Thursday, December 31, 2015

Some Reflections of 2015

 

As 2015 closes, it is a time of reflection on the previous year and looking forward to the coming year. 

This past year has been momentous, especially in regards to my mental health. I went on depression medication about a year and anxiety medication about 11 months ago and it was the best decision I made; I am a lot more relaxed and am starting to see what my threshold is for things and am starting to feel somewhat "normal", if there is such a thing. 

As for reading, there were plenty of good books that I read, but I will have more on this in the coming weeks, once I get my computer back. 

I realize that this is short, but I can't think of much else. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

First Book of the Year 2016


When I fist discovered this last year, I wasn't sure what to make of it, but I quite enjoyed it and am going to participate again this year.

Here are the books I am planning to read on January 1st:

This is an ebook

 

So it looks like I will have a busy day of reading, but these should be fairly easy reads. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Dec. 28)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date. And here we are!

My week:
Read a little bit, as most of my reading happened in the previous weeks, when I had more materials on hand and wasn't recovering from a busy week of Christmas related events. I did start reading The Science of The Big Bang Theory and als started A Duty to the Dead as well.   I don't know how much I'll read tomorrow, as it is a travel day for me and by the time I get home, I'll probably be tired. 

Current Reads:
The Science of The Big Bang Theory 
• A Duty to the Dead

What I read since my last post:
Let it Snow
• The Beautiful Bureaucrat
• Displacement: A Travelogue
• An Age of License: A Travelogue 
• Get Jiro!
• Dashing Through the Snow 

What I reviewed since my last post:
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (review)
• Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essenbaum (review)
• Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking (review)
• The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (review)
• To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (review)
• Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (review)

Hope you all have a wonderful week of reading.

Sunday Salon - Ramblings

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and hopefully got some bookish  items under the tree this year. I did get the main book that I wanted, which was A Little Life.  I got some other things that I wanted, which was a Vancouver Canucks jersey and a Fitbit One.  It was nice to see my sister again and was nice to get back on the hill again; my ankle was fine, but ended up terribly sore in my upper thighs.

I also ordered a bunch of books and a Christmas CD, which should arrive shortly before the New Year. I hope to have some more reading challenges up in the next few days.  I hope you have had some time to catch-up with family and friends over the last few days.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Reading England 2016

I am going to try this reading challenge and see how well I do it this year.  I will probably do Level One, which is 1-3 counties.

If you want more information on the challenge, you can visit Behold the Stars and there is more information.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

Just wanted to wish you all a wonderful Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Hope you all have a relaxing day!

For the time being


I am having issues logging into my Google account on Windows 10 so until further notice, I will be blogging via my Wordpress account. I could always blog on my phone, it is really difficult to blog here, especially when one relies on a full laptop screen to type on. So for the time being, I will be blogging at http://jaynesbooks.wordpress.com. I hope that this won't be permanent move.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Salon - Almost all caught up

I am sorry if this is coming in late, but better late than never.

I was working on my book reviews this afternoon and realized that I am getting closer to getting caught up with my reviews for this year.  I don't know how much longer it will take me to complete them, but I should be able to get fully caught up within the next couple of weeks.

And to top it off, I have been getting closer to my goal of completing 75 books; only four more and I will have achieved my goal, even if one of them is a DNF.

Here are the reviews since my last Salon post:
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nivens (review)
• Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar (review)
• All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (review)
• Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (review)
• A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (review)
• The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal (review)


• A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (review)
• Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum (review)
• Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking (review)
• The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (review)
• To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (review)
• Jacob Have I Loved by Katerine Paterson (review)

I would have gotten more reviews done this past week, but I was a bit busy and I don't know how many reviews will be posted this coming week, due to commitments of the Christmas variety.  As for what I am planning on reading, I will concentrate on a few books, including my last Christmas book of the season, as I have other books I need to get read as well, but depending on what Christmas books I have requested, I will probably read a couple more.

Have a good week and hope to talk to you next week.


Jacob Have I Loved - Katherine Paterson

Title: Jacob Have I Loved
Author: Katherine Paterson
Pages: 272
Published: 2009 (first published 1980)
Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction, Historical Fiction
Edition: E-book
Source: Personal

Description: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated . . ." With her grandmother's taunt, Louise knew that she, like the biblical Esau, was the despised elder twin. Caroline, her selfish younger sister, was the one everyone loved.

Growing up on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island in the early 1940s, angry Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Wheeze (her sister's name for her) began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island, especially of old Captain Wallace, who had mysteriously returned after fifty years. The war unexpectedly gave this independent girl a chance to fulfill her childish dream to work as a watermen alongside her father. But the dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach. (via Goodreads)


Thoughts: This was the book that changed my reading from Babysistter's Club books into more literary books and probably changed how I view books.  I don't know why that I identify with Louise, but probably because I have felt similar to her in regards to how I was viewed by others and the fact that I wanted to leave behind the rumors and the teasing that I encountered through out most of elementary and high school.

Bottom line: Like The Robber Bride, which I read when I was 15, this book marks a turning point in my reading life and will forever be a favourite of mine.  I would probably say that the book is more YA than middle-grade, primarily due to the age of the characters and the tone of the book.  Highly recommended.

I should note that this wasn't the cover of the copy that I read, but rather this was a cover of the first copy that I read when I was 12 years old.

Rating: 4.9/5

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Pages: 323
Published: 2005 (first published 1960)
Genre: Literary Fiction, Classics
Edition: Paperback
Source: Personal

Description: Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores big themes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a tough and tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up. (via Amazon.ca)

Thoughts:  I read this book this past summer because I wanted to have the storyline fresh in my mind when I read Go Set A Watchman.  It also didn't help that I hadn't read the book in over 20 years and the book had become fuzzy and couldn't quite remember when things happened in the book.  I suppose listening to the audiobook, which was narrated by Sissy Spacek, didn't hurt either.

Usually I find some little thing to nit-pick, even the ones that have a 4.5 rating, but  honestly there was nothing that came to my mind in regards to anything bad about the book.  I can see why why this book is considered to be a classic, even though it has only been about 55 years since its first publication.

Bottom line: I quite enjoyed this read and would recommend this book not only to readers, but also to non-readers as well.  Highly Recommended.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot

Title: The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries #1)
Author: Meg Cabot
Pages: 256
Published: 2008 (first published 2003)
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: What? A princess??

Me??? Yeah, right.

Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there's nothing worse than being a five-foot-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra.

Is she ever in for a surprise.

First Mom announces that she's dating Mia's Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn't have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance? (via Goodreads)

Thoughts:  It was a pretty easy and quick read for me.  The characters are well-developed and there were some interesting subplots that kept me entertained.

Bottom line: For those that have seen the movie, you may find the book more interesting and the characters more developed.  Highly recommended for teen readers.

Rating:  3.25/5 

Travelling to Infinity - Jane Hawking

Title: Travelling to Infinity
Author: Jane Hawking
Pages: 487
Published: 2014 (originally published 2007)
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Autobiography
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description:  Professor Stephen Hawking is one of the most famous and remarkable scientists of our age and the author of the scientific bestseller A Brief History of Time, which has sold more than 25 million copies. In this compelling memoir, his first wife, Jane Hawking, relates the inside story of their extraordinary marriage. As Stephen's academic renown soared, his body was collapsing under the assaults of a motor neuron disease. Jane's candid account of trying to balance his 24-hour care with the needs of their growing family reveals the inner strength of the author, while the self-evident character and achievements of her husband make for an incredible tale presented with unflinching honesty. Jane's candor is no less apparent when the marriage finally ends in a high-profile meltdown, with Stephen leaving Jane for one of his nurses and Jane marrying an old family friend. In this exceptionally open, moving, and often funny memoir, Jane Hawking confronts not only the acutely complicated and painful dilemmas of her first marriage, but also the relationship's fault lines exposed by the pervasive effects of fame and wealth. The result is a book about optimism, love, and change that will resonate with readers everywhere. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I quite enjoyed this memoir and how Jane describes her 25-year marriage to Stephen Hawking and the challenges she had trying to run her household while also trying to care for Stephen as well.  She provides an unique perspective of living with a famous scientist and the demands that he had.

What I really liked about the book is that she was determined to finish up her own education, despite the pressures that she had within her own home and how it had to take a back seat for quite a significant period.

Bottom line: If you enjoyed The Theory of Everything, you will enjoy this book, as this book was the basis for the movie, as Jane brings the reader into her world without making the reader sorry for her.  Highly Recommended.

Rating:  4.75/5

Hausfrau - Jill Alexander Essbaum

Title: Hausfrau
Author: Jill Alexander Essbaum
Pages: 324
Published: 2015
Genre: Literary fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.  

But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: This was another book that I felt that the writing was strong where the main character was unlikable.  I felt that Anna was really unlikable and that many of the decisions that she made where very selfish and not willing to make her marriage work or seek out more women who are in a similar predicament as she did end up doing.

That being said, Essbaum's writing was excellent, drawing the reader into Anna's mind and the conundrum that Anna gets herself into and leaving the ending to the reader's imagination.

Bottom line: Despite Anna's self-destructive behaviour in the book, I found the book to be an enjoyable read.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4/5

A Hundred Summers - Beatriz Williams

Title: A Hundred Summers
Author: Beatriz Williams
Pages: 357
Published: 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak. 

That is, until the Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily's friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction...and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts:  I had heard about this book about a couple years through some of the blogs that I follow and was intrigued with the book.  I really like how the book went between different years.  I also like how the characters were drawn up and relatable. 

Bottom line: While I felt that the books was an okay read, it may appeal to those readers that enjoy women's fiction.  Recommended, but only if you enjoy this genre.

Rating: 2.75/5

Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading? (Dec. 7)




It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date. And here we are!

My week:
Started to get caught up on my book reviews and hence my book reading has suffered as a result. Hopefully I can do a bit of each this coming week, but with a number of things up this coming week, the reading may suffer yet again.

Current reads:
• An Irish Country Christmas

• While We're Far Apart
• Let it Snow

What I read last week: 
• Circling the Sun
• The Mistletoe Inn

What I reviewed this week:
• The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (review)
• Ru by Kim Thúy (review)
• Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (review)
• Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb (review)
• Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott (review)
• And Nothing But the Truth by Kit Pearson (review)
• Wolf Hall by Hilary by Hilary Mantel (review)
• The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham (review)
• Shadow of Darkness by Deborah Harkness (review)
• The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (review)
• Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (review)
• The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (review)
• Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (review)
• All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nivens (review)
• Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar (review)
• All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (review)
• Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (review)
• A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (review)
• The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal (review)

Coming up this week:
Posting more reviews on the blog and probably reading some more Christmas-type books.

Have a great week!

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent - Susan Elia MacNeal

Title: The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (Maggie Hope #4)
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Pages: 306
Published: 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: World War II rages on across Europe, but Maggie Hope has finally found a moment of rest on the pastoral coast of western Scotland. Home from an undercover mission in Berlin, she settles down to teach at her old spy training camp, and to heal from scars on both her body and heart. Yet instead of enjoying the quieter pace of life, Maggie is quickly drawn into another web of danger and intrigue. When three ballerinas fall strangely ill in Glasgow—including one of Maggie’s dearest friends—Maggie partners with MI-5 to uncover the truth behind their unusual symptoms. What she finds points to a series of poisonings that may expose shocking government secrets and put countless British lives at stake. But it’s the fight brewing in the Pacific that will forever change the course of the war—and indelibly shape Maggie’s fate.  (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: Much like the previous three books, this was a nice easy read.  While the book followed a formula, it still was a fascinating read nonetheless.  It was nice to read something that was familiar and was a bit of a break from reading material that was emotionally draining for me or I was unable to make sense of.

Bottom line: This was an enjoyable read for me and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.  If you have enjoyed the previous books in the series, you will likely enjoy this one as well.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.25/5

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

Title: A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet #1)
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Pages: 232
Published: 2007 (originally published 1963)
Genre: Science fiction, Fantasy, Classic, Middle-Grade
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure - one that will threaten their lives and our universe. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I had heard a lot about how a lot of podcasters that I listen to liked this book as kids and thought I would give it a try.  To make it plain, this is probably something that should be read first as a kid, but each reader is different.  Basically I couldn't make heads over tails about what the book was trying to say.

Bottom line: Probably more ideal for middle grade readers that like science fiction or fantasy.  Recommended.

Rating: 2.75/5

Moon over Manifest - Clare Vanderpool

Title: Moon over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool
Pages: 315
Published: 2010
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Historical Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”


Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I had higher expectations for this book, primarily being that it won a Newbery Award, but was a bit disappointed with the book.

Even though I was disappointed with the book overall, I did like the atmosphere that the author created of what it may have been like in a central Kansas town in the 1930s.

Bottom line: This probably will appeal to those middle grade readers that are starting to transition into middle grade reads, but it may also appeal to older middle grade readers that enjoy historical fiction.  Recommended.

Rating: 3.1/5

All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

Title: All Quiet on the Western Front
Author: Erich Maria Remarque; translated by A. W. Wheen
Pages: 296
Published: 1987 (originally published 1928)
Genre: Historical Fiction, War Fiction, Classics
Edition: Mass-Market Paperback
Source: Personal

Description: This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army of World War I. These young men become enthusiastic soldiers, but their world of duty, culture, and progress breaks into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. 

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the hatred that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another... if only he can come out of the war alive. (via Goodreads)


Thoughts: This was my book club's selection this past June and the third time that I have read the book.  It was interesting to read the book on my own for the first time (first two times I read the book were for course work; the first time was for my grade 12 English class and the second time was for a 100-level History course).  Overall, I liked the book, even though I had difficulty getting through the first half of the book.  

What I really liked was how Remarque used language to evoke what it was like to be in the those trenches a hundred years ago. My favourite scene was when Remarque described the fog rolling in, filling in where the shells had hit the ground.

Bottom line: While the book is fairly short, it a book packed with emotion and imagery, both bad and good.  It probably will leave the reader questioning the nature of warfare and wondering what it does to the soldier on both sides of a conflict.  Highly Recommended.

Rating: 4.75/5

Vanessa and Her Sister - Priya Parmar

Title: Vanessa and Her Sister
Author: Priya Parmar
Pages: 368
Published: 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description:  London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.
    
Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success eventually, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf's book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.
     
But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa's constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts:  While I liked the format of the book, which is told through a series of letters, I felt that the book was dull at times.  It's not that Ms. Parmar is a bad writer, it's just that I was expecting something more out of the book than what I ended up getting out of the book.  Maybe if it had been told in a traditional narrative format, the book may have been more enjoyable.

Bottom line: While I liked the format of the book and how the story was told, I felt that the story itself was sort of ho-hum and that this was a book I could have easily DNF'd on.  I think it had more to do with how I felt about the lives of the characters were pretty dull, except that some of them became to be fairly well known people.  Recommended.

Rating:  3.25/5

All the Bright Places - Jennifer Nivens

Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Nivens
Pages: 388
Published: 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I had heard quite a bit about this book during the first half of 2015 and the book intrigued me.  And I wasn't disappointed.

I was really able to empathize with Finch and how he really wanted to end it all; I have been there more than a few times.  The language that Ms. Nivens uses really helps the reader to understand what Finch goes through and what makes this an amazing book that it was hard to put down at times.

Bottom lines:  A really enjoyable YA book that adult readers should read as well.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.25/5

Sunday Salon - Catching Up

Some of you noticed that earlier last week, I put up something in regards to how I should go about catching up on my backlog of book reviews.  I don't know why I was possessed to start catching up on my book reviews at this time of year, but I felt the need to start up on them while it was still 2015.

So I have spent the last few days working on book reviews rather than on my reading.  But I did get about a number of them posted and hope to work on get more during the week.

Here are the reviews that I posted this past week:
• The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (review)
• Ru by Kim Thúy (review)
• Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (review)
• Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb (review)
• Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott (review)
• And Nothing But the Truth by Kit Pearson (review)
• Wolf Hall by Hilary by Hilary Mantel (review)
• The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham (review)
• Shadow of Darkness by Deborah Harkness (review)
• The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (review)
• Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (review)
• The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (review)
• Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (review)

There will be a bunch more that I hopefully will post this coming week and make more inroads on my book reviews.  Happy Sunday and reading!



Friday, December 4, 2015

Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1)
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Pages: 372
Published: 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description:  Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she's less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he's taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's waiting for?(via Goodreads)

Thoughts: After reading a couple of books that were weren't in my normal wheelhouse, it was nice to read something that was more in line with what I normally read.  And by the end of the book, I could see the appeal of the book and why so many Young Adult reviewers like this book.  The writing is smart and isn't dumbed down to the primary age of individuals who would primarily read the book and also has the ability to appeal to adult readers as well.

Bottom line: A very enjoyable read, even if it is a typical YA romance, I would probably recommend it to most readers, even if they just needed a palate cleanser.  Recommended.

Rating: 3.75/5

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Pages: 316
Published: 2015
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description:   Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and evening, rattling over the same junctions, flashing past the same townhouses.The train stops at the same signal every day, and she sees the same couple, breakfasting on their roof terrace. Jason and Jess, as she calls them, seem so happy. Then one day Rachel sees someone new in their garden. Soon after, Rachel sees the woman she calls Jess on the news. Jess has disappeared. 

Through the ensuing police investigation, Rachel is drawn deeper into the lives of the couple she learns are really Megan and Scott Hipwell. As she befriends Scott, Rachel pieces together what really happened the day Megan disappeared. But when Megan's body is found, Rachel finds herself the chief suspect in the case. Plunged into a world of betrayals, secrets and deceptions, Rachel must confront the facts about her own past and her own failed marriage.  (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: Like the previous book, I read this book due to the hype.  And for the most part I enjoyed the book.  While there were things that I liked about this book, like the twists and turns that the book to its final conclusion, there were things that were disturbing.  The main one being the behaviour of Rachel.  Thinking back on it, her behaviour was too creepy and don't know if I would want a person like that lurking around my neighbourhood.  I also felt that her overall behaviour was woe-is-me and she didn't really do anything to change that sort of behaviour over the course of the book, even though that maybe she did slightly change towards the end of the book.

Bottom line: The book was kinda meh.  While I don't know what I would have done differently about how the book ended, I felt that the ending was sort of anti-climax, even though the bulk of the book really kept me on the edge of the seat.  Recommended.

Rating: 3.5/5

Horrorstör - Grady Hendrix; Michael Rogalski

Title: Horrorstör
Author: Grady Hendrix; illustrated by Michael Rogalski
Pages: 248
Published: 2014
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Edition: Paperback
Source: Library

Description: Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I had heard quite a bit about this book during the final months of 2014 and really wanted to read it.

I think my expectations got the best of me with this book and while the book started out strongly, it seemed to run out of energy and I felt that the book limped its way towards the end.  It probably was a little too weird for my liking, but I did like the fact that there were interesting illustrations that reminded me of those that one can find in an Ikea catalogue.

Bottom line: If you enjoy odd, unique stories, you probably will enjoy this book.  Recommended, with some reservations.

Rating: 2.75/5

The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan

Title: The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Author: Richard Flanagan
Pages: 334
Published: 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Richard Flanagan's story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds. (via Goodreads).

Thoughts: I will admit that the only reason that I read this book was because it won the 2014 Man Booker Prize, making it the fourth Booker award winner that I have read, that I am aware of (The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Illuminaries by Eleanor Catton and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel being the other three).

What I liked about the book was that while the book has beautiful imagery, it is also heartbreaking at the same time and renders the reader speechless.  It is a book of contrasts in that while your heart is breaking, yet at the same time you are hoping that characters in the book survive.

You also get a feel for what the POW camps that were building the railways through Thailand and Burma during the Second World War (the movie The Railway Man takes place during the same era). I definitely got the sense of atmosphere and quickly got wrapped up in Evans' world before, during and after the war (I felt that the scenes that took place after the war were almost dream-like; almost as if Dorrigo was imaging what could happen, if he survived the labour camp).

I really liked the dream-like quality that Flanagan brought to the book, especially the parts that take place after the war.  It was  almost like one was driven into a dream-like trance as a result.

Bottom line: A very well written book and certainly worthy of the Man Booker Prize that it received.  Probably would recommend the book to those that enjoy reading literary pieces of fiction.  Highly Recommended.

Rating: 4.5/5
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