Saturday 31 March 2007

A Romance

Finished March 29
The Edge of Winter by Luanne Rice
Mickey Halloran lives near the beach in Rhode Island, with her mother Neve, and loves the nearby wildlife sanctuary. She is particularly taken by a sight of a snowy owl. Her best friend, Jenna, is started to be interested in a boyfriend and is growing away from her. Her father, Richard, is having issues of his own and has stopped paying child support.
When Mickey meets Shane West, they discover a common love of wildlife. Shane also lives with his mother as his father died when he was a toddler.
The local ranger, Tim O'Casey, loves the wildlife refuge he works to protect. His estranged father, Joe, helps injured birds recover.
Together, the characters come together to fight for the protection of the refuge and the World War II German submarine sunk off its coast.
Interesting situations, with good character growth.

Wednesday 28 March 2007

Three works of fiction

Finished March 28
Death Comes For the Fat Man by Reginald Hill
The latest in the Dalziel and Pascoe series brings in the element of terrorism. When a police officer thinks he's seen a gun in a video shop, assistance is called in. Dalziel is on duty and Pascoe is called from home in case it is a hostage situation where his negotiation skills might be needed. When the shop explodes, Dalziel is hit badly, but Pascoe has less severe injuries. With Dalziel in a coma, Pascoe is determined to find out what was behind it, but sees intrigue and suspects everywhere. The existence of an anti-Arab group called The Templars that may have support in high places adds more danger to his search for answers. This is a real pageturner.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
Read by Simon Pebble, 10 CDs
I've been listening to this one on my commute. The first in Fforde's Nursery Crime series, this book introduces Jack Spratt and Mary Mary in their first adventure, searching for the cause of Humpty Dumpty's death. Fforde's imagination inspires so many twists and nursery elements and characters that the listener is spellbound. I love his sense of humour and both his outrageous and subtle uses of allusion and farce. From Prometheus to Willie Winkie, this book will keep you guessing and laughing right until the end.

David Golder by Irene Nemirovsky
Translated by Sandra Smith
This 1929 second novel by Nemirovsky was lauded at the time of its initial publication. The author based the work partly on her own experiences and knowledge of the financial world. The main character is a Jewish financier, disregarded by his wife and valued only for his gifts of money by his daughter. He does not have any remorse for those in need and refuses to help his partner when he comes to him for help. As he fights for his business to survive in a difficult economic time, he also finds that the strain has undermined his health. He has to decide how he really feels about those closest to him and what this means for him in terms of actions.

Saturday 24 March 2007

Two Novels

Finished March 23
18 Seconds by George D. Shuman
This first novel is a good thriller. One of the main characters is Sherry Moore. Sherry is blind and has the ability to see the last 18 seconds of someone's thoughts in image form by touching them after death. Sherry is an orphan, found at the bottom of hospital steps in winter, almost frozen to death and with a skull fracture as a preschooler. She has no real memory of her past, just a couple of images. Her skill was discovered by accident and she now makes money by answering private requests for her skill. She also occasionally works with police, but the supernatural nature of her power dissuades this. She is friends with John Payne, the first policeman to discover her power.
Serial killer Earl Sykes has been released on parole after 30 years in jail for vehicular homicide. His serial killer past is not what put him in jail. He is dying of cancer, likely contracted by growing up near a toxic waste dump in New Jersey and playing there as a young person. He wants to find his old girlfriend to make sure she doesn't talk about his past. He moves back to his hometown and resumes killing.
Local police lieutenant Kelly O'Shaunessy is trying to find young women who've gone missing in suspicious circumstances. These three storylines come together for a dramatic plot.

Finished March 21
The Dressmaker by Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck
Claude Reynaud is a dressmaker living in a small town outside of Paris. He grew up being trained in his career by his father, and has the uncanny ability to take his clients' measurements by looking at them, is a great judge of the right look for his clients, and fashions every dress by hand. He has grown in popularity and now has fashionable clients from Paris who come to him for special events such as weddings. One day, the bride-to-be Valentine de Verlay comes to him for her wedding dress and he finds himself falling for her. He has difficulty keeping the relationship professional and thinks she may have feelings for him too.
Meanwhile he remains close to his nephews who stop in his shop after school, where he does a puppet show for the younger ones and encourages the older to enhance his drawing skills and perhaps follow in his footsteps. The plot is unpredictable and interesting, but I found the characters lacked depth.

Tuesday 20 March 2007

Two quick reads

Finished March 19
Living with Books by Alan Powers
This examination of books as decorative elements in homes provides some interesting ideas for book storage. It is divided into different types of room from home offices to bathrooms, and I got some ideas from it. I preferred the quirky to the traditional. It would have been nice to see more addressing small spaces as I have lots of books and a small house.

The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson
This short novel examines the last few days in the life of Ambrose Zephyr, who discovers that his is fatally ill and has less than a month to live. On the spur of the moment, he decides to travel to places in alphabetical order, with his wife, Zappora (Zipper) Ashkenazi, beginning with Amsterdam. The novel addresses the relationship between the two of them, their best friends, their careers, and their emotions facing this sudden crisis. A moving account.

Monday 19 March 2007

2 Novels

Finished March 19
I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes by Jaclyn Moriarty
This fascinating look at a family and its "secret" is set in Sydney, Australia. The Zing family is a busy one. Marbie has just moved in with her boyfriend, Vernon, and his younger sister, Listen. She is worried that everything is so wonderful that something must go wrong.Fancy, a writer of erotic fiction, lives with her husband Radcliffe and their exuberant seven-year old, Cassie. Fancy writes a lot of notes to Cassie's teacher, often unnecessarily.The family meets every Friday night at the home of Marbie and Fancy's parents. The meeting about the family secret takes place in the backyard shed. Cassie is too young to participate, and Listen stays in the house watching movies with her.The point of view switches around between Marbie, Fancy, Listen, and Cath Taylor, Cassie's teacher. Much is going on: affairs, spells, projects, many of which we only partially understand. Then there is Fancy's Canadian neighbor. All of it adds up to confusion and self-realization.A good one.

Finished March 18
A Stain on the Silence by Andrew Taylor
This psychological thriller is typical of Andrew Taylor. James receives a call from his past one day. Lily Murthington, the stepmother of his best friend as a teenage, whom he had an affair with at the age of seventeen wants him to call. She is dying and wants him to look after her daughter, Kate, who she says is also his daughter.There is much more to his past relationship with the Murthingtons, with his friend Carlo, his sister Felicity, their father Hugh, and Lily than he is prepared to deal with. He agrees unhappily to help Kate, who believes that she is under suspicion for the murder of her boyfriend, whom she says Carlo has killed. As James becomes more deeply involved, and discovers lies, deceits, and as his wife becomes suspicious of events, things get more and more complicated. In the end, you are not really sure what happens to the characters. No happy endings.

Friday 16 March 2007

A couple of Audiobooks and one novel

Finished March 16
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
3 CDs unabridged, read by Laural Merlington
The is the story of Odysseus's wife Penelope from her point of view, speaking from Hades. Atwood has drawn on several sources to get the information she bases this story on, including the Odyssey. Penelope's story is, of course, quite different than that of her husbands. She tried to run the estates well during his absence, but as it dragged on and the suitors started to arrive, she was unable to protect the livestock, goods, or servants. She uses twelve of the youngest maidens to help her find out the suitors' plans, and they act as both her spies and her assistants in the unravelling of the shroud she is weaving. They are the maidens that Odysseus kills when he returns home, and they act as the chorus in the book. Atwood weaves a lot of current issues into the story and does it in a very natural way.
I found the audio very engaging, and the chorus particularly so.

Finished March 15
Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
A fascinating book that keeps you guessing until the end.
Laurel Estabrook was attacked while biking on a forest road one weekend in her sophmore year, changing her life forever. She returns to college in the next term, swims instead of bikes, withdraws from her former social life and turns to photography and begins to work at a homeless shelter. She is drawn to older men as boyfriends.
When a former client of the Burlington, Vermont homeless shelter, BEDS, dies, a bag of photographs and negatives are the only real possessions of value he had. Laurel, who works at BEDS is asked to look through them. Bobbie Crocker had a history of mental illness and had many stories to tell, not all of which were believed. His photos show that he had worked with famous people like Robert Frost, Flip Wilson and Eartha Kitt. How do Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby fit into the story? Laurel believes that she has found deeply hidden family secrets in his photographs and is determined to follow them to the truth, despite the concerns of those around her.

Finished March 13
Hole in One by Catherine Aird
6 CDs, unabridged, Read by Bruce Montague.
In usual Aird fashion this book immerses the reader into the world of the moment, in this case, golf. Inspector Sloan is called out to the golf club by Inspector Lees when the female twosome playing in front of Lees discovers a body buried in the bunker behind the sixth hole. The face is damaged, and it is not immediately known who is dead. Why takes even longer. Sloan must discover who may have had access, when the body might have been placed in the bunker, and why they might have been killed. Another body turns up, and for this one the motive is more obvious, but who is behind it all causes Sloan to look to his own past.

Tuesday 13 March 2007

A rush to finish one of these

Finished March 13
GraceLand by Chris Abani
Set in Nigeria this story of Elvis Oke jumps back and forth from his life in Lagos in 1983 and his life in a small village in the 1970s and early 1980s. Elvis got his name from his mother's favourite singer. His mother, Beatrice, died when he was a child and he was raised by his father, Sunday and grandmother, Oye. He was also close to his aunt Felicia. After an upset in a local election, his father moved with him to Lagos, where they lived in a ghetto. Elvis has dropped out of school and tried to earn a living by dancing. He is deeply unhappy and carries his mother's journal with him everywhere, reading it to console himself. He makes some friends, not all of whom, it would seem, have his best interests at heart. He gives to those more impoverished than himself and tries to do the right thing. This is a difficult story of a young man living in a military dictatorship and who doesn't really understand "the system".
The author is also from Nigeria and published his first novel when he was 16, a move that resulted in political persecution. He went into exile in 1991.

Finished March 12
Dieting Causes Brain Damage: How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind
by Bradley Trevor Greive
This photobook offers animal pictures with captions to encourage the reader to move toward weight loss. The pictures are gorgeous and the words helpful. I really enjoyed it as a light and uplifting read. I especially like the picture about how women are led to think they should look like alien-headed supermodels. Priceless.

Sunday 11 March 2007

More good reads

Finished March 11
Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky
This novel begins with an interesting premise, a white couple has a baby who shows African-American features. The father, Hugh, is a blueblood with a family tree traced back several generations. His father, Eaton, is a historian who has just written a personal history book. The mother, Dana, who was born to a single mother who died when she was five, doesn't know her father's background and feel impelled to trace him. As the parents are influenced by family prejudice and have trust issues with each other, they reexamine their values and beliefs.
Dana's grandmother, who raised her runs a knitting store and Dana feels comfort and support there, both from the staff and the patrons.
The questions that arise, about whether those with liberal beliefs change when it becomes personal, about how to answer questions about the baby's colour, and about trust and responsibilities between people who care about each other.

Finished March 10
Treading Water by Anne DeGrace
This Canadian first novel has interesting characters and plot. Taking place in the fictional community of Bear Creek in the mountains of B.C. the plot moves from the late 1800s to the present. The first settlers in the community are Mennonites from Manitoba, moving to where they hope to find an easier land to make a living in. Other early settlers include a trapper, and men working riverboats. There is some interaction with local native people, not all positive. The first child born in the community, Ursula is followed through the book. There are some inconsistencies, such as when Ursula is 16 and in her last year of school, other students included in the class are described and include boys who were young when she was born, so some editing would have elped here. Eventually the community is bought out by the government when a hydro project will flood the area.
Part of why I was drawn to read this was that I lived in Hudson Hope, B.C. as a young child when they were building the dam there.
The characters are memorable and several of them are portrayed in more than one time period, but I would have liked to see greater depth to some of them. I will look forward to the author's next offering.

Finished March 8
Invitation to Provence by Elizabeth Adler
I'd classify this one as suspense/romance. I listened to the unabridged book in my car (getting a lot listened to Monday evening when I was stuck in a traffic jam getting home!) The plot does force one to suspend disbelief just a tad due to the close calls, and romantic encounters. But it was a nice light read. The heroine, Franny Martin is a veterinarian who worked hard to put herself through school after her father died when she was 17. Going to meet her long-distance boyfriend after work one night, she finds herself met by his soon-t0-be-ex-wife instead. Amazing the two get along quite well and become best friends. Meanwhile, Franny's estranged great aunt in France, who Franny isn't even aware of, decides to reunite all her family. Taking place in Provence, the Cote D'Azur, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, the family meetings the invitations lead does brings murder, discover, arson, and romance.

Wednesday 7 March 2007

A Great Nonfiction book

Finished March 7
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
This was a great read. It had a lot of very interesting information about how our minds work and communicated the information in a very conversational manner. There was also humour in it Gilbert explains how our minds allow us to be bad at predicting future happiness or unhappiness as well as reflecting on our past emotions. He refers to scientific studies, but not in a dry way. The book is split into six parts: Prospection, Subjectivity, Realism, Presentism, Rationalization, and Corrigibility. I found it fascinating to see how our minds work and how they fool us into believing things are other than they really are.

Monday 5 March 2007

Random Reading List

I got this meme from Maggie at Maggie Reads, who got it from Amy at The Sleepy Reader. I thought it was fun, and decided to post it here for my readers.

A Random Reading List Meme
Look at the list of books below:* Color green the ones you’ve read.* Italicize the ones you want to read.* Color red the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole.* Put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf.* Place an asterisk (*) in front of the ones you’ve never heard of.
1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. +Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. +The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. +The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. +The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. +Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. +Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. +The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. +The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. +Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. +Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. +The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. +Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. +Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. +1984 (Orwell)
35. +The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. +The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. +Bible (I've read various bits, but not the whole thing)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. +The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. +The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. +The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. +War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. +Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. +Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. +The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. +The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. +A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On the Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. *Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. +Emma (Jane Austen)
86. +Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. +Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. +The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. +The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. +Ulysses (James Joyce)

Sunday 4 March 2007

Finished a few books since Thursday

Finished Sunday, Mar 4
Specialty Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
This is a fascinating first novel.
Blue van Meer writes of her senior year in high school. It is the first year she spends all in one place in years. When she was in kindergarten, her mother Natasha was killed in a single car automobile accident. Since then her professor father, Gareth van Meer, has moved from one visiting lecturer position to another. She is drawn into a group of students nicknamed the Bluebloods, who meet weekly at the home of one of the teachers, Hannah Schneider. But in a disturbing incident at spring break, Hannah dies, and Blue's life is changed forever. The book is formed with each chapter representing a work in the western canon relating to the content. And yes, there is a final exam at the end of the book, so pay attention!

Finished Saturday, Mar 3
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
This book was a slog. The hypothesis may have had value to it, but the writing was not inspired and I had to force my way through it. Too much academic style to the writing. Reading was not a happy experience.

Blogging by Nat McBride and Jamie Cason
From the Teach Yourself series, this basic guide is a good introduction to blogging and uses examples from both Blogger and Typepad. Very readable and organized to help you easily focus on specifics.

Finished Friday, Mar 2
Charles the Bold by Yves Beauchemin, translated by Wayne Grady
The first in a planned trilogy, this book takes us from the birth of Charles to his entry to high school. Details are abundant, and the style has been compared, fairly, to that of Dickens. I found it slow in spots, but the characters stayed interesting. Charles loses his baby sister, followed by his mother, and his father is less interested in him than alcohol. Charles has an affinity for dogs and they play large roles in his life. He is a good-natured hardworking boy with a quick smile and a tendency to fairness. Various people in his community take an interest in him and participate in his development. I'm already looking forward to the next book.

Finished Thursday, Mar 1
Snowblind by P.J.Tracy
Read by Mel Foster
Listened to the audiobook in the car. This is in the Monkeewrench series, although the Monkeewrench crew play a less central role in this one. Their role is important, but they don't appear that often. The reading is good, with the phone calls being done in a hollow sort of way, very different. Magozzi and Rolseth play central roles as does the new sheriff of Dundas County to the north of Minneapolis, Iris Rikker. The crimes start with the bodies of two policeman being found inside snowman at a snowman competition and thus ensure a public eye is being laid on the case from the start. Iris Rikker is a newbie police officer, a former teacher, but well aware of her own shortcomings. I really enjoyed her as a character. The compound of Bitterroot, a safe town for abused women starts coming up during the investigation and plays a role in the outcome. Altogether an interesting premise with moral questions and no easy answers.