Thursday, October 31

Book Review: Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility

Title: Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility

Author: Theodora Armstrong

Pages: 292

Summary: Set against the divergent landscape of British Columbia — from the splendours of nature to its immense dangers, from urban grease and grit to dry, desert towns — Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility examines human beings and their many frailties with breathtaking insight and accuracy.

Théodora Armstrong peoples her stories with characters as richly various — and as compelling — as her settings. A soon-to-be father and haute cuisine chef mercilessly berates his staff while facing his lack of preparedness for parenthood. A young girl revels in the dark drama of the murder of a girl from her neighbourhood. A novice air-traffic specialist must come to terms with his first loss — the death of a pilot — on his watch. And the dangers of deep canyons and powerful currents spur on the reckless behaviour of teenagers as they test the limits of bravery, friendship, and sex.

Contents
Rabbit
Fishtail
Whale stories
Art of eating
Thanks to Carin
Spider in the jar
Clear skies, no wind, 100% visibility
Mosquito Creek

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I liked some of the short stories, some have a shock value to it, where I found myself surprise and in one case, disgusted, by the characters, but I did find the was some appeal to the book. Despite a few bumps in the road. A few of the initial stories just didn't appeal to me, but as I read further into the collection, I did find I was enjoying the stories.

The two stories in this collection that stood out the most for me were Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility and Mosquito Creek. Both were the two that stood out the most for me and I guess I could say they were my favourites of the collection. They were definitely ones that had characters and stories that stuck with you long after you finish them. Whale Stories was one I didn't like much at all, but it was also a story that stuck with you once it was over. I think that was one great thing about the collection, I may not have liked the actual content of a lot of the books, or found them to be not very interesting, but they were all stories that stick with you once you've finished them.

It wasn't a collection that gripped me and there were some short stories I didn't like, but in the end I found that they were fairly well written and the collection as a whole was well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especially to anyone who enjoys short stories, and I know of a few fellow bloggers out there, who would enjoy this collection.

What to read next: Lift Lightning, Whirl Away, The Sometimes Lake, This Cake is for the Party

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

Wednesday, October 30

Book Review: Bone and Bread

Title: Bone and Bread

Author: Saleema Nawaz

Pages: 337

Summary: Beena and Sadhana are sisters who share a bond that could only have been shaped by the most unusual of childhoods — and by shared tragedy. Orphaned as teenagers, they have grown up under the exasperated watch of their Sikh uncle, who runs a bagel shop in Montreal's Hasidic community of Mile End. Together, they try to make sense of the rich, confusing brew of values, rituals, and beliefs that form their inheritance. Yet as they grow towards adulthood, their paths begin to diverge. Beena catches the attention of one of the "bagel boys" and finds herself pregnant at sixteen, while Sadhana drives herself to perfectionism and anorexia.

When we first meet the adult Beena, she is grappling with a fresh grief: Sadhana has died suddenly and strangely, her body lying undiscovered for a week before anyone realizes what has happened. Beena is left with a burden of guilt and an unsettled feeling about the circumstances of her sister's death, which she sets about to uncover. Her search stirs memories and opens wounds, threatening to undo the safe, orderly existence she has painstakingly created for herself and her son.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I had a bit of a balancing act with this book, there were aspects of it I enjoyed, but there were a few things in it that I just couldn't get past, and while it was an enjoyable read, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would.

One of the major issues with the book, was that I disliked Beena quite a lot as a character. She was just not a person I could like. I found her to be a bit selfish and harsh towards her sister, and at times stupid especially during a few scenes when she was interacting with her boyfriend who's a cop. I wanted to smack her when she sat around and did nothing after a major secret about her sister's death was revealed, and there were many times I found it difficult to keep reading the book, because Beena was the narrator and was someone I just could never warm up to.

I wish I could have been in Sadhana's head more, it would have been interesting to see and feel what she was thinking, especially during her struggles. I did like how it was told through Beena's eyes, I think it was an interesting ploy to keep Sadhana at a distance, as finding out about her in pieces, having her story dangled in front of me was what kept me reading - I always wanted to know more about her life. I also liked how the author showed how Sadhana's anorexia affected her family rather than just her. I found the author created a very interesting dynamic on how every individual family member was affected by Sadahana's illness - I just wish I was able to understand her as a character more - as she seemed to be a far more interesting and likeable character. The author also shows a fairly good story of sisterhood and family dynamics. I think the story itself was well done, and at times I think it could have been a fairly emotional one, but again I had to many issues with Beena, the narrator and it definitely affected the entire book for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was a good story and I know a lot of readers would like the sisterhood dynamic the book has.

What to read next: The Sisters of Hardscrabble Bay, Clara Cullen

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mental Health Awareness Challenge

Book Review: Allegiant

Title: Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Pages: EBook 328

Summary: One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?

What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?

What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I didn't like this book as much as the first two in the series, but it was an enjoyable read and I think it was a good way to wrap up the trilogy as a whole.

I didn't like how both Tris and Four had alternating narratives because I think the author didn't do a good enough job at separating their individual voices. It felt like the same narrator telling me the story, not to separate and very different people. I think that was what threw me off the book the most was it was written with two different people narrating the book - but their personalities, individual voices were lost. I also found both the writing and the story as a whole to be bland, especially compared to the other two books, this one just didn't have that same grab to the story as the other two did. There were some interesting twists and turns throughout the book, which I enjoyed, but I was never given enough answers, there were far too many things left open at the end - it mad the book feel more like another story in the series, rather than a final book in the trilogy.

The ending surprised me the most, or at least some events that lead up to the ending - kudos to the author for doing what she did. It was shocking, but it worked extremely well for the story and the development of the characters. The rest of the ending was a bit of a letdown it felt a little rushed, but wow did one part have a shock value - it's probably what re-grabbed my attention for this book, as I found I just wasn't as invested in this book as I was with the first two.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's not the best of the trilogy, but well worth reading, especially if you enjoy dystopian young adult fiction.

What to read next: Hunger Games

Challenges: 2013 Category Challenge

Sunday, October 27

Book Review: Loteria

Title: Lotería

Author: Mario Alberto Zambrano

Pages: 270

Summary: A young girl tells the story of her family's tragic demise using a deck of cards of the eponymous Mexican game in this spellbinding debut novel that marks the arrival of a powerhouse new talent.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, the young girl retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of Lotería cards-a Mexican version of bingo featuring bright, colorful images.

Neither the social worker assigned to her case nor her Aunt Tencha, who desperately pleads for her niece's release, can cajole Luz to speak. The young girl's only confidant is her journal. Within its pages, Luz addresses an invisible higher power, sharing her secrets.

Using the Lotería cards as her muse, Luz picks one card from the deck with each shuffle. Each of the cards' colorful images- mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars-sparks a random memory. Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl's life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I loved the premise of this book, and how the author used the Loteria cards to help tell the story. They always seemed to help highlight what was happening in that chapter, the memories each card help Luz re-tell her story, her memories - which at times had me completely captivated by the book. The writing was well done, and I think the author capture Luz's voice nicely.

I did feel like we never fully got to know Luz and that she never fully developed, but near the end when the truth was revealed, it does make sense to why her character seemed stuck in place, would be the best way to explain it. The author did a great job at writing her, but I always felt she was a bit distant from the reader - which was both a good and bad thing. The ending was one of my biggest issues I had with the book. I felt it was abrupt and it felt like there was more that should have been told. The ending itself worked for the characters in some sense, but compared to the book, the ending felt rushed and didn't have the same flare the rest of the book had. I also found the last quarter of the book, started to lose the appeal - especially considering the ending didn't work for me.

Overall a very good read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was a very original book, and I think a lot of readers would love the narrator.

What to read next: The Book Thief - something about the narrative reminded me of it.

Challenges: Alphabet Challenge

Book Review: Beauty Beneath the Banyan

Title: Beauty Beneath the Banyan

Author: Crystal Fletcher

Pages: EBook 313

Summary: Three women, three countries, three stories—the destinies of a Thai in prison for murdering her husband, a Cambodian longing for a child, and a Laotian Hmong refugee are threaded together by the tears leftover from the Vietnam War. Each of the women have been marked in some way by the atrocities of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, the Secret War in Laos, and the effects of these wars, as well as the Vietnam War on Thailand, where many displaced people from Laos and Cambodia found refuge, and where American soldiers sought refuge of another kind, ultimately leading to the development of Thailand’s sex tourism industry. The Buddhist concept of reincarnation is used to unite six main characters, three of whom are dead. The dead consist of a Cambodian monk, an American soldier who fought in Vietnam and died in Thailand and an American pilot who flew bombing missions in Laos and died there. These three become dead companions who are watching over three women who are still living with repercussions of war and the lasting imprint this devastation leaves generations later.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a stunning read. One which I could not put down, one that I wanted to read straight through from beginning to end. It's also a book that sticks with you after you've finished with it.

I was completely pulled into the book from the beginning pages, and that never went away. I loved how the author had three different narratives, and three different stories being told at once, and I loved how they came together. Arunny's story was the one I liked the least, her story was still a very strong and emotional one, but I didn't connect to her story on the same level as I did with the others. The Grandmother's story from Laos, was probably by favourite. It was such a strong, powerful and heartbreaking story, it was hard to put the book down when her narrative came up - especially when she talked to her Grandchild - I was stunned by the beauty, emotion and what was revealed there. Isra also had an interesting story, she was a very well created character, and her growth throughout the story was extremely well done - all of the characters were - but hers was the most noticeable. There were a few other aspects of Isra's story I enjoyed - but I don't want to spoil anything, but I was often smiling when things started to come together.

The writing was lovely. I think the author managed to create each individual voice for the different narratives wonderfully. Each one was unique, I always felt like I was in the head of that individual character. The writing was also powerful, raw and beautiful at the same time, as the author shows the readers the harsh realities of the war and day to day life for the characters. It brought everything to surface and pulled me into the book, and helped make it a book next to impossible to put down.

Overall this was an extraordinary book.

Would I recommend it to read: I would highly recommend this book. In fact I'd say this is a must read - a book I love to shove in other people's hands and tell them to read it.

What to read next: Anil's Ghost

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

Saturday, October 26

Book Review: Going Home Again

Title: Going Home Again

Author: Dennis Bock

Pages: 258

Summary: Charlie Bellerose leads a semi-nomadic existence, traveling widely to manage the language academies he has established in different countries. After separating, somewhat amicably, from his wife, he moves from Madrid back to his native Canada to set up a new school, and for the first time in his life he forges a meaningful relationship with his brother, who's going through a vicious divorce. Charlie manages to make a fresh start in Toronto but longs for his twelve-year-old daughter, whom he sees only via Skype and the occasional overseas visit. After a chance encounter with a college girlfriend, he works through a series of memories-including a particularly painful one they share-as he reflects on how he ended up where he is. But two tragic events (one long past, the other very much in the present) finally force him to re-evaluate his priorities and his relationships with everyone around him.

My Rating: 3.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a book I struggled through and it was a book I just didn't care for.

The plot of the book never grabbed my attention and I was often bored with the book. The bouncing back from past and present at times, didn't work in this book as well as it should have. I felt like nothing was properly explored and there were almost two different stories going on. I also felt that, I was waiting for the entire book for the actual plot to happen - and I never felt the story really was told straight through.

I didn't like a single character, their actions, thoughts and overall characteristics didn't connect to me one bit. I found them to be selfish, and quite stereotypical of the middle-aged divorcee man. I also felt a lot of the actions and thoughts some of the characters, particularly Charlie, contradicted each other at times - perhaps this was part of a inner struggle of the character, and the author was trying to show him grow in a natural way, but I didn't buy it.

In the end, not the book for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I don't think I would, there just wasn't anything to the book to make me want to recommend it.

What to read next: I'd concentrate on the other Giller shortlisted books. I've also heard good things about the author's other books, particularly The Ash Garden.

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Book Review: A Beautiful Truth

Title: A Beautiful Truth

Author: Colin McAdam

Pages: 289

Summary: A powerful and haunting meditation on human nature told from the dual perspectives of a Vermont family that has adopted a chimp as a surrogate son, and a group of chimpanzees in a Florida research institute.

Looee, a chimp raised by a well-meaning and compassionate human couple who cannot conceive a baby of their own, is forever set apart. He’s not human, but with his peculiar upbringing he is no longer like other chimps. One tragic night Looee’s two natures collide and their unique family is forever changed.

At the Girdish Institute in Florida, a group of chimpanzees has been studied for decades. The work at Girdish has proven that chimps have memories and solve problems, that they can learn language and need friends, and that they build complex cultures. They are political, altruistic, get angry, and forgive. When Looee is moved to the Institute, he is forced to try to find a place in their world.

My Rating: 4.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started off fairly good for me, it had an interesting premise, and while the writing was different that what I normally read and to what I generally, I thought it was very fitting for the atmosphere of the book. Unfortunately my feelings for this book quickly turned and I found I lost all interest in it.

While I can appreciate what the author was trying to show the readers, I just didn't connect to it. I began to become frustrated with the writing style, as I felt like too much of the story was being sacrificed, and I couldn't stand the characters. I felt that Looee's parents (owners?) where some of the most selfish, ignorant and stupid people I've meet in a book. I really hated the fact they had him as a "pet", to replace the fact they couldn't have a child. I guess the book invoked strong emotions in me, and I think that was the author's intention, but I also think that because I became so frustrated with the first half of the book, by the time I got into the second half. I'd lost interest in it. I think that because of that, the effect of what happens in the second half of the book just didn't hit me like it probably should have.

The writing was unique to what I normally read, and while at the beginning and in certain parts of the book I think it was a great idea, I think that it took away from the story at the same time. I always felt that I wasn't getting the whole story, that something was missing. It was a neat idea, but it only sort of worked for me.

It was a book I was unsure of to begin with, and while enjoyed a few aspects of it, it wasn't my cup of tea.

Would I recommend it to read: I definitely think a lot of other would enjoy this book a lot. I tried this book out on a whim, because other bloggers enjoyed it, but knowing it wasn't entirely a book I'd normally read. So, it's also worth trying, sometimes books surprise you, sometimes, like for me, your initially gut feeling is right.

What to read next: I'd read the books off of this year's Governor General and Writer's Trust lists, as this book is up for both awards, see what the competition is like.

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Sunday, October 20

Book Review: HellGoing

Title: HellGoing

Author: Lynn Coady

Pages: EBook

Summary: With astonishing range and depth, Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Lynn Coady gives us eight unforgettable new stories, each one of them grabbing our attention from the first line and resonating long after the last.

A young nun charged with talking an anorexic out of her religious fanaticism toys with the thin distance between practicality and blasphemy. A strange bond between a teacher and a schoolgirl takes on ever deeper, and stranger, shapes as the years progress. A bride-to-be with a penchant for nocturnal bondage can’t seem to stop bashing herself up in the light of day.

Contents:

Wireless
Hellgoing
Dogs in Clothes
Take This and Eat It
An Otherworld
Clear Skies
The Natural Elements
Body Condom
Mr. Hope

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This wasn't a bad collection by any stretch, but it wasn't exactly a collection of short stories I enjoyed either. I found that, while the stories in the collection where well written, and fairly concrete. There was never that feeling that I needed to inhale the collection in one sitting, there wasn't that hook to keep me reading, and I never felt like I was able to connect to any of the characters in their individual short stories. There was always that extra something, missing for me in this collection, that extra grab to make the collection go from okay to extraordinary.

One of the aspects I enjoyed the most about this collection, is that there was a lot beneath the surface that wasn't revealed until the end, and even then, the author buried it deep into the story, almost like a hidden meaning to the whole story, that isn't revealed until the last sentence. An Otherworld and Mr. Hope are examples of this. They are not my favourites of the book, I don't think I actually have one, but these ones do stand out. They're almost haunting. They are also ones, you have to re-read , to fully get what the author is trying to show you, but I think she did pull it off wonderfully.

Not exactly my favourite collection of short stories, but overall it was a good read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it's not my favourite short story collection, but they are well written stories, with a lot of hidden messages beneath the surface of them.

What to read next: The other Giller short/long listed books. The Antagonist would also be a good choice.

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

This is part of an ongoing project I'm doing on the blog to read all of the 2013 Giller Longlisted books.
Click here for further details

Book Review: Caught

Title: Caught

Author: Lisa Moore

Pages: 314

Summary: Caught begins with a prison break. Twenty-five-year-old David Slaney, locked up on charges of marijuana possession, has escaped his cell and sprinted to the highway. There, he is picked up by a friend of his sister’s and transported to a strip bar where he survives his first night on the run. But evading the cops isn’t his only objective; Slaney intends to track down his old partner, Hearn, and get back into the drug business. Along the way, Slaney’s fugitive journey across Canada rushes vibrantly to life as he visits an old flame and adopts numerous guises to outpace authorities: hitchhiker, houseguest, student, lover. When finally he reunites with Hearn just steps ahead of a detective hell-bent on making a high-profile arrest, their scheme sends Slaney to Mexico, Colombia, and back again on an epic quest fueled by luck, charm, and unbending conviction.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was an unsuspectingly, good read for me. It may not be my favourite book this year, but originally this was one of the books I wasn't sure of and I probably wouldn't have read it, if it hadn't been on the Giller Prize longlist. But, it was worth reading in the end, as it was a well written, and at times fairly interesting story, where you find yourself, almost rooting for the bad guy.

The writing was what hooked me into the story. It's the same writing that hooked me in the first book by I read by the author and for this book, the quality was just as good. Even during the times the story didn't interest me, or when I felt like the story was becoming a bit tedious, the writing alone kept me reading - and it was a book I read in almost a sitting. It shows just how good of a writing Moore is, when she can write a book I had no interest in reading, and making me want to bury myself into it and read until the end.

I enjoyed the story for the most part, but I did find it became a bit repetitive near the end. Especially with all of the near misses of recapture and I'm not sure how I feel about the ending of the book. It was a fitting ending and I don't think it could have gone differently, but there was also something, almost unsatisfying about the ending. Another issue I had with the book is it was a bit detached from all of the characters. In this case, having a bit of a distance from the characters worked at times - it helped me like Slaney more I think, but I also think that never really knowing anything about the characters, beyond what was on the surface, hurt how I felt about the book in the end.

Overall, I found it to be a good read, it was better than I originally gave it credit for, and a book I think is well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It's not my top choice of a book to read, but it was a better book than I thought it would be. Fans of the author will not be disappointed, and I think that even those who aren't convinced by the plot should still give it a try, as it ended up being a different read than I thought it would be.

What to read next: The author's other books, and the books from the Giller Longlist/shortlist.

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

This is part of an ongoing project I'm doing on the blog to read all of the 2013 Giller Longlisted books.
Click here for further details

Monday, October 14

Book Review: The Son of a Certain Woman

Title: The Son of a Certain Woman

Author: Wayne Johnston

Pages: 435

Summary: Percy Joyce, born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in the fifties is an outsider from childhood, set apart by a congenital disfigurement. Taunted and bullied, he is also isolated by his intelligence and wit, and his unique circumstances: an unbaptized boy raised by a single mother in a fiercely Catholic society. Soon on the cusp of teenagehood, Percy is filled with yearning, wild with hormones, and longing for what he can’t have—wanting to be let in...and let out. At the top of his wish list is his disturbingly alluring mother, Penelope, whose sex appeal fairly leaps off the page. Everyone in St. John’s lusts after her—including her sister-in-law, Medina; their paying boarder, the local chemistry teacher, Pops MacDougal; and...Percy.

Percy, Penelope, and Pops live in the Mount, home of the city’s Catholic schools and most of its clerics, none of whom are overly fond of the scandalous Joyces despite the seemingly benign protection of the Archbishop of Newfoundland himself, whose chief goal is to bring “little Percy Joyce” into the bosom of the Church by whatever means necessary. In pursuit of that goal, Brother McHugh, head of Percy’s school, sets out to uncover the truth behind what he senses to be the complicated relationships of the Joyce household. And indeed there are dark secrets to be kept hidden: Pops is in love with Penelope, but Penelope and Medina are also in love—an illegal relationship: if caught, they will be sent to the Mental, and Percy, already an outcast of society, will be left without a family.

My Rating: 3/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I didn't like this book at all. There were small glimmers of hope throughout the book, but for the most part I was very frustrated with the book and I struggled to get throughout it most of the time.

The only quality I liked about the book was the recurring theme of loneliness and hiding ones true self. It was brought up a few times in the book, where the reader finally got a good look at what the characters were feeling, a good emotional connection in that aspect, which I thought was handled wonderfully.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book was either morbid, with Percy morbid obsession with his mother, or over the top religious extremism which just wanted me to chuck the book across the room. I understand during the time period and community was a very religious one and it was a very important part of the heart of the book, but I felt like I was being beat over the head with it. By the end of the book, the religious themes were becoming way to repetitive and distracting for me as the reader.

I didn't connect to any of the characters, although I think for some, like Medina, it was more due to the over the top presence of the religious fanatics, that drowned out her character. I didn't have much sympathy for Percy, he had a hard life, but he was a morbid creepy person with his obsession with his mother, and his mother was no better. I guess you could say the author did do a good job at creating his characters the way he did, but I didn't like any of them.

Overall, this wasn't the book for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I wouldn't. This was a book that didn't work out for me and I had far to many issues with it. Perhaps the author, not the book.

What to read next: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, The Other Giller Longlisted books

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge

This is part of an ongoing project I'm doing on the blog to read all of the 2013 Giller Longlisted books.
Click here for further details

Sunday, October 13

Pin it and Do it Challenge

I've seen this posted a few times and I've always meant to join in and give it a try, as I have hundreds of pins I wanted to try - mainly when it comes to cooking. Many of you know I have a passion for books, but I also love to cook. I don't get to do it as much as I like, but I love it - and most of the time the end result is rather tasty!

Since this weekend is Thanksgiving I volunteered to make the pies, only I decided to try something a little different. My inspiration was this Original Pin. There was no recipe attached, but there was one on the pumpkin pie filling can. But, I did get the inspiration from the above pin.

Originally my plan was to make the crust from scratch, like it was shown in the pin. But after a hectic week at work, and the possibility of two Thanksgiving dinners, I decided to go with un-cooked store bought freezer kind. Close enough. I also made mini Lemon Meringue and chocolate pudding pies.

Ingredients included:

- Pumpkin Pie Filling - I used E.D. Smith and followed the recipe there (added an egg and 1/3 cup of evaporated milk.
- Mini Pie Curst - I had 48 in total (one can of pumpkin pie filling filled 16 mini cups.
- Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Ginger for the pumpkin pie, but I forgot to add the ginger. I added about a tea spoon or so of both the Nutmeg and Cinnamon into the pumpkin mix as I was mixing it.
- For the chocolate pudding mini pies, and the Lemon Meringue, I followed the instructions on the box. For the Lemon Meringue you will need 3 eggs.



So here's my cooking process for the pie. It was fairly simple to make and took no time. Had I made my own crust it would have taken a lot longer. Also note, I drank a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks during the cooking process, it was for .... er inspiration and uhm, to keep me cooking.

And here is the finished product! I did get to try one, as when I packed them up, along with the Lemon Meringue I had three mini pies left over, so I got to try one in advance. They are pretty tasty! I plan on adding whipped cream too, but I plan on doing that at the actual dinner. And on an sort-of unrelated note - cooking pumpkin pie makes the house smell awesome! My partner said he doesn't like pumpkin pie love the smell - it s and one of the kids also love the smell so much she tried wanted to try one. 

The Making and final product of the chocolate pudding pies. I'm not sure how well they turned out. I'm not a fan of pudding, but the kids seemed to enjoy them. I made 16 mini pies, but there was enough mixture n the pot for at least another 8 - 10.

And below, is the making of the Lemon Meringue. The hardest part is to make sure the lemon part doesn't get to lumpy. Again, I filled 16 mini pie shells. But I think it could have filled close to 24. The meringue part was just enough for 16 mini pie shells. I did fill a 9 inch pie shell, part way up, but the lemon went lumpy. I'll bring it any ways and get some expert advice on the other pie makers. But they look good!




And there goes my first attempt at a Pin It and Do It Challenge. I have made things I've seen on Pinterest before this, just never did it in a "challenge" before.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians and Happy Weekend to everyone else.




         

Saturday, October 12

Book Review: Anne of Avonlea

Title: Anne of Avonlea

Author: L. M. Montgomery

Pages: EBook 252

Summary: At sixteen, Anne is grown up...almost. Her gray eyes shine like evening stars, but her red hair is still as peppery as her temper. In the years since she arrived at Green Gables as a freckle-faced orphan, she has earned the love of the people of Avonlea and a reputation for getting into scrapes. But when Anne begins her job as the new schoolteacher, the real test of her character begins. Along with teaching the three Rs, she is learning how complicated life can be when she meddles in someone else's romance, finds two new orphans at Green Gables, and wonders about the strange behaviour of the very handsome Gilbert Blythe. As Anne enters womanhood, her adventures touch the heart and the funny bone.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This wasn't exactly a good book for me. I found that the magic and appeal from Anne as a charter that was in the first book, was lost in this one. I also found it to be repetitive at times, especially with Davy, and a bit boring.

Anne has grown up a lot since we first saw her, and I do like how her character has grown throughout the two books. The author has done a good job at creating some solid character development for Anne. Unfortunately, I just didn't connect to Anne this time around. I also found the general plot of this book to be boring and drag on a lot longer than it should have. The was the society Anne was a part of, that while it helped build Anne as a character, I found that it was in the book to much, and I began to lose interest. Interactions with Davy and the trouble he cause also began to irritate me, as it felt like the same thing just kept happening over and over.

The ending was fine. It helped set up for the next book, which may or may not be worth reading, I haven't decided yet, but overall the book didn't work for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I'd say it would be a good choice for a young reader, but otherwise I don't think I'd recommend it.

What to read next: More from the series

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

Book Review: Extraordinary

Title: Extraordinary

Author: David Gilmour

Pages: 185

Summary: Over the course of one Saturday night, a man and his half-sister meet at her request to spend the evening preparing for her assisted death. They drink and reminisce fondly, sadly, amusingly about their lives and especially her children, both of whom have led dramatic and profoundly different lives. Extraordinary is a gentle consideration of assisted suicide, but it is also a story about siblings—about how brothers and sisters turn out so differently; about how little, in fact, turns out the way we expect. My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started off slow for me, but by the end, I found myself enjoying the book a lot. The topic of the book is very controversial, but I think the author handled it well. However, I did find it odd, as the main character seemed to be getting on well yet wanted to commit suicide, so the premise of the book seemed a bit off as to why, and the reader never really get into the characters head, which took away from the overall reading experience.

One of my main irks with the book was the characters - there just wasn't any connection between myself as the reader and the characters, they lacked something, and that's what prevented the book from being a great read to a fantastic, must read.

Especially considering some of the last few pages, where the author created some very powerful moments, they were effect on the reader, but not as effective as they should have been. I think had there been more an intimate connection to the between the reader and the characters, that ending would have been a haunting and emotional one. The reminiscing of the characters past, their personal stories or stories about their children was also well done, but again, because there was a lack of a connection to these characters, the impact on the reader just wasn't there.

Yet, despite the lack of a connection between myself and the characters, I read the book to the end, in pretty much one sitting, and I have to say, overall it was an enjoyable read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, despite the current controversy around the author, I'd say put things aside and read the book. It was a good read and there's a lot to take from it. I think a lot of readers out there would love the book.

What to read next: October, Amsterdam, The other longlisted books from the Giller Prize

Challenges: 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

This book is part of an ongoing read project on the blog to read all of the 2013 Giller Longlist book selections. Click Here for further details.

Book Review: The Woman Upstairs

Title: The Woman Upstairs

Author: Claire Messud

Pages: 253

Summary: Nora Eldridge, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the "woman upstairs," a reliable friend and tidy neighbour always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her classroom walks a new pupil, Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents--dashing Skandar, a half-Muslim Professor of Ethical History born in Beirut, and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist--have come to America for Skandar to teach at Harvard.

But one afternoon, Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who punch, push and call him a "terrorist," and Nora is quickly drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family. Soon she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora's happiness explodes her boundaries--until Sirena's own ambition leads to a shattering betrayal.

Written with intimacy and piercing emotion, this urgently dispatched story of obsession and artistic fulfillment explores the thrill--and the devastating cost--of giving in to one's passions. The Woman Upstairs is a masterly story of America today, of being a woman and of the exhilarations of love.

My Rating: 5.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started out strong for me, the first chapter hooked me instantly and I was excited to read the book. The main character and narrator, was introduced to the reader as a very anger bitter, hold nothing back person. I wanted to know what caused this. But, after that the book slowly fell apart for me and by the end I was no longer interested in the book, or its characters.

The whole premise of the book was off for me. I didn't exactly get Nora's obsession with the Shahid family and I didn't get where the author was trying to go with it. There didn't seem to be any build up to it, it almost felt like it came out of nowhere. I was unsure if the author was trying to show us that Nora, was a lonely woman who forced her way into the family and "friendship." That it was something she made up in her head, or if it was a genuine friendship and she was just a bit of an awkward person in social situations. Either way, I just didn't buy into the story and found I was bored with it. That bitter woman I met at the beginning wasn't there. A couple of times, I saw glimpses of her, but there was never really any hints of why until the very end. I'm unsure how I feel about the ending. I think by the time I got to the end, I was more focused on the book being done, than the actual content. I was bored of the characters and the plot by the time I got to it. And while what Nora faced in the end was bad, I didn't care about her enough to truly care.

Overall, it wasn't exactly a good book for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure I would. Not exactly a book I would pick out and pick out and say read it.

What to read next: I'd take a look at the other Giller longlisted books

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

This book is part of an ongoing read project on the blog to read all of the 2013 Giller Longlist book selections. Click Here for further details.

Book Reviews: Minister Without Portfolio

Title: Minister Without Portfolio

Author: Michael Winter

Pages: 326

Summary: Henry Hayward is a drowning man. With a soured long-term romance finally at an end, no family, and no refuge to be had in work, he progressively spends his days in the solace of alcohol and his nights with a series of interchangeable partners. In a quest to simultaneously recover from unrequited love and to find meaning in what is becoming an increasingly emotionally arid life, Henry travels to Afghanistan as an army-affiliated contractor.

When Henry becomes embedded in a regiment, he doesn't have time to think about his fixation on Nora or the fragments of his old life, a life he wasn't really living anyway. But everything changes during a tragic roadside incursion when a routine patrol suddenly turns fatal. And Henry, who survives, knows in his heart that he is responsible.

Upon returning home, now tormented by guilt in addition to ennui, he begins to feel even more rootless and restless until the question of his deceased friend’s summer home arises. Soon Henry is trying to bring meaning back to his life and to make posthumous amends by planning to buy and repair his friend’s dilapidated family house. But he hasn't factored family history into the picture—and his deceased friend’s girlfriend has a revelation of her own that may change everything.

My Rating: 6.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were times where I was struggling with the book, but there were other times where I enjoyed it. It's a book I'm not entirely sure how I feel about, it wasn't exactly the book for me in the end, but I wouldn't say it was a bad read either.

One of the things that threw me off was the writing style, which I just didn't like. While there were times there were some lovely descriptions and what the author had to say at other times was very profound, the writing style was to "tell the reader every detail of every action the character does" for my liking. Which was one of the main reasons I couldn't get into the book, having actions like; walking to the car and sitting down into that car and then starting that car and then driving that car, drove me nuts. And I think that, that style of writing, took my concentration away from the heart of the story and of Henry's struggles and development of a character.

The characters weren't exactly to my liking either, but I'm unsure if it's because of their individual personalities and interactions with each other, or if it was because how the book was written. Henry was a well written character, but I'm unsure how I feel about him. The plot itself was well done I think that had the narrative been written differently, I would have enjoyed the book a lot more than I did, and would have been more invested in the plot and characters.

Overall, it wasn't bad read, but it wasn't exactly my cup of tea either.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. I think a lot of readers would enjoy the style of writing and the story as well. Other like me won't, but I do think a lot of other readers out there would enjoy the book. v

What to read next: The other Giller Longlisted books

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

This book is part of an ongoing read project on the blog to read all of the 2013 Giller Longlist book selections. Click Here for further details.

Book Review: And Then There Were None

Title: And Then There Were None

Author: Agatha Christie

Pages: EBook 172

Summary: Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to a lonely mansion on Indian Island by a host who fails to appear but leaves a recording accusing all of undetected murder. Cut off by his orders, one by one each die according to a nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians. A confession in a bottle solves how nobody remains alive.

My Rating: 9.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was next to impossible to put down. Even though the plot of the book is given away by the poem in the beginning, I was completely invested in the book, as I read almost frantically to find out the end.

I was engrossed in this book, as I tried to figure out who the murder was and who would be murdered next. The author created an excellent psychological atmosphere, and the way she wrote the reactions of characters was excellent. The characters themselves were interesting and eclectic cast. Which added to the fun of trying to guess who was the murder, if it was one of them at all. The book had such a wide spectrum of characters, who were well written, and all came together and into the story nicely. Not all the characters are likable, but they are unlikeable in a good way, because of some of their past events, or their personalities, just don't mesh well. But, even the ones I did like, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to see when and how they'd die. Actually, I think near the end, I was hoping they would die faster, so I could find out who the murder was, because the author is constantly keeping you guessing.

The ending was phenomenal, but I can't say more without giving away the ending. Overall it was a fantastic and engaging read - and one I'd highly recommend to read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend this one. Out of the few books by the author I've read so far this one was the best, in fact it's one of the best mysteries I've read. Any fan of mysteries would enjoy this one, and I think this would be a good choice for those who are undecided about mystery books.

What to read next: I'd find more books by Agatha Christie, she may be hit or miss, but there are some good ones out there.

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

Sunday, October 6

Book Review: Surprise Island

Title: Surprise Island

Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner

Pages: EBook 76

Summary: Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny used to live alone in a boxcar. Now they have a home with their grandfather and are spending the summer on their own private island. There is a mysterious stranger on the island with a secret--but that's not the only surprise in store for the Boxcar Children.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: For the most part I enjoyed the book, it was a favourite series of mine when I was a child, although this one I don't remember reading, it was still a nice, quick read. The characters have grown a bit, but they still manage to go on an interesting adventure. I think the book is well worth reading for the age range, even if it is quite outdated, as I think a lot of readers can relate to the characters.

One of the issues I had with the book, was, I found parts of it a bit unbelievable at times in how everything always worked out so perfectly. I know it's a children's book and the time it was written also impacted the overall content, but everything was just so perfect in how it all worked out in the end, it just didn't feel right to me. The connection the "mysterious" stranger had in the end, and other things that happened throughout the book and how it came together was far to forced for me. I also took issue to the children, being left on an island for an entire summer, left to their own devices, but I won't get into that.

Otherwise, it was a good read. Not really a book for my age range, but a good choice for readers who are just starting to get into chapter books.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was still a fun book to read, but I'd recommend it more to the audience level it's directed at than to the young at heart.

What to read next: More books from the series

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

Saturday, October 5

September Wrap-Up!

Summer is officially over, fall is in full swing, and there are about 90 days left in the year. Anyone know how that happened? Anyone at all? Not a bad reading month for me, I didn't read as much as I hoped, although, with premier season starting up and getting a nasty cold, that had me down for good three days, and having all the releases of the awards lists, that have added a lot of books to mount TBR, I'm happy with what I managed to get accomplished. And I did get to go to an awesome book event, where I met one of my favourite authors - Margaret Atwood, so all in all, a good month for me.

The Books
It was an okay reading month for me, although I did have a good handful of books that just weren't grabbing my attention, I did read a few good books, some that surprised me on how much I did enjoy them - like A Fine Balance - which was one of my favourite reads of the month, it came second to The Best Place on Earth, which I'd recommend you should read. My least favourite book was Soldier's Song.

1. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Minstry - 9/10
2. Soldier's Song - Alan Monaghan - 3/10
3. The Perks of Being a Wall Flower - 6.75/10
4. Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami - 6.75/10
5. Sweetness in the Belly - Camillia Gibb - 7/10
6. Men of the Otherworld - Kelley Armstrong - 8.75/10
7. The Second Life of Samuel Tyne - Esi Edugyan - 6.5/10
8. The Best Place on Earth - Ayelet Tsabari - 9.25/10
9. The Truth About Delilah Blue - Tish Cohen - 6.25/10
10. Missing - Francis Itani - 6.75/10
11. Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth - Jane O'Conner - 8/10


The Challenges
I may not be progressing on some challenges the way I like, but I did manage to finish up three challenges this month, although one of those three I keep going until the challenge officially ends, I technically finished three challenges this month. Which is good, because it allows me, in theory, to focus on some other challenges, especially the ones I've er, neglected.

Completed Challenges
New Author Challenge 2013 - 50/50 - Completed on September 8, 2013
777 Challenge - 7/7 - Completed on September 11, 2013

Completed - but still participating.
7th Annual Canada Book Challenge - 13/13 - September 27, 2013 (Technically, this one is complete, as I have read the 13 books, but I had a personal goal to read 1 book from each province / territory - which I still haven't done yet. I also always continue with this one throughout the year, even once I've officially finished with it.


On-Going Challenges
100 Books in 2013 Challenge - 96/100 -96%
2013 Category Challenge - 81/131 - 62%
Alphabet Challenge 2013 - 39/52 - 75%
E-Book Challenge 2013 - 45/50 - 90%
Finish That Series Challenge 2013 - 1/4 (Series), 2/7 (Books) - 25%
Ireland Reading Challenge 2013 - 6/10 - 60%
Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge - 7/12 - 59%
Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013 - 44/75 - 59%
Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge 2013 - 3/5 - 60%
50 Book Pledge -96/100 -96%


Countries Visited
This month I hopped around the globe in my reading adventures and managed to visit; Canada, England, Ethiopia, France, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, USA




Create your own travel map - TravBuddy



Bookish Events

I attended and interview and Q & A with her at Indigo in Toronto. Which was an amazing event. It was an incredible interview, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. She's a great speaker. My favourite was her response to which of her books is her favourite, and she couldn't answer that, because the other books would be jealous - I might use that one next time someone asks me that question. I also met her, got one book singed (MaddAddam) and got a few words into her about libraries. All in all a good day.


                             



I was suppose to go to Word on the Street, but that was the same day I was sick, and while I was feeling slightly better on that day, I was still too sick to spend a day outside. Rats!

There's also an ongoing even going here on my blog. Giller Fever and Jules' Book Reviews Prize. (click the links for the details) and please join me, I'd love to hear your thoughts on them. So far I've only finished the one book from Jules' Book Reviews Prize, but I'm well on my way into two books from the Giller list, and have a stack of library books waiting to be read.


Books That Followed Me Home
Erm.... they forced me.....?

The Cure for Death by Lightning - Gail Anderson-Dargartz
Life Before Man - Margaret Atwood
A Song of Stone - Iain M. Banks
The Empty Room - Lauren B. Davis
You Went Away - A Novella - Timothy Findley
The Blue Guitar - Ann Ireland
The Curse of the Chosen - Volume Two of The Song of the Tears
The Destiny of the Dead - Volume Three of The Song of The Tears - Ian Irvine
Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures - Vincent Lam
Every Little Thing - Chad Pelley

EBooks
The Summoning - Kelley Armstrong
The Luminaries - Eleanore Catton
HellGoing - Lynn Coady
The Truth About Delilah Blue - Tish Cohen
How to Get Along with Women - Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Saltsea - A Novel - David Helwig
Missing - Frances Itani
Bone and Bread - Saleema Nawaz


Book Review: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth

Title: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth

Author: Jane O'Connor, Illustrated by Robin Priess Glasser

Pages: EBook 50

Summary: Nancy and her best friend, Bree, have everything they need to solve a mystery, from their totally professional trench coats to their top-secret code.

But when crime strikes in their classroom, will these super sleuths be able to crack the case? Find out in the glamorous start to an all-new chapter book series featuring everyone’s favorite fancy girl.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a very enjoyable, quick read. Definitely not a book for my age range, but my library had a promotional event going on for the Ebook version of it, so I gave it a try, and I did find I enjoyed the book.

Nancy was a fun character to read about, a good sleuth in training, and the author does a great job at capturing her voice. I think a lot of young readers would be able to relate to Nancy, or at least enjoy reading about the "adventure" she goes on.

I did find it to be predictable, but I think those who are n the age range the book is meant for, would love following all of the clues, and mystery solving process. I also think it might be a good book for a more reluctant reader, as it is on that moves fairly fast, and is one that is slightly more interactive for the reader, especially in the end, with Nancy and Bree's secret code (yeah, I stopped and solved it.)

Overall, it was a fun read. I think it's would be a great choice for the young readers - and those who likely have read about Nancy's earlier adventures.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. This is a perfect book for a young reader. I'd say the 8 - 10 range, but I think there would be a lot of young readers who would love the character and story.

What to read next: More Nancy Clancy. There are two more chapter books and then the picture books.

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