Monday, May 13, 2013

White Pine Reviews

Reviews written by Kate.

In two days, we will be attending the annual Festival of Trees event again at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre. Here are some short reviews from Kate for nine of the books on the White Pine list.

The Taming - 9/10
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it portrayed relationship abuse in a believable and realistic light. This book was written to make a point, not for pleasant, light reading, however, so the plot line is not as complex or captivating as other books. Overall, it is a very good book and worth reading.

Way To Go - 8.5/10
I was surprised by this book. At first, it seemed like a typical teenage book (and to be honest, it seemed kind of trashy). However, it was far from that. It is goes through the struggle of how a teenage boy, living in a mostly homophobic community, figures out who he is, what he wants to do with his life, and what his sexual orientation is. My favorite thing about this book is how the author made the main character homosexual as opposed to a supporting character - something that almost never happens in YA novels.

Getting Over Garrett Delaney - 8.5/10
This book sounded interesting from the start. Most teen novels, these days, are about a romance that turns out perfect and everyone lives happily ever after. However, this book was about heartbreak and that, although the romance didn't turn out perfectly, everyone can still live happily ever after.

The Opposite of Tidy - 8/10
After a year-long project and writing a 50-page essay on obsessive compulsive hoarding disorder, this book was incredibly interesting. It focused on how the life of a teenage girl is affected by her mother's hoarding and how it is solved. Not only did the author accurately portray hoarding, she also managed to fit a romance into the story. Overall, it was very well written and had an interesting plot line.

All Good Children - 7.5/10
All Good Children was very good and had a original story line. I also found the characters to be very likable and realistic. My only problem with this book is that I would have liked to see more character development.

Karma - 7/10
I actually thought this was a well-thought out story. It was fairly suspenseful and well-written. However, the romance in this book killed my enjoyment of it. The quickness and intensity of the romance seemed unnatural, unrealistic, and unbelievable. The first two-thirds of the book were quite good; however the last third ruined it for me.

The Way We Fall - 7/10
This book has a very interesting plot to it. The description of it even pushed me to read this one first! My only complaint is that throughout the story, the author mentions things that leave you wanting to know more (like a name or event from the character's past) but doesn't elaborate on it until later. I don't mind this (and it actually creates more suspense which I like) but I felt like the author waited too long to elaborate on them, and I ended up forgetting what the author had said before.

Witchlanders - 7/10
I'm usually into fantasy novels. However, I couldn't seem to get into this book. It was most likely the characters. They were realistic but could have had more depth and didn't seem unique. Overall, it was fairly good but lacking some depth that I would have enjoyed.

Last Day on Earth - 5/10
I did not enjoy this book as much as the others. I felt like the plot line could have had a lot of potential. However, I would have liked to see a lot more character development and overall development of the plot. I couldn't get into this story because I felt like the characters seemed fake and unrealistic. I especially would have liked to see more of Posey and Hooper.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Summary

I couldn't stay awake much past the time of my last post but got up early enough to do a little bit more reading. I managed another hour of reading with a new book, Feed by Mira Grant, about bloggers following a presidential campaign in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. It's quite interesting reading this after having just finished The Influencing Machine.

Here are my final totals:

Hours of reading: 7
Hours of audiobook listening: 1.5
Total pages read: 563
Books finished: 2
Other books started: 1
Mini-challenges done: 3 (Hour 1 end-of-event meme, Hour 11 Picture-it challenge, Hour 12 end-of-event meme)
Cheerleading hours: 3

Here are Kate's totals:
Hours of reading: 2
Total pages read: 200
Books finished: 0
Other books started: 1 (a re-read of Fear by Michael Grant)

Kate and I spent 13.5 hours participating (reading and cheerleading) in the read-a-thon, so as promised, we've donated $27 to Free the Children, Kate's favourite charity.

Now for the end-of-event meme:
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    Hour 17. I really needed sleep at that point.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    I tried a graphic non-fiction book this time, and it worked well.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    I was a cheerleader again and really enjoyed it. I would love to see more people signing up as cheerleaders!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    Everything ran very smoothly, as usual! Many thanks to the organizers.
  5. How many books did you read?
    I finished two books and started a third. Kate read half of one book.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    For me: No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay and The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone
    For Kate: Fear by Michael Grant
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    I really enjoyed No Time for Goodbye.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    I enjoyed everything I read!
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    I kept a spreadsheet of all the blogs my team (Team Tiger) was covering and tried to visit each at least once. I would have loved to pay multiple visits to each blog, but there just wasn't enough time to cheer and read too.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    Kate and I will definitely participate again. I will try to do even more cheerleading next time.
Thanks again to the organizers for another terrific event!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Hour 16 Update

It's Hour 16 and my eyes are starting to glaze over. I've just finished reading The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone. This is a graphic non-fiction book describing and analyzing the media throughout history, with many examples taken from American politics. Graphic non-fiction in which the narrator is a cartoon character is not so unusual in children's books but is rather unexpected for this topic. It works surprisingly well, though, and I enjoyed the illustrations by Josh Neufeld.

I thought I'd be able to whip through a graphic book but this took longer than I expected, partly because there was a lot of text on most pages and partly because of the thought-provoking subject material. I don't think I'll be able to manage much more reading tonight. I'll visit a few blogs and then it's off to bed. I'm definitely not an all-night read-a-thoner, but I do hope to get up early enough to squeeze in another hour of reading before the event is over.

Paulina's progress:
Books finished: 2
Pages read: 495
Hours of reading: 6
Hours listening to an audiobook: 1.5
Hours of cheerleading: 3

Kate's progress:
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 200
Hours of reading: 2

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Hour 12 Update

We're at the halfway point, and I've lost my partner in reading to her other social commitments. Before she had to abandon the read-a-thon, Kate read for another hour, which makes 2 for the day. It's not as good as her 7-hour total from last year, but better than no reading at all!

I considered doing Kirsten's Picture-It mini-challenge but figured that my reading spot was not exciting enough to photograph. Just as I was having this thought, my wonderful husband and older daughter Julia showed up at home with a lovely spring bouquet, with a card attached that said, "Congratulations on your read-a-thon." Even though they don't understand why I'd want to spend the entire day reading, they're quite indulgent about my read-a-thon activities. So now I have a reading spot worth photographing for the mini-challenge!

Since my last update, I finished Linwood Barclay's No Time for Goodbye, an excellent thriller that was very hard to put down. I also did some house chores while listening to the final 1.5 hours of an audiobook version of Jane Eyre. I'm having a hard time deciding which of my books to read next, but I think I'll go enjoy the excellent supper my husband had prepared before making my selection.

Paulina's progress:
Books finished: 1
Pages read: 339
Hours of reading: 4
Hours listening to an audiobook: 1.5
Hours of cheerleading: 2

Kate's progress:
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 200
Hours of reading: 2

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Hour 6 Update

We're almost finished with Hour 6 of Dewey's Read-a-thon, and I'm halfway through my first book, Linwood Barclay's No Time for Goodbye. Despite this being a great page-turner (Barclay is great at creating suspense from the very first scene), I've only read 2 hours, partly because I'm having a great time visiting other participants' blogs. It's great to see readers from all over the world and I'm getting some good reading recommendations, not that I need any more books on my shelf!

Kate had a violin lesson this morning but managed to do one hour of reading. She has Michael Grant's Light, the final book in the Hunger series, on hold at the library.  In anticipation of its arrival, she is rereading the previous book in the series, Fear.

Paulina's progress:
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 172
Hours of reading: 2
Hours of cheerleading: 1

Kate's progress:
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 100
Hours of reading: 1

Dewey's Read-a-thon: the Starting Line

The read-a-thon has started! Here is Kate's and my pile of books, along with our favourite Penguin mugs. We're also hoping that Julia, my older daughter and Kate's sister, will join us for part of the day. Here are our answers to the Hour 1 Introductory Questionnaire.
  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
    We're in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, and it's a bright sunny day here today!
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
    I'm looking forward to No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay. Kate's still undecided about what she's going to read.
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
    Our favourite junk food for read-a-thons: salt-and-vinegar chips and Orangina. I've also stocked up on lots of fruits and vegetables to snack on.
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself!
    Kate spends almost all of her spare time playing music or singing. I'm a software developer and avid knitter.
  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?
    Kate and I have been doing this read-a-thon for several years now. I hope to do some more cheerleading today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's time for Dewey's Read-a-thon again, on Saturday, April 26! Kate and I will 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. I'm especially excited because I've managed to convince my sister-in-law Jill to join the fun.

Our last attempt in October went well, with each of us reading 7 hours. I hope to do more this year (including an hour or two of cheerleading again), and I've kept my Saturday mostly free. Unfortunately, Kate has a number of commitments that day but will try to participate for at least an hour or two.

So what to read? From experience, I've learned to stay away from any long or heavy books for read-a-thons. Here are some candidates from my shelves that I'm considering, and I'll choose two or three of them for Saturday.
  • Feed by Mira Grant -- a post-apocalyptic zombie novel.
  • No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay -- Barclay is good for read-a-thons because I can't seem to put his books down once I pick them up.
  • The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed -- fantasy novel nominated for this year's Hugo best-novel award.
  • Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler -- a book about The Museum of Jurassic Technology and museums in general.
  • Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry -- next book in the highly acclaimed The Giver series.
  • The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak -- historical fiction about Catherine the Great, and on this year's OLA Evergreen list.
  • The Circle by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg -- Swedish YA horror/supernatural novel.
  • Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt -- mystery set in Northern Ontario, first in the Detective Cardinal series.
  • Twilight is not Good for Maidens by Lou Allin -- another Canadian mystery, an ARC I just received today.
Please consider joining Kate and me for this year's read-a-thon! 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.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Requiem by Frances Itani

Frances Itani's Requiem is the seventh book from the 2012 Ontario Library Association's Evergreen list of ten nominees that I've read. I may get around to reading the remaining three but the new 2013 list beckons. I'm glad I did manage to include this one, as it turned out to be one of my favourites (the other being Natural Order by Brian Francis).

The main subject matter of Requiem is the internment of Canadian Japanese during World War II. One source of Itani's material was her husband, who had spent part of his own childhood in such a camp. The novel alternates between the main character Bin's journey across Canada and his recollections of the camp in which he had spent his youth. Reading this book was eye-opening for me. It is hard to believe that such atrocities could have been committed by the Canadian government against its own citizens. (The government did finally issue a formal apology in 1988.) Another aspect of the novel that I loved is the treatment of Beethoven's music, which figures largely in the protagonist's life. Requiem is a beautifully written historical novel that explores loss, the meaning of family, and the power of music.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Highlights of the Past Few Months

Hi everyone!

I haven't posted for a while, although I can assure you that I've been avidly reading. My mom jokes that we should rename the blog Two Canadian Readers; Only One Writer.

While I've been "away", I've read some great books. Here are some suggested young adult books that I've enjoyed, as well as some of the disappointments

The Good:
Divergent series by Veronica Roth
I had heard this was a good book and quite suspenseful and it was exactly that. It was captivating and action-packed. My only complaints, and I've heard these from others too, are that there is a lot of gun violence and it is very similar to the Hunger Games.

BZRK by Michael Grant
If you love the Gone series, you'll also highly enjoy this new series. It still has the same excitement and suspense as Gone but brings in a fresh new plot line and realistic and inventive characters. I've no complaints about this one and can't wait until the next book comes out.

Adam and Eve by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
This book is very good, although I preferred BZRK. However, this is perfect for you if you want the same style as Michael Grant's other works but don't want to commit to a series.

Infernal Devices (first book is Clockwork Angel) by Cassandra Clare
I really enjoyed this series and can't wait until the last book comes out. I personally found this (prequel) series to be better than the original series (Mortal Instruments) as it had a more original plot line and the characters were more developed and not as shallow. Clare's writing has clearly progressed since she wrote the original series and she has brought new strengths to the prequel series. (I hope to write a more in-depth review later.)

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
I Am Number Four is captivating, action-packed and suspenseful.  It also has very likable characters and a creative plot line  My only difficulty was keeping track of the characters and their powers. Overall, a very good series.

Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
This book is quite original in the fact that it is the first book I've ever read that has Sassanian nuns! Clearly, the plot line is very inventive. It is also very interesting how the author manages to make this series historical, yet fantasy at the same time.

The Disappointments:
Matched by Ally Condie
I'm sure many people disagree with me on this one, but I still believe in what I'm about to say. This book was captivating, suspenseful, and yet there seemed something vaguely familiar about everything in this book. I realized later that this book was just a mix of popular dystopian novels, such as The Giver, The Hunger Games, and Divergent. Although it was well written, the ideas and plot line seemed unoriginal and cliche. There wasn't anything in this book that I felt that I hadn't already seen.

Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
I read the prequel series before I read this one, and I must be honest: this one was a let-down. It was a very good series, but frankly, Infernal Devices was written better by a long shot. The characters in the Mortal Instruments series seemed shallow in comparison. The first three books were worth reading, but at the fourth book, the series just went downhill.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Organic Home Garden by Patrick Lima

Last year, I'd received an advance copy of this book from Five Rivers Publishing, an independent Canadian publisher, and I enjoyed it very much. I just realized that I'd neglected to post a review then, but now seems an opportune time, as I'm hoping to start work on my garden again, as soon as the piles of snow melt away!

I’ve kept a small vegetable garden in my backyard for the past 20 years. Some years are better than others, but I feel I could do more to have a more consistently successful garden. That's why I was excited to receive this book from LibaryThing's Early Reviewers program. Also, the author Patrick Lima used to write for Harrowsmith Country Life magazine, which I often turned to for recipes and gardening tips before publication ceased in the 90's.

The first thing I noticed was that this book is not like the other gardening books I own which I use as reference books. This one reads more like a memoir with plenty of useful advice. Reading it is like having a cosy chat with an enthusiastic gardening guru brimming with knowledge that he wants to share. At first I found the book disappointing because of the lack of diagrams, checklists and the like that I normally see in gardening reference books. (I must note that I had received an electronic copy of the book; it's possible that the print copy contains more of these elements.) Then, I just decided to accept it for what it is: an inspirational account of one person’s gardening experiences that, in the end, gave me a lot of information and ideas to ponder over when I start my vegetable garden this spring. Even though the author tries to give general time frames for gardening activities, the book seems best for the cooler parts of North America. A bonus is the collection of recipes that use the bounty from the garden.