Saturday, August 31

Book Review: The Diviners

Title: The Diviners

Author: Margaret Laurence

Pages: 494

Summary: The culmination and completion of Margaret Laurence's celebrated Manawaka cycle, The Diviners is an epic novel. This is the powerful story of an independent woman who refuses to abandon her search for love. For Morag Gunn, growing up in a small Canadian prairie town is a toughening process - putting distance between herself and a world that wanted no part of her. But in time, the aloneness that had once been forced upon her becomes a precious right - relinquished only in her overwhelming need for love. Again and again, Morag is forced to test her strength against the world - and finally achieves the life she had determined would be hers.

The Diviners has been acclaimed by many critics as the outstanding achievement of Margaret Laurence's writing career. In Morag Gunn, Laurence has created a figure whose experience emerges as that of all dispossessed people in search of their birthright, and one who survives as an inspirational symbol of courage and endurance.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: From start to finish I was pretty much captured by the book, it did have a slow moment here and there, but this book will likely be one of my favourite reads of the year.

I think how Laurence brought both the past into the story and tied it all together was handled wonderfully. Especially how the author brought the reader back to Morag's past. The "Memorybank Movie" the author used to help bring the reader back to the past, to see Morag growing up as a child, to adult. Showing the reader the individual events and glimpses at pieces of her past here and there worked out wonderfully. It wasn't overdone, but balanced out with the present and it always seemed to connect to what was happening during the present time. This was one of the best methods I've seen when an author has written a story that bounces back from past to present. The author created an excellent atmosphere where the character (Morag), was looking back and recalling a memory, as opposed to being given a carbon copy of what happened in the past. I think this helped shape Morag as a character - as sometimes you questioned how reliable her memory was, especially those of her childhood. As an adult, you do remember events in your childhood different, or have a new perspective of them, once you have that adult "wisdom" and the author showed this in her "Memorybank moments" of Morag's past.

Morag as a character was another aspect of the book that lured me in. She was a deeply flawed character, both in good ways and bad. She was one I enjoyed reading about and she's a very memorable character. Even as an adult, with a child of her own( who mirrors her own struggles when Morag was her age,) Morag was shown to be in a constant conflict with trying to find her identify. Again, going back to the idea of past and present, the reader does get a good grasp at who Morag is as a character - I might evens say the reader knows as much about Morag as she knows of herself, sometimes I felt we knew more. I'm not sure what about Morag makes her stick with me, even long after I've fished the book, but there was just something about her, that keeps her in my mind. She's a very intriguing character and I wished I had just a little more time with her.

An excellent book overall and a book I'd highly recommended. It's a book you want to both devour and take in slowly.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this was one of the best from the series, and if you read only one book by the author this one would be a good choice. There are a lot of elements to the book, and has a slow moving plot which could potentially be a turn off, but it's a book well worth reading.

What to read next: If you haven't read the other books in the Manawaka series yet, I'd start there (The Stone Angel, The Fire-Dwellers, Bird in the House, Jest of God)

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Title: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Author: Gaile Parkin

Pages: 308

Summary: Angel Tungaraza is a professional baker, amateur matchmaker, an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. She runs a successful cake business in Rwanda, where people from all walks of life come to her to order one of her spectacular cakes - as a gift, for a celebration, or simply to remember - but they stay t share their stories of loss and pain, of hope and redemption. And from their stories, Angel draw the ingredients she needs to craft a cake that will forever change their lives. Set against a backdrop of a country recovering from tragic events, Baking Cakes in Kigali is an inspiring and touching first novel about life, love, food and universal truths that reveals how the human spirit - even when tested to the limits of imagination - endure and unifies us all.

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I did enjoy some aspects of the book, it had heart to it and the idea behind it was one I was initially interested in. However, I felt that it didn't come together for me and it lacked a lot of the necessary elements to pull me into the book.

I liked the general idea behind the story and how the community was brought together the premise itself was a good one, but I didn't feel it was executed as well. Especially compared to books that are similar to this one. It always seemed to be just out of reach to being a book has characters you can have an emotional connection to. There was a eclectic cast of characters, but they always seemed to be underdeveloped and lacked anything strong enough to keep me fully interested in the books.

One of the elements of the book I did like, was how the author showed how the hardships the characters faced, such as the sickness, economic factors and showed the reader how these horrific elements had become an almost every day occurrence for the characters. They seemed to have accepted them in a sense, that these hardships will happen, and yet they attempt to live their lives to the best of the their abilities. I think that theme was one of the strongest elements of the entire book.

Another issue I had with the book I had, was that it was very repetitive at times. The phrase "she took a tissue from her brassier" occurred in the book about ten times to many. It was something that just didn't need to be in the story that many times, nor was it something that moved the plot along and most of the time seemed out of place and distracting to the rest of the story. I also found that the plot never came together and connected properly as a novel. I felt that there wasn't anything in the story to pull them all and make it into a cohesive story. It almost felt like a bunch of interconnected, yet unfinished, short stories, than a novel. Because nothing connected properly for me, I felt that both plot and character weren't developed properly and it I always felt disconnected to the story.

Overall it was an okay read, but I was expecting something different and in the end, it wasn't a favourite of mine.

Would I recommend it to read: Hmm, it wasn't my favourite read, but I think if you enjoy similar books to this one (Cup of Friendship), then I'd say give it a try.

What to read next: A Cup of Friendship, The Color of Tea

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: A Bloody Storm

Title: A Bloody Storm

Author: Richard Castle

Pages: EBook 85

Summary: The final piece of the Derrick Storm trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Richard Castle, available exclusively as an eBook short.

Derrick Storm is back--this time with a crack team of ghost CIA operatives. These former agents have all faked their own deaths and now work for the CIA on a strictly secret basis, taking on dangerous and illegal jobs the agency may not officially carry out. They're headed to the Molguzar Mountains to look for sixty billion dollars' worth of gold hidden by the KGB before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and taking a perilous detour to rescue FBI agent April Showers from a sociopathic torturer. But Storm's loyalties are put to the test as the mission begins to unravel into a bloody mountaintop showdown, and he and Showers must find out the hard way that their assignment may not be what they thought it was...

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Of the three novellas, I liked this one the least. While it had the same quirky humour the other two had, I felt that it was wrapped up a little too soon. I wouldn't have wanted it drawn out to long either, but I wanted just a touch more action. I also think by this point, as I read the three back to back, I was getting a little tired of the characters. Especially considering they don't have much development through the entire mini-series.

The books are what, you expect, corny action sequences, catch phrase and generally, what you'd expect from this type of book. Action, innuendo, big guns, and in the end, everything turns out okay. But, it was a nice, fun read, even if it was a little cheesy.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especially if you enjoy the show, it was a quick and fun read, corny, but if you enjoy the series, then I'd say give it (and the entire trilogy) a try.

What to read next: Storm Front

Challenges: 100 Book Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge

Book Review: A Raging Storm

Title: A Raging Storm

Author: Richard Castle

Pages: EBook 78

Summary: Part Two of the Derrick Storm trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Richard Castle, available exclusively as an eBook short.

Days after being brought out of retirement to investigate a kidnapping, Derrick Storm has a dead US senator on his hands, an assassin to track down, and nearly six billion dollars' worth of gold bars--hidden by the Communist Party somewhere in the former USSR--to uncover. Teaming up again with FBI agent April Showers, Storm must talk to Ivan Petrov, a secretive millionaire who has ties to the assassination, coordinates for the gold, and a mole leaking information to the Russian government from within his inner circle. And while the CIA mission is getting heated, it's nothing compared to the growing sexual tension between Storm and Showers...

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: My favourite of the mini-series, as it leaves you off with a rather big cliff-hanger, that had me immediately reading onto the third book in the series. This one had a lot more action, and this one kept my interest more than the other two books in the miniseries. Derrick storm was a fun character, very James Bond like at times, not a likeable character, but he was fun to read about. The action scenes were also fun to read about, they may have been corny and exactly what you'd see in every typical book, TV show or movie that is in the genre, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

There was a lot wrong with the book too of course. There was no character development for anyone in the second part (as with the first book in the series). Although, since it is a continuation from one book to the next, you wouldn't expect much, but even a hint would be nice. Overall a good follow-up to the first book in the mini-series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especially if you enjoy the show, it was a quick and fun read, corny, but if you enjoy the series, then I'd say give it (and the entire trilogy) a try.

What to read next: A Bloody Storm

Challenges: 100 Book Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge

Book Review: A Brewing Storm

Title: A Brewing Storm

Author: Richard Castle

Pages: EBook 83

Summary: Part One of the Derrick Storm trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Richard Castle, available exclusively as an eBook short.

When Derrick Storm needed to leave the CIA, he couldn't just retire. He had to fake his own death. So when his former boss calls in an old favor that will bring Storm out of early retirement and back to Washington to investigate a high-profile kidnapping, he knows there must be more at stake than the life of a senator's son. Working alongside, but not exactly with, bombshell FBI investigator April Showers, Storm must make sense of a confusing flurry of ransom notes and a complicated web of personal relationships and international politics. He'll get to the bottom of the kidnapping, but the storm is still brewing . . .

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I went into this book (and the whole mini-series to be truthful) with very low expectations. This book is in no way an excellent book. It's quite corny, stereotypical mystery-thriller, which is based off of a fictional book and author from a television show. Yet despite all this, I did have a fun time with the book.

The book does a good job at introducing the readers to Derrick storm, although a lot of who he is, what his past is like is hidden from the reader, it helps add a bit of mystery and intrigue to the characters. Although don't expect much on character development, or have anything important to be revealed about him. Because not a whole lot of information was revealed. The book was exactly what you'd expect from the (fake) author, Richard Castle. If you've seen the TV series, it has his personality written throughout the book. It's c. It was a mindless read, but I did enjoy it (and the series) in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especially if you enjoy the show (Castle), it was a quick and fun read, corny, but if you enjoy the series, then I'd say give it (and the entire trilogy) a try.

What to read next: A Raging Storm, A Bloody Storm

Challenges: 100 Book Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge

Book Review: The Kissing Man

Title: The Kissing Man

Author: George Elliott

Pages: 136

Summary: A real and recognizable rural word is the setting of these other worldly fables. The stories can be taken at their face value; and strange nostalgic comforting meanings can be read into them. The events seem to have happened in a township in Western Ontario a generation or two ago and the take place against a backdrop of undeniable substance. The handle factory, the Anglican cemetery, and the barber shop. But the experiences of the people are more conscious level than such a background might suggest. The Kissing Man is filled with pity for loneliness, and he brings small moments of solace to hopeless women. In a different way, the man who lived out loud led the same kind of life, with the same quick understanding of submerged problems, but he didn't last very long, and soon he lost the fight and died. The grinder man, the twins, the man who sat by the mill-pond, the doctor - all inhabitants of the township have an urgent existence, and they are all somehow necessary to each other.

An Act of Pity
When Jacob Fletcher was a Boy
The Listeners
You'll Get the Rest of Him Soon
A Room, a Light for Love
The Kissing Man
A Leaf for Everything Good
The Man Who Lived Out Loud
What Do the Children Mean?
The Commonplace
The Way Back

My Rating: 7.5/10
What I liked/disliked about the book: This was an interesting collection of short stories, many of which I read a couple of time to get the full feel of the story and the heart of what the author was trying to say to the reader. Even now I think I could re-read the entire collection and still not comprehend all the hidden meaning to these individual stories.

I'm not sure if the author intended to create a very profound collection of stories, or if they are to be taken for their face value, either way these stories are ones to be savoured and slowly devoured. The writing style is somewhat simple, but it does have a nice flow to it and in all of the stories, the author captures the small Southwestern Ontario town (most likely London, or London area) very well. He made the setting picturesque, without having to go into pages of descriptions. He kept it simple, but was able create an excellent setting and atmosphere for the book.

I'm not sure if I have a favourite short story, but I don't have one that that I disliked, they all have elements to them that I liked and disliked. The Man Who Lived Out Loud, was an interesting story and I think the character he created was captured nicely. But I think I can say that for all the stories, they all had little moments and morals that the author managed to capture quite well, but for many of them I re-read, to pull out what the message the author was trying to tell the reader.

In the end, it was a good read and it was one of those I was happy to have found.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, if you can find it, this was a gem of a read. Some stories will have to be re-read, but it was a great read and a lot of fans of short fiction would enjoy this one.

What to read next: The author reminded me a lot of David Adams Richards style of writing, so I'd suggest him.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge,  New Author Challenge

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gailman

Pages: 178

Summary: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touch paper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

My Rating: 4.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: If you like dark and twisted, then this is the right book to read. Dark and twisted, is something I occasionally find well worth reading, but this particular book wasn't one I could say I enjoyed. While it had an original story, I didn't find it came together properly and I didn't get this fantastical world the author created. For a while I was hoping the author was leading down a certain path, but by the time the book ended, it didn't work out that way and left me fairly confused.

There were some morbid bits throughout the book, you have to give the author credit, he knows how to make things dark, twisted and completely creep out the reader. From the setting, atmosphere to the descriptions of certain scenes, he is good at making things very creepy. For some scenes in this book, that was no exception - as there are a few in the book that just induced shivers, while others caused you to hold your breath. With that being said, while the author did create an excellent reading atmosphere, I was often not interested in the book, because I didn't like the overall story. I didn't feel it came together and most of the time I felt it just didn't make much sense. Events that were happening didn't link together - even for a fantasy book nothing seemed to have a reason or a proper connection to how everything should come together. Because of this, it was not exactly a story that I could get into. There wasn't a character I could like, and I didn't feel like I ever got to know any of the characters, the plot never did much for me, except give me the creep factor and overall I often found I was disinterested in the story. I also don't get the hype around the book, because after reading it, I was left somewhat disappointed. Perhaps I missed the mark on this one, but it wasn't a book I enjoyed.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure on this one. It didn't live up to the hype, and while it's dark and twisted, it isn't a book I'd recommend to read - it just didn't come together.

What to read next: I'd read something else by the author, I enjoyed Neverwhere, but this one seems closer to Coralline (which I haven't read, but I have seen the movie and the book seems to have that same twisted feel to it.)

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, Alphabet Challenge

Book Review: Moebius Squared

Title: Moebius Squared

Author: Jo Graham and Melissa Scott

Pages: EBook 276

Summary: Stranded in Ancient Egypt at the end of the STARGATE SG-1 episode Moebius, Jack O’Neill, Sam Carter, Teal'c and Daniel Jackson are enjoying the simple lives they’ve forged in the years since Ra was driven from Earth. But life never stays simple for long… Back in the twenty-first century, trouble strikes the SGC. With one of their own people snatched by renegade Tok’ra, Colonel Cameron Mitchell leads the new SG-1 on a chase through time to rescue their friend – and to protect their future. But for Carter, Daniel and Teal'c, the greatest challenge is encountering themselves - and coming to terms with the consequences of their own choices.

My Rating: 3/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: To say this book didn't work for me would be a bit of an understatement. By the end, I was just trying to finish the book, without throwing my Kobo across from the room. Nothing felt right in the book, the characterization, plot points that should connect it to the Stargate series and even what was written in the book, didn't work.

Frustrated is the best word to use to explain how I feel about the book, perhaps disappointed as I was looking forward to having one of my favourite characters in the book, but that was a major flop. Overall it felt more like armature fan fiction, than a companion story to the TV series, and was a major disappointment.

Would I recommend it to read: I don't think I would. As far as Stargate books go, this one failed for me, and it would not be one I recommend to read, even to fans of the series.

What to read next: Roswell

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, EBook Challenge

Book Review: Under the Sun

Title: Under the Sun

Author: Justin Kerr-Smiley

Pages: 182

Summary: Under the Sun is set in the closing stages of World War Two in the South Pacific. Flight Lieutenant Edward Strickland is a young RAF Spitfire pilot flying sorties over the Carolines and their outlying atolls. On a dawn patrol he is shot down attacking a submarine and ends up on a remote island occupied by a small Japanese garrison, that has remained undetected throughout the war. The garrison's commander Captain Tadashi Hayama brutally interrogates his captive and a battle of wills develops between the two men. The scene is set for a contest where there will only be one victor. But events take an unexpected turn and the island becomes, for a while, a kind of Eden. The war is a distant memory that has no relevance to the rhythms and echoes of island life. Yet beyond its shores danger lurks and Japan's capitulation after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leads to a climactic end that shatters the idyll forever.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A slightly slow start, but it became an interesting story of friendship, so to speak, in the times of war. It was interesting, how the author brought the two characters together, but I think he did a good job at creating their "friendship". It wasn't a traditional friendship, but one of mutual respect and bonds among men at war. It was very different than what I have read - especially in similar war time books, but I do think the author created this bond naturally and realistically. It's hard to explain exactly what it is they do have, without spoiling, but the author did a good job in this aspect of the book.

I didn't like the narrative, as I found it didn't exactly engage the reader too much. There wasn't much to keep me reading as far as that went, and even the story itself didn't always hold me. While I enjoyed the story, I never got the feeling to keep reading and the book was easy to put down. I enjoyed the ending, but I felt it ended too quickly. The ending was a perfect fit to the book, but it was a little abrupt, I felt there needed to be just little more there, to give it that extra push.

Not a bad book in the end, worth reading but not a favourite of mine.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I think a lot of historical fiction readers would enjoy this one.

What to read next: I'd focus on WWII stories, similar to this one, ones that take a bit of a side road to the central aspect of the war, but still show the war's influence.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, New Author Challenge.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Thursday, August 22

Book Review: A Wind in the Door

Title: A Wind in the Door

Author: Madeleine L'Engle

Pages: 247

Summary: Just before Meg Murry's little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragon turns out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed of wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Megs' friend Calvin, to save Charle Wallce life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat Echthroi - those who hate - and restore brilliant harmony and joy to the rhythm of creation, the song of the universe.

My Rating: 4.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book didn't work out for me, especially compared to the first book in the series. While I didn't love A Wrinkle in Time, I did enjoy it, but the magic from the previous book, both plot and characters was lost in this book. One of the main issues I had with the book was it felt awkward with all the explanations of what everything was. It felt a lot like some weird science book being regurgitated on the pages and it didn't connect to the story well, in fact it hindered it. It felt like a bunch of scientific words, or words the author felt were scientific and wrote them done, but it made little sense. I just didn't get the story or reason behind all of this. It almost felt like there was a lot of editing done to the book and what was left, was a mess.

Overall didn't enjoy the book I'll read the third book in the series (because I own it already), but doubt I'll read the final two.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I would recommend this one. The first one was good, but this one just didn't work or live up to the same standards. The book may be more appealing to children, but I wouldn't recommend it for adults who enjoy children's lit.

What to read next: A Swiftly Tilting Planet is the next book in the series.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: The Forgotten Garden

Title: The Forgotten Garden

Author: Kate Morton

Pages: 549

Summary: A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book - a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, "Nell" sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While the book did start of a little slow, it eventually become one hard to put down. It had an almost gothic feel to it, with a modern twist- especially how the author set up the setting and reading atmosphere creating an engaging and enjoyable read.

I have some mixed feelings about the narrative of this one. I loved how it bounced back and forward from past, distant past and the present in the book. I think the author did a good job at keeping an even balance and ensuring there was equal time for each individual narrative, which is very impressive in my books. Often when a book is written like this, I find that some of the individual narratives are sacrificed for another, but each one gives a complete story by the time the book is done. I also thought the author managed to connect all the different elements from each individual narrative into a cohesive story. What I didn't like about it, was there were certain narratives I enjoyed more than others and some of them, while important to the story, just didn't do it for me.

Nell and the "Authoress" story were by far the strengths in the book. Cassandra's story, was where it went south for me. She wasn't a character I enjoyed and I felt how she mixed in with the book didn't exactly fit well. The hints of a romantic relationship for her, was one of my biggest irks of the book, perhaps I'm reading too much into this one, but I felt that it was rather forced.

Otherwise the story was fantastic, the mystery side of it had be guessing, then second guessing what the big secret was. The author does a good job at leading the reader of the scent, I was close with my initial guess, but even knowing one piece didn't have an effect on reading the rest of the book, as there was a whole web of plots and secrets to be revealed. All which fall back on to a little cottage on the English countryside, with a garden, maze all of which help set up a perfect reading atmosphere. Something about how the author wrote about the setting, pulled me in, making it an excellent read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. I don't think it lives up to the hype but it was still an excellent read, and well worth reading.

What to read next: The Historian

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Wednesday, August 21

Book Review: Open Secrets

Title: Open Secrets

Author: Alice Munro

Pages: 247

Summary: In this new collection of stories -- the finest yet from one of the most brilliant writers of fiction at work today -- whole lives, whole worlds, unfold with an ease, a richness, an absolute "rightness" that are breathtaking.

These are stories in which women are central. They are about lovers found and lovers lost but lodged still in the subconscious, about secrets that change lives, about people whose histories are opening out or coming to an end. Their power accumulates layer by layer as time and reality shift, identities become uncertain, truths surface.

A heart patient on a trip to her doctor on a hot summer's day has a revelation about the lasting power of an old love. A long-hidden secret sticks in the consciousness of a young woman, who, in an outrageous but entirely satisfying act, finally rids herself of its thrall. A romantic tale of capture and escape in the wilds of central Europe may or may not be true, but it comforts the hearer, who, on an adventure of her own, is fleeing her husband. Two childhood friends resolve their lives in a madcap and unexpected way on a memorable midsummer's eve. A pioneer woman home-steading in the Canadian wilderness with her new husband and his brother devises a clever stratagem for eluding the certain and dire fate that awaits her if she remains on the farm.

A wonderful gathering of stories in which once again, as she does with each new book, Alice Munro surpasses herself.

Carried Away
A Real Life
The Albanian Virgin
Open Secrets
The Jack Randa Hotel
A Wilderness Station
Spaceships Have Landed

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This one is up there as one of my favourites by the author. There were times I was lost in reading some of the stories from this particular collection, making the book hard to put down. There were times I wanted to slow down and slowly read through the book, other times I wanted to inhale it. I think it's safe to say that this collection is one of my favourites, and has two of my favourite short stories I've read by the author so far.

Although all of the short stories have their own merits to them, I have my favourites which were; Carried Away, A Wilderness Station and A Real Life. Mt least favourite was Vandals. With that being said, even the ones that I didn't love, were well written and had something to them to make me want to read more. Open Secrets for example, wasn't exactly a favourite of mine, but by the time I got to the end, I did enjoy the story. It lives up to its title and the author does explore a lot through the eyes of her characters, community and all that is "hidden" there.

If I had to only pick one of the short stories as my favourite, A Wilderness Station would win. Carried Away was the reason why I bought the collection, as I read it on its own previously, but A Wilderness Station, gripped me from start to finish. There's a lot to the short story and it had both fully fleshed out characters, as well as an engaging plot from start to finish. The ending was excellent, with a slightly surprising twist and overall the short story was one that had be gripped from start to finish. It also shows exactly what the author is capable of, and is one of my favourites I've read by her so far.

All in all, a wonderful collection which has left me with wanting more.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. This would be a good place to start if you want to try out the author, as it shows a bit of a range in her writing.

What to read next: More collections by the author.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

July Wrap-Up!

Another month done, the year and the summer are winding down. This was a great reading month for me, in both books I read and working on challenges, this side of the year things still look good, and with summer holidays coming up, here hoping some more great reads come my way.

The Books

I had a great reading month, which is a relief after the last few months, where I didn't read a lot of books, or any books that I could say I really enjoyed. This month my favourite books were; Away From Everywhere by Chad Pelley, Wild Geese by Martha Ostenso, and Skeleton Women by Mingmei Yip. My least favourite was Gold Digger.

Gold Digger: A Klondike Mystery - Vicki Delany - 6/10
The Mysterious Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - 7.5/10
Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris - 8.5/10
Skeleton Women - Mingmei Yip - 9/10
The Nine Fold Heaven - Mingmei Yip - 8.25/10
April Morning - Howard Fast - 7.75/10
Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show - Frank Delaney -7/10
Wildcatter - Dave Duncan - 7/10
Wild Geese - Martha Ostenso - 9.5/10
Dead as a Doornail - Charlaine Harris - 8/10
Emma - Jane Austen - 7.5/10
Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle - 7.25/10
Away From Everywhere - Chad Pelley - 10/10

The Challenges

This month I finished two challenges, but joined one. Still, finishing two challenges is a good thing. I finished the Mystery/Crime Reading challenge, and while I do have a list of books I plan on reading this year that would be great for the next level of the challenge, I did do what I intended, and since I have other challenges I'm still sort of neglecting, I think it's best for me to focus on them. I also finished the War Through the Generations challenge which I struggled through, while I like challenge, this year wasn't my favourite theme.

Current challenges are going as well as expected. I do need to focus more on certain ones, or categories in the 2013 Category challenge, but I may still be able to finish that one. Overall, they challenges are becoming a challenge, but I'm still having fun with them all, and that's the main point.

Completed Challenges
Mystery/Crime Reading Challenge 2013 - 5/5 - Completed on July 6, 2013
War Through the Generations Challenge 2013 (American Revolutionary War) - 3/3 - Completed on July 14, 2013

On-Going Challenges
100 Books in 2013 Challenge - 73/100 -73%
2013 Category Challenge - 64/131 - 49%
7th Annual Canada Book Challenge - 4/13 - 31%
777 Challenge - 5/7 - 71%
Alphabet Challenge 2013 - 33/52 - 63%
E-Book Challenge 2013 -33/50 - 66%
Finish That Series Challenge 2013 - 1/4 (Series), 2/7 (Books) - 25%
Ireland Reading Challenge 2013 - 5/10 - 50%
Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge - 5/12 - 42%
Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013 - 33/75 - 44%
New Author Challenge 2013 - 44/50 - 88%
Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge 2013 - 3/5 - 60%
50 Book Pledge - 73/100 -73%

Countries Visited
Canada, China, England, Ireland,  and the USA,

Create your own travel map - TravBuddy

Books That Followed Me Home

The Book of Tomorrow - Cecelia Ahern
The Garneau Block - Toff Babiak
Long Lankin - John Banville
The Law of Dreams - Peter Behrens
The Ocean at the End of the Lane - A Novel - Neil Gailman
Under the Sun - Justin Kerr-Smiley
Silver Linings Playbook - A Novel - Matthew Quick
River of the Brokenhearted - David Adams Richards
The Life Boat - Charlotte Rogan
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton

April Morning - Howard Fast
Definitely Dead - A Sookie Stackhouse Novel - Charlaine Harris
All Together Dead - A Sookie Stackhouse Novel - Charlaine Harris
In the Land of Birdfishes - Rebecca Silver Slayter

Review Books
The Accidental Law Librarian - Anthony Aycock
The Nine Fold Heaven - Mingmei Yip