Wednesday, April 30

Book Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Title: Silver Linings Playbook

Author: Matthew Quick

Pages: 287

Summary: Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G!

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book was well told, and although I found the book took a different turn than what I was expecting, I was surprised at some elements of the book, but it was a good read in the end.

The characters, were well done, some were difficult to like, but they were all realistic and complimented each other nicely. Nikki was a character that was incredibly well done, and I wish I could have learned more about her. While she had an important part in the book, most of her remains a mystery, and I would have liked to see her struggles brought out in the open more.

Initially I didn't like how the narrative was written, but by the end of the book, I think it was rather fitting. I do wish I had known how certain events turned out in the beginning, as I think it would have given me a different outlook on the story and Pat - especially considering on how the narrative is written and how Pat tells his story.

I think the author shows the reader the struggles of mental illness, and how it affects the person and those around them wonderfully. He doesn't hold back and shows both the negative and positive reactions and how the families and friends around a person deal with a person's illness, as they interact with them. I think that how the author wrote this into the story, was probably one of my favourite aspects of it.

Overall, it wasn't exactly what I had expected from the book, but it's one that's well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I think it's a great choice for those who like more character drive book.

What to read next: The Rosie Project, I'd also suggest reading more books by the author.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: The Heart Goes Last

Title: The Heart Goes Last

Author: Margaret Atwood

Pages: EBook 48

Summary: In the seemingly well-adjusted world of Consilience, it's dawning on the residents that they've thrown away the keys to more than their ragged former lives outside the high walls of their gated community. When they volunteered for this new social experiment, they also gave away the keys to their destinies, even their hearts.

Ask Charmaine and she'll tell you her husband is a dead man. Sure, marriage can be murder, but when Charmaine plunged a deadly hypodermic needle into Stan, because it was part of her job--dispatching undesirables in Positron Prison--Stan survived. His former jailer, a libidinous security chief named Jocelyn, had switched out the death drugs for knockout drugs and drafted him into a plot to undo the increasingly sinister social scheme. In so doing, she promoted him from her sexual plaything to full-blown subversive. The underground is housed in a manufacturing plant of one of Consilience's most successful products: sexbots, made to order.

Love, however, is not made to order, and despite a Darwinian labyrinth of betrayal after betrayal, including wild extramarital encounters and, yes, murder, Stan can't stop thinking about Charmaine. Not only because someone has requested a sexbot replica of her but because, well, she's home in a world without homes. In "The Heart Goes Last," one of Atwood's darkest and most deviously entertaining inventions yet, the human heart proves more resilient and true than any mail-order machine.

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This volume in the Positron serial has Margaret Atwood's usual wit, observations and twisted view on a not-so-distant future. So far I'm enjoy the twists and turns the story has taken, including the weird and the very weird elements of the story. What I enjoy most about it, is that it almost feels like it could be part of the world the MaddAddam Trilogy takes place in. I keep looking to see if there will be any mentions of characters or technologies, as this serial has some hauntingly similar ideologies and technologies as the MaddAddam trilogy.

I'm not a fan of the characters, they just don't have that extra push they usually do from what I usually find in Atwood's books. Perhaps part of this is because, they are in this creepy, controlled society, that creates them into mindless drones, but I find it hard to warm up to the character.

Overall, it was an enjoyable addition to the Positron serial. I just wish I didn't have to wait as long between each volume of the story.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, especially if you enjoyed the MaddAddam triology.

What to read next: More of the Positron books and the MaddAddam trilogy. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer would also be a good choice.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Monday, April 28

Book Review: Black and Blue

Title: Black and Blue

Author: Ian Rankin

Pages: EBook 414

Summary: Rebus is juggling four cases trying to nail one killer - who might just lead back to the infamous Bible John. And he's doing it under the scrutiny of an internal inquiry led by a man he has just accused of taking backhanders from Glasgow's Mr Big. As if this wasn't enough, there are TV cameras at his back investigating a miscarriage of justice, making Rebus a criminal in the eyes of a million or more viewers. Just one mistake is likely to mean an unpleasant and not particularly speedy death or, worse still, losing his job.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were times where this book was very intense and hard to put down, although there were also times the book dragged on a bit, I found it to be an engaging.

The author did a good job at setting up the plot line, linking things together and creating a solid story There was a lot to the story, including background information and constantly building the plot to make it a very exciting read at times. I did find that some parts were predictable, but others were a complete surprise for me, as certain things were revealed or which direction the author took the story to. I did find it was becoming a little to drawn out in the end, but I when the story ended, it worked out well for the book and it's characters.

One of the best aspects of the book was that author has written a very solid cast of characters. I don't have a favourite yet, although Rebus was a very, different character from what I've seen lately. Unfortunately, because I'm reading a book, part way through the series, I'm missing a lot of information on their development and back-story. Which was part of the reason why I struggled through the book, was because I was missing something from the other books. Although, it does look like, time isn't wasted on recapping all the previous events from previous books to help the reader understand, so the author goes full swing into the next story, and it seems that you have had to read the previous books to fully understand certain references and character quips.

Overall a great read, and while I'm not a big police procedural/crime fiction fan, but this book, was very well done, I will likely go back and read the first part of the series and future books by the author in the series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, but I would recommend starting from the beginning. There was a lot of character development and references I missed out on. I thought it would be similar to other books in similar genre/series layout, but this one does seem to need you to read the other books, to fully appreciate the characters.

What to read next: I'd read more by the author

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge, Read Scotland Challenge

Sunday, April 27

Book Review: The Blue Guitar

Title: The Blue Guitar

Author: Ann Ireland

Pages: 254

Summary: At the International Classical Guitar Competition in Montreal, top-flight musicians fly in from all over the world to compete in a gruelling week. A career can be made or lost here, and the slightest mishap - a lapse of memory, a shaking right hand, a broken fingernail - can ruin years of preparation.

More than a decade ago Toby made the finals in a similar competition but suffered a breakdown and is only now venturing back into the fray. Middle-aged Lucy is tired of playing bar mitzvahs and weddings and is determined to perform the recital of her life. Trace is a kayaking teenager from the West Coast who seems careless in her talent.

Judges and contestants alike battle and scheme to achieve what they most desire here. There is much more than pretty music being performed on this stage.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the book, especially the competition, finding it to be well written, and captured me into the story, far more than I thought it would.

I was surprised on how much I became invested on who would win the competition, and was surprised by who won. The characters and their experiences during the competition, were incredibly well written. While I don't think I liked any particular character more than another, and at times I found certain aspects of an individual's characters development or story arc awkward, I still think it worked for the end result. The author wrote a great story, and it wasn't something I was sure I would enjoy reading when I started, but by the end it was an enjoyable read.

The awkwardness I found with certain character arcs was my biggest issue in the book. I found that certain pieces of the plot, just didn't flow with the rest of the story as well as it could have. I also found that Toby's partner difficult to read about. He was a very snobbish, selfish and jerk of a character. He was necessary for Toby's development, but I couldn't stand him. His actions at work and towards his partner, he supposedly cares about, were awful. I found his thought process throughout the book, irksome, and was very frustrated at times with the character. While I think he's necessary for the development of Toby and had a fitting ending, I'm on the fence on his part in the book.

I think how the author chose to end the book was wonderful and probably one of the best parts of the book. In the end, while I had my ups and downs with this book, it was an enjoyable read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would it was well written and I think a lot of readers would really appreciate the story and the journey the characters go on.

What to read next: More Canadian Lit.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Title: Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Author: Gabriel García Márquez

Pages: 120

Summary: A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place 27 years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Just hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees, Bayardo San Roman returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover; and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister.

Yet if everyone knew the murder was going to happen, why did no one intervene to stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society--not just a pair of murderers—is put on trial.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I found this to be a good short story, beautifully written, but overall I think the translation took away from the original beauty of the story. There were times were I think the original idea was changed, as certain words and phrases didn't seem to go with the rest of the idea in the sentence or paragraph. While it only happened a couple of times, it was distracting enough to take away from the book.

The book wasn't long enough to get to know the characters well enough to like or dislike them, I do think the author did a good job developing them in such a short time spent with them. And the story was incredibly well told and developed, for such a short read.

Overall an interesting story, but I think some of it was lost due to the translation, but a good novella nonetheless.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, if you haven't read anything by the author yet, it might be a good place to start. It gives you a good idea on his writing style, but it's a lot less condensed than his other books.

What to read next: Other than try more by the author, I can't think of anything.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge

Saturday, April 26

Book Review: Annihilation

Title: Annihilation

Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Pages: EBook 140

Summary: Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization, and the government is involved in sending secret missions to explore Area X. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

Annihilation opens with the twelfth expedition. The group is composed of four women, including our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all of their observations, scientific and otherwise; and, above all, to avoid succumbing to the unpredictable effects of Area X itself.

What they discover shocks them: first, a massive topographic anomaly that does not appear on any map; and second, life forms beyond anything they’re equipped to understand. But it’s the surprises that came across the border with them that change everything-the secrets of the expedition members themselves, including our narrator. What do they really know about Area X-and each other?

My Rating: 8.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: From start to finish, this was an intriguing story, not much is known about the characters, including their names or their identities. The story divulges very little about them, although you do get to know the narrator a little bit more. But I was pulled in, despite the fact little information was given, about anything. Things are hinted at, and I think what was hinted at, will turn out to be some fantastic plot ploys in the second book in the series. The entire book has you on edge, as I found it hard to figure out what would happen, what if anything would be revealed and how it would end.

The ending was awesome. It was haunting and leaves you hanging, but it works for the story and how it was told. I don't think it could have ended differently, there was a lot not said and that was a bit of a disappointment not having learned much about what is happening in this world, but it was also mysterious and fun to read. My main with the book, is also what I liked about it, and that was lack of information. I liked and disliked the amount given to the reader by the end.

Overall an excellent start to what looks like a very intriguing series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it was a very engaging read, it's a quick read, but a great choice for fantasy/dystopian readers.

What to read next: Authority, the next book in the series. Also Atwood's Positron series.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: Cry Wolf

Title: Cry Wolf

Author: Patricia Briggs

Pages: 295

Summary: Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack... and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she'd learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna's inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I've debated picking up one of Patricia Briggs' books for a while, and I was not disappointed, as the book was an enjoyable read.

Briggs' has laid an excellent foundation for her paranormal setting. I think it was one of the strongest aspects of the book, on just how solid of a world she created as well as meshing into to the real world. Her interpretation of werewolves was also interesting, although some things weren't explained as much as I would have liked in this book, I think more of what I want will, be answered further on in the series. I enjoyed the story, but I did find I was missing something. I'm not sure if it's because I haven't read the Mercy Thompson books yet, or if it was something else, but I felt l was missing important plot pieces.

The characters were fairly well done, although I did find that some of their quirks, habits and inner thoughts were becoming repetitive after awhile - especially with Anna and Cornick. They're traits were sometimes overdone, especially considering it's already been established, on who they are, what drives them, what hurts them etc. On the plus side, the characters development is excellent. It's a natural development that is very fitting in the story, and I think by the time the I read further into the series, the characters will be very fleshed out, and likely some of my initial issues with them will be gone.

Overall it was a good read and I look forward to reading the rest of the series and the Mercy Thompson series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would the story has potential, and while I don't love it as much as other books in the genre, I think it's well worth reading and the series as a whole looks to have a lot of promise.

What to read next: Fair Game which is the next book in the series, also may want to read the anthology, On The Prowel, which has a novella telling the story of events before and leading into book. The other series, by the author, Mercy Thompson. And Bitten, because it also has werewolves.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, New Author Challenge

Friday, April 18

Book Review: Miranda's Vines

Title: Miranda's Vines

Author: Kimberly Kafka

Pages: 258

Summary: Miranda Perry has risen to the top of San Francisco's competitive culinary word, and investors are willing to help her launce her own restaurants, but her life suddenly takes a different turn when she learns her grandfather has died, leaving the family vineyard to her. Returning to Oregon, she is soon joined by her lifelong friend Briddie, who has suffered a debilitating injury. By returning to their roots, booth woman find unforeseen healing and hope, while helping each other through the challenges of accepting fate.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was one of those books where I didn't like or dislike it. It's not a bad read, but not a good read either.

The main issue I had with this book was Miranda. I just didn't connect to her has a character and found her to be unrealistic and lacking in development. She was a character that constantly interfered with the story, she forced her way in to make changes, rather than naturally let the story be told. There were many times the story felt it was told, to fit around her, rather than the other way around. I also found the whole reason why she ends up in the situation she's in, to be muddled. It felt like pieces of the story were missing, to come to certain decisions. Not a lot of lead up or back story to it, although it was hinted about her personal reasons, it wasn't explored properly. She just made decisions - life changing decisions, and I just didn't like how it came together.

Most of the other characters were also not completely constructed. While there was an excellent potential for a complementary secondary cast of characters, they also just didn't come together properly for me. Birdie's story was interesting, but it lacked the emotional connection to the reader, I didn't exactly like the ending, as I felt it was rushed. Had it been more developed and explored, it would have excellent ending, but like with the entire story, something was constantly lacking in it to give it that extra push.

The story had promise and there were parts that interested me, but in the end it fell short of my expectations.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure on this one. Some readers would enjoy it, but I think that the progression of the develop hurt the book to much for me to recommend it.

What to read next: Blackberry Wine (or any book by Joanne Harris really), Under the Tuscan Sun

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Sunday, April 13

First Quarter Wrap Up

Okay, so the first quarter of the year hasn't been the best for me. From busy February at work, a computer dying in January, having to buy a new one and attempt to transfer data over, and lets just say, of the 950 books I have catalogued into my book catalogue collector, most didn't transfer over properly or at all. Then some did, but didn't. It's confusing, but I've slowly started getting everything back. Then there was a horrible cold, which left me, asleep for three days. Kids events which took up my weekend, but were well that event was well worth missing reading time, proud almost step-mommy here!

I've been working on the committee for Sci-Fi and Fantasy convention (Ad Astra), which is happening as I write this (well the same weekend, I'm up bright and earlier trying to catch up on things before I head to the fun), but likely not when I post. (Nope, it's the weekend after, cus no sleep, event attending/working = no blog posting)

Then, most recently, a shocking event, which has left me, well words are hard to come by to describe how I feel, but I needed some time to de-compress. Needless to say, a combination of good, bad and horrible things have happened these past three months, which has left reading and reviewing and all things bookish, in the sidelines. I'm not concerned about challenges, if I don't finish certain ones I'm fine with that. Goals right now are looking fine. Will I reach 140 books total read the year? Hard to say, but I think all other personal goals will be met. Perhaps not the finishing the Wheel of Time series from start to finish, but maybe most of it.

The Books

My three month book mark, is looking a lot more like my 1.5 month status, but at least I had some great reads so far, and some, er, not so great ones. The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories, The Colour of Space are at the top of the list for best reads of the first quarter of the year. What Becomes is also well worth mentioning. Among the bottom, The Orenda and The Unfinished Child and Accusation.

The Perils of Morning Coffee - Alexander McColl Smith - 6.5/10
Cataract City - Craig Davidson - 6.75/10
What Becomes - A. L. Kennedy - 8.5/10
The Unfinished Child - Theresa Shea - 5/10
Tiger - Tash Aw - Ebook 18 (Not Reviewed)
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood - 9.5/10
As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories - Alistair MacLeod - 9/10
Naked Heat - Richard Castle - 8/10
Revolt - Qaisra Shahraz - 6/10
Cockroach - Rawi Hage - 7/10
Before I go to Sleep - S. J. Watson - 7.25/10
Lilac Bus - Maeve Binchy - 7.75/10
The Colour Out of Space - H. P. Love Craft - 9/10
Good Morning, Midnight - Jean Rhys - 7.5/10
Tide Road - Valerie Campton - 7/10
Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood - 10/10 (Re-read)
The Last of the Crazy People - Timothy Findley - 8/10
Accusation - Catherine Bush - 6/10
The Orenda - Joseph Boyden - 4/10

The Challenges

Since with everything that has happened and the fact I just haven't had as much reading time as I'd like, I'm happy where I stand with the challenges. I'm "behind" according to my goodreads widget, but what does it know? It's a widget! Once I get back up to my normal reading pace, I should catch up to where I want to be - well be reading the awesome books I want to be. As usual, I'm ignoring my series challenge, it doesn't help now I need to re-read the first book in the once series, but it was a good book, so I'm not too upset by it. But I want to read another book by the author, and it's calling to me..... and I'm off track. I'm fine where I stand with the challenges, because once I'm actively reading again, they will be back on track - this year was easy riding challenges, so as long as I read, I can finish them.

1) 100 Books in 2014 - 18/100 Books - 18%
2) 2014 Category Challenge - 18/140 Books - 13%
3) 2014 GoodReads Reading Challenge - 19/140 books - 14%
4) 50 Book Pledge - 19/100 books - 19%
5) 7th Annual Canada Book Challenge - 50/13 books
6) Alphabet Reading Challenge - 8/26 books - 30%
7) Chunkster Reading Challenge - 2/5 books - 40%
8) EBook Reading Challenge - 11/50 books - 22%
9) Finish That Series Challenge - 0/3 Series, 0/9 books - 0%
10) Mental Illness Reading Challenge - 2/8 books - 25%
11) Mount TBR Challenge - 12/60 books - 20%
12) New Author Challenge - 10/25 books - 40%
13) Read Scotland Reading Challenge - 2/6 books - 33%
14) War Reading Challenge - With a Twist - 0/6 books - 0%

Countries Visited 

These past three months I visited: Canada, USA, England, Ireland, France, Scotland and Pakistan on my reading adventures.

Books That Followed Me Home

A lot, between left over christmas gift cards, birthday gifts and my general need to uh, allow books to come home with me, there was a lot. There might be more, but since my beloved computer died, and then all my books on my book cataloguing software went away. Then almost didn't come back, then half sorta did but not really, as it came back but not right, and not sure what exactly happened there, except I didn't have to manually re-catalogue 950 books...... In the end, books had to be re-entered and I'm still tracking down to make sure everything is in there. I think it is, but still missing a lot of data for book collection catalogue software. Morale of the story, back up your stuff. I usually do, but it had been a good 18 months since the last time I did it........ 18 months = lots of books and other important data. Also, my computer guy rocks. He is awesome!

1) Saturday's Child - A Cal Innes Novel by Ray Banks (EBook)
2) Echoes - Maeve Binchy (EBook)
3) Light a Penny Candle - Maeve Binchy (EBook)
4) Silver Wedding- Maeve Binchy (EBook)
5) A Week in Winter - Maeve Binchy (EBook)
6) Accusation - Catherine Bush (EBook)
7) Naked Heat - Richard Castle (EBook)
8) Heat Rises - Richard Castle (EBook)
9) Frozen Heat - Richard Castle (EBook)
10) Deadly Heat - Richard Castle (EBook)
11) Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson
12) From The Fifteenth District - Mavis Gallant (EBook)
13) Chronicles of a Death Foretold - Gabriel García Márquez
14) Cockroach - Rawi Hage (EBook)
15) Ragged Islands - Don Hannah (EBook)
16) From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
17) Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
18) Dead in the Family - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
19) Dead Reckoning - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
20) Deadlocked - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
21) Dead Ever After - Charlaine Harris (EBook)
22) A Memory of Light - Robert Jordan / Brandon Sanderson
23) The Colour Out of Space - H. P. Lovecraft (EBook)
24) Barometer Rising - Hugh MacLennan
25) The Way The Crow Flies - Anne Marie MacDonald (EBook)
26) The Member of the Wedding - Carson McCullers
27) Docherty - William McIlvanney (EBook)
28) Who Has Seen the Wind - W. O. Mitchell
29) Carried Away - Alice Munro
30) Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Alice Munro
31) Moons of Jupiter - Alice Munro
32) My Best Stories - Alice Munro
33) The Misunderstanding - Irène Némirovsky
34) The Death of Bees - Lisa O'Donnell
35) Coming Through Slaughter - Michael Ondaatje
36) The Invisible Bridge - Julie Orringer (EBook)
37) The Buddha in the Attic - Julie Otsuka
38) Black and Blue - Ian Rankin (EBook)
39) Good Morning, Midnight - Jean Rhys
39 The Voyage in the Dark - Jean Rhys
40) Matadora - Elizabeth Ruth (EBook)
41) Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer (EBook)
42) A Discovery of Strangers - Rudy Wiebe (EBook)
43) The Plum Tree - Ellen Marie Wiseman (EBook)