Category Archives: Book Talk

Plans for 2010…

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book,” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

So, it’s the beginning of a new year and a new decade. I have resolved to watch less television and read more. I am not a regular TV watcher…I am a binge watcher. So, after a long week I come home on Friday and after dinner etc I flake on the couch and watch back-to-back episodes of Criminal Minds. Back in the day, I was an avid Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel viewer (oh, who am I kidding, I was a total fangirl!)…but there isn’t much on TV that I watch anymore. I love Glee –  but I don’t think that’s on again until the fall; I love Lost and I will be watching its final season…but otherwise…I think I’m going to spend the year reading. And writing.

I also want to see if I can post something book-related every day. I am also going to be doing a little bit of housekeeping…I have decided to focus on the books and book-related things and will no longer be offering recipes and questions. I am also – when I get it figured out…moving the contents of this blog to a new blog (still here at WordPress because I do like it here). Stay tuned.

I can’t promise that I won’t be buying any new books this year (that’s just ridiculous), but I do hope that I will be making a huge dent in my tbr pile…191 books! And I look forward to getting out and about in the book blogging world a little bit more.

Happy reading!

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End of the year wrap up

Once again, Savidge Reads is inviting people to do something cool…take a look back at your reading for the year.  So, I’m making a new pot of tea and doing just that!

How many books read in 2009?

48…which is not nearly as many as some readers out there…and I am hoping to squeeze one more in before the 31st

How many fiction and non fiction?

I rarely read non-fiction, but this year I read two: The Art of Meaningful Living and Traveling with Pomegranates.

Male/Female author ratio?

20 men and 27 women and I know  the math doesn’t add up…but I read two novels by Thomas H. Cook this year.

Favourite book of 2009?

This wasn’t a stellar reading year, sadly. I had a horrible slump in the late fall where nothing appealed to me at all. Of the books I read, though, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones was far and away the best. I said about it:

Mister Pip is a fantastic book about the power of reading and imagination. It is also a powerful and startling novel about bravery and sacrifice, love and forgiveness.”

Least favourite?

Lots of potential here:

Love: A User’s Guide by Clare Naylor was god-awful.

At a Loss for Words by Diane Schoemperlen and Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon were hugely disappointing, particularly Dismantled because I had so loved the author’s book Promise Not to Tell.

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?

I started several books that I had to put aside. I finished Traveling with Pomegranates last night and I am hoping to finish The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman before the 31st. I never did get around to finishing The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson…that’s a book I will have to restart. The buzz was crazy about it and I’m not sure why I didn’t finish it at the time I started…there was just something. Other titles I started and the set aside include: The Almond by Nedjma, What Love Means to You People by NancyKay Shapiro, Under My Skin by Alison Jameson and Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

Oldest book read?

Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease, 1940. This is a book I am teaching to my grade nine class.

Newest?

The Art of Meaningful Living and Traveling with Pomegranates both came out in September and, strangely, are the two non-fiction titles I read this year.


Longest and shortest book titles?

Longest: Charlotte and Claudia Keeping in Touch by Joan Barfoot

Shortest:  Envy by Kathryn Harrison. I had several one word titles, so I chose the one with the fewest letters. *g*

Longest and shortest books?

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski – 576 pages

The Pearl by John Steinbeck – 96 pages

How many books from the library?

None. And I do have a library card!

Any translated books?

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (translated from Norwegian)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (translated from the French)


Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?

Thomas H. Cook, a fabulous writer of literary mysteries. I read two of his novels this year: Places in the Dark and Red Leaves.

Any re-reads?

Yes, I reread The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, a novel I first read 35 years ago. I also re-read Lord of the Flies by William Golding because I was teaching it to a grade ten class.

Favourite character of the year?

There were several interesting characters in the books I read this year. I fell totally in love with Claire Cooper, the narrator in Kelly Simmons’ terrific debut novel Standing Still. Claire is a fully realized character, fragile and brave. I also really loved that Claire is a woman who is trying to reconcile motherhood and marriage with the fact that she was, once, a very successful career woman. I loved her wild past, her ability to fall in love with a man based on a single characteristic, her yearning for that simple pleasure once again.

I also loved Caroline, the protagonist in Amanda Eyre Ward’s fantastic book How To Be Lost. Caroline is self-destructive and selfish and afraid. Her journey to find the woman in the picture (the  younger sister who has been missing for years) is ill-advised and necessary because by making the journey she is making her first real attempt to leave the past behind.

And, of course, I can’t leave out Matilda and Mr. Watts, the central characters in Lloyd Jones’ not-to-be-missed Mister Pip. As Mr. Watts unspools Pip’s story from Great Expectations,  thirteen year old Matilda begins the often painful journey from innocence to experience.

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading?

Greece, France, Turkey – Traveling with Pomegranates

Norway – Out Stealing Horses

Poland, Switzerland – The Silver Sword

Brazil – The Trade Mission

England – Talking to the Dead

France – The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Papua New Guinea, Australia – Mister Pip

West Africa – The Book of Negroes

India – The White Tiger

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?

There are a couple books which might not have made their way onto my reading list so soon except for the fact that they were chosen by members of my book club and therefore I had to read them. For example, I would probably have never read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – certainly not in hard-cover. I might never have given The Elegance of the Hedgehog a second chance; I really didn’t like it the first time I tried to read it, but managed to get through it the second time…and didn’t hate it.

Which author was new to you in 2009 that you now want to read the entire works of?

Lee Martin. I just finished his book The Bright Forever and it was terrific. I’ll definitely be looking for more work by him. I am also anxious to read Kelly Simmons’ new book The Birdhouse which is due out in February.

Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read?

You’re kidding, right? The bookshelf to the right contains about 200 yet-to-be-read books…so it’s not annoyance I feel when I don’t get around to those books…it’s more like panic!

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?

Not really, although several of the titles have been on my tbr list for a while: Out Stealing Horses, The Trade Mission, On Chesil Beach.

I’ll just add that the book I will be beginning 2010 with  is Kathy Hepinstall’s debut novel The House of Gentle Men. This novel is actually my pick for book club in January.  When Book Closeouts was having their massive fiction sale around American Thanksgiving, I bought each member of my group a copy of the book to give them as a gift at Christmas. I paid $1.24 per hard cover book. Score!

If you do this meme, I’d love the link so I can go check your answers out!

Happy New Year.

Where the River Runs by Patti Callahan Henry

A while back I read Henry’s novel Losing the Moon and although I had misgivings when I started the novel, it won me over in the end. Sadly, I can’t say the same about Where the River Runs. I wanted to like it, I really did…but I just had so many problems with it.

Where the River Runs is the story of Meridy Dresden, lawyer’s wife and mother to a teenage son, BJ. She has a strained relationship with her mother and sister and a big secret that she’s kept since the summer she graduated from high school and her boyfriend, Danny, was killed in a fire. When she’s asked to write a curriculum based on Gulluh (descendants of African slaves) culture, she goes back to her childhood home to interview Tulu, her childhood housekeeper.

What this novel expects us to believe is that 20 years after the tragic fire that killed Danny,  Meridy’s best childhood friend, Tim, is being asked to pay for the damage to an old historically significant cottage that burned down. The novel also asks us to believe that people’s strained family relations can be miraculously resolved over iced tea on the porch. Meridy’s struggle to reconcile her past was real enough except that the secret she built her life around was ridiculously inconsequential.  I just didn’t buy into her angst. It all seemed contrived and convenient and forced.

For me, the best parts of Where the River Runs were the Gulluh sayings at the start of every chapter. Things like Death is one ditch you cannot jump and the heart doesn’t mean everything the mouth says.

Where the River Runs is part of the New American Library Accent series, novels which are meant to touch on subjects close to a woman’s heart, or as the tag line says: “Fiction for the way we live.” I don’t know anyone who lives this way.

Didn’t like this one at all…read Losing the Moon instead.

Bookreporter Review

Author’s Website

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Out Stealing Horses has been on my tbr list for ages, so I was happy when it was chosen as the December read for my book club. I was also surprised because the woman who chose generally dislikes translations and this novel was translated from the original Norwegian. Anyway, I settled in and finished the book (one of the few in the group who actually did) and even after discussing it – I am not sure how I feel about the book.

The story concerns 67 year old Trond Sander who is living in isolation after the death of his second wife. The novel moves seamlessly between Trond’s every day concerns (getting his driveway plowed and stacking wood) and his memories of his youth. The summer he was 15 he and his father had left Trond’s mother and sister in Oslo and come to a cottage quike like the one Trond is currently inhabiting. It was there that Trond’s world was knocked off-kilter – not only by a tragedy that occurred in his friend Jon’s family, but also by events in his own life.

It took my a while to settle into this book. It’s a quiet novel and while the writing is quite powerful (particularly Pettersen’s descriptions of the natural world), I found the long sentences strangely difficult…too many commas or something. Still, I eventually stopped wanting to add full stops and gave myself over to Trond’s remarkable childhood recollections.

I’m not sure this book will appeal to everyone and so it’s not one that I can whole-heartedly recommend. That said – I do think it achieves something quite remarkable. As Trond’s story unfolds we learn a universal truth – sometimes there are no satisfactory explanations for life’s mysteries.

Ready Steady Book Review

The Independent on Books Review

NY Times Review

The Ludic Reader

Last night I went to a local bookstore, InPrint, where three local readers (Bernie Cormier, Lisa Hrabluk and Mark Leger) and moderator, Signe Gurholt, talked about books and reading. It wasn’t particularly well-attended, although this might have been because it’s just days before Christmas and people’s social calendars are already maxed out. No matter – the discussion was lively, the questions thoughtful and the only thing that might have made it better from my point of view is if I were on the panel – because who likes talking about books more than me!

One interesting thing that came up was the idea of ludos which comes from the Latin ‘ludo’ meaning ‘I play’.  The ludic reading experience depends on the reader’s ability, positive expectations and correctful choices. When those three things come together- well, you know what happens, right? Reading transports, but as Dr. Ann Compton (English professor and award-winning poet) exclaimed at the conclusion of the discussion -it’s not about escapism. Reading requires active participation – we don’t turn our brains off to read, we turn them on.

I snooped around a little bit this morning and came across this article: The Psychology of Reading for Pleasure: Needs and Gratification

It’s an interesting read.

Fiction lover’s paradise…

You probably already know this…oh, who am I kidding, I’m talking to myself here…but Book Closeouts is currently running a terrific promotion. All of their fiction is further reduced by 50% and if you spend $35 it’s free shipping in the US and Canada. When I got the e-mail announcing this special I swooned and then started combing through 16,000+ fiction titles…adding things to a shopping cart the contents of which  I was in no position to actually purchase.  In the end I got about 30 titles (some of which I have been unable to find elsewhere) for $50. This sale ends on Dec 2.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week…

BBAW_Celebrate_Books

bbaw_interview_swap

It’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week…a wonderful celebration of the bloggers who make it their business to entertain, inform, elucidate and extend the hand of bookish friendship.

One of the activities for this year’s festivities was to interview another book blogger. I had the happy task of  interviewing Casse from Litter Box, Scoop Daily.

Let’s face it- even when we don’t read the same genre of books, we can always talk about books! It was wonderful to get to know Casse!

Okay, let’s start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself…as much or as little information as you’re willing to share.

I am an aspiring writer. I am 26 years old and books are my first love. I find the perfect amount of anonymity behind writing words which is why I like writing books and blogs. I am pretty much an open book when it comes to words. I write paranormal and urban fantasy. I am working on a manuscript for Golden Hearts. EEKs! I finished a novella awhile ago and published it through lulu. But I was 18 and I am embarrassed by it. It was garbage. So I just want to keep getting better and better with each thing I write. And read a lot of great books in-between. I am very shy, which is also why I love reading and writing.

How did you get started in the world of blogging?

I have been blogging for a while now on Xanga and myspace just life things for my friends.  To make them laugh about my daily life stories.  I was big into the Christian music scene so I would frequent as guest reviewer on the blogs on those sites.  But books always snuck in all my past blogs so I was like everyone knows where my passion is so just this summer I started a Book Blog.  I love doing it too.  I can’t figure out what took me so long!

Do you have a favourite bookstore? Tell us about it.

My favorite bookstore is one with books lol seriously there isn’t one I like over the other.  I like being in them surrounded by books and book lovers.  I want to own a book store; it’s my dream.  The smell of new books thrills me.  I like having to step over a fat cat sleeping half off a shelf.  That’s what my store will be like; I want to know my regulars so I can say “hey I got a book in today that I know you will Loooove.”  That’s what I like.  The big chains are great but I am a regular in the small ones.  They cater to their customers more because everyone counts there.

Tell us about what books you like to read. Do you ever stray off the beaten path?

I LOOOOVE urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I used to HATE straight romance, well romance period and then I bought a 3.99 book on a whim. It was Forever Yours by JanMarie Anello. It was so great! I use to read historical biblical fiction before Forever Yours and it opened my eyes. Now I buy all books that don’t have the “Clinch” covers. lol But usually it’s Urban Fantasy. Oh YA fantasy too. Because I am bit of a prude, I skip the ba-rump-pa-pum pages in romance and YA there is none of that lol.

For those of us who don’t know – what’s the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance? For someone who hasn’t read either, recommend  the best book you’ve read in each genre and tell us why that should be the first book we read.

That is a good question.  The lines have been so blurred lately.  The way it was explained to be on Jeri Smith-Ready’s blog a while ago is…Um in paranormal the plot is the romance often times the couple’s romance isn’t resolved until the last page or after the big events in the books are handled.  Which is just a means to showcase their luuurve strength.  Fantasy the EVENT is the focus and the romance is the happenstance like a just so happen or sometimes not there at all really.  Fantasy is all about the what’s going on, the quest and mission of the main character.  Paranormal the romance IS the story.

First book-wise I can only recommend my first because they hooked me.  Cast in Secret by Michelle Sagara it is one of the non-blurred Urban Fantasies. Then read Urban Shaman by C.E Murphy also UF then Eyes of Crow by Jeri Smith-Ready.  If that has you wrapped like they had me you will go out and buy the rest in those series.  They each are the first books of a series. Paranormal romance: Playing with Fire by Gena Showmaker was my first, though shape shifting isn’t my thing.  I can never get into the romance of it because its like ewwl beastiology lol.  I’m weird; it’s the same with Beauty and the Beast.  He is a giant St Bernard that she falls for! lol Back on topic, my oddness aside,  Playing with Fire is a perfect genre example of paranormal.  I just realized I’m more Urban Fantasy then Paranormal.  Oh Shape-Shifters done right, Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  They both have an animal form so it’s like ok it’s hot.  They’d both have to or it be odd and squeeewy. Their wolf or animal side is so much apart of them even as human they have that beast in them so they both would HAVE to have that animal side or it’d be like call animal services this chick is gross but no so its great because the animals are attracted to the animal and ect.  I talk too much when I get on books. Oops. Sorry.

While reading your blog I came across the line: “I have nothing but fan girl rants”. I, too, am a fangirl. Tell me what it means to you. What do you fan girl over?

FanGirl to me means the feeling of closing the book at the end and its “ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod!” And that’s all I can say. And it just puts the world right…for a while at least. lol I go fangirl over Jeri Smith-Ready books and C.E Murphy’s and Prey by Rachel Vincent and My Soul To Take by Vincent as well. Where they can kill my favorites off and tick me off royally but still it doesn’t ruin the book. And they still write a dang good book. Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra is pure urban fantasy greatness. I went fangirl for the first time with her!

It looks like you read eBooks. I’ve never read one. So tell this newbie what the appeal is.

There is nothing and I mean absolutely nothing like opening a book. I mean turning the pages and all of that. It’s very…calming. I am sure you know that. But sometimes a book comes out and I can’t find it in my small town and I can NOT wait for shipping. That is when E-books are very convenient. A lifesaver to me sometimes. Or at work when I can’t hide a book I am always on my phone and my current e-reader is small enough to be taken for a phone and I can READ! At work! That is the appeal to me. It’s convenient, it’s easy and it’s just another format to get good books out there. Books are also sometimes given away free e-book format. Depending on the websites. I find Microsoft reader the easiest format to use.

You seem to know your way around the eBook world pretty well. Take the rest of us on a tour. How do we get started?

Okay first you have to realize that there isn’t just one e-book format.  I didn’t know that at first.  Kindles are pretty popular but they ONLY take kindle formatted books which I think is limiting themselves and its owners which I would hate.  I like to shop around with kindle – you have to get it from amazon.  I use the Microsoft reader because it’s compatible with Windows on my computer and on my device.  It’s a pretty universal format.  Meaning book availability is high.  You want to be able to find any book you want to read in the format you use so being universal and availability are a must.  PDF format is sort of high in availability, but my device doesn’t really like it too much.  Well actually it’s me who doesn’t.  The only two formats I see consistently is Microsoft reader and mobipocket.  To start, go to an e-book site (diesel-ebooks.com) was the first store I bought from and they tell you how to download a free reader first (with links to the different format sites) and then a test e-book download to see if it is compatible and working correctly so when you buy the book its not a hassle, waste of time or money.  It sounds Ahhh! But it’s not really if you have it right in front of you doing it.

You’ve said that you’ll never give bad reviews because you’ve never finished a ‘garbage’ book. What happens when you finish a mediocre book…or a book that you liked all right, but had flaws?

I get so frustrated! It’s a let down because I see the potential. I try and dwell on and pick out the good stuff and let the flaws fade away. If the characters are strong enough and the love portion is believable, I can get past a lot of plot garbage. But if the characters are the problem or the chemistry and romance is the problem oh for-get-it! Book closed.

You’ve told us a little bit about what doesn’t work for you in a book. Tell us about the perfect book for you. What are the ingredients that make it perfect?

I love a good best friend in a story.  I like to see the characters interact with other people besides each other so I can see if it’s consistent.  I love when the hero isn’t too what’s the word too grrrr.  Like take the  manli-ness down a notch.  Testosterone!  He is too testosterone filled.  So if the guy is manly but not overbearing  with saying ‘mine’ all the time and if he has this brooding quality *swoons* the book has me!   And when the heroine makes real choices that are realistic.  Also chemistry has to be like a charge for me to buy it and I hate boring predictable couples –  so no fighting all the time and not just sex all the time either.  Some books act like we are just rutting bulls ready to hump every hour.  I like books that have a couple romance each other and kiss goodnight and go separate ways on the first date.  A lot a books just hop in bed the first good convo the hero and heroine have.

What other blogs do you read regularly and why do you like them?

I read Smart Bitches because they are funny and they say somethings that I think while I am reading.  I also read I heart book gossip and leontine’s book realm.  I have a list so I will go down it: Romance book wyrm, book girl of mur-y-castelle, Rachel Vincent’s blog, Jeri Smith Ready, and C.E Murphy’s blog. I read author blogs because I need to see how excited they get about their work for me to say oh they really worked hard let me spend my hard earned money on it.

Tell me about your blogging habits…do you read your favourite blogs every day. Do you write in your blog everyday?

I don’t usually read blogs everyday and when I do it’s only a few.  I try and make time to but I am just so forgetful! I forget to get online.

I always say I am going to get a blogging schedule but I am so not organized I hate schedules and deadlines.  I never can make myself do something when I don’t have that mood.

What are your best tips for increasing readership at your blog?

I don’t really have tips I’m still building mine up, too.  Ask for help from other bloggers similar to your likes and style.   I guess just be consistent, have your own blog voice.  If you are honest and not trying to be anyone else’s blog you build loyalty.  Also getting out on books sites and forums and making friends.  Chat with other book bloggers and that helps too.  They have readers and they may mention you.  But first and foremost I book blog for myself because I love it.

How about giving us your Reader’s Table. That’s a table with your top 20 books on it…books you think everyone should read. What are they and how come they made it to your table?

Only 20 let’s see. Cast in Secret, Cast in Courtlight, Cast in Shadow, Cast in Fury and Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara.  It’s a vivid world and they each stand alone but also connect its weird.  But its so fantastic.  It pulls you in.  Though none go with me by Jerry B Jenkins.  I rarely read men authors I am not sure why.  I guess I am all about the girl power.  Its a book about a woman’s relationship with God at every stage of life. Awesome. Broken days by Ann Ranaldi because its the first book I can remember really blowing my mind.  Winter Moon anthology from Luna.  It opened my eyes to new authors and now they are on my regular reading lists.  Heart of Stone, house of cards and hands of flame? By C.E Murphy. It has everything love, every single creature, and a black heroine which is rare for a mainstream book. Eyes of Crow, Voice of Crow and reawakening by Jeri Smith Ready.  It is a unique trilogy and It was in my dreams for WEEKS. Forever Yours by JanMarie Anello.  It was just entertaining. I loved it.  Divine by Mistake by P.C Cast I was a good book but it sort of angered me but it was different I didn’t agree with some of the stuff but Cast writes an amazing story. I commented on the book and she is very involved with her readers I love that.  Another book that enraged me because I am such a, femanist isn’t the right word but it fits but the book is so awesome and just read it.  Beloved Leah by Cynthia Davis.  Its about Leah from the Bible.  Her husband was tricked into marrying her but he wanted her younger sister.  Well its from the Bible but still men were buttholes back in those days…I never would have made it.  They’d stone my butt but I’d be throwing those rocks back!  Moving on.  Elphame’s choice also by PC Cast.  Now the next two books are my all time all time ALL TIME favorites, The Weeping Chamber by Sigmund Brouwer.  It a biblical fiction. I use to only read those I was so closed up to all things outside of my faith I am glad I expanded but still I look back on them foundly which leads to the next on my list.  The Witness by G.W Griffiths and that is 20 I believe.

That was terrifically fun! Thanks, Cassie- for taking the time so answer so many of my questions!