Monday, April 30, 2012

Bedtime Story by Robert Wiersema

Robert Wiersema is a Canadian author who is new to me, and I discovered this book through the Ontario Library Association's Evergreen list.

The novel is about a writer, Christopher Knox, whose son David falls into a catatonic state while reading an old fantasy book written by one of Chris’s favourite authors. David is trapped within the story, where he must embark on an arduous quest to retrieve a magical object. At the same time, Chris struggles in the real world to rescue his son’s soul and come to terms with his failing marriage.

There is a lot that I liked about this unexpected mix of urban fantasy, high fantasy, supernatural and literary novel: the complexity of the plot lines, the well-rounded characters and most of all, the suspense. I really had a hard time putting the book down. A number of my friends are also reading through the Evergreen list, and so far, all have enjoyed this novel.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Summary

The read-a-thon is over! After finishing A Noble Radiance last night, I was starting to falter and knew I needed a really compelling read to keep me going. So I picked up Kenneth Oppel's Skybreaker, the sequel to Airborn, and it was the perfect choice. I read for another 1.5 hours last night and half-an-hour this morning before the 8am deadline. Kate slept through the last 10 hours of the read-a-thon but is back at reading, with The Calling in her hands, even though the event is over.

Here are Kate's final totals:
Hours of reading: 5
Total pages read: 378
Books finished: 1
Other books started: 1

My totals:
Hours of reading: 9
Total pages read: 693
Books finished: 2
Other books started: 1
Mini-challenges done: 4
Cheerleading hours: 2

Kate and I spent 16 hours participating (reading and cheerleading) in the read-a-thon, so as promised, we've donated $32 to Free the Children.

Now for the end-of-event meme:
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    The final hour. Normally, I'm an early riser but I had a hard time getting up this morning to do that last bit of reading I had planned.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    Young adult books are always good for read-a-thons. The Hunger Games would keep you reading, if you've not read them already.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    I've really enjoyed being a cheerleader, but it would be nice to encourage every reader to do a bit of cheerleading. I suspect most readers find it too daunting to commit to a set number of hours, so how about just suggesting that every reader pick 2 or 3 blogs to follow for the day? To keep the "team" feel, you can ask all readers in the Team Polonius list to choose their blogs from Team Falstaff, for example.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    I enjoyed several of the mini-challenges, and many of the ones I didn't end up doing seemed fun and I liked seeing the participants' responses. The best challenges were the ones that were a little bit challenging but didn't take a lot of time to do (so that they didn't take away from reading/cheerleading time).
  5. How many books did you read?
    For me: two finished and another started. For Kate: one finished and another started.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    For me: The Calling by Kelley Armstrong and A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon. Also started Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel.
    For Kate: Scrivener's Moon by Philip Reeve. Also started The Calling by Kelley Armstrong.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    Can't decide -- we liked them all!
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    Can't decide -- we liked them all!
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    I temporarily subscribed to all the blogs I was covering so I could immediately see the updated ones in Google Reader.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    Yes, Kate and I will definitely participate again, and I will do some cheerleading again next time.
Thanks to the organizers for another extremely well-run event!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Update #3

We're in Hour 15 now. Kate has gone off to bed and I'm also starting to fade but will try to hold out for a little bit longer. I've just finished A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon (277 pages) and my total number of hours read is 7. Leon is a new author to me and I enjoyed this mystery novel featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. I found the plot on the weak side but I did like the characters and setting. I loved touring Venice with my family a few years ago and it was great to revisit it in this novel.

Kate started The Calling by Kelley Armstrong and managed an hour before bedtime, bringing her total to 5 hours for the day.

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Update #2

We're now in Hour 12. Kate had an intense afternoon of reading and put in 3 hours, to bring her total reading time to 4 hours. She finished Scrivener's Moon by Philip Reeve (263 pages), the third book in the Fever Crumb series. She says she did not enjoy it as much as the first two books, but it was a good read all the same, and she plans to review the series on this blog at a future time.

I put in another 2.5 hours to bring my total to 5.5, and I'm two-thirds of the way through A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon. If I weren't having so much fun visiting other participants' blogs, I'd probably get more reading done!

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Update #1

We're entering Hour 7 now. I've read for a total of 3 hours and I've just finished my first book, The Calling by Kelley Armstrong (326 pages). This book is the second of her Darkness Rising series, and it felt very much like a second book of a trilogy: a lot of character development, some revelations but still lots of threads hanging. There was plenty of fast-paced action, though, so it was a perfect read-a-thon selection.

Kate had to attend a two-hour rehearsal with her strings school this morning, which was why I got first dibs at this book. While waiting for me to finish, she started on Scrivener's Moon by Philip Reeve. After an hour of reading, she decided she'd better put some time into her homework but promises to read more later in the afternoon.

I've also spent a little bit of time visiting other blogs. It's great to see how everyone else is progressing.

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Introductory Post

Kate and I have our pile of books ready! While I highly doubt we'll get through all (or even most) of this pile, it's good to have a few to choose from. We've both been wanting to read The Calling, the second book in Kelley Armstrong's Darkness Rising series, but there is a huge waiting list at our local library. However, yesterday morning, I saw in the on-line catalogue that a single "no holds allowed" copy was just returned and I grabbed it!

My other candidates include:
  • A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon
  • River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel
  • Silence by Jan Costin Wagner
  • Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
  • English Country House Murders by Thomas Godfrey
  • The Last Song by Eva Wiseman

Kate's other candidates include:
  • Scrivener's Moon by Philip Reeve
  • Dust City by Robert Paul Weston
  • Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Here are our answers to the Introductory Questionnaire from the Hour 1 post:
  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
    We're at home today in Southwestern Ontario, Canada!
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
    Kate and I will be fighting over our single copy of The Calling by Kelley Armstrong.
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
    Salt-and-vinegar chips, if Kate leaves some for me.
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself!
    In my spare time, if I'm not reading, I'm probably knitting, and sometimes I'll do both at the same time. Kate, if she's not reading, is usually making music in one way or another. 
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
    For once, I don't have other commitments scheduled for the day and can devote the entire day to reading. Kate, sadly, will have to do some homework, which she had managed to avoid successfully in previous read-a-thons. (Note: Her Mom is not the one insisting she do her homework today!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dewey's Read-a-thon

Kate and I will be participating in Dewey's Read-a-thon again on Saturday, April 21. We'll attempt to read for as many hours as we can in the 24-hour period starting 8am EDT, and we'll donate a toonie to Free the Children for every hour that either of us reads.

In our most recent attempt, Kate read for an incredible 9 hours while I managed only 7.5. This time around, Kate is deep into concert season so she'll be spending much of Saturday at rehearsals and catching up with homework. However, she did commit to at least two hours of reading, as long as I provide a good supply of salt-and-vinegar chips. I'm hoping to exceed last year's total.

I've learned from experience that short fast-paced reads work well for read-a-thons, so I have a pile of mystery and YA novels, many of them from my BookCrossing shelf, ready to go. Kate has a couple of Philip Reeve books set aside for the big day.

If you have nothing to do on Saturday, or if whatever you need to do is less appealing than spending the entire day reading, then please join us! You can sign up as a reader and/or as a cheerleader. Cheerleading involves visiting other readers' blogs and leaving encouraging comments. It's a great way to discover new book blogs and get book recommendations.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Romeo Dallaire

Romeo Dallaire is very well-known in Canada. This retired Lieutenant-General was part of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda in the 90’s and is now an author, senator and humanitarian. In this book, he writes about his experiences with child soldiers and his continuing mission to eradicate this abhorrent practice.

There were a few aspects of the book that I did not like. Dallaire included a couple of fictional excerpts based on the experiences of a child soldier and a peacekeeper. These seemed out of place and I am surmising that Dallaire inserted them to help us better visualize the situation and share the feelings of the people involved.  However, I have no doubts that any of the real-life stories he could tell us would be even more poignant and disturbing.

The chapters seem to oscillate between presentations of the cold hard facts and emotional appeals. The final chapter is a lengthy and impassioned plea to young people. Dallaire asks them not to give up hope but to consider what each of them can do to change the world for the better. Reading it made me realize that the entire book sounds much like a mix of conference presentations and inspirational speeches.  I could imagine Dallaire making a huge impact speaking live, but something seems lost when his thoughts are put into writing. Also, there seemed to be an excessive amount of time spent on telling us what most of us already know or suspect, such as: humanitarian NGOs and the military have different points-of-view and have difficulty working together.

Despite these criticisms, I would still recommend this book, if only so that people spend some time contemplating this difficult and important issue that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves in the media. It is particularly interesting to read about this problem from the point-of-view of a high-ranking military official. Usually, books about such issues are written by members of humanitarian organizations. It is not uncommon for civilians to think of military people as cold, aloof, and desensitized to the atrocities of war, but Dallaire does not fit this stereotype and shows, on the contrary, how devastating encounters with child soldiers are for adult peacekeepers. Indeed, it would be a very good thing if military leaders around the world looked at these issues as thoughtfully and comprehensively as he does.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

2012 Evergreen List

While Kate is working through the Red Maple book list (she has finished 8 but is rather slow in getting the reviews posted), I am once again tackling the Evergreen list. The Evergreen prize is also given by the Ontario Library Association and the nominees are announced in February. This year, the list is as follows:

The only book from this list that I've read so far is The Accident and you can find my previously posted review here.