Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bout of Books 11

Bout of Books

It's almost that time again!  It's hard to believe that the last Bout of Books was just a few months ago.  I am really looking forward to this one, as I will probably be able to read more than I was able to back in May, but I shouldn't be counting my eggs before they hatch!  You probably guessed that I would be participating and if you wish to join, you can go and sign up on the Bout of Books blog.

For those that don't know what Bout of Books is... here you go:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
You can add your goals to your sign-up post, but it isn't a requirement.

High Summer Read-a-Thon - Wrap up Post #HighSummerRAT

I didn't really read much more than Road Ends and almost completed The Goldfinch (which I completed the day after the readathon ended), but I did manage to finish both of them.  Due to the fact that I was listening to an audio version of The Goldfinch while I was reading that was from the library, I couldn't really read anything else.

Monday, July 21, 2014

High Summer Read-a-Thon - Goal Post #HighSummerRAT

Here is my goal list for this week:

• get close to or finish The Goldfinch
• complete Road Ends
• work on these books:
     • War & Peace
     • The Count of Monte Cristo
     • The Woman in White
     • The Lady and the Unicorn
     • Mrs. Hemmingway

I will hopefully put up an update each night at around 10 pm, but it might be later.  Happy reading!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 21)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a fun weekly meme that is hosted by Shelia at Book Journeyin which we share what we've read and reviewed and what we plan on reading in the coming week.

Books finished in the last month:
• The Perks of Being a Wallflower
• The Remains of the Day
• His Majesty's Hope
• The Rosie Project
• Summer House with Swimming Pool
• The Remains of the Day
• The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
• Speaking from among the Bones
• Levels of Life

Book reviews posted:
• The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (review)
• Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal (review)
• HHhH by Laurent Binet (review)
• Boxers by Gene Luen Yang (review)
• Saints by Gene Luen Yang (review)

Books I hope to finish this week:
• The Goldfinch
• Road Ends

Books I would like to work on:
• The Lady and the Unicorn
• Bittersweet
• Mrs. Hemmingway

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Saints - Gene Luen Yang

Title: Saints (Boxers & Saints #2)
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Pages 170
Published: 2013
Challenges: I Love Libraries, Finish the Series
Genre: Historical Fiction, Graphic Novels
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: China, 1898. An unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn't even given a proper name by her family when she's born. She finds friendship--and a name, Vibiana--in the most unlikely of places: Christianity. 

But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is in full swing, and bands of young men roam the countryside, murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie...and whether she is willing to die for her faith. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: This was the conclusion to Boxers and used characters and events from the previous book, so it would be very helpful to read Boxers before reading this book.  I was able to get through this book fairly quickly, but I was a little disappointed that this side of the story wasn't as developed as Boxers was developed and felt that the author shortchanged the readers with the second half, but maybe there wasn't as much material to work with as there may have been with Boxers.

But being that its been several months since I read this book, my recollection isn't that great, but as a whole, it is one that I would read,  particularly if I am a fan of graphic novels.

Bottom line: Like I mentioned in my review for Boxers, I would probably recommend this book to those that are either fans of the graphic novel format or are interested in history and reading a fictionalized account of a historical book.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4/5

Pages for 2014: 7568

Boxers - Gene Luen Yang

Title: Boxers (Boxers & Saints #1)
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Pages: 325
Published: 2013
Challenges: I Love Libraries, Complete the Series, Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction, Graphic Novels
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers--commoners trained in kung fu--who fight to free China from "foreign devils."

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of "secondary devils"--Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I first heard about this book from Michael Kindness on the podcast Books on the Nightstand, that he co-hosts with a colleague, Ann Kingman.  Not that I am gaining anything from this, but I would highly recommend downloading the podcast, as they have excellent book recommendations and discuss some really important topics and generally have a good time with it.

Anyways, after hearing the recommendation for the book and its sequel, Saints, I immediately sought out the books and being a fan of the Maus books by Art Spiegelman, it piqued my interest, even though this is more a fictionalized representation of the Boxer Rebellion.  I wasn't disappointed with the book and was able to get through the book more quickly than I had expected to, especially since it took me sometime to get through Blankets a number of years back.  I did think that it would take me awhile to get through the book, even though it was a graphic novel.

Bottom line: If you have read and enjoyed other historical graphic novels, both fiction and non-fiction, and have an interest in historical events in general, you probably would enjoy this as well.  The illustrations are well done and fit well with the tone of the book.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5

Pages for 2014: 7398

HHhH - Laurent Binet

Title: HHhH
Author: Laurent Binet, Sam Taylor (translator)
Pages: 330
Published: 2012 (first published 2009)
Challenges: I Love Libraries, Eclectic Reading, Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction, War Fiction, Translation, Literary Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: HHhH: “Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich”, or “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”. The most dangerous man in Hitler’s cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich was known as the “Butcher of Prague.” He was feared by all and loathed by most. With his cold Aryan features and implacable cruelty, Heydrich seemed indestructible—until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, killed him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague, and thus changed the course of History.

Who were these men, arguably two of the most discreet heroes of the twentieth century? In Laurent Binet’s captivating debut novel, we follow Jozef Gabćik and Jan Kubiš from their dramatic escape of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to England; from their recruitment to their harrowing parachute drop into a war zone, from their stealth attack on Heydrich’s car to their own brutal death in the basement of a Prague church.

A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Laurent Binet’s remarkable imagination, HHhH—an international bestseller and winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman—is a work at once thrilling and intellectually engrossing, a fast-paced novel of the Second World War that is also a profound meditation on the nature of writing and the debt we owe to history. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I first heard about this novel through Hear...Read This! as one of their first selections and because the book sounded interesting.  I had never heard about Reinhard Heydrich (may have heard his name his name in course of my history courses in university, but it never probably clicked in my head) and once I had received the book, I did some research on him and trust me he was not one you wanted to cross, both in life and in death.

What I liked about the most about the book is that the chapters were very short, mostly about a third to a half page and that you could see the author's thought process, at least I think it was, interjected with a bit of history of the Czech resistance movement.  It was interesting to read a book that took from the Axis side that didn't involved the civilian population.

If there was something that bothered me was that when the author would spend a lot of time in the present and not return to the historical aspect of the book as quickly as I would have liked the author to.

Bottom line: If you are a fan of war fiction, I would highly recommend the book.  Even if you like reading historical fiction that presents something that isn't your typical historical fiction and something more with a literary bent.  Recommended.

Rating: 3.9/5

Pages for 2014: 7073

Sunday Salon - Right Now (7/20/14)

Time: 2:20 pm Pacific

Place: Some place other than home

Listening to… Adventures with Words Live from YALC

Watching... An episode of House Hunters International

Reading... A bunch of stuff, but am planning on doing a bunch out of The Goldfinch

Planning...  To write some reviews this afternoon for Bloggiesta

Feeling... Frustrated; can't really seem to get into a routine at the moment.

Wanting... Some sort of routine

Thinking... Trying not to think too much about things at the moment

Looking forward to... Seeing my friend Alison for the next few days.

Books finished since my last Sunday Salon:

Books reviewed:

Books I hope to finish this week:
The Goldfinch
Road Ends

Bloggiesta sign up

I realize that I putting this up a little late, but I figure whatever.  Here are my plans:

• post 3 or 4 book reviews
• catch up on blog-related emails that have been piling up since a week ago Friday (the 11th)
• listen to a bunch of my book-related podcasts
• read up to at least 40% of The Goldfinch
• write up a start up post for the High-Summer Readathon
• write up my Sunday Salon and What Are You Reading? posts

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sunday Salon - What is the purpose of a Salon?

This is usually a place where I gripe or tell you what I am doing on a particular Sunday morning.  But due to an amazing discussion that was taking place between a few of us on Saturday night, I thought I would do a bit of a history of the Salon and maybe a few thoughts of my own.

Basically, the premise of the Salon was to exchange of ideas through conversation.   While some of us may think of it as a place where artists would show works that in the 1800s, primarily those of the Expressionists, it started in Italy in the 16th century, flourishing in France in the 17th and 18th centuries and continuing on in Italy throughout the 19th century.

Réunion de damesAbraham Bosse, 17th century.
They were very similar to the English coffeehouses, in which people would gather in a public place to gather for conversation and commerce, which were started in Oxford in the mid-17th century as a place for like-minded scholars to gather together to talk, read, as well as learn from and debate each other for about a penny; it was a way of allowing individuals to have social intercourse, gossip, scholastic interest and sober discussion, which subsequently spread quickly to London.

While the Salon basically has disappeared in what it was back in the 16th and 17th centuries, the internet has allowed for this sort of Salon to flourish through the various message boards and blogs that now proliferate on a variety of topics.

Which brings me to our little group.  I really think that this group has an important purpose, not only because a number of us love to read and have a passion for books, in making sure that we are able to converse on a number of topics in a way that makes us feel valued, even if we may not always agree on things. 

Books finished since my last Sunday Salon: 
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
• Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
• Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

Books reviewed:
• The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (review)
• Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal (review)

Books I hope to finish this week:
• Mrs. Hemingway
(I am basically reading my won books at this point)

PS If you are wondering, most of my information about the Salon and the English Coffeehouse, along with Réunion de dames, came from that lovely source called Wikipedia.

Weekend Cooking - Easy Spaghetti Sauce

In an attempt to reduce costs and to also start cooking more of my food from scratch, I started looking for fairly easy recipes to cook myself this past winter.  On of the things that I found that I liked doing was making a spaghetti sauce from scratch.  It actually happened by accident, in that I had had some canned tomato sauce instead of some generic canned pasta sauce.  And since then I have have made this on a regular basis and have quite enjoyed making it.  I found the recipe on

• 12 ounces spaghetti                        • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (just a pinch would suffice)
• 1lb of lean ground beef                  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion (I only put in a pinch or two)
• 1 teaspoon of salt                           • 2 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes (I put in one can (19 fl oz or
• 3/4 teaspoon of sugar                       540 ml) of diced tomatoes)
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano               • 1 1/3 (6 ounces) cans tomato paste
• 1/4 ground black pepper                • 1 (4.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms (this would be optional,
                                                            depending if members in your house like mushrooms or not)

1) Brown beef over medium heat.  Drain off fat.

2) In a large pot (a large saute pan would also work well), combine beef, salt, sugar, oregano, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and mushrooms.  Simmer at a low heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

3) Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.  Serve sauce over spaghetti.

Here is what the final product should look like prior to serving:


Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

High Summer Read-a-Thon - Time to Sign-Up!!! #HighSummerRAT

I have been looking forward to this for a bit and so glad that it is "getting off" the ground.  I am not going to list what I am going to read, but will save that for the night before.  I hope to post most days, but since I have company for the first few days, it may be delayed and I may not read much.

If you want more information, you can visit Seasons of Reading, where Michelle has more information and a sign up, if you wish to join.

Top Ten Tuesday Bookish Confessions

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this meme is all about making book-ish lists of your “Top Ten”s!

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

1. I read while watching TV or listening to podcasts.  Maybe its not the best way of reading a book, but somehow it has become habit and one will often find me reading while I am watching TV.  Same thing goes for when listening to podcasts.  I somehow don't do well with silence.  In fact, I listened to a Canucks playoff game while taking an exam final about 10 years (still had a walkman).

2. Most of the books on my read shelf aren't mine.  For those of you who have read my blog on a regular basis know this to be a fact.  I tend to get most of my books from the library, as I don't have enough money to purchase all the books I would read over the course of a year.  Besides it keeps the library in business.

3. I don't buy books from an independent bookstore, generally.  There is a huge reason why and that is the town that I live in doesn't exactly have a great selection of bookstores.  The best bet for a new book is to go to the mall and to buy something from the bookstore in there and even then they don't have a great selection.  The other option is a used bookstore that sells a small selection of newer books, but usually they don't have what I am looking for.

4. I don't really get the whole vampire thing in YA.  I can get that some people like the genre, but honestly, it isn't my cup of tea.

5. I really didn't like Catcher in the Rye.  I read the book for my book club and in fact I wanted to punch Holden Caufield and tell him to f***** grow up!

6. I have read Lord of the Flies twice and the second time made me loathe it even more.  Yep, I did.  I read it in my Grade 11 English class and thought it was because it was an English class book that I didn't like it (had the same feeling about All Quiet on the Western Front when I read it a year later and read it later for a course in university and actually liked it).  So I gave it another shot about 10 years later and realized that it really wasn't a book meant for me.

7.  Most of the books that I own are unread.  I have about 300 books that I have personally bought and a good majority of them have sit there untouched, just waiting for me to read them.

8. What was the point of I Never Promised You A Rose Garden?  I read this book in my senior English class and never really understood (a) why our teacher had us read it and (b) the point of the book.  

9. Sometimes I like the movie cover of a book more than the original cover.  There was an article on Book Riot a few weeks back about things adults should be ashamed of.  And one of them was reading from a book with the movie cover.  Personally, saying that adults should be ashamed of reading a book with a movie cover is pretty close to book snobbery as one can get.  I can understand if you don't like your book like that, but then don't buy it and purchase the cover that you do want.

10. Sometimes the movie IS better than the book.  I can understand why most people think that the book  is better than the movie, especially after watching the last two Hunger Games movies,  but there is the odd time that the movie is better than the book.  For example, The Remains of the Day.  While the book is an excellent piece of literature and the author has a way of drawing you into that world that Stevens has lived in for the majority, if not all, of his life, I found that the movie adaptation of the book was much better in conveying the sentiment of the book, especially when it came to the flashback pieces.  While I do realize that things had been changed in the movie for whatever the reason, I did find that the book was a bit on the dry side and honestly there were times I just wanted to quit reading, but really had no choice, as I had to read it for bookclub.

What's your top ten for this week?

Princess Elizabeth's Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal

Title: Princess Elizabeth's Spy
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Pages: 352
Published: 2012
Challenges: I Love Libraries, Eclectic, Historical Fiction
Genre: Mystery fiction, Historical fiction
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: As World War II sweeps the continent and England steels itself against German attack, Maggie Hope, former secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, completes her training to become a spy for MI-5. Spirited, strong-willed, and possessing one of the sharpest minds in government for mathematics and code-breaking, she fully expects to be sent abroad to gather intelligence for the British front. Instead, to her great disappointment, she is dispatched to go undercover at Windsor Castle, where she will tutor the young Princess Elizabeth in math. Yet castle life quickly proves more dangerous—and deadly—than Maggie ever expected. The upstairs-downstairs world at Windsor is thrown into disarray by a shocking murder, which draws Maggie into a vast conspiracy that places the entire royal family in peril. And as she races to save England from a most disturbing fate, Maggie realizes that a quick wit is her best defense, and that the smallest clues can unravel the biggest secrets, even within her own family. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I quite enjoyed this read, even though it took me a little longer to read this book than I would have liked (I had other books to complete at the time. which meant that I had to set aside this book).  While it wasn't a book that won't exactly blow one's mind, it definitely did its job and is a example of what I would expect from what is coined as a cozy mystery.  In otherwords, it does its job and doesn't try to be something that its not.  And its the sort of book that one could easily read in a few days and even if you had to put it down for a bit, it wouldn't be hard to pick up the book where you left off.

Bottom line: If you are a fan of cozy mysteries and have read the first book in the series, I would recommend this book.  And even if you haven't read the first book in the series (it wouldn't hurt), the story is separate enough for one to pick up the book and enjoy it and you probably wouldn't lose much, even though there are some things that are related in the book to the first one in the series.  Recommended.

Rating: 4/5

Pages for 2014: 6743

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Orenda - Joseph Boyden

Title: The Orenda
Author: Joseph Boyden
Pages: 501
Published: 2013
Challenges: Chunkster, I Love Libraries, Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical fiction, Canadian literature, Literary fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux. (via

Thoughts: I felt that the book was disjointed and while for the most part I could tell who main speaker was, there were times that I was unable to.

There was also the problem that I couldn't tell what point in time the chapter was, even though it was clear that time passed in the novel, mainly due to the age of Snow Falls.  While it was a read that I did get entranced with, I really couldn't figure out exactly time period I was moving through (but after doing a search, I realize that it takes place during the mid-17th century, but it would have been nice to have a context for the book).

That being said, the author does create a lyrical picture of Huronia (yes, I also found that out too during my search to find out the period of the book and by end of the book, I was definitely engrossed in the book.

Bottom line: If you are a fan of contemporary Canadian literature or at least a contemporary spin on a historical event, you might enjoy this one.  Even if you like literary fiction, you may like this as well. Recommended.

Rating: 3.5/5

Pages for 2014: 6391

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Salon - A busy week of reading and other stuff

What a week and a half of reading its been and honestly I would like to take a bit of a break from it, but there are books to be read in the next couple of days.  Aren't there always?

Surprisingly, I haven't really gone outside to do any reading, as I have also had the problem of a PVR that had too many recordings on it and needed to watch those items.  And I have managed to get them watched and deleted, except for 3 FIFA matches from Friday and Saturday that I hope to watch today and tomorrow, in addition to the men's Wimbeldon final (Go Roger!).

What I am amazed at is the variety of books that I have read: from an amazing YA novel (Perks of Being a Wallflower) to books that are a little lighter (His Majesty's Hope & The Rosie Project) to what I would consider a book that could be a classic in the coming years (The Remains of the Day).  

The book that surprised me the most was Summer House with Swimming Pool, in that I was sort of expecting sort of the same sort of story that Koch wrote with The Dinner last year.  It wasn't that I didn't like The Dinner, it was partly that I had pretty high expectations of the book and that it basically didn't live up to those expectations.  While I enjoyed Summer House and its premise,  I thought that the ability of Koch to draw me into the story was more effective.

As for this week, I have 3 books that I will be finishing up for sure and I hope to have at least two of them completed tomorrow.

This past week I celebrated Canada Day (sort of the Canadian equivalent to Independence Day in the States) by going to a beach side community and getting some fish and chips.  I now know not to go to White Rock on Canada Day, as it seems as though a lot of people from the Lower Mainland seem to descend on the community to cool down, especially on hot summer days.  Besides having to walk far up the hill to find my car afterwards, I had a good time and the fish and chips were wonderful, but I think I'll wait to have some again; maybe at the end of the summer I'll go down again on a weekday to enjoy the beach a little more than I did.

This week I am starting a Coursea course on the French Revolution, which I am really looking forward to. A friend of mine mentioned it in some texts while we were chatting about stuff and it looked interesting and I hope to learn some interesting things about the French Revolution.

Hope you all have a wonderful week and happy reading.

Books finished since my last Sunday Salon: 
• The Rosie Project
• Summerhouse with Swimming Pool
• The Light between Oceans

Books I hope to finish this coming week:
• Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy
• Levels of Life
• Speaking from Among the Bones

Saturday, July 5, 2014

2014 Canadian Book Challenge Sign-up and First Post

This is a challenge that I have been looking forward to doing.  It's pretty simple: read books by Canadian authors.  And the ultimate goal is to read 13 overall books, one for each province (10) and territory (3).  One doesn't have to find a book set in each province or territory, as some are easier than others to have books set in (every province except for New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador will be fairly easy; the only territory that would be easy to find something would be the Yukon), but if you choose to do it that way, you are welcome to do it that way.

John at The Book Mind Set is hosting the challenge and has guidelines/FAQ's for the challenge, which you can find here. He also made the photo that I am using for this challenge.

I am going to aim for 13 books.  The challenge runs July 1, 2014 (yeah, I'm a little late) until June 30, 2015.

Books completed:
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