Monday, 29 February 2016

Read it again

   This month I was re-reading two books in order to lead the book club discussions.  They were both my recommendations and I try not to recommend books unless I have read them.  Since I go to a number of book clubs, that means that I re-read quite a few books.  Last year, there were eleven books on that re-read list.
   The second reading is not always the same as the first reading.  Sometimes I like it better, sometimes not.
"Girl in Translation" by Jean Kwok
   The first time I read this book was for a new book club just started in one of the library branches and I wanted to go to support and encourage that group. 
It gave me a new understanding of the immigrant experience.  Although all immigrants do not experience the same circumstances, this story was powerful.  The girls in the book club last week, really latched onto the dilemma in the novel and were e-mailing about if for days.
Click here to read my original blog on this novel.

Isn't it interesting that both of these covers show the back of a woman's head?  Actually, I like the first one, but the cover for "A Young Wife" does not fit the book in any way.

"A Young Wife" by Pam Lewis
   I don't recall where I discovered this novel but I know that it was a story that I couldn't forget.
  My favourite stories are about women and the challenges they face.
   This novel takes place in 1912 in The Netherlands.  Minke was only 15 when she married but I loved her spirit and the way she handled the difficulties that life brought to her. I enjoyed the characters - some to love, some to hate, and the settings were well-described. Most of the readers in the book club enjoyed the book- especially those with ancestors from this part of the world.  There were two women who did not like the book- one adamantly so.  But I believe it was a good book club choice as it stimulated great discussion.
   Re-reading a good book is always fun.  The protagonists in these books are like friends and I was happy to re-visit them!

Friday, 26 February 2016

"Sitting Practice" by Caroline Adderson

Yes, this is the cover for this book that was on the long list for Canada Reads this year.
Ross and Iliana Alexander, married for three weeks, were on their way home from playing tennis.  The tennis ball rolled under the pedal, and Iliana took off her seat belt to retrieve the ball.  In the confusion, Ross took his eye off the road and hit a truck.  Ross was unhurt but Iliana suffered a spinal cord injury.
   I was interested to see how this immense challenge would be handled.
   Although I did read to the end, I was disappointed in this novel. Perhaps the cover should have told me what to expect- way too much detail of sex, in fact the book is saturated with sexual overtones. 
   The title may refer to the fact that Iliana had to learn to sit straight in the wheelchair - find her centre.  It may also refer to Ross turning to Buddhism and learning to meditate at a weekend retreat. But in neither case, was the sitting practice done in the nude.
   Perhaps I would have liked this cover better.
There are interesting themes in this novel that weren't really developed well- faith, fidelity, family and food.
1.) Faith- Iliana married Ross to rebel against her strict fundamentalist parents who cut her off when she married.  Ross had also been damaged in childhood and tried to find a spiritual path through Buddhism.
2.) Fidelity- Ross had never been faithful to the women in his past, but really loved Iliana and was determined in his commitment to her.  However, after Iliana's rehabilitation, she was determined to be independent and Ross was unable to reconnect.  So Iliana instigated an affair with a shiftless 'character' in town.
3.) Family- Ross had a messed-up twin sister who had an adorable son.  Ross was always trying to help his sister and became very attached to the boy.
4.) Food- The novel begins in Vancouver where Ross had a catering service.  After the accident, they moved to Vancouver Island and opened a cafe, where Iliana, from her wheelchair, was an active partner. There is a lot of description of food and food preparation.
  I was grossed out by the couple joking about cannibalism on their first date.  There were other crude and gross comments throughout the novel.  In the end, Ross and Iliana do reunite over a pork dinner (Ross was a vegetarian).
Other covers:
This author has won awards for her writing and is considered to be one of Canada's most promising emerging writers by Margaret Atwood.
I will pass on her future writing and wish that I had not wasted time on this book.  Thankfully it was not chosen for Canada Reads and I would not recommend it.

Trivial thought: The author used the word "discombobulation" three times!  Love that word!

Monday, 22 February 2016

"Second Sight" by Sharon Neill

While I am occupied with Canada Reads, I like to have something lighter to turn to.
Autobiographies always interest me and I don't remember who recommended this book to me.
   Sharon Neill was born prematurely with many health problems.  Too much oxygen in the incubator caused permanent blindness.  She accepted her blindness because that is all that she knew. 
  She was born in Northern Ireland in 1969 and also accepted the rioting and bombing as just a part of her world, but when she went to college in England, she was perceived as a terrorist because she was from Northern Ireland, and she was surprised to be ostracized.
  When Sharon was five, she heard voices that seemed scrambled and confusing.  It upset her greatly and it was many years later that she was able to get in tune with those voices and recognize them as her 'spirit guides'.   At first, she fought against the strange experiences that she had and thought that she must be  crazy.  But she grew into her psychic abilities gradually. 

Sharon was very sheltered as a child and had great difficulty breaking out on her own in her twenties.  She was ripped off by many people, before she was able to get a settled life and know whom she could trust.
The ability to predict the future is not something that psychics are able to do for themselves.  The gift is intended to benefit others.
Sharon is  a spiritualist and a medium and follows the Buddhist tradition.  She believes that there is no judgement after death, but a reaping of the consequences of our behaviour in this life by a journey through different levels of spiritual evolution in the next life.

She tells how psychic abilities play havoc with the psychic's emotions because the senses are heightened and you take on all the emotions and moods of those around you.
She also told how some psychics go into a trance so that a deceased person can use that body to communicate with the living.
After a documentary was made about her psychic abilities, the police began asking for help in murder cases.  Once again, she experiences everything as she tunes in to the situation and says that she knows how it feels to be strangled, stabbed, shot and raped. However, those feelings are short-lived and she feels it is worthwhile when the case is solved.
I was surprised that, even though she is always in communication with spirits, she warns against people without psychic experience, using Ouija boards  She says that it opens communication to spirits who may seek to cause mischief with the living.

I really didn't understand everything concerning psychic abilities but I accept this as Sharon's story and I really was more interested in her blindness.
As with many autobiographies, the writing was not good, but I could see this story being fictionalized and made really fascinating.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016


I have been blogging for three years.  It began with a need to find something creative to keep my life in balance when our son was so ill.
I love the way blogging keeps my mind actively reflecting on books.  Instead of going to a sad place, I try to contemplate the book that I am reading and think about blogging.
And so, blogging has been in some ways a new birth for me- a new birth of activity and ideas, a new opportunity to enjoy and appreciate books on another level.
I am delighted that I was able to get permission to post this adorable picture from a fellow blogger. Check out her blog: Avid Reader's Musings.

Photo by Laurel Hasner Photography
Melissa is the mother of this beautiful baby and she is the blogger at Avid Readers's Musings.  The word avid does not adequately describe Melissa.  She is WAY beyond avid.  I have never heard of anyone with her reading history.  I enjoy reading end of year statistics and her list really shocked me!  Take a look!

Number of Books You Read: 164 
Number of Pages You Read: 53,043 
Number of Re-Reads: 17 
Genre You Read The Most From: Literary Fiction  
Percentage of Female Authors: 56% 
Percentage of Library Books: 50% 
Percentage of New to Me Authors: 50% 
Percentage of Nonfiction: 28%

But there is more!  Melissa joined "The Shakespeare Project". 
 Here is what she says:
"For years I've slowly been working my way through the complete works of William Shakespeare.  In addition to reading his plays, my goal is to see a live performance and a film version (when available) of each one. " 

This is not the only project that Melissa is involved in. She also is part of "Back To The Classics Challenge".  And I discovered that we do have one thing in common-
 we both love Thomas Hardy!
 Since I have explored every state, 
I would love to do the "Reading the States" challenge.
Melissa lives in the midwest of the U.S.A. and has information on her blog about this challenge.

Isn't she fascinating!  Melissa is taking a break from blogging to enjoy her baby girl.
How lucky is that baby to have "Avid Reader" for her mother!

Monday, 15 February 2016


  Nicholas Sparks is one of John's favourite romance authors.
  Sparks may best be remembered for "The Notebook" which is being made into a T.V. series.
  Nicholas Sparks has sold 100 million copies of his books.  Wow!  He has written 12 novels and "The Choice" is the 11th book to be made into a film.
   Well, it was Valentine's Day and guess where I was taken for my valentine's special?  "The Choice" was showing at a local theatre and we nearly had a 'private showing' - only one other person in the theatre.
  I must say that I do enjoy some of Sparks' books but find that they go over the edge on romance for me on occasion- and this was the occasion!
  One critic wrote: Cloying and formulaic, "The Choice" is another Nicholas Sparks story of love with a twist of sadness.
   Cloying means excess and, like I said, it was over the edge for me.
 The critic also said that although romance novels thrive on an element of fantasy, this novel pushes the limits of believability too far at times, especially at the end.  Oh, yeah!
  However, that wasn't my only valentine's treat.  John also arranged for a barbershop quartet to come to our house and serenade me.  And I loved, loved that!
  We always enjoy the barbershop choir and attend all performances.  So I was delighted when a quartet arrived at our house!  I love the fact that much of the choir is older men and they have fabulous energy and spirit.  This quartet provided great entertainment- more than the movie.  Real men with real stories and great enthusiasm!
And I got carried away when they gave me a rose!

Who needs Nicholas Sparks?  
We have our own love story that started 60 years ago this month.

Friday, 12 February 2016

"Century Trilogy" by Ken Follett

Ken Follett
Who would want to tackle this series?  All the events of the last century in 3000 pages or less (not much less).  Look at this lovely face.  Does he look like a man who would write books that are 1000 pages long?  And what a grasp he has on all the events of the twentieth century.
Fall Of Giants c2010
Winter Of  The World c2012
Edge Of Eternity c2014

My husband loves this series! He is so impressed with Ken Follett's ability to evoke every human emotion- from absolute ecstasy to absolute hatred.
There is a full portrayal of lovers- young and old.  But it also swings to complete and utter hatred.

John loves to read history and romance, so this is his 'perfect read'.
The historic content is superb.  You are able to experience all the emotions of the events of the last century.  
Although the size of each book is daunting, he highly recommends this series.
And it appears that others agree with him.  Ken's books have sold 150 million copies and many have been made into movies.
Cheers to a great author, Ken Follett!

Monday, 8 February 2016

"The Friday Night Knitting Club" by Kate Jacobs

This was the January choice for our library book club.  
Such a cozy, inviting cover.  
I had expected that it would be similar to Maeve Binchy's "A Week in Winter". That novel is about an inn, with people coming and going.  Everyone has a story and Maeve Binchy writes so well that I really enjoyed all the characters as well as the ambience of the inn.  It was a great winter read!
This novel had the same promise- an array of interesting characters and a cozy setting.
Georgia Walker, the single mother of Dakota, aged 12, operates a wool shop in New York City.  There was good description of the shop and you felt as though you were there with the customers, among the many colours and textures of wool.
Some of the customers bring in their knitting and a group develops, meeting on Friday nights.  As you become involved with each character, her story evolves.  And there is great variety in the characters- Anita is a 72-year-old widow, Darwin is a Chinese university student working on her thesis, Lucie is a single freelance writer who wants a baby, K. C. is an old friend of Georgia.  And then Kat arrives.  Kat had been Georgia's best friend in high school and they had promised to go to the same university.  When Georgia was offered a place in one of the better universities, she turned it down so that she could be with her friend.  But then the position was offered to Kat and she grabbed it, making Georgia bitter and angry.
In fact, Georgia was bitter about other things, such as James, the father of her daughter.  
This situation caused much discussion between my husband and myself.  
Here's the setting in the book:  Georgia had seen James in a bar, liked his looks and took him home.  Their relationship  was purely sexual.  When she got pregnant, James left.  He sent money but didn't see his daughter until she was 12.  Georgia had spent those twelve years bitter about having to raise a child by herself, concentrating on all the things she missed, whining, whining, whining.  She was so bitter that she wouldn't open the letters that James sent.
My husband, John, who also read this book, was sympathetic to Georgia's cause.  I was not.  I believe that a woman has to look after herself.   If she has sex with someone that she doesn't know, good luck!  James never signed up for a permanent relationship or a child.   And when he did realize that he wanted a relationship with his daughter, Georgia made it very tough for him- lots of sarcasm and cold shoulder.
The book had a lot of promise, but the writing just wasn't up to my expectations.  It was the author's first book and it sold well, so she followed with two more: "Knit Two" and "Comfort Food".
Here is another cover for this book.

The book club really did not like this book!  They thought it was boring and flat, more than likely meant for a T.V. movie.  Everyone felt disappointed and the book rated very low- 4 out of 10 stars was the average!  Wow!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Twelve Books of Christmas

We have just returned from our 'winter getaway' at Fern Lodge with Drayton Entertainment Travel Club.
We enjoyed the cabarets featuring these talented entertainers.
There were great conversations around the table and sometimes the subject was books- my favourite!
Curtis, one of the entertainers, turned out to be a reader, and shared his thoughts on several books. 
 Then he told me a story that I found fascinating.
Every year, he buys his wife, Chaz, twelve books.  Those are not the only books she reads.  She also has her own list of books that she reads and posts on Facebook so that her friends can add to their own list of future reads, or make comments.
But the "Twelve Books of Christmas" tradition really interested me- perhaps because it meant that Curtis researched and put a lot of thought into his choices.  He checked award winners and read reviews.
I wrote Chaz a note and she sent me these great photos of her "Twelve Books of Christmas".

Great idea! What a tradition! Thanks, Chaz and Curtis!