Wednesday, February 26

Book Review: Naked Heat

Title: Naked Heat

Author: Richard Castle

Pages: EBook 270

Summary: Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook are together again in Richard Castle’s thrilling follow-up to his New York Times bestseller, Heat Wave.

When New York’s most vicious gossip columnist, Cassidy Towne, is found dead, Heat uncovers a gallery of high profile suspects, all with compelling motives for killing the most feared muckraker in Manhattan.

Heat’s murder investigation is complicated by her surprise reunion with superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook. In the wake of their recent breakup, Nikki would rather not deal with their raw emotional baggage. But the handsome, wise-cracking Pulitzer Prize-winning writer’s personal involvement in the case forces her to team up with Rook anyway. The residue of their unresolved romantic conflict and crackling sexual tension fills the air as Heat and Rook embark on a search for a killer among celebrities and mobsters, singers and hookers, pro athletes and shamed politicians.

This new, explosive case brings on the heat in the glittery world of secrets, cover-ups, and scandals.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I found this to be a very entertaining and enjoyable read. It's a great choice if you're looking for a quick and mindless read, especially if you're a fan of the television series it's based off of.

It was a bit predictable at times, but I think it was written fairly well. I can't help but picture the cast from Castle television series while reading it, and like the show, it has the same chemistry between the characters. Which I think was what makes the book so enjoyable is that, while at times it's corny and a very cliché type of mystery/thriller, the characters are well written, and interact well together.

There were a few times, I found myself to be gripped by the book, as it was intense at times, and again, although parts of the ending where fairly formula, the book follows a similar crime solving format to the show, I think it was a good read. I'm not normally a big mystery/thriller fan, but this book was fun and well worth reading.

Overall, a great read and a fun companion to the television series.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, they are a great choice if you want a quick, fun, mindless read. And if you enjoy the Castle tv series.

What to read next: More Nikki Heat books

Challenges: 100+ Books, 2014 Category Challenge, EBook Challenge

Tuesday, February 25

Book Review: As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories

Title: As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories

Author: Alistair Macleod

Pages: 174

Summary: The superbly crafted stories collected in Alistair MacLeod’s As Birds Bring Forth the Sun and Other Stories depict men and women acting out their “own peculiar mortality” against the haunting landscape of Cape Breton Island. In a voice at once elegiac and life-affirming, MacLeod describes a vital present inhabited by the unquiet spirits of a Highland past, invoking memory and myth to celebrate the continuity of the generations even in the midst of unremitting change.

The Closing Down of Summer
Winter Dog
To Every Thing There is a Season
Second Spring
The Turning of Perfection
As Birds Bring Forth the Sun

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a fantastic collection of short stories, that pulled me in from the start, and had me wanting to read it through in a sitting.

The first short story in this collection, The Closing Down of Summer, completely gripped me and pulled me in. In fact, most of the stories in this story had me engrossed into the collection of stories. There were many times, where I was completely lost in the stories.

The writing alone was good enough to make this collection be a great one, combined with some excellent short stories, this one became a fantastic one. The author has an exceptional style of writing, that pulls you into the individual stories and brings to life both the characters in plot. Winter Dog, may not have been my favourite one, but it did make me savour the book, and bring up a stir of emotions While, there were some stories I didn't enjoy as much, overall the collection was one well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this was an excellent collection of short stories. It's a good choice if you want to try out the author.

What to read next: I'd read more by the author, Lift Lighting, is also a good choice. If you enjoy short stories, Alice Munro is always a great choice.

Challenges: 100+ Books2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Monday, February 24

Book Review: The Blind Assassin

Title: The Blind Assassin

Author: Margaret Atwood

Pages: 631

Summary: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” These words are spoken by Iris Chase Griffen, married at eighteen to a wealthy industrialist but now poor and eighty-two. Iris recalls her far from exemplary life, and the events leading up to her sister’s death, gradually revealing the carefully guarded Chase family secrets. Among these is “The Blind Assassin,” a novel that earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following. Sexually explicit for its time, it was a pulp fantasy improvised by two unnamed lovers who meet secretly in rented rooms and seedy cafés. As this novel-within-a-novel twists and turns through love and jealousy, self-sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real narrative, as both move closer to war and catastrophe. Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize-winning sensation combines elements of gothic drama, romantic suspense, and science fiction fantasy in a spellbinding tale.

My Rating: 9.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I loved this book, there's just something about the authors writing, where I can just lose myself in reading, and this book was no exception. There were multiple times while reading this book I was completely immersed in the story, forgetting everything around me, and just enjoying a spectacular read.

Iris, as a character was one I enjoyed a lot. She was bitter at times, but witty and I think her narrative was a very fitting one for the book. I enjoyed her a lot as a character, far more than I expected to. She was hard to like a times, but that worked for the book. She was a well written character, and she was one that was fully fleshed out. She was also a memorable character, even after you've finished the book, she's a character that sticks with you, and I think using Iris as the narrator, really helped make the book as good as it was.

The book was a long one, which covers a long period of time and often jumps around from past to present. It was also very complex on how all the components of the book are written and slowly pulled together, particularly with having the story within the story. But I think this aspect of the book was executed wonderfully. All aspects of the story flowed together nicely and naturally, and I think having the story within the story, something I was initially worried I wouldn't like, worked out amazingly. Although, I did prefer the main storyline, I think the author did fantastic job at creating the second plot, and merging into the main part of the book.

I also enjoyed just how complex the book became. With everything that was revealed at the end, some of which I had guessed at, some of which ended up being a clever twist, it all came together creating an excellent reading experience.

Overall, this was an absolutely stunning book, one that has me wanting more, and despite the size of the book, this is one I'd likely re-read again at some point in time.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this book is one of the best by the author I've read.

What to read next: Clara Callan, more Margaret Atwood Books, Alias Grace is another favourite.

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

Sunday, February 23

Book Review: The Unfinished Child

Title: Unfinished Child

Author: Theresa Shea

Pages: 317

Summary: When Marie MacPherson, a mother of two, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at thirty-nine, she feels guilty. Her best friend, Elizabeth, has never been able to conceive, despite years of fertility treatments. Marie's dilemma is further complicated when she becomes convinced something is wrong with her baby. She then enters the world of genetic testing and is entirely unprepared for the decision that lies ahead.

Intertwined throughout the novel is the story of Margaret, who gave birth to a daughter with Down Syndrome in 1947, when such infants were defined as "unfinished" children. As the novel shifts back and forth through the decades, the lives of the three women converge, and the story speeds to an unexpected conclusion.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed aspects of the book, but at times I found it a struggle to push through. Overall, it was well written, but in the end it just wasn't the book for me.

I enjoyed aspects of the book, and it was definitely well written. I think the author addressed a lot of important topics and issues, and handed them wonderfully. The author did a fantastic job at showing the struggles the characters had to go through to make certain decision and managed to write in controversial topics quite well. My main issue was that I because there was three major topics, addressing women and conception, they all over shadowed the each other. It felt like each piece of the story was sacrificed for the other and in the end, I only got part of the story. I also found that there were too many moments where the story dragged, I often found that I was bored with the story and wanted it to move forward.

One of the strongest aspects of the book was how the author wrote about Down's Syndrome during the 1940s. It was heartbreaking, raw and very in your face, which I appreciated. I think it was the best quality of the book on how the author wove this into the story, and just how she ensured she brought the circumstance and conditions that happened then to light.

I also had trouble with the characters in this one, for some of the characters, it was trying to connect to them, for others, I didn't mesh with the characters personality. Again, it's a case where I'm fairly conflicted when it comes to the characters and I'm on the fence on where exactly I stand with them.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm undecided on this one. Some readers would love the book, but I'm not sure it would be high on my list of books I'd recommend.

What to read next: The Birth House

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Authors Challenge

Saturday, February 22

Book Review: What Becomes

Title: What Becomes

Author: A.L. Kennedy

Pages: 126

Summary: No one captures the spirit of our times like A. L. Kennedy, with her dark humour, poignant hopefulness, and brilliant evocation of contemporary social and spiritual malaise. In the title story, a man abandons his indifferent wife and wanders into a small-town movie theatre where he finds himself just as invisible as he was at home. In the masterfully comic “Saturday Teatime,” a woman trying to relax in a flotation tank is hijacked by memories of her past. In “Whole Family with Young Children Devastated,” a woman, inadvertently drawn into a stranger’s marital dysfunction, meditates on the failings of modern life as seen through late-night television and early-morning walks.

What Becomes
Saturday Tea Time
Confectioner's Gold
Whole Family with Children Devastated
As God Made Us
Story of My Life

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I was very impressed by this collection of short stories, and after finishing them, I'm looking forward to reading more by the author. While some short stories were better than others, the overall collection was one well worth reading.

The writing was stunning, I'm looking forward to reading more by the author. While some of the short stories in this collection appealed to me less than others, all were well written. They all had a similar, almost dark and twisted, theme that spread across the entire collection. All of the stories focused on different aspects of human nature, sometimes at their weakest points in life which made for a very engrossing reading experience at times.

I'm not sure I have a favourite short story from the collection, but some do stick out more than others. Marriage was somewhat dark and shocking, but was fitting for the collection. It's not one I could say I enjoyed reading, but it was one that stuck with me after I finished it. Wasps was well told, and had a fairly developed story to it, especially considering it was such a short story, and I found myself wanting just a little more from it. Vanish, was another story that stood out, and I found that the ending was very fitting for the story. Finally, Saturday Tea Time, which was the one that stuck out the most for me, and is probably the one I enjoyed the most, if I had to pick one. It had a lot to the story, for one so short, and the author captured the atmosphere and emotion of the story and the character in it wonderfully.

All of the stories in this collection are incredibly well told, while I enjoyed some more than others, I found they all had, some kind of quality to them that pulled me in. Overall a great read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, the author is a terrific writer and this collection is one that a lot of readers, especially fans of short story collections would enjoy.

What to read next: I'd say check out the author's other books. Whirl Away and Lift Lightning are also two short story collections with similar themes.

Challenges: 100+ Books, 2014 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Authors Challenge, Read Scotland Challenge

Book Review: Cataract City

Title: Cataract City

Author: Craig Davidson

Pages: EBook 285

Summary: Owen and Duncan are childhood friends who've grown up in picturesque Niagara Falls--known to them by the grittier name Cataract City. As the two know well, there's more to the bordertown than meets the eye: behind the gaudy storefronts and sidewalk vendors, past the hawkers of tourist T-shirts and cheap souvenirs live the real people who scrape together a living by toiling at the Bisk, the local cookie factory. And then there are the truly desperate, those who find themselves drawn to the borderline and a world of dog-racing, bare-knuckle fighting, and night-time smuggling.

Owen and Duncan think they are different: both dream of escape, a longing made more urgent by a near-death incident in childhood that sealed their bond. But in adulthood their paths diverge, and as Duncan, the less privileged, falls deep into the town's underworld, he and Owen become reluctant adversaries at opposite ends of the law. At stake is not only survival and escape, but a lifelong friendship that can only be broken at an unthinkable price.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I didn't love the book, I did enjoy reading the book a lot more than I thought I would. There were many times where parts of the book drew me into the story, and had me frantically reading and wanting to know what would happen next, but there were other parts were I lost interest in the story and felt it was dragging.

The writing was incredibly well done, I can see why it was one of the contenders for the Giller prize. The biggest issues I had with the book was that it wasn't my type of book. The plot itself wasn't one I would normally have picked up. The author did a great job at developing the story and its characters and I did enjoy how the characters were written, deeply flawed characters and very fleshed out, but I never felt I could connect with them and they weren't ones I could say I liked, or loved to hate.

This was a book where I had equal elements of the book I enjoyed, while others I didn't. Sometimes I picked up the book and enjoyed what I read, other times I struggled through it. Overall, it was an okay read, unexpected on how much I enjoyed it in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: I think I would. Despite my conflicted feelings about the book, I do think a lot of readers would enjoy the book and especially the characters.

What to read next: The other 2013 Giller contenders!

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Authors Challenge

Saturday, February 1

Brief and Quick Update

I just wanted to update you all, because I've been absent from the book world for a while now. I'm in good health and family is okay, so it's nothing serious but my computer recently died on me. After recovery attempts it wasn't looking good, so I bought a new computer and now I'm trying to recover "my stuff". Which at the moment and according to my computer guy, it's not looking good. I'm still hopeful something might come out of it.

I have had some reading done, but I've lost some of my personal stat sheets, my tracking for my challenges and no is the painful task to get it all back. Unless my computer guy becomes extra magical and I get my stuff back. I'll try to post some reviews soon, I did get a couple good books this month, and some not so good ones too, but it will be a slow, slow process.

Hope to be back soon! Real soon!