Vivienne's reading in 2017 - Part 3
This is a continuation of the topic Vivienne's reading in 2017 - Part 2.
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Because of our recent snow the local ski resort is opening a week early this year!
I'm also doing the Category Challenge and can be found at Vivienne's Year of the Cat
Books Read - January to March
1. Family Album by Penelope Lively
2. The terracotta dog by Andrea Camilleri
3. Quite honestly by John Mortimer
4. The art detective: fakes, frauds, and finds and the search for lost treasures by Philip Mould
5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
6. My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
7. Escape from the land of snows: The young Dalai Lama's harrowing flight to freedom and the making of a spiritual hero by Stephan Talty
8. The naming of the dead by Ian Rankin
9. The locked room by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö
10. Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill
11. Shake hands forever by Ruth Rendell
12. Why we make mistakes by Joseph T. Hallinan
13. The journal of Hildegard of Bingen by Barbara Lachman
14. People of the book by Geraldine Brooks
15. An ordinary decent criminal by Michael Van Rooy
16. The curious case of the copper corpse by C. Alan Bradley
17. Dead ground in between by Maureen Jennings
18: Harry Potter and the sorceror's stone by J.K. Rowling
19. Unless by Carol Shields
20. A man called Ove by Fredrick Backman
21. Michelle Obama: an American story by David Colbert
22. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
23. Skeleton Hill by Peter Lovesey
24. Innocent heroes: stories of animals in the First World War by Sigmund Brouwer
25. Sam Sorts by Marthe Jocelyn
26. The white cat and the monk: a retelling of the poem "Pangur Bán" by Jo Ellen Bogart, Illustrated by Sydney Smith
27. Being Mortal: ageing, illness, medicine, and what matters in the end by Atul Gawande
28. Mortal Coils by Aldous Huxley
29. Three weeks with my brother by Nicholas Sparks, Micah Sparks
30. For your eyes only: Ian Fleming and James Bond by Ben Macintyre
31. The Pigeon Tunnel: stories from my life by John le Carré
32. Smiley's People by John le Carré
33. The pursuit of love by Nancy Mitford
34. On Canaan's side by Sebastian Barry
35. The lark in the clear air by Dennis T. Patrick Sears
36. The Dinner by Herman Koch
37. Roast Beef, Medium: the business adventures of Emma Chesney by Edna Ferber
38. End of Watch by Stephen King
39. Birds without wings by Louis de Bernières
40. Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
41. A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin
42. An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor
43. The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny
44. Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs
45. Jane Austen by Carol Shields
46. Benny the biplane by Fritz Carmichael
47. Calibre by Ken Bruen
48. Classic John Buchan Stories by John Buchan
49. Last bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter
Books Read - April to June
50. Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes
51. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
52. The Ides of June: a mystery set in Roman Britain by Rosemary Rowe
53. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
54. Desert heat by J.A. Jance
55. April Fool by William Deverell
56. The book of Stanley by Todd Babiak
57. An available man by Hilma Wolitzer
58. Dimanche and other stories by Iréne Nèmirovsky
59. Millhouse by Natale Ghent
60. Me, the mob and the music : one helluva ride with Tommy James and the Shondells by Tommy James
61. Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd
62. Autumn by Ali Smith
63. Anne's house of dreams by L.M. Montgomery
64. Faithful Place by Tana French
65. Career of evil by Robert Galbraith
66. Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
67. Peace by Richard Bausch
68. Death of a dreamer by M.C. Beaton
69. His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
70. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
71. The Big Book of Canada: Exploring the Provinces and Territories by Christopher Moore
72. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
73. August Heat by Andrea Camilleri translated by Stephen Sartarelli
74. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd by C. Alan Bradley
75. West with the night by Beryl Markham
76. The Vegetarian by Kang Han, translated by Deborah Smith
77. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
78. Call the dead again by Ann Granger
79. Heart of a stranger by Margaret Laurence
80. The white lioness by Henning Mankell, translated by Laurie Thompson
81. Olivia Joules and the overactive imagination by Helen Fielding
82. The boys in the trees by Carly Simon
83. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
84. Double cross: the true story of the D-Day spies by Ben Macintyre
85. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
86. A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence
87. Churchill remembered by BBC Archives, Mark Jones
88. The Fog by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Kenard Pak
89. Burial rites by Hannah Kent
90. No signposts in the sea by Vita Sackville-West
91. Freeze Frame by Peter May
92. You who know by Nicholas Freeling
93. Angela Merkel: Europe's most influential leader by Matthew Qvortrup
94. Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
95. Dry Bones that Dream by Peter Robinson
Books Read - July, August, September
96. Running in the family by Michael Ondaatje
97. Vegetarian celebrations by Nava Atlas
98. The view from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
99. Sanaaq: an Inuit novel by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk translated from Inuktitut to French to English
100. The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Katty Maurey
101. The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies
102. Birthday Party by C.H.B. Kitchin
103. Reading the bones by Gina McMurchy-Barber
104. A rule against murder by Louise Penny
105. Birds, art, life: a year of observation by Kyo Maclear
106. The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe
107. After the war is over by Jennifer Robson
108. How does a single blade of grass thank the sun? by Doretta Lau
109. Do not say we have nothing by Madeleine Thien
110. At the water's edge by Sarah Gruen
111. Waging a heavy peace: a hippie dream by Neil Young
112. No such creature by Giles Blunt
113. The tiny hero of Ferny Creek library by Linda Bailey
114. The Dry by Jane Harper
115. On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming
116. The narrow road to the deep north by Richard Flanagan
117. Not the end of the world by Kate Atkinson
118. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
119. Solace of the road by Siobhan Dowd
120. Restless by William Boyd
121. An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
122. Love over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith
123. Dog Night at the Story Zoo by Dan Bar-el illustrated by Vicki Nerino
124. The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths
125. Atonement by Ian McEwan
126. The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri
127. In a dry season by Peter Robinson
128. Screamin' Jay Hawkins' greatest hits by Mark Binelli
129. Saturday by Ian McEwan
130. Unnatural Causes by P.D. James
131. Monk's-Hood by Ellis Peters
132. A Question of Proof by Quentin Blake
133. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
134. The Sea of Adventure by Enid Blyton
135. Witness for the prosecution and other stories by Agatha Christie
136. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
137. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
138. The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan
139. The Likeness by Tana French
140. The Religious Body by Catherine Aird
141. The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
142. Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö
143. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
144. I let you go by Clare Mackintosh
145. The Sunday Hangman by James McClure
146. One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
Books Read - October, November, December
147. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
148. When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrations by Matt James
149. Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
150. Treading Water by Anne DeGrace
151. We'll all be burnt in our beds some night by Joel Thomas Hynes
152. The Critic by Peter May
153. The Voice of the Violin by Andrea Camilleri
154. Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers
155. The Final Curtsey: A Royal Memoir by the Queen's Cousin by Margaret Rhodes
156. Cleopatra: a life by Stacy Schiff
157. Black and Blue by Ian Rankin
158. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjöwall
159. The Black Cat by Martha Grimes
160. Innovation Nation by David Johnston
161. The Skeleton Haunts a House by Leigh Perry
162. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
163. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré
164. Marbeck and the Gunpowder Plot by John Pilkington
165. The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys
166. Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
167. A Detective Under Fire by H.R.F. Keating
168. The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin
169. Night by Elie Wiesel
170. Counting on Snow by Maxwell Newhouse
171. Don't Cry, Tai Lake by Xiaolong Qiu
172. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
173. Buffalo Jump: a woman's travels by Rita Moir
174. The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall
175. Death of a Maid by M.C. Beaton
176. Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark
177. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
178. The Cat Who Said Cheese by Lilian Jackson Braun
179. The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
180. Books: a memoir by Larry McMurtry
181. The Big Five: Five simple things you can do to live a longer healthier life by Sanjiv Chopra
182. An Aboriginal Carol by David Bouchard, Susan Aglukark, Moses Beaver
183. I see you by Clare Mackintosh
184. The Mistletoe Murder and other stories by P.D. James
185. Penguin the Magpie: the odd little bird who saved a family by Cameron Bloom and Trevor Greive
186. Trespass by Rose Tremain
187. Animal Farm by George Orwell
188. Strip Jack by Ian Rankin
189. Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope
190. Classics of Childhood a Christmas anthology
191. Merry merry ghost by Carolyn G. Hart
192. A Christmas Garland by Anne Perry
193. Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths
194. The Shepherd by Frederick Forsyth
195. Mystery in white by J. Jefferson Farjeon
196. The cat who blew the whistle by Lilian Jackson Braun
Thanks Caroline, it's not difficult to see how I spend my time. Now if only I could get some jobs done around my house.
Saturday by Ian McEwan
This is the story of one day, Saturday, in the life of Henry Perowne, neurosurgeon, a well-drawn, convincing character. The story would not have worked on any other day of the week, because Saturday is the day filled with plans that can't be fitted into the working week: a squash game, a protest march, a visit to mother. The author does a fine job of letting the reader inside Perowne's head to see how he considers life in close-up. A description of his squash game might have been dull but instead it was interesting to see how the game developed and compared with the events of the day.
McEwan's story dips into many topics: politics, literature, music, war, surgery, family relationships, aging, and morality. It was a thought-provoking story that I enjoyed, especially the ending, where the topic of morality played a part. However, it is McEwan's beautiful prose that is the real draw for me: his words pour onto the paper like honey. But why do I always think he writes with the Booker prize in mind?
>10 VivienneR: Love that you're in a McEwan run at the moment, Vivienne!
But why do I always think he writes with the Booker prize in mind? I know what you mean, but I love that his writing always surprises me and leaves me guessing about where he's going with it. He manages to change not only the type of book her writes from novel to novel but also often his writing style, which I think is quite an accomplishment.
Saturday isn't my favourite of his novels, but I still enjoyed it.
>11 AlisonY: And I have another couple of McEwan books waiting, Alison! (Library booksales created my huge tbr backlog.) Yes, he can certainly fit in a little surprise or two, and has never become set in a style, in my experience anyway. I just love his writing. I really enjoyed Saturday, the plot seemed almost playful (as in playing with your mind). I've talked my husband into reading it now.
I took a BB when you recommended Enduring Love. That's my next one.
>10 VivienneR: this one wasn't really one to of my favourites, I have to say, Vivienne. I just thought some of it totally implausible.
I've said somewhere else, but I used to see McEwan typing away in the 80s as I passed his house on my way to work.
>13 japaul22: Saturday gets such mixed reviews. It's one of those books that gets as many 1-star ratings as 5-star. I can understand why even though I enjoyed it.
>14 Caroline_McElwee: Implausible, yes. Especially Baxter's reactions - in just about every situation. Caroline, I know you appreciate poetry more than I do, but it's laughable to imagine any poem would calm down a home invasion.
Seeing an author at such close quarters would encourage me to read everything he's written just in case I ran into him sometime.
I have read most of his work up to and including Saturday Vivienne, but then stuttered. I have the next two, but unread so far. My favourites are the dark The Cement Garden, and Enduring Love, with Atonement running third place. I also liked the novella On Chesil Beach, which I think does come after Saturday.
Yup, very unlikely a poem would have worked in that situation.
Well, it won't be a problem for me to read his books because I'm hooked on the smooth way he writes.
Thank you, I'll add The Cement Garden to my wishlist. I believe the others are already in my catalogue.
Unnatural Causes by P.D. James
I enjoyed P.D. James more the first time I read her novels. This one particularly is quite old-fashioned in style: the eccentric characters are a bit over the top, the denouement long, and Dalgliesh has not yet settled into his character. Still, you can't go wrong with a mystery by James.
Monk's-Hood by Ellis Peters
A mystery set in the year 1138. Brother Cadfael, a monk in charge of herbal remedies in the Abbey makes inquiries when one of those remedies was used for murder. His investigation is humane and charitable, following the tenet of his order. A satisfying whodunnit, with the added interest of a background setting in the Middle Ages.
A Question of Proof by Quentin Blake
Somehow I expected more from the Poet Laureate as a mystery writer. It's OK as a story, but drawn out too much and some of it was pretty silly. When the amateur sleuth tells the detective on the phone "I know who the murderer is. I'll tell you tomorrow" he was lucky he wasn't the next victim. The characters were one-dimensional and scarcely believable. I'll be generous and give it three stars, but it barely deserves that.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
I read this for my Calendar Challenge over at the Category Challenge group. September 21 is International Peace Day.
Not celebrating peace, but a reminder of how precious peace is and how heart-breakingly destructive war and intolerance can be. Set in Seattle soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it's a very moving story about how the Japanese Internment program destroyed communities and crushed friendships. The author tells the story without laying blame or making judgment.
Witness for the prosecution and other stories by Agatha Christie
This was an audiobook with excellent narration by Christopher Lee and Hugh Fraser. Although I'm not a fan of short stories, I've been following Christie since I was a pre-teen, and found this was a great way to "read" her short stories, especially Witness for the Prosecution, which I have previously only read as a play.
I know I'm going against the grain with this one but the more I think of the book, the more I dislike it.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Louis Zamperini was a rambunctious youngster who discovered he could run fast. After running in the 1936 Olympics, he was on his way to a career as an athlete when war intervened. As a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, his plane was shot down over the Pacific, and with two others, he remained floating on the ocean in a raft for 47 days before landing on a Japanese island. Although drawn out too much, this part was the most interesting. However, after capture, his problems became worse. It's a story that should not be forgotten but there is no redeeming quality in relating the torture at such length. In parts, Hillenbrand suggests the concept that Americans are good, Japanese are bad (except one Japanese, a "Christian" who was good). The bias is especially noticeable in the casualty figures she quotes, statistics that say nothing about the Japanese casualties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, all civilians. In fact she makes the claim that those bombs saved the lives of prisoners by avoiding a "kill all” order. No one can accurately say what would have happened.
I kept ploughing through it but it's difficult to understand the rave reviews the book has garnered. Hillenbrand's writing is pedestrian and without the nuances of a natural storyteller. The very nature of the story was distressing, but particularly protracted description of torture. A good writer knows that this type of detail is unnecessary to get the point across. As well, Hillenbrand includes information that could not possibly be known by anyone, adding a fictional element. And although I'm glad Zamperini found some relief from his misery, the crowning annoyance was the "born again" ending, reinforcing the American (read Christian) good, Japanese bad. I do not recommend this to anyone.
The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan
Kiernan's novel is set in a small village in Normandy in the months leading up to D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the people of France were living under Nazi occupation. The apprentice baker, Emma suffers immense losses and witnesses unimaginable cruelty but despite this, she resolves to do her best for her grandmother and friends while remaining sceptical of a rescue from Allied forces. She is given an extra ration of flour to make twelve baguettes for the Nazi soldiers, but by adding ground straw she is able to save enough flour to make two extra loaves for starving villagers. Combined with other innovative ways to procure food this modest young woman helps her neighbours endure the unendurable, at considerable risk to herself.
Although she accomplished much in the way of helping villagers survive, when the allied invasion comes about, she is overwhelmed by the losses incurred just so that her people can live freely. It's a heartbreakingly familiar story, but Kiernan's writing style has a poetic quality that conveys something extra, more like a parable. It is beautifully written, thought-provoking and memorable.
My thanks to mysterymax for the book bullet
>25 AlisonY: Remember that I'm in the minority, Alison. Most people rated it very high. Unfortunately Zamperini's personality didn't come out because the book was filled with details - details that were taken from notes, etc. I should have stopped when they were captured because the time afloat on the ocean was the most interesting.
The Likeness by Tana French
I've been reading French's series out of order. The Likeness, which precedes the previously read Faithful Place, also features the character Frank Mackey. I hardly recognized him in this book, he seemed such a different character here. I assume it was because I read a print version of Faithful Place, whereas this one was an audiobook. Not that there was anything wrong with the narration, just the opposite, but Frank Mackey's personality was closer to that of Reginald Hill's Dalziel. The far-fetched plot requires the reader to suspend belief but French gives the unconvincing nature of the story enough credibility to make it work. It's a fine psychological mystery with plenty of twists. My only complaint is that it was a tad long.
The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
What a strange, abstract tale, beautifully crafted, but one I find impossible to describe. Was it clever or crazy? I'm still not sure of that, but the Irish wit was simply glorious. I was delighted to hear old Irish words that until now I've only heard my grandmother use. My copy is an audiobook with outstanding narration by Jim Norton.
Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö
I'm not sure if the problem was with the original text or the translation but the prose is poor, very dry and blunt, however, the story progressed quickly. It's an interesting look back on police methods - that is, if any of the procedures can be assumed as anywhere close to authentic. Thankfully, techniques have improved. And what a difference modern communications have made. Not bad, I'll read more Sjöwall.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
An event on a Nigerian beach has inextricably linked Little Bee with Sarah and Andrew O'Rourke, an English couple. The story opens with the asylum seeker, Little Bee, being mistakenly released without papers after being incarcerated in an English detention centre for two years. She sets out in search of the couple she met on the beach. Alternating between Little Bee's account and Sarah's the whole story unfolds. While written with compassion, Cleave has injected it with a mildly melodramatic quality that reveals his fervour. However, without judgement of either side, he illustrates powerfully what a refugee might be running from, what they suffer in the attempt, and the potential consequences. Cleave's portrayal of Little Bee is excellent. She retains her Nigerian way of thinking (always considering how she would explain a particular scene to her friends at home) while simultaneously trying to adapt to English life. She is charming and astute beyond her sixteen years.
Cleave's first-hand knowledge of the subject matter was earned during his time studying at Oxford when he worked in a detention centre.
"Life is precious, whatever its country of origin."
I let you go by Clare Mackintosh
Chilling. I don't usually bother trying to work out whodunnit, but I didn't need to try for this one because the plot was obvious from very early on so it was just a matter of letting it play out.
Domestic abuse is not a topic I read, and although this novel was a page-turner, the details were so harrowing that I stopped reading with about forty pages remaining. It will take someone braver than I to finish it.
>32 VivienneR: Beautiful cover and excellent review. I saw this one some time ago, but wondered if it was my kind of thing. I'll have to look closer.
>34 brodiew2: Thanks, Brodie. I've had the book gathering dust for some time but it was better than I thought it would be. Wish I'd read it sooner.
One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
Set in 1946, the story follows Laura Marshall through one day of her life, a life that has been forever changed by war. The social structure has changed dramatically, one-time servants have moved on to more lucrative employment elsewhere leaving owners of grand homes having to look after themselves. Laura will adjust, although her mother and her husband may have some difficulties. Panter-Downes describes a new order that has been accepted, however reluctantly, and the future is looking generally optimistic. This memorable portrayal of an ordinary day evokes the time faultlessly.
Hello Vivienne. I hope all is well with you.
>37 VivienneR: I saw this reviewed on a different thread very recently. They also gave high marks. must be very good.
>38 Caroline_McElwee: Not surprising, so different, yet both excellent.
>39 brodiew2: Hi Brodie, I saw it mentioned too but I can't remember where it was. I searched through the talk topics where it was mentioned without finding anything familiar. I enjoyed it more than The Haunting of Hill House by the same author.
I only recently listened to We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and also really enjoyed it. It does grab you.
Who knows Vivienne. You're welcome, if it was me. : )
>43 brodiew2: Brodie - the reader is terrific.
Have had the Shirley Jackson on my wish list for a few years now. I WILL read it soon! Enjoying your reviews.
Our beaver pond has not yet frozen over, but my latest Early Reviewer book arrived just in time for the Full Moon!
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrations by Matt James
For most Canadian children in rural areas, it's one of the most cherished events of the year, when the beaver pond freezes over and the hockey season begins. This group of children have made it a rule to wait for the full moon before beginning. They finish off the hockey game with tea and sandwiches by a campfire. It's an atmospheric story complemented by excellent illustrations that bring the story to life. Suitable for ages in a wide range because 10-year-olds will understand the magic while 4-year-olds will be fascinated and eager to accompany older siblings sometime or just to dream. Rich in nostalgia for an old way of life that still applies to many Canadian children, this book is outstanding. The beautiful wintery scenes combined with the topic would make this a beautiful Christmas gift.
Another winner from Tundra! Two 5-star reads already this month must be a record!
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
What can I say that hasn't been said before? Louise Penny just gets better with every book. I loved winter in this one, my favourite season. Although it's not necessary to appreciate the story, it is good encouragement to review Canadian history.
And it's a Hat Trick! The first three books this month have all rated five-stars!
>48 VivienneR: I just finished the latest book in the series, and it is the best yet.
>49 NanaCC: I really hesitate giving a book from a series five stars knowing that a later one might be even better? Looks like that's going to happen. And I still have a few to go before I reach the latest title.
>50 VivienneR: Of course, my comment is really just my opinion. ;) I really do enjoy this series.
>51 NanaCC: It is perfectly reasonable to regard the latest one as the best because each one I've read is better than the previous one. And considering how similar our tastes are, your opinion is spot on as far as I'm concerned.
Treading Water by Anne DeGrace
This story was inspired by the creation of a flood control and hydroelectric dam (now known as the Keenleyside Dam) built in 1968 in British Columbia. It necessitated the relocation the community of Renata, that DeGrace calls Bear Creek in her novel. She tells the story in vignettes, describing the people who lived there since two young trappers arrived in 1904 until all the residents were bought out in 1968. Some were glad to leave, others were distraught to leave homes, graves, thriving fruit-growing businesses and memories. DeGrace's novel is fiction, yet the facts are clearly woven into the story that describes a very difficult time for everyone concerned. As well as being well-written, it was interesting to read of the area I know well, as it was before dams were built.
From the Giller Prize long list 2017
We'll all be burnt in our beds some night by Joel Thomas Hynes
If you can get past the profanities, this is a heartbreaking tale tinged with black humour of young petty criminal Johnny Keough. When the girlfriend he injured - accidentally with a teapot - died of an overdose on the morning of his court case, he was suddenly off the hook instead of facing years in a federal penitentiary. Johnny decided to use the freedom to hitchhike across Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver with the urn containing her ashes under his arm, to scatter them on a Vancouver beach she remembered from childhood.
Johnny is a long-time hardened malefactor but Hynes brings out likeable elements and we feel sympathetic toward him. He's had a brutal childhood, never experienced a role model of the positive kind, and trouble follows him like a shadow. Hynes injects this misery with a dark comic humour that keeps the story from spiralling downwards. He often shifts viewpoint from past to present, letting the reader into Johnny's head to find out how events really happened. I desperately wanted him to succeed on his monumental journey, but Johnny is the master of his own fate.
If it had been possible, I would have read this book from the acknowledged bad boy of Canadian literature in one sitting. It is coarse and ribald, but you won't forget Johnny Keough.
>54 VivienneR: you're one of five on LT with We'll All Be Burnt... Terrific review. I'm interested
Thanks, Daniel. It's a fairly new book but I imagine we'll see more of Joel Hynes in the future.
>57 dchaikin: As Vivienne says, it is a fairly new book (which I intend to read), but another difficulty for the author is that he is from Newfoundland. Unfortunately, writing from the Atlantic Provinces, including Newfoundland, doesn't get much play in places like Toronto, where the book deals are made, let alone outside Canada, so it can take a long time for writers from the East Coast to be "discovered" elsewhere. For instance, this is his fourth book I believe, but he had to be on the long list for the Giller to be noticed. It's probably the same for writers from western Canada.
Joel Thomas Hynes is also an actor.
>54 VivienneR: Intriguing review.
>59 SassyLassy: Thank you for your explanation. It was his presence on the Giller long list that brought him to my attention. And, yes, writers in the western provinces face the same problem. I see many excellent books in BC bookstores that never see the light of day outside the area.
Hynes also writes and directs for film and theatre as well as acting.
I already have another one of his books, and now looking forward to it: Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes.
Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers
Sayers portrays the time so well, in this case Armistice Day, 1928: young men were still suffering shell-shock while the elder gentry snoozed in clubs. Peter Wimsey is a wonderful character, intelligent, compassionate and observant, the perfect qualities for a sleuth. Everyone melts in his presence. This is a good mystery story, of course, but the characters, setting, and Sayers' writing make this a winner.
I do have a soft spot for Dear Peter (especially when he was played by Edward Petherbridge).
>60 VivienneR: I do too, Caroline. He is the person I see when reading Sayers. I'm sure he is the personification of who Sayers imagined as Lord Peter.
I see you have recently read Peter May's The Critic which I have here is a crime novel TBR pile. I have enjoyed most of his island novels, some better than others, but still, a reliably good read.
And I'm sentimental about Dorothy Sayers. I read her (more like gobbled her up) back when the television series came on in the 80s.
>64 avaland: I recently enjoyed Freeze Frame by Peter May but was disappointed in The Critic. There was a lot more about wine-making than murder investigation. But it won't stop me from trying others by May that I have on the shelves.
I feel the same way about Sayers - and the tv series. I read a lot of Sayers a long time ago but didn't keep a record so now find I'm re-reading some, which is perfectly ok with me.
My husband spotted this at the library and brought it home for me, knowing I'd be interested.
The Final Curtsey: A Royal Memoir by the Queen's Cousin by Margaret Rhodes
Rhodes is the niece of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. and therefore first cousin to the Queen. In this memoir, which reads like a history of the 20th century, told with a back-room viewpoint so to speak. Her book is a quick light read, written in a captivating conversational style, and all the while portraying the Royal family from a personal perspective.
Among serious topics, she recounts some funny anecdotes such as when she was registering the Queen Mother's death, the registrar was filling in the form: ”At a certain point, she fixed me with a beady eye and asked, 'Right, what was the husband's occupation?' It seemed a superfluous question; however, after a second's hesitation, I answered, 'King'."
Funnily enough, despite not being much of a royalist, I have that somewhere Vivienne.
Only an afternoon's read, so it zips along. I love tradition, which sort of puts me in the royalist group although I admit there are some who disappoint.
Cleopatra: a life by Stacy Schiff
Until reading this book I knew little about Cleopatra beyond the word on the street, which is based more on Elizabeth Taylor's portrayal than on Cleopatra. Schiff's meticulous biography is fascinating. She covers all kinds of detail: life, culture, medicine, politics, government, warfare, and education. She also describes a lavish opulence that is - and was at the time - astonishing. But what Schiff does best is to disparage the image of Cleopatra as a wicked temptress, instead showing the reader a more credible picture of a remarkably intelligent woman and powerful monarch who brought prosperity to her country. This is a compelling book with balanced opinions that I will keep to read again, and for reference. Highly recommended.
"Her power has been made to derive from her sexuality... It has always been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather than to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life. Against a powerful enchantress there is no contest, against a woman who ensnares a man in the coils of her serpentine intelligence, in her ropes of pearls, there should at least be some kind of antidote. Cleopatra unsettles more as sage than as seductress. It is less threatening to believe her fatally attractive than fatally intelligent."
"There was a glamour and a grandeur to her story well before Octavian or Shakespeare got his hands on it."
Schiff's book was recommended to me by rebeccanyc, an LT member whose opinion I valued. Sadly rebeccanyc (Sibyl) died in August this year. Her excellent review is here: rebeccanyc's review
Black and Blue by Ian Rankin
At the beginning of the story Rebus is listening to The Rolling Stones' album Black and Blue, not one of their best albums in my opinion, yet I can imagine Rebus the die-hard Stones fan enjoying it. Rankin said this one was his favourite, and of all the Rankin novels I've read so far it's my favourite too.
Innovation Nation by David Johnston
The sub-title says it all: How Canadians made the world a smarter, smaller, kinder, safer, healthier, wealthier, and happier.
David Johnston's term as Canada's Governor General ended in September 2017 and to commemorate the occasion, he gave us this collection of creativity originating in Canada from the light bulb (yes, Canadians Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans sold their patent to Edison) to the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights by John Humphrey in 1948, to blue box recycling. This book will be a welcome addition to any young person's library (and mine) because the nationality of so many breakthroughs don't get noticed or are forgotten and Canada has so much to be proud of. It's also a reminder that innovation can be generated by anyone. Very interesting, well-written, with great illustrations.
This is an Early Reviewer book that I was delighted to receive.
I've had some good reading recently. Nice to see you dropping by, Alison.
Catching up with these last few books. A couple of my favorites. (Sayers and Rankin), and a couple of new ones to look for.
Once again, I'm in the minority with a bestseller.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
It is understandable how this novel became a bestseller. The story of Alice, a Harvard professor who suffers from early onset Alzheimer's is a riveting one, making the reader think "this could be me”. Unfortunately the quality of the writing does not correspond with the compelling topic, I found it lumbering, pedestrian, and in places unnecessarily technical. My version was an audiobook significantly marred by the author's wooden, monotone narration. I do, however, have every sympathy with anyone suffering with this terrifying diagnosis.
Vivienne, I saw the very fine film they made of this novel starring Juliette Moore.
Caroline, I saw that movie too and was very impressed. I read this to fill a challenge (read a book that was made into a movie) over at the 2017 Category Challenge group. Knowing how good the movie was combined with the excellent ratings for the book I thought it would be a good choice. But you know how it is, the sad, tragic nature of what a character suffers often determines how the book is rated. As a narrator, Genova is particularly poor. Many scenes that could have been touching were flat. And I got sick of hearing the word "Harvard". I could rant more.
:-( that’s disappointing Vivienne, but a rare opportunity for the movie to be better than the book!
Caroline, I remembered that I read it years ago too. It was worthy of a re-read.
Another appropriate read for November 5th.
Marbeck and the Gunpowder Plot by John Pilkington
Set in 1605 when James I is on the throne, this is an espionage tale 17th century style. Marbeck, an intelligencer, discovers information about a plot to kidnap the royal children and the mysterious amassing of gunpowder. Despite his spymaster's lack of interest he investigates further and is thrown in jail leading him to think his boss is in the pay of Papists and Thomas Percy. Reading this was a strange experience because even though the outcome of the Gunpowder Plot is well known, the story kept me on tenterhooks throughout. I wish I'd read more about the real life story before reading Pilkington's yarn, then I would have been able to recognize the names (or aliases) of the villains as they put in an appearance. But no matter, I enjoyed the story thoroughly, and look forward to reading more of Pilkington's Marbeck adventures.
The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys
Humphreys has taken three actual events from WWII and woven them into this tender story. What makes this exceptional is Humphreys' beautifully eloquent writing that doesn't have one expendable word. The nature stories, that Humphreys is so at ease with, combined with those of her human characters, somehow reflect life, not a fictionalized version of it. This is yet another way to tell a war story. Highly recommended.
Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
There is no doubt that Penny's atmospheric novels are in a class of their own and the residents of Three Pines, whether pleasant or not, are rich in character. Although this one appealed less than others in the series, I'm still looking forward to the next one - The Beautiful Mystery.
I had never heard of Humphreys. This sounds like a really interesting book.
A Detective Under Fire by H.R.F. Keating
Harriet Martens, who has become known as The Hard Detective because of her tough image (in a previous book) has been sent from the Midlands to a maximum crime squad in London to lead an inquiry of corruption. She discovers she is being referred to there as "the dozy Northern tart" - not a good outlook. But why was she, a relatively minor officer, sent to investigate what would normally call for someone significantly more senior? She is good at asking questions and getting answers but there are so many unknown pitfalls that she could unknowingly step into. She made a big mistake and almost got caught breaking the law. Hmm, pretty hard to take in, but it's her only misstep in this enjoyable novel.
Yes, Dan, I'm trying to finish the year at the 2017 Category Challenge group and reading in every spare moment! I already had a few on the go at the end of October. Here's another one...
The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin
Arriving in Oxford on foot in the middle of the night, Cadogan finds the door of a toyshop open. Of course he explores, finds a dead woman, obviously murdered, right before he is knocked out. When he reports the incident to the police the next day, not only the body has disappeared, but the toyshop has gone too. Cadogan and his friend, Oxford don Gervase Fen, investigate. This is a combination of comedy and farce with many literary references thrown in, and all packed with action. Funny, clever and highly entertaining.
>95 VivienneR: Ouch, hit by a bullet me thinks, thanks Vivienne.
>96 Caroline_McElwee: Oh good, Caroline. Keep your dictionary handy!
I read it years ago Vivienne. It s one that everyone should read, I agree.
>98 VivienneR: That book is required reading at the high school I work at. The kids always like it - as sad as it is. Haven't read it myself, though.
>99 Caroline_McElwee: It's a tough topic but Wiesel handled it exceptionally well.
>98 VivienneR: I can imagine kids appreciating this book. Wiesel was only 15 at the time the events took place.
>101 NanaCC: The Moving Toyshop is my favourite Crispin so far. I'm glad I eventually found Night just at the right moment.
Don't cry, Tai Lake by Xiaolong Qiu
I enjoyed this mystery set in the Chinese city of Wuxi and featuring Inspector Chen, a poet, whose poetry is sprinkled liberally throughout the novel. This story is brimming with atmosphere providing a real sense of the place and culture of China. His boss has arranged for Chen to have a luxury vacation at the beautiful Tai Lake with instructions to write a report of the area. When the head of a chemical plant that pours toxic waste into the lake is murdered, it becomes Chen's unofficial investigation. The local police regard Chen as a celebrity who is welcomed as much for his star quality as his investigative skills. I could quibble about some coincidences leading to the solution but enjoyed the story - and Chen - enough to reading more of the series.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The first in a series of four, this a tale of growing up in poverty in Italy where class and wealth can make a huge difference to a young person. I can see that Ferrante is a talented writer although I wasn't able to associate with any of the characters and didn't get any sense of the setting. The story just didn't resonate with me.
This was my second try with this book. On the first try, I didn't finish it. I have the next in the series but I'm not sure Ferrante is for me.
I didn't care much for this book either and I'm so glad to finally see that I'm not the only one! ;)
>105 chlorine: I don't think we are alone. On reflection my rating of 3 stars may have been a tad generous and may be revised.
>104 VivienneR: I wasn’t enthralled with this book either. I did finish it, and I have the second, but just haven’t had the urge to read it. And yet, there are folks, whose opinion I value, who just love the series.
>107 NanaCC: It was those valued opinions that convinced me I was missing something the first time I tried it. Now that I've read some reviews Ferrante seems to be one of those authors loved by some, hated by others.
>104 VivienneR: I’m with you Vivienne, I read about 70 pages of this and put it aside. It may be that I’m generally not interested in books with children as the main characters (The Railway Children and a handful are of others aside), and I have been told by several that from volume 2 they got hooked. I have the first two, but not sure if I will give them another go,
>109 Caroline_McElwee: I too got to about page 70 on my first try. I don't have any problem with children as the main characters but Ferrante's children were so unpleasant that I didn't care much what happened to them. I might give book 2 a try sometime - maybe when I've forgotten much of this one. On the other hand, I may just throw it in the donations box. I don't see the need to work so hard at enjoying books when there are so many great books out there (and on my shelves).
Buffalo Jump: a woman's travels by Rita Moir
Winner of the Van City Book Prize (2000) and Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize finalist (2000)
Part travel narrative, part biography, but mostly an account of reminiscences shared during a journey the author made with her mother across Canada. She asked the questions that we mean to ask a parent or grandparent but never get the right moment. There was some pain, some heartache, but mostly this is an upbeat story with some very nice moments.
Although they stop and contemplate history at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta, and mention buffalo often, the title metaphor was a weak link in the story. Moir had a tough time trying to make it work.
The author currently lives in the Kootenay region of British Columbia.
I finished two books yesterday:
Death of a Maid by M.C. Beaton
A trip to Scotland to celebrate St Andrew's Day on November 30th. It's always a treat to visit Hamish Macbeth.
Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark
Spark imagines Lord Lucan, an infamous figure who disappeared in the 70s, seeking the help of a psychologist in Paris, twenty-five years after being accused of murder and still on the run. I know there is a message in the story, but never quite got it. It was a slow read. I kept wondering how Lord Lucan's children reacted to the book.
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
This story of a young couple on their wedding night is one of McEwan's best, or the best I've read so far by the author. It is astonishing just how McEwan can get inside the head of a woman. He is spectacularly successful in capturing the mid-century society and conventions just as the sixties are about to bring changes to many facets of life. This is especially worthy of note because the time frame is a few years ahead of McEwan's own youth. Every word of this story is captivating.
I loved all McEwan’s early to middle work (maybe still one or two I haven’t read), but got stuck by that blip of Saturday. I need to reintroduce myself. I haven’t read the latest, because it sounds like a novel I read in the 80s by Jenny Diski, although people have said that it’s the first time it’s been done (the voice of an unborn child). Lazy research. But he could have done it differently.
>104 VivienneR: (through 110) - it’s good that we all have such varied reactions. Sorry you didn’t enjoy this.
Also...enjoyed your latest four reviews.
>116 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks for that information. In that case I'll make sure I start with the older books. Kate Atkinson used the voice of the child as it was born in Behind the Scenes at the Museum but I haven't read anything with the voice of the unborn child, an interesting concept.
>117 dchaikin: Dan, I noted in my catalogue that you advised me to try again (see "valued opinions" mentioned in >108 VivienneR:). The other three in the series are still in my possession so I may continue, but it won't be for a while.
Glad you enjoyed my reviews. They get shorter as I become busier doing other things. :)
The Cat Who Said Cheese by Lilian Jackson Braun
I read this book for the "dust collectors" category challenge - an appropriate choice because it's been on my shelf for years. It's an entertaining tale, perfect for a rainy afternoon, and the feline content was not overdone. Although there was reference to previous events, presumably covered in earlier books, it was not difficult to pick up the lay of the land.
One line that made me smile was regarding a nearby town settled by some Canadians back in the 1800s, who wanted to name their new dwelling place after their home town. The council mistakenly spelled it "Trawnto" just as the Canadians had pronounced it.
The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
This book is a little gem!
A Parisian bookseller found a handbag, obviously abandoned by a mugger after removing anything of value. Although it still held many fascinating possessions, there was nothing to identify the owner. A red moleskin notebook had many of her thoughts noted so that the bookseller was able to learn much about this mystery woman. His daughter convinced him to begin a search for her, which he does, reluctantly.
The story captured me from the first words and I was tempted to turn the pages quickly to find out what happens. Curbing the desire, I instead enjoyed the utterly charming story. Highly recommended.
>120 VivienneR: My brother has just read that, and is passing it my way Vivienne. He liked the one about a hat, by the same author.
Books: a memoir by Larry McMurtry
It is always interesting, sometimes amazing, to hear how readers get started. McMurtry's story is one of the impressive ones. However, in this book he swings around in time a lot leaving the reader trying to figure out when the events happened. The most disappointing aspect was that this was hardly a memoir but a random account of rare book collecting, a topic that would normally attract me but in this case fell flat.
The Big Five: Five simple things you can do to live a longer healthier life by Sanjiv Chopra
The librarian at the public library recommended this one. I have to admit it is comforting to know Dr Chopra, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, endorses coffee, my favourite drink! Vitamin D, activity, eating nuts and meditation make up the rest. This is a straightforward book of advice, much of which we know already, but Chopra sets it out concisely and in simple language making it easy to take in.
Catching up.... So glad you loved On Chesil Beach, as that was the first McEwan book that drew me in, but not everyone loves it.
On Ferrante, I'm someone who really enjoyed all 4 books, but your comments resonated with me. I went back to my review of it and see that I commented that if I hadn't read other people's reviews I would have given up after 40 or 50 pages, but I really started to get into it as it progressed. Having said that, personally if a book doesn't work for me after the 2nd attempt I move on, so I get that you're leaving Ferrante behind.
Glad you accept my feelings about Ferrante. When someone whose opinion I trust recommends a book I feel like a traitor when I pan it.
I'm hooked on McEwan. Hooked! Here in Canada we see more American authors in bookstores and libraries (especially in the out-of-the-way place where I live). As a Northern Ireland ex-pat, the UK is more familiar to me and I feel more at home with British and Irish writers. I'm constantly on the lookout for new ones - LT is a big help and has led to me submitting a lot of recommendations at the library.
An Aboriginal Carol by David Bouchard
It is said that when Europeans first arrived in North America they found that the people already knew of Jesus by the name of Deganawideh the Peacemaker. The original version of The Huron Carol, written by a Jesuit missionary 400 years ago relates the birth of Jesus using familiar imagery of the people. Jesus was born in "a lodge of broken bark' and wrapped in "a robe of rabbit skin". Bouchard enlarges upon the lyrics creating more of a complete story.
This book is a collaboration between the three groups that comprise Canada's Aboriginal peoples: First Nations, Mètis and Inuit. Mètis poet David Bouchard's text is accompanied by the Inuktitut translation. Inuk singer Susan Aglukark provides a very pleasing musical translation in Inuktitut on the accompanying CD that also includes a reading in English. Each page is spectacularly illustrated by First Nations artist Moses Beaver. Whether Christian or not, this is a fabulous treasure to be brought out and appreciated every Christmas.
Penguin the Magpie: the odd little bird who saved a family by Cameron Bloom and Trevor Greive
The prologue, written by Bloom, gives a brief biography and an account of the hearbreaking injury to his wife Sam. Soon after her return from hospital their son found an injured magpie chick that had fallen from its nest onto a parking lot and the family had two patients to look after. The book describes Sam's devastating injury along with captivating photos of Penguin and how her antics helped. The photos, on opposite pages to text, correspond beautifully with the content of the text, illustrating how the magpie shared the lives of the Bloom family. As Cameron said: "Angels come in all shapes and sizes."
Sam wraps up the book with her side of the story and gives excellent advice about how to treat someone who has suffered a life-shattering injury.
A percentage of the royalties, matched by the publisher. will be donated to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
My thanks to Kerry (avatiakh) who fired the BB in my direction.
Trespass by Rose Tremain
The story features a poor, uneducated brother and sister. The brother wants to sell their farmhouse to a rich foreigner, a plan that troubles his sister considerably. When a wealthy English buyer and his sister show up, passion, retribution, and the clash of cultures complicate the plan.
Although the seriously flawed characters are all unlikeable in this dark story, Tremain skillfully portrays them as if from inside their heads. Each one trespasses in different ways. This chilling novel is well-written and completely engrossing to the last page.
>131 VivienneR: I agree totally Vivienne. Tremain’s work is consistently good.
>132 Caroline_McElwee: It was a bullet from kidzdoc that got me reading Tremain. I will definitely read more of her work, she's a beautiful writer.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
I've read this before, more than once, but yet again I was astonished at how brilliant it is. I had almost forgotten a favourite minor character, Moses the Raven, who promises unimaginable heavenly rewards. Parallels to contemporary political events are unmistakable making Orwell's fable just as relevant today as it ever was.
That brings back memories for me. I don’t think I could read it right now, I think it would send me into a depresson.
Yes, I understand Daniel. It's really frustrating to see power-hungry tyrants get voted into power even after all the years that Animal Farm has been around to educate. But I do love that Orwell could see it all so clearly.
Strip Jack by Ian Rankin
This is an early Rebus novel that fills a gap in the series for me as well as filling December's J & R over at the Alpha challenge. As usual, I really enjoyed the story. Rankin always stays on topic instead of having his detective working on many unrelated cases as so often is the case.
We're in the middle of a major snowstorm! That means most people around here will be getting what they wished for and hitting the slopes for the Christmas holiday!
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!
>140 VivienneR: CBC threw me off completely this year by having the reading on Friday night, not Christmas Eve, so I missed it. In retrospect it makes sense. Next year I'll be more careful, but then next year Christmas Eve will be on a week night.
>141 SassyLassy: Oh, too bad! I downloaded the podcast of the CBC reading, but although it is excellent, I prefer the full story in the book.
Read year-to-date: 196
A - acquired before 2015: 46 (23%)
B - acquired since 2015: 119 (61%)
C - borrowed: 31 (16%)
Conclusion: I achieved my aim of reading 80% of books that I own - however, many of those books were purchased this year - and the result is that I have more books than ever on my bookshelves.
Other: 30 - including African, Australian, Chinese, Dutch, French, Ghanaian, Irish, Italian, Pakistani, Romanian, Russian, South Korean, Swedish
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.