Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 Reading Summary

It`s been a great year of reading again. I didn`t read as many books as I planned, but I enjoyed the ones I read and indulged in some other hobbies.

I read 167 books.

Gender
The author gender was pretty balanced this year with 81 books by male authors, 80 books by female authors, and 4 books that had multiple authors encompassing both genders.

Source
I read 67 library books, 18 Advance Reading Copies, and 5 books through Netgalley. Because I'm not a real ebook fan, some of the Netgalley books I ended up reading the actual book as the ebook expired before I got around to it. The other 77 books I owned.

Audience
Definitely leaned towards the adult audience this year, with 157 books for adults, 5 for teens and 5 for children.

Format
Paper books predominated at 136. 28 were audiobooks, and 3 were ebooks.
13 of those paper books were graphica.

Translations
I read 11 translated books this year, translated from 7 different languages, 1 translated from Serbian, 1 from Turkish, 2 from German, 4 from French, 1 from Spanish, 1 from Dutch and 1 from Norwegian,

Content
130 books were Fiction and 37 nonfiction

Within Fiction I read 4 books of short stories; 32 that fell into the category of mystery, thriller or suspense; 28 historical fiction; 9 romance; 2 science fiction; and 10 fantasy. 18 of these books were part of a series.

Within Nonfiction I didn't read any poetry again this year, nor any plays. I did better with essays though, including 5 books of essays

Setting
Countries my reading has been set in: 28
I found this cool website that lets you map countries covered it came up with this graphic for me.
Countries new to me included Albania and Colombia.
Canadian coverage included Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and Alberta.


US states: I read books that contained settings in the following US states. This is a few more than the ones indicated in the Where Are You Reading Challenge as some books did more than one state and I picked the main state for the challenge.


I always try for a bunch of reading challenges, never making all, but enjoying the challenge and the opportunity to read beyond what I might have picked otherwise.

Challenges I completed:

1. 8th Annual Canadian Book Challenge. Completed in June at 26 books
2. What`s in a Name. Completed this in September.
3. Around the World in 12 Books Challenge. Completed in December
4. European Reading Challenge 2015. I completed the required 5 books in April, but ended with 10 by December
5. War Through the Generations Reading Challenge 2015. There was no particular war or goal this year, but I read 15 books on 6 wars.

Incomplete Challenges:
1. Where are You Reading 2015. I completed 27 states and D.C. I've decided to continue this challenge through 2016 to complete the remainder of the states.
2. The Eclectic Reading Challenge 2015. I completed 10 of the 12 categories.
3. The TBR Challenge. I completed 10 of the 12 books I said I would.
4. The Reading Assignment Challenge. I completed 33 of the 48 books.
5. Diverse Books Reading Challenge. I completed all but one of the posted challenges.
6. Chunkster Reading Challenge. I completed 13 of the 15 I aimed for, but none over the 750 page mark.
7. Reading Bingo. No bingos for me this year.
8. Monthly Key Word Challenge - I missed the words for two months
9. Global Reading Challenge - I only completed one continent

Continuing Challenges:
My current challenges are located here.
I am continuing several challenges
The 9th Annual Canadian Book Challenge began in July and continues until June 2016. I am presently at 15 books.
See my note above regarding the Where Are You Reading Challenge.
The A Century of Books Challenge got mostly forgotten. I only read 7 books, with the earliest being from 1972. I'm sure this will be over more than two years.
Gentle Spectrums Challenge goes until February 2016. I'm still short one category and several colourful books.
Monthly Mix-Up Mania goes until March 2017, and I'm into April now so doing okay.

I'll be adding some additional new challenges, but haven't finalized them yet.






Global Reading Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

Global Reading Challenge 2015 - Not Completed


I did the expert challenge, which is 3 books from each continent. Books must be fiction.
I only completed one continent, 
Africa
1. The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal. Finished November 26 (Egypt)
2.
3.
Asia
1. Sitt Marie Rose by Edel Adnan. Finished February 1 (Lebanon)
2. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Finished February 8 (Vietnam)
3.
Australasia/Oceania
1. The Full Ridiculous by Mark Lamprell. Finished February 8 (Australia)
2. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright. Finished August 22 (Queensland, Australia)
3.
Europe
1. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness. Finished January 22 (England)
2. The Sacred Cut by David Hewson. Finished January 25 (Italy)
3. Red Gold by Alan Furst. Finished April 26 (France)
North America
1. Enon by Paul Harding. Finished January 2 (United States)
2. The Long Way Home by Louise Penny. Finished January 22 (Canada)
3.
South America
1. Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra. Finished May 4 (Chile)
2.Nothing Like Love by Sabrina Ramnanan. Finished June 3 (Trinidad and Tobago)
3.
Seventh Continent
1. World War Z by Max Brooks (fantasy future). Finished April 21 (Fantasy future)
2. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. Finished October 11 (Fantasy past)
3.

Monthly Key Word Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

Monthly Key Word Challenge, hosted by Bookmark to Blog - Not Completed.

2015 Monthly Key Word Image
Rules:
Your task is to read one book each month whose title includes one or more of the key words for that month.
* The title you choose can be a variation on one of the key words. For example- your title could include the word 'snowing' or 'snowflake' even though the key word is 'snow.'
* Key words can be tweaked. For example- You could read "Cinder" or "Ashes" for the key word 'Fire' and that would be just fine. If the key word is 'family' then your title could include the word 'sister' or 'mother.'If the key word is 'food' then your title could include the word 'cake.'
I missed the words for August and October. 

MONTHLY KEY WORDS:

JAN- Bird, Girl, Ever, Silence, Bad, Truth, End    
    The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness. Finished January 23
FEB- Key, Water, Lie, Chase, Heir, Once  
     I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson. Finished February 16 (water)
     Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri. Finished February 20 (once and lie)
     Heir of the Dog by Judi McCoy. Finished February 22 (heir)
     Chase by Dean Koontz. Finished February 26 (chase)
MAR- Kind, Face, Power, City, Blue, Night, To
     Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews. Finished March 28 (night)
APR- Dream, Prince, Long, Wind, Rose, The, Rock
     Dream Days by Kenneth Grahame. Finished April 30 (dream)
MAY- Ash, Road, Thief, Bend, In, Far
     Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner. Finished May 7 (road)
     The Road Taken by Michael Buerk. Finished May 30 (road)
JUN- My, Together, Whisper, Win, Soul, Sleep
     Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer. Finished June 7 (my)
JUL- Sun, Unto, Energy, Fate, High, Look
     On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz. Finished July 31 (Look)
AUG- Fall, Boy, Glass, Heart, Lost, Now
     Did not complete
SEP- Color, Touch, Life, Day, How, Sweet
     Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley. Finished September 27
OCT- Ghost, Home, Beach, Away, Test, Number
    Did not complete
NOV- Rise, Holiday, And, Little, Call, Dark
     Calls Across the Pacific by Zoe S. Roy. Finished November 30


DEC- Space, Mirror, Over, Flower, Trap, Cold
     Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. Finished December 21 (over)

Reading Bingo 2015 Wrap-Up

Reading Bingo 2015 - Not Completed
Always a fun game. Thanks to Random House Canada for this. No bingos for me this year.
I think the lack of lists for some squares was one issue, but the one for L.M. Montgomery was a challenge as I've read most of her books.


Squares
* A Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominated Novel
* A Book Set on the East Coast
* A Canada Reads Nominated Book
* A Book of Poetry by a Canadian Poet
* A Book That Was Featured on Canada AM
     As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley. Finished January 31
* A Scotiabank Giller Prize Winning Novel
* A Book Set in the Prairies
     The Road is How by Trevor Herriot. Finished August 6
* A Work of Non-Fiction by a Canadian Author
     Happy City by Charles Montgomery. Finished November 1
* A Book about a Canadian Sports Team
* A Biography or Autobiography of a Canadian Celebrity
* A Book by a Canadian Author (but not Margaret Atwood)
     Remembrance by Alistair MacLeod. Finished February 27
* A Book Set in Toronto
     Gently Down the Stream by Ray Robertson. Finished January 31
* A Book by Alice Munro
* A Book that Appears in #CANLIT
     The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes. Finished April 18
     Link to #CANLIT appearance
* A Book by Margaret Atwood
     Strange Things by Margaret Atwood. Finished November 29
* A Book by an Aboriginal Author
     Keeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese. Finished January 11
* A Governor General's Award Nominated Novel
* A Canadian Novel That Was Adapted for Screen (TV/Movie)
* A Book with Snow on the Cover
* A Book Set in British Columbia
* A Book Recommended by CBC
* A Mystery or Thriller by a Canadian Author
     The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny. Finished October 4
* A Book with a Red and White Cover
     All Saints by K.D. Miller. Finished May 20
* A Book by L.M. Montgomery

Chunkster Reading Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

Chunkster Reading Challenge - Not Completed.



I tried for the same level as last year since I nearly made it, but didn't manage it.
The goal was 15 chunksters, with at least 3 over 750 pages. I had 13 chunksters, but none over 750 pages. 
A chunkster is a book 450 pages or more.
This challenge is hosted here

1. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Finished February 8 (598 pages)
2. Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Finished February 22 (480 pages)
3. The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello. Finished March 7 (495 pages)
4. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. Finished March 27 (620 pages)
5. A Jury of Her Peers by Elaine Showalter. Finished April 13 (679 pages)
6. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. Finished June 13 (599 pages)
7. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Finished July 15 (562 pages)
8. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright. Finished August 22 (528 pages)
9. Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley. Finished September 27 (688 pages)
10. Clockwork Angel  by Cassandra Clare. Finished October 11 (479 pages)
11. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. Finished October 13 (502 pages)
12. A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George. Finished December 9 (592 pages, although I read the audiobook which was 18 discs)


13. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Finished December 15 (570 pages)

War Through the Generations Reading Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

War Through the Generations Reading Challenge - Completed


This year I can include books about any war. No levels for the year. I read nine involving WWII, two for the US Civil War, and one each for WWI, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and the Lebanese Civil War.



1. Sitt Marie Rose by Etel Adnan. Finished February 1. [Lebanese Civil War]
2. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Finished February 8 [Vietnam War]
3. Remembrance by Alistair MacLeod. Finished February 26 [World War II]
4. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Finished March 16 [World War I]
5. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Finished March 17 [World War II]
6. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. Finished April 12 (Iraq War)
7. Red Gold by Alan Furst. Finished April 26 [World War II]
8. Neverhome by Laird Hunt. Finished April 26 [U.S. Civil War]
9. Uncertain Soldier by Karen Bass. Finished August 8 [World War II]
10. Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin. Finished August 28 [World War II]
11. The Eye of the Day by Dennison Smith. Finished August 31 [World War II]
12. Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green. Finished September 4 [U.S. Civil War]
13. Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews. Finished September 24 [World War II]
14. Götz and Meyer by David AlbahariFinished December 26 [World War II]
15. Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. Finished December 31 [World War II]

We Read Diverse Books Reading Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

We Read Diverse Books Reading Challenge - Not Completed


This one posted a different challenge each month. I missed the challenge for June, and the challenge host disappeared towards the end of the year, not posting challenges for October, November, or December.

For January, the challenge is to read a book by and about someone of a different race.
I read Keeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese. He is a native Canadian and this book is about a young native Anishanabe man discovering his culture. 

For February, the challenge is:
Let's take a look at people with conditions that have no obvious outward symptoms, the ones they don't ask for, that nobody else can see, but which affect their behaviour in ways that other people find puzzling, incomprehensible, or even offensive. I am talking about things like autism, Alzheimer's, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, depression. That list is not meant to be exhaustive but I hope you get the idea. As usual, your challenge is to find novels or memoirs about and preferably by people who have one of these conditions (and different from yours, if you have one) and walk a mile in someone else's shoes. Extra bragging points if the person in question is also a person of colour.
I read Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. Her character suffers a traumatic brain injury resulting in a condition known as left neglect.

March's challenge will take us to one of the most discussed diversity categories of recent times: sexual orientation. Go out and read something in the LGBT range, something about and by someone who is different than you. The host asked a favour of people posting recommendations here: no erotica please.
I read The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. The novel has a central relationship between two women at a time in history where such a relationship was taboo.

April's challenge is to read a book in another language, either in the original or in translation. My language skills aren't great. so I'll be reading something in translation.
I read Wonder by Dominique Fortier, translated by Sheila Fischman.

For May: The challenge is to read a novel or memoir about someone of a different generation. Aim for a good thirty-year difference, more is better. Of course, there are no authorities to answer to in this challenge, but a novel that covers an entire life would be cheating a bit. Find something that will make you spend the entire reading time in a head much younger or older than yours. And, as always, if the central character can be of a different race, religion, culture, orientation, or whatever, so much the better. I read Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner, where the main part of the story is the experiences of a 12-year-old boy.

For JuneThis month we will be looking for books that deal with visible disabilities or deformities, the kind that people know you have as soon as they meet you. So go read a novel or a memoir about (and if possible, by) someone in a wheelchair, amputees, people suffering from blindness, Down's Syndrome, any kind of facial or physical deformity or any other highly visible condition.
I didn't read a book for this month's challenge.

For JulyThis month the challenge is to read a book that takes place in a different time. We're keeping it real this month, so that means the past. You can read historical novels written recently, or memoirs or novels that were actually written in the past. The latter are probably better, because the point of the exercise is to understand the mentality of people in a different era. We so often judge the past by present-day standards without stopping to consider that people grew up in a different framework. I read The Education of Audie Merasty, a memoir of a residential school survivor.

For August:  The challenge is to read a book by an author of a different religion. The book should deal with what it means to believe in or belong to that particular religion, although it doesn't have to be the central theme of the story, just something essential to it. I read Last Train to Istanbul,  whose main characters are Muslim and Jewish.

For September, the challenge is to read a novel or memoir that takes place in a country other than the one you live in. But that alone is too easy, so it also has to take place in a country you have never read about before. And it has to be reasonably contemporary, within the last 20 years. I read The Robber of Memories by Michael Jacobs, which is a memoir about a journey in Colombia. 

For October, November, and December no challenges were posted.

2015 Reading Assignment Challenge Wrap-Up

Reading Assignment Challenge - Not Completed

Because Reading is better than real life
This challenge has you read specific books spread out over the course of the year. I chose level 5 which means that I intended to read 4 books a month from my preset list. I was allowed 4 credits to read an extra book from the list in any given month, and 1 pass to not make the reading goal for a particular month. I started off well, meeting my challenge for the first 3 months, but began to drop off then, reading only 3 books in April, May, June, July, and August. September and October I only completed one book each month, and went back up to two books for the months of November and December.for a total of 33 of the 48. 

1. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness. Finished January 22
2. The Sacred Cut by David Hewson. Finished January 25
3. Gently Down the Stream by Ray Robertson. Finished January 31
4. Clown Girl by Monica Drake. Finished January 31
5. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Finished February 8
6. I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson. Finished February 16
7. Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Finished February 22
8. Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. Finished February 25
9. How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall. Finished March 16
10. The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard. Finished March 19
11. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. Finished March 27
12. The Wild Things by Dave Eggers. Finished March 31
13. A Jury of Her Peers by Elaine Showalter. Finished April 13
14. The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes. Finished April 18
15. The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker. Finished April 28
16. Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich. Finished May 7
17. The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin. Finished May 12
18. The Road Taken by Michael  Buerk. Finished May 30


19. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. Finished June 13
20. The Wilding by Benjamin Perry. Finished June 17
21. The Cry of the Sloth by Sam Savage. Finished June 29
22. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. Finished July 1
23. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Finished July 15
24. Burned Alive by Souad. Finished July 18
25. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright. Finished August 22
26. Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin. Finished August 28
27. The Eye of the Day by Dennison Smith. Finished August 31
28. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. Finished September 3
29. The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Rempel. Finished October 22
30. Happy City by Charles Montgomery. Finished November 1
31. The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal. Finished November 26
32. Pack Up the Moon by Rachael Herron. Finished December 27
33. Biografi by Lloyd Jones. Finished December 29

TBR Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

TBR Challenge 2015 - Not Completed

This challenge was to read 12 books over the year, doesn't matter when. All the books had to have been on my shelves for at least a year. I used mine in the Reading Assignment Challenge as well, hoping that will motivate me further. Again rereads were not allowed.

1. The Sacred Cut by David Hewson. Finished January 25
2. Gently Down the Stream by Ray Robertson. Finished January 31
3. A House on the Heights by Truman Capote. Finished January 31
4. Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Finished February 22
5. The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin. Finished May 12
6. The Road Taken by Michael Buerk. Finished May 30
7. Burned Alive by Souad. Finished July 18
8. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright. Finished August 22
9. The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Rempel. Finished October 22
10. Biografi by Lloyd Jones. Finished December 29



I completed 10 of the 12, better than some years.

The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

The Eclectic Reader Challenge - Not completed


This challenge tries to get you to read outside your normal genres. There are 12 categories and you have to do a book from each of them. I missed two of them, starting a science fiction book set in space, but not finishing it by year end. 


  1. Retellings (of fairytale, legends or myth)
    The Wild Things by Dave Eggers. Finished March 31.
  2.  A book set in a country starting with the letter S (eg. Sweden, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Slovakia)
    Götz and Meyer by David Albahari. Finished December 26
  3.  PI Crime (fiction featuring a private investigator)
    Make Me by Lee Child. Finished November 18
  4.  A novel published before you were born
    Dream Days by Kenneth Grahame. Finished April 30 (originally published 1898)
  5. Contemporary romance
    Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley. Finished September 27
  6. Fiction for foodies (fiction featuring food/food related business)
    The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. Finished July 1
  7. Microhistory (Non Fiction)
    The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin. Finished May 12
  8. Science Fiction set in space Not Finished (read part of The January Dancer by Michael Flynn)
  9. Sports (Fiction or Non fiction) 
    Not Finished
  10. Featuring diversity
    Carpentaria by Alexis Wright. Finished August 22
  11. Epistolary Fiction (fiction written in the format of letters/emails/diary entries)
    The Cry of the Sloth by Sam Savage. Finished June 29
  12. Middle Grade/YA Adventure
    Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Finished February 22.

Where Are You Reading Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up and Re-Challenge for 2016

Where Are You Reading Challenge

Where Are You Reading
The challenge is to read books from all 50 states, plus I've added D.C. as well. This can be extended outside of the US, but I kept it there. I finished slightly more than half at DC and 27 states. I plan to continue this challenge for 2016 to finish it off. 

Finished in 2015:
1. Massachusetts: Enon by Paul Harding. Finished January 1
2. New York: A House on the Heights by Truman Capote. Finished January 31
3. Wisconsin: Shoot the Lawyer Twice by Michael A Bowen. Finished February 7
4. Washington, D.C.: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. Finished February 25
5. Alaska: The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello. Finished March 7
6. California: Frameshift by Robert J. Sawyer. Finished March 14
7. Florida: Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews. Finished March 28
8. Maryland: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. Finished April 10
9. Texas: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. Finished April 12
10. Vermont: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian. Finished April 27
11. Illinois: C.O.W.L Volume 1 Principles of Power by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis. Finished May 4
12. Pennsylvania: Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner. Finished May 7
13. Minnesota: Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich. Finished May 7
14. Utah: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. Finished June 13
15. Oregon: The Wilding by Benjamin Perry. Finished June 17
16. Kentucky: Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy. Finished July 7
17. New Jersey: Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight. Finished July 20
18. New Hampshire: The Arsonist by Sue Miller. Finished August 9
19. Georgia: Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green. Finished September 4
20. Connecticut: The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine. Finished September 21
21. Colorado: Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley. Finished September 27
22. Missouri: The Ragtime Fool by Larry Karp. Finished October 5
23. Iowa: Early Warning by Jane Smiley. Finished October 18
24. Maine: The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron. Finished November 10
25. Oklahoma: Make Me by Lee Child. Finished November 18
26. Montana: The Wild Inside by Christine Carbo. Finished December 5
27. North Carolina: Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. Finished December 21
28. Tennessee: We Were Brothers by Barry Moser. Finished December 31



Challenge for 2016:
1. Alabama:
2. Arizona: 
3. Arkansas:
4. Delaware: 
5. Hawaii: 
6. Idaho: 
7. Indiana: 
8. Kansas: 
9. Louisiana: 
10. Michigan: 
11. Mississippi
12. Nebraska
13. Nevada
14. New Mexico
15. North Dakota
16. Ohio
17. Rhode Island
18. South Carolina
19. South Dakota
20. Virginia
21. Washington
22. West Virginia
23. Wyoming

Austerlitz

Finished December 31
Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

This is another unusual novel. Despite being over 400 pages, there are no chapters or even paragraphs to provide a natural stopping point when reading. The story is told by an unnamed narrator, and covers many years beginning in 1967 when he meets Jacques Austerlitz in Antwerp. The two strike up an acquaintance and meet several times again over the years.
In the early meetings they discuss architecture (Austerlitz is an architectural historian) and other impersonal subjects, but later Austerlitz begins to tell his story. He was raised in Wales by foster parents who gave him a new name and never discussed his history, but when his foster father dies while he is away at boarding school he is told his real name and reverts to it following school. He is mentored by one of his teachers and does well, and it is only after a sort of breakdown that he allows himself to investigate his past, discovering that he was sent to England in 1939 from the Czech Republic on a Kindertransport at the age of four. He gradually traces his parents back to their disappearances during the war, undergoing a couple more mental breakdowns as he does so.
This story then is a story of listening to someone else tell his story, and the reader is reminded of that many times. There are also many photographs and drawings throughout the book, each relating to the text where it occurs in some ways, but unattributed and undescribed specifically. Some are referred to in the text, but not all. This begins to make the book seem more than a novel, bringing in elements of memoir, and travel.

European Reading Challenge 2015 Wrap-Up

European Reading 2015 Challenge Completed

This one is to read books that are either set in or written by authors from different European countries. It could include fiction and nonfiction. There are 50 possibilities, and my level had to read at least 5.
I was happy to have included some less mainstream countries this year.

1. The Sacred Cut by David Hewson. Finished January 25 (Italy)
2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Finished February 16 (England)
3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Finished March 17 (France)
4. The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes. Finished April 18 (Hungary)
5. The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker. Finished April 28 (Netherlands)
6. The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart. Finished May 17 (Ireland)
7. The Ice Queen by Nele Neuhaus. Finished July 17 (Germany)
8. Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin. Finished August 28 (Turkey)


9. Götz and Meyer by David Albahari. Finished December 26 (Serbia)
10. Biografi by Lloyd Jones. Finished December 29 (Albania)

There were other books that moved around Europe, but weren't predominantly set in a particular country that I didn't include in the this challenge. 

Around the World in 12 Books Challenge Wrap-Up

Around the World in 12 Books Challenge Completed

around the world 2014  

This challenge is around the setting. The 12 books had to be set in 12 different countries. Extra points for hitting all continents. (I hit North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, only missing Antarctica). The setting had to be important to the book, Books could include fiction and nonfiction. Rereads were not allowed.

1. A House on the Heights by Truman Capote. Finished January 31 [Brooklyn Heights, NY]
2. Sitt Marie Rose by Etel Adnan. Finished February 1 [Beirut, Lebanon]
3. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Finished February 8 [Vietnam]
4. The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker. Finished April 28 [Netherlands]
5. The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart. Finished May 17 [Ireland]
6. Nothing Like Love by Sabrina Ramnanan. Finished June 3 [Trinidad and Tobago]
7. The Road Is How by Trevor Herriot. Finished August 6 [Saskatchewan, Canada]
8. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright. Finished August 22 [Australia]
9. The Robber of Memories by Michael Jacobs. Finished September 2 [Colombia]
10. The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal. Finished November 26 [Egypt]
11. Götz and Meyer by David Albahari. Finished December 26 [Serbia]
12. Biografi by Lloyd Jones. Finished December 29 [Albania]




We Were Brothers

Finished December 31
We Were Brothers by Barry Moser

This memoir outlines Barry`s difficult relationship with his older brother Tommy. The boys father died when they were very young and they were brought up by their mother and stepfather in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The environment was one of racial segregation and while Barry began questioning it after witnessing a reaction to a KKK parade down his street, Tommy wasn`t present and gave Barry the impression that his attitude was more in line with the environment they`d been raised in.
Barry made a life for himself in the north, and Tommy and him continued to grow apart. It is only in the last few years they had together that they managed to bridge their differences and grow close.
This is a story of a certain time and place, and Barry takes us through the immediate family members, friends, school days, and his own defining moments, It is a story of brothers, never close as children, with a divisive history, that found their way to a better relationship later in life.
Barry acknowledges that this is his memoir, based on his memories, and that other people present, including his brother would have a different story.
Throughout the book are drawing of people and placed by Barry.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Biografi

Finished December 29
Biografi by Lloyd Jones

This was a very unusual novel, a combination of a travel and history book set around a fictional character. The character is Petar Shapallo, a village dentist who was drafted from his home, life, and family to become the double for Albania's Great Leader, Enver Hoxha. Working from the rumour of such a man, Jones uses his own travels in Albania in the early 1990s and the real encounters he had with victims of the regime, both in Albania and out, remnants of the old order, and westerners with interests there, charitable or commercial.
Jones really did spend six weeks in Albania in late 1991 with photographer Bruce Foster, and he met and interviewed many people. One detail of the regime that struck him was the extensive record keeping. Every citizen had a `biografi` that detailed his life and his relations. These files were maintained by the secret police, and they were sometimes falsified to fit official positions. Over time, the term biografi came to be associated with the falsification.
Jones changed the names of some of the characters in the book and used only first names for others to protect them as the situation in Albania was still fluid.
He portrays the poverty, the waste of lives, and the remaining hope well, showing the outcome of a isolated country that suddenly becomes more connected. A fascinating read.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

What Lies Within

Finished December 29
What Lies Within by Tom Vowler

This first novel is one of secrets and lies by omission. Anna was an eager young schoolteacher, convinced that if she just took the time, she could break through the resistance of her more difficult students and get them to appreciate literature.
When one of them breaks through her resistance in a different way, she withdraws completely, ending up going back to her childhood home, taking refuge with her parents and long walks on the moors. It is on the moors that she finds a way forward, and chance brings her to a job assisting a potter, giving her a new profession. She has made a name for herself in her art, and is now bringing in decent money.
But then a face from her past reappears, and she finds herself looking over her shoulder. When the presence becomes insistent, she finds the will to push back, but will it be enough? Must she find a way to tell her secrets and begin anew.
This book speaks to shame and the lies told to hide that shame. It speaks to the long reach of traumatic events. It also brings in the healing power of nature, and its influence on a person in subtle yet important ways.
Told mostly from Anna's point of view, there are also chapters from the view of other characters, that bring additional information.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Pack Up the Moon

Finished December 27
Pack Up the Moon by Rachael Herron

The title for this novel was taken from the poem "Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden. The main story takes place within a short time period in the late spring of 2014, but there are flashbacks to earlier times. Kate Monroe is a painter, and the book begins with a showing of her work, the first since her son's death 3 years earlier. Kate's son Robin was dying from cancer, but he died from carbon monoxide poisoning, in her car, in their garage, with his father Nolan at the wheel.
Nolan went to jail for that, and has been slowly rebuilding his life.
Kate has another secret, she had another child. When her daughter Pree shows up at Kate's art show she is stunned, and doesn't know how to react. What should she tell Pree, What should she tell Nolan. What should she tell herself. As the voice of the novel rotates between Kate, Nolan, and Pree, we find out their stories,
This is a story of love, a story of loss, and a story of family. Nolan always thought that Kate was the most honest person he knew, but she has secrets she hasn't even told herself. Each character has issues that they are struggling with, and the reader walks with them through those issues.

Götz and Meyer

Finished December 26
Götz and Meyer by David Albahari, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać

This short novel is told from the view of a teacher, a man whose immediate family were some of the few Serbian Jews to survive the Second World War.
He tells the story of the fate of many Belgrade Jews, who were first interned at the Fairgrounds, and then taken by truck to their death. When leaving the Fairgrounds, they were told they were being transported to another camp in Poland or Romania, and the local Jewish Administration was even given the rules of the new camp to flesh out the story. In reality, shortly after leaving the camp, the two drivers, brought from Germany, Götz and Meyer, stopped and attached the exhaust to a spot in the floor of the truck and drove their route while the Jews in the back died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The unnamed teacher survived because his mother had taken him to live in a small village in the mountains, and his father survived in a POW camp. But he is consumed by the story of the Jews, many of his relatives among them, and has researched their story and dug into the identities of those involved. About Götz and Meyer he doesn't know much beyond their names, and his story reveals their interchangeability.
As his students study history, he rents a bus and takes them on the same journey, first to the Fairgrounds, then onward as he gives them an identity to imagine and become for the trip. Imaginative and consuming this novel makes the victims come alive, as well as the two young soldiers who drove the truck.
I found the book difficult for its subject matter and its format, which is just one long paragraph. I felt myself needing to take breaks, but without any natural spot to stop. The author is Serbian, but has lived in Canada since the mid-1990s.