January Book Review Blitz

3.  Eat Move Think:  The Path to a Healthier, Stronger

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 8.40.36 AMJanuary was a month of thinking about resolutions and Eat Move Think was the book to inspire a few changes.  The book was a little light on research but it was an easy read to inspire readers to make healthy living goals for 2019.

I liked that it had references from Canadian sources and sparks thought which may lead readers to more research.  For me, this book helped me to set goals to some new 30 day challenges like not eating snacks after dinner, ensuring that I get in my 10 sets of stairs daily (easy to track with a fitbit) and get to bed earlier working towards at least 7 hours of sleep.


4.  The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules (Catharina Ingleman-Sundberg) 

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 9.10.07 AMFor February Book Club, the plan was to finish the books from pas book club Christmas exchanges.  I had been especially delinquent and had a copy of The Doomsday Book, The Little Old Lady and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.  My goal had been to finish all 3 for our discussion but I did not quite make it in time!

This was a light, amusing read about a group of pensioners, frustrated by the lack of amenities and control of their own lives in their retirement home.  They began testing the boundaries and breaking rules which led to a life of crime!

Readers need to set aside their need for realism and just enjoy the antics of these seniors rather than judging the actual possibility of the success of these crimes.


5.  A Well-Behaved Woman:  A Novel of the Vanderbilts 

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 9.11.47 AMAfter loving Z, the novel written about Zelda Fitzgerald and the opulent life of parties and excess, I was happy to listen to A Well-Behaved Woman during my January commutes.  Based on the extremely wealthy Vanderbilt family, it was interesting to read about the lifestyle and challenges of being a woman at this time.

This thought-provoking, creative fiction was woven with actual history and told the story of women in the late 1800s.  It was a time where women did not always marry for love but had to consider their husbands with a focus on money and security.  Women could not vote and had limited ability to make independent decisions.

The Vanderbilt family lived a life of excess and it was interesting to read this book and think of the impact these family members had on their future generations.  As I listened to this tale, I reflected on what I had learned listening to The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper.


6.  Good Night Mind: Turn off Your Noisy Thoughts and get a Good Night’s Sleep

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As someone who periodically has sleep challenges, i was interested in learning some new tips for quieting my mind. Although there were helpful tips, there was nothing new but lots of common sense suggestions.

 

 

 


7.  Small Fry (Lisa Brennan-Jobs)

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 9.26.53 AMAs I type on my MacBook Air, communicate on my iPhone and take notes at meeting with my Apple pencil and iPad, it is easy to see the genius and vision of Steve Jobs.  I had already learned about his eccentricities and selfishness in his biography but it was really quite sad to read of his daughter’s experience in her biography, Small Fry.

His daughter and ex lived in relative poverty during Lisa’s early years, her parentage was denied and there was no support despite his ample income.  When he did spend time with Lisa, his behaviours were often mercurial. He was mean, even mentally abusive at times yet loving and over the top at other times.  He lived in a mansion where he had not even been in some of the rooms.  The home was crumbling around him.  He attempted to get his family to eat his extreme vegan diet, stopped paying Lisa’s tuition and demanded she choose one parent over the other.

I am thankful for his vision which allows me to carry a “computer” (iPhone) in my pocket but it is hard to reconcile the technological brilliance with the selfish, petulant man described in Small Fry!

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2. Remember Us (Lindsay Blake/Layne James)

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 2.30.22 PMDid I tell you that my friend Layne has written a book?  How amazing is that??  She is a busy mom, photographer and has recently went back to school to finish a masters program… yet somehow, she has found time to write and publish a book!!!

Remember us is a story full of challenging family dynamics.  Feelings and frustrations escalate  when Reese and her brother Ben return home to care for their father who has been diagnosed with cancer.  As they struggle to care for him, their estranged mother arrives and turns their lives upside down as she attempts to rekindle relationships and make amends after being absent for thirteen years.

The characters are quirky and readers have to wonder how much of these antics are pulled from real life situations?  This story follows Reese who struggles to answer questions such as whether to forgive her mom?  Which love interest to choose?  How to move forward with her life?

If it is not enough that the characters come together in their family home, they take off on a road trip in a rust volkswagen bus.  I don’t want to share any spoilers so I will end this review sharing that there was a bit of a shocker towards the end which leaves readers pondering.

Support a local author!!  Ask for Remember Us at the library, or buy a copy from Coles or Chapters.  Layne lives locally and is excited to join book clubs for discussion and I am looking forward to my May book club where we can get our books signed and ask questions about the writing experience, specifically the challenges in writing a book with a friend.

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1. Bear Town (Fredrik Backman)

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 8.57.05 AMMy apologies to the readers who follow this blog.  Although I had good intentions to stay on track in 2019, the busy days have taken over so I have some catching up to do!

I started 2019 with Bear Town.   If you have not read it, please do pick it up and you will not be disappointed. Friends kept asking me if I had read Bear Town and sharing just how great it was and yet I procrastinated. Finally, I picked up a copying, hoping that the book was not too steeped in hockey and knowing how much I had enjoyed the the audio version of Backman’s book, A Man Called Ove during my commutes in 2015.

To be honest, for the first third of the book, I kept wondering what all the hype was about.  I slogged through the hockey details, got to know all the sport-obsessed characters and learned about the politics of a town that was hoping for renewal if it was chosen as the location of a new hockey school.  If I hadn’t heard so many recommendations, I might have put it down at this point but I continued on…

Similar to a hockey game, the book started slow and then the punches started.  The drama continued and I became so engrossed that despite the late hours, I could not put the book down!  I won’t share any spoilers, but the whole town became involved in turmoil, lives were impacted and individuals, families and the community had to reconsider their actions, the sport and the collective mindsets in this town.  Living in a hockey town filled with families hoping that their children will be the next Wayne Gretzky, perhaps this is the book for those parents who are reliving their own missed opportunities instead of simply supporting their kids in the fun of the game.  (Check out this article detailing over 30 parents who were and were involved in a “brawl” at a game played by eleven and twelve year olds in Simcoe this winter!)

Frederik Backman is a Swedish author yet it was great to see a small Canadian connection in this book.  His beautiful prose draws the readers in and I would also recommend the short stories in The Deal of a Lifetime which I had enjoyed this past December.

What did you think?  Have you read Bear Town?  Did you love it?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts and also to finding out what happens next in Bear Town as the sequel, Us Against You is on my ever-growing TBR pile!

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2018 Review – update

For those of you that read my posts by email please note that the wonderful books that I have recommended seem to be mixed with those that I would suggest avoiding so please read the post here.

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2018: A Year of Books Review

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It seems that 2018 has flown by!  It was an year of less reading, many exiting author events and a hectic pace as I successfully ran for school board trustee (hence less reading).

Did I meet all my reading goals?  Not quite, but I am still pleased to have read 90 books in 2018.  Of this reading, 51 books were written by Canadian authors (57% of my overall reading).  A third of my reading was non-fiction and I listened to 14 books  which kept me engaged as I commuted.

My friend, Kim, had a goal of meeting 50 authors in 2018 as a way of celebrating her 50th birthday.  Although I am not quite at this milestone, it was a fun challenge and I had fun meeting 55 authors.

I had a great time at the Canada Reads finale with friends from my in person and online book clubs (and am looking forward to the 2019 long-list announcement on January 10th).

 

Another fantastic event was the FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity) where I got to meet Kim Thuy (author of Ru, VI, Man), Shannon Bala (The Boat People) and Tanya Talaga (Seven Fallen Feathers).

Over the year, my author highlights included:

  • Lisa Genova
  • David Chariandy
  • Thomas King
  • Paula McLain
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Kate Morton

as well as my husband’s favourite authors:

  • Daniel Silva (the biggest event I have ever attended with 1000 people appreciating this spy thriller author in a Toronto synogogue)
  • Ian Rankin

If you are looking for recommendations to read in 2019, I would suggest:

 

You can’t win them all so here are a few books that I would suggest passing on:

 

Overall, 2018 was a great year of reading, book events, book club meetings, online discussion and books in general.  Here’s to more great books and events in 2019!!!

What were your book highlights and lowlights of 2018?  Please comment below!

 

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Book Review Blitz – December

Clearly, my blogging has been a bit behind this fall so I am catching up and providing mini-reviews of the last books of 2018 as we end the year.  Tomorrow, I will post my reading highlights and lowlights of the year as we turn a fresh page to 2019.


80.  Too Young to Escape (Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 7.00.38 PMThis was a terrific story, written with a middle-grade reader in mind.  It is a story of bravery as a family escapes Vietnam for a better life, ending up in Canada.  This families’ plight should be taught in school and enable those born in Canada to understand the life and death choices that families have made to get to freedom.

As a mother, it is hard to imagine sending off my husband with one of the kids, hoping for the best and waiting months before knowing if they had reached safety.  It is hard to imagine a time before the internet, before texting and apps like Facebook that provide quick responses when this family had to wait for a letter bringing news that their loved ones had made it!  As a mother, I can’t imagine that dreadful choice of escaping to dodge bullets and keep 3 young children safe yet knowing that the youngest was left behind in Vietnam.

I loved meeting this amazing family who were all reunited after many years apart and appreciate living in Canada, a country where they can be safe and have opportunities that they would not have experienced in Vietnam.  As in all her books, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has done a fantastic job capturing the raw feelings of hope and resilience.  She helps students consider the plight of others, living through war and devastation. I look forward to her next book and am thankful that the Branford Public Library held an event to launch this terrific book!


81.  The Christmas Star (Donna VanLierre)

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As part of a December challenge to read Christmas Stories, I listened to The Christmas Star during my commutes.  It was pleasant, light and predictable.  It told the story of a little girl, living in foster care who befriends the school janitor, introducing him to a woman at the after school program.  Both adults care for the young girl and the magic of Christmas creates a happy ending.

 


82.  Becoming (Michelle Obama)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 6.59.40 PMAlthough Becoming had a bit of a slow start, I loved learning more about the strength and caring of Michelle and Barack Obama.  I had no idea of that Michelle had grown up living in a tiny apartment above her aunt’s house.  Her mother stayed home to care for Michelle and her brother while her dad never missed a day of work at a water plant.  Her parents supported the importance of education and Michelle studied diligently, eventually completing a law degree from Harvard.

As she worked in her first law office, she was assigned the mentorship of a new law student who was none other than Barack Obama.  Despite “fake news”, I learned that Barack Obama had his own complicated upbringing and certainly did not grow up with a silver spoon!

Reading Michelle’s life story, the commitment of this couple to the greater good and all the sacrifices to family time, helped me understand the power of this couple to make a difference in the world.  From her vegetable garden at the White House, her commitment to healthy children and to Barack’s fierce determination to be president, they made a difference to the people of America.

This was an inspiring read and I am looking forward to the Michelle Obama event in Toronto this May.


83.  The Bookshelf of Yesterday (Amy Meyerson)

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The Bookshelf of Yesterday was an entertaining book to listen to during my commutes.  It was the story of a young woman’s search for answers after her Uncle died, leaving her a scavenger hunt of clues.  The hints were deliberately hidden in books and old letters that had been entrusted to others for safekeeping.  Her Uncle left a trail of family history which enabled her to learn about her past and discover herself.

 

 


84.  The World According to Garp (John Irving)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 7.01.30 PMJohn Irving’s The World According to Garp celebrated its’ 40th anniversary this fall.  I eagerly picked up a copy, expecting to love it a second time around.  It had likely been about 25 years since my first read through and my first copy had experienced an unfortunate accident in the bottom of a canoe.  At that time (early 90s), relaxing on a camping trip, I had loved the story.

The second read took me about 3 weeks.  I struggled to get through it, remembering snippets and slowly recalling the story.  Although it was ahead of its’ time in many ways, with feminist ideas and a strong transgender character, it was so obviously written from the perspective of a  man and had me rolling my eyes at times.

Lessons learned, sometimes revisiting an old favourite is just a disappointment!


85.  The Tent (Margaret Atwood)

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It was amazing to receive a signed copy of the tent from my CanadianContent Goodreads Group Secret Santa.  These, very short, short stories were a couple of pages and were a great way to end each night.  Having said that, I will need to revisit them as reading Atwood’s prose before bed is not the best time for contemplation!

 

 


86.  The Crown (Jennifer Robson)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 7.03.54 PMThank you to Harper Collins for sharing an advance reader copy of The Gown.  I had looked forward to reading this novel after hearing Jennifer Robson speak at the Brantford Public Library where she shared the idea of this novel as well as at the embroidery she had attempted during a trip to London to research the book.

This was an engaging story of a young embroider who was living independently after losing her parents and her beloved brother before and during the second World War.  It highlights the perseverance of a group of women to complete, with painstaking detail, the beautifully embellished wedding gown of Princess Elizabeth at a time when England needed something to celebrate.

I love historical fiction and think that this book struck a chord as I thought about my late Grandmother who had attended the Queen’s coronation a few years after the setting of the book.  Robson continues the pattern of her meticulous research and has woven a story that not only entertains but helps readers have a greater understanding of England following World War II.


87.  The Deal of a Lifetime (Frederik Bachman)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 7.04.17 PMThanks to my husband for this great collection of 3 short stories which he picked up, knowing how much I had enjoyed A Man Called Ove.  I had mistakenly thought that this was a holiday book when I started reading it on Christmas morning.  As I powered through the stories, I was especially struck by the second tale which described the experience of a grandfather, son and grandson as they  came to terms with the grandfather’s dementia.  This collection is poignant and beautifully written and it just might be a good idea to have a box of tissue handy for the middle story!

Finishing this book reminds me that I must read Beartown which has been recommended to me multiple times (Sarah, Layne, Shannon).


88.  The Library Book (Susan Orlean)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 7.04.39 PMThanks to my brother for another great Christmas gift, The Library Book.  This non-fiction book told the story of the Los Angeles (LA) Public Library which sustained an enormous amount of damage and the loss of many books during a fire which was thought to be arson.

The book not only described the fire and investigated the suspect but it shared details about libraries, the loss of books during war, the past history of library administration in LA along with  the complex workings of the shipping department as it shared books with multiple branches.

While I loved the topic and detail of this book, it would have benefited from a bit more editing.  There were a couple of repeated parts and I struggled, at times, to keep up with the way the chapters jumped back and forth between topics.


89.  Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 7.04.59 PMIn 2018, I have read Cat’s Eye, The Tent and now Oryx and Crake, the first of a dystopian trilogy.  I was lucky to meet Margaret Atwood at an event at the Stratford Theatre and appreciate her creativity and spunk each time I read her work.

Reading Oryx and Crake made me think about both The Hunger Game and Divergent series and wonder if Atwood’s writing had inspired these authors to write their tales which had many similarities?

The reader slowly comes to understand the stories of Oryx and Crake through the eyes of Snowman, the remaining human who had been born in a previous way of life.  He is supervising the “Crakers”, designer humans in a world devoid of technology and community while he tries to stay safe and avoid the pigoons and wolvogs.

This first book, in the series, describes how the world had gotten to this point and I look forward to learning more about Snowman and what is to come in the next two books including The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam.


90.  Spark of Light (Jodi Picoult)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 7.05.25 PMThe January book club read is Spark of Light which is a fictional tale of an abortion clinic under fire.  It is told from multiple perspectives and it begins at the end of hostage deliberations after some hostages have been released.  It then travels back by the hour to help the reader to understand what had happened before.

Again, Jodi Picoult has spent a great deal of time researching her topic (including witnessing abortions at different stages and speaking to individuals who had chosen to terminate pregnancies).  She brings the issue to life including the perspective of a young girl  and her aunt awaiting an appointment for birth control, a woman that has just had the procedure, an “anti” who was disguised as trying to obtain information for an abortion and the doctor and staff who supported women to make choices.

While I struggled with the literary device of telling the story backwards, I enjoyed this quick read which makes a reader ponder their own feelings on the issue.  I for one, am glad to live in Canada where women have choice!  I am sure that it will be a dynamic discussion on Wednesday!



 

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Book Review Blitz – October/November

68.  An Ocean of Minutes (Lim, Thea)

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 10.02.46 AMThank you to Viking Publishing for an advance reader copy of An Ocean of Minutes (won through Goodreads).  Although it took me a while dig into this story, it was terrific that it became one of the books short-listed for the 2018 Giller Prize.

It was an interesting premise, the main character’s partner contracted a terrible flu and the only way that she could afford to save him was by signing on with a company providing health benefits.  The company happened to send workers with specific skills into the future.  She sacrificed her own freedom, leaving behind her boyfriend and beloved aunt, and headed years away with a plan to meet again at a certain time and place.

Of course, the trip did not go smoothly and she was sent to a different year.  As she acclimated to a new time and culture, she waited to be reunited with her partner.

At the time of reading, I did not appreciate the ending but as I reflect back, it seems more realistic.  It was fun to meet the author and have my book signed at the Between the Pages event in Toronto.


69.  The Sea Prayer (Hosseini, Khaled)

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The Sea Prayer was more like a picture book helping , readers to understand the risks individuals will take to escape countries such as Syria.  Like The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Sons and And the Mountains Echoed, it makes readers thankful for living in Canada and helps readers reflect on the experiences of families in war torn countries.

 

 


70.  Motherhood (Sheila Heiti)

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 10.03.35 AMI have to say that I would NEVER have read this book if it had not been part of the Giller Scotiabank short-list.  I struggled to finish it and would never have got to the end, if it I had not been part of this amazing book contest.  I do strive to have all the Giller short-listed books signed at the Between the Pages event but was happy to have borrowed this one from the library.

I am not sure, if I just could not relate (being the mother of 4 and having a great relationship with my own mom) but this book made me cranky.  It was supposed to be fiction but really seemed more of a memoir… and one that went on and on, wrestling with the idea of whether the narrator (or maybe the author) should have a child or not.

I think it could have been more palatable if it was a short story (or perhaps an essay) but it was too long, too repetitive and read like a LONG, dry stream of consciousness of the author.

Of note, this author included MANY yes/no questions throughout the book which she answered by the flip of a coin.  Towards the end, it was difficult to force myself to read them and stay focused.

In the end, to each their own and it seems to be a book that received many polarizing responses.  In my Goodreads group, there were those that could not relate yet there were others who were impacted by the voice of the narrator and truly appreciated the book.


71.  Whiskey in a Teacup:  What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love & Baking Biscuits  (Reese Witherspoon)

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 10.10.50 AMWhiskey in a Teacup was another book that I was glad to have borrowed from the library.  It was inspired by the author’s grandmother who thought that the combination of a woman’s beauty and strength was like “whiskey in a teacup”.  The book included both text and many pictures which shared Reese Whitherspoon’s thoughts on topics such as entertaining, holidays, home decor and books.  It included recipes and tips inspired by her Southern roots of hospitality.

Although I enjoyed reading this and flipping through the pictures, it is not a book that I need to own.  I do appreciate that Reese promotes a love of reading and found that her section on reading and book clubs was the highlight of this book!


72.  The Next Person You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom)

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 10.36.31 AMMitch Albom has done it again!  He has composed a fable that helps readers reflect on the difference that make in other people’s lives without realizing the impact.  As a sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, this tells the story of Annie who’s life had been saved by Eddie in the first book.

Annie has grown up and is getting married when a terrible accident reunifies her with the man who had saved her life.  As she meets individuals in heaven, she reflects on the challenges in her own life and learns the impact that she has made on others.

Like all of the Albom books, this is a book that makes readers think about their actions and how they can positively impact others.  It is the perfect book to read as the new year arrives and help readers realize the importance of being kind to others!


73.  A Stranger in the House (Shari Lapena)

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A Stranger in the House was an enjoyable audiobook to keep me company during my commute.  It was a light, although predictable, “read” as the listener tried to figure out who was the murderer.  I would recommend  this book as a palate cleanser or for an easy book to focus on and keep you company in the car.

 

 


74.  25 Awesome People I Know (Sarah Pass)

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Written by a local entrepreneur, this book compiles anecdotes and life experience from 25 individuals that Sarah Pass knows.  These people are local, everyday individuals with unique stories to tell.  It is a reflective book which helps readers realize the importance of getting to know the people you meet.  The collection reinforces that everyone has a story to tell!

 

 


75.  Washington Black (Esi Edugyan)

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 9.41.05 AMBy now, everyone knows that Esi Edugyan has won the Giller Scotiabank Prize for her latest novel!  I was privileged to meet her at the Giller Between the Pages event as part of the pre-Giller prize event and look forward to meeting her at the Grimsby Author Series in the spring.

After reading Washington Black, I have mixed feelings.  The writing was beautiful and I enjoyed the overall story but I did struggle with the probability of events which blended the horrific history of slavery with the fantastical journey that Washington Black ended up on.  After being rescued by the plantation owner’s brother, it was hard to believe that Washington Black could not only evade the slave catcher, but be part of journey in a flying machine, end up in the Arctic and then participate in the building aquariums, to showcase ocean creatures, in London.

Perhaps the greatest success of this novel is that it makes a reader think, to really ponder the dreadful experience of slavery.  Edugyan writes beautifully and this is a book to slowly enjoy.

76.  Bag of Bones (Stephen King)

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 10.29.31 AMThe October book club challenge was to each choose a Stephen King book to read and then discuss with the group.  This was the second October that we had re-visited (and perhaps rediscovered the talents of) this author, who many of us had read in younger days.

I enjoyed listening to the audio version of  Bag of Bones (narrated by King himself) which was the story of a man, grieving his beloved wife.  As he tried to figure out how she had spent her last days, he was led to Sarah Laughs, his summer home, where he became involved with a maelstrom of past grievances and terror which spanned generations of a quiet cottage community.

I truly enjoyed listening to Stephen King narrate this novel and could easily visualize the tale and the strongly written characters.  Although Can Lit is my focus, I am in awe of the talents and creativity of Stephen King!


77.  Elevation (Stephen King)

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 9.45.55 AMElevation was more of a novella than the door stopper sized books that Stephen King often writes.  It could be read in one sitting and like always he builds a vivid pictures of his characters.  This book told the story of a man who kept losing weight no matter how much he ate but who repaired his contentious relationship with the “lesbians next door” who’s dog kept pooping on his grass.  King showed how relationships could be improved, with effort and kindness.

After following Stephen King on twitter and seeing how much he hates the current president, who has blocked his tweets, I cannot help but feel that this novella is in response to the divisive, mysoginistic and damaging impact of Trump.  Elevation sets an example of reporting relationships and shows how kindness and caring for others can make a difference!


78.  Half Spent Was the Night (McKay,  Ami)

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 9.57.10 AMHalf Spent Was the Night was part of my pre-Christmas reading, a novella, featuring the strong, female characters of The Witches of New York.  The book highlighted the witches’ divinations and preparations for the holidays including the tradition of roasting chestnuts.  It also shared a few recipes of the time ending with the excitement and trepidation of a masquerade ball.

I am not sure how this book would resonate with readers that had not first read The Witches of New York as I felt that I needed a bit of a reminder of all the characters as I caught up with them in the story.  I am grateful to have met Ami McKay but my favourite novel by this author remains The Birth House.


79.  Bibliophile (Jane Mount)

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 10.37.40 AMBibliophile was a fun book of pictures and facts about books, genres of books, book stores and libraries.  Illustrated by the author, it added a few books to my TBR (to be read) pile and suggested bookstores and libraries that I would like to visit!

 

 

 



 

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67. Up from Freedom (Wayne Grady)

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 9.34.20 AMSeptember was a very hectic month with the kids heading back to school and swimming, with my campaign for school board trustee and catching up at work after summer holidays.  Up from Freedom was the ONLY book that I was able to finish in September!

This book was written by Canadian author Wayne Grady who did not discover his own black family history until he was an adult.  It tells the story of the son of a slave own, protesting against his father’s treatment of slaves.  He leaves, taking a female slave with him who he later discovers was pregnant.  The trio live together as a family and after their “family” falls apart, he questions their relationships, where his “wife” really felt free in their relationship as he headed out to search for her son.

I enjoyed meeting Grady at the Grimsby Authors Series and learning that this book was inspired by a family story.  It was well-written and a book that helps readers reflect on the terrible history of slavery.

 

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Book Review Blitz- August

My mission this weekend is to get back on track, to get caught up on my book reviews and make a small dent in my accounts of author events.   These reviews are from the end of August when I had the luxury of some reading while we relaxed and explored New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  We had nightly family reading time as we wound down from days exploring, whale watching, hiking and visiting some tourist attractions.  I will note that although I really enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables and L.M. Montgomery sites, the kids were not as enamoured!

Here are some quick reviews from my August reading:

61.  People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.35.06 AMWhat a terrific story! I think I must be one of the few readers who has not already enjoyed this book.  I am not sure why I waited so long.!  It not only had engaging narrative but shared a dreadful history helping a reader understand the terrible legacy of the persecution of Jewish people throughout history.

The story was told through the viewpoint of young woman, a rare book expert, who worked to conserve a recently discovered Haggadah(a precious Hebrew manuscript) in Sarajevo.  As she finds clues within the book, the books history is revealed and the reader is introduced to brave Jewish individuals and families who attempted to preserve their culture and religion despite horrible circumstances.


62.  Educated (Tara Westover)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.35.26 AMThe only way that I can describe this book, is t compare it to a train wreck.  It is disturbing to read the unbelievable tale of Westover’s childhood but you just can’t put the book down.  Her story is unbelievable and shocking.  It makes the reader angry to think of the neglect and abuse yet the reader can marvel at the the author’s irrepressible hopefulness, resilience and will to learn.

Westover was born into a Fundamentalist, Survivalist family that stocked up or the end of the world, storing away canned foods and supplies.  Although undiagnosed, her father (and the rest of the family) was impacted symptoms that likely represented bipolar disease.  The children were “homeschooled”, and I use that term loosely as they were often responsible for their own learning.  The family never sought medical attention despite severe significant accidents including trauma, burns and even head injuries.

Escaping the family home, she was astonished to learn about how other families lived.  She needed much counselling and support as she chose to embark on university education while losing the support of her family.  Remarkably, despite incredible odds, 3 children of this family would earn PhD’s estranging themselves from their family.

Educated makes a fantastic book club discussion!


63.  The Forgotten Road (Richard Paul Evans)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.36.26 AMReaders may think of Christmas tales (like The Mistletoe Promise) when they see a book by Richard Paul Evans.  He has written over 35 books and writes stories that impart life lessons through fiction.

The Forgotten Road began when a successful pitchman missed his flight.  After a horrific plane crash, he was presumed dead.   Instead of declaring this near miss, he embarked on a pilgrimage.  He walked the famous Route 66, dealing with hardships like being robbed, working with migrant workers and learned lessons from the many interesting people that he met along the way.

Apparently, this is the second book of the trilogy which was an easy read.  I am not sure that I will go back and read the other two but I will likely pick up one of his Christmas stories in December to get into the holiday spirit.


64.  I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (David Chariandy)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.35.55 AMI’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is a heartfelt and honest letter to the author’s 13 year old daughter.  It shares challenges and highlights of his experience growing up in Ontario with his Black/south Asian heritage.  He not only shares his experiences but imparts knowledge and a sense of identity for his daughter with hopes of her being proud of her heritage and confident as she grows into a  young woman.

After meeting David Chariandy at a One Book One London event and reading both Brother and I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You , I have a greater understanding of the perspective and the challenges that youth experience.  I hope that it will be easier for his daughter and the younger generations to live in the diverse communities of Ontario.


65.  The Saturday Night Ghost Club (Craig Davidson)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.36.49 AMThis was a great coming of age story to read while we were camping in New Brunswick and PEI.  Set in Niagara Falls, it tells the story of a neurosurgeon looking back on his childhood, summer days and his relationship with his quirky Uncle.

The cover was terrific – a retro style look reminiscent of books that I read in my teen years!  Along with the cover,  I loved all the eighties references which will have readers reflecting back on their own childhoods, having the independence to bike with their friends, shopping at Woolco and sporting pencil cases with photos from the Goonies!

The topic is very relevant in a time when so many are dealing with mental health challenges and it gives readers perspective of the challenges people face and how they are impacted.

This is my second book by Craig Davidson and it shows the diversity of his writing.  Precious Cargo is a great memoir and I will eventually get to Cataract City which is sitting on my bookshelf!


66.  The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 11.34.37 AMThe Alice Network is another great example of learning history through fiction.  It describes the bravery and strength of women acting as spies during the war which might not be widely known.

The novel is set after WWII when a young woman is struggling with an unwanted pregnancy.  Enroute to Switzerland to take care of her “little problem”, she escapes her mother’s judgemental guidance and sets out in London to find her beloved cousin who had not been in contact since WWII ended.  She meets a couple of unlikely allies as she searches, discovers the fate of her cousin and and slowly learns the heartbreaking story of a  female spy during WWI.

It is not only a quick read but a terrific story and the reader is treated to a synopsis of what is fiction and what is true history at the end of the book.  It is a novel that makes one learn about the quiet bravery and small missions that make a difference during the war.  A great book for YA girls too!

Watch for my September reviews coming soon!

 

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A Legacy of Little Free Libraries, Rest in Peace Todd Bol

Greetings readers,

I am sorry if you have been missing my reviews but don’t worry, I will be back soon!  Although I have been on hiatus, I did want to take a few minutes to recognize a literary hero.

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credit to the Little Free Library website

Sadly, Todd Bol passed away today after a short illness with pancreatic cancer.  He was the founder of the Little Free Library organization which shared books around the world.  He leaves a legacy of over 75,000 Little Free Libraries in 88 countries which is an amazing way to share a love of reading!

This fabulous initiative began in 2009 when Bol built a LFL that was modelled after a one room schoolhouse, in Hudson, Wi.  The LFL was a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher, who loved reading.  His neighbours and friends loved it so he built several more to give away.  His original goal was to encourage the building of 2509 LFLs which has clearly been surpassed.

 

Check out LFLs near you on the world wide map.

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 8.17.09 PMLittle Free Libraries keep sprouting up everywhere and in honour of the legacy Bol leaves, I encourage you to build a LFL to share books with your neighbours, add books to an existing, local LFL or share a book with a friend!

Need to know more?  Here is a link to my LFL page:  Franklin Street Little Free Library.

Rest in peace Todd Bol.

 

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