Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Anna from Away

Finished January 28
Anna from Away by D.R. MacDonald

This novel is set in Cape Breton near the end of the 20th century. Anna has come to Cape Breton from California as her marriage is ending. Her husband Chet has found a younger woman that he has chosen over her. Anne is an artist and was attracted to Cape Breton by tales of the quality of its light, and by the photos of the house she has rented for the year. She arrives in late February, and adjusts quickly to the unexpected remoteness of the house, and to the weather. She walks every day, not letting the weather restrict her, and finds herself combing the edge of the water for items that have washed ashore. She draws the objects and other items from nature and makes metal sculptures.
Her nearest neighbour is Murdock, a man about 15 years older than her who is mourning the woman he loved who has recently died. Murdock is just beginning to emerge from his grief and finds himself drawn to Anna. Also nearby is a young vibrant woman Breagh who is starting her own clothing store "down north" with a friend, and who is a single mom to her young daughter. She has a sometime boyfriend, Livingstone, who is a man intent on his own needs and desires and loyal to no one.
Anna, and her neighbours along the coast have been told by the RCMP to watch for suspicious activity as there are suspected drug runners along the coast, and when a bale of marijuana washes up on Anna's beach, her reaction to it, and her involvement of Murdock, lead to a new story.
An interesting story, with a real sense of place. Anna is a woman between lives here and this experience at Cape Breton is a interlude in her life. But the others live here all the time and it is she who is an interruption to their lives.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Cover of Snow

Finished January 27
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Wow, great new thriller mystery by a new voice. I will definitely be looking for more from this writer.
The setting is the village of Wedeskyull in the Adirondacks in upper New York state. Nora moved to the village several years before when her husband decided to leave law school and join his hometown police force. As the book begins, Nora wakes up one morning to find her husband has committed suicide. It makes no sense to her, and she begins to ask questions. As she does she finds that she knows less about her husband than she thought, and that she didn't ask the questions of him that she should have. But there are those that don't want the truth to come out, and will do many things to prevent Nora from finding the truth.
With a story reaching back twenty-five years, this mystery looks at the past and how one incident can have so many impacts years later. It also asks the question of how much we really know about those we care about. Do we ask questions to learn more when we know the subjects are touchy ones. With twists and turns and interesting characters, this book will keep you wondering right until the end.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Finished January 24
Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are by Carlin Flora

I found this book very interesting. There are lots of books about relationship and family interactions, but not so many about friends. Flora shows that studies document that friends usually have a greater influence on our lives than these other relationships. She covers this research, showing the influence that friendships have whether they continue frequent contact or not, whether they are close geographically or not. She also covers how we make friends, analyzing the different elements that friendships are based on. There are sections for childhood friendships and teen friendships, the good things that come with friendships and the bad, There is also a chapter on virtual friendship, a trend that is becoming more common.
I am a person who doesn't have a lot of friends, and I started thinking about the reasons for this. During my youth, my family moved around a fair bit, so while I made friends, I usually lost touch with them after I moved away. And I never had a lot of friends, always just a couple at a time. Lately most of my friends have been people I have worked with, which in many ways are different kinds of friendship than people you share more down time interests with. At the point I am at in my life right now, I honestly couldn't name a "best friend". This is something I will be thinking about and looking at how I spend my non-work hours to make time for potential friends, or to spend time with the more casual friends I have now.
I always like a book that gets me thinking, especially when I am thinking about changing my life in positive ways.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Fort

Finished January 22
The Fort by Bernard Cornwell, read by Robin Bowerman

This novel covers the real American Revolutionary battle over the settlement of Majabigwaduce on Penobscot Bay (in present-day Maine) in the summer of 1779. We follow characters on both sides. On the British side we see things from the point of view of Brigadier General McLean and Lieutenant John Moore (later a well-know British military leader). On the American side we see things from the viewpoint of General Wadsworth, a former schoolteacher.
The British have three warships and a couple of transport ships and a half-finished fort (the titular Fort George), a Scottish brigade of professional soldiers, and control of the harbour. The Americans have the largely untrained Massachusetts militia, a few Continental Navy ships with marines, and several Privateers. They outnumber the British in both ships and men.
General Saltenstall is in charge of the Warren and the American naval forces, but worries more about the safety of his ship than his responsibilities to attack the enemy when appropriate. The leader of the army is General Lovell, a former farmer and nervous in his role. Paul Revere is a Colonel in charge of the artillery and comes across very badly as vain, self-important, and a bad military leader. The bullheadedness of Generals Saltenstall and Lovell create a standoff in which Saltenstall refuses to attack the British ships until the fort is taken, and Lovell refuses to attack the fort until the ships are vanquished. The bad leadership of Revere leads to ineffective artillery, lost equipment, and captured men. The resultant siege allows the fort to be further fortified and the British Navy to send reinforcements. Wadsworth is angry and frustrated with all of them, rightly so, but lacks the authority to force the correct responses to the situation. Both Wadsworth and the Continental marines come across well here, as well as a few other American officers and men, but the amateur nature of the majority of the men on the American side is part of the problem that leads to the final outcome of the battle. Definitely a case where personalities and training, or lack thereof, showed.
It was interesting, historically enlightening, and an overall good read.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Map of Bones

Finished January 20
Map of Bones by James Rollins

This novel has lots going on, starting with the involvement of Sigma Force, a secret special operations US military group. They are called in to assist the Vatican intelligence on what clearly becomes a significant threat on many fronts. With action in Germany, Italy, Egypt, and France, the two groups battle against a clever enemy with internal knowledge.
The story involves holy relics, interesting science, centuries of religious history, and some pretty interesting gadgets. A spy novel with a healthy dose of violence, good-looking agile heroes and heroines, and a great backstory. What more could you want?
Oh, yeah, there is even a little romance.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Next One to Fall

Finished January 17
The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson

This novel is set in Peru, mainly around Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Incan historical city. The main character, Lily Moore, is a travel writer who is North American, but now lives in Spain. Her sister has died recently and her friend Jesse, photographer, has convinced her to come on this trip with him. At Machu Picchu, they come across a woman who is dying and while Jesse goes for help, Lily tries to keep her conscious and listens to her final words accusing someone of hurting her. The police dismiss the accusations and Lily feels determined to find the truth and make sure someone pays for the woman's death. But as she digs deeper, she not only puts herself in danger, but she also has trouble figuring out who to believe.
With kidnappings, shootings, and mental illness, this book has lots going on and should keep you glued to the page.
The author has a similar background to the character, which is also interesting.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Young Turk

Finished January 15
Young Turk by Moris Farhi

This is a novel made up of thirteen connected stories, each story with a different narrator. The time period ranges from the 1940s to 1959, with not all stories clear on the exact time they take place. The age of the narrator also increases as the stories progress, with the first storyteller Rifat at nine years old as he begins his tale, and the last Ahmet an older man near the end of his life. Most of them are told by young Turks in their teens or early twenties. The stories are about their lives, happy and sad, political and personal, but all full of the experience of life. Most storytellers are male, but not all and women are portrayed as interesting people in their own right throughout. The Turks here are of various ethnicity and religion and one prevailing note is that we are all human, and the strongest Turkey consists of a diverse mix of Turks, a message that the leader Ataturk himself felt true. These stories have passion and an honesty of feeling that captures the reader.
I also learned some things about Turkish history that I didn't know. One example is how during the Christian battles in Spain, Turkey offered haven to all those who were oppressed, both Jews and Muslims. And again during the rise of Hitler, Turkey offered itself as a haven to Jews in Europe. Of course, I also learned of the racial issues within Turkey from the treatment of the Armenians to that of the Jews in 1943.
A very interesting read, with complex and interesting characters.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Global Reading Challenge 2013

I've decided to take on the Global Reading Challenge again this year.

The Rules:
As in the past, the 2013 Global Reading Challenge (2013GRC) challenges you to expand your reading boundaries, go where you haven't been before, move a little outside your comfort zone.

You may read any genre so long as the books are fiction. [I have to say I would like it if this changed to included nonfiction, but so be it.]

Decide which level you will attempt, although you can change that later if you wish.
Use the Mr Linky to sign up with your name, the level you intend to attempt, and your blog URL.

The Levels:
The Easy Challenge
Read one novel from each of these continents in the course of 2013:

Africa, Asia, Australasia/Oceania, Europe, North America, South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)

The Seventh Continent (here you can either choose Antarctica or your own ´seventh´ setting, eg the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future – you name it). 

From your own continent: try to find a country, state or author that is new to you.

The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2013:

Africa, Asia, Australasia/Oceania, Europe, North America, South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)

The Seventh Continent (here you can either choose Antarctica or your own ´seventh´ setting, eg the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future – you name it). 

From your own continent: try to find a country, state or author that is new to you.

Try to find novels from fourteen different countries or states.

The Expert Challenge
Read three novels from each of these continents in the course of 2013:

Africa, Asia, Australasia/Oceania, Europe, North America, South America (please include Central America where it is most convenient for you)

The Seventh Continent (here you can either choose Antarctica or your own ´seventh´ setting, eg the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future – you name it). 

From your own continent: try to find a country, state or author that is new to you.

Select novels from twenty-one different countries or states if possible. (For Australasia, selecting a different state for your last book will be acceptable)

My Challenge Choices:

I am going for the Expert Challenge. I've tried this level in previous years unsuccessfully, so will try to identify books from the continents I have trouble with earlier in order to achieve this level.

City of Women

Finished January 13
City of Women by David R. Gillham

This novel is set in 1943 in Berlin. Sigrid is a middle class German woman, married to a Kaspar, a man she is no longer sure she loves. Kaspar worked in a bank before he was drafted to the Eastern front. Sigrid became involved with a man she met in the cinema, a man whose story both intrigues her and angers her. He is a Jew, but she hasn't seen him lately. When the girl, Ericha, assigned as mother's help for her downstairs neighbour asks her for an alibi, she becomes interested in Ericha and what she is up to.
When the new neighbour across the hall turns out to be the wife of a high-ranking officer, Sigrid finds herself drawn to the woman's sister and brother.
With everyone having secrets, and with the stories they tell about themselves covering their secrets, Sigrid finds herself with more and more secrets of her own. She must make choices and puts herself in danger as she moves forward with a life helping others.
A great homefront war story centered on an ordinary German woman who begins to find herself in more and more extraordinary situations. I really enjoyed this read.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Despite the Falling Snow

Finished January 10
Despite the Falling Snow by Shamim Sarif

This novel moves back and forth between late 2000/early 2001 and the late '50s/1960 and the cities Boston and Moscow. In the more modern time period Alexander is in negotiations to sell his catering company to Melissa, when he meets Melissa's mother and begins finally thinking about a new love. His artist niece Lauren gives him a gift that reawakens the past.
In late 50s Moscow, Khrushchev is in power and making changes, Alexander works for the government and meets the love of his life Katya. But Katya has a secret that may endanger them both.
When Alexander came to America and Katya died back in Moscow, Alexander built a new life for itself, but never learned the truth of Katya's fate. When Lauren returns to Moscow determined to find the truth, she gets more than she bargained for, and a truth Alexander may find difficult to face.
A love story, a tragedy, a story of new hope, a great read.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Night Tourist

Finished January 6
The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh

This is the first book in the series featuring fourteen-year-old Jack Perdu. Jack's father is a professor of archeology at Yale, and he is studying the classics. When he has a close call after being hit by a car, his father sends him to New York City to meet a doctor there. The doctor visit is a bit odd, and while waiting for his train home, Jack meets a girl his age who takes him on a tour of New York that he will never forget. He finds himself in New York's ghost world, and tries to learn the secret of his mother's death, and the true story of the girl who is guiding him.
A story of love, unexpected consequences, and a revisitation of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

The Iron Daughter

Finished January 6
The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

This is the second book in the series that started with The Iron King. As it begins, Meghan is being held prisoner at the court of the Unseelie as a result of her promise to Ash. But Ash seems to be distancing her, and she isn't sure what to do about it. When the transfer of the scepter of the seasons happens from Summer to Winter, Meghan is hopeful for a change, but instead the scepter is stolen. The Summer faeries are blamed, but Meghan knows it was the iron fey that is responsible.
With her fey powers sealed, Meghan is helpless to join the fight to recover the scepter, or is she? With the help of her friends, and others she didn't expect to assist her, Meghan finds she has new powers she didn't suspect, and they may make the difference in defeating the iron fey in this battle.
Her love for Ash is also tested here, as is her friendship with Puck.
A good read, that definitely moves the story along.

Dark Dreams

Finished January 5
Dark Dreams by Michael Genelin

This police mystery is based in Slovakia, mainly in and around Bratislava. Jana Matinova is a police commander, a lone female at that level. Her best friend from childhood, Sofia, has recently entered politics and become involved in something Jana warned her against. When Jana returns home from work one evening and finds an enormous diamond hanging in her living room, she wonders whether it is related to Sofia, or she is being set up for something.
Jana has a good relationship with her boss, Trokan, who protects her as well as giving her lots of leeway in her own investigations. She consults with him about the diamond and is given a week to do her own investigation before they turn it over to another department.
Jana's case involves two brothers who have recently returned to Slovakia, possibly hunting for the crooked antique dealer who informed on them. When one brother is found dead, Jana's investigation leads to both Hungary and the Ukraine.
Meanwhile Jana is also involved in her own love affair, but it is early days and she hasn't totally opened up to her lover yet. Since he is part of the attorney general's office, they also have interactions professionally.
With lots going on, the plot is sometimes a bit jumpy, but Jana is an interesting character, and this book is part of a series featuring her.
I visited Bratislava a couple of years ago and found it a pleasant city that I'd like to get to know better, but this book doesn't do that aspect of it justice.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Death by Prescription

Finished January 5
Death by Prescription by Terence H. Young

I chose to read this book because I remembered the newspaper stories when Vanessa died, and because I too had an adverse reaction to the same drug, Prepulsid. Luckily for me, my adverse reaction didn't cost me my life, as it did Vanessa. But it did scare me sufficiently to cease taking the drug immediately, despite the advice of my then-doctor to continue it.
Young tells the story here of his fight to bring out the truth about Vanessa's death and what led to it. But he also shows us the power and influence of pharmaceutical companies not just in Canada, but world-wide, and the lack of government initiative to make the necessary changes. In the end, it all comes down to money over life and health, and that is a sad commentary on human nature.
Well-researched, and open, this book shows the dangers of our current reliance on drugs over changing behaviours.

A Wanted Man

Finished January 3
A Wanted Man by Lee Child, read by Dick Hill

Jack Reacher continues to find himself in interesting and dangerous situations, and thinks things through as events unfold, measuring and trying to choose the best course of action. He is a man dedicated to justice, not wanting the limelight. He does what he needs to do, and he moves on.
Here, he is on a lonely highway in Nebraska in the winter, hitchhiking eastward, when he is picked up by a sedan carrying two men and a woman. As they group travels on, Reacher notices some inconsistencies in what he notices versus what he is told, and can see that the woman doesn't appear to be as much a part of the team as they've told him she is.
Meanwhile, back in Nebraska, a man is dead, the FBI has started an investigation and people are starting to go missing. Agent Karen Sorenson is on the case and following her own intuition for what to believe and who to confide in.
With page-turning action and lots of suspense, the reader is never disappointed.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Inconvenient Indian

Finished January 2
The Inconvenient Indian: a curious account of native people in North America by Thomas King

I had to take a break from reading this book at one point because I was getting too angry at the way natives have been treated. There are elements here from King`s Massey lectures, The Truth about Stories, but he has taken things further and given more examples.
King is careful to indicate in his introduction that this isn`t a history, although it contains many references to historical facts. He includes personal anecdotes, but not footnotes and references. As he says, it isn`t an academic work. But it is full of real accounts, of references to real treaties, real laws, and real legal decisions. It is full of passion, humour, and insight.
This account of how native peoples have been treated in the United States and Canada, will make you squirm and generally be uncomfortable, but that`s okay, because that is how we should feel. The real question is, will it make any difference.
I`ve loved King`s writing from my first taste of it, and continue to be astonished by his work.
This is an amazing book that will leave you feeling strongly and add to your knowledge of our continent`s sad history. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Finished January 1
Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jill Wolfson

This teen novel focuses on fifteen-year-old Dani. Dani was born with her heart on the wrong side of her chest, and has had numerous health problems related to her heart since then. She is at the point where she has moved to the top of the list of people needing heart transplants. We see her outlook on life and how she reacts to the reality of a transplant.
We also see things from Tyler`s viewpoint. Tyler is seventeen and his sister Amanda dies as a result of a freak gymnastics accident. We see how he reacts to this loss and how he moves forward.
This book puts real faces on organ donors, donor recipients, and the families of both, handling loss, uncertainty, and the realities of life.
There is humour, sadness, and insight. A great book club read.

Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Finished January 1
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine

The year is 1918, and the setting is a small town in Alabama. Harry Sims (nickname Dit) is thirteen and hoping that the new postmaster will have a boy his age to spend the summer with.
But not only is the postmaster`s child a girl, Emma, but the family is black. In Alabama at this time, there is still a racial division for many things from schools and churches to social situations.
Despite his initial reservations, Dit finds himself discovering a true friend in Emma, but when race raises its head around the school play, things get more difficult.
Things get even worse when the town barber, also black, takes a stand, and finds himself charged with a serious crime.
This book gives a real sense of place and time, and both Dit and Emma grow as characters. A good read.

Colorful Reading Challenge

Heard about this one from Melwyk and had to join.

The challenge is pretty simple:

1. Just choose 9 books with colors in the titles.  
2. The books can overlap with other reading challenges (because let's face it, we need them to.)  
3. Post your links to your reviews each month to share with other participants.
4. The challenge runs from January 1, 2013 to December 1, 2013.
5. Read to your heart's content!

I have a few colourful books on my shelves that should get me started.

Postal Reading Challenge 2013

Thanks to Melwyk, I have a new challenge this year.

It is called the Postal Reading Challenge, and immediately attracted me when I heard about it. Below are the rules and the levels. I`m going to try to go big for this one, and aim for the Air Mail Express Level, partly because I love the idea of trying to send more old-fashioned letters this year. That is something I keep meaning to do, but don`t follow through on. I have some lovely stationery and a collection of postcards, so there is no excuse. I had never heard of the Letter Writers Alliance before, but am intrigued and have just joined. I even have a book about making needlework postcards, so should try that too. Great idea, Melwyk!

What is the Challenge?

The key is to read and review books with a postal theme. These can be non-fiction on the subject of letter writing, collections of real letters, or epistolary fiction of any era. Be creative! Review each one and link back to the challenge -- there will be quarterly roundup posts for you to link reviews and posts to as you create them.

The challenge runs from January 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2013.  You can sign up ANY TIME throughout the year.

Any books chosen can overlap with any other challenge, and rereads are allowed. Just remember to review them somewhere online in order for them to count toward the challenge. Lists don't have to be made in advance, though feel free to share your choices and inspire other readers if you wish! 

How do I join in?

There are a few ways to participate in this challenge. 

Postcard Level:   Read and review books with a postal theme.

Snail Mail Level:   Read and review 8 books with a postal theme.

Parcel Post Level: Read and review 12 books with a postal theme.

Air Mail Express Level:   Read and review 12 books with a postal theme AND commit to sending more old fashioned letters this year. At least 12pieces of mail (or more!), and you can share numbers or even images of your mail art in the quarterly roundups.

Anyone who completes the challenge at any level will have their names thrown into a draw to win some letter-related goodies at the end of the year. In addition, if you complete the Air Mail Express Level, you'll get a chance to win a lifetime membership to the Letter Writers Alliance!

Reading Summary for 2012

Well, even though it seems like my piles of books are bigger than ever, I did do a fair bit of reading in 2012.
Altogether I read 207 books.
I kept some statistics for the year.

Here is the breakdown.
by Audience
Adult:                164
Teen:                  16
Children`s:          27

Physical book:   149
Ebook:                23
Audiobook:         35
Graphic novel:       0 (now that surprised me, have to change that for 2013)

Fiction:                          172
Nonfiction:                      35
Translated:                      11
by a Canadian author:     57 (not bad)
with a European setting:  45
Poetry:                             3 (must increase that for 2013)
Short Stories:                   5 (thought I read more of these than this!)
Essays:                            3 (want to read more of these too)
Library books:               81

Author gender
Male authors:                 94
Female authors:            112
Male and female author:   1

Genre: (I only kept track of a few)
Biography or Memoir:     14
Mystery:                         46
Historical Fiction:            34
Fantasy:                          18
Science Fiction:                 3