Thursday, 2 January 2014

Terri's Picks

Terri in Nelson, British Columbia

My friend Terri is a great reader.  We have travelled to many book events together- in England, British Columbia and the U.S.  Twice we have gone to Banff for the Banff Book Weekend.  We share book talk- a lot!  So I am delighted that she gave me a run-down of her reading for the last year.

From Terri:
I read 54 books in 2013 and I will attempt to tell you about them; some that I loved, some that I only liked and even some that I did not enjoy. 

       The first book that I thought was very thought provoking and a very good read was "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich. Geraldine who lives on an Ojibway reservation is raped. She will not divulge what happened and who the man is. She will not even speak to her son and husband and stays in her room in bed for months. Her son Joe is frustrated with the investigation and takes matters into his own hands.

  One of the books that I did not enjoy was "February" by Lisa Moore, the 2012 Canada Reads winner. I found the style of writing difficult to follow and the story disjointed. The sinking of the "Ocean Ranger" and the loss of so many lives and the loss of a husband is very sad, but I felt the story could have been told in a more interesting way. BUT I did enjoy her recent novel titled "Caught". Unfortunately the title gives the story away, but the writing was superior to "February", the characters were unbelievably simple minded and kept me entertained.

Richard Wagamese is the author of two gems that I read, "Iron Horse" and "Ragged Company". In "Iron Horse" a young Aboriginal boy is taken from his home and sent to a residential school. A priest teaches him to play hockey. He practices long hours and becomes a very good hockey player. Later when he escapes from the school, again he turns to hockey but finds racism and cultural displacement. "Ragged Company" is, in my mind, a brilliant title. Some people I know, are attracted to book covers, while I am fascinated with book titles! Four homeless people become friends, and during a cold spell find warmth in a movie theater. They find they love movies and continue to frequent them. One of the men finds a lottery ticket for $13,000,000.00 and lives are changed. The stories of the four people are full of emotion, some humour and I thought about this book long after I had read it. The mark of a good story teller.

One of the finest gems I found was "The End of Your Life Book Club" by Will Schwalbe. Having a medical background, I did not find the book morbid, as some of my friends had suggested. I loved the mini-book reviews - in fact I prefer them to long reviews because I want to find out about the book by reading it. I also was touched by the work Mary Anne did with refugees and establishing libraries in Afghanistan. I absolutely loved this book. "Tuesdays With Morrie" by Mitch Albom is also a book I re-read constantly. I keep it in the car and when I have to wait at an appointment, I take it with me. These people are inspiring!

I read 3 books by Lauren B. Davis who in my opinion is very underrated. "The Empty Room" is an account of the last day of an alcoholic woman before she hits bottom and reaches out for help. It is very moving and visceral. The next book was "Our Daily Bread" which is based on a true story.There are those people up on the mountain where unspeakable events are taking place and then there are the people in the town below, who know, but look the other way. The story unfolds and the last part of the book is filled with tension.
Lauren B. Davis
Then of course I had to read her fourth book "The Radiant City". This book takes place in the not- so- touristy parts of Paris where the cast of characters include a war correspondent suffering from the violence of war, the people he befriends and immigrants who settle in Paris and own a café. The first book I read by Lauren a few years ago was "The Stubborn Season". It takes place during the Depression. A young girl is trying to find her way through life with a mother who suffers from depression and a pharmacist father who drinks.  Lauren B. Davis is a great writer. Her writing is serious, with great attention to detail.

Philip Roth
"Indignation" by Philip Roth was the surprise of the year. I couldn't put it down. A young Jewish boy is so over-protected by his father that he chooses to go to a college far from home. It seems that wherever he goes there are dilemmas and the choices he makes just compound his problems. It is a very tense novel with a quick end! I loved it. I have read other books by Roth and he is a brilliant writer.

I read "The Lizard Cage" by Karen Connelly because it was one of the books mentioned in "End of Your Life Book Club". It is hard to describe in a few sentences but it is an amazing book. Hard to read sometimes as it takes place in a political prison in Burma, now Myanmar. A young boy is sentenced to 20 years in solitary for singing songs against the ruling dictator. The interactions in the prison revolve around the hierarchy of jailers and prisoners. It is a remarkable story told in great accuracy and detail. I learned much about the human spirit from this book. I quote from a book review   " Connelly's fine novel shows us the kind of suffering that newspapers can't communicate and non-fiction rarely reaches". In the end two prisoners are freed, each in a different way.

One of the most delightful books I read in 2013 was "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein. Told through the eyes of a dog who thinks like a human, it is sometimes funny, sad and even heartbreaking. The moral of the story is that one can navigate the twists and turns of life, like a race car driver does when racing in the rain. I really loved this book.

I will end with "Dying for Sex" by Lynn Albrecht. Lynn is a social worker at St. Mary's hospital where I volunteer in the Medical Library. We have a book club in the library and felt we needed to read and review this book. The main plot involves a murder of a nurse in a Retirement Home but there are so many other story lines and characters that I could hardly keep track of them all. There is a lot of dialogue which made the book hard to read. There are octogenarians, sex clubs, a catering business, a boy in a rock band with a bus, a detective, a wanna-be love story, and I can't remember what else. I give Lynn credit for writing a book but I would not recommend it.

   Sorry,but I had to add this book, "Travelling to Infinity" by Jane Hawking. I found it most interesting, from the point of view that things aren't always as they appear. I was quite surprised at some of the details that Jane brings out in her book. Life was not easy with Stephen Hawking, physically, emotionally and financially in the early days. He had the symptoms of the motor neuron disease when they were married and it only got worse with time. He was proud, fiercely independent, and showed no self pity. Jane was involved in his care 24/7 along with raising their 3 children, helping with the finances and trying to further her education. The book is very detailed and a long read, but worthwhile.

Thank you, Terri, for a very fascinating look at your reading choices in 2013!  Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. This was interesting to read. Even though none of her selections appealed to me (with the exception of Ragged Company) I enjoyed reading her reviews to see what appealed to Terry and thus get to know her a little more. We are what we read!!
    Gayle W.