations and the sweep of history which begins in 1988 in Dar es Salaam when the 1913 diary of a British colonial officer is found in a shopkeeper’s back room. The diary enflames the curiosity of a retired schoolteacher, Pius Fernandes, whose obsession with the stories it contains gradually connects the past with the present. Inhabiting the story is a memorable cast of characters, part of an Asian community in East Africa, whose lives and fates we follow over the course of seven decades. Rich in detail and description, M. G. Vassanji’s award-winning novel magnificently conjures setting and the realm of eras past as it explores the state of living in exile from one’s home and from oneself.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I went into this book with high expectations, but I soon found that it didn't exactly meet those expectations, especially compared to the first book I read by the author. The book lacked a lot in what I look for in a good read and even compared to a previous book I read by the author, the book didn't work well for me.

The story didn't connect well for me. I found it to dragged a lot and failed to keep me engaged. The characters were lacking in their development. They felt very stiff to me and there wasn't anything about them to make me want to continue reading about them. I had the same problem with the plot of the book. It felt very scattered, and while the premise sounded interesting enough, the overall execution didn't work for me. 

The book took its time to explore the plot, which I appreciated, but I felt the book was in the same place it was in the beginning of the book as it was in the end. Events, tragedies happened, but the book was lacking in the necessary pull other boos like it have, so it didn't have the emotional effect and connection to the reader it should have. For the most part, the book dragged for me and was a constant effort to get through.

In the end, it wasn't the best book choice for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I don't think I would with this one. I enjoyed one of the author's other books, so perhaps the author, but not this one.

What to read next: I'd try the author's other books and the other Giller Winners

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Friday, December 27

Book Review: The Beothuk Expedition

Title: The Beothuk Expedition

Author: Derek Yetman

Pages: EBook 194

Summary: Based on Cartwright s ill-fated expedition in search of the Beothuk. Jonah Squibb and his Royal Navy companions are tasked with making the first peaceful contact with the Beothuk in more than a century and a half. Conspiring against them are the unforgiving wilderness, unscrupulous merchants and politicians, and the Beothuk s mistrust of the party s motives. Greed and compassion collide in this robust and spirited novel that recreates the epic 1768 Cartwright mission to right the wrongs of a bloody past. The novel breathes new life to events that sealed the fate of the Beothuk and etched the very soul of Newfoundland.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This wasn't book I could say I enjoyed reading. While I enjoyed some of the historical side of the story , I found that overall it lacked depth in both plot and its characters.

The story was told through multiple view points, which worked out very well, as I found each voice was distinctive to that character. While I felt the characters lacked depth and development, each one that had their own narrative was distinctive from the others. It was just a shame they weren't written more detailed than just their own voice. I think had they had more depth, something more to them to connect the reader to the story, the reading the book would have been a different experience.

I also found the plot itself didn't exactly connect to me. I was interested in the historical background of the story, I found that it wasn't carried out well. There were long stretches were not a lot happens, and the story feels like it's not moving forward. It had potential but in the end it fell short of my expectations

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I would. It wasn't a horrible book, but compared to others like it, it fell short, so it's not the one I'd recommend.

What to read next: I'm not sure on what books to read next for this one.

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge

Book Review: Irish Fairy Tales

Title: Irish Fairy Tales

Author: James Stephenson

Pages: EBook 253

Summary: A retelling of ten Irish Fairy Tales including:

The Story of Tuan Mac Cairill
Boyhood of Fionn
The Birth of Bran
Oisi'n's Mother
The Wooing of Becfolla
The Brawl at Allen
The Carl of the Drab Coat
The Enchanted Cave of Cesh Corran
Becuma of the White Skin
Mongan's Frenzy

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were some very interesting aspects to the book and the individual tales, but there were many times I felt distant from the book and I think it's because I'm not familiar with the backgrounds to these fairy tales and their significance to Irish culture.

Some of the ones that stood out the most was Oisi'n's Mother and The Carl of the Drab coat. Both of those stood out the most, were the most memorable and the most enjoyable to read. The Story of Tuan Mac Cairill, was another one that I enjoyed reading, and it was what initially pulled me into the book, but I found that some of them just didn't connect well. I think I would have enjoyed the collection more if it I had had more background and experience with some of the Irish Folklore.

Overall, it wasn't a bad read - I did find the folklore, magical realism side of the book to be very interesting, but in the end I felt to distant from the book to truly appreciate it. But it does have me more interested in reading up on my Irish folk lore.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I didn't love the collection, but it was still a good read and if you enjoy traditional tales and Irish folklore, than it is a good book to read.

What to read next: More Irish Fairy Tales/Folklore

Challenges: Ireland Reading Challenge

Book Review: Mercy Among the Children

Title: Mercy Among the Children

Author: David Adams Richards

Pages: 417

Summary: At the age of twelve, Sydney Henderson pushes his friend Connie Devlin from the church roof. Looking down on Connie’s motionless body, Sydney believes he is dead. Let Connie live and I will never harm another soul, Sydney vows to God. At that moment, Connie stands up, wipes his bloody nose, and with a laugh, walks away. In the years that follow, the self-educated, brilliant and now almost pathologically gentle Sydney holds true to his promise. Yet others in the small rural community regard Sydney’s pacifism as an opportunity to exploit and torment the vulnerable Hendersons. Raised on the books his father has long collected, Sydney’s eldest son Lyle shares a deep respect for the power of words. But forced to witness the persecution of those he loves, Lyle turns his back on God and literature and adopts a more aggressive strategy for the protection of his family. An exploration of how humanity faces inhumanity, how lies and disappointments cannot and will never destroy truth and human greatness, Mercy Among The Children is a novel set in a particular place and time, yet universal in its message.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was absolutely stunning, beautiful and bittersweet book. The more I read, the more I didn't want to put the book down, nor did I want it to end. It was an extraordinary read, lovely writing and story and it's my favourite book I've read all year - it was an absolutely incredible read!

There was one part of the book that brought me to tears, even when I could guess what was about to happen I was heartbroken, but it was so beautifully written, heartbreaking moment, involving Percy. There were multiple parts of the story that stood out, but that section was one of the ones I remember the most. Other parts near the end were also shocking, bittersweet moments. The book was a bit of a downer at times, a lot of hardship and trying times for the characters, but the author did a fantastic job at delivering the entire story, it's individual pieces and as a whole.

I was very invested in the characters, there well being, and the book was filled with a incredible cast of very well created, complex characters. You may not love them all, but they are all very realistic, well fleshed out characters, which was part of the reason why I was so drawn into the book. All the characters had both good and bad sides to them, all were morally grey, and I think the author executed that aspect of them wonderfully.

The entire story and characters came together so well, it was a very engrossing read, which became next to impossible to put down. There's not anything I can say against this book. It's probably the best book I read all year, and one of the best books I've ever read. And it's one I'd highly recommend and encourage others to read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, in fact I'd say this book is a must read.

What to read next: I would say read more by the author.

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge



Sunday, December 22

Book Review: The Empty Room

Title: The Empty Room

Author: Lauren B. Davis

Pages: 312

Summary: Colleen Kerrigan wakes up sick and bruised, with no clear memory of the night before. It's Monday morning, and she is late for work again. She's shocked to see the near-empty vodka bottle on her kitchen counter. It was full at noon yesterday; surely she didn't drink that much last night? As she struggles out the door, she fights the urge to have a sip, just to take the edge off. But no, she's not going to drink today.

But this is the day Colleen's demons come for her. A very bad day spirals into night as a series of flashbacks take the reader through Colleen's past—moments of friendship and loss, fragments of peace and possibility. The single constant is the bottle, always close by, Colleen's worst enemy and her only friend.

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Another well written, complex story and yet another book hard to put down. This book was an excellent read showing a very dark but realistic day in the characters life, as she struggles with alcoholism. Colleen was a character who you felt for. I wanted her to realize what was happening around her, and her struggles are somewhat heart wrenching at times, because she's in such denial - but how the author wrote the character was flawless. Colleen character was very realistic and believable and I think the progress of her story was very natural rather than it being forced. Especially in the end, I think the author did a fantastic job developing Colleen to the point in the end, it worked out well. The ending was good, a little open ended, but with the type of character Colleen was and her struggles with alcoholism, it's a very fitting ending, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

I liked how the author only focused one day of Colleen's life, while we never got to see the build up to this day, I think if it was a longer period of time the story would become repetitive and boring, I don't think I'd have had the same connection to Colleen as I did with just one day. As the author did a fantastic job at showing just how much Colleen struggled to get through one single day of her life as an alcoholic. I think the author managed to show through the one single day, just what struggles Colleen goes through every day of her life, and this one day just wasn't a bad day, as all her days are like this. I also liked some of the flashbacks Colleen had, but I think this part of the book was also the weakest part of the book. It helped show how Colleen got to this point, but I also felt certain flashbacks didn't give the effect the should have. Overall, another great read by the author.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's was an excellent read.

What to read next: Our Daily Bread which is also written by the author, completely different books, but the author is one who is well worth cheeking out the other books.

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge



Saturday, December 21

Book Review: All Together Dead

Title: All Together Dead

Author: Charlaine Harris

Pages: EBook 246

Summary: Betrayed by her longtime vampire love, Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse must now not only deal with a possible new man in her life—the oh-so-handsome shapeshifter Quinn—but also contend with a long-planned vampire summit. With her power base weakened by hurricane damage to New Orleans, the local vampire queen is vulnerable to those hungry for a takeover. Soon, Sookie must decide what side she'll stand with. And her choice may mean the difference between survival and all-out catastrophe.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I think this was my least favourite of the series so far. It's possible I've read them to close together, and that I'm becoming a little detached and perhaps bored with the narrative, as they are all so similar. But this book just didn't connect as well as the others have.

I don't think it was lack of action, even though not a lot of "action" happens until near the end, but the story itself just wasn't as good as it has been in the previous books. More information about the complex vampire world is revealed, but it felt off to how it was executed. Some good twists here and there, but overall, I wasn't impressed with the story. I also don't like Quinn that much, and that could also be why I didn't like this story as much as the others. He's not a good character, and I think he lacks depth and chemistry with Sookie. I feel their relationship feel forced to push the story forward, rather than it happen naturally.

The end was good, but rushed, I felt that how certain parts near the end were solved and revealed rushed - and needed to have more depth to it to have a stronger effect on both the reader and the characters. Overall it wasn't my favourite of the series, and for the first time I don't have that I must read the next book right away feeling.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I may not have liked this one as much as the others, but it's still essential to read if you want to read the whole series.

What to read next: Women of the Otherworld series, the rest of this series.

Challenges: Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge

Friday, December 13

Book Review: The Odds: A Love Story

Title: The Odds: A Love Story

Author: Stewart O'Nan

Pages: 179

Summary: It's Valentine's weekend, and Art and Marion Fowler flee their Cleveland home for Niagara Falls, desperate to recoup their losses. Jobless, with their home approaching for closure and their marriage on the brink of collapse, Art and Marion liquidate their savings and book a bridal suite at the Fall's ritziest casino for a second honeymoon. While they sightsee like tourists during the day, at night they risk it all on the roulette wheel to fix their finances and save their marriage.

My Rating: 2.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: To say I disliked this book is a bit of an understatement, I was just happy to finish the book in the end. For a love story, it lacks any sort of love or compassion between the two characters. They were too flat, emotionless characters, that had little personality, that I failed to see any kind of love or meaningful relationship between them.

The overall plot was also very underwhelming, as they attempted to fix their failed relationship and financial issues by going to Niagara falls and gambling in the casino. The author made a few references to some of the tourist spots to the main strip, but otherwise it didn't have any depth or expanded interest to where it was set, it could have been any place with a casino really and the outcome would have been the same. It was suppose to be a romantic setting, but the book failed to bring the romantic feel of Niagara falls to light.

The ending, was too cliché, but I didn't care by that point, because I was just happy to be finished with the book.

Would I recommend it to read: No, I wouldn't recommend this book to read.

What to read next: I'm not sure, anything really would be a good choice after this book.

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge

Book Review: Flight of the Earls

Title: The Flight of the Earls

Author: Michael K. Reynolds

Pages: EBook 314

Summary: It’s 1846 in Ireland. When her family’s small farm is struck by famine, Clare Hanley and her younger brother, Seamus, set out across the ocean to the Promised Land of America.

Five years prior, Clare’s older sister Margaret and her Uncle Tomas emigrated in similar fashion and were not to be heard from again. But Clare must face her fears as she lands in the coming-of-age city of New York. There she discovers love, adventure, tragedy, and a terrible secret which threatens to destroy her family and all she believes.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started out with promise, as I found the premise to be interesting, unfortunately due to some issues with the characters and their influence with the plot, the book turned to be not a very good read for me.

My main issue with the book was I felt Clare was far too much of a Mary Sue. The plot constantly felt it was being bent and twisted for her favour, so it began to feel very unrealistic. The historical side of the book was very well written and at times interesting, there was a lot of background information and little details the author brought to the immigration experience. Unfortunately Clare as a character kept getting in the way, and from the start I had disliked her as a character, but her heavy influence in the book made it a struggle to get through.

In the end this was a book that didn't work for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I do think some readers would enjoy the book, but it's not high on my list of books recommended books.

What to read next: The next book in the series, Brooklyn by Colm Tobin

Challenges: Ireland Reading Challenge

Book Review: Beautiful Days

Title: Beautiful Days

Author: Teng Xiaolan

Pages: 224

Summary: Discover the beauty of everyday life in this two-story collection from China. The first, A Riot of Brilliant Purple and Tender Crimson, examines the disparate love lives of a father and his daughter. Echoing the lyrics in the Kun Opera The Peony Pavilion, this is a brilliantly executed story.

Beautiful Days, the title story, is a deceptively simple story of an old woman trying to pick a daughter-in-law for her son, and the difficulties of the task. The novel, focusing on daily subjects, reflects how extraordinary things can be seen in ordinary people and the motions of their lives.

Contents:
- Beautiful Days
- A Riot of Brilliant Purple and Tender Crimson

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed Beautiful Days a lot, I found it to be a fairly complex and interesting story. The characters were well written and developed as well as the overall plot. I think the author did a great job at telling a very complete and interesting story in half the time - although it would have been wonderful f this were a full novel, I think this one also worked extremely well as a novella, and I enjoyed the ending lot.

A Riot of Brilliant Purple and Tender Crimson unfortunately did not work for me. The novella felt muddled and confusing. The plot and characters didn't link together or connect to the story well and overall it didn't read well. I'm not sure if it was due to it being a translated book or not, but the entire novella felt off. Beautiful Days read fine, but this one just felt off. Overall it was a good read, but not the best I've read. I think it would have enjoyed the book far more if I only read Beautiful Days.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend to read the one novella, Beautiful Days, but I'm unsure about the entire book, as the second novella just didn't work.

What to read next: More contemporary Chinese Literature

Challenges: Alphabet Challenge

Sunday, December 8

November Wrap-Up!

Another month come and gone, and now there are about 21 days or so left of the year. Yikes! November was a good month for reading, especially considering it's crunch time for everything else. Shopping, social gathers, food, or food and December will be the same. It looks like I'll complete some of my reading goals and challenges, others not so much, but as of right now, the year hasn't been bad reading wise. November was a good month, December should be too!


The Books

This month for book was mixed. I read good chunk of books, but there were a few that didn't click with me. I gave up on three books, which I rarely do. Although I may go back to one of the three. The first two were from my personal reading challenge I have been doing alongside reading books from the Giller longlist for 2013; Rupert's Land and A Tale of Time Being. Rupert's Land I couldn't get into and tried to restart it a few times but just couldn't do it. A Tale of Time Being was becoming irksome to read. The third book was October 1970, I may try picking the book again at some point, but it was also a case where I just wasn't connecting to the book. I rarely stop reading books, but since I do have a lot of books I want to read this year, and it's so close to being finished, I stopped some of the book.

For the books I finished, my favourite was The Lion Seeker, which surprised me. I didn't think I'd like the book as much as I did. In the Land of the Birdfishes was a close second. Both books are well worth reading, and I think that the later has been underestimated, so it deserves a big go out and read it shout out! My least favourite was The Female Quixote. It took me about 3 months trying to finish that book, I finally just sat myself done and finished it. I was so far into it, that giving up on it was not an option. Also, it's easier to give up on a library book, than one you bought.

1. Under Budapest - Ailsa Kay - 5/10
2. The Crooked Maid - Dan Vyleta - 8.5/10
3. Emancipation Day - Wayne Grady - 8.5/10
4. The Lion Seeker - Kenneth Bonert - 9.25/10
5. How To Get Along With Women - Elizabeth de Mariaffi - 6.75/10
6. In The Land of the Birdfishes - Rebecca Silver Slayter - 8.75/10
7. Fair Exchange - Michèle Roberts - 7/10
9. Choke Collar: Positron Episode 2 - Margaret Atwood - 8/10
10. Erase Me: Positron Episode 3: Margaret Atwood - 8/10
10. The Female Quixote - Charlotte Lennox - 4/10
11. Definitely Dead - Charlaine Harris - 7.25/10
12. Changing Heaven - Jane Urquhart - 6/10


The Challenges

Okay, so finishing the category challenge isn't happening. And unless I read a lot in the week I have off because my office building is closed during that time, I doubt I'll finish the mount TBR Challenge either. And the series challenge is
looking doubtful too. So I'm setting individual goals for all three, I know I won't complete them but I can complete certain pieces from them. The other challenges I will be able to complete, but I will be reading a lot of similar type books, so it will be interesting. For the series challenge I plan of reading one more books, so I will have finished two of the four series. Mount TBR if I can read between 55-65 books off the list I will be very happy. And as for the 2013 category challenge, if I can finish 5/8 remaining categories I will be happy. I already knew I won't finish the one category, and the two remaining are possible, but doubtful I'll finish them. Still, I did good with that one. One of these year's I'll finish the category challenge.


Current Challenges

2013 Category Challenge - 97/131 - 74%
Alphabet Challenge 2013 - 46/52 - 88%
Finish That Series Challenge 2013 - 1/4 (Series), 2/7 (Books) - 25%
Ireland Reading Challenge 2013 - 6/10 - 60%
Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge - 8/12 - 66%
Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013 - 49/75 - 65%
Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge 2013 - 4/5 - 80%


Countries Visited
This month during my reading adventures, I managed to stop by and visit; Austria, Canada, England, Hungry, South Africa, USA.




Create your own travel map - TravBuddy



Books That Followed Me Home

Barney's Version - Mordecai Richler
The Street - Mordecai Richler
Jules Verne - Four Novels - Jules Verne

EBooks

Nights of Rain and Stars - Maeve Binchy
Pilgrimage - Diana Davidson
The Collector - John Fowles
You Had Me at Hello - Mhairi McFarlane
The Goldfish Dancer - Patricia Robertson
Midrealm - Realm Keepers: Book One - Garret Robinson; Z. C. Bolger
The Perils of Morning Coffee - An Isabel Dalhousie eBook Original Story - Alexnder McCall Smith
The Quiet Twin - Dan Vyleta
Here is Where We Disembark - Clea Roberts
The Penguin Book of First World War Stories

Saturday, November 30

Book Review: Changing Heaven

Title: Changing Heaven

Author: Jane Urquhart

Pages: EBook 248

Summary: Two worlds are intertwined in this hauntingly beautiful story as it moves from Toronto to the English moors and to Venice, Italy. The time frame shifts between present and past, linking the lives of a young Brontë scholar (a woman in the throes of a troubled love affair), a turn-of-the-century female balloonist, and an elusive explorer with the ghost – or the memory – of Emily Brontë. Urquhart reveals something about the act of artistic creation, the ways in which stories enter our lives, and about the cyclical nature of love throughout time. This is a novel of darkness and light, of intense weather and inner calm.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I enjoyed the lovely writing, the rest of the book, particularly the plot just didn't connect to me. I couldn't get into the book, never being able to fully warm up to the story and its characters.

The writing was beautiful and poetic. It was what kept me reading, and at times what had me lost n the book. Unfortunately, the rest of the book didn't work out well for me. It wasn't bad story, it was a unique ghost story, but I never connected to it. Ann's story didn't work at all for me, and I only saw the slightest connections to the Emily and Ariannia/Polly story. The characters themselves were also something I couldn't warm up to. This was another case where I felt very distant from the characters, they weren't ones I could say I enjoyed reading about and I found they lacked something to push the story forward, or to keep me reading. The book was interesting at times, but other times I was lost, I failed to see how everything connected how the two stories were relevant to each other.

There were certainly pieces within the story here and there that I enjoyed a lot, but for the most part, I couldn't get into it. Lovely writing, but otherwise, this one didn't work for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm on the fence for this one, while the writing was lovely, the story didn't connect, so I'm not sure if I'd recommend the book to read.

What to read next: More books by the author, this book doesn't show what she's capable of.

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Definitely Dead

Title: Definitely Dead

Author: Charlaine Harris

Pages: EBook 259

Summary: As a person with so few living relatives, Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse really hated to lose one. But she never guessed that it would be her cousin Hadley—a consort of the Vampire Queen of New Orleans. After all, technically speaking, Hadley was already dead. And now, as unexpected heir to Hadley’s estate, Sookie discovers the inheritance definitely comes with a risk. Someone doesn’t want Sookie looking too deeply into Hadley’s past—or for that matter, Hadley’s possessions. And they’re prepared to do anything in their power to stop her. But who? The range of suspects runs from the Rogue Weres who reject Sookie as a friend of the Pack to the Vampire Queen herself, who could be working through a particularly vulnerable subject—Sookie’s first love, Bill. Whoever it is, they’re definitely dangerous—and Sookie’s life is definitely on the line…

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I liked this book, I did find it wasn't as appealing as the others, I didn't have that need to read on and finish it, and it didn't leave me wanting to pick up the next book in the series right away. It was a good story,  but it wasn't the best.

I'm glad the issues surrounding Debbie finally seem to be finished (I hope). That story line has been drawn out to long, and I'm beginning to become very bored with it. I did find how the author chose to end the story line to be very dull and, unrealistic, but it's done so I'm not complaining. All in all I found this book to me less exciting than the others. It just didn't have that same thrill to it. The characters are improving personally and development wise, and I'm becoming very attached to some of the individual ones, but as far as the plot went, I wasn't as impressed as I have been in the past.

There were some surprising twists along the way, in particular some things revealed about Bill. I was not expecting that, although it was sort of cliché, it was a good twist. I didn't realize the short stories in between the books would reveal so much, I haven't read them, but with the Hadley storyline, I missed something important. I almost thought I missed a book. Otherwise the storyline was average, I think a lot of what was revealed, explained and a lot of what happens in this book, influence the others, so I don't mind as much that it was less thrilling, but I wanted something more from this one.

Overall an enjoyable read, but not my favourite of the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I didn't like this one as much as the others, but still a good book. And it is a good story for the series as a whole.

What to read next: All Together Dead

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

Book Review: The Female Quixote

Title: The Female Quixote; or The Adventures of Arabella

Author: Charlotte Lennox

Pages: 428

Summary: Brought up by her widowed father in a remote English castle, Arabella resorts to reading the French novels popular in her mother's youth, an in the solitude of this Arcadia paints a picture of her life as adventurous and deeply romantic. When her father dies, however, she inherits a barbed legacy: if she is not to lose part of the estate it appears she must marry her cousin Glanville. But Arabella has developed a different, private code of conduct which does not allow her to take any role but centre stage in the drama of her own life; her literary heroines are always in control.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was a struggle to get through. While I loved the writing, pretty much everything else about the book I disliked, a lot. I get it was a satire, but the book never clicked right with me. Arabella is a very disagreeable character, and because she's the main book, it made me dislike the book even more.

I found it to be very repetitive, after a while even the small amount of humour I got from Arabella's antics got boring, not to mention gave me the urge to give her a smack upside the head. I didn't like the way it ended either, for a book that took it's time to give the story, the ending felt rushed and it didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story.

Like with many books from this time, I do like the intimate feeling the book has with the reader. The author addresses the reader, so it has a different feel to it, when it's written this way. I can't explain it, but I just love when the book is written like this. The writing was lovely, it was a bit off putting having random capitalized letters in the middle of sentences, but it was kept close to its original form, and although it took some time to get use to, I eventually forgot about it.

Overall, it wasn't the best read, while I loved the writing, the rest of the book was just a bit of a dud.

Would I recommend it to read: I don't think I would recommend this one, as far as classics go, this one just didn't work out, not one I would say would be a good choice to read, when there are a lot of other classics that are far better than this one.

What to read next: More classics from the time period, the individual stories may not always interest me, but the writing is just lovely.

Challenges: Alphabet Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Erase Me - Positron Episode 3

Title: Erase Me: Positron, Episode 3

Author: Margaret Atwood

Pages: EBook 47

Summary: Stan and Charmaine should have known better when they signed up for Consilience, a social experiment in which it's the lawful who are locked up, while, beyond the gates, criminals wander the wasted streets of America.

The couple understand that to break the rules in so strictly regimented a place is dangerous; but, driven by boredom and lust, they do it anyway and betray each other and the system. As comeuppance, Stan finds himself the sexual plaything of a subversive member of the Consilience security team and in no time is made a pawn in a shadowy scheme to bring Consilience crashing down. Meanwhile, his wife, Charmaine, is being held indefinitely at Positron Prison for her own sins. How far she'll go to regain her good name and position is anyone's guess, especially Stan's. When he winds up paralyzed and tied to a gurney in the prison wing where Charmaine works, injecting toxic cocktails of drugs into troublesome Consilience citizens, will she save his neck or her own? Will she "erase" him permanently?

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This edition of the Positron Serial, picked up where the second one ended. And this one was just as good. Like with both the first and second, it's a bit dark and twisted - which I do love. Margaret Atwood has a very unique and creative mind, and the setting of these books is no exception to that.

In this volume, I started to like the characters a little more. They are starting to become more fleshed out and I did like the psychological trails the author put them through. I felt I raced though this volume, just so I could find out what happens next. Only little pieces about the truth are being revealed, if that is the truth, about what happened in the past and the reasons behind Consilience. I both love and hate how only small pieces are given out. I'm also both dreading and looking forward to the reading the next installment. I want to find out what happens next, but I don't want to be left waiting for the one after that. So far, it's been a very good serial - highly recommend to any dystopian or Atwood fan.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, the whole series is turning out to be very interesting, and for those who aren't sure about dystopian yet, the short stories are a good place to start.

What to read next: I'd say more Positron episodes, and more dystopian stories, this series sort of reminds me of Brave New World and The Unit

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Choke Collar - Positron Episode 2

Title: Choke Collar: Positron Episode 2

Author: Margret Atwood

Pages: EBook 51

Summary: In this new episode, the stocking comes off, with husband and wife Stan and Charmaine facing more troubles in safe but carefully controlled Consilience, a social experiment in which the lawful are locked up and, beyond the gates, criminals roam the wasteland that is the America of Margaret Atwood's creepily plausible near future.

Stan understands the Faustian deal he and his wife have made. What he doesn't anticipate is the stupefying boredom. What wakes him? An illicit lover's note written by a mysterious woman who also lives in Consilience. Breaking the rules, he stalks her and is delivered not into the arms of the nympho of his dreams but into a nightmare of mind games and some very kinky forced labour.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This one took me a while to jump into, mainly because it's been so long since I've read the first book in the series. But so I was drawn in, and avidly reading to see what would happen next.

This particular volume was weird and slightly twisted at times. Eventually, this twisted side of the plot comes through to something different, and somewhat unexpected but, still the best work to describe this particular volume, twisted. Not in a bad way though, I still enjoyed the overall story, and the more I read on, the more background information is revealed about the setting and history behind Consilience and the story in general. Which looks to be something pretty awesome.

My biggest issue of the book is the characters, I haven't really been able to connect to them yet, and I still feel I'm at a bit of a distance from them. Otherwise, this episode was a fairly good one, and it leaves the reader hanging in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especially if you enjoy dystopian stories and it's an excellent choice for any Margaret Atwood fan.

What to read next: More from the Positron Serial

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Fair Exchange

Title: Fair Exchange

Author: Michèle Roberts

Pages: 246

Summary: In the early 1800s in a small village in rural France, a peasant woman named Louise summons her priest. Fearing she is about to die, Louise begins her final confession to the bored cleric and reveals a lifelong secret involving a famous woman writer, a young English poet, and a wicked and unusual crime. Inspired by the lives and loves of the eighteenth-century pioneer of women's rights, Mary Wollstonecraft, and her contemporary, William Wordsworth.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book was a bit of a slow start for me and it wasn't exactly a story I'd usually pick up and read, but I ended up enjoying the book more than I thought in the end.

Although it was set in the 19th century, it was written very modernly. Which was one of the things I disliked the most about the book. While there were definitely people during the 1800's who were very progressive thinking, I did find that the characters and narratives went too far in how they thought and held themselves. The narrative especially threw me off, and while I loved the writing and narrative itself, it felt off for the time period the book was suppose to be set it. The mood of the book felt more like the early 1900s, rather than the early 1800s.

The characters also lacked something to keep me invested in the book. The characters were very bland, one dimensional characters. There was nothing to the really. I think part of this was the actual setting of the book versus how the book read, again the setting didn't fit properly and I think it influenced the characters.

Despite the above issues I had with the book, I did like the basic idea behind the story. I was becoming invested into it, waiting for the big reveal, and the quality of writing was excellent. Had I not had some of the issues with the setting and time period, I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more.

It may not have been book I loved, but I can say that was well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it wasn't what I expected and but it did end up being a good read. It wouldn't be high on my list, but I think there would be a few readers who would enjoy the book.

What to read next: I'm not sure about this one.

Challenges: Mount TBR Challenge



Sunday, November 24

Book Review: In the Land of the Birdfishes

Title: In the Land of the Birdfishes

Author: Rebecca Silver Slayter

Pages: EBook 261

Summary: This remarkable novel about mythmaking and survival opens in rural Nova Scotia, where two sisters witness the suicide of their wild, beautiful mother. Their father, sick with grief, blindfolds the children to shield them from the misery of the world. Left that way for years, they are each scarred in their own way: Mara is rendered fully blind, and Aileen partly so. When a neighbour discovers their condition, they are immediately separated for treatment, and it isn’t until decades later, after Aileen’s marriage has fallen apart, that she decides to seek out her lost sister. She heads to Dawson City, Yukon, where Mara is said to be living, but instead finds Mara’s angry young son, Jason.

Soon Aileen has insinuated her way into the hard-drinking, hard-living existence of Dawson City’s residents, from whom she hears various conflicting stories about her sister. When the novel shifts to Jason’s perspective, the reader starts to understand the nature of these stories and the underlying secrets that compel their creation.

My Rating: 8.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The first couple of chapter captured me completely, I had no knowledge of what was going on around me, it was just the book. Those first two chapters were haunting, intriguing and were a great way to start off a story. Unfortunately while the rest of the book was a great read, I did feel the book lot some of its initial appeal, mainly due to some awkward narrative and plot developments.

My biggest issue with the book was that I found the narrative to be a bit awkward and disconnected at times. As I said above, the first few chapters captured me, to the point I was completely lost in the book, other times the was just something about the narrative that didn't work right. It was like pieces and thought process were thrown into the story, but not properly connected to the story as a whole. It did become a bit confusing at times because of this and for me, it's the reason between being this book from being great read to an extraordinary one. It was odd how the narrative worked out in parts, which of course affected the plot itself.

I loved the idea behind the plot, it had some fantastic bits to it, twists and turns as well, but there was just that one thing, hanging in the back, that stopped it from being even better. There was an awkwardness to it, but not in a good way to make it a unique plot. I often had to re-read parts because of this. The author did do a good job at bringing the characters together. They were a group of very, realistic, raw characters, who I didn't exactly like, they were a fairly miserable lot, but I loved reading about them. They were awkward like the plot, unusual, but it worked for the story, so I didn't care I couldn't connect to them, I just wanted to get lost in their story.

In the end it was a fantastic read, but it could have been better if the narrative and plot were less awkward. It is still a book I'd highly recommend.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, there are some awkward moments to how it's told, but the story was fascinating, I think it's a book that a lot of reader would enjoy.

What to read next: Clara Callen, Bone and Bread,  Late Nights on the Air

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Book Review: How to Get Along With Women

Title: How to Get Along With Women

Author: Elisabeth de Mariaffi

Pages: EBook 138

Summary: A sharply original debut collection, How To Get Along With Women showcases Elisabeth de Mariaffi''s keen eye and inventive voice. Infused with a close and present danger, these stories tighten the knot around power, identity, and sexuality, and draw the reader into the pivotal moments where - for better or for worse - we see ourselves for what we truly are.

Contents: 
Dancing on the Tether
Kiss Me Like I'm the Last Man on Earth
Accidental Ponds
Field Work
He Ate His French Fries in a Light-Hearted Way
Ajaccio Belonged to the Genoese
Everything Under Your Feet
Super Carniceria
Jim and Nadiene, Nadiene and Jim
The Astonishing Ambercrombiel
How to Get Along With Women
You Know How I Feel

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While a couple of the short stories stood out for me, I found that for the most part I was underwhelmed by the collection, it wasn't bad, but it didn't give me the feeling to keep reading either.

The writing was excellent. I may not have liked the content of the stories, or how the narrative was told, but the writing itself was what kept me reading, even during the stories I just couldn't get into. One story that stood out the most for me was Field Work it was very odd, but it was also one I found fascinating. It was definitely the one that I remember the most, and it was the most original of the collection. Another story I enjoyed a lot was Everything Under Your Feet, which was one I devoured, there was something about it that had me wanting to inhale that individual story, and I think that one was the one that had the characters fleshed out the best.

Most of the other stories in the collection didn't connect to me, some did have merits to them, but they weren't exactly ones I could say I liked but they weren't exactly ones I could say I liked or enjoyed. Many of them didn't stick with me after I finished them and I found that they weren't very distinctive. Dancing on the Tether for example, wasn't a bad story, but it was one I felt I've read before. Overall, not a bad collection of short stories, the quality of writing was good, so I'll likely check out he author again, but the content of the stories didn't work out for me in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: It wouldn't be high on my list, but I do think some readers would enjoy the collection.

What to read next: HellGoing, Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility.

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Saturday, November 23

Book Review: The Lion Seeker

Title: The Lion Seeker

Author: Kenneth Bonert

Pages: 561

Summary: Brawny, brilliant debut novel about the epic struggles of an immigrant son in a darkening world.

Johannesburg, South Africa. The Great Depression. In this harsh new country, young Isaac Helger burns with fiery determination— to break out of the inner city, to buy his scarred mother the home she longs for, to find a way to realize her dream of reuniting a family torn apart. But there are terrible, unspoken secrets of the past that will haunt him as he makes his way through a society brutalized by racism, as he loses his heart to an unattainable girl from the city’s wealthiest heights and his every exit route from poverty dead-ends. When the threat of the Second World War insinuates itself with brutal force into Isaac’s reality, he will face the most important choice of his life . . . and will have to learn to live with the consequences.

My Rating: 9.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While it took a while for me to get into the book, eventually it became a book next to impossible to put down and it will likely end up being one of my favourite reads of the year.

The characters weren't exactly likeable ones, although certain parts of the book, when they were going through particular traumas and events, struck some emotional reactions for me. There were a few shocking moments, gut wrenching - I was surprised how the well the author managed to pull the reader into the story and emotionally involved with the characters, even if they were ones you couldn't say you liked. They were deeply flawed, broken characters, all of who were well written. But, they weren't ones you could say you liked. That's also what made the story as good as it was, was a cast of very realistic characters.

The writing and overall plot were also amazing. Often I was pulled in and couldn't put the book down, it was unexpected because initially I wasn't very into the book, but eventually it became a book that I read straight through and didn't want to put down. The story was very interesting and the author explored a lot of topics and issues throughout. There's a lot of issues explored in the book, but it didn't overpower it, instead it complimented the story nicely.

In the end, this was a fantastic read - it's a book well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I definitely would. It reminds me of a few other books I've recently read, and it's a book that sticks with you after you've finished it. It was also a book I wasn't sure about reading in the first place but ended up being very enjoyable, and I think other readers would feel the same way.

What to read next: A Fine Balance

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Book Review: Emancipation Day

Title: Emancipation Day

Author: Wayne Grady

Pages: 326

Summary: How far would a son go to belong? And how far would a father go to protect him?

With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It's World War II, and while stationed in St. John's, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled, romantic Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock and is desperate to see the world. They marry against Vivian's family's wishes--hard to say what it is, but there's something about Jack that they just don't like--and as the war draws to a close, the new couple travels to Windsor to meet Jack's family.

But when Vivian meets Jack's mother and brother, everything she thought she knew about her new husband gets called into question. They don't live in the dream home that Jack depicted, they all look different from one another--and different from anyone Vivian has ever seen--and after weeks of waiting to meet Jack's father, William Henry, he never materializes.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A fairly good read and while there were some issues I had with the book, it ended up being a very good and memorable book for me.

There were a lot of elements to the book I enjoyed, the overall story was interesting. I think the author did a good job at showing issues of race and brought a very realistic outlook on the setting and time the book was set in. Having some familiarity with the city of Windsor, I enjoyed reading about some of the familiar spots.

The writing was excellent and it was what initially drew me into the book and kept me reading until the end - and the last few page of the book, were extraordinary and chilling - it worked great for the story as a whole, and I have to say, it was a bit of surprise in how the author ended the book, but I think it worked well. It definitely is a memorable ending, the last few word stick with you long after you've finished.

The characters were well written for who they were, but this was another case where I felt somewhat disconnected from them. I also found some of them to be a bit foolish, perhaps it was just blatant denial to the point they believed it was reality, but I struggled with understanding how certain characters thought process worked and how they seemed surprised at certain discoveries throughout the book.

Overall it was a book I enjoyed, and is among my favourites off of this years Giller Longlist.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, there were some issues I had with the book, but I found it to be an engaging read, one well worth reading.

What to read next: The other Giller Longlisted books, Half Blood Blues

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Book Review: The Crooked Maid

Title: The Crooked Maid

Author: Dan Vyleta

Pages: EBook 366

Summary: Mid-summer, 1948. Two strangers, Anna Beer and young Robert Seidel, meet on a train as they return to Vienna, where life is just resuming after the upheavals of war. Men who were conscripted into the German army are filtering back home, including Anna’s estranged husband, Dr. Anton Beer, who was held prisoner in a brutal Russian camp. But when Anna returns to their old apartment, she finds another man living there and her husband missing.

At his own house, Robert is greeted by a young maid with a deformed spine. The household is in disarray, with his mother addicted to narcotics and his stepfather, an industrialist and former Party member, hospitalized after a mysterious attack. Determined to rebuild their lives, Anna and Robert each begin a dogged search for answers in a world where repression is the order of the day. Before long, they are reunited as spectators at a criminal trial set to deliver judgment on Austria’s Nazi crimes.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very enjoyable read, which at times I had a hard time putting down, while sometimes I felt disconnected from the characters, most of the time I was reading through the dark and at times, mysterious read, making it hard to put down.

There was the mysterious element to the book that was a reoccurring theme, that wasn't revealed to the end. I was waiting for certain answers to be revealed to find out what had happen to certain characters, what their true motives where etc. And I think the author set that aspect of the book up wonderfully. There were times I didn't want to put the book down, just so I could find out more information about certain characters - even the ones only mentioned, or rarely seen.

I also think the atmosphere of the book was also beautifully done. Vyleta gave a very raw and realistic setting, it had all the elements to make the reader feel they were being pulled into the book. I think the author did a fantastic job at recreating the aftermath of the war in Austria, and at times I felt to be almost haunting in how he showed the reader how it had affected the people. It was a very gloomy book, but it's one of the aspects of it I enjoyed the most - it's realistic and it really pulled me into the story.

The main issue I had with the book was the characters, while there was a mysterious intrigue but I always felt disconnected from them. I also found some to be underdeveloped and that their own personal stories, Robert's mother for example, didn't mesh well with the story as a whole. As an individual his mother had some interesting aspects to her, but how she was written in this story didn't work well, to me it felt of place.

Overall, even with some of my issues with the characters, I found this to be an excellent read, that has ,e eyeing up the authors other books.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, not having read The Quiet Twin, it casued me to pick up a copy right away.

What to read next: The Quiet Twin, The other Giller shortlisted books.

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge