Saturday, 31 January 2015

Clown Girl

Finished January 31
Clown Girl by Monica Drake

This book is told from the point of view of Nita. Nita earns a living, meager though it is, as a clown. Her boyfriend Rex has travelled away to audition for clown school, using the money that she had saved. She lives in a small room in her ex-boyfriend Herman's house with her small dog Chance. Since Rex went away life hasn't been good. Herman's new girlfriend resents her presence and seems to look for ways to make trouble for her. She's had health issues. The group of clowns she does gigs with seems to be going in a direction that she's not comfortable with in terms of image. Things keep disappearing, and she seems to have developed a hard to define relationship with a local police officer.
Nita spends all her time in her clown gear and in her clown persona as Sniffles. She makes balloon figures of religious scenes and works on her Kafka routine. Is she hiding from someone specific, from herself, or from the world in general by doing this. When questioned about anything she falls into jokes and comedy routines, getting herself into further trouble.
Things keep going from bad to worse, and Nita is finally forced to face the truth about the life she's been living.

Gently Down the Stream

Finished January 31
Gently Down the Stream by Ray Robertson

Hank Roberts is going through a difficult period in his life. His best friend Phil is becoming successful as a poet, and Phil's new girlfriend is a successful up-and-coming novelist. Hank's wife Mary is the major breadwinner for the couple, successful as a painter, and with a related office job that provides stability for them. Hank's earnings are small and lately, getting smaller. He isn't engaged in the small teaching job that Phil recommended him for.
In this reader's opinion, Hank is depressed. He retreats from his responsibilities, pushes away the helpful overtures from his friends and wife, and engages in late night anti-social behaviour. He has long told others he is working on a book, one related to his degree in philosophy, but in reality hasn't touched it in ages.
Hank's companion through the day, and on most of his late night jaunts is his aging black lab Barry.
Things seem to fall into Hank's life: from jobs to houses to interested women, but he seems stuck in his unhappiness. It takes hitting bottom for Hank to reengage with his life and move forward again.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

Finished January 30
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle

This episode in the Flavia de Luce series takes Flavia away from Buckshaw, her home in England to a boarding school in Canada. Flavia, now twelve, is sent by her father and aunt Felicity to Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Toronto, the same school where her mother Harriet once went. She is escorted from her home by the chair of the board of the school, Ryerson Rainsmith, and his wife, Dorsey, not a couple that Flavia warms to at all, across the Atlantic to Halifax and on to Toronto by train.
On her first night at the school, another boarder attacks her in her bed, and then a corpse falls out of her chimney. The body is wrapped tightly and charred, but in the aftermath of this Flavia takes the time to observe as much as she can, and palms an object that fell out with the corpse. The headmistress, Miss Fawlthorne seems to change her character at a whim, sometimes becoming quite approachable and other times retreating to a stern demeanor. Flavia becomes acquainted with the other girls, exchanging information and even getting invited to late night meetings involving Ouija board, but she doesn't gain a true friend. She is intent on finding out more about the body, and about finding what truth there is to the rumors of missing girls.
There is an element of intrigue here that seems to make things unnecessarily difficult, with certain topics off limits, and a secret society, brought up in the previous novel, making a larger appearance here. Flavia is an intelligent girl and relates best to those who recognize that and who are also intelligent, which means that her strong relationships are to adults. Here, she looks forward to chemistry classes with Mrs. Bannerman, a woman acquitted of murder, and one knowledgeable with Flavia's favourite subject. There is less labl time here, although chemistry does indeed play a role in the mystery.
There are several interesting new characters here, that I hope to see again, but I missed the folks from Bishops Lacey.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Sacred Cut

Finished January 25
The Sacred Cut by David Hewson

This novel is the third book in the series featuring Detective Nic Costa. Set in Rome, just before Christmas, the city is in the middle of a snowstorm, when an alarm in the Pantheon causes police to arrive.
What they discover when they get there is a tableau they don't know how to interpret. A woman is dead, naked, placed in a certain way, and with marks cut into her skin. But who has done it, and why, and what did the person who set off the alarm see before she ran.
Before the Italians can begin the formal investigation, before Teresa Lupo can do an autopsy, the FBI is there, taking over, and the Italian intelligence seems to be wanting that to happen.
With one of their own citizens dead though, Costa and his fellow officers, not to mention Teresa, aren't so quick to let this go. They want to know what is so sensitive they are being frozen out, and why one of the American agents, Emily Deacon, doesn't seem to know either.
As Emily begins to come around to their way of thinking and their grasp of the situation begins to grow, they also begin to wonder just who the real bad guy is in this situation.
I always enjoy the rebelliousness of Nic Costa, the shrewdness of his boss, Falcone, and the other characters that surround them. This case is interesting, with elements of terrorism and conspiracy.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Crane Wife

Finished January 22
The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

This fantasy novel was inspired by a story the author heard in kindergarten.
George Duncan, American living in London, divorced amicably, father of a divorced daughter and grandfather to a four-year-old boy, is awakened in the middle of the night by an outlandish cry that reaches him viscerally. He, without looking, rushes outside towards the sound, only to find a crane, injured by an arrow shot through one of its wings, He struggles to free it from the arrow, and succeeds. After the crane flies away, he is unsure whether it was real or a dream.
The next day, at his print shop, a woman, Kumiko, comes in with a piece of art to frame, and he makes a connection with her. As he spends more and more time with her, he cannot believe that he is lucky enough to get a woman like this to love him.
When his daughter eventually meets her, she loves her too.
But there is always a piece of her that he doesn't know, that he can't reach, and he continues to want this despite what he has. Will this aching need destroy what he has?
Interspersed with George's story and his daughter Amanda's story, is the story of a woman who can fly and a volcano. This story is moving and meaningful. How does it relate to George and his life. That is the heart of this book. What it means to love, especially what it means to love oneself.
A wonderful treasure of a book.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Long Way Home

Finished January 22
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, read by Ralph Cosham

In this book in the series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache, Gamache and his wife have settled into life in Three Pines. Gamache is gradually recovering from his ordeals and learning to live a quiet peaceful life.
But then Clara Morrow comes to him for help. Her estranged husband Peter didn't show up on the anniversary of their parting as they agreed that he would, and she is beginning to worry. She wants Gamache's assistance in finding him.
Clara isn't sure what sort of man she'll find, and whether there is a future for the two of them together, but she still loves Peter and cares about what happens to him. She is sure that he would have come home if he could, and is worried about what may have prevented him. She wants to lead the search, but knows that she needs help.
So Gamache goes to one set of contacts, and sets a search of Peter's movements in in motion, while Clara and Myrna go to another set of contacts in Ontario. What they discover, leads them to travel together, along with Beauvoir toward eastern Quebec, and eventually the remote shores of the province as they trace Peter's trail. Reine-Marie and Ruth also make a journey of discovery in the search to gain information, and I enjoyed seeing more of them.
From Clara and Peter's art school professors to calls to European stops on Peter's travels, the group gradually begins to decipher some of what Peter has been up to, and who he has met along the way.
Literary allusions run thick here, and there is much introspection by all parties as they learn not only of Peter, but also of themselves during their quest.
I was moved both to tears and to laughter as I listened and only grew to enjoy these characters more than ever.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

To Travel Hopefully

Finished January 18
To Travel Hopefully: Footsteps in the French Cévennes by Christopher Rush


This memoir is about the time in Rush's life when he was dealing with massive grief. It is done in 3 sections. The first section, The Road to the Cévennes, is about the dying of Chris's wife Patricia in the summer and early fall of 1993, and about his reactions to both the dying and the death over the next several months. Patricia died far too young, and her illness was avoided until beyond redemption. Chris's two children, Catriona and Jonathan were 16 and 11. Chris' grief took its toll on them in addition to their own grief as they lost their mother.
Part two, Between Two Lives, looks at what brought Chris from this, and his connection to the writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Inspired by Stevenson's life changing journey by donkey detailed in his book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, Chris plans out a similar journey, following as closely as possible in Stevenson's footsteps.
The third part, In the Cévennes, tells of Chris' journey. He hires, rather than purchases, a donkey named Anatole, recommended for this trek by the owner Monsieur Lac, and is coached in the proper handling and treatment of the donkey. He equips himself for the journey in a similar fashion to Stevenson, and follows his route as closely as possible. This is a difficult walk, through rough terrain, through much inclement weather, and Chris sleeps some nights out in the open, not always according to plan. His journey is physically demanding, but also emotionally and mentally challenging and Chris comes through it a changed man.
The writing is florid, and frank. He does not shy away from his experiences, whether uplifting or embarrassing. He is open about his feelings, his outbursts and his resentments, in a way few of us are willing to lay out for public view.
One of my favourite passages is from a man that Chris meets at a monastery he stays at enroute, who tells him
"Don't get stuck in the past, he went on to advise me. Or the future. That's the trouble with human beings. We're an illogical lot. Animals are more logical, though it's the logic of instinctive innocence. They don't wander about in times that don't belong to them, like we do. We're always running away blindly from the only time that does properly belong to us: the present. But the present is never the end we have in mind, with the result that we never actually live but simply hope to live, dream about life. It's perfectly logical too, you see. When a man is forever planning how to be happy, it stands to reason that he will never actually be so. Take my advice, my friend, be happy: live your life now, not tomorrow." 
This is an inspiring read and one that inspires the reader to reflect.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Reading Bingo 2015

Reading Bingo is back, and this year it is focused on Canadian books.
So of course, I have to take on the challenge.

Thanks to Random House Canada for offering this again. Such a fun idea.
And I already have one square!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Keeper'n Me

Finished January 11
Keeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese

This novel was one of Wagamese's earlier novels, about a young man, Garnet Raven, who was removed from his native family when he was very young, and taken into foster care. Garnet was shunted around from one foster home to another, and grew up without any connection to his culture. In his twenties he made a connection with a black man and was welcomed into his family in a way he'd never been welcomed into any foster home and began adjusting his identity around black culture. But a misstep in judgment landed him in jail, and it was there his birth family found him.
Upon his release he made his way to the small northern community his family now lived in, and began to get to know his siblings, his mother and his roots as an Anishanabe.
An older man in the community, Keeper, took on teaching him about his culture in a very thoughtful way, and Garnet describes his assimilation of his native culture, his re-connection to the community, and his relationship with Keeper. Interspersed with Garnet's story is commentary from Keeper, about his views of Garnet's assimilation.
This is a book of what it means to belong, about taking the time to listen to your heart and learn what it is trying to tell you. It is a book of family, of culture, and of being human. It is serious and full of humour, just like life. A great read.

The Magic Mistake

Finished January 8
The Magic Mistake by Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

This book is the second in the Oh My Godmother series aimed at 8-12 year-olds. Lacey Unger-Ware is back and she's also back in the role of fairy godmother.
As the book begins, Lacey and her family are set to attend the civic wedding ceremony for Gina, Lacey's best friend Sunny's mother. But sadly, Gina is stood up, and retreats into depression, staying home in her pajamas and eating cake. Shortly thereafter, Lacey receives a visit from the fairy godmother Katarina. Lacey is invited to attend the Godmother Academy and given an envelope with the name of the person she will be fairy godmother to during her initiation challenge. Lacey doesn't want to leave her family to go to the Academy and resists opening the envelope to accept the invitation. But when the envelope is opened accidentally and she sees the name on the card is Gina, she knows that she must do what she can to help Sunny's mother regain happiness.
A series of mistakes, misunderstandings, and comic episodes take Lacey through the rest of the book, with her best friends Sunny and Paige along as cheerleaders and assistants.
This is a fun series set in a world of magic and wonder. I liked that Lacey's superpower was empathy, and her actions showed that this was a real trait for her. It also showed Lacey and her friends taking responsibility for tasks within their families, and learning about different viewpoints in their school activities.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Hot, Sexy & Bad

Finished January 4
Hot, Sexy & Bad: A Holiday Collection


I thought I'd step away from my usual reading to try some romance. This collection comprises six novellas by six different best-selling writers

Rome for the Holidays by Judy Angelis
Set in New Orleans, this romance features self-made woman Arie , who co-owns a catering company, and Rome Milano, CEO of a multinational corporation from Italy. Their romance moves quickly after they caught each others' eyes at a function Arie's company catered for Rome's.

Recipe for Love: An Andrade Christmas Novella by Ruth Cardello
Set in the town of Sablet in southern France and featuring Madison Andrade, recent college graduate of the wealthy Andrade family. Madison has recently been told a secret by her father, a secret she is appalled by, and she needs some time away to think about what to do next. Richard D'Argenson is a temperamental chef, a man for whom the Christmas season always brings unhappy memories that he tries to escape through work. But this Christmas he is distracted by his houseguest.

Hot Package: A Hostile Operations Team Christmas Novella by Lynn Raye Harris
In Arlington, Virginia, Olivia Reese, a public relations adviser has just discovered that the weapons guidance system the company she's been promoting isn't what they told her, or what she convinced Congress.  But someone just left the real information for her and now she needs help in making her next step. The only person she can think of is Billy "The Kid" Blake, her ex-boyfriend and part of a team of elite soldiers. And he does help, but can they be together through this without reigniting their relationship.

The Gift by Sandra Marton
Katie Rostov's father is rich and powerful and hungry for more power. That is why he's arranged a marriage for her to a prince who has a reputation for bad behaviour. Kaz Savitch has made a name for himself as an investment fund manager after a stint in Special Ops. When Kaz takes on the job of escorting Katie to her betrothal ceremony, neither one of them is happy, but when she tells him the reality of her situation, everything changes and he must prevent this marriage.

The Belmont Christmas Bride by Shadonna Richards
Olivia McAlister is set to get married Christmas morning. Her guests have arrived from near and far, but her fiance has changed his mind. Dane Romano, general manager of the hotel at the center of the celebration, The Belmont Hotel in Toronto, convinces her to go ahead with the celebration anyway. She shouldn't let what Jack did ruin her happiness. Olivia finds Dane's arguments convincing, and besides, he makes her feel like she has never felt before, so that's good, isn't it.

Half My Heart: A Clover Series Novella by Danielle Stewart
Back when he was eighteen, Devin Sutton lost a lot: his first love, his freedom, his hope for the future. Now, years later, his only thought is getting back at those who hurt him, back in Clover, North Carolina. But when he finds Rebecca Farrus, that first love, living a much different life than he thought, he begins to wonder if he shouldn't pursue her instead.

These stories were quite a range of characters and situations, and a taste of each author's style. Many of them relate to a series that readers may find themselves led to. Each author's story ends with a list of their other books.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Enon

Finished January 1
Enon by Paul Harding

I loved his first book Tinkers, and I wasn't the only one as it one a Pulitzer. This book follows the grandson of the protagonist of the first book George Crosby. Charlie Crosby is also a man a bit outside society. Charlie dropped out of university, and the family relies on his wife Susan, a teacher, as the main breadwinner. Charlie works on people's lawns and yard upkeep. As the book begins, their daughter Kate has just been killed in a car accident as she was bicycling home from the beach.
The novel follows Charlie as he retreats into his grief, pushing away his wife, and going into a world ruled by his grief, the pain of a hand he breaks in a fit of rage around that grief, and the drugs he comes to rely on to get by. We see Charlie as he sinks inward into madness and delusion and does things he would never have believed of himself before.
Harding is a magnificent writer and his language brings Charlie's inner world and outer descent into something we can see and feel along with him. I was moved by his sorrow, and angered by his self-pity. His delusions were brought to life through the power of words.
The story takes place in the small town in Massachusetts where Charlie grew up, raised by his mother and grandparents, Enon. As Charlie disintegrates, we see his memories of life in the town, growing up himself, and experiencing it with Kate. We come to know his surroundings, from Enon Lake to the cemetery where Kate now lies beside Charlie's mother and grandparents. We see his brief and rare interactions with others, feel how he struggles with them, his discomfort.
This is a book that I will not easily forget, and will come back to again.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

We Read Diverse Books Reading Challenge: January Challenge


Hosted here.
This is a new one for me, but I really like the premise. Each month a new challenge is set to read a book that is diverse in some way.
The January Challenge is to read at least one novel, short story collection or memoir by and about someone from a different race than my own, preferably not caucasian. Since I am caucasian that should be straightforward. I can see one calling to me right now.




Chunkster Challenge 2015

I'm going for this one again.


I'll try for the same level as last year since I nearly made it.
15 chunksters, with at least 3 over 750 pages.
A chunkster is a book 450 pages or more.
This challenge is hosted here.

A Century of Books



This challenge is often done over several years and that will be my aim as well. This page will be both my sign up and my progress page. It is hosted here, As I identify a book to read for a year, I will add it beside the year. Then as I read and review it, the book title will become a link to the review and I will add the date finished.

1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
1906
1907
1908
1909
1910
1911
1912
1913
1914
1915
1916
1917
1918
1919
1929
1921
1922
1923
1924 
1925 
1926
1927
1928 - Schlump by Hans Herbert Grimm. Finished December 1, 2016
1929
1930
1931
1932
1933
1934
1935
1936
1937
1938
1939
1940
1941
1942
1943
1944
1945
1946
1947
1948
1949
1950
1951
1952 
1953
1954
1955 Red Lights by Simenon. Finished April 16, 2016
1956 Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto. Finished December 15, 2016
1957
1958
1959 
1960
1961 
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970
1971
1972 Chase by Dean Koontz. Finished February 26, 2015
1973
1974
1975
1976
1977
1978 Sitt Marie Rose by Etel Adnan. Finished February 1, 2015
1979
1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991 The "Natural Inferiority" of Women, compiled by Tama Starr. Finished May 23, 2016
1992
1993 Biografi by Lloyd Jones. Finished December 29, 2015
1994 Keeper 'n Me by Richard Wagamese. Finished January 11, 2015
1995 Sabriel by Garth Nix. Finished February 20, 2015
1996
1997 Frameshift by Robert J. Sawyer. Finished March 14, 2015
1998 Götz and Meyer by David Albahari. Finished December 26
1999


War Through the Generations 2015 Challenge

I'm back again for this challenge

This year is very straightforward. The challenge is to read books, fiction or nonfiction, about any war.
No levels, just post the reviews on the site.

TBR Challenge 2014 Wrap-Up

Well, didn't quite finish this year, but did better than most previous years.

TBR Challenge

2014TBRbutton
The Goal: To finally read 12 books from my “to be read” pile (within 12 months).
Specifics:
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 were allowed, just in case one or two of the books ended up in the “can’t get through” pile.
My complete and final list had to be posted by January 15th, 2014.
Crossovers from other challenges were totally acceptable, as long as I had never read the book before and it was published before 2013!
Link to my list.

1. The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books that Matter Most to Them edited by Roxanne J Coady (currently the book in my purse, only a couple of chapters in)
2. Drowning Anna by Sue Mayfield. Finished October 31
3. Mental Traps: the Overthinker's Guide to a Happy Life by Andre Kukla (about half done, 124 pages of 240) Reading this in bits because I have to think about each of the traps.
4. Bizarre Books by Russell Ash. Finished December 10
5. Dry Store Room No. 1 by Richard Fortey. Finished December 28
6. Serious Things by Gregory Norminton. Finished November 8
7. Dead Men by Stephen Leather. Finished November 18
8. Slam by Nick Hornby. Finished May 22
9. The Unfree French: Life under the Occupation by Richard Vinen. (Beside the bed, currently 144 pages in) This one is a slower read than I'd thought. But still interesting.
10. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Finished October 31
11. Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay. Finished December 15
12.Stitch Me Deadly by Amanda Lee. Finished May 29


Alternates:
1. Lauchlin of the Bad Heart by D.R. MacDonald
2. Drivetime by James Meek


So not finished, but at least started on all of them and should finish them soon.

Just Grace Gets Crafty

Finished January 1
Just Grace Gets Crafty by Charise Maricle Harper

I hadn't read any of this series before, and really liked it. Grace is a happy girl that thinks of others often. She is genuinely interested in other people (empathy is her secret superpower), and can often see how people are feeling by looking at them. Then she wants to help.
Here, she likes a new assignment the substitute teacher gives at school, and she wants to help the new crossing guard find a friend.
The crafty part is helping for a fundraiser for her best friend's brother's preschool. But she is also wiley at figuring out how to help the people she is interested in helping.
This series is aimed at kids from 6-9, and has good boy characters as well as girls.

2014 Reading Summary

2014 Reading Summary



Here is the progress I made this year. I read a total of 200 books.

Authors
Male: 78
Female: 115
Multiple authors: 7

Sources
Library books: 85
Advance reading copies: 22
Netgalley: 9 (some of these I ended up reading the paper copy)

Audience
Adult: 174
Teen: 20
Children: 6

Formats:
Audiobook: 33
ebook: 5
Graphica: 4
book: 158

Content

Translated: 12

  • French: 4
  • German: 1
  • Italian: 2
  • Romanian: 1
  • Icelandic: 1
  • Norwegian: 1
  • Arabic: 1
  • Danish: 1

Fiction: 164
I also counted those that fit into some genres, not everything did, but some fit into multiple genres

  • Mystery: 47
  • Romance: 18
  • Historical: 33
  • Fantasy: 6
  • Science Fiction: 4
  • Short Stories: 7

Nonfiction: 36

  • Biography or memoir: 12
  • Drama: 1 (new category for me)
  • Poetry: 0 (oh dear, how did I not finish a poetry book!!)
  • Essays: 0 (another embarrassment)

Challenge books: For details on my challenge reading see my 2014 Challenge page or the individual posts for each challenge.
European Challenge: 16
What Animal Challenge: 24 (completed)
Around the World in 80 books: 71
Eclectic Reading Challenge: 10/12
Around the World in 12 books: 11 (oops, not quite there)
Colorful Challenge: 3 (not good at all)
Postal Reading Challenge: 3 (much worse than last year)
Global Reading Challenge: 17 (got Africa this year, but not Australasia or South America)
War Through the Generations Challenge: 13 (but missed the French and Indian War)
TBR Challenge (To Be Read): 9 (out of 12, much better than last year, and the other 3 are in progress)
What's in a Name Challenge: 6 (completed)
Chunkster Challenge: 13 (didn't make my target of 15)
Canadian Reading Challenge: 28 for the 7th year and 14 for the 8th (runs from July through June)