Sunday, March 31

Book Review: Song of Kosovo

Title: The Song of Kosovo

Author: Chris Gudgeon

Pages: 206

Summary: Some days, it doesn’t pay to be a lapsed pretend Buddhist . . . particularly when you’re charged with a lengthy list of war crimes. Vida Zankovic has done many things to stay alive. A wily young man caught in the insanity of the Balkan wars, Vida has dealt drugs, been forced to join the army, and then deserted when he tried to save a young boy trapped beneath a mountain of corpses. Being accused of genocide, however, forces Vida into a whole new level of surrealism. In Song of Kosovo, Chris Gudgeon exposes the universal human experience like never before, fashioning a satirical world where one earns a following as a levitating holy man while the US Air Force drops “bombs” of condoms, candy, and Ikea pillows to subvert the populace.

Weaving strands of Balkan mythology and history, threading them through the life of a man who only wants to live out his days with the woman he loves, Gudgeon crafts a transcendent tale at once grotesque and absurd, satiric and tragic, touching and real.

As much Catch-22 as De Niro’s Game, Song of Kosovo is a unique examination of how ideas may rise above reality to drive world events and how a nation caught in the grip of conflict may ultimately earn a sense of itself.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: An enjoyable read, which started off strong, and although I had some issues with it, it is one I'd recommend to lot of other readers out there.

There was a fantastic story and character development, and I really enjoyed the self-journey the main character went on, and his retelling of it. There were multiple times I had trouble putting down the book, because I wanted to know how the character got to the end result, which the reader knows from the start, and I was immersed in the back-story and history of the main character and the setting. For the most part I did enjoy the book, but, there were parts of it that didn't seem to flow well with the rest of the story. While they were interesting, I felt there were a lot of plot threads and complexities to the book, that didn't completely come together in the end.

The writing style was also were the book lost me a bit, I found it somewhat hard to follow at times, while I do think this is part of the eccentric, and perhaps a slightly mentally unwell character, his thought process seemed odd at times, and following the story through his eyes, didn't exactly work for me all the time. It definitely added something to the reading experience and the character, but it didn't always work well to carry the story forward.

Overall, it was a good read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It was an interesting read and it has a lot of qualities that other books have that are similar to this one, that I know readers would enjoy.

What to read next: The Lighthouse

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge VI, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge



Book Review: The South

Title: The South

Author: Colm Tóibín

Pages: 238

Summary: Tóibín's first novel The South, set in Spain and rural Ireland, features Katherine Proctor, a painter on the run from a broken marriage. When love in Spain sours, she returns to Ireland for refuge, surviving on fragments of memory and her newfound passion for Painting. Tóibín leads his main character along the perilous paths of self-discovery with a wealth of understanding and depth of perception that makes this a highly impressive debut.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, while I didn't love it, I did find myself reading it all in pretty much one sitting. While I did have a few problems with it, overall it was a nice read.

I did find there were a lot more slow parts, more than I would have liked. There were a few times, I wanted the story to push forward and felt few interactions between characters were becoming redundant. But overall, I think for the author did a great job at taking the readers on a journey with the characters. I didn't have a favourite character, but I did find them to be well developed and interesting to read about. There were a few times, I found myself wanting to know what would happen next, and how the characters in the book would progress and how it will affect the rest of the story. Although I didn't have a favourite character, they were written well enough for me to want to keep reading.

I also enjoyed the writing style. It was a good medium between simple to the point, and prose. Both which I like, but this made for a good solid, and fast read, but still got that feeling of a strong and engaging narrative.

Overall, the book is well worth reading, and is one of those books you read on a lazy afternoon. Well worth reading it all in one sitting.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. My first experience with the author didn't work out, but this book was a good book. I read it in a sitting and I think a lot of other readers would also enjoy the book.

What to read next: Lady Oracle

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

Saturday, March 30

Book Review: The Informationist

Title: The Informationist: A Thriller

Author: Taylor Stevens

Pages: EBook 297

Summary: Vanessa “Michael” Munroe deals in information—expensive information—working for corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise. Born to missionary parents in lawless central Africa, Munroe took up with an infamous gunrunner and his mercenary crew when she was just fourteen. As his protégé, she earned the respect of the jungle's most dangerous men, cultivating her own reputation for years until something sent her running. After almost a decade building a new life and lucrative career from her home base in Dallas, she's never looked back.

Until now.

A Texas oil billionaire has hired her to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago. It’s not her usual line of work, but she can’t resist the challenge. Pulled deep into the mystery of the missing girl, Munroe finds herself back in the lands of her childhood, betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead. If she has any hope of escaping the jungle and the demons that drive her, she must come face-to-face with the past that she’s tried for so long to forget.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I wasn't overly impressed with the book, I did enjoy it more than I thought I would. It's not my usual genre to read, but it was worth dipping into it and trying something new. I think the main plot was well done, and I was interested in seeing how it played out. I found some revelations though out the book a little to convenient and almost cliché, but it how the author got the characters there was well done. It wasn't overly action pact, but the author did build up to some tense moments fairly well, which helped keep my interest in the book.

I wasn't a fan of the main character. I found her hard to connect to, and while she had more than meets the eye depth to her, I found her personal demons and history just didn't mix well with the rest of the book. While some of her personal experiences helped her with the case, how her past was woven into the book didn't work right for me. I found it to be almost forced to help create a more complex character. While I do like how the author made a good complex character, I found it didn't work for me. Overall a good read. It's part of a series, and while I liked the book, I doubt I'd continue with the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It was better than I thought, it wasn't fantastic and it didn't grip me, but if you like the genre or would like to try out the genre then the book is worth checking out.

What to read next: This is part of a series, so it might be worth checking out. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would also be a good choice. I do agree with some other reviewers that there are some similarities.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mystery/Crime Reading ChallengeNew Author Challenge



Book Review: The Lighthouse

Title: The Lighthouse

Author: Alison Moore

Pages: 183

Summary: The Lighthouse begins on a North Sea ferry, on whose blustery outer deck stands Futh, a middle-aged, recently separated man heading to Germany for a restorative walking holiday.

Spending his first night in Hellhaus at a small, family-run hotel, he finds the landlady hospitable but is troubled by an encounter with an inexplicably hostile barman.

In the morning, Futh puts the episode behind him and sets out on his week-long circular walk along the Rhine. As he travels, he contemplates his childhood; a complicated friendship with the son of a lonely neighbour; his parents’ broken marriage and his own. But the story he keeps coming back to, the person and the event affecting all others, is his mother and her abandonment of him as a boy, which left him with a void to fill, a substitute to find.

He recalls his first trip to Germany with his newly single father. He is mindful of something he neglected to do there, an omission which threatens to have devastating repercussions for him this time around.

At the end of the week, Futh, sunburnt and blistered, comes to the end of his circular walk, returning to what he sees as the sanctuary of the Hellhaus hotel, unaware of the events which have been unfolding there in his absence.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While the book had a lot of elements I usually appreciate and love in a book, I found that this was book I couldn't warm up to and call it book that I really enjoyed. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't love it either. The author's writing style was very well done. It did initially capture m and it kept me reading the book. Because the book is a very character driven one, I was impressed with how the writing kept the plot and the character's development moving forward - and just how strong and well written the book was. I find a lot of character driven books similar to this, the writing is good, but it doesn't carry that same strength this one did.

The main character was likely the reason why I didn't fall in love with the book. While he was a well written, complex character. Who at times I did enjoy reading about, particularly his past. I just couldn't connect to him. I never felt that need to want to keep reading, because I wanted to see what would happen next and how his journey would turn out, how the events in the past would influence the present, and how the present day events would affect him by the end of the book. There was a few spots I enjoyed, and everything came together well in the story, but I found that there was always something missing for me to truly enjoy the book.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. While I didn't love the book, I think there are a lot of readers out there who would enjoy the self-exploration the main character goes through.

What to read next: The other Booker shortlisted books. The Song of Kosovo

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, New Authors Challenge

Friday, March 29

Book Review: The Fort


Title: The Fort

Author: Bernard Cornwell

Pages: EBook - 337

Summary: ‘Captivate, kill or destroy the whole force of the enemy’ was the order given to the American soldiers. THE FORT is the blistering novel from worldwide bestseller Bernard Cornwell. Summer 1779. Seven hundred and fifty British soldiers and three small ships of the Royal Navy. Their orders: to build a fort above a harbour to create a base from which to control the New England seaboard. Forty-one American ships and over nine hundred men. Their orders: to expel the British. The battle that followed was a classic example of how the best-laid plans can be disrupted by personality and politics, and of how warfare can bring out both the best and worst in men. It is a timeless tale of men at war, written by a master storyteller.

My Rating: 4.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This wasn't a particularly engaging book and I had a lot of trouble keeping my focus when I read it. While it seemed to be a good fictional account of the event, it lacked any kind of characterization, a protagonist or anything really concrete to make me want to read on. It really was just an account on a particular event during the war, and after a while the lack of all the other elements to make a good story, affected my overall impression of the book.

The author writing style and research that went into this was very well done. I'm unsure how accurate to real events the story is, but it does seem authentic enough. But, it was missing a lot of crucial pieces a novel needs to make it more readable and I think that was sacrificed more than needed.

Overall not my favourite read, I will read the author again - I want to try out some of his other books, but this one was a miss for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I'd recommend this particular book to read. The author for sure, especially to fans of historical fiction - but not the book.

What to read next: I'd read more books by the author - Red Coat is also set during the same time period.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, EBook ChallengeNew Authors Challenge, War Through the Generations Challenge

Book Review: Dance of the Happy Shades

Title: Dance of the Happy Shades

Author: Alice Munro

Pages: 199

Summary: In the stories that make up Dance of the Happy Shades, the deceptive calm of small-town life is brought memorably to the page, revealing the countryside of Southwestern Ontario to be home to as many small sufferings and unanticipated emotions as any place. This is the book that earned Alice Munro a devoted readership and established her as one of Canada's most beloved writers. Winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction, Dance of the Happy Shades is Alice Munro's first short story collection.

Contents:

Walker Brothers Cowboy
The Shinning Houses
Images
Thanks for the Ride
The Office
An Ounce of Cure
The Time of Death
Days of the Butterfly
Boys and Girls
Postcard
Red Dress-1946
Sunday Afternoon
A Trip to the Coast
A Peace of Utrecht
Dance of the Happy Shade

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Another great collection from the author, it's not her best, but considering this was her first collection of short stories, I was very impressed with the quality of writing, characterization and plot development throughout the collect - especially compared to her other collections - it is one that same level of quality.

My favourite short stories from the collection where; The Office, Time of Death and Boys and Girls. Time of Death in particular was a very memorable read, and somewhat haunting. I enjoyed how Munro set the story up and brought it to life. The Office is also another story, which stuck out for me - and for such a short story it was done very well. With strong characterization and plot, the story is probably the one that sticks with me the most (it may be my second favourite, but it's the one I remember the most). All of the stories in the collection are well done, Walker Brothers Cowboy for example, while it wasn't my favourite, it was a story I enjoyed reading and during my short time with it, I wanted to see how it would play out. Which is an aspect of the author's writing I appreciate, her ability to make me want to read more, in such a short period of time. Munro is also able bring life to all of her short stories and the characters in them - this collection of course is no exception.

Another great read, by one of my favourite Canadian authors, and one that is well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was another great collection by the author, not my favourite but extremely well done - especially considering this was her first collection of short stories published by her, it is well worth checking out.

What to read next: Canadian short story collections

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge VI, Mount TBR Challenge

Sunday, March 24

Book Review: Insurgent

Title: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Pages: 309

Summary: One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Although I had a few more problems with this book than the first, it was just as enjoyable, action pact and an exciting of a read as the first.

It picked off where the first book left off, and I was pretty much invested in it the entire time. I enjoyed the storyline and the look at the other fractions - it was nice to see the detail the author put into them and how she weaved then into the other story. While some aspects were predictable, t here were also a few surprise along the way, and I really did enjoy reading the book. It was easier to put down the book than the first was, but still a very exciting book to read. I really love how the author has created this society, and I'm interested in seeing what she does with it in the final book.

There were a few aspects I didn't enjoy. I found the relationship/romance between Tris and Four/Tobias to become a bit tiresome after awhile. In fact, Tris as a character bothered me quite a lot throughout the book, more so than in the first. There were times she was becoming a Mary-Sue, rather than have her develop more naturally, and this was far more noticeable in this book than the first. I also found it to be a bit repetitive, and it did begin to drag a bit in the middle, the author made up for it in the end, but there were times I was losing interest in the story.

Overall I enjoyed the book, and I'm looking forward to the final instalment in the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it has a very similar formula to the first book, but it continued the story nicely, and if you enjoy dystopian and YA fiction it is an excellent choice.

What to read next: The final book in the series, Hunger Games

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

Book Review: The Earth Hums in B Flat

Title: The Earth Hums in B Flat

Author: Mari Strachan

Pages: 327

Summary: The Earth Hums in B Flat is a story of dark family secrets unravelled by the shrewd insight of twelve-year-old Gwenni Morgan, a child with an irrepressible spirit living in a Welsh village that is reluctantly entering the modern age. From the small bed that she shares with her sister at night she flies up into the starry sky above her village and looks down on the lives of its inhabitants. And when the family that she babysits for is rocked by the sudden, unexplainable disappearance of their patriarch, Gwenni is determined to solve the mystery of Ifan Evan’s whereabouts. Turning amateur detective, she is unaware that the trail will lead her closer to home than she ever imagined.

Told with a breathtaking, irresistible blend of freshness and wisdom, the voice that sixty-two-year-old Welsh debut novelist Mari Strachan has created with Gwenni is vibrant, charming, and full of heart. An unforgettable character, Gwenni’s unique way of seeing the world lends her the ability to make the ordinary extraordinary. A magical novel about the trials of youth, familial duty, and understanding, The Earth Hums in B Flat will transport you to another time and place.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I had a hard time getting into the book. While I liked the initial idea behind it, in the end the book just didn't work out for me.

I didn't exactly connect to the main character and there were times I found her to be a bit of an unbelievable character. She was suppose to be a young child, and while some of the events in her life have shaped her personality and how she perceives the world, there were multiple times her actions and thought process just didn't match up to her age or maturity. Although there were a few times, the childlike innocence came through, which did make me smile (the fox shall/scarf), I had a lot of trouble with Gwenni as a character.

I enjoyed aspects of the plot, and the angle the author took on mental illness. It was interesting to see how the author showed how it can affect everyone around the person with a mental illness. It being a book being seen through a child's eyes created an interesting perspective on what was happening, and I wish that aspect was explored more than the mystery side of things. I found that the mystery side of the book, didn't exactly work out. I think it has to do more with Gwenni's involvement, but it wasn't an aspect of the book I enjoyed.

It was a pull and push for how deep my interest was in the book. Parts pulled me in, but in the end the book didn't work for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I would. It wasn't a bad story, but it wasn't exactly a book I'd recommend, when there are other books that with similar themes and plots out there to read.

What to read next: The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, Mental Illness Awareness Challenge, New Authors Challenge

Sunday, March 10

Book Review: Club Dead

Title: Club Dead

Author: Charlaine Harris

Pages: EBook 192

Summary: Things between cocktail waitress Sookie and her vampire boyfriend Bill seem to be going excellently (apart from the small matter of him being undead) until he leaves town for a while. A long while. Bill's sinister boss Eric has an idea of where to find him, whisking her off to Jackson, Mississippi to mingle with the under-underworld at Club Dead. When she finally catches up with the errant vampire, he is in big trouble and caught in an act of serious betrayal. This raises serious doubts as to whether she should save him or start sharpening a few stakes of her own ...

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the third book of the Sookie Stackhouse series. It wasn't as good as the first two, but I did find myself wanting to know what happens next - there are times where I couldn't put the book down, and other times I was bored with the book, but overall it was a fun read.

I think the characterization is done well. I don't have a big connection to one character over the other, and I don't have one (yet), that I love to read about, but the author has done a good job at creating a cast of well rounded characters, who are developing over the span of the series. Which I do appreciate as they have a very natural development, flawed characters, and in general are characters I want to read about and come back to.

The overall plot in this paranormal universe is another factor that keeps bringing me back to the series and attempting to finish it more quickly than I usually do. I really enjoy the authors interpretation of the paranormal world, from the vampires to shape shifters, I'm liking how it's melded in with the rest of the world. The main plot in this book wasn't as good as I had hoped, although it had some moments, I did enjoy it. I just felt that this book was missing that extra push to make it into something more.

Overall, this is quickly becoming a series I'm finding I have to inhale and I'm looking forward to see what the next book will bring.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I didn't like this one as much as the first two, but it's still well worth reading. While the series doesn't completely enthral me, it has become one that's addicting to read.

What to read next: The rest of the series

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

Saturday, March 9

Book Review: Sophia's Secret

Title: Sophia's Secret

Author: Susanna Kearsley

Pages: EBook 379

Summary: When bestselling author Carrie McClelland visits the windswept ruins of Slains Castle, she is enchanted by the stark and beautiful Scottish landscape. The area is strangely familiar to her but she puts aside her faint sense of unease to begin her new novel, using the castle as her setting, and one of her own ancestors, Sophia, as her heroine. Then Carrie realises her writing is taking on a life of its own and the lines between fact and fiction become increasingly blurred. As Sophia's memories draw Carrie more deeply into the intrigue of 1708, she discovers a captivating love story lost in time. After three hundred years, Sophia's Secret must be told. Previously published as The Winter Sea.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were aspects of the book I enjoyed, but overall the book didn't come together for me. I enjoyed the setting of the book, both in the present and the story within the story, I loved the descriptions of Scotland, and the how the author breathed life into the setting. At times, I enjoyed the story, the protagonist was writing about throughout the book - and wish I could have had that book to read on its own. Even the main storyline had some good aspects to it and some of the secondary characters were well done. The problem was the main characters weren't properly developed - I felt they were sacrificed for the benefit of the story within a story. There were two possible stories, that could have had a lot of strength on their own, because of the characters, that both fell adrift in the end.

I hated the genetic memory aspect to the book. It bothered me constantly how that was worked in, as it seemed to be thrown in as an afterthought. Ideas were started and hinted at, but then they seemed to drift off. It just made for an odd addition to the book - and it was one of the major factors to why I didn't enjoy the book.

Overall, not a favourite read of mine. I'd probably try one of the author's other books at some point, but this one wasn't a good first choice with the author.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure on this one. It had good aspects to it, but I felt it didn't come together. I'd say yes to the author, maybe to the book. (The Book is also known as The Winter Sea)

What to read next: Hmm, I'd give the author another try

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2013 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge



Monday, March 4

February Wrap-Up

February was a short month, and wasn't a fantastic reading month for me. Although the distraction of Canada Reads, was a factor in this, I didn't get nearly as much reading as I hoped. But watching Canada Reads was well worth not finishing an extra book or two. Now what bookish even do I have to look forward to? They're all so far away.

The Books

I didn't read as many books as I would have hoped to this month, and this month I was in bit of a rut, where the books I was reading just didn't do much for me. I didn't finish one book, currently have two on the go I'm not a big fan of, and a third that is an okay read, but it's lacking something to really make me want to inhale it. So let's hope March is better month for me, especially in the quality of books I read. I rather read three fantastic books, than a bunch of books that aren't so fantastic. My favourite book this month was Lady Oracle. Although both The Color of Tea and Heat Wave deserve a mention too. Heat Wave was a book that was far better than I thought it would be - I think I'll now have to give Castle another go. My least favourite books this month was Time and Again and The Broken Kingdoms.

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov - 7/10
The Age of Hope - David Bergen - 6.25/10
The Color of Tea - Hannah Tunnicliffe  - 7.5/10
Divergent - Veronica Roth - 8.25/10
Time and Again - Jack Finney - 2/10
The Broken Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin - 3.75/10
Lady Oracle - Margaret Atwood - 8.75/10
Heat Wave - Richard Castle - 7.75/10


The Challenges

I have decided to drop out of the "Read-a-latte challenge" because since mid January the links to the challenge do not work. So I don't see the point in continuing with the challenge, that doesn't seem to be there anymore and I'm not going to worry about counting it in my yearly stats either. Otherwise, all challenges are going well - and I don't see any problems with any of them yet. I'm trying my best to focus on the TBR challenge. I keep seeing a lot of books to read and it's very easy/tempting to read those. But I also want to get my own books read - hence the TBR challenge. I find this one of the most difficult to complete, but so far I'm doing pretty good.

1. 100 Books in 2013 Challenge - 22/100 - 22%
2. 2013 Category Challenge - 22/131 - 17%
3. 777 Challenge - 2/7 - 29%
4. Alphabet Challenge 2013 - 17/52 - 33%
5. E-Book Challenge 2013 - 11/50 - 22%
6. Finish That Series Challenge 2013 - 0/4 (Series), 1/7 (Books) - 0%
7. Ireland Reading Challenge 2013 - 2/10 - 20%
8. Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge - 2/12 - 16%
9. Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013 - 15/75 - 20%
10. Mystery/Crime Reading Challenge 2013 - 2/5 - 40%
11. New Author Challenge 2013 - 14/50 - 28%
12. Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge 2013 - 0/5 - 0%
13. War Through the Generations Challenge 2013 (American Revolutionary War) - 0/3 - 0%
14. 50 Book Pledge - 22/100 - 22%


Countries Visited
Canada, Italy, Macau, USA





Create your own travel map - TravBuddy


Books That Followed Me Home
1) Flesh and Glass - Libby Cone
2) Songs of Kosovo - Chris Gudgeon
3) Alligator - Lisa Moore