Hello friends! Unfortunately, managing two blogs has been a little much and I have merged this blog with my original blog, ebookclassics. I greatly appreciate your follow and I hope you will continue to read my reviews over there. I will be asking WordPress to transfer your subscription to ebookclassics. If you would prefer not to be transferred, please let me know in the comments below.
Thanks and hope to chat with you soon!
I’ve been in a weird mood lately and feeling so blah about everything. I think I need a vacation. I think I need to get out of my routine and get a change of scenery. We are taking the kids to Sesame Street Place in Pennsylvania soon, so at least I have life-sized Elmo and Big Bird accosting me to look forward to. Otherwise, I’m reading like crazy and it’s been helpful for making me forget all of the above.
1. Madame Bovary (2000) – Now that the read-along is over, I decided to watch the BBC Series starring Frances O’Connor and Hugh Bonneville so I can write a post for Katie @ Doing Dewey’s Books to Movies Challenge that I signed up for a million years ago. Since I found it on (God bless) YouTube, I’ve been watching the series in 9 minute clips which totally works when you just want to squeeze it in here and there.
2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – It’s quite possible my current mood can explain what a downer I’ve been about the book. But I’m at the last few chapters and pretty sure I won’t change my mind about it. However, it’s been comforting to know that others in the read-along feel the same way. One blogger even DNF’d the book!
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I put this on hold to concentrate on the above classics, but I will pick it up again after #1Tale2Cities and make it my only classic until the darn thing is read and done. Even if it takes me all year! (Um, I hope not).
4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – I initially ordered this book for a book club meeting I ended up bailing on. Everyone seems to have either read it or is reading it now for the movie. I finished the book, but will wait until I see the movie to write the review. I liked it, but I didn’t cry and it didn’t blow me away.
5. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield – Slowly making my way through this book because without any plot or tension, I can’t read much more than a chapter at a time.
6. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – Half-way through and I’m enjoying the story, although sometimes I feel like it’s a little too cute and quirky. I haven’t read The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared, so this is my first experience with Jonasson.
7. Delicious by Ruth Reichel and Girls of Ridyadh by Rajaa Alsanea – Next up in the reading queue. I didn’t pay attention to my stats last year, but following the #ReadWomen2014 and #WeNeedDiverseBooks hash tags, I think I should think harder about the books I’m choosing for the rest of the year.
8. Armchair BEA – I will be participating in the conference all week starting Monday, May 26th. I’m also working on a post for the Armchair BEA International Committee and it will highlight book adaptations that were filmed in all of the provinces and territories of Canada.
9. Summer of the Canadian Short Story – I can’t resist signing up for stuff, so this is my newest reading challenge hosted by Tania at Write Reads. I think I will start with Alice Munro since she’s so big and I haven’t read any of her work. Any other suggestions?
10. Amelia Bedelia’s First Field Trip by Herman Parish – Some of the books I read with my kids are fantastic, but others are just awful and of course, my kids always love the most annoying ones. This Amelia book is the fave right now and I haven’t been able to hold back my feelings whenever we read it (sooo grumpy!). “It’s a badly written book, the jokes are terrible, Amelia is weird,” I keep telling my kids. They just ignore me.
So now I’m off to read more Dickens. What’s new with you? What are you reading or planning to read? Thanks for stopping by and putting up with my mood lately. Guess I just need a big hug from Elmo.
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden received both acclaim and criticism for its depiction of First Nations peoples and historical account of pre-colonization in Central Canada. Reading the book, I couldn’t help thinking of a number of movies I had seen in the past, including The Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves, Thunderheart, and especially Black Robe, which is based on the Canadian novel. Mostly stories where the lives and customs of First Nations tribes are observed by an outsider, but this book was a completely different experience for me.
The Orenda takes place during the mid-seventeenth century in Canada where what is now known as the province of Ontario was a vast wilderness and home for many First Nations people. The story has three narrators: Christophe (also known as the Crow), a stubborn French Jesuit missionary; Snow Falls, a young Haudenosaunee girl adopted by the Huron; and Bird, a Huron warrior and leader, who becomes Snow Falls’ adopted father. The story spans several years starting with Snow Falls and Christophe coming to live with the Huron tribe and neither fitting in very well. The years are tense for the Hurons as they are worried about their feud with the Haudenosaunee, cannot rely on their alliance with the French and face other obstacles such as poor crops and new fatal diseases. All comes to a head when the Haudenosaunee attack the Huron tribe when they are at their weakest and all must fight and sacrifice to the tragic end.
I read a lot of criticism of Joseph Boyden’s lack of historical accuracy for this book. However, reading The Orenda purely to enjoy the story itself, I was astonished at Boyden’s powerful storytelling. I liked the tripartite point of view that provided the different perspectives (both European and First Nations) and emotional reactions of the main characters to the events that occur. I felt completely immersed in the world of the Huron village and was fascinated by the lives and customs of the people.
Thanks to years of desensitizing, I didn’t notice how violent the story was at first. But then after a few intense descriptions, I realized there was much more to come. So let me just say The Orenda is not for the squeamish. The book is full of vicious fighting and torture with all of the violence excruciatingly detailed.
Despite the criticism against it, The Orenda is an epic book and I believe it will continue to grow in stature, at least in Canada. Although I felt I have experienced this kind of story before, the three narrators blend together to bring a unique perspective of a time when the country was rapidly changing and the characters in the book were desperate to hold onto the beliefs that shaped their identity. It was a mesmerizing read and totally unforgettable.
* CONTAIN SPOILERS
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my first Neil Gaiman novel. I have followed his career for years, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t read or seen anything he has written (if you can believe it). I have the impression that so many readers love him, although the reviews appeared mixed for this book. I had a weird scary dream while reading this book that I can’t remember, but it didn’t stop me from devouring the story.
An unnamed man returns to the farm at the end of the lane from his childhood home. He doesn’t know what compelled him to return, but he knocks on the door and speaks to the woman who is a relative of his childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock. The man sits by a pond at the back of the farm and starts to recall when he was seven years old. He remembers how the mysterious death of a boarder led to his meeting Lettie and her family for the first time. How strange, eerie events turned his world upside down shortly afterwards, especially after the arrival of his family’s new housekeeper, Ursula Monkton. How the world almost came to an end and the ultimate sacrifice had to be made to save it.
I didn’t know what magic realism was when I started blogging because it wasn’t its own genre when I was a young bookworm. But I always enjoyed stories where there’s something extraordinary in the ordinary, something magical hidden in everyday life just waiting to be discovered. For this reason, I didn’t hesitate to go down the rabbit hole of this story and become completely absorbed in the idea of other-worldly creatures entering our domain or fairy-like women who protect little boys. I enjoyed experiencing this supernatural story as told by the mature narrator remembering events through the naive and innocent eyes of his seven-year old self. Memory seems to be one of the themes in the story. How remembering can be bittersweet because it’s just as good to forget memories stuffed deep down somewhere, as it is to release them from the dark.
I’m not the kind of reader who needs to know everything about characters or the worlds an author creates (how Chicago became the society of Divergent, for example). I’m quite happy to go along for the ride and work with what I’m given. However, my brain got quite muddled trying to follow the explanations in the book for what the other-worldly creatures were and why they were terrorizing the boy, and how Lettie Hempstock and her fairy kin existed in our world and how a pond could be an ocean. Ultimately, it didn’t make much sense to me at all.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane felt very much like a children’s book masquerading as adult fiction. Some of the content in the story is definitely not appropriate for a younger audience, so I can understand the classification. As much as I enjoyed the story, I guess I was expecting a story about adults in adult situations, but maybe this just proves how inexperienced I am with Neil Gaiman’s work. He is obviously a very talented and imaginative writer, and this book made a very positive impression on me. What book of his should I read next?
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
I was one of the lucky 25 recipients to receive a hard copy of Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose to read for the Afterword Reading Society. When I discovered the book was mostly set in Paris at the start of the Nazi Occupation, I felt almost at home as I had just escaped these cobblestone streets recently with the characters from Half-Blood Blues.
Over a span of 20 years, five characters account their lives in Paris prior to and during the Nazi Occupation in World War II, mostly with regards to their association with Lou Villars and The Chameleon Club. Lou is an infamous cross-dressing lesbian, failed athlete and race car driver who eventually becomes hired help for the Gestapo. The narrators include Gabor, a photographer who frequently fabricates details; Lily, the baroness who bankrolls Gabor’s life as an artist; Suzanne, Gabor’s girlfriend who has no clear role until the end of the book; Lionel, Gabor’s self-aggrandizing best friend who also has no clear role to me other than providing a brash American perspective of things; and Yvonne, The Chameleon Club’s owner. In addition, Nathalie Dunois (that’s right, there are six narrators in this story), who is Suzanne’s great-niece, is writing a biography on Lou Villars. While the other characters despise, mistrust and fear Lou, Nathalie sympathetically explores Lou’s life filled with abuse, misunderstanding and betrayal. However, as can be expected, with this many voices telling the same story, not everything is as it seems. Not everyone can agree on the little details of big events.
I struggled with this book in the beginning because I didn’t understand why there were so many narrators. Not only that, I didn’t find any of them vaguely interesting. What did eventually grab my attention was Lou Villars, the gullible misfit of the story. Her life was full of action and romance, from her youth at a convent to a career in sports to her relationship with Paris gangsters and the Gestapo. I read that Francine Prose wrote the book based on the true-life story of Violette Morris, a successful French athlete who also worked for the Gestapo and was killed by the French Resistance.
Too many narrators! I understand now that the author’s intention was show the unreliability of multiple voices in the same story, but I didn’t care about most of those voices. They were just getting in the way of me finding out what was happening with Lou Villars. Also, when you have that many characters clamouring for your attention, it makes for a long book.
I know it sounds like I think the book was terrible. On the contrary, it was imaginatively written and with interesting intentions, and I would certainly read something by Francine Prose again. I was fascinated the most by Lou Villar’s story, but the whole time I couldn’t stop wishing the book had been written solely about her and in the first person. It was a wonderful opportunity to read with The Afterword Reading Society, but Lovers at the Chameleon Club was simply good and not great.
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
I think I first learned about this book through The Afterword Reading Society (how has this book club become such a big thing in my life?). I was drawn to The Wind Is Not A River because I’m fascinated by survival stories and knew absolutely nothing about the Japanese invading the Aleutian Islands of Alaska or the displacement of the Aleut people.
The story takes place during World War II in Alaska. Following the death of his younger brother and a heated argument with his wife, John Easley takes off to secretly investigate the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. The U.S. government has kept the invasion under wraps and Easley is determined to inform the public of what is taking place on American soil. However, Easley’s plane is shot down and he becomes stranded on the island of Attu, not far from a Japanese soldier camp. Meanwhile Helen, his wife back in Seattle, can’t get any information about her husband’s whereabouts, but it’s clear he is either missing or dead. Even though she has an ill father, Helen knows nothing is going to happen unless she does it herself. Through a friend, Helen joins a singing troupe for the United Service Organization and finds herself heading north. Now she’s the one on a secret mission. Full of hope and prayers, Helen is determined to find Easley and bring him home.
The Wind Is Not A River is an emotionally stirring story about finding out who you are as a result of adversity. Spending most of the story apart, Easley and Helen are forced to examine who they are, what they have done and what matters most in this fragile life. I liked Easley and Helen for being normal, everyday people you and I would know. No excessive egos or idiosyncrasies to make them stick in your mind, just the story of two people who lost and found one another during the war.
I have nothing bad to say about the book, as it was a truly an enjoyable story.
In addition to the suspense and romance in the story, Brian Payton draws attention to the fairly unknown Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands and plight of the Aleut. He interweaves the confusion, sadness and horror of war without interfering with Easley and Helen’s story. I particularly enjoyed following Helen’s journey, as she summoned all of her inner strength and courage to go way out of her comfort zone to find Easley. She was a very admirable character in a very admirable book.
April is officially the month I have overcommitted myself, but c’est la vie.
1. Divergent – Yay, I went to see the Divergent movie with my friend, Julie! We both agreed the movie was really good and had excellent casting (side note: Theo James is smoking hot). Seeing the movie reminded me of all the things I loved about the first book, especially how Tris struggles with her identity. I may have to read Allegiant now and finish the series.
2. Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon – I signed up to be a blog cheerleader for the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon taking placing on April 26th. If you would like to participate as a reader or cheerleader, visit their website.
3. Armchair BEA ~ May 26-31, 2014 – I’m also on the International Committee for this year’s Armchair BEA which is the online conference than takes place alongside the Book Expo America/BEA Blogger Convention every year. I joined last year as a participant for the first time and it was great event for meeting other bloggers and the craft of blogging. Registration starts soon so keep an eye on their website.
4. #MadameBovary2014 – The Madame Bovary read-along (read-a-long? readalong? I don’t know anymore) is in full swing! Master post is on my other blog ebookclassics and Juliana just posted the check-in for Part One on her blog. So far it’s been easy to read and I was surprised how quickly the title character transforms from a polite farm girl to desperate housewife.
5. #1Tale2Cities – I also signed up to read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens with Laura @ Reading In Bed between April 21-May19. You should too! I’ve only read Great Expectations, so Dickens is still fairly new to me.
6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I’m also reading War and Peace for the Russian Literature challenge I signed up for in December. I aim to finish the book by July. The first five chapters have taken place at a party with a bunch of characters I’m sure must be important somehow and then some drunk guys dance with a bear. All sure signs this is a masterpiece.
7. Did Not Finish – I started reading Sister Wolf by Ann Arensberg, but I found the story incoherent (a reviewer on Goodreads called it whack-ass – LOL). I have decided to ditch it because The Wind Is Not A River by Brian Payton came in for me at the library. The story takes place during World War II and is split between a journalist stranded on an Alaskan island and his wife back in the U.S. planning to search for him.
8. The Afterword Reading Society – The National Post here in Canada runs this book club where there are 25 coveted physical copies up for grabs and you have the opportunity to submit questions to the author. After many many months of trying and failing, I was ready to unsubscribe. Of course, now that I have a million books to read this month, lo and behold a cheery email telling me that Lovers at the Chameleon Club by Francine Prose is on its way and I have until April 28th to answer their questionnaire. However, the book has yet to arrive. Ack!
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – I finally cracked open the Harry Potter DVDs I was given eons ago and watched the end of the series. Why did I wait so long? Now I feel like I need to go back and watch all of the movies again. I haven’t read the books and may wait until my kids are older so we can read them together.
10. Game of Thrones – Finally Games of Thrones is back for Season 4 which is so great because my life was pretty empty without its nudity and violence (kidding!). I heard someone on the Nerdist podcast nickname the show T&A with a chance of dragons. Now we just need True Blood to come back and we’ll have more bare butts than we can possibly handle.
What’s happening in your bookish life?