The Year in Books – January, 2016

Fresh new year to try and achieve my Good Reads goal of reading 20 books.  I failed last year and did not read 24 so yes, I did lower my standards a tad!  Once upon a time there was no Internet and no car, thus long bus rides.  A lot.  A LOT.  A LOT more books were read.  Then came children, house stuff, faffing on the Internet.  Next thing you know, reading one book a month is a challenge.  This needs to stop.  I have always loved reading.  Way back in elementary school, my friends Lynne and Kathy and I spent more time in the library than anywhere else.  I’d love to know just how many books we read in that itty-bitty Boucherville Elementary School library.  Lynne and I read every single Chica D’Oro book the school had (call them Nancy Drew on horseback, if you will) I had to look up some titles as they were long gone from my memory:  Linda Craig and the Palomino Mystery was the first.  The palomino in question was called Chica D’Oro.  And of course, we read all the Black Stallion books.  Okay, Lynne may have been the instigator of all books horse as she was MAD about horses.

Kathy and I quickly moved into Harlequin Romance stories (don’t even!).  That girl was the fastest reader I have ever known! I could never keep up with her rhythm. We would sit in her backyard and read away the day.

Eventually I moved into historical romance – to this day my favourites are still Kathleen E. Woodiwiss (The Wolf and the Dove, The Flame and the Flower, Shanna! These ladies were something else.  I swear, if I had had a daughter, her name was definitely going to be Shanna.), Bertrice Small (the Skye O’Malley series… yum), Rosemary Rogers (Sweet, Savage Love…oh my…) Yes, there were many of that sort, I canna lie!  I gobbled them up.  We shared books.  Books went the rounds: from my mother, to me, to my sisters, to my friends.

After a while, I grew tired of these types of books – though I am not adverse to reading one here or there – as they started feeling redundant.

I discovered James A. Michener and his sweeping tales, giving me a history lesson woven into a wonderful story:  Texas, Chesapeake, Tales of the South Pacific, to name but a few.  Too difficult to name a favourite.

Boyfriends and other friends introduced me to such books as Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, A Trilogy in Four Parts, books I would NEVER have thought of reading!

Since then, I have touched on many genres and loved, cried, laughed, sighed, hated so many along the way.  I am now open to reading almost anything, quite frankly.  Having gone to a French high school, I felt I missed out on the classics, so I decided to start reading some of them.  For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemmingway (totally hated it, by the way – I know, I know, heresy!) is one of them! The Brönte sisters, Jane Austin, etc.  I could go on and on.  Actually, I have gone on and on.  Apologies!

Now I have become part of this fabulous world in the Blogosphere.  I am constantly amased by the circles created.  You discover one blog, comment on it, read the other comments, check out the commenters blogs.  New circle formed.  Somehow, I cannot even tell you how, I have ended up in a circle of published authors.  Or rather, a few circles with published authors amongst them.  The first book I read by bloggers I followed – The Great Jollyhoombah (so sad they no longer blog) was The End of Wishing Our Days Away, by Tammy and CJ Renzi, a lovely, hilarious couple who shared in the blogging duties and co-wrote the book.  Was a most enjoyable read.

The second time I read a blogger’s book was Timesmudger, by Gillian Smellie.  I love young adult lit as much as anything else and I truly enjoyed this one.  A click on the link will bring you to my review of said book.

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This was the start of something!  Now that I’ve rambled on and on, allow me to introduce my reads for the month of January.  Yes, I am feeling very optimistic and will read not one but two books this month!  Both are women I met through my weekly Friday Fictioneers “Club”.  The first is Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days.  I’ve barely begun it and am already drawn in.  I think I’ll be gobbling this one up!

My second choice is the long-awaited (by me) sequel to Please Say Kaddish For Me by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields that I read back in JuneFrom Silt and Ashes is the continuing story of Havah, her husband, Arel and some family members as they flee the pogroms in Russia to the supposed liberty in United States.  I cannot wait to sink my teeth into this one!

Laura, over at Circle of Pine Trees is the hostess of this group of readers.  Unfortunately she no longer has the link up for our posts, but she can still be found here.

 

The Year In Books : June 2015

This is a first in a long time.  I read not one, not two but three books in May!  OK, they were slim volumes, but still! 😉

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, Please Say Kaddish For Me was a page-turner.  Though a most difficult subject, Rochelle managed to weave throughout all the horror, a lot of beauty.  Her characters were, except for one, all easily fallen in love with.  Through her blog, I was able to read many of her character studies and learnt that this story was based on a true one.  All the more difficult.  A story of survival, of love, of moving forward despite the hardships and pain, Please Say Kaddish For Me was at times cringe-worthy followed by joyful tears.  I couldn’t put it down.

As a result of not being able to put it down, I found myself in the month of May with 16 more days to read!  So, I remained in the Jewish experience by finally reading Elie Wiesel’s Night. I could not put this one down either.  I can’t believe I had it in my bookshelves for so many years without picking it up.  Go figure.  16-year-old Elie, deeply religious, ends up going through many concentration camps with his father, slowly losing his beliefs.  The horrible things he goes through and manages to survive are just beyond imagination.   This one too, I gobbled up in no time.

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Still had a few days left in the month so I picked up Michael J. Fox’ sliver of a book A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Future.  I needed some lighter reading…  I had read his “Lucky Man” years ago and knew I was in for a good read.  I didn’t realize this was a book directed at graduates (kind of ironic, considering he never graduated high school; well, he did get his GED).  His goal was to encourage graduates to recognize opportunities and go with the flow in life.  He compares formal education of various subjects (economics, physics, geography, to name a few) to real-life learnings.  I enjoyed it.  Took me a day and a half to read it but I had no choice.  I had cakes to make!

Sooo… what to read for June?

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Time for dreaming.  Summer is ’round the corner, after all.  Having read the first two “Tuscany” books by Frances Mayes, I know I am totally going to love Every Day in Tuscany.  Between her lovely prose and her wonderful recipes, I’ll just imagine myself there – until I get there for “realz”!

The Year In Books: May 2015

Well this month is slightly better than last!  At least I’ll have a good twenty days to read this month’s book!

April’s choice was another Jodi Picoult novel.  Lone Wolf.  Not the best choice I could have made considering my past four months… Once I started reading it and realized it would touch on the issue of whether or not one should pull the plug on a patient who is brain-dead, I could have stopped.  I’ve always been a little bit of a masochist though!  In my case there was no opposition to the choice being made but I can only imagine how hard it would be if, as in the case of this book, two siblings have differing views.

As per usual, Picoult delves into a most difficult subject with much research, empathy and heart.  Once again the story is told in a multitude of voices:  The Lone Wolf himself, Luke Warren, who is the patient in question; his son, Edward; his daughter, Cara; his ex-wife, Georgie; the lawyer representing the son, Joe; and a couple of others.  Each chapter is a new voice which weaves the story together.   It was a fascinating read ~ Luke Warren studied wolves in great depth, including living with them in Quebec for a period of two years:  hunted with them, lived with them, participated in whatever rituals, etc. So very interesting.  His telling of his relationship with the wolves is woven into his relationships in the human world which also helps the reader understand his view of life.  As in most families, each member has their own image of other members of the family.  It is not always in synch with the others.  This is the case in this story, both the son and the daughter are convinced they know their dad best and that their choice is best.  I’ll leave it at that and let you enjoy it!

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This month I am going in a whole ‘nother direction!  I have been writing Friday Fictioneers for about a month or so now, and the hostess of this fun Friday activity is Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  She just published a book and I thought why not encourage someone I am blogger friends with? So I pre-ordered the book and lo and behold, it arrived three days ago!  Perfect timing.  Please Say Kaddish For Me is the name of the book and is the story of a Jewish girl who, at the age of 16, escapes the brutal massacre by the Czarist tyranny that destroys her home and slaughters her family on a frigid November night in 1899.  It is the story of a time and place rarely spoken of, and romance and courage so profound as to be rarely experienced.

As a big fan of historical stories, I am looking forward to digging into this one!

 

The Year in Books – April 2015

Oh dear.  March came and went and no new book to add.  It took me forever to read American Gods ~ and not because I did not enjoy it.  I did.  I just couldn’t seem to read more than a page or three at a time.  And I don’t think this is the type of book that you should take long breaks reading!  There were times I got confused in the story and had to go back.  Once I got a rhythm going, I was better able to keep up with the many characters and storylines that popped up suddenly.  I found myself thinking:  What? a few times!  It was WEIRD.  But in a good way!  Would I recommend it to just anyone? No.   Am I glad my niece recommended it to me?  Absolutely.  I may even read it again at another time in my life where I can give it my full attention.   I actually understood more of it when I read others’ critiques of the book!  Not a good sign, I would think…  I didn’t fully grasp the war between the Old gods and the New gods until I read someone’s comment and a light bulb went on.  D’oh.  Again, I think it may have not been the best book for me at this time in my life.  I consider myself a rather intelligent woman and don’t enjoy the feeling of not quite being sure I “get” it.

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After reading something that required more than the attention I was willing/able to give, I am returning to a favourite author, Jodi Picoult.  This one was suggested by both of my sisters and a niece.  Lone Wolf would not necessarily have ended up in my hands otherwise.  Then again, it probably would have eventually as I am never disappointed by Ms Picoult’s offerings and figure I will read them all.  She does a lot of research on her subjects and has a way with telling both sides of a story that just draws me in every time.  Why else would I want to read a story of a man brought up by wolves?

 

 

The Year in Books : January 2015

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A new year, a new slew of books!

Having had a most difficult December, it took me ages to read what should have taken a few days at most.  We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler was a read that kept me interested despite the happenings.  And talk about increasing one’s vocabulary!  Thank goodness I was reading it on my iPad so that, at a touch of the screen, I could get the definition of some of them.  Stupid iPad, if the word was followed by a ~ stuck to it, I could not adjust, therefore, get no definition.  Drove me nuts and may just drive me towards a real Kindle…

I cannot properly describe this book without giving away very important information but let us just say that there is a sad story behind the, what seems at first, frivolous, beginning.  The phrase that struck me most was, when asked about her day, Rosemary is told to “start in the middle”.  She tells the story by starting from the middle, then goes to the end of the beginning, then the beginning of the end until we get all the pieces to the full story.   Thank you for suggesting it, Safia!  You were right, I truly did enjoy it!

My second read was supposed to be the Martha Beck one: Finding Your Way in a Wild New World and I will continue picking it up and reading a chapter here and there when the mood strikes.  It didn’t last month.

So, without further ado, this month’s choice was suggested to me by my niece, Jennifer, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  The circus arrives one day without any advance notice, opens only for one night after sundown and disappears the next day.  It is called “Le Cirque des Rêves”  (Circus of Dreams) and is a unique experience.  So looking forward to getting more into it!  So far, so good!

 

 

The Year In Books: December

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Wow… last month of the year already!  I would have liked to be able to say I read more books that I had planned this year but alas, time is just not on my side.  Or, rather, reading time was not given the respect it deserved!

I did, however, manage to read one book this month!  The late, lovely Maeve Binchy’s last novel:  A Week in Winter was, as expected, a joy to read.  I shall so miss Maeve (though I haven’t read everything she’s written yet so I still have some to look forward to!) and cannot believe she is no longer around to entertain us with the lives of people in and around her beloved Ireland.

I tried to take my time, to savour each moment, each chapter but as always happens, she draws you in to a world where you just feel like you could be one with the characters!  At the end I was sorry to not hear about the rest of the lives of Chicky, Orla, Rigger, Winnie, John, The Walls, Henry & Nicola, Anders, Freda and even the grumpy, old Miss Nell Howe!  Each of these people either worked in creating the inn known as Stone House, in the town of Stoneybridge, on the West side of Ireland; or were guests of the very first week it opened.

I so wish I had a room there for a week!  So, so, so enjoyable.

Now, what to choose for this month?  I mean, I’m still caught up in the goings on of Stoneybridge!  Oh well… one must, eventually, let go and move on to something else.

That something else is actually going to be two books.  One recommended by my new friend Safia Moore, (a lovely blogger I follow, originally from Northern Ireland, now living in the UAE) “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler.  Other than what the front cover says, I am completely in the dark about this one!  I like that.  I am basing my choice solely on another’s recommendation.  Will keep you posted!

My second choice is “Finding your Way In a Wild New World” by Martha Beck.  I have this habit of buying all sorts of self-empowerment books that just sit on shelves, collecting dust because “I’ll get to them eventually”.  Well, eventually has arrived.  I have decided to include one of these inspirational books per month as well as a novel.  I have many of them and must justify the expense! I remember going to a seminar once and the animator said that he insisted on reading not only novels and not only books on personal growth or other “teaching-type” books but at least one of each (usually at the same time!) per month.  Hmmm.  So I’m trying that.  I don’t usually have two books going at the same time… well not often anyway.

Are you a “serial” reader or do you have an “open” relationship with books?

 

The Year In Books: November 2014

I am woefully behind in this post!  All caught up in the NaBloPloMo that my regular stuff was pushed aside…

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In October, I inadvertently chose books for children/adolescents/young adults.  That’s all good as I don’t snub any style!  I was (am) a fan of the Harry Potter series and was not afraid to show it!

Dandelion, The Extraordinary Life of a Misfit, by Sheelagh Mawe  was a wonderful little book, directed at 10-13-year-olds on how to learn to love who you are.  It is told in the voice of a horse!  Quick read for an adult and had some words of wisdom that we are never too old to hear.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger was an enjoyable read too.  This one, written in the voice of 14-year-old Holden Caulfield – a cynical, everyone sucks type of boy.  I wanted to read it because, well, everyone has read it!  I wanted to know what all the hoopla was about.  Well, if I had read it when I was 16, I would surely have had a different take on it than I do now at 50.  I cannot say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did.  I wonder how many times the word “damn” is used?  I could very easily imagine that a lot of what went on in Holden’s mind also goes through my boys’….

I actually finished my two books before the month of October ended.  Yes!  I actually did!  So I finally re-started the wonderful Timesmudger, by Gillian Smellie, a new FB friend and fellow-blogger who just so happens to have written this book that I very much enjoyed.

Let us just say that things never go smoothly when you time travel – there are always risks.  I didn’t see this one coming until the very end – and that’s a good thing!   Definitely worth a download even if it is in the teen/young adult category.

So now November is upon us and another book had to be chosen.  I was going nuts because I was positive I had a Maeve Binchy novel hanging around that I had yet to read.  Could not find it all!  Then went to my sister’s for Hallowe’en and lo and behold, there it was!  She had been looking for something to read at one time and I was in the midst of reading something else so I leant it to her.  Then forgot.  So…. yeah!  There is not a Maeve book that I’ve read that I haven’t completely fallen in love with.  She was (sadly, she is no longer with us) such a wonderful story teller.  Every single one of her novels take place at least partially in her beloved Ireland.  This one is no exception.

I am only a few pages in but just know that I will adore it.

The Year in Books – October 2014

Just a few days late! I like to keep my posts to one per day so today is the book post day! I finished Philomena a few days ago and enjoyed it.  Well, one can enjoy a book even if the story is tragic and the ending is not what we hope for.  A story of a mother forced to give up her three-year-old boy in 1950’s Ireland as told by Martin Sixsmith after research and interviews with people in the boy’s life. I must admit that when I went to my Good Reads page to mark it as read, and I saw that Susan Kavanagh (a friend of Michael’s and a main “character” in the book) had written a review that was not too kind, I was a tad deflated.  I felt like Oprah when she found out that James Frey’s “A Thousand Little Pieces” was mostly fiction.  This book is supposed to be based on the true story and as far as Kavanagh is concerned, should be categorized as fiction.

That said, I still enjoyed reading it and will now watch the movie – which should be interesting as the book is about Michael (Anthony’s) life and the movie is about Philomena’s search for him.

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This month, for my “The Year in Books” choice,  I’ve decided to tackle a book that apparently everyone and their mother/father/brother/etc. has read but until now, still remained a mystery to me… J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”.  Now, in my defense, I did go to French secondary school so it was not a book that was talked about!  I did go to English (and French) college and still had met anyone who had read it so…  About 20 years ago I decided to start catching up on what was once “required reading” in English.  So, I have been slowly reading one here and there.  This time, Salinger is the winner.  I’ve had it in my bookshelves for quite a few years but just never seemed to be in the mood to start it.  Can’t explain it but there you have it.  Now, it is time!

As it is not an overly large book, I also decided to read Dandelion by Sheelagh Mawe (mother of Mike Dooley of the TUT – Note from the Universe family).  I do that.  I saw there was some package deal on 3-4 of her books so I just bought them.  I love getting my daily email from the Universe letting me know how fabulous I am so I figured, the mother had to have some part in that!

I am enjoying the first few chapters so far…

How do you choose books you read?

 

The Year in Books – September 2014

I have been like a chicken with her head cut off in the past two weeks!  Read?  What’s that? Who has time for it besides a page or three before bed?  That is NOT how you read a book per month!  I’ve been making salsas, jams, canning said salsa, jams, painting my dining room…. I’ve been going to bed totally pooped every night and can only manage a page or so… I fear the month of September will bring me more stuff to do… (like fulfill an order for 36 gift baskets, meaning more salsas, jams, etc… NOT that I’m complaining!)

I am still not finished “Bella Tuscany”, though I will be before week’s end – for sure!  It has been such a delight of the senses to read.  The descriptions of the countryside, the art, the food… all must be savoured quietly, comtemplatively, joyously.  I find myself dreaming half-way through each paragraph.  Frances Mayes’ descriptions enforce my NEED to go to Tuscany and feel, smell, live the same things she has (well… minus the troubles she has with her house… and then again, maybe not!)

Such a lovely read.

I will be doing a total about-face with my next read.  I went for dinner with a friend and she gave me an armful of books.  I had a couple on my bookshelves awaiting my attention but I decided to choose one of hers!  Normally, I prefer to read the book before watching the movie and it just so happens I have yet to watch “Philomena” soooo…. This will be my September selection!  I have been wanting to read this story since I heard about the movie.  These types of stories truly inspire me.  I figure if they made the movie, the book can’t be too bad, eh?

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The Year in Books – July

After a most beautiful June (okay, the last part of the month anyway!) we now find ourselves in July, which for us, means vacation time!  This year we are actually doing two trips:  next week, a five-day/four-night trip to New Hampshire which will include climbing Mount Washington.  Weather permitting, of course.  It if is as hot as the last week of July, I am NOT going to climb!  No way, José!  That said, we’ll see once there.  The second trip will be a return to Cape May, New Jersey.  We so enjoy going there with my sister and her family and whichever friends also choose to join us.

What does all this mean?  Time to READ!  Without guilt!  Without worrying that the house needs to be cleaned!  I will be able to finally finish June’s choice, “As Always, Julia”.  Though I am enjoying this book, I must take breaks.  Most of the letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto  are fun to read.  Those ladies wrote (typed) some really long letters!  The reason I need to take breaks is because both of the ladies were very political.  This book covers the letters between 1952 to 1961 which is also the during the time Julia was creating “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. (It was a loooooong process!) I’m not American so when it comes to the political scene during the McCarthy era, they kinda lose me!  That said, I’ve a good 100 or so pages to go and then I will start my July selections!

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I dream of going to Tuscany one day (and regularly threaten my family that once I go, I’ll not come back!) and I loved the original book Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and, though they changed some of the story line, I loved the movie too!  When I saw this book, I just grabbed it with the intention of reading it when I felt like pretending I lived there…. That time has come.  I’m counting on Every Day in Tuscany to be just as wonderful as the first and just as loaded in fantastic recipes.  Talk about combining two of my loves:  cooking and reading!

I chose a second book this time because we will be on vacation and I end up reading LOTS.  I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult, though I don’t like to read two of her books in a row – usually too heartbreaking and oft times her endings are not overly happy.   Change of Heart has been on my shelf for a good while (borrowed from my sister as I do for all of Picoult’s books!) because I was waiting for a time to be in the mood for her style.  The way she presents more than one side to a story is amasing.  She is a pro at it.  Must spend hours and hours researching and she remains quite objective throughout.  Looking forward to sinking into a comfy chair with a nice glass of wine or a Caesar or a beer!