Saturday 31 December 2011

Dead Man's Cove

Finished December 31
Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John
This is the first book in a series featuring girl detective Laura Marlin. 11-year-old Laura has grown up in an orphanage, hoping for a home. When she is told an uncle exists and is offering her a home she is amazed, excited, and a little scared. Her uncle Calvin lives in St. Ives, and Laura adjusts quickly to life there. But there seem to be many secrets in town and Laura wants to know what is behind them.
What is going on with Tariq, the son of local shopkeepers? What does her uncle do, what is he hiding about his past, and where does he walk at night? Is the housekeeper up to something besides her wonderful cooking?
Laura is dedicated to detective work, and desperate for a friend.
A good mystery with interesting characters.

How the Dead Dream

Finished December 30
How the Dead Dream by Lydia Millet
Admittedly I don't know if I would have picked this up if I hadn't got it as part of my Indiespensible subscription. And it has been on my shelf for quite a while (it was the first Indiespensible pick back in 2008) so I finally decided to put the ones I haven't read yet in a pile with the oldest at the top and begin reading.
Here the main character is T and we follow him from his childhood through his life. He is a loner, the kind of guy who stands back from his life and watches. He struck me as being a man slightly on the autistic scale in the way he doesn't respond emotionally sometimes, like he doesn't recognize what others are feeling. He does make breakthroughs though and these make him more empathetic and he recognizes that he viewpoint has sometimes been flawed. Animals are his weakness, from his own dog, to endangered species.
He has trouble connecting with other people and while he tries not to hurt people's feelings, he doesn't always know how to do that. He went from being a child and man who seemed removed to being a man who saw injustice and the need to change. A very interesting read.

TBR Pile Book Challenge

This challenge is hosted by Roof Beam Reader and is called the TBR Pile Book Challenge.
The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months).
1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2011 or later (any book published in the year 2010 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – the host WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.
2.  To be eligible, you must sign-up with the Mr. Linky on the challenge blog – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review.  Every listed book must be completed and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as completed.
3.  The link you post in the Mr. Linky must be to your “master list” (see mine below).  This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge).  See THIS LINK for an idea of what the host means.  Your list must be completed by December 31st, 2011.
4. Leave comments on the challenge post as you go along, to update everyone on your status. Come back if/when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2012 TBR LIST!  Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from or The Book Depository!
5. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published pre-2011!
*Note – You can read the books on your list in any order; they do not need to be read in the order you have them listed. As you complete a book – review it, and go back to your original list and turn that title into a link to the review - that will keep the comments section here from getting ridiculously cluttered.

My 2012 TBR Pile Challenge List:

1. Miss Pettigrew lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
2. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon
3. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
4. The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson
5. Due Considerations by John Updike
6. Cities of Refuge by Michael Helm (finished July 9)
7. Darkmans by Nicola Barker (finished November 26)
8. The Broken Shore by Peter Temple (finished January 6)
9. The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr and David Bellos (finished December 15)
10. Silas Marner by George Eliot (finished December 31)
11. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
12. The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi, translated by Polly McLean (finished November 24)

1. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
2. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

I  have tried to pick some books that I know will count towards other challenges, and hopefully increase the chances of success.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Bride of New France

Finished December 28
Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers
This novel follows a young girl, Laure, from the Saltpêtrière Hospital in Paris, a orphanage, school and poorhouse, to the early town of Ville-Marie in New France. Laure was taken to the Saltpêtrière when she was very young, grabbed from the arms of her begging parents by the city's archers. She was lucky to be taken in by a sponsor, but now that lady has died and Laure is back in the Saltpêtrière being trained as a seamstress. She is luckier than most, as she can read and write and has skill with a needle, but when she displeasures the Mother Superior, she is sent to be a bride to the men of New France. She is among many others sent for this duty, but she feels very isolated. As she adjusts to life in the new world, she discovers things about herself and what she is willing to do to survive.
I can't say I really liked Laure, she always seems to think herself superior to the others, whether in Paris due to her sewing and lacemaking skills, or in the new world. But she is definitely a survivor and accepts what she must agree to in order to find a life for herself. She is still young when the book ends, and one hopes she finds herself a life she can enjoy in the future. The history was interesting.

Emory's Gift

Finished December 27
Emory's Gift by W. Bruce Cameron, read by the author
This is a magical novel of a few months in the life of a boy. Charlie Hall finds himself a boy with few friends the summer before he starts eighth grade. He lives out of town and with his mother dying earlier in the year, a divide has been created between him and the other boys. As Charlie wanders around the creek and woods near his home, he encounters a grizzly bear, a rarity in northern Idaho. This is not your usual grizzly bear. Charlie feels a connection to the bear and apparently the bear feels the connection too.
As Charlie starts school, he finds that most other boys in his grade have had a growth spurt, that he didn't have, and he feels even more alone when his supposed friend Danny spurns him. Three things help him through: his ability to run, which gains him some new friends at school; his first love, who seems to feel strongly about him too; and Emory, the bear.
As the existence of Emory begins to become more widely known, Charlie's distant relationship with his father is tested, and so are other relationships. The bear has a message, but how will it give it, and what its meaning is will take time to discover.
This is a special book about love, faith, and trust and how they can heal.

Monday 26 December 2011

Reading Challenges for 2012 and summary of 2011.

I always enjoy Reading Challenges
Here is a link to the ones I joined for 2011.
Plus one, The Canadian Book Challenge, I joined later in the year that runs July to June. (This one I am already done the required 13 and racking up more reads every month and thoroughly enjoying them.)

What's In a Name
The What's in a Name Challenge I've done for a few years, and finished the one for 2011.
I will be joining the 2012, which has the following as the challenge:
Between January 1 and December 31, 2012, read one book in each of the following categories:
  1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title: Black Hills, Purgatory Ridge, Emily of Deep Valley
  2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title: Moon Called, Seeing Stars, Cloud Atlas
  3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title: Little Bee, Spider Bones, The Witches of Worm
  4. A book with a type of house in the title: The Glass Castle, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Ape House
  5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Sarah's Key, The Scarlet Letter, Devlin Diary
  6. A book with a something you'd find on a calendar in the title: Day of the Jackal, Elegy for April, Freaky Friday, Year of Magical Thinking
The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

Other Things to Know

  • Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
  • Books may overlap other challenges.
  • Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
  • Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.
  • You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
  • You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.
Global Reading Challenge
I signed up for the Expert Challenge for 2011, which required reading three books from each continent. I did not complete this, doing no books at all for Australia/Oceania, only one for Africa and only one for South America. (I think I was reading too much Canada!)

I'm still looking for information on whether this challenge will be offered in 2012.

This is another challenge I've done before. I have until the end of January to finish the 2011 challenge, which I signed up for at the "Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big" level. At this point I only have one 750 page book left, and I have my eye on a couple.

The rules are changing for 2012 and the challenge is running January to December. They are also allowing collections now, so I can read short story or essay collections as part of my challenge, so that sounds like I have a few on my shelf that will fit in. Given that, I'm moving up to the "Mor-book-ly Obese" level, which requires 8 chunksters (450+ pages) of which three must be over 750 pages.

I thought that I would easily be able to do this even though I signed up for the PhD level of 16 books, since I actually owned 28 I hadn't read. But no, I only read a couple. Not so good. I don't know if this challenge is running again, but if I see it I will likely join, but at a lower level.

Update: This challenge is running again.So I will join. The levels have changed to an Olympic theme for 2012, so I will go for "Made the Olympic team" which means my goal is 6-10 books from the list.

This is a new challenge for me, although I have lurked before. This year the war is WWI, and I will go for the Swim level which is 11 or more books. There's so much available to read on this war or set during it.

These challenges should keep me with lots to read this year.

Christmas Books

Got quite a few books for Christmas that will keep me reading. Quite a nice mix of reading.

From my parents:
Semantic Antics by Sol Steinmetz

An Altered Light by Jens Christian Grøndahl

The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod

Small Island by Andrea Levy

 From my in-laws:
Just My Type by Simon Garfield
The Art and Embroidery of Jane Hall
The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault
The Blueberry Years by Jim Minick
Forgotten Highways by Nicky Brink and Stephen R Bown
What the Librarian Heard by Linda Bingham
Read This Next by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark

The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir

From my in-laws cats (they always choose something nice!):

Twelve Drummers Drumming by C C Benison

From a friend:
Slow Reading by John Miedema

Sunday 25 December 2011

The Better Mother

Finished December 24
The Better Mother by Jen Sookfong Lee
A wonderful novel, moving between years. The main character is Danny Lim. Danny grew up in Vancouver's Chinatown, but left as soon as he became 18, not wanting the life his parents envisioned for him. Danny is struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality and remains in the closet to all but his sister and close friends. He works as a wedding photographer but dreams of a photography exhibit of his personal work. When Danny was a child he had an encounter with an exotic dancer that he has never forgotten. When something reawakens that memory, he is determined to find out more about her. So part of this book is Val's story too. Her act was the 'Siamese Kitten' and her story is also one of not facing up to her truth. The two bolster and encourage each other to move forward in their lives by being open about who they are and what made them that way. A novel of secrets, and of self-awareness, this book is hard to put down.

Saturday 24 December 2011

The Fox Inheritance

Finished December 24
The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson
This is a sequel the The Adoration of Jenna Fox, and follows the two friends, Locke and Tara, who were in the accident with her. Someone made copies of their mind downloads and 260 years later the two have been given new life in new bodies. The doctor who revived them teaches them and prepares them for the world they now live in. But what are his motives, and what isn't he teaching them about their world?
When the two escape, their travels eventually lead them to Jenna, and more knowledge about what they've missed in those 260 years. There is much around ethics, social issues, and friendship here. The definition of what makes us human, and what manmade beings are capable of is an underlying, yet ultimately unanswered question. I didn't enjoy it as much as the first book, but it was still good.

A Killer's Christmas in Wales

Finished December 23
A Killer's Christmas in Wales by Elizabeth J. Duncan
A nice cozy mystery. The main character, Penny Brannigan is a Canadian who has lived in a small town in Wales for decades. She recently inherited a cottage that she is almost finished renovating. She is also almost finished renovations to another building in town that will become a spa, a business she will run with her partner Victoria. Penny also has a love interest, DCI Gareth Davies, and it is getting serious.
During the renovations for the spa, the body of a young woman and a cat were found hidden in the building and authorities are still trying to determine who she was and what happened to her. There is a new man in town, Harry Saunders, an American and he seems interesting in Mrs. Lloyd, a kind woman twenty years his senior. Florence, Mrs. Lloyd's companion is suspicious of his behaviour, and not just because it threatens her role in Mrs. Lloyd's life. After Harry convinces Mrs. Lloyd to invest a large amount of money with him, both he and the money go missing. When his body is found in nearby Conwy Castle, Mrs. Lloyd is one suspect. Penny's detective skills kick in and she tries to figure out who is behind a rash of local shoplifting as well as a theft from herself, and the murder. A good range of characters, with the cozy small town setting, make this cozy a winner.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Falling Togther

Finished December 14
Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos
Years earlier, three young people met at college and became inseparable. Cat, Pen, and Will spent their college lives together. Six years ago when first Cat, and then Will, walked out of Pen's life, she was lost. She has since made a life, had a daughter and mourned her father, but she has continued to miss her friends.
When she gets an email from Cat asking her to meet at their college reunion, she knows she must go. Will gets a similar email and also finds himself compelled to go. But Cat isn't what they find when they get there, and the search for her leads them around the world and finds themselves doing things they never thought they would. A tale of friendship, missed opportunities, and enduring love, this is a feel good novel with characters that come alive. Pen's daughter Augusta is a real cutie and steals the show when she is around. The language that exists between Pen and Will reminds readers of that special way of communicating that good friends have, the shorthand and easy back and forth that is one of the best parts of this book.

Tuesday 13 December 2011


Finished December 13
Gamble by Felix Francis
Following in the footsteps of his father, Dick Francis, this is Felix Francis' first solo Dick Francis novel. He assisted his father on many of his recent books, and this novel feels and reads in the same style. Here we have Nick 'Foxy' Foxton ex-jockey, sidelined due to an injury, who is now an independent financial advisor. Because of his past, he has a lot of clients in the horse-racing world, and goes often to races. As the book begins, Nick is at the Grand National with a work colleague and possible new friend, when his friend is shot to death beside him. Herb was a nice young man, an American, who seemingly got on well with everyone, so Nick is unable to understand what has happened. He wonders if the wrong person was targeted. When Nick discovers a threatening note in Herb's coat pocket, he struggles to figure out what Herb was up to. Nick's concern grows when he finds that Herb has made him his executor and beneficiary.
Nick is also approached by a member of the gentry involved in the horse-racing world, who has concerns about a particular investment one of Nick's bosses has involved him in. Nick promises to check into it quietly. Nick is also worried about his girlfriend Claudia and what he perceives as a growing distance between them.
Nick has thought of his life as boring since leaving his life as a jockey, but now he is getting more excitement than he wants, and he trusts very few as he digs deeper into the mystery.

Monday 12 December 2011

Oliver's Twist

Finished December 11
Oliver's Twist: the life and times of an unapologetic newshound by Craig Oliver
As the chief political reporter for CTV news, Craig Oliver is well known to many Canadians. This memoir covers his life thus far, from his childhood running wild in Prince Rupert through his early reporting days with CBC to his present role.
He chronicles his difficult childhood, talking about both parents who were alcoholics. It was in Prince Rupert that he first started his journalistic career, working for the small CBC radio station there. He moved next to the Prairies and on to Toronto and Ottawa. We see how he moved from the CBC to CTV when it was first starting up and the role he played in its early days.
He talks about his stint in Washington, how he found a way to gain information from the political players there and his travels covering U.S. roles in other countries.
Throughout his career, we see the development of relationships between other news people and between Oliver and the political players of the times. He talks about the different styles of the various politicians and his relationship with them.
In addition, Oliver also includes his passion for canoeing northern rivers and his experiences as he made longterm friendships with the men he shared this passion with. This addition really brought out the personal in the story and he includes a trip he made with his son. He also talks about his love for horse riding as a youth and how he rediscovered this joy later in life. Another personal chapter talks about his loss of vision and how he came to terms with the dependency on others he was forced to learn.
A very interesting memoir covering many decades of politics in our country and opening the doors to a very interesting life.

The Girl on the Escalator

Finished December 10
The Girl on the Escalator by Jim Nason
This collection of short stories involve a variety of characters, but they have in common surprising decisions, actions, and situations. From a successful advertising executive who quits her job to be a graffiti artist to the gay man who falls for a woman, the stories evoke emotions and interest.
Set in and around Toronto, the locations were true to life and reflected life in the city. Here, it is the characters who make the story and the strong portrayals provide surprising depth for short stories.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Power of Six

Finished December 9
The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore
This is the second in the teen series that began with I am Number Four, now a movie. That book left us with Number Four on the run with his friend Sam and Number Six. This book follows the trio as they continue their travels, gaining strength through practicing and training and learning about their situation. The book also follows Number Seven, whose adult helper has not been doing her job, but who managed to deal alone with her Legacies as they developed, and find a place to practice them. Living at an orphanage school run by nuns in a small Spanish town, Seven (Marina) tries to learn about her fellow Loriens from the Internet and prepare for dealing with the enemy that she knows will come soon. This book adds a few other Loriens as the book progresses and we start to see the Numbers finding each other and gaining strength from that knowledge and their triumphs. We also start to see some of the enemy and get a glimpse of their leader, a very imposing figure. Fast-moving, with teens dealing with common teen issues as well as their own special challenges, this book is a good sequel in the series.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Ed King

Finished December 9
Ed King by David Guterson, read by Arthur Morey
Overall I enjoyed this book, but there were a couple of areas that I found grating and likely would have skimmed if I were reading rather than listening to the book.
The book begins in the summer of 1962, when Walter Cousins looks for some domestic help when his wife Alice has a nervous breakdown and is hospitalized. He finds a British au pair, Diane Burroughs, who says she is 18, and is willing to come on short notice to look after things. Diane is sexy and knows it. When Walter sleeps with her, the situation alters and Diane admits she is underage and her attitude changes again at the end of the summer when she is no longer needed in the Cousins household. Unfortunately, she is pregnant, and Walter, while trying now to do the right thing, finds himself being milked and lied to. Walter is essentially a good man, who made a bad choice and definitely lives to regret it.
The story then follows the lives of Walter, Diane, and the baby (Ed King) over the course of their lives. We see how the lives interact in interesting ways as this book evolves to mirror the plot of a classic Greek tragedy. This modern novel based on a classical plot is part of an interesting trend lately.
The parts that were skimmable to me were the math stuff and the computer business stuff (note that I was a math honours student my first year of university, so it's not that I'm not math oriented, I just thought it went on a bit longer than necessary for the plot). Well written, and Guterson employs word play and characterization to subtley emphasize the connection to the classic.

Thursday 8 December 2011

What's in a Name Challenge

I've finished the What's in a Name Challenge for 2011.
Here are my reads:
Evil: Monsters of Men
Size: Tall Story
Jewelry or Gem: The Hare with Amber Eyes
Life Stage:Two Babushkas
Number: Two Generals
Travel/Movement: Far to Go

I enjoyed this challenge, and was surprised at the ease of some and the struggle to find suitable titles for the others.

Tall Story

Finished December 6
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
This children's novel is set in England where Andi lives with her parents, who are both nurses. Andi's mom is from the Philippines and she has an older half brother who her mother has been trying to bring over for years. Andi's parents have finally made the move to a home of their own, just as she finally works her way onto the basketball team at school. Now she must start all over at a new school.
Back in a small village in the mountains of the Philippines, Bernardo is living his life with his aunt and uncle. He too is fascinated by basketball, although not as much as his friend Jabby. Bernardo has grown tall and many people in the village treat him as a reincarnation of a legendary giant who brings good luck to the village. Nardo himself isn't sure what he believes.
When Nardo is finally approved to come live in England, things move quickly. How does the village react to his leaving? how does he feel leaving the only place he has ever lived, even if it does mean rejoining his mother? how does Andi feel about suddenly having a big (very big) brother? A lot happens to this family and Andi and Nardo are at the centre of the action.
A good story, with interesting characters.

Tuesday 6 December 2011


Finished December 5
Annoying: the science of what bugs us by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman
This science is a fairly new field and the authors gather information from a number of disciplines to try to figure out how to define 'annoying' and figure out what sorts of things annoy us and why.
From cell phone conversations to personal grooming, they look at the wide variety of annoyances in our lives. Taking us from the symptoms of Huntington's disease to the emotional response to music, from the taste of chili peppers to the chemistry of skunk perfume, these researches investigate every sideroad in their efforts to understand the annoying.
I found it fascinating to see what annoys, what doesn't and how some people are more susceptible. A great beginning to a new field of study.


Finished December 5
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
I love how writers can take nuggets of information and create wonderful stories from them. Selznick's love of film history plays a role here, as well as a long ago backstage tour of the American Museum of Natural History. Selznick's unique books with their combination of text and drawings captivate the reader and make the stories come to life. The drawings offer more than the story, there are hidden themes and inspirations here as well. The story is a good one in and of itself.
This is a great book to engage children in reading and give them interest in history and nature besides. Set both in the 1920s and 1977, this book shows how events link over time. The theme around deafness is also interesting, showing how society viewed this disability and treated its victims. I learned quite a bit myself, and will make a point of visiting the Panorama next time I go to New York City.
All-in-all a very cool book that will appeal to all ages.

The Virgin Cure

Finished December 4
The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
I loved this book! It is interesting how McKay can take a tiny bit of history and create a novel. In this case, she had been fascinated since she was a child of a photo of her great-great-grandmother, a doctor. When she began research to find out about this woman, she discovered the lower New York of the late 1800s. This novel is the story that came out of it.
Following a young girl, Moth, from the tenements, through a stint as an abused servant and into a brothel, McKay makes this world come alive. We see the abject poverty, the hope and despair, and the wiles and ruses used to gain a better life. The title, of course, comes from the myth of the time that sexual relations with a virgin could cure venereal disease, a myth that still exists around AIDS in many parts of the world today."Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".
The character of Moth fascinates. She is naive, yet street smart in many ways. She longs for love and luxury, but doesn't understand the costs she is being asked to pay. The role of Dr. Sadie, McKay's ancestor is one of goodwill and good deeds in the face of overwhelming poverty and social ills. This is also a circumstance that can be compared to the growing gulf between rich and poor today. The circumstances here are ones that are real in many parts of today's world. This is a sad tale, but also one of hope.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Facing the Hunter

Finished November 28
Facing the Hunter: reflections on a misunderstood way of life by David Adams Richards
This book is a reflection on hunting, from a man who has hunted since he was a child, and who still hunts. Richards looks at the way of life he grew up with and that the people he knows well grew up with and pulls back the curtain on that for the rest of us. He talks about the current popular stance against hunting and the perceptions of hunting that the people who take that stance have. He talks about those who give hunting a bad name.
I grew up in a family where my father hunted occasionally and I remember taking moosemeat sandwiches to school. I remember fishing when I was young and how my father taught me to kill the fish quickly to limit its suffering. Richards also talks about respecting the animals, about the responsibility the hunter has to injured animals and about trusting your feelings about what feels right.
This is a very open, honest look at a behaviour (occupation? pastime? I'm not sure of the right word, but I know it isn't sport) that has a bad rap, and not reasons that reflect the hunting that many people in our country do. Many people hunt for food, and as a way of life that is involved with nature in a very true sense. This is a book that creates discussions and that is always a good thing.