Wednesday, 17 December 2014

TBR Challenge 2015

TBR Challenge is something I try for every year for the past few years. It is hosted by RoofBeamReader.

The Goal: To finally read 12 books from my “to be read” pile (within 12 months).
Each of these 12 books must have been on my bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2013 or later (any book published in the year 2012 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on my TBR pile – the host WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.
My complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2015.
Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as I have never read the book before and it was published before 2014!
Here are my choices:
1. The Sacred Cut by David Hewson
2. Gently Down the Stream by Ray Robertson
3. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright
4. Biografi by Lloyd Jones
5. Going Bovine by Libby Bray
6. A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse
7. Burned Alive by Souad
8. The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin
9. The Road Taken by Michael Buerk
10. The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Hempel
11.A House on the Heights by Truman Capote
12. Europe's Inner Demons by Norman Cohn

1. A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park
2. The Informationist by Taylor Stevens


Finished December 15
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

I've had this on my shelf for years, but when I finally picked it up, I couldn't put it down. The book takes place in Provence, France, and the narrator is 15-year-old Ned Marriner, a Canadian whose father, Edward, is a famous photographer. His dad is taking photos for a book, and with Ned's mom, Meghan, working with Doctors without Borders in the Sudan, Ned has been taken out of school to join his dad.
Along with Ned and his father are his father's super-organized assistant Melanie, and two other crew, Greg and Steve. They are renting a house in the hills above Aix-en-Provence, where two local women are working for them cooking and cleaning. Both are named Vera.
On the first day in Aix, when Edward is setting up to take photographs of the cathedral, Ned goes inside. And here, things are set in motion for an experience that will change Ned's life forever. First he meets a girl his age, Kate, who is an exchange student from the U.S. staying with a local family for the year. The two of them encounter a strange man, and they find him both threatening and intriguing.
Ned also finds himself feeling the presence of this man in a strange way, and he begins to realize that something within him has changed. When a family member he has never met appears, drawn by his new feelings, he finds himself happy to accept her assistance in understanding what is going on around him, and what he seems to have become a part of.
When Ned and Kate are drawn to an ancient site, suddenly things get very dangerous and one of Ned's group is transformed into an ancient presence, perhaps never to return.
As Ned shares his understanding of the ancient story that their group has been drawn into, it will take all of them to find a way to change the story and make a new ending to the ancient tale.
I found the whole story fascinating, and really liked the characterization of him. He felt like a real young man in his reactions and thoughts. Definitely a new favourite.

The Betrayal of Trust

Finished December 14
The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill

Another mystery in the series featuring Simon Serrailler of the Lafferton police. Here we have a few storylines, and while they all relate to each other, Simon doesn't directly interact with all the storylines.
The bones of a young woman are exposed as a hill collapses after a rainstorm, and thus a case of a missing girl that began sixteen years before is closed with her murdered body. As Serrailler reopens her case hoping to discover her murderer, another woman's body is found in the same location. But her identity is more elusive. The police force has a tight budget, and Simon's investigation is mostly on his shoulders.
Simon's sister Cat is still finding her way after the recent death of her husband, and the hospice where she works is struggling financially. When a newcomer to town, a doctor who has opened a nursing home specifically for dementia patients, is suggested to head a new committee for fund-raising for the hospice, Cat finds new hope. Molly, a young intern at the local hospital, is staying at Cat's house, and doing stints at a number of medical institutions, including Cat's hospice and the new nursing home.
Jocelyn still lives on her own, but meets up with her daughter, Penny, a successful barrister, regularly. When she notices some physical problems, she goes to see her doctor, Cat, but realizes quickly that she must face up to a more serious diagnosis than she originally thought. She knows what the future will hold, and isn't sure that she is up to facing that. Jocelyn begins to consider self-euthanasia, but the ways and means aren't clear, and asking for help isn't easy. She struggles with the choices available to her.
As always these books are about the people, the characters, their choices and motivations. An excellent read.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bizarre Books

Finished December 10
Bizarre Books by Russell Ash and Brian Lake

This book has been sitting on my shelves for a while, and it was one of the books I'd challenged myself to read in my TBR Challenge this year.
It is essentially a book of lists, some more interesting than others.
There are 16 chapters and many of them have multiple lists.
The book begins with books with unintentional double entendre titles, one I found less interesting than others. Some titles were only here because words in the title had adopted new meanings since they had been published.
The second chapter lists extraordinary author names, and again I found this less interesting. It seems like making fun of people's names, not something I am comfortable with.
The third chapter was again around author names, this time in terms of how they related to the title of the book they'd written. An example is The Cypress Garden by Jane Arbor.
The fourth chapter is sheet music titles, and again a lot of these only sound funny to us now because of a change in time, many of them dating from the 19th century.
The fifth chapter was more interesting to me. It lists books that are extremely specific in the subject they cover. One that struck me was Busted Tractors and Rusty Knuckles: Norwegian Torque Wrench Techniques and Other Fine Points of Tractor Restoration.
The sixth chapter was along the same lines, but scientific in nature. Titles include ones such as The Diseases of Electrical Machinery.
The seventh chapter covers books on dirty topics, mostly around bodily functions, or dirt.
The eighth chapter covers odd books on plants and animals from Bean Spasms to Carnivorous Butterflies.
The ninth chapter covers medical titles, including some fiction titles that sound a bit odd. From The Romance of Proctology to Coma Arousal, these were sometimes amusing.
The tenth chapter included titles involving love, marriage, and sex. It includes titles such as Literature of Kissing and How Can I Get Married.
The eleventh chapter covers odd pastimes from How to Vamp Without Music to Original Tricks with Cigars.
The twelfth chapter covers odd-sounding fiction titles from We All Killed Grandma to The Fangs of Suet Pudding.
The thirteenth chapter covers titles that sound incredibly dull or unlikely such as Songs of a Chartered Accountant or I Was a Kamikaze.
The fourteenth chapter covers religious books such as My Invisible Friend Explains the Bible.
The fifteenth chapter covers publishing curiosities such as unusual bindings, strange dedications, and books that challenged the writer such having all the words begin with a particular letter of the alphabet.
The last chapter takes on odd books about death or beyond. Titles run from Reusing Old Graves to Do-it-Yourself Coffins.
I found the chapters from five on most interesting, and the book over-all mildly amusing.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Give Me Tomorrow

Finished December 5
Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story - The Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company by Patrick K. O'Donnell, read by Lloyd James

This book follows the men of George Company of the US Marines through their battles in Korea. From the sea landing at Inchon, through their fight to get to the Chosin Reservoir, and back to Inchon again.
The description of the battles they fought is matter of fact, graphic and brutal. The story isn't entirely linear, and some scenes appear more than once, almost as teasers to a more complete scene told later. We see the stories of individual men, and how they faced the challenges, and the losses that the battles brought to them. The words of the individual men are what add the immediacy that comes through here.
This isn't an easy book to read, and it shows the brutality and horrifying nature of war along with the courage and endurance that the men involved showed.

Monday, 1 December 2014

English for the Natives

Finished December 1
English for the Natives: Discover the Grammar You Don't Know You Know by Harry Ritchie

I got this book for a birthday present and have really been enjoying it. The author has a good sense of humour that he brings to play in the examples he uses throughout.
He talks about how many people become nervous when faced with grammar, but that we all use proper grammatical forms when we speak and write without really thinking about it. He also dispels some myths around grammar that have been long held up as rules, but aren't really.
English, like all active languages is constantly developing, and we need to recognize that in the way that we accept usages, spellings, and meanings of words as they change over time.  He also talks throughout about how standard English has become the defining way of using the language, despite many English speakers using the language differently.
The first chapter deals with the history of English and the second with how we, native English speakers, learn our language. The following chapters each take on a grammatical word category and look at the different ways it is used, how it works, and how it relates to others. These chapters begin with nouns and go on through determiners, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions.The final chapter deals with structure.
There are also a couple of useful appendices, one with common 'mistakes' made by speakers of non-standard English, and one of irregular verbs.
The book is written in a very engaging, conversational style and I found myself understanding grammar better than I had before and feeling more confident about using some of those non-standard standard styles, and breaking those "rules".

The Quick and the Thread

Finished November 30
The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee

This is the first in the series featuring Marcy Singer. Marcy left her unfulfilling job as an accountant in San Francisco, and moved to the small town of Tallulah Falls, Oregon to open her own embroidery shop, a long-held dream of hers. She also has a large Irish wolfhound named Angus who she dotes on.
Marcy's close friend Sadie lives in Tallulah Falls with her husband Blake and the two run a coffee shop. In this book, Marcy's grand opening goes well despite the presence of the previous tenant of her space, who seems to want to give her some kind of message. Registration for her evening classes goes well, and she has sold a few things earlier in the day.
The next morning brings trouble though as Marcy discovers a body in her storeroom, and a message scratched into the wall above him. As Marcy tries to figure out the message, its connection with her own troubles, and the local women who seem to have taken to her, she puts herself into some danger as well.
I liked the previous book in this series that I read, Stitch Me Deadly, and it was interesting to go back to the beginning of the series to see its initial case. As I love embroidery, I like the details that are included about the craft as well.