Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted byMizB of Should Be Reading and it asks us to...

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!us to...us to...

So which of the many books I am reading do I pick? Guess the audiobook is a little too difficult so here goes:

"Next, she tackled the second strip, deposited its soil into the first strip and mixed in spadefuls of compost: Go then, and multiply. Scrambled back muscles, jagged fingernails, a smell of turned earth, a gritty feel on her hands: unfamiliar sensations became friendly, part of a repertoire that she hugged to herself."

page 224, Consider the Lily by Elizabeth Buchan

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Headmaster's Wager

Finished June 25
The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

This novel is set in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but also looks back at the main character's life up to this point. Chen Pie Sou (Percival Chen) was born in China. His father dreamed of the Gold Mountain, earning money elsewhere to make a better life for his family. But he got caught up in the life there and seldom came home to his wife and child. When his mother died, Chen was sent to school in Hong Kong, where he learned English and set the road for his future. The Japanese invasion of Hong Kong resulted in Chen joining his father in Cholon, Vietnam and helping him back to the man he used to be.
Following the war, Chen found a new life for his father's warehouse in a school to teach English, and grew comfortable in the expat Chinese community there.
But the new war brings both trouble and opportunity. Chen's family is torn apart again, and he sinks further into the life of women and gambling that has always been a weakness. Desperate to save his school, he makes an extraordinary wager, all or nothing, that sets his future.
This is the story of four generations of Chinese men, of their pride, their love, and their dreams.
Lam gives a real sense of the life of a well-off Chinese man in Vietnam during this time period, the social situation, and the dangers. Chen is a complex man, and we see him develop over time, through his first love and marriage, and his later love. We see him as he becomes prideful, and comes to understand that pride has its place and time. He grows as a person, and has his own weaknesses and regrets, but turns out to have resourcefulness when it comes down to it.
A fascinating book, great for book clubs.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Stray Bullets

Finished June 24
Stray Bullets by Robert Rotenberg

This is the third book in the legal mystery series based in Toronto. The first was Old City Hall, followed by The Guilty Plea. We have Detective Ari Greene and Officer Kennicott back, and they both get a good share of the action both on the case and in their personal life. Another character we see back is criminal lawyer Nancy Parish.
As the book begins, Nancy is about to leave for a long-awaited vacation in Mexico. But downtown, at a Tim Hortons, a tragic situation unfolds. The jealous ex-boyfriend of one of the employees is just out of jail and she is worried he will show up, confiding in a co-worker. As she leaves at the end of her shift, her fears are realized and her ex and his friend appear as her new boyfriend arrives to pick her up. Shots are fired and a small boy is hit in the head. Security cameras pick up some of what has happened, but not the defining actions.
As the police arrive and try to make sense of things, those involved run. It is one of those, the ex-boyfriend's friend Larkin St. Clair that is Nancy's long-time client. And his picture is now on the front page of the paper. As Nancy fights to defend Larkin, and the police try to figure out what really happened at the coffee shop, the new Crown Attorney takes on his first murder case.
Giving us real insights into the legal and police worlds, Rotenberg has also taken on what seems to be a more common criminal situation today, the involvement of the innocent bystander. With the recent Eaton Centre shooting and College Street shooting, we see how more and more often criminals choose busy public places when carrying out their deadly intentions.
The writing is great, Rotenberg seems to get better and better with each book. I know he is a hot author at my library and this new release will only raise his profile further.

The Taliban Cricket Club

Finished June 23
The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N Murari

This novel is centered around Rukhsana, a young woman living with her mother and younger brother in Kabul. When she started university, her father was sent to a diplomatic post in Delhi and she took her degree there, getting a taste of the outside world and meeting a young man she has strong feelings for. But she was promised to another and dutifully went home and found a job as a journalist.
But then the Taliban came to power and she lost her job. When her family was planning to leave, her father and grandparents were killed in an accident, and Rukhsana resigned herself to waiting for a better life. She writes articles for international publications under a pseudonym and waits to join her betrothed in the United States.
But then two things happen. First the government announces an upcoming tournament for cricket. The winners will go to Pakistan for training and then will represent Afghanistan internationally. Since Rukhsana played at university, and this seems a great opportunity to leave the country, she begins to train her brother and cousins to play in the tournament. Second, the Talib Wahidi, who she has run into before as a journalist, has now demanded her as his new wife. Her family will certainly suffer if she doesn't submit to his will.
As Rukhsana hides from Wahidi and his brother, she also continues to train her cousins, determined to make the most of this opportunity and find a way through smugglers to meet them outside the country.
Giving a view into the lives people live under Taliban power, and how those who are determined find ways to circumvent the limitations on their lives when they can, we see how the strong-spirited woman Rukhsana has become pushes past her fear to do what she needs to for herself and her family. This book has humour, romance, and interesting characters. We see the importance of family loyalty and the trust that needs to be given in situations where it really could be life or death.
A great read.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Power of Habit

Finished June 23
The Power of Habit: why we do what we do and how to change it by Charles Duhigg

This fascinatiing book looks at the nature of habits, explaining how habits work, why habits never really go away (but can be changed), and what goes on in our brains around them.
The basic structure of habits is the habit loop. Some sort of cue leads us to a routine or habit, that leads us to some sort of reward. The chapter on creating new habits led me to begin a habit I'd been unsuccessful at instilling in myself until now, flossing my teeth daily. I decided to start with this simple habit, and see how well this habit creation worked before starting some other, potentially more difficult, habits. I've found it worked very well. It also talks about how bad habits can be replaced with new, better habits.
The book doesn't only look at personal habits, it also looks at habits in terms of organizations, and in terms of society. It shows us how corporations use the study of people's habits in influence marketing and directed marketing to increase purchase of products. It also shows how societies are influenced, and changed by habits and by sudden changes in habits.
There is an appendix that walks the reader through the process of identifying the routine, reward and cue to a habit you want to change, and how to effect that change.
Just knowing how habits work and how others try to influence our habits can make us less susceptible to that influence. Awareness of both the process and one's own habitual behaviours is the first step in making changes.

Among the Departed

Finished June 23
Among the Departed by Vicki Delany

This is the first Delany mystery I've read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is part of a series featuring Constable Molly Smith, in the town of Trafalgar, BC. Molly is getting comfortable in her relatively recent relationship with RCMP officer Adam Tocek. She is with him when he gets a call about a missing child at a nearby campground. Molly accompanies Adam and his dog Norman to the site to search for the boy, and find him unharmed. They also find some bones they suspect to be human, and a new case emerges.
Based on timing and evidence, it would appear that the bones belong to Brian Nowak, the father of Molly's childhood friend Nicky. Nowak went missing fifteen years before and no trace was ever found.
With the find, Nicky return to Trafalgar from her life in Vancouver. She's left home at sixteen and lived a hard life since then. Nicky's brother Kyle became an angry reclusive young artist, and her mom withdrew into a shell, seldom leaving the house. As the case unfolds, so do the lives touched by Nowak, and we learn things aren't always how they seem.
Molly's mother also seems to be exploring a new relationship, and Molly isn't sure how to feel about it.
With interesting characters, and a great plot, this book is a winner and now I have another Canadian mystery author on my list.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Finished June 18
Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain, read by Kathe Mazur

This book fascinated me. I've always thought of myself as shy, having difficulty making small talk, and uncomfortable in social situations. But I have spoken in public, lead a team at work, and smile to people I don't know at conferences. According to this, I may be a pseudo-extrovert, making the effort outside my comfort zone in the interest of things I am passionate about: books, helping others, and social issues. Over time, I've become better at it (make it 'til you fake it).
But that is just a tidbit and this book offers so much. Showing us how introverts have contributed in a world where extroversion is valued highly, this book looks at other qualities often associated (some rightly, some wrongly) with introversion. We see how to use the strengths of introversion to make valuable contributions and how to make sure every child (introvert or extrovert) develops to their potential.
Through psychology and neuroscience, Cain shows the qualities of introverts and how society has undervalued them. With lots of research, personal experiences and stories from real people, this book will change the way you look at the world and the people around you.
Because I listened to the audiobook, I found myself wanting to go back to certain sections (not that easy) and will be rereading this in hardcopy form again very soon.

Taka-chan and I

Finished June 17
Taka-chan and I: a dog's journey to Japan by Runcible as told to Betty Jean Lifton, photographs by Eikoh Hosoe

This is a lovely picture book told from a dog's point of view. Runcible digs a hole on the beach near his home on Cape Cod. As he digs deeper, he finds a tunnel and enters it, realizing after a time that it is too narrow to turn around in. After much time, he sees a light ahead and emerges in Japan where a little girl, Taka-chan is on a beach. She is fearful of the reaction, but agrees to take him home, where she bathes him gently and feeds him. After the two rest, she introduces Runcible to her captor, for she is indeed being held prisoner. He is impressed with Runcible's courage and agrees to set Taka-chan free if Runcible can complete a task within the alloted time.
The pictures, all in grey-scale, are lovely and illustrate the story beautifully. The story itself is inspiring and mystical. A wonderful choice as always by the NYRB.

Think Colour

Finished June 10
Think Colour by Naomi Beth Wakan and Ruth Artmonsky

This book was created as part of the celebration of the authors' 80th birthday (they are twins) and the photos used to illustrate were all taken by family members.
They give us a celebration and meditation on colour, from the idea of colour and questions around it, to specific colours. Included are beautiful photos and great quotations, as well as brief but thoughtful commentary.
For the individual colours included, they begin with a brief list of colour names associated with the colour, qualities associated with it (with examples) and commentary followed by photos and quotations. I found the choices interesting and thought-provoking, as were omissions: where are my favourites French blue, Lime green, and Pewter grey? I know, I know, there are so many colour names as to make the task impossible.
A lovely book to inspire, and enjoy.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Dead Are More Visible

Finished June 11
The Dead Are More Visible: stories by Steven Heighton

This collection of short stories offers wonderful variety. Each story stands alone, with the voices individual. Some men, some women, many facing a life-changing event, or dealing with the aftermath of one. The writing is wonderfully done, with interesting turns of phrase. A favourite example: "In a world where there isn't enough importance to go around, men like him, who need a lot of it, will always be disappointed."
I loved the variety of settings: urban Japan, the Okanagon Desert, a drug trial institution, an outdoor city ice rink at night. And the characters, some comfortable in their lives, some trying to find their way. A collection like this shows the range of the author. I'll definitely be recommending this collection.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Unquiet Dead

Finished June 6
The Unquiet Dead by Gay Longworth

This is the second book in the series featuring DI Jessie Driver, although I haven't read the first one. Jessie's DCI has just retired and she starts off on the wrong foot with the new boss. When a moderately famous actress reports her daughter missing and demands action, Jessie's intuition tells her that it doesn't read as foul play. The search leads the team to an abandoned public bath, and the discovery of a long-dead body. The body becomes Jessie's case, although she is given limited support in solving it.
On the personal side, Jessie's brother, a doctor with Doctors Without Borders, who has been serving in Africa has come for a visit, something she's been looking forward to. And Jessie is struggling with her attraction to a famous singer she fell for during a recent case.
Jessie's intuition, and her team's trust in it, lead her on. She also finds that she can't explain everything with logic and must learn to respect others' faith, even if she doesn't share it.
Jessie is an interesting woman, complex and with her own issues. A good character for a novel like this. Highly enjoyable.

Charming Grace

Finished June 5
Charming Grace by Deborah Smith, read by William Dufris and Moira Driscoll
(Couldn't find an image of the audiobook, so figured this was close).
I picked up this audiobook romance novel at a recent conference. The author was new to me, but it was an enjoyable book.
Set in a small southern town in Georgia, a big movie star, Stone Senterra, known for his action movies, has come to town to film his first movie as a director. He wants to tell the story of a man who grew up there, a man who died recently in a very public act of heroism. The man's widow, Grace Vance, however, doesn't trust him, and wants to keep her husband's life private. Grace has plans to obstruct the movie and has some allies.
A twist in the story is the ex-con bodyguard of the movie star, Boone Nolene. Boone wants to go straight and set his older brother, still in jail, on the right road as well. He wants to reward the trust that Senterra places in him. But he also wants Grace. Grace, a former beauty queen and talk show host, is caught up in the past and has to be forced to look to the future.
With lots of great characters, quirky humour, and hot romance, this book will charm you.

One Man's Wilderness

Finished June 3
One Man's Wilderness: an Alaskan odyssey by Sam Keith

This book is written from the journals and photographs of Richard Proenneke.
A few years ago my husband and I watched the documentary about Richard Proenneke on PBS and were captured. We bought a copy of both the documentary and the book, but I hadn't got around to reading it until now. Proenneke lived a hard-working life as a heavy duty mechanic for the US Navy, a commercial fisherman, and for the Fish and Wildlife Service. When he turned fifty he decided to live his dream of living closer to nature. He settled on the Twin Lakes area, chose a site, and built a cabin with hand tools and hard work. Relying as much as possible on local supplies, this book tells the story of Dick's first 16 months at the Twin Lakes, detailing his construction work, his commentary on his surroundings and his love of the animals and wilderness. He picks up after messy campers, takes the meat from trophy kills abandoned by others, and respects the world he lives in.
His cabin is still maintained by the Park Service and remains a memorial to an amazing man.