Saturday, January 21

Book Review: The Blue Light Project

Title: The Blue Light Project

Author: Timothy Taylor

Pages: EBook 266

Summary: An unidentified man storms a television studio where KiddieFame, a controversial children’s talent show wherein kids who are too talented are “killed off,” is being filmed. He is armed with an explosive device, and issues only a single demand: an interview with journalist Thom Pegg. It’s a strange request, everyone agrees. A disgraced former investigative journalist, caught fabricating sources, Pegg is down on his luck and working for a lowly tabloid. The demand surprises everyone – Pegg most of all, and he is reluctant to play a role. But pressure from federal authorities leaves little choice, and so it is that Thom Pegg finds himself the envy of all the high-level journalists on hand as he makes his way into the darkened studio to uncover the truth
Outside, as the hostage taking heads into its third day, enthralled and horrified onlookers watch the drama unfold through a constant stream of media speculation and rumours that race through the crowd. In the throes of this crisis two characters – one running from former glory and the other from corporate burnout – meet and instinctively connect. Eve is an Olympic gold medalist and much-loved local daughter who jogs the city’s streets at night and searches for her long-lost brother, Ali, in its shadowy corners. Rabbit is a secretive street artist who is just completing a massive project involving strange installations on the rooftops of hundreds of buildings throughout the city. Both carry the scars of their pasts, and seem to be searching for a way to become whole.

It’s a fearful time, when people have serious doubts about the future and about each other, yet are compelled to come together to vent their anxiety and make themselves heard. Outside the studio, chaos reigns, and Eve and Rabbit must navigate police checkpoints as they skirt the unruly masses in pursuit of the truth of what happened to Ali. Inside the studio, however, it’s all about control, as Pegg listens to the hostage taker’s story and begins to realize the terrible, violent truth about what he has planned.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: In the beginning, the book had me captured – I couldn’t/didn’t want to put it down. It had a fantastic narrative which was what initially pulled me in in the beginning. There were individual plot pieces that had me wanting more and wanting to know how they all fit together into the story as a whole, which was also what initially had me invested in the book. I ended up reading it straight over the weekend so that I could finish it. Unfortunately, the book seemed to taper down after the first half, and while I did enjoy the book, it wasn’t as good of a story as I first thought.  

While some of the characters came together nicely, but other times, it seemed far-fetched and forced to make the plot work – it didn’t seem natural, which made the flow choppy. I felt the same way about the plot – as a whole, there’s a lot to it, a lot of good stories about personal journeys, and social commentaries, but there was too much of it. Because of that, I found a lot of the individual pieces of the plot felt forced together, and at times I felt almost overwhelmed while reading the book, trying to piece how everything should be fitting together and why.

The ending was a bit of a letdown, and somewhat unbelievable. I get the message the ending was trying to show, and the build up to it with the hints throughout the book was also well done, but in the end, it didn’t have the impact on me the author was trying to show on the reader.

In the end, it was a good book. I found it didn’t come together as well as I would have liked, but it does have little individual elements that made for a good read. It was also a bit of a different read, than what I have been reading lately.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, while I didn’t exactly love the book in the end, I do think there’s a lot to take from it, and a lot of readers would enjoy the narrative, along with all of the plot pieces nestled within the book.

What to read next: Stanley Park, also by Timothy Taylor

Sunday, January 15

Book Review: The Tempest

Title: The Tempest

Author: William Shakespeare

Pages: EBook 234

Summary: Putting romance onstage, The Tempest gives us a magician, Prospero, a former duke of Milan who was displaced by his treacherous brother, Antonio. Prospero is exiled on an island, where his only companions are his daughter, Miranda, the spirit Ariel, and the monster Caliban. When his enemies are among those caught in a storm near the island, Prospero turns his power upon them through Ariel and other spirits.

The characters exceed the roles of villains and heroes. Prospero seems heroic, yet he enslaves Caliban and has an appetite for revenge. Caliban seems to be a monster for attacking Miranda, but appears heroic in resisting Prospero, evoking the period of colonialism during which the play was written. Miranda’s engagement to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples and a member of the shipwrecked party, helps resolve the drama.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Most of my experience with Shakespeare has been through his tragedies, which I read in high school many, many moons ago, so I found this one to be refreshing to read because it doesn’t end with everyone dying miserably
This one has all of Shakespeare’s typical elements, spirits, revenge, a man and woman see each other once and fall madly in love, and someone plots to kill someone else so they can have all the power. But, despite the similarities that I’ve read in his other works, I did enjoy this one. The story had something different to it, the characters were amusing at times, and the addition of the magical realism elements woven into the story was also enjoyable.

I did find that certain parts were hard to trudge through, but that happens with Shakespeare when his characters ramble on about their woes or whatever seems to be ailing them.

Overall, I enjoyed the book – which I read so I can read Margaret Atwood’s retelling, Hag-Seed.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would recommend to those who want to dip into Shakespeare, and haven’t yet, especially over the tragedies. While I enjoyed them, this one flowed better and would be a good choice for someone new to Shakespeare. It’s also a good choice for those who enjoy his plays but haven’t read this one yet, and I’d recommend this one over some of the others I’ve read.

What to read next: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, more Shakespeare (probably Midsummer Nights Dream

Book Review Death With Interruptions

Title: Death With Interruptions

Author: José Saramago

Pages: 238

Summary: On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors. Among the general public, however, there is initially celebration - flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home - families are left to care for the permanently dying, life insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral parlors are reduced to arranging burials for pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and parrots.

Death sits in her chilly apartment, where she lives alone with scythe and filing cabinets, and contemplates her experiment: What if no one ever died again? What if she, death with a small d, became human and fell in love?

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There’s a lot to take from this book, I enjoyed the narrative a lot, despite the changing voice and point-of-view throughout the story, and while the grammar issues were distracting, the book ended up being an enjoyable, engaging read.

The grammar (I’m awful at it, I admit), but this threw out the conventional rules of grammar out the window, ignoring them completely. The book was filled with long, run-on sentences, a lot of commas, and no quotations or indication of who’s speaking during the parts with dialogue. It was confusing at first, but eventually, I warmed up to the writing style, and it works for the book. I think the author was trying to create a lyrical prose for his narrative, and it did work, it’s beautifully written and told, but the author’s writing style does take some time to get used to, and I can see a lot of people being turned off by the style.

The story itself was interesting, and despite the theme, it wasn’t depressing like I thought it would be. It was philosophical at times, and it showed some interesting ethical choices humans make in a situation like this one, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Once death rolls in, the story takes a turn, and it had some interesting aspects, especially the focus on her,  daily ‘life,’ but I’m unsure how I feel about the ending. I’m not sure what it was, but something felt off about the ending, it didn’t seem fitting to me. I was left unsatisfied.

Other than the issues with grammar and the ending, it was an enjoyable read – well worth checking out.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, while the grammar throughout the book, or lack there of, was frustrating and a bit distracting, it was a good book and I think a lot of readers would enjoy it.

What to read next: I’m not too sure about that one. I have read one of his other books, Blindness, I enjoyed it, but it was rather dark at times.

Saturday, January 14

Book Review: From the Fifteenth District

Title: From the Fifteenth District

Author: Mavis Gallant

Pages: Ebook 233

Summary: Set in Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, the nine stories in this glittering collection reflect on the foibles and dilemmas of human relationships. An English family goes to the south of France for the sake of the father’s health, and to get away from an England of rationing and poverty. A displaced person turned French soldier in Algeria now makes a living as an actor in Paris. A group of selfish English expatriates on the Italian Riviera are incredulous that Mussolini and the Germans may affect their lives. A great writer’s quiet widow blossoms in widowhood, to the surprise and alarm of her children, who send a ten-year-old grandson to Switzerland to keep her company one Christmas. Full of wry humour and penetrating insights, this is Mavis Gallant at her most unforgettable.

The Four Seasons
The Moslem Wife
The Remission
The Latehomecommer
Baum, Gabriel 1935- ()
From the Fifteenth District
His Mother

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The collection is incredibly well written, with concrete characters and in-depth stories. The short stories themselves, have almost a sleepy feel to them, they’re slow but in a good way, because each story takes the time to explore the characters and the plots of each story.

Some stories from the collection drew me in more than others; all had a strong voice, and each story had something that had me wanting just a little bit more from the author. Some of my favourites were; The Moslem Wife, From the Fifteenth District, The Latehomecommer, and Irina. I also enjoyed The Four Seasons.

While it wasn’t necessarily a collection that I couldn’t put down, I still enjoyed the author’s writing and voice. It may not be a collection I loved, but I did enjoy it quite a lot – I think it’s one of those collections you have to read multiple times, to fully appreciate everything the author has woven into her stories.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, it was an enjoyable collection well worth checking out.

What to read next: I’d definitely read more by the author, and if you’re looking for more Canadian short story collections, Alice Munro would also be a good choice

Book Review: To Trade the Stars

Title: To Trade the Stars

Author: Julie Czerneda

Pages: 479

Summary: Jason and Sira - he a human telepath and independent trader, she now Speaker for the Clan Council, as well as Jason's life partner - are trying to forge a life for themselves free of the demands of both the Clan and Drapsk, a race determined to claim Sira as the long-awaited Mystic One. And as if these conflicting demands aren't making life complicated enough there are at least two other factions with far more dangerous seeking intentions seeking them out.

Any hope Sira and Jason have of charting their own course seems likely to vanish forever when they are unexpectedly caught in conflict between the Drapsk and a mysterious race that dwells in the M'Hir. With all of their energies directed toward this crisis, will they become easy prey for those among the Clan and the humans who are already mobilizing t take advantage of the conflict?

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the conclusion to the series; it was fun, engaging, and interesting throughout the story – it was hard to put down at times. Knowing that it was the last book in the trilogy, also factored into my excitement about this book. While I do have the first book in the next trilogy in the Clan Chronicles, it will be a while before I get to it, which means a long wait before I find out what happens next.

I liked how the story played out – questions were answered about some of the background information on the characters, and other elements, including the world(s) the book is set in.  Although there is still a lot of questions I have and I always want more information, especially about all of the little creators who appear in the book. For the most part, it all came together in this book, and I was mostly happy with the results.  I’ll even miss the Drapsk – those cute, annoying, little creatures. Their involvement in this story was very entertaining at times making for an amusing read whenever they were involved.

Another aspect of the story to note, was Seymon’s involvement in this book. It was interesting, and went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. I was surprised with how things turned out for him and where his story lead in the end, and I’m unsure how I feel about it.

I enjoyed the ending to the series. While there is (now), a third trilogy set after this one, it’s an ending that is satisfying enough you wouldn’t have to read the next trilogy, but also enough room for the adventure to continue and to make you want to read the next trilogy.  But honestly, who wouldn’t want to dive into the next set of stories?

Overall, a satisfying book – I’m looking forward to Sira and Morgan’s next adventure.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, the entire serious has been wonderful it has a unique quality to it and excellent characters – well worth checking out.

What to read next: This Gulf of Time and Stars, the Stratification trilogy if you haven’t read it yet.

Sunday, January 1

2016 - The Year in Review

And another year bites the dust. What a year it was for me, very busy which led to me not having a lot of reading time and falling into a big reading rut.

There were a few things that had big impacts on my reading - I jumped into my writing this year and focused on that a lot - both in July for CampNanoWriMo and in November for NaNoWriMo I kept myself busy writing away - now I have two major writing projects plus one on the back burner that's itching for me to work on it it - all of which have taken up time I would normally be reading.

Stress also affected my reading - usually that's my escape, but this year usually vegged out watching cooking shows or repeats of old favourites on TV (or finding new favourites, I binged watched Supernatural, a show I always meant to watch, but never had time. I'm totally team Impala - such a pretty car!) A lot has happened in my life and my loved ones, which have had a big impact on it and in the coming year it will continue to affect it.

Finally, I couldn't find anything that truly drew me in. I went back to my favourite authors a lot, but even those didn't give me the thrill I wanted. 2016 was my least successful reading year since I've started bloging, but I'm back for another year - hoping 2017 will see more balance between reading and writing. Writing is something I plan on focusing on a lot more of, so my past of reading hundreds of books in a year won't be happening, but I will still be here, reading & reviewing.

The Books
I read 27 books this year - and started reading but didn't finish one. Well there were a few I started reading, decided I wasn't in the mood but plan on picking the book up later. Only one book was labeled, permanently DNF. As for the books I did finish, there wasn't a book I hated, there were a few books I didn't enjoy, especially compared to the author's other works I've read but there wans't a case where I really disliked the book.

There was a book that was very, uh out there, which was Bear by Marian Engle - a very different read. I started the Song of Ice and Fire series, which is good but not that super-fantastic-this-is-the-best-thing-ever kind of series I was lead to believe. The books are well written and it's a good story, but it's as awesome as expected. 

1.       Bear -Marian Engle8/10
3.       Fair Game - Patricia Briggs7.75/10
4.       One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson 8/10
5.       The Rescue Nicholas Sparks7.5/10
6.       The Selection - Kiera Cass 7/10
7.       Otherworld Nights - Kelley Armstrong8/10
8.       Dark Places - Gillian Flynn7.25/10
9.       The Lifted Veil - George Eliot7.5/10
15.   Birdie -Tracey Lindberg7.75/10
18.   Bodily Harm- Margaret Atwood 7.75/10

27.   Betrayals - Kelley Armstrong7.75/10

Breakdown of Ratings

Rating Category
Amount of Books
1 - 2.75
3 - 3.75
4 - 4.75
5 -5.75

The Favourites

1) The Shipping News – Annie Proulx
2) Ties of Power – Julie Czerneda
3) The Radiant City – Lauren B. Davis
4) When Will There Be Good News? – Kate Atkinson
5) Last Night in Montreal – Emily St. John Mandel

General Stats and other Fun Facts

General Stats
Number of Books
Books Read
Pages Read
7, 773
Format of Books
Where it Came From

 I keep trying to read more poetry, and I keep picking up my copy of Howl, but then it sits there waiting to be read - maybe 2017 will be the year.  Otherwise, this year has been the year of the novel for me. 
Type of Book
Number of Books
Short Story Collection
Short Story Individual

This year had a lot of CanLit and mostly women writers. 81% of the books I read this year were by women writers. 
Other Random Facts
Number of Books
New to Me Canadian Authors
New to Me Authors
Women Writers
Speculative Fiction
1001 Books

The Challenges

While I kept my promise that I wouldn't do as many reading challenges this year, I only managed to complete one of them, which was the one challenge that goes from July 2015 - June 2016. All others were incomplete. Eventually I will find the balance of challenges.

Challenge Name
Challenge Starts
Challenge Ends
Challenge Completed
50 Book Pledge
January 1, 2016
December 31, 2016
2016 Category Challenge
January 1, 2016
December 31, 2016
9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge
13/13 Books
July 1, 2015
June 31, 2016
10th Annual Canadian Book Challenge
3/13 Books
July 1, 2016
June 30, 2017
2016 Ebook Challenge
12/25 Books
January 1, 2016
December 31, 2016
2016 Mount TBR Challenge
January 1, 2016
December 31, 2016
2016 New Author Challenge
January 1, 2016
December 31, 2016

Outlook for 2017

Keep reading, keep writing and enjoy the year.