Wednesday 27 July 2011

Off Main Street

Finished July 27
Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator by Michael Perry
This book is a collection of essay type articles, updated with comments. The articles were all previously published. I've liked everything I've read by Perry and this is no exception.
The subjects covered here are wide-ranging and include traveling with musicians, passing a kidney stone, water towers, truck-driving, and God.
Sometimes making me laugh out loud and look around for someone to share a bit with, this book is never dull and often thought-provoking.
Highly recommended.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Looking for JJ

Finished July 26
Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
This is a teen novel that is insightful and sad and hopeful. We start the book with Alice Tully, who is trying to create a new life and future for herself. Six years ago Jennifer Jones (JJ) at the age of 11, killed her friend and went to jail for it. She is due to be released and the newspapers are in an uproar about it. What they don't know is that she was secretly placed with a social worker six months earlier and goes by the new identity of Alice Tully. We see how Alice struggles with her guilt even as she makes friends and holds down a job. She even has a boyfriend. But the attention of the newspapers makes her nervous and unsure.
We go back six years and see what Jennifer Jones was doing, the life she was living and the events that led to the terrible tragedy. Why did she do it?
Back with Alice, we see her handle the fast moving events, trying to hold her life together.
The insights into a child's and adolescent's mind are interesting and have the ring of truth. This is a book that will prompt questions and discussion. A great book club read.

Birthday Presents!

My in-laws popped over on Sunday with some lovely birthday presents for me.
I got a lovely bag full of books (mostly Canadian) and some lovely soap that smells like the forest. The books in the bag are:
Pith & Wry: Canadian poetry, edited by Susan McMaster
Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien (Canadian!)
Gold Diggers: striking it rich in the Klondike by Charlotte Gray (Canadian!)
The Free World by David Bezmozgis (Canadian!)
Death or Victory: the Battle of Quebec and the Birth of an Empire by Dan Snow (Canadian!) part of The History of Canada series.
The Deserter by Paul Almond (Canadian!) book one of the Alford Saga
A New Leaf: growing with my garden by Merilyn Simonds (Canadian!)
Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay (Canadian!)
Nothing Daunted: the unexpected education of two society girls in the west by Dorothy Wickenden (looks fascinating)
From their two charming cats I got a paperback mystery (Stitch Me Deadly by Amanda Lee) and these lovely bookends.

What to read first? Hmm.

One Hundred Names for Love

Finished July 24
One Hundred Names for Love: a stroke, a marriage, and the language of healing by Diane Ackerman
I admit that I've taken my time over this book for a couple of reasons. First the writing is so good (as Ackerman always is) that I wanted to take my time and really savour it. Second, the ideas she presents are so provoking that I want to take the time to think about them and how I feel about them.
The book is told over time beginning with Ackerman's Paul West (who is also an author that I haven't yet read, but am now intrigued to) having a massive stroke that resulted in global aphasia. That means he lost his language skills. He couldn't talk, or read, or understand. It begins in the hospital with evaluation and treatment. At first Paul can only say "mem" which he says over and over. He has some physical challenges as well in moving his body, relearning how to walk steadily, sit down, get into bed and hold objects. Two fingers on his right hand are cramped up into a claw.
Despite the massive brain damage, Ackerman and West refuse to give up. Ackerman details their daily life once West moves home, how they adjust their routine, how Ackerman must change her relationship with him, and what therapies they use are.
This is indeed a story of love. Because of Paul's long relationship with language as a writer, language is one of the main tools they use in their therapy. Ackerman is totally open and honest in this book, sharing her doubts, joys, and innermost feelings. A wonderful book with insights into the mysteries of healing.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Another Book Challenge

I am joining another book challenge. I'm thinking this one will be easy for me as it focuses on Canadian books.
It is called the Canadian Book Challenge and the challenge is to read and review 13 or more Canadian books in a one year span that runs from Canada Day to Canada Day. Sounds like a great idea.

Too Far

Finished July 16
Too Far by Rich Shapero
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
This is the story of two young children, Robbie and Fristeen. Robbie's parents have moved to Alaska for his father to do graduate study work. His mother is controlling and worries about his safety. His father encourages his sense of adventure and first moves to independence. His parent's marriage is breaking down and Robbie feels that he is to blame for some of the outbursts.
Fristeen's mother is more interested in her next fix than she is in her daughter. Fristeen runs wild, and is not cared for.
For one summer the two six year olds explore the forest around their homes, finding secret spots, learning about each other and both sharing and protecting each other from the two worlds.
In the forest they are led forward by Dawn and the Dream Man. They encounter the malevolent force Shivers that threatens them. This is a summer that will change their lives, and that they will never forget.
An interesting story and a glimpse into the mind of a young child.

Dreams of Joy

Finished July 15
Dreams of Joy by Lisa See, read by Janet Song
This book is a sequel to the earlier Shanghai Girls. Following the revelations at the end of that book, Joy is feeling guilt and shame. Her college experiences have also led her to idolize China's political changes, and she decides to go to China and search for her father, the artist Z.G. Li. She arrives just a Z.G. is going off to the countryside to "learn from real life" and teach art skills to peasants. She goes with him and finds herself drawn to a certain young man.
Pearl is also hard hit by the events at the end of the previous novel, but is worried about Joy and takes off after her. She does so with some planning though instead of running headlong like Joy. She sets up communication links and possible allies. Pearl finds herself back in her family's home in Shanghai, where things are both unchanged and changed immensely. As Pearl follows Joy, she confronts her past and finds courage for a new future.
With China imposing the Great Leap Forward, much is changing in the country as well, and these changes will have great impact on the two women.
A moving epic of a story, with lots of personal growth for both characters.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Penguin Threads

I came across these interesting editions in a catalogue this week. The covers are designed as hand stitched embroidery, and then each book has an embossed version of it.
I'd like to see one in person to get a real sense of it.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Siren Song

Finished July 7
Siren Song by Stephen Schwandt
This short mystery is very different. Schoolteacher JP Griffin is disillusioned with teaching American lit to high school students. Near the end of the school year, he runs back to the area he grew up in, the Door County of Wisconsin. It is foggy that night and he passes an unlikely trio of vehicles on the bridge.
He decides to buy a boat with the money he inherited when his parents died and take the fall term off. He purchases a used boat and intends to take the summer to relax and cruise around the area. But the secrets of the previous owner of the boat, a cop who died on the night he arrived won't let go. He begins to feel that he has taken on the cop's life. He is reading his books, living on his boat, discovering his secrets, and meeting his friends. Where will it all lead him?
This book is intense and gave me a feeling of lacking control (from the character's viewpoint).

Wednesday 6 July 2011


Finished July 5
Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras, translated by Frank Wynne
This novel is told by a man looking back at a few months from his childhood the year he was ten.
Structured like a school day with each section a subject, this book follows a young boy in Argentina in 1976. His parents have spoken out against the government and feel threatened. They pull him and his younger brother, referred to as Midget, out of school in the middle of the day, whisking them off to a house in the country with only the items they have with them. His favourite game is Risk. In Risk, Kamchatka is the furthest you can get from Argentina, and the narrator makes reference to a period of time spent there after the events described in the book.
In the country villa, the boy finds a book on Houdini and when asked by his parents to pick a new name as they go into hiding, he picks Harry. We see how he tries to help his younger brother, but still struggles to be as strong as his parents need him to be. He is befriended by a young man, Luke, also in hiding, who helps him to gain skills he thinks will help him. As we switch back and forth between the adult narrator looking back at his younger self, and the young boy in voice, we see how his mind struggled to comprehend the events as he experienced them, and how his adult self feels for him. This is a very moving story, as we can guess what the events are leading to. The boy Harry is losing his innocence, far before he should have to.
A wonderful read.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Look Again

Finished July 4
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline, read by Mary Stuart Masterson
One again Scottoline writes a winning story. Here the main character is Ellen Gleeson, a reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper. A couple of years back, while writing a story, she came upon a very sick young boy in a hospital. Something about him drew her to him and she made enquiries. She ended up adopting him, and Will is now the center of her life.
There are cuts at the newspaper and Ellen is worried about her job. When she arrives home one day, she notes a white card with a photo of a missing child as part of her mail. She is struck by how much it looks like Will. She is continually drawn to the fact of this resemblance. She knows her adoption was legal, but still begins to ask questions. "What if" keeps going through her head, along with the question of what she should do.
Scottoline brings the thought processes and emotions involved into view and we feel Ellen's struggles and worries. This book will get you thinking about what you would do in that position and face the worst fears a parent can have.
A winner.

Monday 4 July 2011

Our Mothers' War

Finished July 3
Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front during World War II by Emily Yellin
Emily Yellin was inspired to write this book after finding letters and other papers relating to her own mother's war experience. Yellin found these items when clearing up after her mother died in 1999. She began wondering about the roles that women played in the war and did some serious research.
The book is divided into several sections, each on a different aspect or role of women's lives during that period.
She included factory workers, military personnel, auxiliary workers, entertainers, nurses, spies, politicians. She looked at the roles of black women, Jewish women, and those involved in right wing anti-Semitic groups. She interviewed Japanese-American women on their experience. She looked at the women of Los Alamos and how they dealt with uncertainty.
She even looked at sexuality during the war, covering prostitution, young girls enamored of soldiers, unwed mothers, and lesbians.
I learned a heck of a lot reading this book, and it was funny that it related to another book I was reading, a fictional account of women pilots in the UK during WWII, The Beauty Chorus. Even some of the same names came up in both books.
The courage of these women, getting a taste of independence and fighting for their image, their jobs, their country, and sometimes their lives was inspiring. I was particularly taken by the last chapter, Emily Yellin's personal experience from her mother, which included her mother's words giving a story about Emily and her friends when she was nine.
This is an extremely well-researched book that tells a story that was untold for far too long.
More information is available at the book's website.

Beach Read Sweepstakes

Simon and Schuster is running a Beach Read Sweepstakes beginning today and going until July 31, 2011.
Summer is such a great time to catch up on all kinds of reading.
Check it out!

Sunday 3 July 2011

The Beauty Chorus

Finished July 3
The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown
This novel focuses on women pilots in World War II, specifically the ferry pilots working for the Air Transport Auxiliary. We see the lives of three pilots up close: Evie, a girl from a wealthy privileged background; Stella, married with a young child and trying to find a future for herself; and Megan a girl from Wales who longs to make her dreams come true.
Evie's father Leo works for the Air Ministry and is reluctant at first to have her fly. Stella has come to England from Singapore, leaving her young son with her in-laws in Ireland. Megan is still mourning the loss of her brother, but wants to make a difference in the war and come back to run her parents' farm.
We see the not-so-glamorous lives of the pilots, the hard work and long hours. We also see some of the resentment from the men they serve with, while other men respect the hard work they do.
This was eye-opening and very interesting in showing a side of war I hadn't been aware of before, and oddly enough one also touched on in another book I am reading. It's nice to learn history and be well entertained at the same time.

Friday 1 July 2011


Finished June 30
Matched by Ally Condie
This teen dystopian novel is set in a society where the Officials decide most things for the citizens. Everything from your job to your life partner is decided by Officials on your behalf. Cassia goes to her Matching ceremony and is matched with someone she already knows (an unusual occurence). She knows the choice is right for her, but later when she views her card with information on her match, another face pops up, briefly.
She is now faced with a choice: accept the official version of the story and choose Xander, or take a path of resistance and choose Ky.
There are many questions here about society, choices, and how the choices we make determines our future. Did someone make an error, and if so, who? Why Ky? And how does Cassia really feel about this. Small acts of rebellion can make a big difference, and Cassia is not the only one to face choices against the Officials.
An interesting plot, with interesting characters.