Monday 31 December 2012


Finished December 31
Bittersweet: lessons from my mother`s kitchen by Matt McAllester

This short memoir is written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist McAllester about his mother and his relationship with her. His early childhood was happy, full of delicious food, family togetherness and love. But when Matt was around the age of 10, his mother began to decline into mental illness and alcoholism. He felt that she was lost to him for two decades. Then, although her health was still bad, a connection was restored in the last few years before her sudden death.
Despite his experience as a war correspondent, Matt was stricken by her death, and used his journalistic skills to delve into her life, both the happy years and the illness that stole her from him. Part of him wanted to know whether things could have been different, but he also wanted to know more about her as a person and hold onto the happy memories.
By taking her cookbooks, he finds a connection that allows him to honour her memory and move forward with his own life.
An open and touching look at mental illness and the effect it has on those who love someone with it.

European Reading Challenge 2013

I`m signing up for the second time for the challengeI`m joining at the Five Star level, but trying to see just how many countries I can cover. 

I thoroughly enjoyed it for 2012, and look forward to hunting down more for 2013.

Here is more information on this challenge:
The gist: The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour. (See note about the UK, below)

What counts as "Europe"? For this challenge, we will use the list of 50 sovereign states that fall (at least partially) within the geographic territory of the continent of Europe and/or enjoy membership in international European organizations such as the Council of Europe. This list includes the obvious (the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), the really huge Russia, the tiny Vatican City, and the mixed bag of Baltic, Balkan, and former Soviet states.

Note: Technically, the United Kingdom is one country that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  So one book from any one of these four should count as your one book for that one country. I'm not going to be a stickler about it because challenges should be about fun not about rules. However, when it comes to winning the Jet Setter prize, only one book from one of the UK countries will count.

Here is the list, in alphabetical order: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City. 


Five Star (Deluxe Entourage): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

Four Star (Honeymooner): Read four qualifying books.

Three Star (Business Traveler): Read three qualifying books.

Two Star (Adventurer): Read two qualifying books.

One Star (Pensione Weekender): Read just one qualifying book.


Challenge Wrap-up for 2012

This year I did okay on most challenges, but only successfully completed 2.
Here is a summary:

The TBR Pile Book Challenge, I didn't finish, reading 1 in January, 1 in July, 2 in November, and 2 in December, reading only 6 of the 12. I did start one of the books The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, as bedside reading quite some time ago, but am still nowhere near finished it. I picked a whole different bunch of books for the TBR Pile Book Challenge for 2013.

The What's in a Name Challenge, I finished at the wire, taking my time trying to read a book to fit the last category. Here's my wrap-up post.

The European Reading Challenge, I did well on, already meeting the goal when I first heard about it in the spring. I ended up reading books from 14 European countries. Here is my wrap-up.

The Global Reading Challenge, I didn't finish, having trouble as usual with Africa and South America, and surprisingly North America. Here is my wrap-up on that challenge.

The Canadian Book Challenge runs from July to June, and I did great for the 2011-2012 challenge, reading 100 books. So far I am at 12 books for the 2012-2013 challenge.

The Chunkster Reading Challenge I tried for the highest level. The hardest part was, of course the 750+ page books. I read 5 books between 450 and 550 pages, 3 books between 550 and 750 pages, and only 1 book over 750 pages, when the goal was 3. So I only met the requirements of the Plump Primer level, not the Mor-bookly Obese level (8 books with 3 of them over 750) I was aiming for. Here`s my wrap-up post.

The War through the Generations Challenge was World War I for 2012, and I read 6 books, not the 11 I was aiming for. Here is my wrap-up post.

Finally, we have the 1001 Books to Read before you Die Challenge, where my goal was 6-10 books. I only read 3. Here's my wrap-up.

European Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

 I joined this challenge in April, but counted back to January for books that applied. 
 For this challenge, the host uses the list of 50 sovereign states that fall (at least partially) within the geographic territory of the continent of Europe and/or enjoy membership in international European organizations such as the Council of Europe. This list includes the obvious (the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), the really huge Russia, the tiny Vatican City, and the mixed bag of Baltic, Balkan, and former Soviet states.
I joined at the level of Five Star (to read at least 5 books by different European authors or books set in different European countries).

So here is my final count for the challenge:

1. A Dublin Student Doctor (Ireland)
2. The Midwife of Venice (Italy)
3. I am Half-Sick of Shadows (UK)
4. Trap for Cinderella (France)
5. Redbreast (Norway)
6. The Lucky Child (Greece)
7. An Altered Light (Denmark)
8. Amsterdam Stories (Netherlands)
9. Spies of Warsaw (Poland)
10. The Prisoner of Heaven (Spain)
11. The Expats (Luxembourg)
12. The Summer Book (Finland)
13. Watching the Dark (Estonia)
14. The Honey Locust (Bosnia)

Global Reading Challenge 2012

I entered this challenge again for 2012, and tried for the Expert level, which is 3 titles from different countries for each continent. Made it for 4, didn`t make it for 3.

I read the following, having trouble once again with Africa and South America.

1. Chanda's Wars by Allan Stratton (fictional African country)

1. A Dublin Student Doctor by Patrick Taylor (Ireland)
2. Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich (Italy)
3. Trap for Cinderella by Sebastien Japrisot (France)

1. The Long March Home by Zoe S. Roy (China)
2. Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani (Iran)
3. The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N Murari (Afghanistan)

North America: (can do 3 US states, or include Central America)
1. Beautiful Lie the Dead by Barbara Fradkin (Canada)
2. Betrayal of Trust by J.A. Jance (United States)

Australasia / Oceania (allowed to do different Australian states)
1. The Bungalow by Sarah Jio (Tahiti)
2. The Broken Shore by Peter Temple (Australia - Victoria)
3. Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville (Australia - NSW)

South America (can include Central America)
1. Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage (Brazil)
2. Perla by Carolina de Robertis (Argentina)

Seventh Continent (can be Antarctica, space, the sea, supernatural, history, the future or whatever alternative setting you want)
1. Come Looking for Me by Cheryl Cooper (the sea)
2. Eyes Like Leaves by Charles de Lint (fictional world)
3. Something Red by Douglas Nicholas (historical fiction)

Chunkster Reading Challenge for 2013

I`m going to keep at this challenge as it motivates me to tackle those bigger books

A chunkster is 450 pages or more of ADULT literature, whether non-fiction or fiction. A chunkster should be a challenge.

Here are the rules:

  • No audio books. (There are exceptions to this rule.)
  • No e-books allowed. This was discussed in much detail in the 2011 challenge. The short version: a chunkster isn’t a challenge if you’re reading it on an e-reader. (There are exceptions to this rule.)
  • Essay, poetry, and short story collections will be allowedCollections have to be read in their entirety to count. If you’ve needed a reason to finally pick up your copy of The Collected Works Of ____ now is the time.
  • Books may crossover with other challenges.
  • Anyone may join. (If you don’t have a blog, just leave a comment on this post with your challenge level and your progress throughout the challenge.) 
  • You don’t need to list your books ahead of time.
  • Once you’ve picked a level, that’s it. You’re committed to it!

  • I`m going for the highest level again (I just keep trying!) of Mor-book-ly Obese. Here are the levels offered. It is the 750 page ones that I need to seek out and tackle.

  • The Chubby Chunkster – this option is for the readers who want to dabble in large tomes, but really doesn't want to commit to much more than that. FOUR Chunksters is all you need to finish this challenge.
  • The Plump Primer - this option is for the slightly heavier reader who wants to commit to SIX Chunksters over the next twelve months. 
  • Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big? - this option is for the reader who can't resist bigger and bigger books and wants to commit to SIX Chunksters from the following categories: 2 books which are between 450 - 550 pages in length2 books which are 551 - 750 pages in length2 books which are GREATER than 750 pages in length (for ideas, please refer to the book suggestions page for some books which fit into these categories).
  • Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to EIGHT or more Chunksters of which three tomes MUST be 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings.

  • Luckily I already have a couple of the long 750+ page ones on the shelf, and I`m moving them forward.

    War Through The Generations Challenge for 2012: World War I

    For 2012 the war for the War Through the Generations Challenge was World War I.

    I set my goal for the Swim level which is 11 or more books. Here's what I read

    The Englishman's Daughter by Ben Macintyre
    Private Peaceful by Michael Morpugo
    Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
    Shot at Dawn by John Wilson
    The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé
    The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

    So, didn`t make the goal despite owning a lot of books that took place around this time period or covered the war in some way. Hopefully will do better in next year`s challenge.

    Chunkster Reading Challenge 2012 Wrap-up

    I committed to this challenge, choosing the level Mor-bookly Obese, which required me to read 8 chunksters (books over 450 pages), 3 of them more than 750 pages. No audiobooks or ebooks allowed.
    I've done the numbers, but not got 3 over the 750 page mark.

    Here's what I've read.
    1. Lake on the Mountain by Jeffrey Round (479 pages)
    2. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (485 pages)
    3. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (541 pages)
    4. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (525 pages)
    5. Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay (498 pages)
    6. A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah (593 pages)
    7. Citadel by Kate Mosse (685 pages)
    8. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (581 pages)
    9. Darkmans by Nicola Barker (838 pages)

    So only one over 750 pages, unfortunately. Better luck next year.

    Silas Marner

    Finished December 31
    Silas Marner: the weaver of Raveloe by George Eliot

    This is a classic that I missed, and I had it on my list for the TBR challenge this year. Carried it around in my purse for the last little while, reading in snatches. I think I have an older edition of this packed away, but got this one free at some point and it was handy.
    So the book was first published in 1861, but is set in a time earlier in the 1800s. Silas has had a rude awakening about human nature and friendship and moved to Raveloe as a result. He leads a solitary life, concentrating on amassing money for money`s sake, spending little on himself and not interacting with his neighbours. When his fortune is stolen, he is devastated, and appeals to the community in a panic for help. It is this that first gets his neighbours taking an interest in him. When another set of circumstances lead to a small child being orphaned on Silas` doorstep, he finds himself compelled to take her in and make her a loving home. This move brings him further into the community and we see how it is this action that drives the community opinion of him.
    The leading family in Raveloe is the Cass family, and while the oldest son Godfrey is a good-natured man, generally well-meaning, the second son Dunstan is one who would sell him own mother, if she wasn`t already dead. Dunstan has drawn Godfrey into an ill-conceived relationship and is now using that as a hold over him. But he is always on the lookout for opportunities for money, and this leads him to criminal actions and bad outcomes.
    The action takes place in two time periods, one with the plot threads described above and another sixteen years later, when we see the results of these actions. There is definitely a morality tale aspect to the plot, but the characters are what really bring the book to life. I really enjoyed it.

    1001 Books to Read Before You Die Challenge

    This challenge came out of the book 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, with various updates.

    I didn't do well last year, so set a lower target of 6-10 books for 2012, but didn't meet that either.
    I read the following.

    1. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

    2. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

    3. Silas Marner by George Eliot

    I have so many classics on my shelf, I shall have to do better next year.

    Sunday 30 December 2012

    Chanda's Wars

    Finished December 30

    Chanda's Wars by Allan Stratton

    This novel is for older children and younger teens. It is set in a fictional African country and covers many issues from child soldiers to AIDs to cultural change. Chanda is a young woman forced to become the mother to her two younger siblings due to her mother`s death from AIDs. She resents the way the rest of her family back in the village treated her mother, but a series of recurring nightmares and the advice of those she trusts lead her to make up the rift and take the children back to the village for a visit and to meet the rest of the family. But the family has plans she hadn`t expected and when the rebel army comes closer than expected, Chanda must use all her knowledge to team up with a friend and try to rescue the children from their kidnappers. 
    Inspired by the wars in Africa, and child soldiers, along with the spread of AIDS on that continent, this book would be a good book club choice with lots of discussion points. 

    Excursion to Tindari

    Finished December 30
    Excursion to Tindari by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli

    I started reading this series a few years ago and then got away from them, but recently decided to seek them out again, continuing where I left off. This is the fifth book in the series featuring Inspector Salvo Montalbano out of Vigàta, Sicily. Montalbano struggles against corruption, government bureaucracy and the mafia. His team provides many interesting characters, as do the non-police members of his circle.
    In this mystery, a young man is discovered murdered at his front door. Shortly thereafter another man asks the police for assistance regarding his missing parents, who resided at the same address as the murdered man. The police can`t see any other relation between the two, but can`t help but wonder. As the cases develop, Montalbano finds inspiration in both the sea outside his door, and a particular olive tree, and is led to a very disturbing discovery.
    With an odd request from a local mafia lord, strange behaviour on the part of the missing couple, and worry over his team`s future, this novel continues to entertain.
    Montalbano`s love of food is present again, with mouthwatering descriptions of local Italian dishes. These books immerse one in Sicily.


    Finished December 28 
    Perla by Carolina de Robertis

    This is a fascinating novel, set in Argentina, mostly in early 2001. Perla is a young woman studying at university to be a psychologist. She grew up as the only child in a well-off family, and her rather is an officer in the Navy. When she was still in grade school, the abuses perpetrated by the deposed military dictatorship began to come to light, and Perla began to hide her family background. She realized that her parents were part of the group suspect in the crimes committed, but she felt love for them, particularly for her father. She is one of the few people her father is openly emotional with. 
    As the novel begins, her parents are away on a vacation, and Perla is alone at home, agonizing over a recent rift in the relationship with her boyfriend. She becomes suddenly aware of a presence in the house and discovers a naked, wet man on the living room carpet. As she interacts with the man over the next few days, she is forced to face the truth of her own past and make a decision regarding her future.
    This is a coming of age story based on the true story of the thousands of disappeared Argentinian people and the hundreds of babies born in secret, torn from their mothers, and given up for adoption to those in positions of power. Gradually those children have been discovering the truth about their origins and the group Madres de la Plaza de Mayo has played a central role.
    This book is moving and will capture you from the first page. I always find fascinating those books that can bring historical situations like these to life.

    Tuesday 25 December 2012

    TBR Pile Challenge for 2013

    I'm joining the TBR Pile Challenge again hosted by Roof Beam Reader, despite not completing it the last couple years.

    The rules are that you have to choose books that have been on your shelf for more than a year. Choose twelve books, with two alternates in case you can't finish any of the ten. I give the books here, and add the dates and a link to the review once I've read them.

    1. Clown Girl by Monica Drake
    2. Matterhorn by Karl Malantes
    3. A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
    4. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
    5. Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun
    6. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright
    7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    8. Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa [Finished October 11]
    9. Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach
    10. Still Alice by Lisa Genova [Finished December 26]
    11. The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker
    12. A Walk along the Wall by Hunter Davies [Finished December 20]

    1. The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun by Sebastien Japrisot
    2. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

    Usually I try to find some that fit other challenges, but this year I just scanned the shelves, looking for a variety of books. They are mostly fiction, but a few nonfiction are thrown in and the genres vary widely. Hopefully that will keep me reading.


    Finished December 24
    Juliet by Anne Fortier

    I had a copy of this on my shelf and my niece asked for it for Christmas, so I told everyone to hold off as I'd just pass on my copy (not as part of her present). But I had to read it first, so I squeaked in under the wire.
    Julia is a young woman who discovers that her past is different than she's been told. When her Aunt Rose dies, she goes off to Italy to discover what her mother's legacy really was.
    She is befriended by a woman she meets on the plane, and helped to find her way around Sienna. When she meets the woman's godson, things don't go as smoothly, and she isn't sure what to think of Alessandro. Danger seems to be stalking her, and she isn't sure who to trust.
    What she finds is a link back to the original Romeo and Juliet, a story she's been fascinated with all her life. In the papers she finds, she reads about the original lovers back in 1340, and is intrigued. As she follows the clues, others seem to be following her.
    A story with intrigue, danger and mystery, and romance. Will Romeo and Juliet's story end better this time round, or will the curse continue.

    Sunday 23 December 2012

    The Jewels of Paradise

    Finished December 21
    The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon, read by Cassandra Campbell

    This is the first of her books I've read that isn't part of the Commissario Brunetti series, and I enjoyed it. Food wasn't as prevalent here as in the Brunetti books, but it still gets a mention every now and then.
    Here we have musicologist Caterina Pellegrini, as the main character. Caterina has a love for song, but knew she wasn't of the caliber to go far in a singing career. She tried law, and was unsatisfied so decided to go into the study of music, specializing in baroque opera. Unfortunately for her, jobs were not in abundance and she ended up in a university in England. Thanks to a contact there, she has found a short-term contract position back in her home town of Venice, going through the papers in two trunks belonging to a 17th century composer, right in her time period.
    The men that hired her are after a treasure they believe was hidden by the composer, and the lawyer serving as intermediary may have his own agenda. Caterina is an interesting woman, passionate about her chosen field, and a good researcher, fluent in many languages. She has a good relationship with her family and maintains contact with them despite the distance sometimes between them. The composer was also a bishop and Caterina finds herself thinking about religion a bit more than usual.
    This book has intrique, humour, and a good story. I'd sure love to see Caterina again. The reader for the audiobook did an amazing job, using a lovely Italian accent throughout, making me feel like I was there in Venice. Like all her books, this one really brings Venice to life. Really loved the ending.

    Thursday 20 December 2012

    Blood of the Wicked

    Finished December 19
    Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage

    This mystery novel set in Brazil features Chief Inspector Mario Silva, and is the first in the series. We get introduced to Mario's past, seeing how he began with the police, the horrible event that drove him to it, and learn about his sense of justice. That was back in 1978. It is now the 21st century and Mario is now Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters of the Federal Police of Brazil. When the bishop is killed very publicly as he arrives in the remote town of Cascatas do Pontal to consecrate a new church, Mario is sent out to find the killer. Mario finds himself in a community with an ongoing and escalating situation between the landless peasants and wealthy landowners who hold uncultivated land.
    The state police leader is corrupt and complicit in some of the illegal actions. As the murders begin to pile up, Mario and his team are always one step behind the killers, and he finds that he isn't the only one to take action into his own hands.
    With social commentary, a sense of the role of religion in the community, and a feel of the wild west, this mystery has lots of violence and action. An interesting beginning to the series. I found myself asking about the nature of violence and revenge, about the ineffectiveness of standard police methods, and about the ongoing social unrest. Lots to think about.

    Sunday 16 December 2012

    What's In a Name 6 Challenge for 2013

    So just finished the 2012 Challenge, and now looking forward to the one for 2013.

    The challenge this year is as follows.
    Between January 1 and December 31, 2013, read one book in each of the following categories:
    1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: Deep down True, The Girl Below, The Diva Digs up the Dirt
    2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs
    3. A book with a party or celebration in the title: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
    4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire
    5. A book with an emotion in the title: Baltimore Blues, Say You're Sorry, Dreams of Joy
    6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches
    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.

    There look to be some interesting ideas here, and I'll have to scan my shelves to see what I've got that fits.

    What's in a Name Challenge for 2012

    This challenge is one that really dragged on for me.

    The challenge is based on book titles, and participants are encouraged to be creative when choosing.
    There are 5 categories and the challenge is to read one for each category.
    I started with the category Topographical Feature, reading The Broken Shore by Peter Temple.
    Next up was Something You'd See in the Sky, and I read New under the Sun by Kevin Major.
    A couple months later I tackled Something You'd Carry in your Pocket, reading Pulp and Paper by Josh Rolnick.
    The fourth category I read for was Type of House, with The Bungalow by Sarah Jio.
    For the fifth category, Something on a Calendar, I read The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim.
    Then I delayed, trying to find the right book for the last category Creepy Crawly, and finally chose The Honey Locust by Jeffrey Round.

    For a while, I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but wrapped it up with a couple weeks to spare.
    I'm looking forward to next year's challenge.

    The Honey Locust

    Finished December 16
    The Honey Locust by Jeffrey Round

    I've had this book sitting on my shelf for more than two years, and finally got around to reading it. I read it in one day, thoroughly enjoying it.
    The main character here is Angela, a young woman who has made a career for herself as a journalist covering war zones. The story moves back and forth between the final weekend in late summer 1994 when Angela, her parents, and her sisters spend a final weekend at the family cottage on the Bruce peninsula and Angela's work in late 1994 and early 1995 in Sarajevo (with a side trip to Mexico).
    Angela's marriage has ended recently and her father died shortly after that final family weekend. She has always thrown herself into her work, and has found herself in life-threatening situations, but this trip comes at a time where she realizes that she has been searching for something in her life. She has been doing more than just rebelling against her mother's reliance on safety and order. This time the experiences she witnesses touch her in a new way, breaking through her professional shell.
    Here, Angela finally faces her life and all the denials and secrets that have been part of it. A wonderful book.

    The Journal of Helene Berr

    Finished December 15
    The Journal of Hélène Berr  by Hélène Berr, translated by David Bellos

    The first portion of this journal, from 1942, was written as a private diary. Then there is a gap of about nine months and the second portion from later 1943 through early 1944 is written as a record of what is happening around her and for her fiancé should she not be here when he returns.
    Berr is a university student at the Sorbonne, from a well-to-do family who have been settled in France for generations. She struggles with falling in love for the first time, determines to do the right thing in the face of the occupying Germans, and wanting to help those who need it.
    We see her reaction to the order forcing Jews to wear yellow stars and how she reacts to those who react to  that. She is open in her journal about her emotions, and her struggles with what to do in the face of increasing restrictions. Because she was involved in assisting those arrested and awaiting deportation, she was more aware of what was going on than most, but that didn't save her from her own fate.
    An interesting historical account from a unique perspective.

    Friday 14 December 2012

    War Through the Generations Challenge for 2013

    I will be joining the War Through the Generations Challenge again for 2013.

    For 2013 the war is the American Revolution.

    Site rules:
    Books can take place before, during, or after the war, so long as the conflicts that led to the war or the war itself are important to the story. Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria.

    I'm going for the Wade level, which is
    Read 4-10 books in any genre with the American Revolution as a primary or secondary theme.

    Not sure what I might have on the shelf for this period, but will take a look.

    Tell The Wolves I'm Home

    Finished December 13
    Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carla Rifka Brunt, read by Amy Rubinate

    This was a wonderful book to listen to, with Rubinate's voice perfect for the young narrator June Elbus. June is 14 years old and it is 1987. June feels gawky and her best friend is her uncle Finn, a renowned New York painter who is dying from AIDS.
    June's mother has her own issues around her brother and June's older sister Greta seems to have grown mean and unfriendly to June. June has fantasies of living in medieval times, and becoming a falconer, and one of her favourite places to go is the Cloisters. Finn has always understood June and she feels his loss keenly, but his death brings someone new into her life.
    This new relationship gradually gives June new insight into her family and why they behave the way they do. In this book June changes significantly, from a child into a young adult, and her open on the world and the people around her. We see that nothing is as simply as it seems and Greta's attitude has its own explanation. A wonderful book.

    Thursday 6 December 2012


    Finished December 6
    Scat by Carl Hiaasen

    This children's novel is another eco-thriller, this one featuring Nick, who is in the eighth grade and lives near the Florida Everglades. After a class trip to the Everglades, biology teacher Mrs. Stark appears to be missing. Nick and his best friend Marta are determined to figure out what is really going on with her disappearance. On her last day in class she had an altercation with a student, Duane (also known as Smoke).  At first Duane seems to be missing too, but when he turns up again, he is a changed student. What is going on?
    On the class trip to the Everglades, Nick hopes to see a panther, an endangered species, but the trip is cut short. He thinks he heard a panther's cry, but isn't sure.
    Meanwhile Nick is also dealing with missing his father who is serving in Iraq.
    Lots going on, with an emphasis on the environment, and strong female characters as well as male.

    Wednesday 5 December 2012

    My Dad's a Birdman

    Finished December 4
    My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

    This lovingly illustrated book tells the story of young Lizzie and her Dad. Without her mom, Lizzie has been looking after her dad, with the help of her Aunt Doreen, who pops in every now and then. Her headmaster, Mr. Mint has been very understanding of the challenges of her home life.
    With the upcoming Great Human Bird Competition, dad has been putting together a set of wings so that he can enter the competition. At first Lizzie isn't sure, but she gradually comes around and decided to enter along with him. Aunt Doreen thinks they are both flighty, and enlists the help of Mr. Mint to talk them to the ground.
    This is a lovely story of love, loss, and going on with life. A great book.


    Finished December 4
    Boom by Mark Haddon

    I've loved every book of his I've read and this one is no exception. But this is a book for kids. Jim and his older sister Becky have the usual brother sister teasing relationship, although she's grown a bit more antagonistic lately. So when she tells him she overhead teachers talking about shipping him off to a reform school, he's pretty sure she's teasing, but not absolutely sure. He talks to his best friend Charlie and the two decide to bug the teachers' staffroom to see if it's true. What they hear shocks them both. It would seem that two of the teachers have a secret language, but what is behind this. As the two boys investigate, things begin to get a bit scary for them, and when Charlie disappears Jim finds himself calling on Becky for assistance. Of course, as with all older sisters she comes through when it counts.
    With a great story, and great characters, this book is a winner all the way. There's a nice side story of Jim's dad and his struggle for meaning in his life, too.

    Tuesday 4 December 2012

    The Willoughbys

    Finished December 4
    The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

    This classic children's tale is great fun. As the cover states, it is "nefariously written and ignominiously illustrated" by Lowry.
    It is a  book about a family of old-fashioned children, who try to plan their lives differently. When their parents go off travelling and hire a nanny to look after them, things do go differently, but not in the way they imagined. The book is a very tongue-in-cheek send-up of those classic children's books, in a very amusing style. Full of nice big words, interesting characters and with the requisite happy ending, this will keep the reader entertained throughout. A glossary is provided.

    Porcupine Year

    Finished December 4
    Porcupine Year by Louise Erdich

    This historical novel is told from the point of view of Omakayas, a young Ojibwe girl in the 1800s. The Ojibwe were being driven out of their native lands by white settlement and relocating into areas already occupied by other tribes. As Omakayas and her family move north and west, they encounter difficult situations and a fight for survival.
    This is a story of native history, of coming of age, and of family. The reader will learn some Ojibwe words along the way, with a glossary provided.
    I've had a special affinity for porcupines since I was a young child, and I really liked the relationship with the porcupine here. This is a one of the books that both entertains and educates at the same time.

    Monday 3 December 2012


    Finished December 2
    Darkwood by M.E. Breen

    This children's novel is set in another land, where there is magic. In Howland, darkness comes suddenly and completely. There is no moon, no stars, and people are afraid of what is out in the dark, particularly of what is in the forest. Annie Trewitt lives with her aunt and uncle, on a farm near the woods. She has been taught to fear the the creatures of the dark, the kinderstalk. Children have been disappearing from their community, like Annie's sister Page. No trace is found of them. When Annie hears her aunt and uncle making terrible plans for her, she knows she must venture into the forest.
    Annie survives, and begins to learn that all is not what it seems, and that she has abilities she never dreamed of. As Annie journeys farther in the kingdom, she finds her own destiny as well as those she thought were lost forever.
    A tale of growing up, of courage, of taking a step into the unknown. A story of learning that things aren't always what they seem, and of believing in oneself.

    Sunday 2 December 2012

    The Unfinished Angel

    Finished December 2
    The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech

    This lovely children's novel tells a tale of an angel who lives in an old house in a small village in Switzerland. For a long time the angel has been watching theneighbours, an old lady Signora Divino and her grandson Vinny, but not really doing that much. The angel feels like it doesn't know what it should be doing or how to do angel-like things. While it is supposed to understand all languages, it isn't really that good at them, and the words it uses aren't always right. It hasn't seen any other angels and isn't sure where to find them and what the extent of territory it is responsible for. The angel likes animals and when feeling upset flishes (yet that is what it calls it) up to see the goats, which always make it feel better.
    But then the American man Mr. Pomodoro and the girl Zola come to live in the house and things start to happen. To start, Zola can see the angel and knows it is an angel and expects it to do angel things. Like when she finds the homeless children in the barn before the angel notices and want the angel to fix things. Like when Vinny throws garbage and Zola wants the angel to fix things. But though the angel helps when it can, everyone discovers that sometimes it is the people that do most of the fixing.
    I love the use of onomatopoeia in the words used by the angel. A good example is Mr Pomodoro tappling at the keys for his dimputer. The book plays with language in both the words the angel uses and Zola's playful utterings.  The whole book feels playful and fun, and gives the reader a good feeling inside.


    Finished December 1
    Criminal by Karin Slaughter, read by Kathleen Early

    This thriller takes us back and forth between the present and the summer of 1975. It also brings together two characters from previous novels, GBI detective Will Trent, and doctor Sara Linton. In the present, Will and Sara are early in their relationship, still learning about each other. Will has been sidelined to less active duty very recently by his boss Amanda Wagner, and when a college student goes missing he wonders why he isn't on the case. When he discovers there is a link to his own past, he must go through heartache and self-doubt as he faces his demons.
    In 1975, Amanda is a young policewoman, facing discrimination and her own doubts in her career. When she and her partner Evelyn are sent to a housing project on what proves to be a false case, they learn about some missing women. They are intrigued by the case, despite being warned off by fellow officers, and are determined to get to the truth of the matter. The two women are tested to the extent of their ability, and put themselves in immense danger, but prove themselves as police officers in a way that changes their workplace.
    This is a tale of social history, self-knowledge, and friendship.
    A wonderful book, with so much more than just a good thriller case.


    Finished December 1
    Hoopla: the art of unexpected embroidery by Leanne Prain, photography by Jeff Christenson
    This is an interesting book profiling modern embroidery artists. It contains interviews, photographs of their work, and discussions of different trends in this art form.
    I am an embroiderer who has stuck to more traditional embroidery, but this book opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about embroidery and got my creative juices flowing. Now I just have to make time for that creativity.
    The book offers some project plans and patterns from some of these artists that will inspire and give a starting point to those interested in these new ideas.

    The Year Swallows Came Early

    Finished November 30
    The Year Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

    This children's novel is set in the California town of San Juan Capistrano. Eleanor Robinson has the nickname Groovy, given to her by her father. She loves to cook and constantly works to develop her skills planning to go to cooking school one day. She is friends with the owners of a local restaurant The Swallow and often helps them out. Groovy's father is a bit of a drifter, and keeps changing jobs, while her mother is a hairstylist hooked on horoscopes. As the book opens, Groovy's dad is pulled aside as they are walking to his new job, and arrested. While this naturally upsets her, she looks to her mother for answers and finds they are more complex than she imagined. As she relies on her friends for support, and helps them with their own problems, she also learns more about her own family history and the great-grandmother she is named for.
    This is a book of friends, of forgiveness, and of family and offers many discussion points for young readers.