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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