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mathgirl40's 2017 Category Challenge, Part 1

2017 Category Challenge

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Edited: Jan 5, 9:53pm Top

Here are my categories for 2017:

1. Tournament of Books
2. Evergreen Award
3. Hugo and Aurora Awards
4. Other Science Fiction and Fantasy
5. Doorstoppers
6. 1001 Books
7. Virago Modern Classics
8. Non-fiction
9. Cross-Canada Journey
10. Canada's 150th Birthday
11. Mysteries Around the World
12. Golden Age Mysteries
13. Other Mysteries
14. Dust Collectors
15. Short Stories
16. Graphic Novels
17. Horror

My goal is to read at least 5 books in each category.

I'll also be tracking again the books off my shelves, which are those books acquired before Jan. 1, 2017, and I hope to read at least 70.

Edited: Mar 14, 5:18pm Top

Category 1: The Tournament of Books

This category will include books from the 2017 Tournament of Books, held in March.

1. The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder (Jan. 21)
2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Feb. 4)
3. Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet (Feb. 8)
4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Feb. 9)
5. Moonglow by Michael Chabon (Feb. 17)
6. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Feb. 21)
7. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Mar. 3)
8. The Mothers by Brit Bennett (Mar. 6)
9. The Nix by Nathan Hill (Mar. 7)

Category 2: The Evergreen Award

This category will include nominees for the 2017 Evergreen Award, given by the Ontario Library Association. The nominees are announced in February.


Edited: Mar 14, 5:30pm Top

Category 3: The Hugo and Aurora Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards

This category will include nominees for and winners of the Hugo and Aurora SFF Awards. This year, I plan to rejoin as a voting member and read from the Voter Packet for each of these awards.

1. Drowning in Amber by E. C. Bell (Jan. 2)
2. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Feb. 9)

Category 4: Other Science Fiction and Fantasy

1. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Jan. 7)
2. Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson (Jan. 13)
3. Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu (Jan. 17)
4. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi (Jan. 23)
5. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (Jan. 25)
6. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (Jan. 31)
7. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (Feb. 3)
8. The Iron Tactician by Alistair Reynolds (Feb. 11)
9. Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (Feb. 19)
10. Axis by Robert Charles Wilson (Feb. 28)
11. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (Mar. 5)
12. Quantum Night by Robert Sawyer (Mar. 10)
13. Company Town by Madeline Ashby (Mar. 12)

Edited: Feb 15, 10:29pm Top

Category 5: Doorstoppers

1. Earth by David Brin (Jan. 28)

Category 6: 1001 Books

1. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West (Feb. 13)

Edited: Mar 4, 9:44pm Top

Category 7: Virago Modern Classics

1. High Rising by Angela Thirkell (Jan. 4)
2. Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell (Jan. 30)

Category 8: Non-fiction

1. Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil (Jan. 16)
2. How Can I Help? A Week in My Life as a Psychiatrist (Feb. 27)

Edited: Mar 14, 5:20pm Top

Category 9: Cross-Canada Journey

Inspired by lkernagh, I started a virtual walk across Canada late last year using the World Walking app. My position on Jan. 1, 2017 was about 400km east of Vancouver. I expect the entire walk will take me approximately 4 years and I plan to read books related to the places I pass on my journey.

1. Klee Wyck by Emily Carr (Jan. 9)
2. Hey Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland (Mar. 10)

Category 10: Canada's 150th Birthday

To celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary, which will occur on July 1 of this year, I am doing a BookCrossing challenge. This involves reading, registering, and releasing (passing the book to someone else or leaving it "in the wild" to be found) a number of Canadian books. Some of these I'll be mailing to fellow BC members around the world.

1. Fruit by Brian Francis (Feb. 14)

Edited: Mar 19, 9:25pm Top

Category 11: Mysteries From Around the World

1. Death's Golden Whisper by R. J. Harlick -- Canada (Jan. 6)
2. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George -- England (Feb. 6)
3. Phantom by Jo Nesbo -- Norway (Feb. 25)
4. The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg -- Sweden (Mar. 15)

Category 12: Golden Age Mysteries

1. The Case of the Late Pig by Margery Allingham (Jan. 24)
2. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie (Mar. 11)

Edited: Mar 19, 9:44pm Top

Category 13: Other Mysteries


Category 14: Dust Collectors

1. Darkest Powers Bonus Pack by Kelley Armstrong (Mar. 17)

Edited: Jan 7, 5:24pm Top

Category 15: Short Stories

Artwork by Tom Gauld for The Guardian


Category 16: Graphic Novels

Artwork by Gabriel Rodriguez, from Locke & Key series.


Edited: Mar 19, 9:43pm Top

Category 17: Horror

1. Cujo by Stephen King (Jan. 19)
2. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (Feb. 2)

Books that don't fit the other categories:

1. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (Jan. 12)
2. Nostalgia by M. G. Vassanji (Mar. 16)

Jan 5, 9:42pm Top

I'm happy to be back for another year of the category challenge! I'm just reserving my spot for now and will fill in the details in the next few days.

Jan 5, 10:14pm Top

Yea! You're back. Hope you have a great 2017.

Jan 6, 4:41am Top

Welcome back and have a wonderful reading year!

Jan 6, 3:37pm Top

Great to see you back again, Paulina. I'm looking forward to getting hit by a few book bullets here during 2017.

Jan 6, 6:32pm Top

Hurray, welcome back! I'll be following your Canada's 150th category with particular interest :)

Jan 7, 10:47am Top

Good luck with your 2017 category reading!

Jan 7, 3:50pm Top

Dropping bread crumbs... I'm looking forward to seeing what you choose to read.

Jan 7, 8:16pm Top

Welcome back to the category challenge!

Jan 7, 9:05pm Top

>12 LittleTaiko: >13 MissWatson: >14 DeltaQueen50: >15 rabbitprincess: >16 tess_schoolmarm: >17 sturlington: >18 thornton37814: Thank you for all your good wishes! It's always nice to have friends stop by! I'm a little behind in getting organized for 2017, but I plan to spend some time visiting the other threads in this group soon.

>15 rabbitprincess: My Canada 150 category is tied in with a BookCrossing challenge. I plan to read, register and release a number of Canadian books, some to BookCrossers in other countries. I expect this to peak during our CanLit group read in July, if that's still in the plans.

Jan 8, 8:32pm Top

1. Drowning in Amber by E. C. Bell (3 stars)
Category: Hugo/Aurora Awards
Challenges: SFFKIT

My first book of the year is one I started when I received my Aurora Voter Packet last year but it didn't hold my interest. I finally finished it but I still feel lukewarm about it. It's too bad as it has a good premise: a private investigator who can communicate with ghosts tracks down a murderer with the supernatural help of the victim. There's some humour and romance mixed in with the mystery and fantasy elements, but I didn't care much for the writing style.

Edited: Feb 5, 7:05pm Top

2. High Rising by Angela Thirkell (4 stars)
Category: Virago Modern Classics

This is the first book in Thirkell's Barsetshire series and also my first time reading Angela Thirkell. I was totally charmed by the characters, setting and story. The activities of a small English village are seen through the eyes of a middle-aged widow and mother who writes popular novels to maintain a modest income. The story is fun and heartwarming, and I'll definitely be looking for more books from this series.

This was the perfect book to read over the holiday season, as it takes place over the weeks encompassing Christmas and New Year's Day. I absolutely adore the cover art by Mick Wiggins. We've been getting a lot of snow this season and this picture perfectly captures the beauty of winter.

Jan 8, 8:58pm Top

>21 mathgirl40: I just got hit by one of those book bullets.

Jan 9, 2:25am Top

Pleased to see your 17 easily understood categories. I have done the same so am glad to have company. I also enjoyed High Rising, a light and amusing read.

Jan 9, 1:18pm Top

>21 mathgirl40: Your thoughts on High Rising have made me very happy as I have this book on my shelves.

Jan 9, 2:04pm Top

Happy New Year!!

Jan 9, 6:31pm Top

Howdy and Happy New Year! Look forward to following your thread.

Jan 9, 11:11pm Top

Wonderful categories! I'm looking forward to following along.

And a great start already with High Rising.

Jan 10, 3:12pm Top

With all those categories with award winning, you should definitely have an award winning year of books! Have fun!

Jan 10, 6:47pm Top

>22 thornton37814: I expect the BB was for High Rising, but if it's for the other, that's OK too. Sometimes books that don't work me appeal to others, and vice versa!

>23 pamelad: I tried to come up with more interesting categories (and I love looking at the clever ideas that other LT members have posted) but I ended up recycling most of last year's categories because they worked well for me.

>24 DeltaQueen50: Great, will look forward to seeing your reaction to it!

>25 VictoriaPL: >26 luvamystery65: Thanks for the New Years greetings!

>27 VivienneR: Thanks, and yes, High Rising was definitely a great book for the first week of January.

>28 mamzel: That's a good attitude toward the new year! As you can see, I have a hard time staying away from awards lists.

Jan 10, 7:00pm Top

3. Death's Golden Whisper by R. J. Harlick (4.5 stars)
Category: Mysteries Around the World

This is the first in the Meg Harris mystery series. Meg lives in a cottage in the wilderness of Western Quebec, next to a Migiskan reserve. The disappearance of her friend Marie and the intrusion of a mining company on a nearby island are somehow tied to Meg's family history.

This book was a very pleasant surprise for me. I joined Kobo's "Super Points" rewards program, which offers a free book annually. Unfortunately, there's a very limited selection we can choose from, and other customers have complained vocally about it. Anyhow, I chose this book, not expecting much, and ended up liking it tremendously. I found it well-written and I especially liked the remote Northern setting. I will definitely seek out the next in the series.

Jan 11, 8:36pm Top

4. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (4.5 stars)
Category: Other Science Fiction and Fantasy
Challenges: SFFKIT

I finished my reread of Atwood's trilogy with this final book, MaddAddam. This one ties together the first two books, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, and answers all the questions about how this new crazy world came into being. The rereading made me appreciate better the intricacies of the various plotlines and the complexities of the relationships. The story is told mostly through Toby's and Zeb's viewpoints, and both are tough, resourceful and likable characters. Apparently, the television series based on this series is still in the works. I'm eager to see how the books will translate to film but I'm also worried they'll make a mess of it.

Jan 11, 8:58pm Top

5. Klee Wyck by Emily Carr (4 stars)
Category: Cross-Canada Journey
Location: British Columbia's West Coast

As mentioned upthread, I am doing a virtual walk across Canada. I'm over 400km into my journey now, as I'd started a couple of months ago, but I decided to backtrack for my first book. I'll probably do at least another book set in or near Vancouver, as, for the next couple of months, my route takes me through mostly empty space. There's a lot of that in Canada. :)

Emily Carr is one of Canada's most famous artists and is particularly well known for her paintings inspired by Aboriginal Canadians and their environment. She was also a writer, and Klee Wyck is a memoir consisting of short pieces describing her experiences interacting and occasionally living among the Aboriginals. "Klee Wyck" was a name given to her by the Ucluelet people and it means "Laughing One". That seems appropriate to me, as the stories are full of humour, warmth and interesting observations. Some of the writing might be perceived as politically incorrect these days, but Carr's love and admiration for the Aboriginal people are apparent.

Carr describes in details the many totem poles she tried to preserve in her artwork, so I thought I'd include one of her beautiful paintings, Kitwancool, below. The book cover above shows another of her works, Blunden Harbour.

Jan 12, 10:30am Top

>29 mathgirl40: It was indeed for the Thirkell book.

Jan 12, 1:25pm Top

>31 mathgirl40: I'm eager to see how the books will translate to film but I'm also worried they'll make a mess of it.

The eternal struggle of the book lover!

Jan 15, 2:07pm Top

Congratulations on five reads completed already!

>21 mathgirl40: - Making note of the Thirkell book as a perfect read for my "set in the month of December" subcategory.

Jan 19, 6:22pm Top

I like your challenge setup - lots of interesting categories. Great to see more people reading VMCs! I just picked up High Rising in December, great to see that you liked it.

Jan 19, 6:28pm Top

You've just reminded me of how wonderful the art of Emily Carr and the Group of Seven is.

Jan 22, 9:25pm Top

>34 christina_reads: Indeed. I've got a Think Geek T-shirt that says, "The book is better," because in most cases, it is.

>35 lkernagh: Yes, this one is a lovely December read!

>36 LisaMorr: Thanks! The VMCs can be a bit difficult to find, but I'm having fun searching them out in used bookstores.

>37 RidgewayGirl: One thing I've always wanted to do is to visit the McMichael Gallery which has a big collection of Emily Carr's and the Group of Seven's work. I'm a bit ashamed to admit I've never made a trip there, despite the fact that it's only a couple of hours' drive from my home.

Jan 22, 9:53pm Top

6. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (5 stars)
Category: Miscellaneous
Challenges: AwardsCAT

Atwood's reimagining of Shakespeare's The Tempest is absolutely brilliant. Although I've always been a huge Atwood fan, I was a little worried before starting this book, because there are so many ways one could mess up a reworking of one of Shakespeare's most well-loved plays. The best compliment I could give to this work is that, not only did it stand on its own as a very good story that mirrors The Tempest in clever ways, but it gave me plenty of insight into Shakespeare's play. I particularly liked Felix Phillips, the main character, one of the few really memorable and likeable male characters created by Atwood.

Jan 22, 10:06pm Top

7. Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson (4.5 stars)
Category: Other Science Fiction and Fantasy

Robert Charles Wilson's latest novel has a fascinating premise: present-day scientists have found a way to travel back in time, but to an alternative time-line. A wealthy entrepreneur takes advantage of this to open a theme-park-like resort in late 19th century Ohio, where people from both time periods can interact in a controlled way.

Wilson is one of my favourite writers, as he always manages to combine appealing multi-faceted characters, thought-provoking explorations of social issues and mind-bending science-fiction ideas. This novel includes some fast-paced adventure as well and is definitely recommended.

Jan 22, 10:19pm Top

8. Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil (4 stars)
Category: Nonfiction

Weapons of Math Destruction, by mathematician Cathy O'Neil, is all about the dangers related to "big data". O'Neil describes the faults of the mathematical models used for analytics and the erroneous conclusions that can come from them. The book can seem alarmist at times and O'Neil describes some complex ideas in very simplistic terms, but it really is scary how much the government and private corporations know about us and how they make decisions based on the data. Even though I have a fair amount of background knowledge in mathematics and computer science, I still find myself prone to making the kind of faulty conclusions that O'Neil describes, as well as accepting others' decisions without really questioning them. Some use of analytics (like LT or Amazon suggesting books I'd like to read) can be useful and generally harmless, but O'Neil shows how others can be quite damaging, especially to underprivileged groups.

Jan 23, 9:16pm Top

9. The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu (3.5 stars)
Category: Other Science Fiction and Fantasy

This is the second book of Chu's Tao series, in which once-ordinary Roen and the alien Tao that shares his body fight the evil forces in the Quasing race. I was disappointed at first, as this volume didn't seem to have the charm and humour of the first. However, as I read on, I did get caught up in the Prophus/Genjix global war and the back story as told by the Quasings inhabiting the human characters.

Jan 23, 9:30pm Top

10. Cujo by Stephen King (3.5 stars)
Category: Horror

I enjoyed this Stephen King thriller about a rabid dog who turns into a killer, though I didn't find it nearly as scary or gripping as some of his other books. I liked the various connected subplots which focused mostly on family relationships, but I found the scenes with Cujo overly long and drawn out. The book also feels dated, as much of the plot is driven by circumstances that come about because various people are unsuccessful at contacting other people. In the present time, this kind of scenario would be unlikely.

Jan 24, 10:32am Top

I love how Cujo has become a name people call large loud dogs and sarcastically call small yappy dogs.

Jan 30, 8:59pm Top

>44 mamzel: Not having read the book or seen the movie earlier, I never totally got the joke until now. :)

Jan 30, 9:01pm Top

11. The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder (4 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books

This is one of the books on the recently released Tournament of Books shortlist. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I wasn't going to read it at first, as I'm not much of a football fan, but I decided to try it out as it's such a short book. I was happy to discover it's not just about football. It's also about friendship, aging and life choices. I found some parts quite melancholy and others parts hilariously funny.

Jan 30, 9:07pm Top

12. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi (4 stars)
Category: Other SFF

I downloaded the audiobook version of this novella-length work last year, when Audible was offering it free of charge. The main character is a "dispatcher", a person who is licensed to kill critically injured people in this bizarre universe where victims of a violent death can come back to life after being dispatched. Scalzi explores interesting social issues in a mystery/thriller setting. This is typical of his work: a mostly light, fun and fast-paced novel containing some thought-provoking ideas.

Edited: Feb 5, 7:04pm Top

13. The Case of the Late Pig (3.5 stars)
Category: Golden Age Mysteries

This is a decent, though not especially notable, installment in the Albert Campion series, in which an unpleasant man that Campion knew from boyhood appears to have died twice. It took me a while to get used to the first-person narration, by Campion himself, as I hadn't encountered this in previous books I'd read from this series.

Feb 1, 10:14pm Top

14. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (3.5 stars)
Category: Other SFF

This novel is an interesting mix of fantasy and African folklore, and the author tackles a number of important social issues, including genocide and female genital mutilation. However, I found the pacing uneven; the story seemed rushed in sections and plodding in others. I enjoyed the author's recent Hugo-winning novella, Binti, much more.

Feb 1, 10:24pm Top

15. Earth by David Brin (4.5 stars)
Category: Doorstoppers
Challenges: CultureCAT

In Earth, a group of scientists search for a runaway black-hole-like singularity working through the Earth's core and hope to find it before it destroys the planet. This novel has some flaws and it was quite a challenge to read, but its ambitious scope is truly impressive. For me, the reading experience was somewhat like that of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. Earth also has a vast array of interesting human and non-human characters and it shows an uncannily accurate view of the future.

The book was published in 1990, but I wouldn't have guessed it if I hadn't known beforehand. Brin's details of everyday activities, such as using the Internet, reading books on an e-reader and sorting your waste for recycling, are not so far from today's reality. However, let's hope that his frightening portrayal of an unstable Earth struggling under the effects of rapid climate change won't come to pass.

Feb 2, 6:20pm Top

>48 mathgirl40: Looks like The Case of the Late Pig is part of Season 1 of Campion, which I just borrowed from the library :) Someday I'll read the actual books!

Feb 4, 7:24pm Top

>51 rabbitprincess: I loved the Campion series and thought that Peter Davison portrayed him perfectly!

Feb 4, 7:35pm Top

16. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (4 stars)
Category: Other SFF

Gladstone creates a magical world that feels quite different from other urban-fantasy novels I've read. For one thing, law and economics play very large roles in this story. The protagonist is a lawyer working for a powerful firm, and she uses both human and supernatural skills as she investigates the murder of a deity. This seems like a promising first novel in the Craft Sequence, which a number of people have recommended to me.

Edited: Feb 5, 7:04pm Top

17. Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell (4 stars)
Category: Virago Modern Classics

I enjoyed High Rising so much earlier this month that I was keen on reading another by Angela Thirkell and I was not disappointed. This is another of her Barsetshire books but involves a completely different set of characters. There is a romantic plot but the novel is mostly a very entertaining comedy of manners. I particularly like the fact that Thirkell mixes in characters of all generations and we often get to see events from the children's points of view as well as the adults'.

Feb 5, 7:23am Top

>53 mathgirl40: I've seen a few positive reviews for Three Parts Dead and the rest of the series also so think it's about time to add it to my wishlist.

Feb 5, 6:30pm Top

@55 Thanks for stopping by! I'm eager to get to the rest of the series myself ... but I have to make more progress on other series I've got on the shelves first.

Feb 5, 6:52pm Top

Here is a quick January summary:

Books read: 17
Books off my shelves: 7
Favourite books: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood and Earth by David Brin

January was a great reading month, though the high number of books read (17) was mainly due to several of them being very short. I'm also happy that I discovered Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire series!

Feb 6, 1:19am Top

Great categories! And some excellent progress on said categories! :)

Feb 6, 8:56pm Top

>54 mathgirl40: The first one in that series is in my wish list/to be read list. Thanks for the reminder about it.

Feb 8, 5:27pm Top

>47 mathgirl40: - Having enjoyed Scalzi's Sci-Fi story RedShirts, I admit I struggle a bit to picture him writing a mystery thriller, even though I really shouldn't "stereotype" authors and their works. I have made note of The Dispatcher for my future reading list.

Also, making note of of the Thirkell books.

WOOT on 17 books read in January!

Feb 9, 8:40pm Top

>58 -Eva-: Thanks!

>59 thornton37814: I loved High Rising. I hope you enjoy it too!

>60 lkernagh: Though they have mystery/thriller elements, The Dispatcher and Lock In (another I enjoyed very much) both feel very much like Scalzi books. If you liked Redshirts, you'll probably like these.

Edited: Feb 26, 9:17pm Top

18. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (4 stars)
Category: Horror

Though Shirley Jackson is often associated with horror, only a few of these stories seemed to fit my picture of the genre. They were not particularly scary. On the other hand, most of them were very disturbing. Jackson describes very ordinary activities of average people but gives you the sense that something is just not right and under the surface, there are some truly ugly elements. Perhaps that really is the meaning of "horror". There is a wide mix of stories in this collection, with several absolutely brilliant ones, such as her most famous, "The Lottery".

Feb 9, 9:02pm Top

19. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (4 stars)
Category: Other SFF
Challenges: SFFKIT

This sequel to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was loads of fun. I especially liked the audiobook narration of Martin Freeman. He does a great Marvin. Being a lifelong Scrabble fan, I also liked how the game makes an appearance in this story.

Feb 9, 9:36pm Top

>63 mathgirl40: - this is on my list of books to read this year - looking forward to it. Scrabble? Even better.

Feb 16, 12:44pm Top

>54 mathgirl40: So, am I right in guessing that you don't necessarily have to read the Barsetshire books in order? I have High Rising, August Folly (#4) and Pomfret Towers (#6) and wasn't sure if I needed to worry about getting 2, 3 and 5 before getting started...

Feb 16, 12:52pm Top

>62 mathgirl40: I agree, the stories were very disturbing. They really creeped me out when I read them, and I don't think I ever quite finished the collection.

Feb 17, 10:15pm Top

>64 LittleTaiko: Nice to see another Scrabble fan here!

>65 LisaMorr: I've only read the first two, High Rising and Wild Strawberries, and there was no overlap at all among characters and plotlines. I don't know if later books might depend on these earlier ones. In any case, I found both books really enjoyable and I hope you do too.

>66 sturlington: I listened to the collection on audiobook, and the narrator succeeded in making the stories even creepier than they might have been.

Feb 17, 10:39pm Top

20 Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (4.5 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books
Challenges: AwardsCAT, CATWoman

This collection of short stories has an interesting structure. It starts with two stories about two half-sisters living in 18th century Ghana. Subsequent stories, about their descendants, move forward in time and place until we reach modern-day America. Themes of slavery and colonialism permeate the stories. Most story collections are a mixed bag but I enjoyed every single one of these stories and thought that the characters were very well drawn.

Feb 17, 10:42pm Top

21. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George (4 stars)
Category: Mysteries Around the World (England)
Challenges: CATWoman

I'd watched the entire Inspector Lynley TV series a few years ago and especially loved the portrayal of Havers by Sharon Small. I'm happy to say that this book, on which the series is based, did not disappoint. I really liked the writing and the characters. I found the caricature of the American tourists and some of the plot elements over the top, but otherwise this was a very enjoyable first book in the series.

Feb 17, 10:54pm Top

22. Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet (3.5 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books
Challenges: AwardsCAT

This first-person narrative is told by a clearly unreliable narrator, a woman who admits to hearing voices in her head. The story is about her attempt to protect her daughter and to elude her wealthy and powerful husband whom she believes wishes to murder her. I probably would have enjoyed this story more if I hadn't listened to it on audiobook. The author had narrated it herself, in an especially dull and monotone voice. There's a reason why professionals are usually hired for audiobook recordings!

Feb 21, 11:54am Top

>70 mathgirl40: There's a reason why professionals are usually hired for audiobook recordings!
Agree! I'm listening to Lab Girl narrated by the author. I have finally gotten past the annoyance of her pronouncing "root" more like "rut". Considering the field she studies, this word comes up a lot!

Feb 22, 10:21pm Top

>71 mamzel: That would indeed be annoying! Occasionally, authors do a good job with narrations. I was once pleasantly surprised by Lesley Livingstone's narration of one of her own YA novels and then discovered that she'd worked as a Shakespearean actor for several years.

Feb 22, 10:29pm Top

23. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (5 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books
Challenges: AwardsCAT

A favourite in the Tournament of Books, this novel reimagines the Underground Railroad as an actual railway system that the main characters, Cora and Caesar, use to escape slavery. Does this novel deserve all the hype that it's received? Yes, I believe it does. The characters are wonderful, the plot is well-paced, and the alternate-history aspects make the story original and creative. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this novel has been nominated for a number of science-fiction and fantasy awards as well as for several mainstream literary awards.

Feb 22, 11:21pm Top

>63 mathgirl40:
Freeman is such a great reader of those books!

Feb 28, 6:28pm Top

Wow, we've been reading a lot of the same books lately - probably because of the tournament.

>69 mathgirl40: - I just finished reading this one over the weekend but haven't had a chance to post a review yet. You're so right about the over the top portrayal of the American tourists, at least I hope it's over the top, sometimes you hear stories... One day I'll try watching the TV show but would like to have a few more books in the series finished first.

>70 mathgirl40: - Just finished this one yesterday and think that I liked it. Definitely weird, but somehow it kept me reading. Not sure I ever bought into her fear of her husband in the beginning, but there were some interesting ideas in there.

You liked Homegoing and The Underground Railroad better than I did, but such is life. They were more of a 3 star read for me.

Mar 1, 10:29pm Top

>74 -Eva-: Yes indeed, a good narrator makes such a difference!

>75 LittleTaiko: I love following the ToB every year and seeing the different reactions to the books, as well as the analyses of the judges. Yes, I did like some more than you did, and there were some (like My Name is Lucy Barton) which many others gushed over that I just couldn't warm up to. Well, it would be boring if we all liked the same books. The intense debate among the judges and the commenters is part of what I enjoy so much about the ToB.

Mar 1, 10:32pm Top

24. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (5 stars)
Category: Hugo and Aurora Awards

This novel is considered a classic of science fiction and it definitely deserves this designation. The exploration of gender issues seems very relevant to today's discussions, even though this novel was written decades ago. Apart from the thought-provoking political and social ideas, this is also a compelling story about friendship, ideals and honour, featuring an epic road-trip. Well, to be precise, it's a sledge-trip through an Arctic-like environment, but it has all the elements of the best road-trip stories.

Mar 2, 6:30am Top

>77 mathgirl40: That is one of my all-time favorite books. You're right--it is an epic road trip story. I loved the journey aspect of the story.

Mar 2, 7:33am Top

>76 mathgirl40: Yes, the narrator makes all the difference. I'm listening to an audiobook right now where there are two narrators - a woman and a very deep-toned man. It's very jarring when they switch. I don't care for it but the story is interesting so I'm keeping with it for now.

Mar 2, 7:47am Top

>70 mathgirl40: Oh, that's too bad. I worry that were I to start listening to audiobooks, I might end up not liking a book I'd otherwise have loved, either because of the reader, or because it wasn't written with an oral rendition in mind. I'll stick to podcasts and music, although Lincoln in the Bardo tempts me with all the people participating.

Mar 2, 2:44pm Top

I have found that I usually prefer one voice in my audios rather than a mix. It seems to jar me to be constantly hearing different voices. I also have had trouble with some men readers when they do woman's voices that, to me, sound like a Monty Python skit. I seem to prefer women doing men's voices, but that might just be because it's more like my own inner reading voice.

Mar 3, 8:29pm Top

>78 sturlington: Glad you liked it as much as I did. I have a weakness for good road-trip stories.

>79 VictoriaPL: I don't mind different narrators when they have a similar style but when their voices are very different or when they pronounce names differently (yes, I have encountered this!), I too find it bothersome.

>80 RidgewayGirl: Despite my occasional complaints about narrators, I've found that for the most part, they are very good and enhance my enjoyment of the book. I love listening to audiobooks when I'm walking for exercise and when I'm doing tedious house chores.

>81 DeltaQueen50: I too have trouble with male readers doing women's voices, particularly if they have deep and gruff voices. When I was listening to the Song of Ice and Fire series, I cringed whenever Roy Dotrice tried to do young girlish voices like Sansa's.

Mar 3, 10:18pm Top

25. The Iron Tactician by Alastair Reynolds (3.5 stars)
Category: Other SFF
Challenges: SFFKIT

I'd read Slow Bullets last year and enjoyed it very much so I thought I'd try another story by Reynolds. This novella was my first introduction to the character Merlin, who has appeared in many other stories by the author. I suspect I would have appreciated some aspects of this story more if I had been familiar with the earlier stories. Yet, as a stand-alone book, The Iron Tactician is a pretty good space opera story with much of what I'd expect from this genre, including a sentient spaceship. I definitely liked this book enough to seek out more Merlin stories from Reynolds.

Mar 4, 10:42am Top

>77 mathgirl40: Ooh, an Arctic-like setting! Pretty sure this is already on the TBR list but I will have to bump it up to fit in with my other Arctic reading this year!

PS I bought my registration for Bouchercon! I also signed up for one of the Conan Doyle library tours the day before the con :)

Mar 4, 5:46pm Top

>84 rabbitprincess: I'm hoping to register for Bouchercon soon too, but I need to work things out with the rest of my family's schedules first. I'm also thinking of going to Ad Astra (an SFF convention with some big names showing up this year) in Toronto at the beginning of May.

Mar 4, 6:01pm Top

26. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West (5 stars)
Category: 1001 Books

It always impresses me when an author can do more in a shorter novella-length work than most can do in a 300-page novel. This compact story explores how the return of a WWI soldier suffering from memory loss profoundly affects his wife, cousin and former lover. It is beautifully written and poignant and it shows not just the immediate impact to family lives but also the subtler effects on class structure and the roles of women at that time.

Mar 4, 10:05pm Top

27. Fruit by Brian Francis (4 stars)
Category: Canada 150

This is a quirky and humorous novel about an overweight gay adolescent boy trying to figure out and come to terms with his sexuality, body image, family relationships, friendships and all the other things that teenagers worry about.

My volume is the American edition of the novel entitled Fruit, which was a finalist in the 2009 Canada Reads event. According to Brian Francis, there are very minor differences in the two editions, which he describes in an appendix. The appendices also include an interview with the author which reveals that aspects of the novel reflect his own youth and a particularly interesting comparison of Canadian and American chocolate bars

Mar 4, 10:37pm Top

28. Moonglow by Michael Chabon (4 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books

This fictionalized memoir shows the love and affection the narrator has for his grandfather as he tells his story through a series of vignettes. These episodes go back and forth in time and cover his grandfather's Jewish upbringing, his work as a scientist during WWII, his fascination with space travel, the challenges presented by his wife's mental illness, and his finding love a second time late in life. Though the prose was lovely and the story enjoyable, I found the abrupt and frequent shifts in time particularly disorienting while listening to the novel on audiobook.

Mar 5, 8:41pm Top

29. Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (3.5 stars)
Category: Other SFF

This was a fun mix of urban fantasy and police procedural. There's a lot going on here, including grisly murders, time travel, river gods and goddesses, and the main character's apprenticeship to a wizard. My one complaint is that the pacing was uneven, so at times, the story got very confusing with so much happening at once, and at other times, the story dragged. Nevertheless, the fascinating world that Aaronovitch has created and the clever and witty dialogue encourage me to continue this series.

Mar 5, 8:59pm Top

30. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (3.5 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books

This fantasy novel follows the friendship between Patricia, a witch, and Laurence, a computer nerd, and explores the complex interplay between magic and science in this world. I absolutely loved the first part of the book, which takes place during the main characters' school days. It reminded me a lot of Jo Walton's Among Others, a wonderful novel that deservedly won the Hugo award. The story fizzled for me afterward, but overall, it was enjoyable enough. I don't think it has much of a chance in the Tournament of Books, though, as it's fairly lightweight compared to the others.

Mar 5, 9:01pm Top

31. Phantom by Jo Nesbo (3.5 stars)

There were a lot of things I liked about this 9th book in the Harry Hole series, but there were a few aspects that reduced my enjoyment of it. The pacing was very slow at times. I feel the editors could have easily cut 50 pages or more without harming the story. I also have mixed feelings about the interspersing of the victim's first-person narrative into the main narrative, and I find myself annoyed with the cliff-hanger ending. Yet, this novel has the complexity and suspense I've come to expect from books in this series, and it gets us closer to Harry as he examines his relationships with his ex Rakel and her son Oleg.

Mar 5, 9:09pm Top

I agree with you about All the Birds in the Sky. I enjoyed it, but it's not going anywhere in the ToB - especially since it goes up against The Vegetarian in the first round.

Mar 5, 9:21pm Top

32. How Can I Help? A Week in My Life as a Psychiatrist by David Goldbloom and Pier Bryden (4.5 stars)

This book is a memoir from Dr. David Goldbloom, a Toronto psychiatrist, co-written with his colleague, Dr. Pier Bryden. It was fascinating to read about mental illness and its treatment from the point-of-view of the doctor, rather than that of the patient. Goldbloom also includes anecdotes from his personal life and talks about difficult and uncertain judgments he's had to make. I found his discussion of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) particularly interesting. He made it seem less scary to me, though his confirmation that we still don't understand completely how and why it works doesn't inspire complete confidence.

I have had some experience with mental illness and its treatment, through people close to me, and it can be a confusing and scary realm. It seems that's mostly due to an overburdened medical system, reluctance among people to discuss the issues openly and the limits to our current scientific understanding. I really like that Goldbloom's matter-of-fact and practical approach to his cases makes the various mental illnesses seem less frightening and opaque.

Mar 5, 9:24pm Top

>92 RidgewayGirl: I just finished The Vegetarian (review to come later) and I agree with you. Actually, I found All the Birds in the Sky a more enjoyable read but can appreciate the aspects of The Vegetarian that make it a serious ToB contender.

Mar 6, 8:01am Top

>88 mathgirl40: I agree, the time changes were a little off-setting.

Mar 6, 9:27am Top

>90 mathgirl40: - We had totally opposite reactions to this book. I loathed the first part of the book and really had a hard time convincing myself to keep reading. The middle part was fairly enjoyable and then I disliked it again. As much as I disliked The Vegetarian too, I hope that it advances over this one.

Mar 6, 9:41pm Top

>95 VictoriaPL: Glad I'm not the only one who had trouble with that!

>96 LittleTaiko: Since the book is generating such different reactions, it should at least lead to some very interesting discussion in the tournament!

Mar 6, 9:55pm Top

33. Axis by Robert Charles Wilson (4 stars)
Category: Other SFF

The low ratings given to this sequel to Spin by other LT members surprised me, but then on reflection, I suppose it is to be expected. The Hugo-winning Spin is such a great book in every respect and felt so complete on its own that a sequel would undoubtedly disappoint if one were expecting its equal. I'd read Spin twice and then waited several more years before venturing to pick this one up. I think enough time has passed that I can evaluate it on its own merits. Set in the new world connected to the Earth with mostly new characters, it has what I normally expect from Wilson: good development of characters, quality prose and most of all, exploration of big SF ideas.

Mar 6, 10:04pm Top

Here is a quick February summary:

Books read: 16 (out of 33 in total)
Books off my shelves: 6 (out of 13 in total)
Favourite books: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin and The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

I surprised myself by finishing 16 books in the short month of February. It helped that several of the books were novella-length and I had a couple of long-weekend vacations with plenty of travel time. March might not be as productive, at least in number of books, as I've got a couple of gigantic books on the go.

I'm continuing to work through the Tournament of Books list, having finished 8 now and with numbers 9 and 10 almost done.

Mar 7, 9:58pm Top

You've reminded me that I need to get around to The Left Hand of Darkness, which I keep passing over because of its small print. I'm determined now that I'll get to it sooner than later :) Of course, I get distracted easily--even now, I'd probably be re-reading The Return of the Soldier if I didn't have it in storage. I'll have to keep Le Guin on my close radar, though :)

Mar 9, 9:53pm Top

>100 whitewavedarling: Oh, I totally understand about small print being discouraging. I finally got reading glasses (in addition to the ones I usually wear) last year and now I'm getting back to some of the books on my shelves that I'd been avoiding.

Mar 9, 10:35pm Top

34. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (3.5 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books

This short novel in three parts, each narrated by a different character, follows the progression of a woman's mental illness. This book has won a number of awards and is expected to do well in the Tournament of Books. The prose is both beautiful and deeply disturbing. I can understand why this book has received so much praise, but its strangeness made it difficult for me to enjoy the reading experience or to feel a connection to the characters.

Mar 9, 10:44pm Top

35. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (5 stars)
Category: Other SFF

I'd read Pullman's trilogy about 10 years ago, at the same time that my kids did, and I enjoyed this first book even more the second time around. This is a book I really wish I could have read for the first time in my youth, although as an adult, I have a better appreciation of Pullman's political and social commentary.

I've commented on this and other threads that I don't always appreciate audiobooks narrated by the author or featuring multiple narrators. The audiobook version of The Golden Compass is definitely an exception to my general feelings. This production featured a full cast performing the dialogue with unique voices for each character, and Pullman himself did the third-person narration very capably.

Mar 10, 9:04pm Top

36. The Mothers by Brit Bennett (3.5 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books

This novel, featuring a complicated love triangle, touches on a large number of serious themes: suicide, motherhood, abortion, and religion. I liked the author's treatment of these subjects, as well as the commentary of the Greek-chorus-like "mothers", but I couldn't connect to any of the characters and found the plot terribly slow at times. It will be interesting to see how this fares in the Tournament of Books next week.

Mar 11, 9:02am Top

>102 mathgirl40: It didn't do that well in the ToB!

>104 mathgirl40: This may well be the most polarizing book of the tournament.

Mar 11, 11:11am Top

>105 RidgewayGirl: That decision certainly surprised me. However, I liked reading the judge's explanation and the subsequent comments, as it made me reconsider some of my own feelings about the book.

This may well be the most polarizing book of the tournament.
Indeed. I'm certainly looking forward to the ToB commentary for The Mothers!

Mar 11, 11:34am Top

37. The Nix by Nathan Hill (5 stars)
Category: Tournament of Books

This story about a not-very-successful English professor trying to reconnect with his mother years after she left him is my favourite book from the Tournament of Books list so far. It covers a lot of ground, including the 1968 Chicago protests, video-game addiction, Norwegian folklore, and much more. It's a huge sprawling, messy narrative, but I loved every moment of it. It reminded me, in a good way, of Donna Tartt's Goldfinch, but with more humour.

Having taught at a university for several years myself, the conversation between Samuel and Laura, where she argues that his failing her for having cheated on an assignment is so utterly unfair, had me laughing until I was in tears.

Another interesting moment (for me, anyhow) was the scene where 17-year-old Bethany plays Bruch's violin concerto #1. Coincidentally, my own 17-year-old daughter recently learned this piece and I made her listen (on audiobook) to Hill's description of the concerto. Her response was, "That's a really insightful description. The author must be a musician." It turns out that he is not, but his wife is a bassoonist with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra.

I'll also add that I found Ari Fliakos's narration of the audiobook superb.

Edited: Mar 11, 11:53am Top

38. Quantum Night by Robert Sawyer (2.5 stars)
Category: Other SFF

Robert Sawyer is often hit-or-miss with me, and this one is definitely a miss. There are some good things in this book, including a few page-turning and exciting passages and many interesting ideas about consciousness, quantum physics and ethics to consider. However, there are so many ridiculously implausible scenes that I found myself rolling my eyes in disbelief many times when reading the book. Yes, I know that most SFF is implausible. I am willing to accept without question an implausible set-up (such as "elves and goblins live among us") as long as everything that occurs in that context makes sense. This novel fails in that regard.

Also, despite my considering myself a patriotic Canadian who likes to celebrate our Canadian ways, Sawyer's constant commentary about Canada, its politics and its culture drove me crazy, even though I actually agree with most of his political views. The strange thing is that I've disliked most of the Sawyer books I've read, with a few exceptions. Yet, I keep reading them. I'm not quite sure why. I suppose it's that the truly interesting sci-fi ideas he presents make up for all the other weaknesses in his writing.

Mar 12, 6:17pm Top

I always love stopping by your thread - when I get a chance to stop by, that is! - and check out all of the great reading you have been doing. Dodged some BB's although I have to admit that I am intrigued by The Nix and your 5-star rating.

Mar 14, 1:07pm Top

>107 mathgirl40: Loved the music comment on that book. Your review probably pushes that one onto the TBR list. I've been a bit intrigued by its description, but I'm thinking I might actually enjoy it if I read it at the right time.

Mar 20, 10:28pm Top

>109 lkernagh: Thanks for stopping by! I certainly find many BBs on your thread, so I'm glad you encountered some here.

>110 thornton37814: The Nix probably doesn't work for everyone, but if you do get around to reading it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Mar 20, 10:29pm Top

39. Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland (4 stars)
Category: Cross-Canada Journey

On my virtual journey walking across Canada, I'm well into the British Columbia interior right now. However, reading-wise, I'm still stuck in Vancouver. I wanted to do one more book from Canada's West Coast before moving along.

In Hey Nostradamus!, Coupland explores the consequences of a high-school shooting from the points of view of four people, each narrating one section of the book. Much of the characters' thoughts are concerned with religion and faith. The structure and content of this novel are strange and unsettling, but there were many passages that I found to be quite insightful and some even funny in an otherwise grim setting.

Mar 20, 10:31pm Top

40. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie (3.5 stars)
Category: Golden Age Mysteries
Challenges: CATWoman

The characters' attitudes feel rather dated and the romantic elements are overdone, but I enjoyed the examination of village life from the point of view of the narrator, an outsider. Though this is billed as a Miss Marple mystery, her role is actually very small. Someone expecting a Miss Marple mystery might be disappointed, but I personally enjoyed the amateur sleuthing of the narrator.

Mar 21, 11:01am Top

>112 mathgirl40: I quite enjoyed this one too despite its subject matter. I really should get around to reading some more of his works having only completed two so far. Thanks for the reminder.

Mar 22, 4:11pm Top

>113 mathgirl40: The Moving Finger is one of my favorite Miss Marple mysteries, but I'm not sure why! It's got some classic Christie misdirection, and I like the siblings at the center of the book. Oh, and the vicar's wife is wonderful!

Mar 22, 9:29pm Top

>114 AHS-Wolfy: I've only read a couple of Coupland's books myself, but a couple of years ago, I visited an exhibition of his art at the Royal Ontario Museum. It too is worth checking out.

>115 christina_reads: I liked the siblings too! Joanna is a terrific character, much more interesting than Megan.

Mar 22, 9:36pm Top

41. Company Town by Madeline Ashby (4 stars)
Category: Other SFF
Challenges: CATWoman

This book is one of the current Canada Reads contestants. There was a lot that I liked about it, including the setting of a futuristic and dystopian Newfoundland. I thought the characters were interesting and had some depth, and the story, which was a mystery/thriller in a sci-fi setting, was fast-paced and suspenseful.

What kept me from giving this book an even higher rating was the ending, which just did not seem in keeping with the direction in which the book had been moving. New, confusing elements were introduced and left me feeling that I didn't really get what had been happening all along. I hope Ashby writes a sequel, so that I can make sense of the ending and because I'd like to know what happens next to her characters.

Yesterday, 9:45am Top

>116 mathgirl40: Had no idea about his artwork so thanks for that.

>117 mathgirl40: I think I've seen some good comments on Company Town before but I think you've finally piqued my interest enough to put it on the wishlist.

Yesterday, 6:14pm Top

>117 mathgirl40: It's very interesting to see a mystery/thriller/sci-fi on the Canada Reads list! :D

Group: 2017 Category Challenge

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