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Archives for 'book reviews'

13 August 2008
who has time to read?

225/365

Am I the last person in the known universe to find out about the Twilight series? I’ve been spotting excited bloggers talking up Breaking Dawn on their blogs and I hadn’t bothered to pay much mind (who has time to read?, I asked myself), but then the mister gave me a copy of Twilight (Book 1) for my birthday last weekend. As of today I’m about a third of the way through Eclipse (Book 3). When I went to pick it up yesterday, I also grabbed Breaking Dawn because the thought of finishing one and not having the next on hand for immediate gratification was too painful a notion to even consider. As for that “who has time to read” voice, all I can say is it’s keeping me up far too late (2.30 last night, 2 the night before, 3 the night before that) as I steal whatever reading time I can before bed.

If it turns out that I’m not the last person in the known universe to have discovered them, then I commend them to you enthusiastically! With exclamation points even! But, caveat lector: do yourself a favour and don’t start in on this series unless you have a few hours a day to feed the impulse. It’s absorbing, heady, get-under-your-skin stuff, folks.

Categories: book reviews,reading/listening | 21 Comments

17 November 2006
memes are good for something

Oh, yes they are! Here’s another that has been in draft for a while (I don’t think I was tagged for this one, I just grabbed it off someone’s blog a few months ago (months!)). The list is pretty random, and since I’ve read and own most of them, I’ve included some notes and links to reviews where appropriate. Meme ad libbing! Doesn’t that just fly in the face of all the meme rules? I’m such a blog rebel.

How it works: bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you might read, cross out the ones you won’t, and underline the ones on your book shelf.

  • The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (review)
  • The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger (read this as a teenager, didn’t get the hype; read it again in my 20s and fell in love)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (also first read as a teenager, one of my all-time favourites)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger (you already know how I feel about this one; review)
  • His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (I’ve pulled out this series every year during the winter break, swearing that I will read them all; not sure why it hasn’t happened yet but I do look upon these three books longingly every time I walk by my bookshelves. One of these days I’ll have some time to read these indulgently, all in one go, cover to cover.)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J. K. Rowling
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel (review)
  • Animal Farm: A Fairy Story – George Orwell
  • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  • The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien (yes, it’s on the shelves, it belongs to the mister. I have no desire to read it, although I feel like I probably should.)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon (review)
  • Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
  • Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden (hated it!)
  • The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  • The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold (review)
  • Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Angels and Demons – Dan Brown (also one of the mister’s)
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  • Neuromancer – William Gibson
  • Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt (why do I feel like I should know this book?)
  • A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (you’ve heard the story on this one too)
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
  • Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (review)
  • Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  • The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  • Good Omens – Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
  • Atonement – Ian McEwan (review)
  • The Shadow Of The Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  • Dune – Frank Herbert (one of the mister’s favourites. He’s tried to force it upon me many times, I’ve managed to resist).

Categories: book reviews,reading/listening | 3 Comments

20 August 2006
Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book I), Scott Westerfeld

Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1) So, when I closed my computer at 7pm on Friday evening, I had every intention of opening it back up again on Saturday morning to take advantage of the momentum I’d built on getting the course together, but as Saturday morning rolled in, the pain in my wrists and the fluffy weariness in my brain dictated otherwise. A break is in order, I thought to myself. So I grabbed this book of my night table, where it has kept me company for half an hour every night, and set to finishing it. And it’s just the sort of book that is better when read in a single flourish, I wasn’t at all doing it justice with the brief snatches of attention I was giving it.

Tally Youngblood is a 15-year old girl who lives in a bizarre, dystopic world where from birth to age 16, citizens are bred to believe they are ugly. On their 16th birthdays, the “uglies” all undergo an operation that transforms them into The Accepted Standard of Beauty, making them “pretties” and moving them across the river to New Pretty Town, where everyday is a party and everyone is always happy and the fountains flow with honey (OK, I made that last part up). So, anyway, Tally is a little rebel who pulls highly-illegal midnight trips to New Pretty Town to mock the New Pretties (while she secretly can’t wait to be one) and snatch glimpses of her recently-prettied best friend Peris, when, during one of these truant escapades, she meets and befriends Shay, her equal in truancy, who shares none of Tally’s fascination with prettydom, and who eventually runs away to escape the operation. As a result of a series of rather unfortunate events, Tally follows Shay and ends up in The Smoke, a postapocalyptic junk heap, home to a colony of runaway uglies, where she meets a boy and learns the truth about her government, her city, pretties, and most importantly, the operation. It’s a fabulous book, really quite mature for a YA novel, that left me eager for my turn to come up on the library holds list for the sequel (I’m #89 on the list, it will be a couple of weeks). If you haven’t already figured it out, I commend this book to you. Highly.

Categories: book reviews | 1 Comments

24 July 2006
Elsewhere, Gabrielle Zevin

Elsewhere @ amazonI finished working on my course syllabus late yesterday so I spent the last of my Sunday hours curled up in bed with this book. I had reached about a quarter of the way through when I climbed into bed but I knew, just a few pages on, that I would press on until I hit the back cover. Elsewhere is one of those books that takes ahold of you, burrows in, and refuses to allow you to stop turning the pages. It’s about Liz, a fifteen year-old girl who gets hit by a car while riding her bike to the Mall to help her friend Zooey pick out a prom dress (YA? You guessed it). Most of the narrative takes place in Liz’s afterlife (“elsewhere”) where she is forced to confront what it means to have her life end abruptly (“I’ll never get my driver’s license, never go to Prom, never get into college” etc.) and never see her friends and family again. It’s smart and funny and paints as interesting (and inviting!) a picture of the afterlife as I’ve ever read. Thanks for blogging about this book, Moni! And keep the YA recommendations coming.

Categories: book reviews | 4 Comments

2 July 2006
How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now @ amazon Daisy gets sent to live in England (by her wicked step-mother) with her aunt and cousins and almost as soon as she gets there, her aunt leaves for Norway and war breaks out. Daisy & her four cousins (& assorted dogs and farm animals) are left to fend for themselves and, at first, they fend just fine, but soon, the reality of a not-so-distant war invades their little utopia and things just start to go bad from there.

This is a quick but thoroughly haunting read. I very much liked how Daisy’s narrative voice matures as the story develops, from glib to almost wise. There are elements, however, that I found a bit unsettling for a YA novel (that’s all I’ll say about that for fear of giving too much away). There were a number of YA “issues” (eating disorder, coming of age, etc.) that weren’t dealt with as cohesively as they are in other YA novels, but I almost didn’t mind the irresolution because it kept the novel from being too obviously didactic, which is an easy trap to fall into when writing for a young audience. Overall, an enjoyable read.

Categories: book reviews | 4 Comments

28 June 2006
this post is no reflection on how much i’ve been working

I’m not sure why, but some time ago I stopped reviewing books on these here pages. Which might lead you to believe that I stopped reading, but in fact I’ve been reading all along, not at the same pace to be sure, but reading nonetheless. Here is a list of books I’ve read since, oh, January, with a few words by way of review:

The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
I read this in one day over the Christmas holidays and it was perfect. Perfectly perfect, in fact. I don’t think I would recommend reading it any other way. And that’s all I will say because it was 6 months ago and I’ve forgotten everything else about it.

Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre
Scathingly good. Someone, I can’t remember who, compared this book to A Confederacy of Dunces, one of my favourite books of all time, and as soon as I read that, I knew I had to give Vernon a try. And it was good (scathingly good, I did say), although it did not leave the same indelible impression upon me that Confederacy did. That’s all.

Happenstance, Carol Shields
Oh, Carol Shields, I never can tire of you! Happenstance is one of Shields’ earlier novels, a single tale told from the perspective of both a husband and a wife. The wife is a quilter and the husband is a middling academic with a severe case of imposter syndrome. So, I identified with them both!

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, Eric Brende
I was unconvinced by this book. Quick recap: as part of his research for his grad work on the influence of technology on society, Brende moves into an Amish/Mennonite community (he doesn’t identify the community) for 18 months to live as the “natives” do, without machinery/technology. The notion of living off the tech-grid appeals to me in the most paradoxical of ways (how quaint to live without the trappings of 21st Century life! But, wait! I get jittery when I’m away from my computer for too long!), and I’m not sure I can put my finger on exactly what it was about this book that didn’t convince me — was it that I didn’t get a good sense of how much Brende and his wife really “bought into” what they were trying to do? was it the unimaginative tone of the narrative? (I admit, I’m seduced by purple prose) — probably a combination of the two.

Jane Austen: A Life, Carol Shields
Carol Sheilds made me feel like Jane Austen is my friend, and for that I am truly grateful. Beyond words.

The Music of Chance, Paul Auster
Forgettable. Seriously, I have no recollection of having read this book and, if I hadn’t written it down, it would have been lost to memory altogether. Which should tell you something.

Raymond & Hannah, Stephen Marche
Umm, good. I mentioned before that I went to grad school with Stephen, and this novel is set in the same institution (University of Toronto), in the same department (English). Which is why I couldn’t just let myself settle into it as a novel: for me, Raymond was a thinly veiled Stephen and, for better or worse (probably worse), I found myself deconstructing every grad student and faculty member Raymond met at every party he went to (I wonder if that’s X? Could that be Professor Y? Ooh! That sounds suspiciously like Mr. Z!). You get the idea. I almost feel like I should read it again, to do it justice. But I won’t.

Spending: a Novel, Mary Gordon
I picked this up from the library on a recommendation from Jill. Go read her review, she sums it up better than I could.

There, then. I feel like I’ve caught up. I’m going to start up the regular reviews again, and in anticipation, I’ve added a “currently consuming” list over in the sidebar for books and music currently in the hopper. Which is a perfectly clunky segue into asking you if you’ve heard the new Keane & Blue October albums. Have you? They’re both quite delicious.

PS: Thank you for your movie recommendations! I have at least 7 rentals (and one maybe trip to the movie theatre) lined up as an antidote to the insufferable movie-mediocrity in which we’ve been wallowing lately. You’re so good to me, kind readers, thankyouthankyou!

Categories: book reviews | 2 Comments

11 April 2005
sprung

The spring issue of Spun is up, go have a look. In addition to some good articles and nifty patterns, there is also a little book review by me! Enjoy.

Categories: book reviews,knitting & yarn | 4 Comments

7 March 2005
Da Vinci Code, review

find this book at a library near you! The Da Vinci Code: A Novel, Dan Brown
Published 2003

O, how I do enjoy a tale wrought with Catholic conspiracy! And Paris! And the Louvre! And Mary Magdalene! And the Templars! And Catholic conspiracy! And pagan rituals! And cipher text! And cryptography! And, did I mention Catholic conspiracy?

Dan Brown does a very naughty thing with his little “fact” prologue, doesn’t he? He doesn’t give us the benefit of the quotation marks around that word, so there is probably a contingent of wide-eyed readers who have taken his “fact” as Fact, and such is the pity. Leaving aside the claim to “fact”, the story is a good one. It is action-packed and time-compressed and a thrilling ride while it lasted, and by the time I reached the end, I was happy to find that it was, in fact, a human story. Plus, the fact that a few church history scholars made a bit of dosh off the coat-tails of this book made me happy.

Categories: book reviews | 0 Comments

2 March 2005
Magical Thinking, review

book review Magical Thinking: True Stories, Augusten Burroughs
Unabridged Audiobook, October 2004

Not available in WorldCat yet, I’ll add a link when it is.

I’m not sure what sort of warped injustice it is that makes my public library holds for Augusten Burroughs’ titles come in the week after my holds for David Sedaris’ titles. It seems patently unfair to me, and this isn’t the first time it’s happened too.

You already know how I feel about Sedaris. And you know a bit about how I feel about Burroughs. The thing of it is, I should have made a conscious decision to put off reading this book until I had at least a few weeks between this and Dress Your Family in Croduroy and Denim (as I did last time). But I didn’t, and I’m afraid my enjoyment of this book suffered all the more for it, because I could not help but fall into the comparison trap (which isn’t, necessarily, a bad thing, is it? Comparative Literature, being what it is). Burroughs is interesting and funny in his own right, and there is no doubt in my mind that his memoirs are radically more bizarre than Sedaris’, but, for me, the success of most memoirs lies in the telling, and Sedaris just tells it better than Burroughs does.

Still, do give it a listen. Just not right after one of David’s.

Categories: book reviews | 1 Comments

1 March 2005
Boy Meets Girl, review

find this book at a library near you! Boy Meets Girl, Meg Cabot
Avon Trade, January 2004

Fun. Kate Mackenzie is a low-key ideologue working a dead-end job in New York city, just out of a long-term relationship with a dead-beat rocker boyfriend. For anyone familiar with Cabot’s work (I was not, before this book), Boy Meets Girl is a sequel to The Boy Next Door and is written entirely in an assorted array of personal narratives: journal entries, e-mails, instant messages, voice-mails, scribbled notes, to-do lists. It is light and witty, with an amiable heroine and a moderately caricatured cast of supporting characters, and if the 20-something, single-girl-in-the-big-city schtick isn’t enough for you, this book also provides a vaguely compelling study of modern-day digital communication. But the schtick was enough for me.

Categories: book reviews | 3 Comments

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